Marguerite Power, the Countess of Blessington

Marguerite Power, the Countess of Blessington, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Countess of Blessington, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Marguerite was born in Ireland on 1 September 1789 to a small landowner named Edmund Power. Her childhood was not particularly happy because of her father’s controlling character, drunkenness, and poverty. Moreover, in 1804, at the tender age of fifteen, a compulsory marriage was forced upon her by her father.

Marguerite married a drunken English officer named Captain Maurice St. Leger Farmer. From the start, it was an unhappy marriage. Marguerite barely spoke of her marriage, although she once said that “she had not been long under her husband’s roof when it became evident that he was subject to fits of insanity.” Apparently, her father had been aware but concealed the information from her, and, in addition, according to Marguerite:

“[Her husband] frequently treated her with personal violence; he used to strike her on the face, pinch her till her arms were black and blue, lock her up whenever he went abroad, and … left her without food till she felt almost famished.”

It should therefore come as no surprise that Marguerite left him after three months of marriage. Moreover, Farmer was eventually imprisoned for debts and during that imprisonment, in October 1817, he died. He was involved in a drunken orgy and fell out the prison window.  Continue reading

The One Who Watched at Walcheren: A Civilian Observer During the Napoleonic Wars

Jacqueline Reiter

Today’s guest is Jacqueline Reiter. Jacqueline has a PhD in late 18th century political history from the University of Cambridge. A professional librarian, she lives in Cambridge with her husband and two children. Jacqueline also researches and writes about the life of John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham.

Here is her guest post for today related to Walcheren:

In the summer of 1809, the British government sent 40,000 men and over 600 ships on an amphibious mission to Holland. The expedition was tasked with capturing the island of Walcheren and the prosperous mercantile town of Vlissingen (Flushing), before going further down the Scheldt River to destroy the French fleet and defences at Antwerp. The “Grand Expedition”, as it was known, was a miserable failure. The venture set sail too late and progressed too slowly, allowing the French to rush reinforcements to the area; the military and naval commanders fell out spectacularly; and “Walcheren fever” – a combination of diseases, including malaria – placed more than a quarter of the army on the sick list. Continue reading

Victorian Electric Traps for Rats and Cats

Victorian electric traps for rats and cats
Brown Rat, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Victorians had all sorts of problems and rats and cats were one of their biggest problems. For instance, on an island off Cornwall, known as Looe or St. George Island, one Victorian gentleman found rats overrunning the island. They were so bothersome that no matter how much effort people put into exterminating them, they reappeared. He stated that it was “not how to kill the rats, but how to annihilate them so effectually as to place the reappearance of even one of them altogether out of the question.”

Another Victorian country gentleman also found rats to be a problem where he lived. He wrote:

“What a veritable problem these rats are to those who lead a country life! … These wretches, as evening approaches, sally forth from their hiding-places … In winter they enter the outhouse and too often manage to munch the combs and devour whatever wax they can reach. Poison is sometimes tried, but poison is double-edge and may kill the wrong party.”

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Fortune-Telling and the Meaning of Food in Dreams in the 1800s

Meaning of food in dreams in the 1800s
Courtesy of www.mycutegraphics.com

One popular way to determine a person’s fortune in the 1800s was through dreams. Dreams supposedly could foretell what would happen to a person and whether the person would have good or bad luck. For instance, if a person had a dream about barking dogs it was considered a sign of misfortune whereas a dream about playing cards signified good luck in the future. People also had dreams about food, which could indicate good or back luck, as indicated below:

ALMONDS – Dreaming about these nuts signified embarrassment, although it was also said that embarrassment could be avoided with care. Moreover, to eat them in a dream foretold good fortune.
APPLES – It was stated that “if you take them from the tree, it signifies that you will be persecuted. If they are ripe and ruddy, and you eat them, it will bring much happiness. If they are sour, you will shortly quarrel with someone.”
APRICOTS – To see them in a dream meant that person would be disappointed in whatever if was he or she hoped for, but to eat them meant good fortune. That is, unless it was the time of year when almonds were out of season, then it denoted great misfortune and if they were dry, it was thought they would bring sorrow.
ARTICHOKES – To see artichokes in a dream meant secret trouble whereas eating them in a dream meant you should expect trouble. Continue reading

Masturbation Among Victorian Youth in Boarding Schools

Masturbation Among Victorian Youth in Boarding Schools: The Secret Companion
“The Secret Companion” by R J Brodie, 1845, Courtesy of Wellcome Images.

The term masturbation was first introduced in the 18th century. At the time, however, the terms onanism or self-pollution were more frequently used. Victorians later used those same terms to refer to masturbation. Additionally, in the 19th century, masturbation was more politely referred to as self-abuse or sometimes manualization, as it was done by hand. 

One article published in 1870 noted that the practice of masturbation among Victorian youth in boarding schools was “much more frequent than … generally imagined.” According to the article there was nothing more “detestable or ruinous.” Masturbation was also called a “baneful habit,” and it was noted that such a pernicious habit could easily spread from one student to another until the whole boarding school was affected. Moreover, the effects of it could supposedly result in the following:

“Health, intellect, morals — all purity, dignity, and self-respect — sink beneath it in promiscuous and hopeless ruin. When carried to excess it produces idiotism in the most deplorable and disgusting form, accompanied by impaired vision and hearing, paralysis, and other distressing infirmities, and terminates in death.”

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The Victorian Séance

The Victorian Séance

Linda Stratmann has long been fascinated by history and crime, and combines these in her writing, which includes thirteen non-fiction books of true crime and biography and two crime fiction series featuring Victorian lady sleuths. When researching for her series set in 1870s Brighton, Linda has had enormous fun reading about the subject of her guest blog, the Victorian séance. Linda lives in London and when she is not reading or writing, she can usually be found in the kitchen, as she loves cooking.

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I’m Guest Blogging

John Aitken Alias John the Painter

Today I am a lucky enough to be the guest of Mike Rendell at his blog the “Georgian Gentleman.” Mike has written several books, including “The Journal of a Georgian Gentleman,” “An Illustration Introduction to the Georgians,” and his latest book, “In Bed with the Georgians.” You can learn more about these books and read my blog post, “Death of an 18th Century Terrorist: John the Painter,” by clicking here.

Prominent Theatre Fires in the 1800s in Europe

Theatre fires in the 1800s: Example of a Theatre Fire
Example of a Theatre Fire in 1881, Public Domain

Theatre fires were a big problem in the 1800s. Some fires happened after hours when theatres were closed, but fires also occurred when people were in the building, on stage, or seated in the auditorium. Fires with people present were the most worrisome as lives were endangered and people were often injured or killed.

Among some of the most prominent theatre fires in the 1800s were seven that occurred in Europe. Below are the statistics on each of these fires, including where, when, and how the fire started, as well as how many people were killed or injured and the contributing factors that resulted in the injuries or deaths. Continue reading

Victorian French Lingerie

Victorian French Lingerie: Example of a New and Elaborate Under-Petticoat in 1899. This one is made with turchon lace and French embroidery with hem-stitiching between the lace and embroidery. Author's Collection
Example of a New and Elaborate Under-Petticoat in 1899. This one is made with turchon lace and French embroidery with hem-stitching between the lace and embroidery. Author’s Collection

The concept that lingerie and undergarments were visually appealing, did not become a thought until the late nineteenth century during the Victorian Era. At that time, some of the best lingerie that could be purchased came from France. In fact, it was common for nineteenth century English and American visitors to travel to France to purchase French lingerie for their wedding trousseau.

Victorian women also wore French lingerie for other reasons. Some women found they obtained some form of personal enjoyment from it. After all, many pieces of French lingerie captivated the eye because they were practically works of art with their fine embroidery and pretty ribbons and bows. The French also viewed lingerie in a different light than did most English or American women. Their view allowed Victorian lingerie wearers to focus on how they felt rather than how they actually looked in it. This in turn allowed wearers of French lingerie to enjoy an aristocratic elegance even if they belonged to the ordinary working class. However, there was also this tidbit about French lingerie: Continue reading

French Giant Louis Frenz Visits England

"French Giant" Louis Frenz: Jack the Giant Killer
Jack the Giant Killer, Author’s Collection

Many famous fairy tales exist about giants and two of the most popular tales are “Jack in the Beanstalk” and “Jack the Giant Killer.” However, in the 1800s there was a real person who was a giant. He was called the French Giant Louis Frenz but he also gained notoriety as Monsieur Louis.

The French Giant was born in 1801, and, at an early age, he decided to seek his fortune in England. His first exhibition in England supposedly occurred there in 1822 when he appeared at New Bond Street. It was there he naively confessed he had arrived in London to make a fortune and planned to return to France once he accomplished it. To earn this fortune, the French Giant usually exhibited himself between 11am and 5pm and between 7pm to 9pm. In addition, in 1825, he charged a shilling to see him, although servants and children got a reduce rate of half price. Continue reading