WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Kingdom Come

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Kingdom Come

Today is Memorial Day in the United States, the day when we honor those who gave their lives in battle while serving in the Armed Forces. It’s ones of the greatest sacrifices one person can perform for another, and should never be taken lightly nor forgotten.

I write romances set during the Regency, but this period overlapped with the Napoleonic Wars, and military casualties were great. Record-keeping was not as instantaneous as it is now, so losses have to be tallied in the estimates rather than specifics, but even when rounding low, the numbers are still staggering.

I’m one of those historians who believes in keeping the aggressor’s casualty numbers separate; though those fighting are not necessarily there by choice nor ideology, I’ve always felt there’s something disrespectful in placing the perpetrators alongside the defenders on the memorial sheets. It’s a personal preference only.

Battle of Borodino, 7th September 1812, by Louis-François, Baron Lejeune, 1822, Palace of Versailles. The Battle of Borodino, or Battle of Moscow, was the largest and bloodiest single-day action of the Napoleonic Wars.

Kingdom Come

He is gone to kingdom come, he is dead.

Battle of the Pyrenees, July 28th 1813, by William Heath, between 1814 and 1815, Bibliothèques de Toulouse.

Coalition forces

  • 120,000 Italian dead or missing.
  • Russian: 289,000 killed in major battles.
  • Prussian: 134,000 killed in major battles.
  • Austrian: 376,000 killed in major battles.
  • Spanish: more than 300,000 military deaths
  • Portuguese: up to 250,000 dead or missing.
  • British: 311,806 dead or missing.
  • Killed in battle: 560,000–1,869,000
  • Total: 2,380,000–5,925,084

Duckworth’s Action Off San Domingo, 6 February 1806, by Nicholas Pocock, 1808,National Maritime Museum.

Royal Navy

  • Killed in action: 6,663
  • Shipwrecks, drownings, fire: 13,621
  • Wounds, disease: 72,102
  • Total: 92,386.

Defence of Smolensk, by Aleksandr Averyanov, undated.

British Army, 1804–1815

  • Killed in action: 25,569
  • Wounds, accidents, disease: 193,851
  • Total: 219,420

The Battle of Leipzig, by Vladimir Ivanovich Moshkov, undated. This battle involved over 600,000 soldiers, making it the largest battle in Europe until World War One.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ All St. Audrey

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ All St. Audrey

How’s everyone doing? I hope we’re all staying home, washing our hands, keeping safe distances, and making good decisions. In crazy times, I’m reminded of the immortal words of President Whitmore in Independence Day.

In no way do I mean to be flippant or make light of the real risks running rampant in our world…but I do think humor has its place in keeping us sane and grounded in our new – and hopefully temporary – reality.

In the meantime, in my little corner of the internet, let’s look at some more beautiful things from history. This week: ten years of promenade, or walking dresses, from the Regency era. Just because.

All St. Audrey

A term said to be derived from the shrine and altar of St. Audrey (an Isle of Ely saintess), which for finery exceeded all others thereabouts, so as to become proverbial; whence any fine dressed man or woman said to be all St Audrey.

Walking Dress, 1803, La Belle Assemblee.

Walking Dress, 1804, La Belle Assemblee.

Walking Dress, 1805, La Belle Assemblee.

Walking Dress, 1806, La Belle Assemblee.

Walking Dress, 1807, La Belle Assemblee.

Walking Dress, 1808, La Belle Assemblee.

Walking Dress, 1809, La Belle Assemblee.

Walking Dress, 1810, La Belle Assemblee.

Walking Dress, 1811, La Belle Assemblee.

Walking Dress, 1812, La Belle Assemblee.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Talesman

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Talesman

Well, here’s a new one for me: telling scary stories used to be a Christmas tradition.

Now, I know we’re all familiar with A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, and published in novel form in 1843. But am I the only one who didn’t know that there’s a strong folk history of the telling of eerie tales on Christmas Eve? As if the idea of a total stranger coming down your chimney to leave presents and eat your food wasn’t odd enough, I know, but it was also custom, once upon a time, to gather the kinfolk and give each other gooseflesh by sharing creepy stories.

How utterly fantastic.

A Winter’s Tale, John Everett Millais.

Talesman

The author of a story or report: I’ll tell you my tale, and my talesman. Tale bearers; mischief makers, incendiaries in families.

As far back as 1633, Christopher Marlowe published a tale of the cold-weather practices of telling stories to captive audiences as they likely huddled indoors to escape the harsh conditions out of doors. His title character, Barabas, recalled:

Now I remember those old women’s words,
Who in my wealth would tell me winter’s tales,
And speak of spirits and ghosts that glide by night
About the place where treasure hath been hid:
And now methinks that I am one of those;
For, whilst I live, here lives my soul’s sole hope,
And, when I die, here shall my spirit walk.
      The Jew of Malta, Act 2

Ghost Stories for Christmas, Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert.

Yet even before that – or was it after? I’ll leave that for true scholars to debate…William Shakespeare, in The Winter’s Tale, wrote of bugaboes and hoodoos, and things that go bump on a cold, winter’s night.

HERMIONE
What wisdom stirs amongst you? Come, sir, now
I am for you again: pray you, sit by us,
And tell ‘s a tale.

MAMILLIUS
Merry or sad shall’t be?

HERMIONE
As merry as you will.

MAMILLIUS
A sad tale’s best for winter: I have one
Of sprites and goblins.

HERMIONE
Let’s have that, good sir.
Come on, sit down: come on, and do your best
To fright me with your sprites; you’re powerful at it.

MAMILLIUS
There was a man–

HERMIONE
Nay, come, sit down; then on.

MAMILLIUS
Dwelt by a churchyard: I will tell it softly;
Yond crickets shall not hear it.

HERMIONE
Come on, then,
And give’t me in mine ear.
     Winter’s Tale, Act 2, Scene 1

These stories didn’t have to be ghost stories. In point of fact, they’re documented as winter stories – hence the title of Shakespeare’s play. They could involve all manner of apparition, spirit, tingly-feelings, weird occurrences, unexplained situations, and old wives tales. Many became cautionary stories to warn both children and adults alike, and across all educational and class spectra. Washington Irving, while visiting England at Christmas, recounted in his 1819 Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.:

When I returned to the drawing-room I found the company seated round the fire listening to the parson, who was deeply ensconced in a high-backed oaken chair, the work of some cunning artificer of yore, which had been brought from the library for his particular accommodation. From this venerable piece of furniture, with which his shadowy figure and dark weazen face so admirably accorded, he was dealing out strange accounts of the popular superstitions and legends of the surrounding country, with which he had become acquainted in the course of his antiquarian researches. I am half inclined to think that the old gentleman was himself somewhat tinctured with superstition, as men are very apt to be who live a recluse and studious life in a sequestered part of the country and pore over black-letter tracts, so often filled with the marvelous and supernatural. He gave us several anecdotes of the fancies of the neighboring peasantry concerning the effigy of the crusader which lay on the tomb by the church altar. As it was the only monument of the kind in that part of the country, it had always been regarded with feelings of superstition by the good wives of the village. It was said to get up from the tomb and walk the rounds of the churchyard in stormy nights, particularly when it thundered; and one old woman, whose cottage bordered on the churchyard, had seen it through the windows of the church, when the moon shone, slowly pacing up and down the aisles. It was the belief that some wrong had been left unredressed by the deceased, or some treasure hidden, which kept the spirit in a state of trouble and restlessness. Some talked of gold and jewels buried in the tomb, over which the spectre kept watch; and there was a story current of a sexton in old times who endeavored to break his way to the coffin at night, but just as he reached it received a violent blow from the marble hand of the effigy, which stretched him senseless on the pavement. These tales were often laughed at by some of the sturdier among the rustics, yet when night came on there were many of the stoutest unbelievers that were shy of venturing alone in the footpath that led across the churchyard.

The Cook in the White Sheet or the Pantry Apparition, published by Robert Sayer, 1775, British Museum.

Suffice to say, these winter tales were extremely common, and it’s no wonder they made their Christmas Eve appearances – all were gathered together, likely in want at some point of some form of indoor entertainment.

Our modern dispositions (especially those in America) tend toward presents opened, foods eaten, and movies watched on Christmas Eve. The close confines dictated by cold temperatures and staying indoors often bring out flared tempers and testy comments.

Perhaps today we live out our horror tales rather than recounting them.

 

  • Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.
  • Here’s where to find the entire play, The Jew of Malta.
  • The graphic Ghost Stories for Christmas is actually artwork for an album cover of the same name, by Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert. Investigating the songs, I discovered they covered Yazoo’s Only You. That was enough for me. Here’s the buy link.
  • Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale was first performed in 1611, and appeared in the First Folio of 1623. The Jew of Malta by Christopher Marlowe was first produced likely around 1590, and was first published in 1633.
  • Read all of The Winter’s Tale here.
WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Public Ledger

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Public Ledger

Oh, lud.

Distinctions rarely get easier to make out than those between a proper wife and a common prostitute, and that’s exactly what we see between Plates 6 and 7 in Industry and Idleness. Francis Goodchild married well while Tom Idle secured for himself the lowest of all who sell their bodies; the former is respectable while the latter is anything but.

Public Ledger

A prostitute: because, like that paper, she is open to all parties.

Industry and Idleness, Plate 7: The Idle ‘Prentice Return’d from Sea, & in a Garret With a Common Prostitute, by William Hogarth, 30 September 1747, Tate Museum.

From the Tate Museum description:

Idle, too, has been interrupted by noise from outside. But whereas Goodchild acts calmly, having nothing to fear, Idle is startled and terrified. Contrasting with Goodchild’s open door, his is locked, bolted and reinforced with planks of wood. The reason is clear. He and his partner in crime are thieving for a living, the ‘rewards’ of which are examined by the prostitute.

From the Wikipedia description:

For reasons unknown (but probably related to his namesake vice), Tom Idle is back on land again. If he was callous enough to throw out his indenture leaving land, he certainly doesn’t feel bound by any law on his return as he has gone so far as to turn highwayman (more likely footpad) and take up a (dismal) residence with “a common Prostitute”.

…Thomas and his companion are shown living in complete squalor somewhere in London. The sole article of furniture in the room is the broken down bed that Tom and his woman are lying on. She is busy examining the various nonmonetary spoils from his thefts on the highway, including an earring that looks like a gallows. The bottles on the fireplace mantel are suggestive of venereal disease, similar to those of plate 3 in A Harlot’s Progress.

The broken flute and bottle, together with the pair of breeches discarded on the bedclothes, suggest they’ve been spending their time in drunken debauchery. Samuel Ireland suggests that he was doing this to drive away his fears of the law.

The principal event of the scene is a cat falling down the chimney with a few bricks (which strongly suggests the quality of the house they are lodging in), which causes Tom Idle to start up with all the fear of the law on him.

The extremely dilapidated condition of the building, lack of any obvious source of light or fire, and covering over of the window by a hoop petticoat suggest that Idle is in hiding and sparing no pains to keep his location a secret.

Leviticus CHAP: XXVI Ve: 30
The Sound of a Shaken Leaf
shall Chace him.

 

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

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Counterfeit Crank

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Counterfeit Crank

While Francis Goodchild makes nice inside the church, Tom Idle makes coin dicing amongst the graves outside this week in Plate 3. One could argue Tom is not exactly loafing around: relieving others of their blunt can be hard work, especially if you’re not an honest gambler. That takes some skill and effort. Be it of a questionable nature.

Counterfeit Crank

A general cheat, assuming all sorts of characters; one counterfeiting the falling sickness.

Industry and Idleness, Plate 3: The Idle ‘Prentice at Play in the Church Yard, During Diving Service, by William Hogarth, 30 September 1747, Tate Museum.

From the Tate Museum description:

Idle is shown to be a gambler and a cheat. Clearly at home with the criminal underclass represented by his grotesque companions, he sprawls over a coffin signalling his disrespectful and progressively brutalised character. The skulls and bones scattered on the ground presage his fate and remind us of the biblical ‘Day of Judgement’. At the same time he seems oblivious to the punishment that is about to be served by the man wielding a stick.

From the Wikipedia description:

In this case, Tom Idle is shown doing the exact opposite [of Francis Goodchild]: gambling and cheating with some pence on top of a tomb in the churchyard. The foreground is strewn with spare bones and skulls, and behind him a beadle is about to strike him with a cane for his insolence and tardiness. Curiously, the beadle looks to be winking at the viewer of this work.

Also note that the frame is reversed: Now the mace, etc. are on the left of the engraving.

Proverbs CH: XIX Ve: 29
Judgments are prepared for scorners
& stripes for the back of Fools

 

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

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Strait-Laced

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Strait-Laced

Last week, in plate one, hardworking Francis Goodchild and lazy Thomas Idle were shown together; this will only happen once more, in plate ten. The rest of the plates will feature only one of the main characters, alternating each time. This week, in plate two, we see nose-to-the-grindstone Francis polishing his morality. Were this the Renaissance, no doubt Hogarth would have placed a halo about his head.

Strait-Laced

Precise, over nice, puritanical.

Industry and Idleness, Plate 2: The Industrious ‘Prentice Performing the Duty of a Christian, by William Hogarth, 30 September 1747, Tate Museum.

From the Tate Museum description:

The church is representative of the establishment and indicates social and religious conformity. Goodchild is in the church… [and his] preferment in the workplace and acceptance into polite society are shown by his occupying the master weaver’s church pew and sharing a hymnbook with his daughter.

From the Wikipedia description:

Plate two occurs at some point on a Sunday, when their master has given them part (or all) of the day to attend church service. Francis Goodchild is shown taking good advantage of this, attending St. Martin-in-the-Fields, standing in a pew with his master’s daughter, singing out of a hymnal. Their piety is contrasted with the sleeping man in the pew and the vain woman at the far right, and complements the quiet devotion of the old pew opener, the woman who has the keys to the pew, who is facing away from the service to spot new arrivals.

Significantly, since this is the first in the series of images of Francis’ fortune, his career is literally shown to start with his devotion. Note the tricorns hanging everywhere.

Psalm Ch: XIX Ver: 97
O! How I love thy Law it is my
meditation all day

 

A post about behaving in church always bends my mind toward Mr. Bean. Most either love him or hate him. Those in the latter category…I shall say a pray for you.

 

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

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Ace of Spades

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Ace of Spades

Blindsided.

Gutted.

Marriage à-la-mode did not end the way I thought it would. No wonder these paintings were not received as well as his others. This series is full-on tragedy. What began as satire, for me, quickly spiraled into pure devastation. That poor child has a spot on his face, and we all know what that means. Only the dog is having a good day.

Marriage à-la-mode, a series of six pictures painted by William Hogarth between 1743 and 1745, are in the permanent collection of the National Gallery.

Ace of Spades

A widow.

Marriage à-la-mode: 6, The Lady’s Death (The Suicide of the Countess), by William Hogarth, 1743, National Gallery.

From the Wikipedia description:

Finally, in the sixth painting, The Lady’s Death (the name on its frame), called The Suicide of the Countess by Hogarth, the countess poisons herself in her grief and poverty-stricken widowhood, after her lover is hanged at Tyburn for murdering her husband. An old woman carrying her baby allows the child to give her a kiss, but the mark on the child’s cheek and the caliper on her leg suggest that disease has been passed onto the next generation. The countess’s father, whose miserly lifestyle is evident in the bare house, removes the wedding ring from her finger.

 

Dat father tho – once a cit, always a cit. The Bingley sisters may have been right after all, for all that they were barely fronting their one-generation-removed status.

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