A Frenchman’s Opinion of Christmas

Jean François Victor Aicard, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Jean François Victor Aicard, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Before I begin my Christmas holiday, I wanted to leave you with some thoughts of Frenchman Jean François Victor Aicard. He was born in 1848 and became a poet, dramatist and novelist. When asked his opinion of Christmas, this was his reply:

What do I think of Christmas, I, lost child of Provence? Ah, my friend, I regard it as the feast of feasts, because it is the feast of love. Down there we gather round the hearth. Firelight sings the song of the sun vanished or pale beneath the clouds of winter. Verdure breaking freshly out upon the furrowed earth the scared grass blades that give us bread, in the midst of death announce the immortality of life, and across the valleys and hillsides the absent ones set out for home greetings. Walks beneath the stars begin. Bereft households are brightened by homecomings. All things at this time are in league with the heart against the obscure forces of saddening winter, in the favour and honour of tenderness and gratitude….What is the réveillon of the town, at its worst even, but the conquering and tenacious remembrance of the need of hope, of true love? And many a poor creature, in her street bravery, feasting in the private room of a fashionable restaurant, on Christmas night, pauses a while to dream of the humble hot soup of the réveillon of her village.”

Thank you for your continued patronage of my blog this past year. I wish you and yours a wonderful holiday, a happy new year, and dreams of “humble hot soup.”  See you next year.


  • The Academy and Literature, Vol. 51, 1897

Work Horses in the Regency Era

Shire Horse, Work Horses, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Shire Horse, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Horses were an important part of earning a living during the Regency Era. One way horses helped out was hauling loads in and around cities, and they were also a vital necessity on farms because agriculture was still one of the main ways Regency people earned livings. Moreover, Regency people used different horses depending on the type of job they needed to accomplish: Some horses thrived in cold climates, others were better at hauling, and still others were better at plowing in hilly locations. Among some of the more common work horses used in the Regency Era were the Shire horse, the Suffolk Punch, Cleveland Bays, Clydesdales, and Garrons. Continue reading

Louis XVI’s Trial, Verdict, and Sentence

(Left to Right)  Gui-Jean-Baptiste Target, Raymond Desèze, François Denis Tronchet, and Guillaume-Chrétien de Lamoignon de Malesherbes, Public Domain
(Left to Right) Gui-Jean-Baptiste Target, Raymond Desèze, François Denis Tronchet, and Guillaume-Chrétien de Lamoignon de Malesherbes, Public Domain

Louis Capet (previously Louis XVI) chose Gui-Jean-Baptiste Target, former deputy of the National Constituent Assembly, to lead his defense. Target, however, refused because of his age, and, so, Raymond Desèze became Louis’s lead counsel. Target and Desèze were assisted by François Denis Tronchet (Target’s closest colleague, who came on board only because Louis insisted) and Louis’s former Secretary of State, Guillaume-Chrétien de Lamoignon de Malesherbes. Two weeks were allocated for Louis’s counsel to prepare for his defense. Desèze wrote a brilliant draft, but when it was read to Louis, he thought it too rhetorical and said, “I do not want to play on their (the Convention’s) feelings.” Ultimately, on 26 December 1792, when Desèze delivered his defense, “it appeared to make a strong impression on the convention.” Continue reading

Charges Read Against Louis XVI

charges read against Louis XV
Louis XVI, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Charges read against Louis XVI (now called Louis Capet to discredit him after the abolition of the monarchy) began in December 1792. Accusations against Louis Capet were read by Charles Jean Marie Barbaroux, a French politician from Marseille (spelled Marseilles by the English). There were 33 charges and after each principal charge was read, it was “followed by a list of the pieces on which the proofs were to be founded.” As the charges were read, several new charges were also proposed. However, charges that appeared to “have little weight or to be ill-founded, were expunged.”

The National Convention then decreed that the accusations should serve as the basis for the questions that were to put be before Louis Capet. After each charge — charges that described duplicity, treachery, or lack of leadership — the President, Bertrand Barère de Vieuzac, was to ask Louis, “What have you in answer?” Depending on Louis’s answer, Barère was then authorized to propose new questions. Continue reading

Eleven Conveniences in the Victorian Era

Victorian Conveniences: Butter Mold, Carriage Steps, Poison Box, and Rodent Trap, Public Domain
Butter Mold, Carriage Steps, Poison Box, and Rodent Trap, Public Domain

Victorians homes were not just thick carpets, plush drapes, and overstuffed furniture. Victorian homes also contained many homemade items and numerous devices “that hundreds of house-keepers … found useful.” These devices lightened “the labor and ‘saved steps’ to many an over-worked house-keeper.” Among some of the popular Victorian conveniences, I have identified eleven. They are an ash bin, butter mold and stamp, carriage steps, cooking steam pipe, egg tester, foot scraper or boot cleaner, household slop disposal, iron pot scrubber, pigeon holes, poison box, and rodent trap. Continue reading

Chasing Monsters: The First Official Detectives

H Division Whitechapel Detectives
H Division Whitechapel Detectives

Please welcome my guest Angela Buckley. Her fascination with Victorian crime began with her own family – while researching her family tree, she came across thieves, poachers, brawlers and even a brothel-keeper. Angela enjoys writing about the Victorian underworld and in this post, is on the right side of the law for a change.

On 6 April 1842 PC William Gardiner of the Metropolitan Police (Wandsworth Division) was following a routine inquiry about a robbery when he came across a gruesome scene, which would not only shock the nation but also lead to a fundamental change in British policing.

The constable had been walking his regular beat when he was called into a pawnbroker’s shop on Wandsworth High Street to investigate a theft – coachman Daniel Good had stolen a pair of black trousers. PC Gardiner went to the estate where Good was employed straightaway, arriving around 9.30 pm. The estate buildings were closed for the night, but after making inquiries at the main house, he entered the stable, where he found Good. The meticulous police officer decided to search the premises for further evidence of the robbery and, when he pulled back some hay, he discovered the dismembered body of a woman – Daniel Good had murdered his estranged common-law wife, Jane Jones. Continue reading

A Georgian Farting Club

Jonathan Swift, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Jonathan Swift, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Georgians had numerous clubs. One of the more ridiculous clubs was a club known as the “Farting Club.” One person said of it, “of all the fantastical Clubs that ever took Pains to make themselves stink in the Nostrils of the Public, [there was no other club that]…ever came up to this windy Society.” Perhaps the club started because of Jonathan Swift. Swift was a master of satire and author of Gulliver’s Travel, who in 1722 also published a pamphlet titled “The Benefit of Farting Explain’d.” In the pamphlet Swift said the fart was “a great Promoter of Mirth.” But whatever brought about the Farting Club, it met weekly “to poison the neighbouring Air with their unsavory Crepitations.” Continue reading


Metal-handled Embroidered Pen-Wiper from 1878, Author's Collection
Metal-handled Embroidered Pen-Wiper from 1878, Author’s Collection

Pen-wipers were popular throughout the 1800s and numerous references were made to them. Pen-wipers helped to keep the nib of a pen, whether it be a dip or fountain pen, in perfect working order by cleaning the ink from the nib so that a pen would not clog.

Pen-wipers were originally pieces of fabric, often felt, and the portion the pen was wiped upon was generally black in color. This was noted by one writer in the 1830s: “Pen-wipers should always be made of black flannel or broadcloth: other colours soon get spoiled by the ink.” Continue reading