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)

 

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WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Jockum Gage

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Jockum Gage

So last week we looked at examples of pretty potties. Beautiful, even. So dainty that I imagine more than a few chamber pots have been passed down through the generations until their former use was forgotten, having been replaced by new-fangled indoor plumbing, so the potties just became pots. To display in china cabinets. Or for use as soup tureens or casserole dishes.

Or is that just in my family?

Jockum Gage

A chamber-pot, jordan, looking-glass, or member-mug. CANT.

National Conveniences by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey, 1796, British Museum.

The romance novelist in me wishes beautiful, somehow always-pristine potties. were placed underneath beds or in designated closets, their use understood but unseen. Alas, the historian in me pokes around books and the interwebs and knows that not to be so. One of my favorite, laugh-out-loud lines comes from Vicky Dreiling’s novel What a Wicked Earl Wants. Said wicked Earl is appalled his friends think to drink, smoke, and urinate simultaneously, as if a jockum gage came after the fifth course in his dining room: “I do not piss where I eat,” Bellingham scolds.

Unfortunately, most did.

Après le dîner, the women separated from the men, moving to a fresh room for conversation, cards, or music. The gentlemen remained at the dining table for port, tobacco, and boast-filled chinwags. After all that wine with dinner, and with the anticipation of more alcohol to come, it was also time to pull out the handy pot in the corner.

It was possible to disguise the location of a jockum gage when located in a public room, such as the dining area, salon, or even study. Commodes were large pieces of furniture basically built around a small chamber pot for the purposes of tasteful concealment. Thieves’ cant used the word ‘commode’ to mean a women’s headdress, because who knew what that giant bonnet or head-swathing turban concealed. Likewise, who knew that innocent-looking bureau in the corner contained a remedy critch?

Antique George III commode with moulded top over four figured dummy drawers and brass swan neck handles, circa 1970, auctioned by Thakeham Furniture Company.

Some wealthy homes did have primitive versions of toilets, in a separate room and with flushing water. History and Soon relates that even wealthier families had portable flushing toilets. How posh! The portable privies were called ‘thunderboxes.’ How decidedly un-posh. 19th century potty humor.

Flush Thunderbox from Brodsworth Hall, Yorkshire.

However, the technology to flush smells was not around yet, so the area might be private, but the odors were not. According to Uncommon Courtesy, later versions of privies, called “earth closets,” used a fine dirt to help improve air quality. That name sounded much more wholesome and organic than ‘wooden seat atop dirt-filled bucket.’ And those lucky maids found it their job to ladle peat over the waste to promote decomposition and help with the smell.

Earth Closet

Bird’s eye view of the Earth Closet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Modern, better-smelling waste disposal was still in its infancy, but it was moving in the right direction. That is to say, out of the house via a sealed containment system.

Next week, how to go when you were on the go.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Member Mug

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Member Mug

When you’ve got to go…how did you go?

So glad you asked.

Member Mug

A chamber pot. Also, looking-glass and remedy critch.

What better way to start off a new year than with a series of posts on Regency era waste disposal systems? I plan to wade in slowly; this week we’ll just admire the general beauty of ye olde potty.

Some families and homes of wealth had primitive water closets, and some had outdoor privies, but all had pots stored under the beds for when nature called. It was one of the many duties of the chamber maid to empty the chamber pots. Those lucky girls.

Some even had member mugs in the corner of the drawing room. For those times when you just had to go, but didn’t want to go too far.

The pots ranged in beauty from utilitarian to quite stunning. Some fooled future generations into serving food out of them, thinking they were tureens. True story.

What follows is a selection of Regency era chamber pots. Most remaining member mugs hail from the Victorian era, but there are a few lingering from Georgian privies. Contemporaneous use for dispensing soup, optional.

Chamber pot and bowl, Staffordshire, 1800-1810, Pearlware elaborately in the Chinese style, via Chipstone.

Overhead view of chamber pot with design copied from bone china plate of Miles Mason of Lane End, circa 1805, via Chipstone.

Chamber pot, Staffordshire, 1810-1820, featuring blue transfer print of Nuneham Court, Oxfordshire, via Chipstone.

Chamber pot, Staffordshire, 1825, with chinoiserie pattern and gilded handle.

Base of chamber pot with Hanoverian crown and inscription Royal Stone China from R.S. & W. manufacturer, believed to be Stevenson and Williams.

Chamber pot with Napoleon’s head and Latin inscription PEREAT (let him perish) produced in England circa 1805.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Happy Christmas!

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Happy Christmas!

The Triumphal Procession of Merry Christmass to Hospitality Hall, published by William Holland, 1794, British Museum.

Here’s hoping your holiday is falling somewhere between the utter gluttony and drunkenness of this Georgian print, and the reverent words of Shakespeare below. Happy Christmas to all!

Some says, that ever ‘gainst that Season comes;
Wherein our Saviours Birth is celebrated,
The Bird of Dawning singeth all night long:
And then (they say) no Spirit can walk abroud,
The nights are wholesome, then no Planets strike,
No Fairy takes, nor Witch hath power to Charme:
So hallow’d, and so gracious is the time.

William Shakespeare
Hamlet ~ Act. I, Scene 2

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Waits

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Waits

T-minus one week to Christmas! Shall we go a-caroling?

Waits

Musicians of the lower order, who in most towns play under the windows of the chief inhabitants at midnight, a short time before Christmas, for which they collect a christmas-box from house to house. They are said to derive their name of waits from being always in waiting to celebrate weddings and other joyous events happening within their district.

Christmas-Carols by Henry Heath, 1835, The Lewis Walpole Library.

In my search to find out what Regency celebrants would sing – or have sung to them – while performing as waits at Christmas, I discovered a wonderful recording of two songs: The Gloucester Wassail and The Holly and the Ivy. While there are many more familiar Christmas songs to choose from during the Regency era (such as Greensleeves or Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella), I’ll leave those for other pens to illuminate. I’ve included links to other articles on those very songs, and others, but will focus my attention on the two mentioned above.

During the Georgian era, people would go from house to house singing the wassail song and carrying a wassail bowl, both of which were originally called waysail. Some carolers might use the bowl to hold actual drink or collect money, but most used it as a decoration, adorning their bowl with ribbons, berries, and greenery. This custom of “waysailing” was first noted in publication in the Times Telescope in 1813 Gloucestershire; however, the song is believed to date from as early as the middle ages. Nearly every village added their own lyrics to the song or tailored their customs to fit their burgh, but the general practices were the same, and remained relatively unchanged until the mid-20th century. The most popular version of the song remains as follows:

Wassail! wassail! all over the town,
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown;
Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree;
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee.

Here’s to our horse, and to his right ear,
God send our master a happy new year:
A happy new year as e’er he did see,
With my wassailing bowl I drink to thee.

So here is to Cherry and to his right cheek
Pray God send our master a good piece of beef
And a good piece of beef that may we all see
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee.

Here’s to our mare, and to her right eye,
God send our mistress a good Christmas pie;
A good Christmas pie as e’er I did see,
With my wassailing bowl I drink to thee.

So here is to Broad Mary and to her broad horn
May God send our master a good crop of corn
And a good crop of corn that may we all see
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee.

And here is to Fillpail and to her left ear
Pray God send our master a happy New Year
And a happy New Year as e’er he did see
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee.

Here’s to our cow, and to her long tail,
God send our master us never may fail
Of a cup of good beer: I pray you draw near,
And our jolly wassail it’s then you shall hear.

Come butler, come fill us a bowl of the best
Then we hope that your soul in heaven may rest
But if you do draw us a bowl of the small
Then down shall go butler, bowl and all.

Be here any maids? I suppose here be some;
Sure they will not let young men stand on the cold stone!
Sing hey O, maids! come trole back the pin,
And the fairest maid in the house let us all in.

Then here’s to the maid in the lily white smock
Who tripped to the door and slipped back the lock
Who tripped to the door and pulled back the pin
For to let these jolly wassailers in.

The second song I’m profiling is familiar around the world to this day – The Holly and The Ivy. Holly and ivy have been the go-to decorations for British churches at Advent and Christmas since the 15th century, so it’s only natural a song would arise celebrating these beloved plants. Holly is often called Christ’s Thorn, while the ivy is said to symbolize Mary and her loving support of her divine Son. The words of this carol were first published in anonymous broadsides in Birmingham in the early 19th century, with William Hone first to document the title of the song in his 1823 publication, Ancient Mysteries Discovered. He dated the origin of the lyrics to the mid-17th century.

Ancient Mysteries Described by William Hone, 1823.

Various early 19th century sources do not provide music to accompany the lyrics, though by 1868 carolers are directed to sing The Holly and The Ivy to the tune of an unspecified “old French carol.” That’s not terribly helpful to the modern singer. The music we hear accompanying the lyrics today is immediately familiar to the listener’s ears, at a bare minimum, as a Christmas-y tune.

First verse from anonymous broadside of The Holly & Ivy, published by H. Wadsworth, Birmingham, 1814-1818.

For your delectation, I present The Gloucester Wassail sung by the Waverly Consort, and The Holly and the Ivy sung by The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge.

And for those of a more modern nature, may I present English rock band Blur’s version of The Wassailing Song, presented and arranged by Gold, Frankincense, and Blur. So cool.

Let’s all go a-wassailing!

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Queer Prancer

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Queer Prancer

Y’all, I am worn out.

This first full week of December nearly killed me. At least one event each night, at least one appointment during daylight hours, plus everyday-ness like school, household chores, and errands.

‘Tis the season to be jolly…or so I’m told. I’m feeling much more like the Word of the Week. But I will say Merry Christmas with a smile!

Queer Prancer

A bad, worn-out, foundered horse.

Whilst searching for illustrative caricatures, I stumbled upon Thomas Rowlandson’s series Horse Accomplishments. The second, third, and ninth plates of the series obviously fit this week’s definition of bad, worn-out, and/or foundered, but I thought to include the rest because they are delightfully wonderful. And the titles!! command!! your attention!!

Enjoy!

Horse Accomplishments, Sketch 1, An Astronomer!! by Thomas Rowlandson, 1 August 1799, Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand.

Horse Accomplishments, Sketch 2, A Paviour!! by Thomas Rowlandson, 1 August 1799, Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand.

Horse Accomplishments, Sketch 3, A Whistler!! by Thomas Rowlandson, 1 August 1799, Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand.


Horse Accomplishments, Sketch 4, A Devotee!! by Thomas Rowlandson, 1 August 1799, Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand.

Horse Accomplishments, Sketch 5, A Politician! by Thomas Rowlandson, 1 August 1799, Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand.

Horse Accomplishments, Sketch 6, A Time Keeper!! by Thomas Rowlandson, 1 August 1799, Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand.

Horse Accomplishments, Sketch 7, A Civilian!! by Thomas Rowlandson, 1 August 1799, Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand.

Horse Accomplishments, Sketch 8, An Arithmetician!! by Thomas Rowlandson, 1 August 1799, Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand.

Horse Accomplishments, Sketch 9, A Loiterer!! by Thomas Rowlandson, 1 August 1799, Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand.

Horse Accomplishments, Sketch 10, A Minuet Dancer!! by Thomas Rowlandson, 1 August 1799, Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand.

Horse Accomplishments, Sketch 11, A Land Measurer! by Thomas Rowlandson, 1 August 1799, Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand.

Horse Accomplishments, Sketch 12, A Vaulter!! by Thomas Rowlandson, 1 August 1799, Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand.

 

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

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Cannikin

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Cannikin

A pestilence has descended upon my house. On me, specifically. Not nearly as dire as the cant definition of this week’s word, but enough to get me down, watching Netflix and using Kleenex faster than gossip travels through a small town.

Please forgive my brevity and, as usual, enjoy some Rowlandson and Gillray illustrations of the recordings of Mr. Grose.

Cannikin

In the canting sense, the plague. Otherwise, a small can.

Ague & Fever by Thomas Rowlandson, 29 March 1788, British Museum.

From the description in the British Museum:

The patient sits in profile to the left with chattering teeth, holding his hands to a blazing fire on the extreme left Ague, a snaky monster, coils itself round him, its coils ending in claws like the legs of a monstrous spider. Behind the patient’s back, in the middle of the room, Fever, a furry monster with burning eyes, resembling an ape, stands full-face with outstretched arms. On the right the doctor sits in profile to the right at a small table, writing a prescription, holding up a medicine-bottle in his left hand. The room is well furnished and suggests wealth: a carved four-post bed is elaborately draped. On the high chimney-piece are ‘chinoiseries’ and medicine-bottles. Above it is an elaborately framed landscape. Beneath the design is engraved: “And feel by turns the bitter change of fierce extremes, extremes by change more fierce.” Milton.’ 29 March 1788. Hand-coloured etching.

Hands-down the best description I’ve ever seen and read of illness. Fierce extremes, indeed.

 

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