WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Aegrotat

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Aegrotat

For as much as many doctors in the Georgian Era and Long 19th Century still clung to bloodletting, leeches, and purgatives, medical advances were steadily coming along. Although way too many medical professionals still wanted to examine the feces of the sick.

But I’ll leave that for the medical journals of the time to discuss.

Metallic-Tractors by James Gillray, 1801, Public Domain.

Along the lines of the more things change, the more things stay the same, I was surprised to learn there was a slang term for ‘ye olde doctor’s note.’ Apparently, students have always been trying to get out of class, and always will. The first – and last – time I tried it was the third grade, and it earned me a trip to the doctor’s office for a throat culture to check for strep throat. Never again.


(CAMBRIDGE). A certificate from the apothecary that you are INDISPOSED, (i. e.) to go to chapel. He sports an Aegrotat: he is sick, and unable to attend Chapel.

Geri Walter, in her post Health Remedies, Preventatives, and Cures in the 1700 and 1800s, makes a handy list of restoratives. Her list; my summarizing commentary.


Baths were considered profitable for myriad ailments, from hygiene and hysteria, to inflammations and sprains/fractures – problems that warm baths are still prescribed for today (well, except for the female hysteria). However, some historians have theorized that cross contamination between public bath springs and open sewage may have led to its own health concerns.

Bloodletting and Leeches

When your body was full of foul and noxious humors, sometimes you just needed 20 leeches applied. At the same time.


Not for eating, but for making a poultice or plaister, for application to areas afflicted with boils or other injuries. Thank the Egyptians for this one.

Calomel and Opium

Interestingly, delving into several 19th century books, one finds very little evidence that opium ever did much of anything for any patient beyond addicting them. It started off as a topical curative, and was so useless that doctors moved on to (1) having patients ingest it, and (2) combining it with mercury. Both terrific ideas.

Palatable Physic, Pub 5th of April by W. Heath, 5 April 1810, Public Domain.

Cold Water

In the late 18th century, James Currie proposed a cold water treatment for fever while a student at the Royal Medical Society of Edinburgh, because of the link he discovered between evaporation and cooling. He based his proposal on observations made after a shipwreck and those exposed to salt water, the effects of evaporation, and what happened to the men when they were given warm blankets. Although not initially applying this discovery to illnesses, his subsequent research on other volunteers, and himself, led him to focus on its application to fevers. Needless to say, the “establishment” that favored patients lying in the dark, in bed, in cloistered rooms with firmly shut windows, under copious blankets, were less than thrilled or interested in his findings.

Epsom Salts

Epsom during the Regency era was as popular for horses as for healing. Since it’s discovery in 1618, the salts (here meaning the generic term salt, defined as any crystalized chemical compound; in this case, magnesium sulfate) had been used for everything from soaks for tired muscles, poultices for wound healing, and a solution to fight dandruff and combat acne. When dissolved in water, it even aided digestion. Epsom salts also became a key ingredient in the newly popular tonics (read quack medicine) of the time.

Flower of Sulphur

This one baffles me, because if you’ve ever smelled sulphur, you know that it has a distinctive odor. Back in the day, it was said to protect against toothache and prevent bad breath. To be sure, it has anti-fungal and antiseptic properties, and could have been efficacious in these pursuits, but how bad was a person’s breath that they wanted to replace it with the smell of rotten eggs?


One recommendation at the time was to treat burns by applying flour thickly over the injury, and any inflammation that spread. Of course, we know now that the heat needs to be drawn out first, else the flour simply aids in the burn continuing to cook the injured area. Otherwise, flour isn’t too terrible an idea, as a protectant.

Ginger Root

Ginger is my go-to for an upset stomach. Regency apothecaries used it as a syrup or tincture, for gout, colic, or indigestion.


I imagine if you could get straight horseradish down your gullet, it could go a long way to curing what ailed you. It was claimed to be effective for rheumatism and dropsy.

A Pinch of Cephalic by George Cruikshank after James Gillray, 25 January 1822, National Portrait Gallery.

Limit Star Gazing

Did they really want to prevent eye strain, or rather keep people indoors, properly supervised, and away from the bewitching moonlight that tended to result in disorders of the nine-month kind?


History had its own little blue pills called “blue mass.” Mercury was dispensed in this manner: one pill twice daily, for apoplexy (stroke), constipation, depression, melancholy, toothache, and syphilis. Today we would call this throwing something at the wall to see what sticks. We would also call it mercury poisoning.


In the 19th century, hygiene was still considered equal parts unnecessary and unhealthy. As people were slowly coming around to the idea of better health through cleanliness, people still balked at brushing their teeth more than once a day. One dentist said if you must choose, brush at night, the reason being that people tended to sleep in heated, unwholesome atmospheres just swirling with bodily humors. Whatever we accumulated in our mouths from the day’s adventures, really needed to be removed before going to sleep in the suffocating cesspits of our bedrooms for eight hours. Add a little myrrh for good measure for its antiseptic properties.

Oatmeal Paste

I love this recipe for chapped hands: 4 ounces of lard, 6 ounces honey, 8 ounces oatmeal, 3 egg yolks, and 1 ounce powdered gum arable. Mix well into a paste, then leave on the skin until “exceedingly soft and supple.” Then good luck keeping your pets and farm animals from eating you alive.

Mustard Poultice

As we learned last week, a poultice is a soft, warm, moist mass of bread, meal, or herbs applied to an affected part of the body to relieve an injury. The magic ingredient here is powdered mustard, made for a sore throat.

Mixing a Recipe for Corns by George Cruikshank, 1819, Center for the History of Medicine at Countway Library.

Reading Aloud with the Teeth Closed

To cure stutters and stammers, “for two hours a day, for three or four months.” Mercy.


To cure a lisp, recite the following rapidly and repeatedly:

Hobbs meets Snobbs and Kobbs;
Hobbs bobs to Snobbs and Nobbs;
Hobbs nobs with Snobbs and robs Nobbs’ fobs.
“This is,” says Nobbs, “the worst of Hobbs’ jobs,” and Snobbs sobs.

Sheep Sorrel

This miracle medicinal was used to treat inflammation, scurvy, cancer, and diarrhea. Essiac tea today is brewed with sheep sorrel and touted as a homeopathic treatment for cancer.

Stimulating Drinks and Whipping

Quite possibly the most horrifying hilarious prescription in the list. When “poisoning (there’s truth you don’t see in today’s medical journals) by laudanum (opium), morphine, paregoric, and sleeping mixtures in genera,” patients often needed stimulating drinks to be “kept warm, breathing (more truth),” and “awake by whipping if necessary.” Dear Lord. Medicine may still be a practice, but God bless the 21st century.


No longer just for witches, toads were now in vogue to treat everything from dropsy to bed wetting, scrofula, cancer, colic, inflammation, headaches, nose bleeds, smallpox, and quinsy. The poor toad could have various parts cut off, be cooked or boiled and eaten, or dried and ground into powder for internal and external use. Still sounds like witchcraft to me.


WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Sick as a Horse

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Sick as a Horse

There are so many bugs running through a city near us that they had to quarantine the local homeless shelter. Simply covering our mouths and washing our hands (every time we have to cover said mouth or touch something shareable) would go a long way toward slowing the spread of the illnesses, but sometimes the fact of so many people driven inside under together conditions beyond their control just provides the perfect breeding ground for all those nasty germs.

Sick as a Horse

Horses are said to be extremely sick at their stomachs, from being unable to relieve themselves by vomiting. Bracken, indeed, in his Farriery, gives an instance of that evacuation being procured, but by a means which he says would make the Devil vomit. Such as may have occasion to administer an emetic either to the animal or the fiend, may consult his book for the recipe.

There were myriad illnesses running around during the Regency era. This week, I’ll look at the diseases; next, the cures, folk remedies, and outright snake oil scams for them.


This is the somewhat obscure term for malaria; some texts will also refer to this as miasma. Doctors first ascribed the cause of the ague to unwholesome or poisonous air, but a little research soon showed mosquitoes (brought back from the great English fleet traveling to the West Indies) to be the common denominator. It turns out mosquitoes loved the marshlands of Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire, too. This illness was characterized by chills, shivering, fever, and sweating. The ague existed in England until the mid 19th century, when proper drainage helped eradicate the disease (if you’re watching Victoria, thank Prince Albert and his fascination with sewage systems).

Ague & Fever by Thomas Rowlandson, 1788, The British Museum.


Otherwise known as a stroke. Apoplexy resulted in a sudden fit of paralysis and dizziness. The prefix of the word – apo – meant ‘to strike or hit,’ indicating both the unexpected and ferocious nature of this condition. The results of apoplexy could bring death, while recovery usually involved some incapacitation, such as paralysis, palsy (tremors), or inability to speak. Many died within hours of the attack. Bloodletting, the go-to remedy for all ailments, was believed to help the patient. Survivors were sometimes mistaken as mad due to their inability to speak or control bodily functions, and those without means were consigned to asylums.

It’s odd to me how this word has also come to mean extreme anger, such as an ‘apoplectic rage.’

Bilious Fever

This term was applied as loosely as today’s ‘flu.’ During the Regency, it meant anyone suffering from fever, nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea, and was blamed on a disorder of the bile.


If you had a disorder of the liver or gallbladder, with accompanying gastric pain, this was your illness. Bile was not to be messed around with, evidently.

Cancrum Oris

This devastating ulcer could destroy the cheek, lips, tongue, palate, or face, and was often fatal (friendly tip: do not Google this for pictures). It was most often seen in children between the ages of two and five, and was caused by poor hygiene and poor nutrition. Damage was usually irreversible and could even lead to gangrene.


This term is most often seen in novels as the Regency equivalent of the head cold, a disease characterized by ‘inflammation of, and discharge from, a mucous membrane’ in a body cavity or in the airways, but catarrh could be so much more. Bronchial catarrh was bronchitis, epidemic catarrh was influenza, suffocative catarrh was croup, urethral catarrh was gleet, and vaginal catarrh was leukorrhea, according to Geri Walton. For some reason, I always picture an elderly, but stern, aunt telling all how she suffers so from catarrh…but not really.


Consumption was the common name for tuberculosis, meaning a “wasting of the body by disease; wasting disease, progressive emaciation,” which replaced the old terms “the evil disease” and phthsis. There was no effective treatment for the disease. Spread through the air, saliva, and blood, it caused weakness, fatigue, fever, chills, night sweats, wracking cough, and spitting up blood. However, in the latter stages of the disease, sufferers experienced a burst of energy and creativity, leading many to call it a “romantic disease.” British poet Lord Byron wrote, “I should like to die from consumption,” helping to popularize the disease as the disease of artists (the pretty-boy fool). George Sand doted on her phthisic lover, Frédéric Chopin, calling him her “poor melancholy angel“.  The disease killed more people in Britain in the 1800’s than smallpox, measles, typhus, whooping cough, and scarlet fever combined, and it came to be known as The White Plague.

Tegg’s Caricatures No. 45: Dropsy Courting Consumption by Thomas Rowlandson, 1810, The British Museum.


This name was given to pretty much any sickness of the time that involved coughing but usually without leading to death. It occurred most often in children, as it does now, with coughing, hoarseness, mildly sore throats, and possibly mild fevers. The name arose from the local disease in southeastern Scotland, given wide publication by Dr. Francis Home of Edinburgh in his 1765 treatise on it, according to Etymology Online. In modern times, any child with a barking cough is said to have the croup.


This disease was characterized by inflammation of the mucous membrane of the large intestine. Its early name said it all: the bloody flux. Its symptoms were severe diarrhea, bloody and/or mucus-filled stools, fever, and abdominal pain.


This was indigestion caused by just about anything: overeating, late-night eating, eating something that disagreed with you, not chewing food up properly before swallowing, etc. defined it as ‘deranged digestion,’ which is about the best definition I’ve ever come across for anything.


Those distasteful, foul-smelling, gasses or exhalations that were thought to cause disease. Not only could effluvia come from sewage waste, but females might infect males with their noxious fumes.


Also known as boils, these nasty skin abscesses were filled with pus, and brought great pain and suffering to those afflicted. Until the late 19th century, no one knew the cause of furuncles, but they remembered that they were a sign of the Plague, and feared them, and sufferers, accordingly.


This was a joint disease that most often affected the upper classes. In medieval medicine, the disease was thought to be caused by ‘drops of viscous humors seeping from the blood into the joints.’ This turns out to be close to the modern scientific explanation, as gout was often caused by the drinking of heavy or sweet wines, or excessive beer drinking combined with insufficient food. The disease can also be hereditary.

The Gout by James Gillray, 1799, The British Museum.


This was uncontrollable tremors combined with partial paralysis, and could be caused by a host of diseases. So palsy was a symptom rather than an illness, but severe enough to deserve a mention. As seen above, survivors of apoplexy could suffer from palsy. As with most illnesses of the era, there was no cure.


The more common name for hemorrhoids, so-called from the ball-like shape.


Pleurisy was an inflammation of the lungs marked by a hacking cough and sharp chest pain. Pleuritis meant ‘pain in the side,’ although in medieval times it meant ‘more,’ as in ‘more humours’ (those medieval doctors loved their bodily humours). Respiratory infections were the main causes of pleurisy.


Inflammation of the lungs, or ‘winter fever,’ was defined by pain in the side, rapid breathing, fluttering pulse, cough, and fever.  Its symptoms were described as early as the Middle Ages and are similar to the descriptions of today.

Puerperal Fever

This has to be the saddest of all the illnesses of the era. Also known as Child Bed Fever, it was the main reason women feared pregnancy during the Regency. Symptoms included severe abdominal pain and high fever, and both mother and child could (and likely would) die from it. We now know it as an infection resulting from a prolonged or difficult childbirth where a foreign organism is introduced into the birth canal.

Putried Fever/Sore Throat

This is not your modern-day fever/sore throat. Think gangrene that attacked the tonsils and throat, destroyed the tissue, and gave off some of the noxious effluvium mentioned above. Think high fever and massively aching throat along the lines of the strep throat of today. This could also be called quinsy.

A Sore Throat (Egad its worse & worse) by H. Pyall, 1827, Harvard Medical Library.

Rheumatic Fever

This was a complication from Putrid Fever/Putrid Sore Throat. It was most often seen in children and was nearly always fatal. It was characterized by fever, inflammation, pain in and around the joints, and by inflammatory involvement of the pericardium and heart valves.


Scarlatina, or Scarlet Fever, was the contagious disease characterized by a bright red, distinctive rash that looked like a sunburn with bumps, accompanied by a high fever and sore throat. There were traumatic epidemics in England and Wales in the mid 1800s that killed hundreds of people.


This virus was acute, causing blisters on the skin, mouth, and throat, accompanied by fever. Blisters that occurred near the eyes could cause blindness. It was fatal to one-third of those who caught it, but for those who survived, they were immune, though terribly scarred and marked such as survivors. Eighty percent of children that contracted this disease died. Smallpox was highly contagious, being easily inhaled or transmitted through bodily fluids. One of the first vaccinations ever created was for smallpox in 1798. An interesting side fact: smallpox was so named in contrast to great pox, which was syphilis.

The Cow-Pock –or– The Wonderful Effects of the New Inoculation! by James Gillray, 1802, The British Museum.


Also known as Trismus and Lockjaw, this infectious disease affected the central nervous system, causing violent spasms and stiffness of the muscles all over the body (but most obviously in locking the jaw). Unbeknownst at the time, tetanus was caused by bacteria living in soil, saliva, dust, and manure – hence its extremely contagious nature – and entered the body through open wounds.

Surgeon and artist Sir Charles Bell documented the effects of tetanus after the Battle of Corunna in the Napoleonic War in 1809, for the purpose of studying gunshot wounds; his most famous of his thirteen paintings shows the horrors and agony of full tetany.

Opisthotonus. Tetanus Following Gunshot Wounds by surgeon and artist Sir Charles Bell, 1809, public domain.


This disease was also called ‘Pestilential’ or ‘Putrid Fever,’ or by names derived from the locality were the outbreak appeared, such as ‘Camp,’ ‘Jail,’ ‘Hospital,’ or ‘Ship Fever.’ Typhus spread by lice, and symptoms included delirium, headaches, fever, and a rash. The duration of the disease was tracked by the rash, which cleared in two weeks, if the patient survived. Typhus spread via overcrowding and unsanitary conditions, and people could catch it repeatedly if re-exposed. No cure existed until the discovery of antibiotics.


WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Colquarron

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Colquarron

It seemed a travesty to do a hit-and-run on Regency era cravats last week, so this week I wanted to look at them more in depth. To do that, I needed a somewhat relevant slang term. The one I chose is about as old and obscure a Cant term that can be found.


A man’s neck. CANT.

So, let’s get our supplies. According to MY Mr. Knightley, there are two ways to make a Regency cravat:

  1. Cut a long strip of cotton or linen material about 4 to 8 inches wide and at least 60 to 80 inches long, depending on the types of ties you will make. If you want your cravat to go twice around the neck then 80 inches is best.
  2. Cut a triangular piece of material, with the base of the triangle 60 to 80 inches long and against the selvedge. The height or point of the triangle should be centred in the middle and measure 10 inches high.

Next, there’s a handy pamphlet entitled Neckclothitania or, Tietania : an essay on starchers and collars / by One of the cloth, published in 1820 and illustrated by George Cruikshank, that details the popular styles of men’s neck attire of the era. After reading the complicated and constricting instructions for each design, it’s no wonder we authors have heroines’ hearts flutter at the sight of a bared skin, and take delight in unwrapping inch after delicious inch of linen from our heroes’ confined necks.

Let’s explore.

Reproduction of Neckclothania’s illustration of Cravats of 1820, from Jennifer Forest, Jane Austen’s Sewing Box: Craft Projects and Stores from Jane Austen’s World, Murdoch Press, 2009.

The Oriental

“…is made with a very stiff and rigid cloth… Care should be taken, that not a single indenture or crease should be visible in this tie; it must present a round, smooth, and even surface…”. The cloth is laid without crease on the front of the neck and wrapped around so the ends come to the front again for tying in a knot.

Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850) by Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830), Tamworth Boroug.h Council

The Mathematical

“is far less severe than The Oriental – there are three creases in it.” Whereas the Oriental is smooth on the neck, the Mathematical is deliberately creased along the neck. It doesn’t look terribly less stiff to me, however.

Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles by George Francis Joseph, 1817, National Portrait Gallery.

The Osbaldeston

“This neck-cloth is first laid on the back of the neck, the ends brought forward, and tied in a large knot, the breadth of which must be at least four inches, and two inches deep. This tie is very well adapted for summer; because instead of going round the neck twice, it confines itself to once.”

I could not find any contemporaneous examples that I was sure of being an Osbaldeston. So I present this anonymous gentleman whose presence in a picture puts him in the Victorian era, but who is wearing an Osbaldeston cravat.

The Napoleon

“It is first laid … on the back of the neck, the ends being brought forwards and crossed, without tying, and then fastened to the braces, or carried under the arms and tied on the back. It has a very pretty appearance, giving the wearer a languishingly amorous look.”

Anonymous “languishingly amorous” gent.

The American

“differs little from the Mathematical, except that the collateral indentures do not extend so near to the ear [the diagonal crease between the ear and the knot are not as long], and that there is no horizontal or middle crease in it.”

Robert Stewart (1769-1822), Viscount Castlereagh, later second Marquess of Londonderry, by Sir Thomas Lawrence, Royal Collection Trust, Waterloo Chamber, Windsor Castle.

The Mailcoach/Waterfall

“is made by tying it with a single knot, and then bringing one of the ends over, so as completely to hide the knot, and spreading it out, and turning it down in the waistcoat. The neck-cloth ought to be very large to make this Tie properly”…. “A Kushmeer shawl is the best, I may even say, the only thing with which it can be made.”

Portrait of a Gentleman by Francois Mulard, 1805, York Museums Trust.

Let me just pause the historical portrait examples right here and give a shout-out to the dresser of Rupert Penry-Jones in 2007’s Persuasion adaptation for having the most perfect Mailcoach/Waterfall I’ve ever seen.

Rupert Penry-Jones as Captain Wentworth, Persuasion, 2007.

The Trone d’Amour

“is the most austere after the Oriental Tie – It must be extremely well stiffened with starch.” Its only ornament is “one single horizontal dent in the middle.”

Portrait of Frederick H. Hemming by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1824-25, Kimball Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas.

The Irish

“This one resembles in some degree the Mathematical, with, however, this difference, that the horizontal indenture is placed below the point of junction formed by the collateral creases instead of being above.” If you squint you can see that the diagonal creases meet at the point under the middle dent, just above the knot.

Thomas Campbell by Sir Thomas Lawrence, before 1830, National Portrait Gallery. I never thought I’d find an Irish cravat where you could actually see the two diagonal creases framing the center horizontal crease.

The Ballroom

“it unites the qualities of the Mathematical and Irish, having two collateral dents and two horizontal ones… It has no knot, but is fastened as the Napoleon.” In other words, just keep wrapping, just keep wrapping.

Joshua Tevis by Jacob Eichholtz, 1827, Smithsonian American Art Museum.

The Horse Collar

“It is certainly the worst and most vulgar… It has the appearance of a great half-moon, or horse-collar.” But you can tuck a double-chin behind it!

Portrait of the Artist John Vanderlyn, 1800, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Hunting

“is formed by two collateral dents on each side, and meeting in the middle, without any horizontal ones.”

Other Archer, Earl of Plymouth by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1817, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Those horizontal creases are everywhere!

The Maharatta/Nabob

“is very cool, as it is always made with fine muslin neck-cloths – It is first placed on the back of the neck, the ends are then brought forward, and joined as a chain-link, the remainder is then turned back, and fastened behind.”

Portrait of Sir Edward Pellew by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1797, National Maritme Museum.

Want to see some neck cloths in action? Head over to Townsends, and 18th century reproduction clothing and accessories house. It’s American, but it’s a nice place to lose some time. They have a nice little video on neckwear, too.


WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Bufe (Part 2)

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Bufe (Part 2)

As promised, this week’s post is a continuation of popular dogs of the Regency era (Part 1 can be found here). As a reminder, dogs in general were not pets during this time period. There were always exceptions, especially in several of the breeds profiled in this post, but these dogs still had duties, that of companions. Until the Victorian period brought about standards and shows, dogs of the Regency were prized for their abilities and skills – their value lay in their work. And since the Victorians shifted the focus to dogs’ looks, don’t be surprised to notice some of the breeds looked very different in the early 19th century from what we recognize today.


A dog. CANT.

The Newfoundland

This breed originated exactly where you’d think – Newfoundland, Canada. Their webbed feet and thick, waterproof double coat made them ideally suited to swimming in cold waters, hauling fishing gear, and pulling smaller boats to shore. Its ancestry can be traced to that of the Mastiffs and Great Pyrenees, and they are thought to have made the trek from Europe to Canada with Portugese fisherman who fished the Grand Banks as early as 1610. They received their name from George Cartwright in 1775, who named his large dogs after his beloved island home.

Although selective breeding has created the 130-150 pound behemoths we know today, Regency Newfoundland dogs were bulky and brawny as well. They were first documented in print in British Quadrupeds by Sir Thomas Bewick in 1790 (a great book to research many animals present during the Georgian era, by the by). Despite living his whole life in Northern England, Sir Thomas made engravings and wrote biographies of all things animal: the only Newfoundland he ever saw was a large black and white dog with smooth hair and a curled tail from Eslington, Northumberland.

The Newfoundland Dog from A General History of Quadrupeds by Sir Thomas Bewick, 1790.

Colors of Newfoundland coats are black, brown, or gray on a body of mostly white. The typical black and white coloring we most associate with the breed was made popular by the artist Sir Edwin Henry Landseer; consequently, his name is now synonymous with that color scheme, the Landseer Newfoundland.

Lion: A Newfoundland Dog by Sir Edwin Henry Landseer, 1824, Victoria & Albert Museum.

Fun facts: A Newfoundland accompanied Lewis and Clark on their exploration of the western United States, and legend has it when Napoleon escaped Elba in 1815, rough seas washed him out of his boat, where he was soon rescued by a Newfoundland dog who jumped in and kept him afloat. By the way, don’t call them Newfies; that moniker dates to 1942.

The English Pointer

The history of the English Pointer can be traced in both paintings and writings from the middle 17th century. The first Pointer hailed from Spain, but the breed came into its own in England, where it was crossed with Foxhounds for scenting, Greyhounds for speed, and English Bulldogs for strength and stamina. The English Pointer did exactly what its named implied: pointing out game for hunters or foxhounds to flush and chase. During the Regency era, this breed featured a long, blunt-shaped head, half-length tail, and brown and white coloring. Pointers were dogged in their pursuit of game, especially birds, and never gave up the hunt.

The Pointer by George Stubbs, 1766, Neue Pinakothek Art Museum, Munich.

The Pomeranian

These are not your Grandmother’s Poms. Or in my case, your cool Aunt Paulette’s. History’s Pomeranians were solid white, weighed in around thirty pounds, pulled sleds (or more accurately, sledges), and herded other animals. They were robust workers and weren’t bred down to become “companions” until the latter end of the Regency. James Boswell wrote in his diary on 2 November 1764 that while traveling through Mainz, Germany, he met a French traveler, “a merchant of fine stuffs at Lyons…The Frenchman had a Pomeranian dog called Pomer, whom he was mighty fond of…a great lubbery dog with a head like a British tar.” Queen Charlotte even brought Pomeranians in her entourage to England in 1767. Although their name is derived from the region of Pomerania along the Baltic Sea in northern Poland and Germany, the breed itself did not originate here – only its name. This area gave rise to the Spitz, an ancestor of the Pomeranian, which means there is wolf blood in this breed. I kid you not. This could go a long way to explaining why this breed is now typically known as a “big dog in a little body.”

Fino and Tiny by George Stubbs, 1791. Royal Collection Trust. These dogs belonged to the Prince of Wales, future Prince Regent.

The Poodle

According to the Georgian Index, there are two theories on the poodle’s origins:

  1. The breed developed from rugged Asian herding dogs brought to Europe by the Moors in the 8th Century.
  2. The breed descended from the dogs that the Goths, a federation of German tribes, brought with them in their migration into Europe.

Since the name Poodle is a derivative of the German pudeln (puddle) and/or Pudelhund (water dog), I’m inclined toward option number two. Poodles were workers, in occupations as varied as sporting dogs who retrieved birds while on the hunt, to circus performers in traveling troupes. Just like the aforementioned Pomeranian, their keen intelligence and disposition were such that owners began to selectively breed them down as companion dogs for the nobility.

A Favorite Poodle and Monkey (belonging to Thomas Osborne, 4th Duke of Leeds) by John Wootton.

The Pug

The Pug is considered one of the oldest breeds in the world, documented by none other than Confucius (known as Lo-Sze in Chinese) in 551 BC. According to Georgian England’s Top Dogs, they were valued for their “small size, short coat, and their Prince Mark – three wrinkles on the forehead and a vertical bar form a marking that repeats the Chinese character for Prince.” By the early 16th century, direct trade to China brought notice of the noble Pug to Europe; they were said to have arrived in England via the Glorious Revolution of William and Mary in 1688. This breed is the quintessential lap dog of yesteryear as well as today. Although their legs were not as short as now, they have always been compact and muscular, and have always been companion dogs, a sign of wealth and possibly indolence, as they are usually seen in family portraits as being quite chubby.

A Pug by Thomas Gainesborough, 1780, Private Collection.

The Curly Coated Retriever

The Curly Coated Retriever is considered the oldest documented retriever breed, esteemed by both gamekeepers and poachers alike for its intelligence, commitment to the hunt, strength, and tenacity in pursing both game and fowl. Historians place their best guesses as to the origins of this breed in the late 18th century England, with traces of Labradors and Poodles found in its ancestry. Curlies have short, thick, solid black or brown coats that are tightly curled everywhere except the face.

Wyndham, from A General History of Quadrupeds by Sir Thomas Bewick, 1790.

The Spaniel

Spaniels were the workhorses of the hunt. They flushed game, their medium build and height allowing them to hug low to the ground, dive under bushes, and retrieve kills after the hunter shot. They were slower than other game dogs, so they were ideally matched to the owner who hunted on foot rather than horse, which made them a breed suited to the “common man.” Historically, spaniels were categorized by the game they flushed: Cockers (woodcocks), Springers (patridge, pheasants, and rabbits), and Water (ducks, geese). A breed developed in the late 19th and early 19th century was known as the Sussex Spaniel, and was characterized by a wavy, golden-brown coat with fringe on the ears and underside, and a docked tail. It had no speed and no nose for well-hidden game, so it quickly evolved into a pet.

Quaille, an English Water Spaniel by Henry Bernard Chalon, 1797, Public Domain.

The Terrier

‘Terrier’ is a catch-all term for dogs bred to flush small game and critters from their burrows; several varieties were bred to actually enter burrows and kill their quarry. There are no over-arching characteristics in coat or looks distinctive to the name Terrier, so the grouping of dogs in this broad group is completely dependent on their job. Terrier comes from the Latin Terra, meaning earth. The list of Terrier breeds is long:

  1. Airedale – the largest of the group, also called Bingley and Waterside.
  2. Bedlington – small dog bred to hunt vermin in the mines of Northumberland.
  3. Border – small dog with long legs bred to hunt foxes and vermin in packs.
  4. Bull – medium-sized dog with egg-shapped, flattened muzzle; stubborn and independent, with white-coated version prone to deafness.
  5. Cairn – one of the oldest Scottish breeds, left-pawed which indicates strong scenting abilities.
  6. Dandie Dinmont – small dog with short legs and elongated body, named for a character in Sir Walter Scott’s novel Guy Mannering.
  7. Fox – two versions (Smooth Fox and Wire Fox), looks like small versions of the Airedale.
  8. Irish – one of the oldest Terrier breeds, has a distinctive reddish coat, worked on farms and in cities in Ireland.
  9. Kerry Blue – also known as Irish Blue Terrier, bred chiefly to control vermin (rats, rabbits, badgers, foxes).
  10. Lakeland – named for the Lake District, breed is friendly, bold, and confident.
  11. Manchester – smooth-coated Terrier bred to control rats in Manchester, were used in rat-baiting “sport.”
  12. Scottish – also known as Aberdeen Terrier, one of the five Scottish Terrier breeds, very independent and rugged.
  13. Sealyham – rare Welsh breed, not developed until the Victorian era, bred for pest control.
  14. Skye – small, short-legged, long-haired terrier bred for hunting but with a constitution suited for indoor living.
  15. Staffordshire – medium-sized dog with look of a Bull Mastiff, must be exercised and worked or develops destructive habits.
  16. Welsh – second Welsh breed developed to hunt foxes, rodents, and badgers; notable for not shedding.
  17. West Highland White – small Terrier with longer legs, first seen during reign of James VI of Scotland.
  18. Yorkshire – breed that arose in the mid-19th century to root out vermin in Yorkshire mills.

The Scottish Deerhound

Known for centuries as the Scotch Greyhound and Rough Greyhound, it’s not hard to fathom Scottish Deerhounds traced their ancestry to the Greyhound. They looked like bigger, hairier Greyhounds, with long legs, long hair, and sleek lines. They were first bred in the mid-16th century for their deer hunting abilities, and were often known as Staghounds; as this game could only be pursued by earls and above, they were the dogs of aristocrats during the Regency. The Scottish Deerhound was also known for its quiet, dignified personality, as long as furry beasties weren’t around to chase.

Four Dogs from Tweedale, a Scots Deerhound, an Otter Terrier, and a Scots Terrier by William Shiels (1783-1857), National Museums, Scotland.

The Irish Wolfhound

Another descendant of the Greyhound, the Irish Wolfhound is the tallest of the dogs (but not the heaviest, like the Great Dane or Bull Mastiff). They are one of the oldest breeds, with references being found in Roman records from 391 AD. Wolfhounds were bred for endurance to hunt with their masters, strength to fight beside them in battle, bravery to guard their homes, and calmness to play with their children. An old Irish proverb says, “Gentle when stroked, Fierce when provoked.”

They were considered the dogs of the wealthy for many reasons: they hunted large game, a sport only allowed to aristocrats; their large size meant large amounts of food were necessary for their feed, and; they needed ample space to run and exercise. Wolfhounds were so skilled at hunting that they succeeded in rooting out their quarry from Ireland by the late 18th century; the Wolfhounds were subsequently shipped to England, where they enjoyed a resurgence in usefulness.

The Irish Wolfhound by A. Baker, 1887, Public Domain.

That concludes our drive through history of the popular dog breeds of the Regency. I’ll conclude with a just-for-laughs clip of Charlie the Dog, from the Looney Tunes of my Saturday morning youth. The recording is straight out of 1992 via camcorder and TV screen, but crank up the volume because Charlie’s truly a one-of-a-dozen-breeds kind of dog.


WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Jaw-Me-Dead

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Jaw-Me-Dead

Several weeks ago, a Word of the Week featured the quotes of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. I received this hilarious Twitter shout-out from Dolores of Course:

Anytime a person is impelled to Jane Austen, it’s a good thing. My goal this week is to invoke the urge toward Sense and Sensibility; specifically, Mrs. Charlotte Palmer, and her incessant chatter, and her husband’s priceless reactions to it.

And really, does one need an excuse to watch a period version of Dr. House?


A jaw-me-dead is a talkative fellow; jaw being speech, discourse.

Mrs. Charlotte Palmer is a giggly, silly, chatterbox…but also essentially a nice person. Just like her mother, Mrs. Jennings, she loves gossip – and sharing it as soon as possible with all her friends. Mr. Palmer, on the surface, is a dour sourpuss whose only conversation seems to be one-liners delivered in passive aggressive rebuttal of his wife’s pronouncements. He’s quiet where she is exuberant. When the action moves to his home, we see he is really serious and concerned about the health of his guest (Marianne) and his family, and that his acerbity is more posture than truth.

Mr. Palmer’s role as straight man to his wife’s Jaw-Me-Dead is pure entertainment.

Mrs. Palmer was several years younger than Lady Middleton, and totally unlike her in every respect. She was short and plump, had a very pretty face, and the finest expression of good humour in it that could possibly be. Her manners were by no means so elegant as her sister’s, but they were much more prepossessing. She came in with a smile, smiled all the time of her visit, except when she laughed, and smiled when she went away. Her husband was a grave looking young man of five or six and twenty, with an air of more fashion and sense than his wife, but of less willingness to please or be pleased. He entered the room with a look of self-consequence, slightly bowed to the ladies, without speaking a word, and, after briefly surveying them and their apartments, took up a newspaper from the table, and continued to read it as long as he staid.

Mrs. Palmer, on the contrary, who was strongly endowed by nature with a turn for being uniformly civil and happy, was hardly seated before her admiration of the parlour and every thing in it burst forth.

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 19

Only look, sister, how delightful every thing is! How I should like such a house for myself! Should not you, Mr. Palmer?”

Mr. Palmer made her no answer, and did not even raise his eyes from the newspaper.

“Mr. Palmer does not hear me,” said she, laughing; “he never does sometimes. It is so ridiculous!”

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 19

“But indeed you must and shall come. I am sure you will like it of all things. The Westons will be with us, and it will be quite delightful. You cannot think what a sweet place Cleveland is; and we are so gay now, for Mr. Palmer is always going about the country canvassing against the election; and so many people came to dine with us that I never saw before, it is quite charming! But, poor fellow! it is very fatiguing to him! for he is forced to make every body like him.”

Elinor could hardly keep her countenance as she assented to the hardship of such an obligation.

“How charming it will be,” said Charlotte, “when he is in Parliament!–won’t it? How I shall laugh! It will be so ridiculous to see all his letters directed to him with an M.P.–But do you know, he says, he will never frank for me? He declares he won’t. Don’t you, Mr. Palmer?”

Mr. Palmer took no notice of her.

“He cannot bear writing, you know,” she continued–“he says it is quite shocking.”

“No,” said he, “I never said any thing so irrational. Don’t palm all your abuses of languages upon me.”

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 20

“Mr. Palmer will be so happy to see you,” said she; “What do you think he said when he heard of your coming with Mamma? I forget what it was now, but it was something so droll!”

After an hour or two spent in what her mother called comfortable chat, or in other words, in every variety of inquiry concerning all their acquaintance on Mrs. Jennings’s side, and in laughter without cause on Mrs. Palmer’s, it was proposed by the latter that they should all accompany her to some shops where she had business that morning…

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 26

Nothing was wanting on Mrs. Palmer’s side that constant and friendly good humour could do, to make them feel themselves welcome. The openness and heartiness of her manner more than atoned for that want of recollection and elegance which made her often deficient in the forms of politeness; her kindness, recommended by so pretty a face, was engaging; her folly, though evident was not disgusting, because it was not conceited; and Elinor could have forgiven every thing but her laugh.

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 42

He came, examined his patient, and though encouraging Miss Dashwood to expect that a very few days would restore her sister to health, yet, by pronouncing her disorder to have a putrid tendency, and allowing the word “infection” to pass his lips, gave instant alarm to Mrs. Palmer, on her baby’s account. Mrs. Jennings, who had been inclined from the first to think Marianne’s complaint more serious than Elinor, now looked very grave on Mr. Harris’s report, and confirming Charlotte’s fears and caution, urged the necessity of her immediate removal with her infant; and Mr. Palmer, though treating their apprehensions as idle, found the anxiety and importunity of his wife too great to be withstood. Her departure, therefore, was fixed on; and within an hour after Mr. Harris’s arrival, she set off, with her little boy and his nurse, for the house of a near relation of Mr. Palmer’s, who lived a few miles on the other side of Bath; whither her husband promised, at her earnest entreaty, to join her in a day or two; and whither she was almost equally urgent with her mother to accompany her.

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 43

Emma Thompson’s faithful and Oscar-winning adaptation of Sense and Sensibility in 1995 showcases the quirky banter of the Palmers to perfection. How many of us could keep our cool and droll sense of humor in the face of such a steadfast Jaw-Me-Dead as Mrs. Palmer?


WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Fee, Faw, Fum

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Fee, Faw, Fum

I really enjoy a spooky story. Not gross, just good, old fashioned, huddle-under-the-covers-so-the-thing-under-the-bed-doesn’t-get-you scary.

Most of the time, the movies that give me chills are those that could happen in real life: the determined killer (the original Halloween, Psycho), the vulnerability of being alone (The Strangers), the isolation and fear of the unknown in the woods (Deliverance), and natural circumstances beyond your control (The Birds). I can even stomach a bit of blood when it’s relieved by comedy, like Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland (and it’s usually pretty easy to know when to hide your eyes).

Occasionally a thriller with supernatural overtones will give me the heebie jeebies, even though I’m 99.9% sure it could never happen: The Ring, Event Horizon, Insidious, the original Night of the Living Dead. And my personal favorite, Nosferatu (Max Schreck is unnerving and terrifying). Seriously, if you haven’t see this movie because it was made in 1922 and it’s silent, treat yourself. Watch it alone, in the dark. I dare you.

To the rest of the movies – like Saw, Cabin Fever, or Night of 1000 Corpses – I turn a blind eye (and don’t do links). There’s nothing frightening to me in gore, just shock. There’s no scare; it’s pure nausea. It’s to those movies I apply the Word of the Week.

Fee, Faw, Fum

Nonsensical words, supposed in childish story-books to be spoken by giants. I am not to be frighted by fee, faw, fum; I am not to be scared by nonsense.

The entire Georgian era has many fearful stories to recommend, but I especially love the tale of the Wynyard Ghost. The story concerns four English officers encamped at Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, during the American War of Independence. Like the cliché portends, it was a dark and stormy night . . . and a brother of one of the gentlemen was soon to make an unexplainable visit. You really should read the whole story, and historian and author Geri Walton tells it much better than I ever could in her blog post Wynyard Ghost Story.

If you’d like to get your seasonal, Halloween-y historical chills via the small screen, I recommend two period dramas to keep you wide awake. The first has a truly awful trailer, nothing like the mini-motion picture teasers we have come to expect – but don’t let that put you off. The film is nothing like its cheesy promo: Director Martin Scorsese ranks this film as one of the top ten horror movies of all time. Creepy setting, creepy music, and creepy children: what more could you ask for?

The Innocents (1961)
An adaptation of Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw

And from the long list of “Don’t Trust Your Husband” films of the 1940s, like Rebecca, Jane Eyre, and Notorious, comes my favorite. It’s the story of a woman whose husband is trying to slowly drive her mad. Another sad little trailer, but Ingrid Berman, Charles Boyer, Joseph Cotten, and Angela Lansbury will make it worth your while.

Gaslight (1944)
Based on the stage play of the same name, Gas Light


  • Slang term definition found in the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.
  • The BBC released an another adaptation of The Turn of the Screw at Christmas in 2009. It’s well shot and very well acted (you’ll see Matthew, Mary, and Denker from Downton Abbey), but some critics took exception to the fact that the setting was changed from 1840 to Edwardian England, and that it was much more sexualized than the novel. Personally, I thought it had way too many horror movie clichés, spilling the plot over into the predictable rather than the disturbing. And this story should definitely disturb. Find the trailer here.
WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Coxcomb

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Coxcomb

Last week’s word – Cokes – might have been a contraction of this week’s word:

Coxcomb (noun)

Anciently, a fool. Fools, in great families, wore a cap with bells, on the top of which was a piece of red cloth, in the shape of a cock’s comb. At present, coxcomb signifies a fop, or vain self-conceited fellow.

William Combe wrote a vivid and eloquent description of the coxcomb in The Third Tour of Dr. Syntax, In Search of a Wife.

Canto XXXV of The Third Tour of Dr. Syntax, In Search of a Wife. A Poem. William Combe. 1828.

Canto XXXV of The Third Tour of Dr. Syntax, In Search of a Wife. A Poem. William Combe. 1828.

Georgette Heyer, the grande dame and instigator originator of the Regency romance, also illustrated quite vividly the coxcomb in her novel, Sylvester, or The Wicked Uncle.

Beside Sylvester’s quiet elegance and Major Newbury’s military cut she had been thinking that Sir Nugent presented all the appearance of a coxcomb. He was a tall man, rather willowy in build, by no means unhandsome, but so tightly laced-in at the waist, so exaggeratedly padded at the shoulders, that he looked a little ridiculous. From the striking hat set rakishly on his Corinthian crop (he had already divulged that it was the New Dash, and the latest hit of fashion) to his gleaming boots, everything he wore seemed to have been chosen for the purpose of making him conspicuous. His extravagantly cut coat was embellished with very large and bright buttons; a glimpse of exotic colour hinted at a splended waistcoat beneath it; his breeches were of white corduroy; a diamond pin was stuck in the folds of his preposterous neckcloth; and he wore so many rings on his fingers, and so many fobs and seals dangling at his waist, that he might have been taken for a jeweller advertising his wares. (Chapter 16)

Dandies of 1817, Isaac Cruikshank, British Museum.

Dandies of 1817, Isaac Cruikshank, British Museum.

Slang term definition taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

Read what romance author Barbara Bettis thought of Sylvester, or The Wicked Uncle at The Beau Monde’s Regency Turns 80 celebration article here.

Learn more about Regency coxcombs/dandies and all things fussily masculine at Geri Walton’s unique histories of the 18th and 19th centuries here.