The Dog’s Nursemaid: An 1840 Case at the French Police Correctionelle

A Welcome Change by Henri Guillaume Schlesinger, mid-19th century.
A Welcome Change by Henri Guillaume Schlesinger, mid-19th century.

A September 8, 1840 edition of London’s Morning Post reports the “humorous story” of a case that came before a French Police Correctionelle.  The plaintiff in the case, a young nursemaid by the name of Virginie, is described rather flatteringly as “an exceedingly pretty little bonne.”  The defendant in the case, Virginie’s employer, a woman by the name of Madame Duchatenest, is cast in a somewhat harsher light.  Described as “a meagre and parchment-cheeked virgin,” she had been called to answer the charge of having brutally assaulted Virginie with a pair of fireplace pincers.[…]Continue Reading

Mad as a Hatter, an Adder, or an Oyster

Alice's Mad Tea Party by John Tenniel, 19th Century.
Alice’s Mad Tea Party by John Tenniel, 19th Century.

I’m guest posting today over at Geri Walton’s wonderful History of the 18th and 19th Centuries blog!  If you would like to learn more about the perils of 19th century mercury-based hat making and the origins of the popular phrase “as mad as a hatter,” do stop by and have a look at my new article Mad as a Hatter, an Adder, or an Oyster.  You can click through HERE.

The Scandalous Regency Era Criminal Conversation Case of Aston v. Elliot

Symptoms of Life in London, or Love, Law, and Physic by George Cruikshank,, 1821.(image via Wellcome Library.)
Symptoms of Life in London, or Love, Law, and Physic by George Cruikshank,, 1821.
(Image via Wellcome Library.)

In January of 1818, on the second page of a small Irish newspaper, was a brief article with the sensational headline: “Projected Divorce in High Life.”  This case, which would soon become notorious in both England and France, was not, in fact, a divorce.  It was an action for criminal conversation – a tort, long extinct, in which an aggrieved husband could make a claim for damages against the lover of his adulterous spouse.  These sorts of cases were always deliciously scandalous, and none more so than that of Aston v. Elliot – a case which involved noblemen, prostitutes, syphilis, a veteran of Waterloo, and some of the highest ranking members of the beau monde.[…]Continue Reading

Wolves in Medieval England: Guest Post by Regan Walker

On this week’s edition of Animals in Literature and History, I bring you bestselling author Regan Walker with a guest post on Wolves in Medieval England!

Wolf after sheep, Bestiario Medieval.
Wolf after sheep, Bestiario Medieval.

Their prevalence

Wolves were prevalent in England during the medieval era.  One of the earliest references to them is contained in a 6th century genealogy of the East Anglican founder of a dynasty called Wuffa, whose tribe was known as the Wuffings, or “wolf people”.  They were believed to have originated in Scandinavia.[…]Continue Reading

The Shocking Death of Victorian Servant Eliza Bollends

A Scullery Maid at Work by Charles Joseph Grips, 1866.
A Scullery Maid at Work by Charles Joseph Grips, 1866.

Many historical novels feature a serving girl who has gotten herself into “trouble.”  In fiction, the understanding mistress of the house is quick to intervene and, in short order, the serving girl’s future is secured to everyone’s satisfaction.  In reality, female servants of the 19th century were expected to preserve their reputations in order to maintain genteel employment.  The character of one’s servants was a reflection on the house as a whole.  To that end, no respectable Victorian lady wanted a light-skirt for a housemaid or a wanton for a cook, and many mistresses strictly forbade male callers or “hangers on.” […]Continue Reading

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