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Thirteen Factoids About Eighteenth Century Food

Thursday Thirteen

I picked up a copy of A History of English Food by Clarissa Dickson Wright from the library last week. The history of food fascinates me, and I enjoyed the way this author told an interesting story instead of throwing facts at me.

Here are thirteen things I found interesting:

1. The Georgians had a huge impact on food, the way it was cooked, served and consumed. They even influenced the times of dining.

2. Advances in the fireplace and accessories made cooking less laborious. Roasting and baking became much easier due to new designs of ovens and flues.

3. Some of the poorer families didn’t own ovens and sent their pies, stamped with their initials, to their local baker.

4. The English started making porcelain from which to drink tea.

5. Tea became a very common drink for all classes. Tea was drunk weak and sweetened without milk. It’s assumed that they drank their tea black because the milk was often sour, had nasty additives or was thinned down.

6. The introduction of more lighting was one of the reasons meals became later and taken at times more familiar to us in 2011. In Medieval times people would go to bed when it became dark, but now people stayed up much later.

7. Seating was done according to station, although gradually this changed to alternative seating with men and women. They say behavior improved on the introduction of this new seating method. The women obviously kept the men in line!

8. Turtle soup wasn’t actually a soup but more a stew. It contained chunky bits of turtle. Turtle soup was so popular that people who couldn’t afford turtles made mock turtle soup out of calves’ heads. Personally, I say yuck!

9. It was deemed vulgar to sniff the meat on your fork or plate because the activity implies the meat was tainted. People didn’t take their own cutlery with them any longer. Instead the host provided it.

10. The ice house was another new innovation. A small stone outbuilding containing a deep pit for ice helped keep food fresh. Blocks of ice were sawn from rivers to provide the necessary ice.

11. In 1762 John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich sent for two slices of bread and some meat, inventing the sandwich. Job well done since I like sandwiches for lunch.

12. Viscount Townshend, known as Turnip Townshend, introduced a system of four-field crop rotation. This involved a strict order of plantings and improved the fertility of soil and crop production.

13. The staples of the English diet – meat, bread, and vegetables were readily available and affordable during the first half of the century. Toward the end of the century with the industrial revolution taking hold and growing populations, the laboring classes started to suffer.

It’s interesting to note that around this time England started sending convicts to Australia. One of my ancestors was sentenced for receiving stolen goods in 1801 and sent to Australia. His wife and two children went with him.

Nineteenth Century Words

Thursday Thirteen

I’ve been in a real historical mood lately, both in my reading and my research. It’s good to be writing another historical romance. My favored time period is the Eighteenth century—pre-Regency in the 1700s, and if it has a gothic tone that’s even better.

For my TT this week I thought I’d give you terms or words you might come across while reading a historical romance or a historical fiction novel. These words are Nineteenth century words and my source is the book What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool

Thirteen Words in Usage During the Nineteenth Century

1. Trap – a small light carriage with springs

2. Turnkey – a jailer

3. Weeds – mourning garments, the word “weed” meaning simply clothes

4. Vinaigrette – a little box made of silver containing vinegar and having holes in the top. A vinaigrette was used to revive ladies who had fainted.

5. Washballs – little round balls of soap used for washing or shaving

6. Wafer – a small round made of flour and gum or a similar substances, which was dampened and placed on a letter to seal it.

7. Turtle – turtles were eaten and were a popular dish, so popular it spawned lots of imitation foods called “mock turtle”. Turtle was a staple at official banquets.

8. Tosspot – someone who drank a lot

9. Note of hand – a promissory note

10. Negus – Colonel Francis Negus cooked this drink, which consisted of sugar mixed with water and a wine such as sherry or port. It was a popular drink at balls and dances.

11. Mute – a person hired to come to a funeral and mourn

12. Season – the London social season, in which the fashionable high life of the nobility dominated the city. Although families returned from their country houses to London in February, the real season—of balls, parties, sporting events like Ascot and so on—ran only from May through July.

13. Sennight – a contraction of “seven night” meaning a week.

Are you familiar with these terms? Do you like historical romances? Do you like historical fiction? Do you have an recommendations?

Back in the Eighteenth Century

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Things about Life and Sex in the Eighteenth Century

1. Coffee houses were places for men to meet, take refreshments and read newspapers, but even here they got into trouble with the opposite sex. Coffee-house owners were blamed for providing attractive barmaids. A quote, “such tempting, deluging, ogling, pretty, young Hussies to be our Bar-keepers, as steal away our Hearts, and insensibly betray us to Extravagance.”

2. If a gentleman had admired a lady at a ball or masquerade the previous evening, he might request to meet her by placing a newspaper ad. An example from 1754: If the Lady that was at the last Masquerade, dress’d in a white Domino, trimm’d with Purple, a hat of the same, tall and genteel in person, will be so obliging as to favor the gentleman who ask’d her to dance, but was refused, with a line when and where he may have the pleasure of seeing her, by directing for C.G. at the Cocoa-Tree in Pall-Mall, he intends to propose something greatly to her advantage.

3. Many taverns doubled as brothels where a man could buy a pint of ale in the front room, pick up a young woman and take her into the back for sex.

4. Despite its seriousness, veneral disease had become so widespread in the eighteen century that any libertine might expect to catch it. When Boswell’s father shared his concerns with his friend, Mrs. Montgomerie-Cunningham, about his son having contracted pox yet again, she responded casually that “it was now become quite common.”

5. It was not only a woman’s chastity that came under scrutiny in the disciplining of the female body, but also her eating habits. A woman should not appear too healthy or robust as it was considered unattractive. The weak and delicate woman, especially when combined with her intermittent fainting, was thought to be the sort to turn a young man’s head.

6. A young man from a moderately wealthy family could make the choice to indulge in a wide range of sybaritic pleasures: heavy drinking, travelling on the Continent, eating to excess, as well as hour upon hour of sex. Frequent sexual activity was seen to be good for a man’s health – doctors advised that sperm should be dispelled regularly to ensure the smooth running of the humours, thus keeping a healthy balance of one’s bodily fluids.

7. Margaret Leeson, Harriette Wilson and Julia Johnstone were all celebrated courtesans. Their extravagant way of living found them frequently in debt. Once they reached an advanced age and were no longer able to attract wealthy lovers, they wrote their racy autobiographies in an attempt to cash in on their lives as some of the most notorious and wealthy men in society.

8. When the London hangman was arrested for debt on the way back from Tyburn, he was able to buy his freedom instantly with the clothes he had stripped off the corpses as one of the perks of the job.

9. Householders were responsible for the lighting outside their houses. There was no insurance against household burglaries. Insurance pertained only to fire.

10. Procreation was universally regarded as the primary purpose of marriage. In London between one-quarter and one-third of babies died before their first birthday. Only half of all children passed the age of fifteen.

11. Admiration of ladies’ feet was commonplace. The sight of a well-turned foot was recognized as an object of desire and something in which men might take a keen interest. Courtesan Harriette Wilson’s small feet were esteemed by her paramours.

12. Rents were high, but the majority of Londoners expected neither space nor privacy. These were unfamiliar concepts. Tall and narrow with two or three rooms a floor, a typical terraced house might be home to a husband and wife, two to four children, two to four servants including apprentices and lodgers. Rooms were small.

13. River transport in London was essential, partly because the streets were so congested and also because the bone-shaking jolting of hackneys was unendurable. The language of the watermen as they indulged in the tradition of shouting insults across the water was “coarse and dirty”. Many travellers opted to disembark rather than brave the rapids at London Bridge. The water was a deep and roaring torrent and was very treacherous.

Would you like to time travel to Eighteenth Century London?

Sources:
1700 Scenes from London Life by Maureen Waller
Lascivious Bodies, a sexual history of the Eighteen Century by Julie Peakman