Sunday, 18 September 2005

A Poor Needle-woman

Henry Mayhew (1812-1887)

Life for the poor has always been difficult. In Victorian London, Henry Mayhew, a journalist and 'social investigator' delved deeply into the plight of the poor. He interviewed them and kept detailed trancripts of their accounts, thus giving us a first-hand insight into their world in hiw work London Labour and the London Poor. Below is a needle-woman's account:

"I cannot earn more than 4s. 6d. to 5s. per week - let me sit from eight in the morning till ten every night...and my clear earnings [after paying for coal and other supplies] are a little but more than 2s...I consider trowsers the best work...Shirt work is the worst, the very worst, that can be got...A mother has got two or three daughters, and she don't wish them to go to service, and she puts them to this poor needlework; and that, in my opinion, is the cause of the destitution and the prostitution about the streets in these parts...Most of the workers are young girls who have nothing else to depend upon, and there is scarcely one of them virtous...As [my daughter and I] sit to work together, one candle does for the two of us, so that she earns about 3s. per week clear, which is not sufficient to keep her even in food...My husband is a seafering man, or I don't know what I should do. He is a particularly steady man, a teetotaller, and so indeed are the whole family, or else we could not live. Recently my daughter has resigned the work and gone to service, as the prices are not sufficient for food and clothing."

Sunday, 11 September 2005

Saturday, 10 September 2005

Marcus Aurelius again...

"When another's fault offends you, turn to yourself and consider what similar shortcomings are found in you. do you, too, find your good in riches, pleasure, reputation, or such like? Think of this, and your anger will soon be forgotten in the reflection that he is only acting under pressure..."

"Let no one have the right to say truthfully of you that you are without integrity or goodness; should any think such thoughts, see that they are without foundation. This all depends upon yourself, for who else can hinder you from attaining goodness and integrity? "

"At every action, no matter by whom performed, make it a practice to ask yourself, 'What is his object in doing this?' But begin with yourself; put this question to yourself first of all."

Wednesday, 7 September 2005

Washing clothes Roman-style

Folks, don't try this at home!
The ancient Romans used urine to get their white tunics clean and bleached. Of course, the ammonia contained in urine was what did the trick. Fullers collected urine for this purpose. Clothing was immersed in the repugnant liquid and bleached white. Needless to say, the smell of urine didn't just leave the clothes once washed out with water and one can only imagine how even the most wealthy and notable Romans smelt truly 'pissy'. Combine that with the charming smell of fish sauce (a favourite with the Romans) and the stench would be unbearable to the contemporary nose.

Tuesday, 6 September 2005

Alchemists - the First Chemists

Alchemists believed that one substance could be canged into another. The Greek god Hermes was supposed to have started alchemy so it was called the Hermetic art and practised widely by the Greeks and Romans of the 3d century AD. When the Arabs conquered much of the East they developed the principles of alchemy even further and passed on to the medieval West via Spain.

According to Roger Bacon, alchemy is "...a Science teaching how to transform any kind of metal in to another...". It is not surprising therefore to find out that the main focus for the alchemist was to transform any metal in to gold. Because alchemists believed that everything in the world can be perfected they were attracted to the idea of making everything as perfect as it was in the Garden of Eden. Clearly their beliefs were strongly influenced by Christian thinking. Because they saw gold as being the perfect metal, they felt that all metals must be slowly changing into gold. Their intervention was seen as giving God a helping hand.

Monday, 5 September 2005

Enterprising Tudor Widows

In Tudor times widows were allowed to run their husbands' businesses and even train apprentices. Not all widows ran the business permanently - some only doing so for a year or so, while others remained in charge for several years. Within the period 1553 - 1640 seventy widows were left with the running of their late husbands' print shops and only twenty of them held on to them after 4 years, the rest having sold the shops. At that time widows represented one tenth of the publishing business.
Dionisia Holme from Beverley in Yorkshire, sustained her late husband's wool trading business for fifteen years and made a large profit out of it. Another, called Mrs Baynham, ran a business trading wool, wine and herrings as well as running a boarding house in Calais and acres of farmland.

Sunday, 4 September 2005

Oscar Wilde on Love & Marriage

Oscar Wilde as a young man

Oscar Wilde's liberal / anarchical views shocked Victorian society. This was sadly to be his downfall. Here is what he had to say about marriage and love:

"One should always be in love. That is the reason one should never marry."

"In married life three is company and two none."

"Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead."

See link below for more quotes from Oscar.

Saturday, 3 September 2005

"Captain Smith and Pocahontas..." - The True Story

"Captain Smith and Pocahontas, they had a very mad affair..."
Most people know this famous line from the song "Fever". How many though know the true story of Pocahontas? Click on link below to find out.

Thursday, 1 September 2005

Elizabethan Clothing

Elizabethan ladies underwear

You can dress an Elizabethan lady with your mouse here

And details of her outfit, right down to her underclothes...