Category: Poetry

A Victorian Era Criminal Leads Police on a High Speed Bicycle Chase

Bicycle Detail, Poster of the Société Parisienne, 1895.

In September of 1896, British newspapers reported the remarkable use of a bicycle in a New Jersey murder case.  The case involved two men who had both emigrated to America from London in the early 1890s.  One of these men was a farmer named Mr. Haggett who settled down with his family on a farm near Somerville.  The other man was a fellow named Mr. Clossen who Haggett employed as a farm laborer.  Sometime in 1896, Haggett caught Clossen stealing.  In consequence, he not only fired him from his job, but also refused to pay him the thirty dollars in wages that Clossen believed he was owed.[…]Continue Reading

Literary Obituaries: Death Notices for Austen, Byron, Brontë, and Dickens

Austen, Byron, Bronte, and Dickens Black and White
Jane Austen, Lord Byron, Charlotte Brontë, and Charles Dickens.

Today, Jane Austen, Lord Byron, Charlotte Brontë, and Charles Dickens are generally recognized as four of the greatest authors in English literature.  But how did their contemporaries view them?  Were their works appreciated?  And how did the 19th century public feel when three of them, still in their prime, met an untimely end?  To discover the answers to these questions, one might delve into the legions of biographies written over the years or have a look at their letters, journals, or contemporary reviews of their poems and novels.  However, since it is less than a week until Halloween, I thought we might instead take a brief look at their obituaries.[…]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

Robert Southey and the Cats of Greta Hall

Greta Hall in Keswick by Johann Jacob Weber, 1843.
Greta Hall in Keswick by Johann Jacob Weber, 1843.

Born of humble origins in 1774, Robert Southey went on to become Poet Laureate of England from 1813 until his death in 1843.  A contemporary of 19th century Romantic poets like William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, he was an incredibly prolific writer, both of poetry and of prose.  He was also a great lover of cats, as evidenced in his vast correspondence with friends and family.[…]Continue Reading

The Plight of the Pet Monkey in 19th century Literature and History

“Properly trained and looked after, there is no pet which can be so interesting or amusing as a monkey.”  Hardwicke’s Science Gossip, 1889. 

The Monkey Who Had Seen the Word by Edwin Henry Landseer, 1827.
The Monkey Who Had Seen the World by Edwin Henry Landseer, 1827.

Throughout most of the 19th century, it was not at all uncommon for a family to keep a monkey as a household pet.  Monkeys were playful, mischievous, and adept at mimicry.  In short, they were amusing.  They were also human-like enough to be regarded by some affectionate owners as no more than naughty children.  Indeed, for some, the pet monkey may even have filled the vacant role of child in a childless family.[…]Continue Reading

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