Inside Mead’s Library

the generous georgian: dr richard mead

The nucleus of Mead’s library was formed during his grand tour of Italy in 1695. The small number of books that he brought back with him eventually grew to an extensive library of great renown.

49 Great Ormond Street 49 Great Ormond Street

Having moved to 49 Great Ormond Street after the death of the renowned physician Sir John Radcliffe, its previous occupant, Mead decided to build a library in the garden to house his growing book collection, to which was added Radcliffe’s collection of over two hundred volumes.

Mead employed for this the architect James Gibbs, who also designed the Radcliffe Camera in Oxford and Trafalgar Square’s St. Martin in the Fields. His library was built between 1732 and 1734 and became a prime destination for scholars, as well as for visitors just wanting to see the building and Mead’s collection of curiosities.

William Macmichael (1783-1839), one of Mead’s biographers, wrote

“Mead threw open…

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How to Sell a Wife, 1787

The History of Love

Unbridled passions! Sibling rivalry! Threatened suicide! Wife selling! A party down the pub!

What more could you want from this news report of 1787? Not only does it give a lively insight into love and marriage in the eighteenth century, but it proves once and for all that Bristol is a city where romance never dies…


– Chelmsford Chronicle, 12th January 1787

Bristol, Jan 6. – A correspondent who may be relied on has sent us the following:– Two brothers of the name of Scott, who live at Wookey, being equally captivated with the charms of a female of Wells, the daughter of one – Lovell, a mason, paid their addresses to her: when the elder brother perceiving that she manifested a partiality for the younger, declared, that unless she would accept his hand at the Altar of Hymen, he would hang himself – The tender-hearted nymph, to prevent so…

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Lady Charlotte Campbell Bury


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Saturday, 23d

— Yesterday I went to see –; all was well, even to her animals. What cause of thankfulness! — the vacuum in my existence, which one only circumstance can fill, still exists, and a low languor enfeebles body and mind, — but I hope, — nay, I am not ungrateful for the blessings given. — The Princess received a letter of twenty-eight pages, from the Princess Charlotte, which looked like the writing of a chambermaid, and appeared to me wholly illegible; but she said she could decipher it, and so she did in regard

— 114 —

to understanding the general meaning, but I defy her powers or her patience to have made out literally, what those twenty-eight pages contained; — the whole of the matter was, that Princess Charlotte was to remain in town, from Saturday to Wednesday; from which the Princess of Wales concluded, that she is to go to the Opera to-might, and intends if she does to go also. There came likewise accounts of Miss Knight’s having accepted the place of sub-governess, which the royal mother and daughter are very glad of. The same post that brought all this intelligence, brought a letter also from Lady Oxford, and the Princess decided upon setting off immediately, to go to Mortimer House. Accordingly, though her Royal Highness had not been out for a fortnight, off she went, and her lady in waiting told me, when they arrived they found, as the Princess predieted, no one, except Lord Byron. ‘Tis sickening to hear of and see the ways of the world. The Princess immediately retired with Lord Byron and Lord Oxford, and her lady staid with Lady Jane, — the latter is a good musician, but sings dreadfully out of tune. Lady — told me that she thought Lord Byron was exceedingly wearied, and endeavoured to listen to the music, and escape from her Royal Highness and Lady O –, but the former would not allow him to do so, and he was desired to “come and sit;” and upon the whole, the Princess was not pleased with her visit.”

(Bury, Lady Charlotte Susan Maria Campbell, 1775-1861, Diary of Lady Charlotte Susan Maria Campbell Bury, December, 1812, in Diary Illustrative of the Times of George the Fourth Interspersed with Original Letters from…Queen Caroline [Amelie Elizabeth, Consort of George IV], vol. 1. London, England: H. Colburn, 1838, pp. 216. [Bibliographic Details] [Biography] [12-2-1812] S4420-D016)

Charlotte Bury print

Lady Charlotte Susan Maria Bury (née Campbell)

by K. Mackenzie, published by Vernor, Hood & Sharpe
stipple engraving, published 1810

The quote above raises several interesting questions.  In particular, who was the author and why was Lord Byron tired!

It is probably easier to deal with the latter. 1812 was a busy year for Lord Byron.  It saw him make three speeches in the House of Lords – his maiden speech in February (the famous call to support the Nottinghamshire stocking weavers),  and his later calls for Catholic emancipation and reform of Parliament.  But it was also the year that Murray published Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage which resulted in the known rise of Byron’s celebrity status and dramatic personal life.  So it is probable that when Lady Charlotte wrote:

“Tis’ sickening to hear of and see the ways of the world…Lord Byron was exceedingly wearied”

He was not pretending tiredness was actually “wearied” even when in the presence of Royalty!

Lady Charlotte is an interesting character who is often forgotten about when considering the female creative mind of the period.

Charlotte Bury

Charlotte Campbell was born in January 1775 was the youngest daughter of John Campbell, 5th Duke of Argyll and Elizabeth Gunning, Dowager Duchess of Hamilton.  She was described throughout her life as a beautiful, charming woman.

Her first husband was Col John Campbell MP for Ayr Burghs.  On his death in March 1809 she was appointed Lady in Waiting to the Princess of Wales (later Queen Caroline).

A certain amount of scandal is likely to have ensued when in 1818 she married her son’s tutor, the Rev John Bury.  Bury was became rector of Litchfield and died at the age of 42 in 1832.

John Bieri in Percy Bysshe Shelley: A Biography : Exile of Unfulfilled Reknown, 1816-1822 (p108) states that she was an early patron of Sir Walter Scott and that he and Matthew Lewis (author of The Monk) attended her Edinburgh salons.  Lady Charlotte was, herself, an author and poet of such works as Self Indulgence, Flirtation and The Divorced.  Bierei also mentions her travel poem The Three Great Sanctuaries of Tuscany, Valombros, Camaldoli, Laverna:  A Poem with Historical and Legendary Notices which is considered to be the style of Shelley but which cites Milton, Scott and Byron.

3 Great Sanctuaries

Image from the 1833 poem The Three Great Sanctuaries of Tuscany
printed by John Murray

Charlotte Bury Self Indulgence

You can read this Romantic tale published anonymously in 1812
at Google Books

The Lady’s Magazine; or, Mirror of the Belles-Lettres, Fashions, Fine Arts, Music, Drama, Vol. 07 (1826) carries a review of another of Lady Charlotte’s creative output.  Alla Gionarta, or To The Day.  Firstly, it is notable that the review actually mentions the author by name (writing “under her present name of Berry”).  The narrative is deemed to be unoriginal  (young lady makes enemy of betrothed who she learns to be a cruel man) although, in keeping with the time, the emotion of the piece is said to be of a high standard and the description of the heroine well drawn.  The critic also comments on “eloquent passage” detailing the current state of the author’s country:

Charlotte Bury Alla Gionata (country)

Extract from the review of Alla Giornata

Charlotte Bury commented in 1818 that people had taken to writing novels as a form of amusement for themselves and the public.

It appears that her ladyship did not, unduly, suffer from her association with a literary output – although there may be more than one way to read the following notice from The Age in December 1827!

Charlotte Bury The Age

On her death in 1861 her literary contributions were acknowledged in her obituaries.

For a different view of Lady Charlotte why not look at her own cookbook which can be downloaded free

As a result of her standing in Society, her friendships with leading politicians, writers and others, together with her own artistic endeavours it is sad that little has been written about her in more recent times.

Further information:

Lord Byron’s Speeches
Walter Frederick Campbell
Ghost Stories at Inverary Castle
Beau Monde – Hannah Greg’s book has several references to Lady Charlotte

A Tale of Two (very naughty) Theresas


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Certain individuals stand out from the Long Eighteenth Century – they could be aristocrats, politicians, scientists even writers and actors.  But during my research into women in the world of entertainment (if the term is taken loosely!) I have found two Theresas who have further piqued my interest.

The first is (Anna Maria) Teresa Cornelys’ née Imer also known as Mme Trenti, Mrs Smith (c1723-1797).  She was an Italian singer.  Before the late 1750s little is known about her life save for that imparted to the world by that great love Giacomo Casanova (therefore the information imparted may not be the most reliable):

“.. Teresa, the daughter of the actor Imer, … then aged seventeen, and pretty, wilful and a flirt, who was studying music to make a career of it on the stage, who was forever showing herself at her window” (see History of My Life by Giacomo Casanova).

Teresa was to be one of Casanova’s lover’s off-and-on for several decades and was to have at least one child by him.

It seems probable that the young Teresa had a reasonable successful singing career in the 1740s and early 1750s – she played Vitellia in Tito Manlio (an opera in three acts by Vivaldi) in the 1742 Florence season and performed in Padua, Turin and Genoa.  At some point in the mid-1740s it appears that she married a dancer called Angelo Francesco Pompeati by whom she had a son.  At around the same time Teresa came to London for the first time and performed at the King’s Theatre.

A decade later she was to return to London with the help of a Dutch merchant (another lover) called Jan Cornelius Rigerboos (from whom Teresa adopted her new surname) and performed with John Freeman aka John Fermor or Sir Frederick Fermer, a cellist and double-bass player.  Their performances took place at the Little Theatre in the Haymarket in October 1759 and she used the contacts made during this time to gain the support of members of the aristocracy to establish subscription assemblies that she and Fermor would run together.  Her supports included Elizabeth Percy, Countess of Northumberland and Caroline Stanhope.

Carlisle House

Carlisle House

Such support allowed her to lease Carlisle House, Soho Square in May 1760 with her entertainments of dancing, gambling and refreshments, being the following autumn.  Subscriptions were limited to the aristocracy and tickets cost 5 guineas.

Fergus Linnane in Madams:  Bands and Brothel-Keepers of London (2005) reports that it

“was a kind of nightclub, renowned for the opulent extravagance of its décor.  One year the theme was rural, involving real pine trees and fountains, ‘an elegant erection of Gothick arches’ and a ‘moving spiral pillar of lights’.  In his memoirs William Hickey describes a visit to her ‘truly magnificent suite of apartments .. So much did it take that the firest people of the kingdom attended it, as did the whole beauty of the metropolis, from the Duchess of Devonshire down to the little milliner’s apprentice from Cranbourn Alley.’

NPG D32145; 'Iphigenia' (Elizabeth Chudleigh, Countess of Bristol) after Unknown artist

‘Iphigenia’ (Elizabeth Chudleigh, Countess of Bristol) – the infamous Lady Elizabeth was a regular visitor to Carlisle House

Using the potential profit from the sale of these tickets to her creditors she had the premises refurbished and expanded in the 1760s (these works included a Chinese room) and engaged both Johann Christian Bach and Karl Friedrich Abel to perform in 1763-4.  In addition to concerns and balls Carlisle became quite infamous for the masquerades and for taking advantage of disagreements at the King’s Theatre to expand the opera performed at Carlisle House (these resulted in fines for violating the Licensing Act of 1737).

Jerry White writes in A Great and Monstrous Thing – London in the Eighteenth Century (2012) that

“The astonishing success of Teresa Cornelys as London’s greatest impresario of the 1760s contained the seeds of her eventual downfall.  To attract fresh audiences every season she spent lavishly in an annual round of costly magnificence and innovation.  Returns on her investment grew harder to yield when other entrepreneurs, senses quickened by the palpable success of Carlisle House, set up a to compete for the quality in one or other of the pleasures pioneered so successfully by Mrs Cornelys.

The first blow fell in 1768.  William Almack had kept a coffee house in Curzon Street, Mayfair, in the 1750s and then an alehouse in Pall Mall, which he later ran as a fashionable gaming house.  He proposed sufficiently to build new assembly rooms in King Street, St James’s Square, opening in February 1765.  There is provided weekly balls and gaming tables and extended his premises with a ‘great room’ fit for concerns in 1767.  Like Mrs Cornelus’s early ventures, ton was assured by a ‘Ladies’ Coterie’ who vetted subscribers to exclude the unfashionable.  And it was under their protection that Bach and Abel were seduced from Carlisle House to open a new concert season at Almack’s in 1768.” (p300).

In 1771 Teresa retired to Southwark (adopting an alias of Mrs Smith) and the Gentleman’s Magazine of November 1772 listed her as a bankrupt.  The following month Carlisle House and its furnishings were sold to her creditors (who included Thomas Chippendale).  The auction raised £10,200 and Teresa was given an annual annuity of £200.  The final years of her life saw a sad decline in her lifestyle selling milk to the ton.

Mrs Cornelys Death

from The Gentleman’s Magazine, October 1797

The other infamous Teresa was the member of post-French Revolution society, Mme Theresa Cabarrus Tallien, later Princess Chimay (July 1773-Jan 1835). Theresa was born in Madrid to a French financier (her father founded the Bank of San Carlos and was Minister of Finance to King Joseph I of Spain).  She was returned to France to be educated and to find a husband.

Mme Tallien

Mme Tallien (after Isabey, Jean-Baptiste)

Despite having a lover (Alexandre de Laborde) her father married her to Jean Jacques Devin Fontenay, Marquis de Fontenay – she was 14.  When her husband fled the country during the Revolution Theresa gained a divorce.  Even though the marriage was ended she was arrested in Bordeaux because of her association with the aristocracy but was saved from the guillotine by Jean Lambert Tallien (they married in 1794), the Commissary of the National Convention.  On their return to Paris she was re-arrested on the instruction of Robespierre and taken first to the infamous La Force and later in Carmes Prison.  Her husband worked to oust Robespierre and Theresa was released on 27 July 1794.  Due to her work to have detainee’s released she gained the nickname the ‘Notre-Dame de Thermidor’.

However, it was her activities in Parisian society once the worst actions of the Revolution ended that really made her name.  She took the classic Roman/Greek designs that had been popular and took them to a highly revealing extreme including arriving at the Paris Opera in a white silk gown with no underpinings.  She was a member of the Merveilleuse who with their male counterparts the Incroyables led a decadent, exaggerated lifestyle during the French Directory of the years 1795-1799, that seemed more associated connected with pre-Revolutionary France.

Gillray Mme Tallien

Occupations of Madame Theresa Tallien (1773-1835) and the Empress Josephine (1763-1814) dancing naked before the Vicomte de Barras (1755-1829) in the winter of 1797, 1805 (coloured engraving), Gillray, James (1757-1815) / Musee de la Revolution Francaise, Vizille, France / The Bridgeman Art Library

Tallien and Theresa divorced with 1802 and it appears likely that she had a brief affair with Napoleon and longer relationships with Paul Barras (who also counted Napoleon’s Josephine as a lover) and Gabriel Julien Ouvrand.  However, it was Francois Joseph Philippe de Riquet, Comte de Caraman (later Prince of Chimay) she married in 1805.

Theresa Tallien

from The Morning Chronicle, 24 August 1829

She and the Prince had  a theatre built at the Chimay Chateau and at their own ‘court’ they were entertained by musicians such as Auber and Cherubini were invited.  The couple lived out their lives at Chimay (which is a little over an hour’s drive from Waterloo).

Two extraordinary Theresas – two women of the Eighteenth Century from different backgrounds who made a name for themselves in, and by challenging, Society.  They both knew hardship & experienced the fears and dangers of imprisonment yet it is the manner in which they took on the expectations of those around them that led them to be remembered today.

Further information:

Carnival Queen
History and other thoughts

Offending the Patronesses


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It is widely held in modern romantic novels that for the young heroine, to do well in her aim to find the perfect husband, she had to receive approval from the Lady Patronesses of Almack’s. The Weekly Entertainer and West of England Miscellany for 29th March 1824 (pp188-191) reports how exclusive Almack’s was.  In fact “The nights of meetings fall every Wednesday during the season.  This is selection with a vengeance;  the very quintessence of aristocracy.  Three-fourths even of the nobility knock in vain for admission”.  The Duke of Wellington was turned away because he was not appropriately attired.

Almack'sYet there is evidence that established ladies of Society could face signs of disfavour for the smallest of errors and oversights.  The historian Sir Walter Besant wrote that “The Riff-Raff might go to Court but they could not get to Almack’s” whilst Captain Gronow said that with their “smiles or frowns” they could consign “men and women to happiness or despair”.

Lady Elizabet Howard, Duchess of Rutland
Lady Elizabeth Howard - Lady's Monthly Museum 1809
taken from The Lady’s Monthly Museum, or Polite Repository of Amusement and Instruction:  being an assemblage of whatever can tend to please the fancy, interest the mind or exalt the character of the British fair.  By a society of ladies  (Dec 1809) pp281-282

One such example is the Duchess of Rutland:

“Fanny and Harriet have been with me at that grand exclusive paradise of fashion, Almack’s. Observe that the present Duchess of Rutland who had been a few months away from town, and had offended the lady patronesses by not visiting them, could not at her utmost need get a ticket from any one of them, and was kept out to her amazing mortification. This may give you some idea of the importance attached to admission to Almack’s. Kind Mrs. Hope got tickets for us from Lady Gwydyr and Lady Cowper; the patronesses can only give tickets to those whom they personally know; on that plea they avoided the Duchess of Rutland’s application: she had not visited them, — “they really did not know her Grace;” and Lady Cowper swallowed a camel for me, because she did not really know me; I had met her, but had never been introduced to her till I saw her at Almack’s. Fanny and Harriet were beautifully dressed: their heads by Lady Lansdowne’s hair-dresser, Trichot: Mrs. Hope lent Harriet a wreath of her own French roses. Fanny was said by many to be, if not the prettiest, the most elegant looking young woman in the room, and certainly “elegance, birth, and fortune were there assembled,” as the newspapers would truly say”

Letter from Maria Edgeworth to Fanny Beaufort Edgeworth, March, 1822

(Edgeworth, Maria, 1767-1849, Letter from Maria Edgeworth to Fanny Beaufort Edgeworth, March, 1822, in The Life and Letters of Maria Edgeworth, vol. 2. Hare, Augustus John Cuthbert, ed.. London, England: Edward Arnold, 1894, pp. 353).

It is quite possible that the reason for the Duchess’ absence from London was because her daughter Lady Elizabeth Manners was married to Andrew Robert Drummond Esq (Drummond was commission Captain of the Cadland Troop of Cavalry in 1831, was Sheriff of the County of Southampton in 1838 and a partner of the banking firm Drummond & Co) by the Archbishop of Canterbury.  The ceremony took place at the Rutland’s country seat of Belvoir Castle.

Death of Andrew DrummondThe Morning Post (London, England), Wednesday, June 21, 1865; pg. 5; Issue 28554. 19th Century British Library Newspapers: Part II

The question, therefore, is was the Duchess of Rutland refused vouchers for attendance at Almack’s, in 1822, because she failed to greet the Patronesses when she returned to London or, perhaps, was it because they did were not invited to her daughter’s wedding?!

Further information:

Almack’s and its Snobbish Patroneses
Almack’s Assemby Rooms
The Duke of Wellington at Almack’s
Almack’s is not quite what you think

“All the conversation here at present turns upon the balloons”: a ‘balloonmania’ handkerchief of 1783


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AS air balloons are the hobby-horses of the day, give me leave, in imitation of Tristan Shandy, to say a word or two upon these same hobby-horses,

It appears now very probable that these new invented machines will best all the flies that ever flew upon our roads, and consequently post-horses will become a drug, stage-coaches will admit only turkies and chines as inside passengers…”

The above appeared in a letter from ‘a real Patriot’ in The Town and Country Magazine, or, Universal Repository of Knowledge, Instruction and Entertainment (Dec 1783) pp713-714 (Proquest, Doc ID:  6451266).

Ballooning was a perfect way for those in the Eighteenth Century to combine scientific investigation and the importance of the sublme with entertainment.

It attracted the attention of the leading poets of the day:

To a balloon, laden with Knowledge

Bright ball of flame that thro the gloom of even
Silently takest thine etherial way
And with surpassing glory dimmst each ray
Twinkling amid the dark blue Depths of Heaven
Unlike the Fire thou bearest, soon shall thou
Fade like a meteor in surrounding gloom
Whilst that unquencheable is doomed to glow
A watch light by the patriots lonely tomb
A ray of courage to the opprest & poor,
A spark tho’ gleaming on the hovel’s hearth
Which thro the tyrants gilded domes shall roar
A beacon in the darkness of the Earth
A Sun which oer the renovated scene
Shall dart like Truth where Falshood yet has been.

(Percy Bysshe Shelley)

Timothy Morton in Chapter 10 of the Cambridge Companion to Shelley (DOI:  http/dx/ says that “Ballooning was associated with philosophical speculation in general and (French) revolutionary philosophy in particular.  The first aeronautic writing offered a radially displaced view of the earth, as if see by extraterrestrial beings.  Rather than embodying a sense of ‘here’, of home and hearth, Shelley’s imagery of the star or meteor presents nature (and culture) as decentred, unfamiliar, elsewhere.”

March of Intellect

March of Intellect

(Light Speed Magazine)

Images of balloons were not restricted to pictures and prints.  It could be found on furniture, fans, snuff boxes, crockery and fabric suggesting that all levels of society were particularly caught up in the craze.

Balloon fabric

Image taken from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

At the event held at the Hilton Hotel in York, on Friday 19 September 2014, Dawn Hoskin an Assistant Curator, Europe 1600-1800 at the Victoria and Albert Museum presented a paper on the significance of ballooning during the Long Eighteenth Century and how this was reflected in all manner of memorabilia and satire.

Balloon 1814

Image taken from: James Sadler: The Oxford balloon man history forgot

Dawn wove the discussion around the handkerchief commemorating the first ascent of a hydrogen-filled hot air balloon at the Tuileries, block-printed cotton, Alsace (France), ca.1783 (V&A 1872-1899)

1783 balloon handkerchief

Image taken from Dawn Hoskin’s V&A blog pages

Dawn suggested that perhaps the original owner of the handkerchief was French (due to the subject matter) and that it was kept in good condition as a patriotic gesture.  Certainly given the poor quality of both the cotton fabric and the dyes used this does seem a likely conclusion.  The manufacture of the piece (which has not been finished) also suggests that the target market was not the upper echelons of society.

But Dawn did not restrict her talk to the images of balloons but used this as a springboard to a discussion of the changing importance of the handkerchief itself and suggested that with the increase in another ‘typical’ Eighteenth Century past-time, taking snuff, so the handkerchief changed from being a delicate fashion item to a robust necessary (Smollett’s “flag of abomination”) to be kept hidden away in the user’s pocket (just as purportedly the up-tilted chin which has become synonymous with haughty ‘toffs’ was a way of ensuring that the white linen of neckcloth and shirt did not become besmirched with the brown stains that were the by-product of the habit).  Whilst the logic of this is self-evident it seems almost at odds with the image of the Eighteenth Century aristocrat with his long lace sleeves, high heels, fancy wig and delicate hanky used to dab gently at his nose after enjoying his pinch of snuff … fiction has a lot to answer for!

Pimpernel Snuff

Anthony Andrews as the Scarlet Pimpernel

The Captain Cook Waistcoat Project


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One of the discussion topics at the Fashion, Function and Ornament symposium organised by Fairfax House in York (held on 19 September 2014) was about the fascinating project to try to recreate the last (and uncompleted) waistcoat that Elizabeth Cook nee Batts was making when she received the news that her husband – the famous explorer and hydrographer Captain James Cook – had been killed. Elizabeth was apparently a very good needlewoman who turned her talents to many items that could be linked to her husband (see more details at the National Museum of Australia).

(c) National Maritime Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The Death of Captain James Cook, 14 February 1779 by Johann Zoffany

Alison Larkin, embroiderer and lecturer, presented an entertaining and informative talk about her involvement in the project to recreate this last waistcoat. Capt Cook Waistciat 2 Capt Cook Waistcoat 5    Capt Cook Waistcoat 1

Photos from:  State Library of New South Wales, Australia

To all intends and purposes the embroidery on the waistcoat is complete – though far simpler than was the norm for a gentleman’s waistcoat of the mid-18th century.  However, the pieces were cut and never sewn together.

Alison suggests that there may be several reasons why the waistcoat was much simpler than usual, including the fact that being a sailor’s wife she may have completed each group of related embroidery before moving onto the next so that should her husband return the item would be in a virtually completed state (ie would only have to be cut out and the pieces sewn together).  Additionally, it was possible that as the waistcoat was intended for Captain Cook to wear when attending Court (he had met King George III when he returned from his second voyage) and because both Elizabeth and James were of humble origins (James was the son of a farm worker and Elizabeth the daughter of an innkeeper) and had Quaker links it was not deemed appropriate for the waistcoat to be too elaborate.

I would like to suggest, however, another reason.  Captain Cook may not have been a man too averse to wearing more heavily embroidered waistcoats for Museum of New Zealand owns a silk-fronted garment (the back and lining are simple cotton) which is decorated with silk flowers, gold and silver thread and spangles.  However, the main fabric in this unfinished item was made from Tapa cloth – a non-woven fabric from the Pacific islands such as Fiji, Tahiti and Tonga.  Decorations are more usually painted rather than sewn on (The Museum of Natural and Cultural History has examples of this art work).  Could it be, therefore, that one of the reasons why the embroidery is simple on this particular occasion is because the cloth was proving to be difficult to work?

Tapa cloth

Example of Tapa cloth

This is, indeed, the purpose of the project – to compare the modern with the old and to understand how it would have been worn (the other known example of Cook’s waistcoat has been altered so the replica may well help to build a picture of the real Captain Cook), how the garment was made and even to retain Georgian skills that could be lost.

Alison has already made some interesting discoveries.  For instance, she has done the ‘shower’ test on the modern tapa fabric she has managed to acquire (this is not as fine as that used on Cook’s waistcoat which might be down to the fact that the material presented to him had been a royal gift) and the fabric does not like to get wet which begs the question of how the garment would have fared in the damp British weather.  She has also identified that some of the stitches were tamboured and that Elizabeth may have been left handed (apparently for tambour work if you are right handed it is best to work left to right and vice versa).

Replica Capt Cook

Part of replica waistcoat (from Alison’s blog)

I hold my hands up and confess that whilst I have no issue with making historical costume and accessories for myself and others I draw the line at embroidery – my Mum tried to teach me years ago but have no patience (!).  I truly admire anyone who are willing to take the time to be involved in this project.  Alison has even identified that the fact that modern threads and spangles (sequins) are manufactured differently today.  Fortunately, there is one company in the UK which does still produce traditional items that are being used in this experiment (Benton and Johnson) – a useful addition to the address book.

Whilst there is no intention for the waistcoat to be worn it will form part of the anniversary exhibition which will be held at the Captain Cook Memorial Museum in Whitby next year.

Further information:

Captain James Cook – BBC
Captain Cook Waistcoat Project
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, Longtitude Punk’d 10 April 2014–4 January 2015
Explorer Captain Cook’s Waistcoat Seeks $1m in New Zealand Sale, Paul Fraser Collectible
Create Tambour Work Embroidery
Tambour Embroidery How to Video

Loving and Sly Parodies: the gothic and anti-gothic: Atwood’s Lady Oracle & Fuller’s The Convent

Reveries Under the Sign of Austen, Two

….. from abbeys and castles, in which, though certainly larger than Northanger, all the dirty work of the house was to be done by two pair of female handsat the utmost. How they could get through it all had often amazed Mrs. Allen …. (NA, 2:8)

Dear friends and readers,

In the last week and one half, I finished reading the last texts I’m going to read for this paper on The Intertextual Gothic in Northanger Abbey (its latest title). Both were (as is not uncommon in the last writing one reads just before writing) unplanned, unexpected, one unknown. Ihave owned a copy of Margaret Atwood’s Lady Oracle for years, but it was only a couple of weeks ago that I came across a description of it in Michelle Masse’s In the Name of Love: Women, Masochism and the Gothic, which convinced me it is the…

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What would Mr Darcy be worth today?


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Fascinating article in the Daily Telegraph shows that (depending on your mode of calculation) Mr Darcy £30,000 a year at the start of the 1800s could be recalculated to about £12m!

Other incomes shown are John Dashwood’s income of £6,000 in 1810 could be worth c£5m per annum today. Whilst Mrs Dashwood’s income of £500 per annum would be equivalent to c£450k.  Emma’s inheritance of £30k could be worth £26,631,000.00.

The paper provides a searchable table which is very interesting.  Take a look at



Coaching Tokens or Half-Pennies

The Regency Redingote

We have all received mailings, either via snail-mail or email, which include a “check” or coupon worth a certain amount for use at a restaurant or hotel as an inducement for our patronage. Our Regency ancestors received similar specialized currency, and though their incentive cash came in the form of hard coin, its production and use correlated to the postal system of their time.

The minting and circulation of the coaching half-penny through time …

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