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James Austen: Jane Austen’s Brother

By Geri Walton | June 17, 2019

James Austen was the oldest child of George Austen and Cassandra Leigh. George was the rector of the Anglican parishes at Steventon and nearby Deane, and it was while George and Cassandra were living at Deane that she gave birth to James on 13 February 1765. A few weeks later, on 17 March, James was…

Velnos’ Vegetable Syrup Sold by Isaac Swainson

By Geri Walton | June 14, 2019

Isaac Swainson’s famous Velnos’ Vegetable Syrup was a miraculous cure for disease based on vegetables rather than mercury and first appeared in the late 1700s. However, Swainson was not the creator of it. That honor apparently belonged to Jean-Joseph Vergely de Velnos, who then seems to have been aided or succeeded in some way by…

The 11 June 1880 Tragedy: Stonington and Narragansett

By Geri Walton | June 10, 2019

Disasters, no matter how slight, are of public interest, and the 11 June 1880 tragedy between two American passenger steamers was no exception. The accident happened between 11:30pm and midnight in dense fog. At the time, the SS Stonington was west bound heading to New York as its sister ship the SS Narragansett was sailing…

Dr. Edmond Pommerais Murderer of the 1800s

By Geri Walton | June 7, 2019

Dr. Edmond Pommerais was a spendthrift and gambler who was not above doing whatever it took to become rich. His story begins with his efforts to become a wealthy doctor of homeopathy. When that failed, he decided it would be easier to obtain a rich wife and attempted to do so through several matrimonial agency…

Jean-Victor Moreau and His Exile in America

By Geri Walton | June 3, 2019

Jean-Victor Moreau was exiled to America after Napoleon Bonaparte banished him to the United States. Moreau, who was a friend to Madame Récamier and Madame de Staël, had served as a general under Napoleon and had helped him gain power. However, Moreau’s alleged involvement in a plot against Napoleon (the “Pichegru Conspiracy” or “Cadoudal Affair”)…

The Spa Town of Aix-les-Bains in the 1700s and 1800s

By Geri Walton | May 31, 2019

The spa town of Aix-les-Bains is situated about ten miles from Chambery, about three quarters of a mile from the lake of Bourget, and between two spectacular mountains: Revard and the Mont du Chat. Even though the medicinal waters became popular in Roman times, beginning in the 17th century people became more fully aware of…

Voltaire’s Coffee Obsession in the 18th Century

By Geri Walton | May 27, 2019

Many Frenchmen were addicted to coffee, but Voltaire’s coffee obsession was one of the most enthusiastic of the eighteenth century. Perhaps his extraordinary desire for coffee occurred because of what some people claimed were its extraordinary benefits. Many people reported that he drank an inordinate amount of coffee each day, yet despite his obvious overindulgence…

Physician William Buchan and Georgian Era Bad Air

By Geri Walton | May 24, 2019

Georgian Era physician William Buchan wrote his groundbreaking Domestic Medicine a year before Napoleon Bonaparte was born. Buchan’s 1769 book was the first text of its kind written for the lay person rather than being a theoretical medical text written for the educated. Moreover, it addressed new health issues such as those associated with the…

Jane Austen’s Steventon and Her Life There

By Geri Walton | May 20, 2019

Jane Austen’s Steventon was not only the place where she was born but was also the spot where she lived when her creativity flourished and she wrote Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, and Sense and Sensibility. Steventon was a rural village with a small population located in north Hampshire, England situated about 7 miles south-west…

Cashmere Shawls in the 1700 and 1800s

By Geri Walton | May 17, 2019

Cashmere shawls were first introduced in Europe around the late 1700s. Joan Hart, a textile expert of today, wrote: “The artist Elizabeth Vigee Le Brun first noted the shawls at a party in 1795 in St. Petersburg where she entertained her guests with “tableaux vivants” using cashmere shawls as props. … The shawls were already…