Tag: 18th century

A Proposed 18th Century Tax Bill Targets 27-Year-Old Spinsters...And Their Cats!

‘As the supply alluded to is to be levied upon all old maids, beyond a certain age, and intitled to certain yearly or other income; I make no doubt but both Houses of Parliament will speedily manifest their hearty concurrence thereto.’
The London Magazine, 1777.

A Visit to Grandmother by John Raphael Smith after Thomas James Northcote, 1785.
(Five Colleges and Historic Deerfield Museum Consortium)

The 1777 edition of the London Magazine includes an interesting letter to the editor in which a gentleman—who signs himself as ‘A Friend to the Community’—has appended a proposed bill to levy a tax of ‘6d. in the pound’ on old maids. He claims that this tax will generate revenues of nearly £300,000 per annum, a sum which could then be used to help fund the British war against the American colonies. The proposed bill begins by stating:[…]Continue Reading

Circassian Bloom: Cheek Rouge for 18th and 19th Century Ladies

Self-Portrait by Marie-Gabrielle Capet, 1783.
(National Museum of Western Art)

Circassian Bloom—also marketed as “Bloom of Circassia”—is perhaps the most well-known brand of cheek rouge from the 18th and 19th centuries.  Along with such luxurious sounding beauty products as Peach Blossom Cream and Alabaster Liquid, it was featured regularly in Victorian era newspaper advertisements.  It was also frequently mentioned in 18th and 19th century fiction, including short stories in magazines and popular comic verses.  Perhaps the most quoted of these verses is by the English poet George Crabbe who mentions Circassian Bloom in his 1785 poem, The Newspaper.  It reads in part:[…]Continue Reading

Aphrodisiacs, Elixirs, and Dr. Brodum’s Restorative Nervous Cordial

Quack Doctor Open for Business by G.M. Woodward, 1802.(Image courtesy of Wellcome Trust)
Quack Doctor Open for Business by G.M. Woodward, 1802.
(Image Courtesy of The Wellcome Library, CC BY 4.0.)

During the 18th and 19th century, patent medicines were everywhere.  These various powders, potions, elixirs, and cordials were primarily peddled by quacks, some of whom purported to be doctors from respected universities like St. Andrews in Scotland.  The claims they made on behalf of their products were extraordinary.  According to advertisements of the era, a restorative cordial or tonic could do practically anything, from curing dropsy in children to curing impotence in men and hysteria in women.  Some even proclaimed that they could cure a fellow of the desire to engage in that “solitary, melancholy practice” so common to the male sex (i.e. Masturbation).[…]Continue Reading

The Pet Parrot: As Depicted in 18th and 19th Century Art, Literature, & History

Woman at the Piano with Cockatoo by Gustave Léonard de Jonghe, (1870).
Woman at the Piano with Cockatoo by Gustave Léonard de Jonghe, (1870).

When thinking of 18th and 19th century pets, we inevitably imagine dogs or cats or small, caged canaries.  Large and colorful exotic birds are not generally the type of animal we envision inhabiting the pages of a Georgian or Regency novel, much less an actual Georgian or Regency home.  It may surprise you to learn that parrots were, in fact, quite popular as pets during the 18th and 19th centuries.[…]Continue Reading

Literary Fathers: As Depicted in the Works of Austen, Dickens, and Heyer

The Bridges Family by John Constable, 1805. (© Tate Museum, London, 2015)
The Bridges Family by John Constable, 1805.
(© Tate Museum, London, 2015)

It’s Father’s Day and, in celebration, I thought it would be a perfect time to take a brief look at a few of the many and varied fathers depicted in some of our favorite literary classics from the 19th century and beyond.[…]Continue Reading