WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Cream Pot Love

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Cream Pot Love

First Crush.
Puppy Love.
Calf Love.

It’s time to talk intense, extremely serious at the time, but shallow like/lust/love. During the Regency, apparently milk maids were involved.

The Milkmaids by Delapoer Downing, in the public domain at Wikigallery

Cream Pot Love

Such as young fellows pretend to dairymaids, to get cream and other good things from them.

No need to even elaborate on ‘other good things’ young fellows were after.

La Belle Cuisinière (The Beautiful Kitchen Maid) by François Boucher (before 1735), Musée Cognacq-Jay, Paris.

And some not-so-young fellows.

Doctor Syntax & Dairy Maid by Thomas Rowlandson, published 1 May 1812, Royal Academy of Arts.

From the British Museum’s description:

Syntax sits beside a pretty dairymaid in a dairy, while a cat laps from a bowl of cream. They are watched from the doorway by a distressed woman, who suspects Syntax’s intentions.


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


WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Cupboard Love

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Cupboard Love

That moment when you discover a 19th century slang term used by a theologian, an author of an angst-ridden historical chronicles, and a writer of short-stories.

Theologian Harold B. Hunting, in Hebrew Life and Times, wrote “He wants love, not gifts, from his people, a love which on their part does not fawn for other gifts from him in return, like the cupboard love of kittens purring for cream.” He was, of course, describing the pure love desired by God of his people.

Angsty-author John Galsworthy wrote of the mindly meanderings of his character Old Jolyon Forsyte, father to Young Jolyon and uncle to Soames (surely one of the most unlikable characters in all of literature). Old Jolyon believes his granddaughter, Holly, has nothing but true love for her grandpapa; he then wonders for a moment if his son Soames’ first wife, Irene, had pretended love for the family to gain wealth, but determines she was too naive in that regard (and Soames was not worth the effort, no matter how much property came attached to him):

Holly, too, was expecting him, and what he had in his bag for her. Not that there was any cupboard love in his little sweet–she was a bundle of affection. Then, with the rather bitter cynicism of the old, he wondered for a second whether it was not cupboard love which made Irene put up with him. No, she was not that sort either. She had, if anything, too little notion of how to butter her bread, no sense of property, poor thing! Besides, he had not breathed a word about that codicil, nor should he–sufficient unto the day was the good thereof.

I just couldn’t bring myself to delve too deeply into this moldy oldy, likely because the shelves in my grandmother’s bedroom were full of these books. I mean, the cover alone looked dated at its birth in 1976. And the hero’s name is Blaize. (I’ve edited out the author’s name; everyone who writes has at least one work that makes them cringe at some point, but I’m not putting anyone on blast.)


That just leaves the short story writer, a 21st century chap now barely known for one of his macabre tales, The Monkey’s Paw, while the rest have slipped into a publishing black hole. Thank goodness the internet exists, proving the old saying there’s always a paper trail, even when it’s electronic.

Cupboard Love

Pretended love to the cook, or any other person, for sake of a meal.

While W.W. Jacobs is considered a one-hit wonder writer on the surface, a deeper dive into his life reveals an author who loved humor, and tales of sailors and the sea, as much as a good scare. In 1902, he published The Lady of the Barge, and Other Tales, a collection of funny stories set in a village relating the troubles of elderly widows and their real (and imaginary) suitors. In selection number five, Cupboard Love, a family bands together to crack the case of a missing piece of jewelry, attempting to catch the thief red-handed. But when they set their plan into motion, it quickly spirals out of control.

An illustration used for the short story ‘Cupboard Love’ by W.W. Jacobs, 1902.

In the comfortable living-room at Negget’s farm, half parlour and half kitchen, three people sat at tea in the waning light of a November afternoon. Conversation, which had been brisk, had languished somewhat, owing to Mrs. Negget glancing at frequent intervals toward the door, behind which she was convinced the servant was listening, and checking the finest periods and the most startling suggestions with a warning ‘ssh!

“Go on, uncle,” she said, after one of these interruptions.

“I forget where I was,” said Mr. Martin Bodfish, shortly.

“Under our bed,” Mr. Negget reminded him.

“Yes, watching,” said Mrs. Negget, eagerly.

It was an odd place for an ex-policeman, especially as a small legacy added to his pension had considerably improved his social position, but Mr. Bodfish had himself suggested it in the professional hope that the person who had taken Mrs. Negget’s gold brooch might try for further loot. He had, indeed, suggested baiting the dressing-table with the farmer’s watch, an idea which Mr. Negget had promptly vetoed.

“I can’t help thinking that Mrs. Pottle knows something about it,” said Mrs. Negget, with an indignant glance at her husband.

“Mrs. Pottle,” said the farmer, rising slowly and taking a seat on the oak settle built in the fireplace, “has been away from the village for near a fortnit.”

“I didn’t say she took it,” snapped his wife. “I said I believe she knows something about it, and so I do. She’s a horrid woman. Look at the way she encouraged her girl Looey to run after that young traveller from Smithson’s. The whole fact of the matter is, it isn’t your brooch, so you don’t care.”

“I said—” began Mr. Negget.

“I know what you said,” retorted his wife, sharply, “and I wish you’d be quiet and not interrupt uncle. Here’s my uncle been in the police twenty-five years, and you won’t let him put a word in edgeways.’

“My way o’ looking at it,” said the ex-policeman, slowly, “is different to that o’ the law; my idea is, an’ always has been, that everybody is guilty until they’ve proved their innocence.”

“It’s a wonderful thing to me,” said Mr. Negget in a low voice to his pipe, “as they should come to a house with a retired policeman living in it. Looks to me like somebody that ain’t got much respect for the police.”

The ex-policeman got up from the table, and taking a seat on the settle opposite the speaker, slowly filled a long clay and took a spill from the fireplace. His pipe lit, he turned to his niece, and slowly bade her go over the account of her loss once more.

“I missed it this morning,” said Mrs. Negget, rapidly, “at ten minutes past twelve o’clock by the clock, and half-past five by my watch which wants looking to. I’d just put the batch of bread into the oven, and gone upstairs and opened the box that stands on my drawers to get a lozenge, and I missed the brooch.”

“Do you keep it in that box?” asked the ex-policeman, slowly.

“Always,” replied his niece. “I at once came down stairs and told Emma that the brooch had been stolen. I said that I named no names, and didn’t wish to think bad of anybody, and that if I found the brooch back in the box when I went up stairs again, I should forgive whoever took it.”

“And what did Emma say?” inquired Mr. Bodfish.

“Emma said a lot o’ things,” replied Mrs. Negget, angrily. “I’m sure by the lot she had to say you’d ha’ thought she was the missis and me the servant. I gave her a month’s notice at once, and she went straight up stairs and sat on her box and cried.”

“Sat on her box?” repeated the ex-constable, impressively. “Oh!”

“That’s what I thought,” said his niece, “but it wasn’t, because I got her off at last and searched it through and through. I never saw anything like her clothes in all my life. There was hardly a button or a tape on; and as for her stockings—”

“She don’t get much time,” said Mr. Negget, slowly.

“That’s right; I thought you’d speak up for her,” cried his wife, shrilly.

“Look here—” began Mr. Negget, laying his pipe on the seat by his side and rising slowly.

“Keep to the case in hand,” said the ex-constable, waving him back to his seat again. “Now, Lizzie.”

“I searched her box through and through,” said his niece, “but it wasn’t there; then I came down again and had a rare good cry all to myself.”

“That’s the best way for you to have it,” remarked Mr. Negget, feelingly.

Mrs. Negget’s uncle instinctively motioned his niece to silence, and holding his chin in his hand, scowled frightfully in the intensity of thought.

“See a cloo?” inquired Mr. Negget, affably.

“You ought to be ashamed of yourself, George,” said his wife, angrily; “speaking to uncle when he’s looking like that.”

Mr. Bodfish said nothing; it is doubtful whether he even heard these remarks; but he drew a huge notebook from his pocket, and after vainly trying to point his pencil by suction, took a knife from the table and hastily sharpened it.

“Was the brooch there last night?” he inquired.

“It were,” said Mr. Negget, promptly. “Lizzie made me get up just as the owd clock were striking twelve to get her a lozenge.”

“It seems pretty certain that the brooch went since then,” mused Mr. Bodfish.

“It would seem like it to a plain man,” said Mr. Negget, guardedly.

“I should like to see the box,” said Mr. Bodfish.

Mrs. Negget went up and fetched it and stood eyeing him eagerly as he raised the lid and inspected the contents. It contained only a few lozenges and some bone studs. Mr. Negget helped himself to a lozenge, and going back to his seat, breathed peppermint.

“Properly speaking, that ought not to have been touched,” said the ex-constable, regarding him with some severity.

“Eh!” said the startled farmer, putting his finger to his lips.

“Never mind,” said the other, shaking his head. “It’s too late now.”

“He doesn’t care a bit,” said Mrs. Negget, somewhat sadly. “He used to keep buttons in that box with the lozenges until one night he gave me one by mistake. Yes, you may laugh—I’m glad you can laugh.”

Mr. Negget, feeling that his mirth was certainly ill-timed, shook for some time in a noble effort to control himself, and despairing at length, went into the back place to recover. Sounds of blows indicative of Emma slapping him on the back did not add to Mrs. Negget’s serenity.

“The point is,” said the ex-constable, “could anybody have come into your room while you was asleep and taken it?”

“No,” said Mrs. Negget, decisively. I’m a very poor sleeper, and I’d have woke at once, but if a flock of elephants was to come in the room they wouldn’t wake George. He’d sleep through anything.”

“Except her feeling under my piller for her handkerchief,” corroborated Mr. Negget, returning to the sitting-room.

Mr. Bodfish waved them to silence, and again gave way to deep thought. Three times he took up his pencil, and laying it down again, sat and drummed on the table with his fingers. Then he arose, and with bent head walked slowly round and round the room until he stumbled over a stool.

“Nobody came to the house this morning, I suppose?” he said at length, resuming his seat.

“Only Mrs. Driver,” said his niece.

“What time did she come?” inquired Mr. Bodfish.

“Here! look here!” interposed Mr. Negget. “I’ve known Mrs. Driver thirty year a’most.”

“What time did she come?” repeated the ex-constable, pitilessly.

His niece shook her head. “It might have been eleven, and again it might have been earlier,” she replied. “I was out when she came.”

“Out!” almost shouted the other.

Mrs. Negget nodded.

“She was sitting in here when I came back.”

Her uncle looked up and glanced at the door behind which a small staircase led to the room above.

“What was to prevent Mrs. Driver going up there while you were away?” he demanded.

“I shouldn’t like to think that of Mrs. Driver,” said his niece, shaking her head; “but then in these days one never knows what might happen. Never. I’ve given up thinking about it. However, when I came back, Mrs. Driver was here, sitting in that very chair you are sitting in now.”

Mr. Bodfish pursed up his lips and made another note. Then he took a spill from the fireplace, and lighting a candle, went slowly and carefully up the stairs. He found nothing on them but two caked rims of mud, and being too busy to notice Mr. Negget’s frantic signalling, called his niece’s attention to them.

“What do you think of that?” he demanded, triumphantly.

“Somebody’s been up there,” said his niece. “It isn’t Emma, because she hasn’t been outside the house all day; and it can’t be George, because he promised me faithful he’d never go up there in his dirty boots.”

Mr. Negget coughed, and approaching the stairs, gazed with the eye of a stranger at the relics as Mr. Bodfish hotly rebuked a suggestion of his niece’s to sweep them up.

“Seems to me,” said the conscience-stricken Mr. Negget, feebly, “as they’re rather large for a woman.”

“Mud cakes,” said Mr. Bodfish, with his most professional manner; “a small boot would pick up a lot this weather.”

“So it would,” said Mr. Negget, and with brazen effrontery not only met his wife’s eye without quailing, but actually glanced down at her boots.

Mr. Bodfish came back to his chair and ruminated. Then he looked up and spoke.

“It was missed this morning at ten minutes past twelve,” he said, slowly; “it was there last night. At eleven o’clock you came in and found Mrs. Driver sitting in that chair.”

“No, the one you’re in,” interrupted his niece.

“It don’t signify,” said her uncle. “Nobody else has been near the place, and Emma’s box has been searched.

“Thoroughly searched,” testified Mrs. Negget.

“Now the point is, what did Mrs. Driver come for this morning?” resumed the ex-constable. “Did she come—”

He broke off and eyed with dignified surprise a fine piece of wireless telegraphy between husband and wife. It appeared that Mr. Negget sent off a humorous message with his left eye, the right being for some reason closed, to which Mrs. Negget replied with a series of frowns and staccato shakes of the head, which her husband found easily translatable. Under the austere stare of Mr. Bodfish their faces at once regained their wonted calm, and the ex-constable in a somewhat offended manner resumed his inquiries.

“Mrs. Driver has been here a good bit lately,” he remarked, slowly.

Mr. Negget’s eyes watered, and his mouth worked piteously.

“If you can’t behave yourself, George—began began his wife, fiercely.

“What is the matter?” demanded Mr. Bodfish. “I’m not aware that I’ve said anything to be laughed at.”

“No more you have, uncle,” retorted his niece; “only George is such a stupid. He’s got an idea in his silly head that Mrs. Driver—But it’s all nonsense, of course.”

“I’ve merely got a bit of an idea that it’s a wedding-ring, not a brooch, Mrs. Driver is after,” said the farmer to the perplexed constable.

Mr. Bodfish looked from one to the other. “But you always keep yours on, Lizzie, don’t you?” he asked.

“Yes, of course,” replied his niece, hurriedly; “but George has always got such strange ideas. Don’t take no notice of him.”

Her uncle sat back in his chair, his face still wrinkled perplexedly; then the wrinkles vanished suddenly, chased away by a huge glow, and he rose wrathfully and towered over the match-making Mr. Negget. “How dare you?” he gasped.

Mr. Negget made no reply, but in a cowardly fashion jerked his thumb toward his wife.

“Oh! George! How can you say so?” said the latter.

“I should never ha’ thought of it by myself,” said the farmer; “but I think they’d make a very nice couple, and I’m sure Mrs. Driver thinks so.”

The ex-constable sat down in wrathful confusion, and taking up his notebook again, watched over the top of it the silent charges and countercharges of his niece and her husband.

“If I put my finger on the culprit,” he asked at length, turning to his niece, “what do you wish done to her?”

Mrs. Negget regarded him with an expression which contained all the Christian virtues rolled into one.

“Nothing,” she said, softly. “I only want my brooch back.”

The ex-constable shook his head at this leniency.

“Well, do as you please,” he said, slowly. “In the first place, I want you to ask Mrs. Driver here to tea to-morrow—oh, I don’t mind Negget’s ridiculous ideas—pity he hasn’t got something better to think of; if she’s guilty, I’ll soon find it out. I’ll play with her like a cat with a mouse. I’ll make her convict herself.”

“Look here!” said Mr. Negget, with sudden vigour. “I won’t have it. I won’t have no woman asked here to tea to be got at like that. There’s only my friends comes here to tea, and if any friend stole anything o’ mine, I’d be one o’ the first to hush it up.”

“If they were all like you, George,” said his wife, angrily, “where would the law be?”

“Or the police?” demanded Mr. Bodfish, staring at him.

“I won’t have it!” repeated the farmer, loudly. “I’m the law here, and I’m the police here. That little tiny bit o’ dirt was off my boots, I dare say. I don’t care if it was.”

“Very good,” said Mr. Bodfish, turning to his indignant niece; “if he likes to look at it that way, there’s nothing more to be said. I only wanted to get your brooch back for you, that’s all; but if he’s against it—”

“I’m against your asking Mrs. Driver here to my house to be got at,” said the farmer.

“O’ course if you can find out who took the brooch, and get it back again anyway, that’s another matter.”

Mr. Bodfish leaned over the table toward his niece.

“If I get an opportunity, I’ll search her cottage,” he said, in a low voice. “Strictly speaking, it ain’t quite a legal thing to do, o course, but many o’ the finest pieces of detective work have been done by breaking the law. If she’s a kleptomaniac, it’s very likely lying about somewhere in the house.”

He eyed Mr. Negget closely, as though half expecting another outburst, but none being forthcoming, sat back in his chair again and smoked in silence, while Mrs. Negget, with a carpet-brush which almost spoke, swept the pieces of dried mud from the stairs.

Mr. Negget was the last to go to bed that night, and finishing his pipe over the dying fire, sat for some time in deep thought. He had from the first raised objections to the presence of Mr. Bodfish at the farm, but family affection, coupled with an idea of testamentary benefits, had so wrought with his wife that he had allowed her to have her own way. Now he half fancied that he saw a chance of getting rid of him. If he could only enable the widow to catch him searching her house, it was highly probable that the ex-constable would find the village somewhat too hot to hold him. He gave his right leg a congratulatory slap as he thought of it, and knocking the ashes from his pipe, went slowly up to bed.

He was so amiable next morning that Mr. Bodfish, who was trying to explain to Mrs. Negget the difference between theft and kleptomania, spoke before him freely. The ex-constable defined kleptomania as a sort of amiable weakness found chiefly among the upper circles, and cited the case of a lady of title whose love of diamonds, combined with great hospitality, was a source of much embarrassment to her guests.

For the whole of that day Mr. Bodfish hung about in the neighbourhood of the widow’s cottage, but in vain, and it would be hard to say whether he or Mr. Negget, who had been discreetly shadowing him, felt the disappointment most. On the day following, however, the ex-constable from a distant hedge saw a friend of the widow’s enter the cottage, and a little later both ladies emerged and walked up the road.

He watched them turn the corner, and then, with a cautious glance round, which failed, however, to discover Mr. Negget, the ex-constable strolled casually in the direction of the cottage, and approaching it from the rear, turned the handle of the door and slipped in.

He searched the parlour hastily, and then, after a glance from the window, ventured up stairs. And he was in the thick of his self-imposed task when his graceless nephew by marriage, who had met Mrs. Driver and referred pathetically to a raging thirst which he had hoped to have quenched with some of her home-brewed, brought the ladies hastily back again.

“I’ll go round the back way,” said the wily Negget as they approached the cottage. “I just want to have a look at that pig of yours.”

He reached the back door at the same time as Mr. Bodfish, and placing his legs apart, held it firmly against the frantic efforts of the exconstable. The struggle ceased suddenly, and the door opened easily just as Mrs. Driver and her friend appeared in the front room, and the farmer, with a keen glance at the door of the larder which had just closed, took a chair while his hostess drew a glass of beer from the barrel in the kitchen.

Mr. Negget drank gratefully and praised the brew. From beer the conversation turned naturally to the police, and from the police to the listening Mr. Bodfish, who was economizing space by sitting on the bread- pan, and trembling with agitation.

“He’s a lonely man,” said Negget, shaking his head and glancing from the corner of his eye at the door of the larder. In his wildest dreams he had not imagined so choice a position, and he resolved to give full play to an idea which suddenly occurred to him.

“I dare say,” said Mrs. Driver, carelessly, conscious that her friend was watching her.

“And the heart of a little child,” said Negget; “you wouldn’t believe how simple he is.”

Mrs. Clowes said that it did him credit, but, speaking for herself, she hadn’t noticed it.

“He was talking about you night before last,” said Negget, turning to his hostess; “not that that’s anything fresh. He always is talking about you nowadays.”

The widow coughed confusedly and told him not to be foolish.

“Ask my wife,” said the farmer, impressively; “they were talking about you for hours. He’s a very shy man is my wife’s uncle, but you should see his face change when your name’s mentioned.”

As a matter of fact, Mr. Bodfish’s face was at that very moment taking on a deeper shade of crimson.

“Everything you do seems to interest him,” continued the farmer, disregarding Mrs. Driver’s manifest distress; “he was asking Lizzie about your calling on Monday; how long you stayed, and where you sat; and after she’d told him, I’m blest if he didn’t go and sit in the same chair!”

This romantic setting to a perfectly casual action on the part of Mr. Bodfish affected the widow visibly, but its effect on the ex-constable nearly upset the bread-pan.

“But here,” continued Mr. Negget, with another glance at the larder, “he might go on like that for years. He’s a wunnerful shy man—big, and gentle, and shy. He wanted Lizzie to ask you to tea yesterday.”

“Now, Mr. Negget,” said the blushing widow. “Do be quiet.”

“Fact,” replied the farmer; “solemn fact, I assure you. And he asked her whether you were fond of jewellery.”

“I met him twice in the road near here yesterday,” said Mrs. Clowes, suddenly. “Perhaps he was waiting for you to come out.”

“I dare say,” replied the farmer. “I shouldn’t wonder but what he’s hanging about somewhere near now, unable to tear himself away.”

Mr. Bodfish wrung his hands, and his thoughts reverted instinctively to instances in his memory in which charges of murder had been altered by the direction of a sensible judge to manslaughter. He held his breath for the next words.

Mr. Negget drank a little more ale and looked at Mrs. Driver.

“I wonder whether you’ve got a morsel of bread and cheese?” he said, slowly. “I’ve come over that hungry—”

~Cupboard Love by W.W. Jacobs from Gutenberg.


The phrase Cupboard Love soon morphed into a euphemism for any pretended love. I think the only beings using this phrase as it was originally defined are mooching pets. They will, quite literally, pretend anything for food.

Cupboard Love by Birton Rivière, 1881, The New Art Gallery Walsall.


  • Enjoy the doctrinal treatise of Harold B. Hunting by reading Hebrew Life and Times.
  • John Galsworthy puts the saga in saga in his Forsyte Saga. If you’d rather watch your sagas, thank you very much, you can check out the 1967 series for BBC (extremely faithful to the written saga, and the adaptation that set the bar for period drama for decades) and the 2002 miniseries for ITV (not quite so loyal a filming, but featuring Damien Lewis, Rupert Graves, Ioan Gruffudd, Ben Miles, and Julian Ovenden, so who am I to quibble about a bit of directorial license here and there?).
  • The Monkey’s Paw is all that and a bag of chips. Morbid and dreadful and all things gruesomely good!
  • Library Thing gives a nice little biography of W.W. Jacobs.
  • Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.
WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Cold Pudding

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Cold Pudding

Hello, February.

The second month of the year in our Gregorian calendar, the only month with less than thirty days, and the only month whose name means both ‘Day of Purification’ (dies februatus, in Latin) and ‘Mud Month’ (Solmonath, in Old English). February’s flower is the violet and its birthstone the amethyst, the symbol of piety, humility, spiritual wisdom, and sincerity. It’s also the month crammed full with such random holidays as National Freedom Day (1st), checking groundhogs for shadows (2nd), eating/drinking/merrying for Mardi Gras (13th), Chinese New Year (17th, et. al.), commemorating the birthdays of two Presidents (19th), and Rare Disease Day (28th). According to Holidays Calendar, there are over 160 things you can observe, celebrate, or just ponder during the month of February.

How on earth did February come to hold the responsibility for all things love? And since Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day this year, will anyone give up chocolate for Lent? Especially since my favorite day in February is the 15th, when Valentine’s candy goes 75% off at Target.

Thou hast no shame in the discount candy game.

It’s interesting to me that the shortest month of the year commemorates the very emotion that is supposed to encompass people wholly, truly, and 4-ever. Valentine’s Day falls smack in the middle of this month of amour – the same day every year – and yet stores are still overrun at 5:00pm that day with males desperate to find something their loves will find worthy.

The Pearl Necklace by Frédéric Soulacroix (1858-1933), Art Renewal Center, New Jersey.

Might I suggest the word of the week?

Cold Pudding

This is said to settle one’s love.

Perhaps a little poetry wouldn’t go amiss. And chocolate. Must have all the chocolate.

The Lovers’ Tryst by Frédéric Soulacroix (1858-1933), Bonhams Gallery, London.


WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Piss Pot Hall

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Piss Pot Hall

To round out a month of what has surely been the vulgarist of vulgar topic themes, this week takes us to the highest of the lows.

In which we learn of the house that chamber pots built,courtesy the head of a lofty windbag.

Piss Pot Hall

A house at Clapton, near Hackney, built by a potter chiefly out of the profits of chamber pots, in the bottom of which the portrait of Dr. Sacheverel (sic) was depicted.

Honestly, when history is this crass yet entertaining, I don’t even mind if it’s anecdotal in part or total.

The story goes that in 1709, the very Tory, very Reverend, Doctor Henry Sacheverell took it upon himself to preach a series of sermons, The Perils of False Brethren, in which he accused Whigs of being entirely too tolerant of religious dissenters. While the Whigs were in power and no less than the Lord Mayor had forbade him speak it, mind you.

Frontispiece for The Perils of False Brethren.

To understand the vehemence of his position, one need only remember the English Civil War and subsequent Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell was barely a generation past. So bitterly did the Loyalists despise the ‘king killer’ Cromwell that they took to calling their chamber pots Oliver’s Skulls. He was, after all, a Roundhead, so the moniker was both apropos to the shape of the vessel, and insult to Old Ironsides.  Three years after Cromwell’s death, in 1661, the poor chap’s body was dug up so that he could be hanged, tossed into a pit, then beheaded.

Some ingenious entrepreneur should have secured the head so that a privy tour could have be taken with the real, literal Oliver’s Skull but, alas, the head was lost (as beheaded head’s of state heads often are?).

<insert Oliver’s Skull jokes here>

Anyway, fast forward a few decades and tensions are still fraught between Loyalists/Tories and Roundhead/Whigs. Enter Dr. Sacheverell, he of St. Saviour’s in Southwark and the fiery sermons, and we have a new person to commemorate in member mug fashion. Dr. Sacheverell insults the Whigs, and a Whig potter promptly manufactures chamber pots featuring a likeness of the preacher in the bottom.

You may fire when ready, boys.

So many ‘preacher pots’ were sold that the enterprising potter allegedly made a fortune, enough to build himself a mansion at Clapton, near Hackney, which became fittingly known as ‘Piss Pot Hall.’

I feel like it took forever to make it to the meat of the Word of the Week.

It irks me no end that none of the pots with the good doctor’s head inside exist.

Could this Chamber Pot Fragment be one of the famous Sacheverell Pots? England, 1710-1730, via Chipstone.

It also irks me that I can’t completely verify the house that urine built. It was definitely located somewhere on the map below, if it did, in fact, exist.

High Street, et. al, Clapton, ca 1830.

It’s also rumored to be known now as the British Home for Deaf and Dumb Women, 26 Clapton Common, London.

Piss Pot Hall? British Home for Deaf and Dumb Women, 26 Clapton Common, London, then.

Piss Pot Hall? British Home for Deaf and Dumb Women, 26 Clapton Common, London, now.

But there is more to the story.

Dr. Sacheverell was brought up on impeachment charges of seditious libel in 1710. He was found guilty of said charges.

Transcript for the Tryal of Dr Henry Sacheverell Before the House of Peers for High Crimes and Misdemeanours, 1710, Parliamentary Archives, LGC/9/2/1.

And like most impeached men, his punishment was sufficiently lenient so that he claimed total victory, as the Tories would by the end of the year, riding high on his oratorical coattails. While Dr. Sacheverell was forbidden to preach for three years, his many supporters took up the cause in his stead. The Rector of Whitechapel even commissioned an altarpiece – that work of art that hangs behind a church’s altar – in which Judas Iscariot bore a remarkable resemblance to one of the good doctor’s most vitriolic critics, the Dean of Peterborough.

One man’s chamber pot is another man’s high church masterpiece.

Lastly, because Dr. Sacheverell was a pontificator extraordinaire, he received his very own slang term. A Sacheverell was the iron door, or blower, to the mouth of a stove: from a divine of that name, who made himself famous for blowing the coals of dissension in the latter end of the reign of Queen Anne.

How can someone not love history?


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 ~ 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.