Sunday, February 18, 2024

A tantalizing paragraph from the London Chronicle

On January the 4th, 1811 The London Chronicle printed the following news item:


This newspaper clipping raises more questions than it answers:

If she is in the boxes, isn’t she a lady of some status, not just a ‘female’?

In 1811, a thirty pound bank note is worth a substantial amount of money  (over $100); where did she get it?

How well did the lady know the 'dashing buck' and what was he doing at the lady’s lodgings the preceding evening?

Where were her 'lodgings' and did she live alone?

With whom was she in attendance at the theatre; what did her companions do when she raised the alarm?

How dramatic was the scene that the alarm caused  and who took the supposed thief into custody?

Could this have been a revenge type of entrapment? Did she have a grudge against the 'buck'?

If it was a false accusation, why did he run?

This short newspaper paragraph is a gold mine for a writer. It offers a story line that could be taken in several different directions.

Perhaps 'the female' is a lady of easy virtue, in the box of a lover who has given her her congée. Perhaps she was followed home or became acquainted with the 'dashing buck' the evening before, and she invited him in because she liked his looks. Perhaps the thirty pounds had been a parting gift from the lover.

Perhaps she was a partner of the thief and the thirty pound note was ill-gotten gains. The dashing buck might have been double-crossing her, or, visiting her lodgings with romance on his mind, he took the note without her knowledge when he left after being rejected.

I am trying to think of a scenario where she is a lady of the ton, and not having much success. She wouldn’t be in ‘lodgings’ without staff or protectors if she is a lady of status. She wouldn’t have opened the door to the ‘dashing buck’ or invited him in. She wouldn’t leave thirty pound notes lying around. And she wouldn’t risk making a scene at the theatre where questions would be asked that she might not want to answer.

I am not certain where I would go with this story, but you can see why I like to read historical newspapers!

 'Til next time,



The London Chronicle is available on Google Books

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

The Revels of Christmas -- and the place of Mistletoe in the celebrations

Christmas has always been a time of revelry and merriment. The degree of gaiety and carousing seems to have varied by social class and, of course, economic circumstance.

Entertainments for the upper classes seemed to include grand dinners, great balls, and charitable giving. Little illustration is extant from these activities.

Among the lower classes, uninhibited romps have been illustrated of the activities of servants and retainers, generally around the fireplace, in a comfortable hall or kitchen.

Mistletoe is rarely mentioned in the activities of the upper classes, but it features prominently in the illustrations of lower class gatherings.

from the book "Popular Pastimes" of 1816

 The following item from the Oxford University and City Herald - Saturday 06 December 1817 indicates that mistletoe was typically hung in kitchens.

The above picture, published in 1800, shows yet another kitchen with a mistletoe bough.

There was a fear that there might be a mistletoe shortage in Bath in 1818.

Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette - Thursday 24 December 1818

The final statement on mistletoe's place in Christmas celebrations must go to Washington Irving. His "Old Christmas" with its illustrations by Randolph Caldecott is the quintessential commentary on the Regency Christmas, although it was written in about 1875.

 The note to the illustration is particularly telling...

 Real mistletoe is hard to obtain where I live. I have a sad, artificial version which is almost an insult to this fascinating piece of Christmas history!

I wish you all the blessings of the festive season no matter what you celebrate, or how...

'Til next time,


Monday, March 13, 2023

The Rambler’s Magazine—a not-so-polite journal

The Rambler, written largely by Samuel Johnson, a publication of the early 1750’s, is not the subject of this blog.

Neither is the magazine about which I write a journal about walkers.

Rather, The Rambler’s Magazine, was a sometimes rude and occasionally crude, satirical and Rabelaisian magazine for the man about town in the 1780’s. It was published from 1783 to 1791 and apparently very few copies are extant. 

The following sample of article titles were listed in an August 30, 2012 issue of the Non Solus Blog, a publication of The University of Illinois Library, Rare Book & Manuscript Library in article titled The Rambler’s Magazine: A Puzzlingly Popular Periodical..

    “On ogling; or, The language of the eyes” [1783 supplement]

     “Analysis of female attractions” [March 1784]

     “Female boxing match” [August 1784]

     “Kissed to death” [October 1784]

     “The history and adventures of a bedstead” [December 1784]

These articles are among the more 'tame' of the compositions. Even the illustrations are racy:

It appeared that, in 1791, the magazine's day was done. But in 1823-24 a revival was attempted. The bawdy content had been toned down and the title page reflected that:

In a three page ‘Address to the Public’, the proprietor of “The Rambler’s Magazine” argues for the respectability of his revived journal, ending:

In short, by a vigilant observation of character and manners, and a constant introduction of variety, we will try to direct the intellects of our readers to the proper study of mankind, and the zealous endeavour to please in all his eccentric humours will prove to the public that "The Rambler" is their devoted and grateful servant.

The illustrations reflected the somewhat less indelicate approach:

But the article titles still indicated a degree of salaciousness:

On a Bee Stinging the Thigh of an Old-Maid

The Witty Wanton

Comparative Merits of Misses Kimbell and Tunstall

Reasons against Marriage

Conjugal Infelicity

The two title pages and the illustrations, as well as the article titles, are a very good indicator of the changes in society in the forty years between the two publications. By 1823, propriety had become a watch word, and decorum was more and more sought. The years of Georgian license were coming to an end. And The Rambler's Magazine, in its reincarnation, did not last longer than a year. 

'Til next time,



Google Books for pdfs of The Rambler's Magazine

University of Illinois --