19th Century Marriage Manuals: Advice for Young Husbands

The Waning Honeymoon by George Henry Boughton, 1878.
The Waning Honeymoon by George Henry Boughton, 1878.

Published in 1837, The Young Husband’s Book is described as a “manual of domestic duties.”  Written by “a mentor” it contains within its pages advice on everything from choosing a wife to dealing with pesky in-laws.  Some of the information is merely common sense, the sort of generic advice newlyweds might hear from well-meaning relatives today.  The remainder is very pointedly early 19th century – written by someone who was clearly drawing on their own marital experiences gained during the Regency era and applying them to young couples in what was then the new Victorian age.[…]Continue Reading

The Origins of the Unicorn

The Maiden and the Unicorn by Domenichino, 1602.
The Maiden and the Unicorn by Domenichino, 1602.

According to historians, the legend of the unicorn first emerged in 398 BC courtesy of the Greek physician Ctesias.  Ctesias wrote an account of India, titled Indica.  In it, he attests that all recorded within his account are things that he has witnessed himself or that he has had related to him by credible witnesses.  This account of India, though largely lost, has been preserved in a fragmentary abstract made in the 9th century by Photios I of Constantinople.  In the twenty-fifth fragment, Ctesias writes of the unicorn, stating:[…]Continue Reading

The History of the Lorgnette

Lady with Lorgnette by Unknown Artist, 1830s.
Lady with Lorgnette by Unknown Artist, 1830s.

A lorgnette is, quite simply, a pair of spectacles mounted on a handle.  The precursor to modern opera glasses, lorgnettes were a common sight during the 19th century at the theater as well as the opera.  And since the name lorgnette derives from the French word lorgner – meaning “to ogle” or “to eye furtively” – one can only imagine the many uses to which a curious socialite in the balcony might have put them.  Whether employed to sneakily spy on a rival across the way, stealthily investigate a young gentleman down in the pit, or to merely watch the action on the stage, a lorgnette was an indispensable accessory for the 19th century lady about town.[…]Continue Reading

Peter Parley Presents the Treacherous 19th Century Cat

Unknown Title by Henriette Ronner-Knip, (1821-1909).
Unknown Title by Henriette Ronner-Knip, (1821-1909).

If we are curious about the origin and characteristics of an animal today, we look it up on the internet.  Decades ago, we would have used an encyclopedia for such research.  In the early 19th century, however, there were handy books like Peter Parley’s Tales of Animals: Comprising Quadrupeds, Birds, Fishes, Reptiles, and Insects (1835).  In this fascinating book, the early 19th century researcher could learn about such animals as the “Ourang-Outang” and become acquainted with what the author declares are “astonishing facts” and “deep and important reflections.”  As can be expected, these reflections were anything but flattering to that most treacherous and conniving of mammals – the domestic cat.

[…]Continue Reading

Napoleon vs. Wellington: The Art of the Passionate Love Letter

Napoleon and Wellington Love LetterRanging from the desperately passionate to the treacly sweet, historical love letters are as informative as they are entertaining.  But who amongst our favorite figures of the 19th century penned the most heart melting missives?  Naturally, one would assume the honors for this would go to Byron, Keats, or Shelley.  Their love letters were sublime, there is no doubt.  However, if you have a yen to read truly smoldering love letters, might I suggest a gentleman who, when not busy conquering the world, expended his time writing scorching hot letters to his wife?[…]Continue Reading

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