WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Ditto

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Ditto

Take each man’s censure but reserve thy judgment.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not expressed in fancy—rich, not gaudy,
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
Polonius to Laertes, Act 1, Scene 3, Hamlet, by William Shakespeare

The last line above, from Hamlet, is often misquoted as “clothes make the man.” It can also be said that clothes betray a man: within the first few paragraphs of Persuasion, Jane Austen has revealed much about Sir Walter Elliot.

Vanity was the beginning and the end of Sir Walter Elliot’s character; vanity of person and of situation. He had been remarkably handsome in his youth; and, at fifty-four, was still a very fine man. Few women could think more of their personal appearance than he did, nor could the valet of any new made lord be more delighted with the place he held in society. He considered the blessing of beauty as inferior only to the blessing of a baronetcy; and the Sir Walter Elliot, who united these gifts, was the constant object of his warmest respect and devotion.
Chapter 1, Persuasion, by Jane Austen

A man so accustomed to the observation and worth of appearances would have never been so unseemly nor unfortunate as to fall victim to this week’s word.

Ditto

A suit of ditto; coat, waistcoat, and breeches, all of one colour.

The Regency era gentleman who dressed in ditto was likely no gentleman at all; those of means, and especially those with valets, wore the height of fashion, and that meant a variety of colors and patterns. So much so that I couldn’t find any contemporaneous examples of men in a suit of ditto, save vicars.

The Vicar of the Parish Receiving His Tithes by Thomas Burke after Henry Singleton, 1793, British Museum.

Caricature on the evils of drink, courtesy Jane Austen’s London post The Agonies of Gout.

And one entertained bystander of a distressed dandy.

An Exquisite Alias Dandy in Distress! 1819, Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.

The Encyclopedia of Fashion reveals that by the mid-1800s, the Ditto Suit became the “dominant form of Western men’s dress clothing of the next century.” It was also called the sack suit, and was generally worn on more informal occasions, such as travel or street wear. Perhaps this more staid – and some might say lazy – style of dress was in reaction to and rebellion from the stylish, Brummelesque designs in demand (and all the crack!) earlier in the nineteenth century.

I did manage to find one example of a self-made gentleman dressed all a-ditto, albeit for a movie (although I think his waistcoat is actually a deep green rather than unrelieved black/navy).

Captain Wentworth, portrayed by Rupert Penry-Jones, Persuasion, 2007.

And he looks rather charming all dandified, too.

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

 

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

Advertisements
WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Book-Keeper

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Book-Keeper

I love books.

Old books. New books. Fat books. Skinny books. Print books. Ebooks.

It’s always a good time to be reading. But when you go to your shelves, virtual or otherwise, and can’t find that book whose world you’d like to revisit…well…that changes everything.

Book-Keeper

One who never returns borrowed books.

As Shakespeare had Polonius counsel his son Laertes, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be; For loan oft loses both itself and friend.” I have a friend who lend books like a full-on library: you fill out a card, and she chases you down with reminders when the time for borrowing is over. I used to tease her about this until I loaned one of my favorites to a relative only to have said relative have no recollection of ever borrowing my book. Insult to injury followed when this supposedly unknown-yet-inscribed-with-my-name book showed up as her contribution to a white elephant gift exchange the very next Christmas.

Well. That was nervy.

I put her on my naughty list from then on. I’m like Mr. Darcy: My good opinion, once lost, is lost forever. At least concerning ill treatment of my book babies.

The Circulating Library by Isaac Cruikshank, 1804, The British Museum.

During the Regency (and eras before and after), books were still precious commodities, too costly for most to purchase outright. Booksellers seized on the ingenious notion to charge a fee to those who could afford to spend something to read a book, yet weren’t quite able or willing to hand over the full purchase price for a tome; the subscription service was born. If books were too expensive to buy, a seller could generate income by lending it out for a fee. A subscription to a circulating library was the perfect indulgence for a lady with some pocket money. The terms of a subscription were clearly spelled out for those who entered into a contract with a bookseller. An advertisement from La Belle Assemblée in 1807 reveals the subscription rates for the Minvera Library in Leadenhall Street:

Terms of Subscription to the Minverva Library, from La Belle Assemblée, 1807.

Lending libraries also became social gathering areas to share favorite tidbits about a newly returned book, offer and receive suggestions for the next borrow, or to simply cozily sit in chairs by the fire. Savvy shop owners turned their stores into comfortable meeting, browsing, and lending shops. And not just in London, but in any town large enough to entice a crowd to make it worthwhile, such as these prints from the resort towns of Scarborough and Margate illustrate.

The Circulating Library in Scarborough, from Poetical Sketches of Scarborough, 1813.

Hall’s Library at Margate by Thomas Malton the Younger, 1789, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

Circulating libraries had cards for each book that went out with each lender. Some were simple, as the card for Hookham’s shows at the very beginning of this post. Others were very specific, listing the most serious rules to be followed by a borrower.

Liverpool Circulating Library Slip, Circulating Libraries 5, 1738-1803, from the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera, Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford.

My favorite example of a Circulating Library is one that is still in existence: Hatchard’s of London. They even offer a subscription service to this day. Hatchard’s has been open at the same address on Piccadilly, a few blocks from the Circus, since 1797. *le sigh*

Hatchard’s at 187 Piccadilly, London.

And look at that adorable signage – book straps for hangers!

Hatchard’s at 187 Piccadilly since 1797,

Take pleasure in a good book, lest a famous author be correct in deeming you intolerably stupid. Just remember to return what you borrow.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Family of Love

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Family of Love

Its members practice the world’s oldest profession. But despite the modern belief that the practice was a choice, more often than not, it was a last resort from which very few escaped.

Progress of a Woman of Pleasure by Richard Newton, 1794, Bonhams. The caption reads “You wind up the evening with a boxing match and a Warrant and two Black eyes salute you in the Morning.”

Family of Love

Lewd women; also, a religious sect.

For the purposes of this post, I’m only addressing the first part of the definition. Lewd women – those who engaged in crude and offensive acts of a sexual nature – were viewed with sympathy and even sentimentality. These women were either born to their station through poverty and circumstance, or fell into prostitution from a lack of education or employable skill. The general consensus was that no woman chose harlotry, but arrival in the sex trade was seen as inescapable for some, and the final option for others.

But sympathy and sentimentality did not lend themselves to social programs to rectify the situation, nor disfavor enough to shame those who partook of services. Prostitution wasn’t even illegal until the 1820s.

Touch for Touch, or a female Physician in full practice by Thomas Rowlandson, 1811, British Library. And by physician, he means prostitute, as evidenced by the exchange of coins and her dress, cloyingly raised to reveal her ankles. Displayed ankles were widely associated with prostitution in the 18th and 19th centuries.

And lewd women were not to be confused with mistresses, sometimes known as demi-reps (from 1749) and later the demi-monde (from the play of the same title by Alexandre Dumas in 1844), or courtesans. These ladies existed somewhere between the lewd and acceptable, a shadowy middle ground where money was exchanged for sexual congress, but whose services also included escort to social engagements. Mistresses and courtesans were usually put up in homes by their protectors or patrons. Lewd women were creatures of the streets or brothels. Brothels were not much refuge in that protection from a procuress/abbess meant victimization of a different kind: your coin earned a roof and some food, but precious little else.

William Hogarth’s six-print set, A Harlot’s Progress, published in 1732, tells the story of harlot Moll Hackabout, a visual tale of one member of the Family of Love. The series illustrated society’s beliefs that lewd women either rose from the ashes of prostitution through marriage or defensible employment, or died under tragic circumstances.

Moll Hackabout arrives in London and meets Mother Needham, a notorious procuress:

1. A Harlot’s Progress by William Hogarth, 1732, Royal Collection Trust.

Moll is mistress to a wealthy Jewish Man. She creates a diversion to allow a second lover to escape:

2. A Harlot’s Progress by William Hogarth, 1732, Royal Collection Trust.

Moll, in a reduced state, takes tea while baliffs enter her lodgings:

3. A Harlot’s Progress by William Hogarth, 1732, Royal Collection Trust.

Moll beats hemp in Bridewell Prison (incarcerated for debts, not debauchery):

4. A Harlot’s Progress by William Hogarth, 1732, Royal Collection Trust.

Moll is dying while two doctors argue over her treatment:

5. A Harlot’s Progress by William Hogarth, 1732, Royal Collection Trust.

Moll’s coffin is surrounded by a group of insincere mourners:

6. A Harlot’s Progress by William Hogarth, 1732, Royal Collection Trust.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Tea Voider

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Tea Voider

I’m not sure which prospect is less appealing: traveling in the 21st century and chancing a bathroom stop at a gas station, fast food restaurant, or rest area…or traveling in the 19th century and having to transport your (used) potty in your carriage.

When I was still in the schoolroom, my family nicknamed me “Iron Kidney” for my ability to go the bathroom before we left the hotel and skip the roadside privies in favor of waiting until our new hotel room that night. I truly didn’t risk my health by avoiding voiding; I honestly didn’t need to use the facilities, and the fact that they were disappointingly maintained only fortified my magical kidney powers.

But I digress.

For Regency ladies without my urological strength, how did they go when on the go?

Tea Voider

A chamber pot.

For the Regency lady, with all her wardrobe layers and contraptions, travel was already a daunting affair. It’s one thing to glide gracefully around a room, or perch daintily on a settee when swathed in a chemise, stays, petticoat(s), skirt(s), and stockings tied at the knee. It’s quite another to ride on a bench seat down rutted roads in a carriage, well-sprung or no. Eventually, when nature called, the answer was the bourdaloue.

That’s no gravy boat! Bourdaloue by Minton in Staffordshire, ca. 1830.

The bourdaloue was designed specifically for females to allow urination from a standing or squatting position. The unique oblong shape with a lip at one end and handle at the other helped ladies navigate their business while (hopefully) preventing any toilet mishaps. The added benefit was the ability to drop one’s skirts around said business. I can only imagine this was a learning process, mastering the physics of aim, angle, and skirt arrangement. Potty training 2.0.

La Toilette Intime (Une Femme Qui Pisse) by François Boucher, 1760s, location unknown.

It’s likely completely anecdotal, but the name ‘bourdaloue’ supposedly derived from the (in)famous French Catholic priest, Louis Bourdaloue (1632 – 1704), whose sermons lasted so long that aristocratic females had their maids bring pots in discreetly under their dresses so that they could urinate without having to leave. There are other attendant factors involved in urination that make me think this is pure myth, but some sermonizing can be lengthy, so….

I’m looking at you, Mr. Collins.

Of course, ladies could always avail themselves of the necessary at coaching inns, or the woods when stopping at a wide spot in the road for a snack, but the bourdaloue and its singular feminine appointments just seem like the natural choice for travel. And they truly are beautiful works of art.

Bourdaloue at Coughton Court, Warwickshire.

Bourdaloue by Chantilly Porcelain Manufactory, France, 1740, courtesy Getty Museum.

Bourdaloue by Sèvres, 1801-1850, Château Attique de Petit Trianon.

Rare Meissen Bourdaloue with Figures of the Commedia dell’Arte after Lancret, painted by Johann George Heintze, 1741, courtesy 1stdibs Oneline Trade.

Meissen Bourdalous with decorated with Schneeballen, ca. 1740.

Rare Meissen Bourdaloue, ca. 1724, from the Marouf Collection, valued £ 50,000 – 60,000.

Inside bowl shot of Rare Meissen Bourdaloue, ca. 1724, from the Marouf Collection, valued £ 50,000 – 60,000.

If you have an hour to spare, take a trip back in time with historian extraordinaire, Lucy Worsley, as she explores the history of the bathroom. (This is episode two of a four part series)

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Bow-Wow

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Bow-Wow

I love doggies. All shapes, sizes, and breeds. No wonder I’ve developed an affinity for the Regency era. Simply Google “Regency era dogs” and your screen will be inundated with pages of images (just a paltry 525,000 results). My fondness for dogs naturally lent itself to a fondness for Lady Bertram in Mansfield Park, my least favorite Austen novel.

To the education of her daughters Lady Bertram paid not the smallest attention. She had not time for such cares. She was a woman who spent her days in sitting, nicely dressed, on a sofa, doing some long piece of needlework, of little use and no beauty, thinking more of her pug than her children… Mansfield Park, Chapter 2

Portrait of Sylvie de la Rue by Francois van der Donckt, 1810, Groeninge Museum, Bruges.

She is a simple woman of a fairly simple mind, but doggedly (sorry, not sorry) devoted to her precious Pug. Not counting Edward and his ambiguous feelings, surely no one paid Fanny so great a compliment as Lady Bertram:

And still pursuing the same cheerful thoughts, she soon afterwards added, “And I will tell you what, Fanny, which is more than I did for Maria: the next time Pug has a litter you shall have a puppy.” Mansfield Park, Chapter 33

Bow-Wow

The childish name for a dog.

The Misses de Balleroy by Henri-Francois Riesener, between 1805-1815, Columbia Museum of Art.

Regency England was mad for dogs. Regency ladies, especially, kept their tiny little canine companions close, if the sheer number of portraits of ladies and their dogs is any indication. I know dog fighting was also a popular “entertainment” of the time, but I shall “let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.” I shall dwell on a small selection of doggies, great and small.

Frederica, Duchess of York by Peter Edward Stroehling.

According to the Georgian Index, Regency England’s top dogs were English Bulldogs, Collies, Dalmatians, Great Danes, English Foxhounds, Greyhounds, English Mastiffs, Newfoundlands, English Pointers, Pomeranians, Poodles, Pugs, Curly Coated Retrievers, Spaniels, and Terriers.

Jane Fleming, Countess of Harrington by Peter Edward Stroehling, year unknown, Thirlestane Castle.

Jane Austen’s World has a thorough and sometimes difficult-to-read post about Georgian Era dogs, illuminating the wide variety of roles occupied by canines: from faithful companion to hunting champion to paid entertainer to abandoned garbage-scavenger in the slums. I won’t retype her findings here, but it is a must-read for the curious.

Le Bon Genre, No. 35. Le Chiens a la Mode.

Dogs even made their mark in the fashion world.

Observoateur des Modes, No. 454, Bureau, rue Feydeau, No. 20. Modes Parisienne.

Winter Carriage Dress, La Belle Assemblée, 1818.

I’ll close with a few more favorites discovered in my massive Google search.

The Rev. and Mrs. Thomas Gisborne of Leicestershire, 1786, by Joseph Wright of Derby.

Good Companions by Vittorio Reggianini, private collection.

The Pet by Vittorio Reggianini.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Dining Room Post

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Dining Room Post

This week’s phrase comes courtesy the dedicated thief who’s in it for the art of the deception, with the Rube Goldberg-esque planning and implementation of the steal.

Dining Room Post

A mode of stealing in houses that let lodgings, by rogues pretending to be postmen, who send up sham letters to the lodgers, and, whilst waiting in the entry for the postage, go into the first room they see open, and rob it.

Arrest of a Woman at Night by Thomas Rowlandson, date unknown, The Samuel Courtauld Trust at The Courtauld Gallery, London.

As we all know, however, crime rarely pays, or at least fails to pay for the long run. It can be argued that the Regency era gave rise to the (more) modern  and organized police man. During this time, criminals were pursued by constables, the night watch, thief-takers, and Bow Street Runners. The Metropolitan Police themselves were formed in 1829, a few years removed from the Regency but during the reign of George IV (the former Prince Regent). These various officials of law enforcement were notoriously tough and dogged in their pursuit of criminals (or at least the payment at the end of the pursuit). Some lawmen were fresh from lives of crime themselves, and used their considerable knowledge and connections to ferret out criminals.

The Night Watchman Picking Up a Wayward Girl by Thomas Rowlandson, Bonhams, New York.

Interestingly, when searching for period graphics to illustrate this post, the majority I found were of women being arrested rather than men. I’m not sure if there’s a less-than-subtle message to be inferred here, but at least one engraving by Thomas Rowlandson showed they didn’t all go down quietly.

Attacking the Night Watchman by Thomas Rowlandson, date unknown.