Tommie, the Beloved Scotch Terrier of 19th Century Author Wilkie Collins

“…there are periods in a man’s life when he finds the society that walks on four feet a welcome relief from the society that walks on two.” The Fallen Leaves, 1879.

Vixen, a Thoroughbred Scotch Terrier, by Edwin Landseer, engraved by Thomas Landseer, 1853.
Vixen, a Thoroughbred Scotch Terrier, by Edwin Henry Landseer, 1853.

Victorian author Wilkie Collins is often referred to as the father of the detective story.  His novels, such as The Woman in White and The Moonstone, are counted among the first mystery novels ever written and are still some of the finest examples of mystery fiction you can read today.  In addition to being a fantastically talented writer, Collins was also a great lover of animals.  His favorite pet was his dog, a Scotch terrier named Tommie.  Tommie featured prominently in many letters that Collins wrote to his friends.  He was also depicted in Collins’ 1879 book, My Lady’s Money, wherein one character explains the unique spelling of the little dog’s name:

“His name is Tommie.  We are obliged to call him by it, because he won’t answer to any other than the name he had when my Lady bought him.  But we spell it with an i e at the end, which makes it less vulgar than Tommy with a y.”  

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Julian Fellowes’ Belgravia: A New Novel by the Creator of Downton Abbey

Belgravia Julian Fellowes 2016As a general rule, I don’t accept books for review here at MimiMatthews.com.  However, when I was approached several months ago to participate in the Progressive Blog Tour for Julian Fellowes’ new novel, Belgravia, I simply could not refuse.  Many of you probably already know Julian Fellowes as the creator, writer, and executive producer of the popular television series Downton Abbey.  He also wrote the screenplay (and won an Oscar!) for one of my favorite movies, Gosford Park.  His other film, television, and print credits are too numerous to list.  Suffice to say that he has been entertaining those of us who love historical drama for a very long time.[…]Continue Reading

On Bluestockings and Beauty: 19th Century Advice for Educated Women

“Blue-stocking or not, every woman ought to make the best of herself inside and out.  To be healthy, handsome, and cheerful, is no disadvantage even in a learned professor.”
The Art of Beauty, 1883.

Portrait of a Woman by Henry Inman, 1825.(Brooklyn Museum)
Portrait of a Woman by Henry Inman, 1825.
(Brooklyn Museum)

Unlike the clever, witty bluestockings that populated the fashionable salons of the 18th and early 19th centuries, the Victorian bluestocking was considered to be, as one 1876 publication puts it, “a stiff, stilted, queer literary woman of a dubious age.”  This unfortunate stereotype was so firmly entrenched that it even made its way into an 1883 edition of the Popular Encyclopedia, wherein a bluestocking is defined as a “pedantic female” who has sacrificed the “excellencies of her sex” to education and learning.[…]Continue Reading

Sporting Cats in the 19th Century

The Shooting Party by William Powell Frith, (1819-1909).

When one thinks of a 19th century shooting party, one usually imagines well-to-do sportsmen in plus-fours and tweed caps, accompanied by their loaders, their beaters, and—of course—their sporting dogs.  However, according to an article in the October 29, 1880 edition of the Portsmouth Evening News, even the best spaniels and retrievers could not compete with the “great skill” of a sporting cat.  As the article explains:[…]Continue Reading

The Solitary Vice: Victorian Views on Masturbation

Woman's Mission: Companion of Manhood by George Elgar Hicks, 1863.(Tate Museum)
Woman’s Mission: Companion of Manhood by George Elgar Hicks, 1863.
(Tate Museum)

During the Victorian era, masturbation—also known as self-pollution, self-abuse, or onanism—was believed to be both a moral and a physical evil.  Medical manuals of the era address it in the most severe terms, blaming male masturbation, and the resulting depletion of the body’s vital humors, for every imaginable illness, from blindness, impotence, and epilepsy to chronic fatigue, mental derangement, and even premature death.  Many of these beliefs can be traced back to two 18th century books, the most significant of which was Samuel Tissot’s famous 1760 medical treatise On Onania: or A Treatise upon the Disorders Produced by Masturbation, which asserts:[…]Continue Reading

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