WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Balum Rancum

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Balum Rancum

This week’s word deals with dancing prostitutes, so as you can imagine, period illustrations were a bit hard to find. Thank goodness the upper classes had no compunction about acting a bit shamefully on occasion. Or at least enough to satirize.

Exhibition Stare Case, print made by Thomas Rowlandson, 1811 (?), British Museum. Visitors to the Royal Academy struggle up and down the steeply curving staircase of Somerset House. The wild display of bare legs brings delight to the spectators.

Blaum Rancum

A hop or dance, where the women are all prostitutes. N. B. The company dance in their birthday suits.

Waltzing! or a peep into the Royal Brothel Spring Gardens dedicated with propriety to the Lord Chamberlain, 1816, British Museum.

Far from an illustration of prostitutes, but based on the description of the engraving, there is a definite spirit of balum rancum afoot.

Three couples dance immodestly in a space bordered by a red rope behind which are many spectators. The breasts and shoulders, and sometimes the arms, of the women are bare, their skirts short and edged with transparent lace. A fourth couple stand arm-in-arm on the extreme right, inspecting a lady seated on a bench. A corner of the musicians’ gallery is on the left. The men’s costume also is caricatured. All wear tail-coats and high collars; one wears very tight and short pantaloons, another loose baggy trousers resembling plus-fours (cf. No. 12825). There is a carpet with a large lyre for centre-piece (or perhaps this represents the designs then chalked on ball-room floors). Above is a gas-chandelier with many jets. On the wall are three pictures. (1) ‘Naked, but not ashamed’: three women with bare breasts and short petticoats, two wearing hats, and two having a grotesque stoop (cf. No. 12840). (2) Two men raising their hats; one wears short loose trousers, the other tight breeches with top-boots. (3) ‘Tobacco Pipe imitations of Female Dress—or Smoking the Fashions of 1816.’

The Royal Joke, -or- Black Jacks Delight by James Gillray, published by Samuel William Fores 25 April 1788, National Portrait Gallery.

Fiddling, dancing, royalty, gawkers, and a whip – who needs prostitutes?! And while the colorized etching is held at the National Portrait Gallery, the description is pure British Museum:

A scene in Carlton House. The Prince of Wales, seated in a chair, holds a stout, good-looking lady (Mrs. Sawbridge) across his knees and chastises her with upraised hand; she holds out her arms imploringly. Alderman Sawbridge (right) faces her in profile to the left, playing a fiddle and dancing; from his pocket hangs a piece of music inscribed ‘The Reform’, a new Motion. On the extreme left Lady Archer stands in profile to the right, holding a driving-whip, and pointing angrily at the injured lady. A little girl (Sawbridge) stands full-face, clasping her hands in horror at the treatment of her mother. Behind are a number of onlookers: a very fat lady in profile to the left is Miss Vanneck; Mrs. Fitzherbert watches, not displeased; Fox, his arm round her shoulder, gazes amorously at her…

 

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

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WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Hum Durgeon

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Hum Durgeon

We’ve all probably done it.

Gone to the internet to diagnose a symptom, feeling, or injury … just to see why we felt a certain way, or if we needed to seek a medical professional. But what started out as curiosity about a scratchy throat or thorn-pricked finger quickly escalated into an armchair diagnosis of typhus or lockjaw, all with a few simple keystrokes.

The Gout by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 14 May 1799, National Portrait Gallery.

The Gout by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 14 May 1799, National Portrait Gallery.

Step away from the computer, take a fortifying breath, and thank dear Francis Grose that there’s a Regency slang term for our nonsense.

Taking Physick by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 6 February 1800, National Portrait Gallery.

Taking Physick by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 6 February 1800, National Portrait Gallery.

Hum Durgeon (noun)

An imaginary illness. He has got the hum durgeon, i.e. nothing ails him except low spirits.

Punch Cures the Gout, -the Colic, -and the 'Tisick' by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 13 July 1799, National Portrait Gallery.

Punch Cures the Gout, -the Colic, -and the ‘Tisick’ by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 13 July 1799, National Portrait Gallery.

Would it be possible to talk about Regency era hypochondria without mentioning the lady who defined the art of summonable malaise? Witness her creator’s own description:

She [Mrs. Bennet] was a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper. When she was discontented she fancied herself nervous. The business of her life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting and news.
Chapter 1, Pride and Prejudice

 

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

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WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ John Bull

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ John Bull

Political satire is a delicate thing.

It’s a fine line to tread ‘twixt making a point about an unjust occurrence – war, taxation, poverty, education, et. al. – without angering the powers that be to the point of retribution. Dr. John Arbuthnot, compatriot of the eloquent satirists Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope, created a character in 1712 meant to both represent the frustrated common sense of the average Englishman and skewer the crown and parliamentary policies under which he existed. He was not the fervor-inspiring figure of America’s Uncle Sam or Liberty Leading the People in France. Rather, this entirely English character entered into scrapes and fell victim to outside conditions that prevented him from enjoying his beer and his thoroughly middle class existence. He is earnest virtue until felled by circumstantial vice.

In essence, we are all John Bull.

John Bull (noun)

Englishman who exemplifies the coarse, burly form and bluff nature of the national character, 1772, from name of a character representing the English nation in Arbuthnot’s satirical “History of John Bull” (1712). A blunder.

And before you ask … why, yes, James Gillray did document John Bull. His caricatures are quite a fun way to brush up on your late 18th century geo-political history. So without further ado, behold the first ten John Bull satires.

1 John Bull Triumphant by James Gillray, published by William Humphrey 4 January 1780, National Portrait Gallery.

John Bull Triumphant by James Gillray, published by William Humphrey 4 January 1780, National Portrait Gallery. “The Bull see enrag’d, has the Spaniard engag’d, And gave him a terrible toss, As he mounts up on high, the Dollars see fly, To make the bold Britton rejoice, The Yankee and Monsieur, at this look quite queer, For they see that his strength will prevail, If they’d give him his way and not with foul play, Dtill tug the poor beast by the tail.”

John Bull, in a Quandary (Lord John Townshend; Samuel Hood, 1st Viscount Hood) by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 31 July 1788, National Portrait Gallery.

John Bull, in a Quandary (Lord John Townshend; Samuel Hood, 1st Viscount Hood) by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 31 July 1788, National Portrait Gallery. “Which way shall I turn me, how shall I decide?”

John Bull, Baited by the Dogs of Excise by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 9 April 1790, National Portrait Gallery.

John Bull, Baited by the Dogs of Excise by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 9 April 1790, National Portrait Gallery.

Alecto and Her Train, at the Gate of Pandaemonium; -or- the Recruiting Sarjeant Enlisting John Bull, into the Revolution Service by James Gillray, published by Samuel Wm. Fores 4 July 1791, National Portrait Gallery.

Alecto and Her Train, at the Gate of Pandaemonium; -or- the Recruiting Sarjeant Enlisting John Bull, into the Revolution Service by James Gillray, published by Samuel Wm. Fores 4 July 1791, National Portrait Gallery.

Anti-Saccharrites; -or- John Bull and His Family Leaving Off the Use of Sugar by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 27 March 1792, National Portrait Gallery.

Anti-Saccharrites; -or- John Bull and His Family Leaving Off the Use of Sugar by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 27 March 1792, National Portrait Gallery.

William Pitt (John Bull Bother'd; -or- the Geese Alarming the Capitol) by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 19 December 1792, National Portrait Gallery.

William Pitt (John Bull Bother’d; -or- the Geese Alarming the Capitol) by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 19 December 1792, National Portrait Gallery.

The Landing of Sir John Bull and His Family, at Boulogne sur Mer by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 31 May 1792, National Portrait Gallery.

The Landing of Sir John Bull and His Family, at Boulogne sur Mer by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 31 May 1792, National Portrait Gallery.

 John Bull's Progress by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 3 June 1793, National Portrait Gallery.

John Bull’s Progress by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 3 June 1793, National Portrait Gallery. From clockwise, John Bull Happy; John Bull Going to the Wars; John Bull’s Property in Danger; John Bull’s Glorious Return.

King George III (The French Invasion; -or- John Bull, Bombarding the Bum-Boats) by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 5 November 1793.

King George III (The French Invasion; -or- John Bull, Bombarding the Bum-Boats) by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 5 November 1793.

 John Bull Ground Down by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 1 June 1795, National Portrait Gallery.

John Bull Ground Down by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 1 June 1795, National Portrait Gallery.