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Archive for the ‘Historical Customs’ Category

Cold Meat and How To Disguise It, by Hunter Davies.

Cold Meat and How To Disguise It, by Hunter Davies.

I recently purchased a book titled Cold Meat and How To Disguise It, by Hunter Davies, and it is filled with historical ideas of how to save money. In it he shares advice on being thrifty with food, domestic help, children, clothing, health and money, particularly pertinent to those years of World War that resulted in severe rationing.

One of the sections that caught my eye was the chapter on children and the discussion on how to amuse them cheaply. One quoted source was the book Indoor Games for Children and Young People (1912), and it divulged all sorts of interesting (and cheap) games to play with children.

One was called Tinkle Tinkle:

In this game, all the players are blindfolded except one, whom it is their object to catch. The unblindfolded player must carry a little bell which tinkles with every movement of the body, thus revealing his or her whereabouts to all the other players, who are all making frantic efforts to catch the holder of the bell.

Another called Nursery Football:

Football can be made grandly exciting in the nursery if played in a realistic way, as is possible if you follow these directions. Take an ordinary hen’s egg and blow it, by making a small hold at each end and blowing through one hole until all the inside of the egg has been forced into a cup at the opposite end. When this has been done, paint the empty shell in nearly leather-colour as possible with water-colours. When it is dry draw with pen and ink the sections and lacing so as to make it look as much as possible like a real football. Now erect your goal-posts. Four stools with answer the purpose quite well, or even chairs, although the latter are apt to get rather in the way. As in ordinary football the players divide into sides, the object of the game to get as many goals as possible. The ball (or rather egg-shell) is blown across the floor by means of palm-leaf fans. Great care must be taken not to tread upon the ball in the excitement of the game. The score is carefully kept by the umpire, the ball being returned to the centre after each fresh goal.

And another called Window Games, which has several variations:

If there are two or three of you, the best plan is to divide into sides, then, if there are two windows, one side can take one window, and one the other. One side must take all the articles passing up the road, and other everything going in the opposite direction.

Then there are points awarded or lost for seeing particular things passing down the road. Some of the things listed are a baby in a perambulator, a [chimney] sweep, a butcher’s cart, a piebald horse, a woman on horseback, a tinker, and a child with a hoop. Most notably, “No matter which way he may be walking, the side who first sees a solider wins the game.”

One example of a party game

One example of a party game, especially if your waiting for the person to hurry up with the music for “pass the parcel”!

There is another that I quite like the sound of, called Silence (something any parent appreciates!), and a whole range of ideas for Home Stage Entertainments. The book concludes with various table games suited to young adults because “over the walnuts and the wine there comes a lull in the conversation, all the general topics of the day have been used up, and on the party there falls a silence that no one cares to break. Then it is that the knowledge of some eccentric form of amusement comes in useful.”

Quite an interesting read, especially for those winter days when the kids are climbing the walls!

Note: The title of this post, “Children and What To Do With Them”, is taken from a book of the same name published in 1881. Unfortunately I cannot find any online links to it.

Related Posts

Parenting Advice from 1910

Up into the Cherry Tree

Sources and Relevant Links

Cold Meat and How To Disguise It: A History of Advice on How to Survive Hard Times: A Hundred Years of Belt Tightening, by Hunter Davies.

Indoor Games for Children and Young People, (first published in 1912) 1922 edition, edited by E.M. Baker. – read online

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And its a BOY! Our new addition to the family is very cute and has currently taken residence of the lounge room!

Source: Every Woman's Encyclopeadia, Vol I.

“Iron cots are more healthy than wooden ones, and both sides should be made to slide down.” Source: Every Woman’s Encyclopeadia, Vol I.

To celebrate this occasion, I wanted to share with you some advice given to mothers upon the birth of their babies, published in Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia (1910).

Firstly, the high rate of infant mortality (statistics of one in five is stated in this article) was considered quite costly to the English nation. And 75% of these deaths were attributed (by the author of this article) to the early introduction of “harmful foods”. In these days, cows milk was not routinely pasteurised and so was considered problematic for a baby’s consumption, especially when it could not be obtained fresh from a cow. As a result, the writer recommends exclusive breastfeeding as best for the baby.

Every mother, then, who can nurse her baby should make it her duty, as well as her pleasure to do so, and provided she is reasonably healthy, looks after herself properly, and feeds the baby at regular intervals, there is no reason why her milk should not amply suffice. It is a well-known fact that breast-fed babies vary rarely suffer from rickets, diarrhoea, convulsions, or any of the troubles which beset the baby brought up by hand [hand/bottle feeding rather than breast feeding].

And after giving a description on how to tell if a baby is thriving on breast milk, the author goes on to give advice to the nursing mother.

…the nursing mother must be very careful of herself for the baby’s sake. She should eat good, plain food, with milk and cocoa, or good oatmeal gruel, avoiding too much tea, and unless ordered by the doctor, all alcoholic drinks. She must avoid hot places of amusement, late hours, and worry or excitement.

Mental note to self: Avoid hot places of amusement…

Thereafter comes some advice for mothers who cannot nurse their baby, for whatever reason. Cow’s milk must be modified to suit the baby’s digestive system better. It should be sterilised and pasteurised if it cannot be got fresh. It then needs to be diluted with barley-water, fresh cream added, and sugar of milk added. Just reading the rigmarole of cow’s milk modification makes me grateful for the invention of formula!

One sees how Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia was probably an invaluable source of information to the women of this era. Its advice is fairly sensible, especially when compared to much of the other types of advice given to women throughout history, and the publication covers a wide range of issues and topics that the Edwardian housewife would encounter.

Related Posts

Parenting Advice from 1910

Pregnancy in 1910

Sources and Relevant Links

Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, Vol. I, p. 181.

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My blog has been a bit quiet of late, largely due to the expectation of another “bundle of joy” arriving in our family. In the flurry of this organisation – and then the inevitable rest that results when a pregnant woman has been too busy organising things – a lot of my sewing and reading projects have been put on hold.

In expectation of this event, I wanted to share with you some advice given to expectant mothers in 1910, in Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia. This publication was generally full of a great range of (usually) sensible advice and information for the Edwardian woman, but this article in particular amused me!

"A nursery freize that would delight children." Source: Every Woman's Encyclopaedia, Vol I.

“A nursery frieze that would delight children.” Source: Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, Vol I.

In ‘Preparing for Baby’, the midwife begins by stating that “as soon as a woman knows that she is likely to become a mother, it should be her sweet duty to order her life that her child may be born strong, healthy and beautiful.” She goes on to advise on “the essentials which should receive attention” – that is, food, clothing, exercise, fresh air, rest, sleep and “good surroundings”. Here are several of her recommendations.

Food

The wise woman will put aside her fancies and eat only such foods as will be most beneficial to herself and her unborn child. Wholesome, plain, nourishing food should be taken, little meat being required. Indeed, some authorities recommend a diet chiefly of fruit and vegetables, with plenty of wholemeal bread.

Knowing the terrible trouble I have with anaemia during pregnancy, I am surprised at advice on limiting meat in the diet! She also recommends limits on tea and coffee, as well as alcohol and other stimulants, which falls more within the bounds of normality.

Clothing

Clothing should, of course, be warm but light, and should not be suspended from the waist, and there should be no pressure on any part of the body. Corsets must be dispensed with, as they cause harmful pressure on the heart and stomach.

Only 20 years previously, in the late Victorian era, pregnant women wore a maternity corset which contained lacing to accommodate the enlarging abdomen. The Edwardian corset, by contrast, extended well down over the hips.

For house wear a pretty maternity dress or princess robe, made in tea-gown style, is becoming and easily made at home.

Charming really!

Garters, which are never advisable, must not be worn, as they increase the tendency to varicose veins.

Sensible…

Exercise and Fresh Air

It is a great mistake to suppose that the expectant mother cannot take exercise to do her ordinary household work. She should however, avoid such work as entails lifting the arms high above the head, lifting heavy weights, climbing stairs or standing too long.

I might avoid sharing that piece of insight regarding housework with my husband!

If the weather be unsuitable [for getting outside to breathe fresh air] (for great care must be taken not to contract internal chill), the house must be flushed with fresh air, especially the bedroom and living room, which should be as bright and sunny as possible.

Good Surroundings

Try to cultivate pure, placid thoughts, remembering that “of all created things, the loveliest and most divine are children.”

I am not sure that my children fit into that category!

Avoid undue excitement, such as crowds or theatre-going.

And I had been thinking of getting to the movies this weekend!

After giving advice on how to engage a doctor, nurse and midwife, the author gives prescriptions for preparing the labour room with all the essentials, including the baby’s clothing and articles for the mother.

To Conclude…

After the first few days following the arrival of baby, the young mother should be encouraged to think of this time as one of great happiness, rest and contentment – cheerfulness is a great restorer.

Yes, well, the first few days are usually manageable… it is the months of sleep deprivation that follow that is the killer! However, I am sure that cheerful thoughts can often play their part.

Related Posts

Parenting Advice from 1910

Having a Baby in 1910

Sources and Relevant Links

Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, Vol. I, p. 30.

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In my first post in this series, I looked at the movies Becoming Jane (2007) and Miss Austen Regrets (2008) and began to explore the ways in which these movies are historically accurate. In my second post, I elaborated on the known details of a number of suitors that were attracted to Jane Austen during her life, and discussed the likelihood of Jane having “her very own love story”. In this post, I am examining the likely career prospects that Jane Austen could have had (if she had lived longer) when compared to other female writers of her era.

A watercolour painting of Jane Austen, by Cassandra Austen

A watercolour painting of Jane Austen, by Cassandra Austen.

Jane’s Career Prospects

In Regency society, career options for gentlewomen were few. Lower classes of women generally had more options for earning money, but Jane Austen was a member of the gentry, traditionally country landowners. Men and women of the gentry generally lived off the income from their land or investments, and whilst younger sons of the gentry were required to have a career to supplement their income, the women were not expected to work for money.

Unmarried women of the gentry would be supported by their fathers and, upon their father’s death, their father’s estate or their brothers would provide them with income. Unmarried women from richer families could also inherit funds or property that would provide them with an independent source of income. (It is this reason that Emma (from Emma, by Jane Austen) could reasonably decide that she had no wish to marry, as she would have had an independent source of income from her father’s estate upon his death.)

However, upon marriage any property would generally transfer to the husband. Married women could still keep property or funds given to them in a trust or specifically for their own use, but they needed their husband’s consent to dispose of it. Often the fathers of these women would work into a marriage agreement that the woman’s inherited property was for her use alone, limiting the husband’s automatic rights to ownership. However, a married woman (by law) did not have exclusive rights to her own wages, that is if she was in a position to earn any.

Rather than being concerned with earning money, women of the gentry generally did other things with their time. They ran their household, cared for the poor or sick living within their area, completed handiwork such as embroidery, and developed their musical accomplishments. There were women who sought more active employment within their sphere of influence, such as Jane Austen’s friend, Mrs Lefroy, who taught the local poor children to read.

Many women of both the eighteenth century and Regency periods expressed concern that there was not adequate education for girls and women. I have also read the personal accounts of women who frequently felt disempowered to make any real difference in the world because they lacked the opportunities to do so. However, women of the gentry during the eighteenth century and Regency times did not view careers for earning money in the same way it is viewed today, that is, as a way of becoming financially independent and of developing a sense of self outside of domestic duties.

Jane Austen is represented in both Becoming Jane and Miss Austen Regrets as being quite concerned with poverty and her family’s lack of money, even to the point that she feels pressure to provide for them. She is also portrayed as having a strong desire to cultivate a career for herself. When the historical background of the Regency era is taken into account, as well as the voice of Jane in her own letters, I have wondered if the modern representations of Jane Austen in movies are at odds with this evidence.

Would Jane have felt pressure to provide for her mother and sister?

As the youngest child of eight, and a daughter, it is unlikely that Jane should have been expected to provide for her mother and sister after her father’s death. After Mr Austen died, the Austen brothers rallied together to help their mother and unmarried sisters with a supplemented income. The brothers managed to increase the income from 210 pounds to 460 pounds a year. Whilst this was still a smaller income than the women were used to, and it required them to move from Bath to cheaper lodgings in Southhampton, it was still enough for them to keep a servant.

Did Jane Austen want to be famous?

Early in her life, Jane appears to have written for the enjoyment of herself, her family and her closest friends. Her first attempts at publication were at the encouragement of her father, and she remained quite obsessive in her secrecy about her writing throughout her life. She published her books anonymously (which was common for women authors of this period), instead attributing the authorship to “A Lady”, and some of her own nieces and nephews were unaware of the true author when her first books were published.

Once her brother Henry dropped the secret and her name became more widely known, she still persisted in her reluctance to attend functions where she might meet other influential literary people. She seemed to consistently deny all appearances of fame that people tried to put upon her, even refusing an invitation to a party to meet the famous authoress, Madame Germaine Da Stael. From these instances, as well as her own letters, she did not seem to write particularly to achieve fame.

Could Jane Austen have made her fortune in the career of an authoress?

Jane Austen made 140 pounds from the publication of her first novel, Sense and Sensibility, and her total earnings from her writing was 684 pounds at the end of her life. Whilst her six novels were all published within seven years (1811-1818), most of them had been started much earlier in her life and had undergone a long process of revision. Even if she had continued to write a novel every year from then onwards, she would have struggled to produce a very large fortune by her pen.

Looking at other female authors of the time, monetary compensation for a writing career was generally low when you consider what sort of income a member of the gentry considered appropriate to live on. In addition, both male and female writers usually did not merely live by the income made from writing novels. They often had other forms of income in the form of royal pensions, earnings from investments or estates, or other forms of writing such as literary reviews or submissions to journals or magazines.

At this point, it is interesting to examine the careers of other female authors during the time of Austen, compiled in the table below. I have only included women writers who wrote in the fiction genre (the newly emerging novel form), as Jane Austen did. There were, of course, other women during this era who were influential in writing other forms of material, such as educational pamphlets and conduct literature.

Copyright Kelly Lock. Disclaimer: This information was compiled using limited web-based research. Any inaccuracies will be amended once discovered.

Copyright: Tea in a Teacup. Disclaimer: This information was compiled using limited web-based research. As there is often not enough available information on the particular earnings of authors, I have included as much information regarding earnings as I could accurately discover. Any inaccuracies will be amended once discovered.

By this rather brief and simplistic comparison, one could conclude that Jane Austen was underpaid when compared to several of her contemporaries. It has been suggested by others that, by leaving the financial negotiations to her father and brother, she may have unwittingly limited her income because they were unskilled at such negotiations. It is unclear how she could have combated this though, as Charlotte Turner Smith managed all her own negotiations with her publishers and still struggled to enhance her financial position.

One significant difference between Jane Austen and other women writers of her time is that most of the other women actively sought patronage from notable peers known to them or their families, sometimes even asking permission for their works to be dedicated to them. Most of the women listed in the table also moved actively in literary circles, often getting to know other famous authors such as Dr Samuel Johnson, Sir Walter Scott, and Hester Thrale, and other female authors. Whilst Jane Austen was not interested in actively promoting herself in literary circles, she did manage to attract the patronage of the Prince Regent who offered her “permission to ask for permission” to dedicate Emma to him, which she seemed to do fairly reluctantly and only after advice from her family. 

Even if Jane Austen could have managed to overcome some of these differences, it is probably still inaccurate to say that she could have made her fortune by writing novels. Whilst she had several unfinished manuscripts in progress when she died (The Watsons and Sanditon) as well as an unpublished epistolary novel (Lady Susan), she still may not have been able to produce a novel every year, especially considering her previous propensity to spend much time revising and perfecting her work. This natural restriction of time frame would – itself – have limited her income.

In order to live comfortably as an English gentleman or lady, it was desirable to have at least 300 pounds per annum for each individual within the family unit, equating to roughly the annual interest on 6,000 pounds. Unless Jane Austen could save that amount for herself (as well as for her mother and sister), there would have been little hope that she could have lived in such a comfortable situation once she eventually stopped writing later in life. Indeed, many of the women who, by necessity, had lived solely on the proceeds from their writing ended their lives in poverty as their writing income dried up.

So, whilst Jane Austen would have certainly made more money from writing more novels if she had lived longer, and she could well have been able to better negotiate her earnings with her publishers, seek out some form of patronage and promote herself in literary circles, it still seems unlikely that she could have lived a comfortable life as a member of the gentry purely on the earnings of writing her novels.

Was Jane Austen a meek and mild, content-to-be-at-home, aunt?

I have read criticism of the popular conception of “Aunt Jane” as a “meek and mild”, family-focused woman who refrained from devoting herself fully to her writing in favour of availing herself to her nieces, nephews, and other family members. Certainly, from reading her letters I never had this impression of her!

Portrait of Jane Austen (1775-1817)

The Victorian version of Cassandra’s portrait of her sister Jane, published in James Austen-Leigh’s Memoirs (1869).

It appears that this picture of Jane Austen could have come from her portrayal to the public during the Victorian era, probably because Austen’s Victorian relations wanted their “dear Aunt” to appear as their version of a “proper” woman, or a woman that deserved their Victorian esteem. In this way, the Victorian perspective of Jane Austen may not be accurate.

However, it is just as dangerous for us – as people wedged firmly in the 21st Century – that we not assume that Jane was just like us! That she wanted to have a career because she wanted to be independent. Or that she wanted to fall in love and elope. Or even that she held feminist ideals before her time. If we do this, we could be accused of painting that same sort of inaccurate picture that we accuse the Victorians of doing! That is, painting a picture of Jane Austen that does not accurately represent who she was in the context of the time she lived.

Biographer David Cecil expresses it well when he says:

I have come across critics who discuss [Jane Austen] and her view of life and character as if they were those of a contemporary of their own. The result is a portrait comically misleading. For, as we should have learned both from social historians and common observation, we are all largely the creatures of the world we happen to have been born into and our outlook is conditioned by its assumptions and beliefs and conventions and customs.

In summary, whilst I enjoy movies depicting Jane Austen’s life, I do find it problematic when they are not historically accurate. Sometimes modern movies tend embellish these historical characters with values that we – as modern men and women – think are important, particularly in the area of the rights of women. In essence, these movies could sometimes say more about our own 21st Century ideals than they say about the reality of Jane Austen, her perspective and her life.

Related Posts

Jane Austen. Who? – Part 2

Aunt Jane!? An Author!?

A Happy New Year – letter from Jane Austen to her niece, Cassy

Sources and Relevant Links

A Portrait of Jane Austen, by David Cecil – Amazon

Becoming Jane (2007) – the movie

Review: Becoming Jane Austen by Jon Spence – by AustenBlog

Fact and Fiction in Becoming Jane – by Following Austen

Miss Austen Regrets (2008) – the movie

Miss Austen Regrets: How Jane lost her own Darcy – an article by The Independant (April 2008)

Jane Austen’s letters, Brabourne’s edition – read online

Memoir of Jane Austen, by James Edward Austen-Leigh – read online

Women and Literature in Britain: 1800-1900, edited by Joanne Shattock – buy through Booktopia

Pride and Prejudice Economics – by Jane Austen’s World

Other Jane Austen Biographies

Jane Austen: A Life, by Claire Tomalin

Jane Austen: A Life, by Carol Sheilds

Jane Austen: A Family Record, by Deirdre La Faye

Jane Austen: A Biography, by Elizabeth Jenkins

The Life of Jane Austen, by John Halperin

Jane Austen: Her Life, by Park Honan

Jane Austen: A Life, by David Nokes

Jane Austen in Context (a collection of essays), edited by Janet Todd

Becoming Jane Austen, by Jon Spence

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In my previous post about Jane Austen, I looked at the movies Becoming Jane (2007) and Miss Austen Regrets (2008) and questioned how historically accurate they were. There are obvious discrepancies taken in the name of artistic licence, such as the names and situations of her suitors, but there are also more subtle differences, like the more modern representations of her attitudes towards having a career.

A watercolour painting of Jane Austen, by Cassandra Austen

A watercolour painting of Jane Austen, by Cassandra Austen

The best way to get a sense of who a person was – short of talking to them yourself – is to read what they have written. Obviously reading more personal accounts, such as journals and personal letters, allows you to see the person in the way they saw themselves. Their other writings, such as novels, poetry, and published pamphlets or articles, also give a sense of their voice and an idea of what interested them. Reading other people’s first-hand accounts give a sense of how other people perceived this person. Biographies, although a secondary source of information, are valuable in giving a sense of the circumstances and background of the person’s life. So it is in these places that I have sought information on the realities of Jane’s life.

Jane’s Suitors

Thomas Lefroy (years lived)

Thomas Lefroy (1776-1869)

Jane did meet Tom Lefroy in 1795 while she was still living at Steventon, aged 20, and mentions him in her letters to Cassandra. However, there is little evidence that marriage between them was ever seriously contemplated.

You scold me so much in the nice long letter which I have this moment received from you, that I am almost afraid to tell you how my Irish friend and I behaved, Imagine to yourself everything most profligate and shocking the the way of dancing and sitting down together. I can expose myself however, only once more, because he leaves the country soon after next Friday, on which day we are to have a dance at Ashe after all. He is a very gentlemanlike, good-looking, pleasant young man, I assure you. But as to our having ever met, except at the three last balls, I cannot say much; for he is so excessively laughed at about me at Ashe, that he is ashamed of coming to Steventon, and ran away when we called on Mrs Lefroy a few days ago.

9 January, 1796.

John Warren (1771-1831), who proposed to Jane in Becoming Jane, was at Oxford at the same time as James Austen. He also became a pupil of Jane’s father, George Austen. Mr Warren and Jane were always good friends and he was occasionally mentioned in her letters. The following excerpt was written immediately after the above quote regarding Tom Lefroy, in the same letter to her sister.

We left Warren at Dean Gate, in our way home last night, and he is now on his road to town. He left his love, &c., to you, and I will deliver it when we meet. Henry goes to Harden to-day in his way to his Master’s degree. We shall feel the loss of these two most agreeable young men exceedingly, and shall have nothing to console us till the arrival of the Coopers on Tuesday.

9 January, 1796.

Samuel Blackall met Jane in 1798 while visiting the Lefroy’s and soon became an admirer of her. He had intended to visit again at Christmas but upon his return to Cambridge, where he was a Fellow, he discovered that he was not in a position to marry at present, and wrote to Mrs Lefroy to tell her so. In any event, his admiration does not appear to be returned by Jane.

She [Mrs Lefroy] showed me a letter which she had received from her friend a few weeks ago (in answer to one written by her to recommend a nephew of Mrs Russell to his notice at Cambridge), towards the end of which was a sentence to this effect: ‘I am very sorry to hear of Mrs Austen’s illness. It would give me particular pleasure to have an opportunity of improving myself with that family – with a hope of creating to myself nearer interest. But at present I cannot indulge any expectation of it.’

Jane then goes on to comment on this to her sister:

This is rational enough; there is less love and more sense in it that sometimes appears before, and I am well satisfied. It will all go on exceedingly well, and decline away in a very reasonable manner. There seems no likelihood of his coming into Hampshire this Christmas, and it is therefore most probable that our indifference will soon be mutual, unless his regard, which appeared to spring from knowing nothing of me at first, is best supported by never seeing him.

17 November, 1798.

There was one mysterious love interest that occurred in 1801, while Jane’s family was on a visit to Sidmouth from their new home in Bath. We only know this by a few scant remarks that Cassandra had made to several of her nieces and nephews later in her life. Biographer David Cecil goes into some detail about the incident. This man was handsome, intelligent and quite charming, and became quite attached to Jane over the two or three weeks that he was in town. Unfortunately, the gentleman was forced to leave on account of some business and it was understood that he would return soon to see the Austen family again. Before he could do so, the Austen’s received a letter from his brother saying that he had suddenly died. There are very few letters of Jane’s that survive from May 1801 to 1805, which leaves this period of her life quite blank.

Harris Bigg-Wither (1781-1833)

Harris Bigg-Wither (1781-1833)

In 1802, Jane was proposed to by Harris Bigg-Wither, when she was aged 27, on a visit to the family with her sister. She accepted the offer, but then withdrew it the next morning and hurriedly left with her sister to return to Bath. Biographer David Cecil suggests that her reluctance to marry Harris Bigg-Wither might be related to the brief but strong affection she felt for the Sidmouth man.

In 1808, upon a visit to Godmersham, it appears possible that Mr Edward Bridges (1779-1825), made her an offer of marriage. She makes a curious mention of it in a letter to Cassandra, which has led Deirdre LaFaye – an Austen expert – to suggest that it is possible that he did make her an offer, but that she refused.

I wish you may be able to accept Lady Bridges’ invitation, though I could not her son Edward’s; she is a nice woman and honours me by her remembrance.

October 7, 1808.

One thing I can say for certain about Jane and her view of marriage is that she was well aware of the advantages of having money upon marrying. However, she also seemed firm in her views that a marriage without affection was as equally undesirable as one without money. She gave some very pertinent advice to her young niece Fanny in one of her letters, about her suitor Mr Plumtre.

There are such beings in the World perhaps, one in a Thousand, as the Creature You and I should think perfection. Where Grace and Spirit are united to Worth, where the Manners are equal to the Heart and Understanding. But such a person may not come in your way, or if he does, he may not be the eldest son of a Man of Fortune, the brother of your particular friend, and belonging to your own country. Think of this Fanny. Mr J.P. has advantages which do not often meet in one person. […] And now, my dear Fanny, having written so much on one side of the question, I shall turn round and entreat you not to commit yourself further, and not to think of accepting him unless you really do like him. Anything is to be preferred or endured rather than marrying without Affection…

18 November, 1814.

When I first discovered, early in my “Austen education”, that Jane Austen had never married, I remember being shocked! It seemed unthinkable that a person who could write such moving stories about life and love – stories that have stood the test of time and have charmed people born long after her death – never had her own love story.

Even though Jane never married, it is clear that she had a variety of experiences in her relationships with marriageable men; some consisted of mutual friendship, others mere attraction and flirtation, at least one with a more financial allure, and possibly one with a deeper affection that Regency women regarded as a foundation for marriage.

Whilst this tendency to want Jane Austen to have had a love story of her own is understandable, it is possible that this modern appetite for love and romance may cloud our perception of the realities in Jane’s life. It can prevent us understanding the way a Regency woman would perceive her own situation of singleness within the context of her own time.

As someone who is interested in history, I tend to find it more interesting to try to understand this historical context of a person rather than merely watch an entertaining movie about them. Actually, this interest has often driven me from the movie theatre to the nearest bookshop in search of more information – which I can then devour over a cup of tea!

Due to space, I have decided to make a Part 3 to this post which will endeavour to explore the realities of Jane’s career prospects as a female author in the Regency era.

Related Posts

Jane Austen. Who? – Part 1

Aunt Jane!? An Author!?

A Happy New Year – letter from Jane Austen to her niece, Cassy

Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen – a book review

Sources and Relevant Links

A Portrait of Jane Austen, by David Cecil – Amazon

Becoming Jane (2007) – the movie

Review: Becoming Jane Austen by Jon Spence – by AustenBlog

The Truth about Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy – by Following Austen

Fact and Fiction in Becoming Jane – by Following Austen

John Warren at the Dean Gate Inn – by Austenonly

Miss Austen Regrets (2008) – the movie

Miss Austen Regrets: How Jane lost her own Darcy – an article by The Independant (April 2008)

Miss Austen Regrets: Brook Edward Bridges – by Jane Austen Society of North America

Jane Austen’s letters, Brabourne’s edition – read online

Memoir of Jane Austen, by James Edward Austen-Leigh – read online

Other Jane Austen Biographies (and there are many more!)

Jane Austen: A Life, by Claire Tomalin – buy through Amazon

The Life of Jane Austen, by John Halperin – buy through Amazon

Jane Austen The Woman: Some Biographical Insights, by George Holbert Tucker – buy through Amazon

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The British Abroad: The Grand Tour in the Eighteenth Century, by Jeremy Black (2003).

The British Abroad: The Grand Tour in the Eighteenth Century, by Jeremy Black (2003).

The eighteenth century is my favourite period in history and this means that I end up reading a lot about it! I have recently read The British Abroad: The Grand Tour in the Eighteenth Century, by Jeremy Black.

This very detailed book covers a great amount of information about the British on their Grand Tour of the Continent during the eighteenth century, at a time when tourism was increasing in popularity.

The Destinations

Whilst the conventional tour was generally limited to France and Italy, sometimes people decided to venture further afield according to their particular interests. Switzerland, the Low Countries (modern day Austria, Netherlands, and Holland), and Germany were all sometimes added to the itinerary. Some places were visited less commonly, such as the Balkans, Turkey, Scandinavia, Poland, Spain, Portugal, Russia, and Greece.

The Travellers

The traditional concept of the Grand Tour is principally that of travelling young noblemen and gentlemen of the aristocracy, whom had finished their education in England but were too young to have the management of their estates. For these young men, travel was seen as a way to keep them out of trouble and hopefully further their education by more extensive and firsthand knowledge of how things operated in other countries.

It is interesting to note that there were other types of tourists as well, particularly in the second half of the eighteenth century. Older tourists, women, family groups, people who travelled for health reasons, and the ‘middling sort’ were all frequenters to the Continent, and this marked a change in the purposes of tourism, from primarily an educative focus to one of leisure.

The Cost

Eighteenth century tourists had to pay for very similar things as modern tourists do: accommodation, travel (boat, carriage and horses), food, and souvenirs (like artworks). They also had other expenses, such as gambling, hairdressing and tailoring, entertainments (theatre and opera), dancing and language ‘masters’, and tipping for servants.

Overall, the amount tourists spent depended largely on their means, some spending a little as 250 pounds per annum and some as great as 5,000 pounds. Naturally, their level of means determined the sort of activities they engaged in. One source states that in 1785, “150 pounds per month [is] the sum generally allowed by persons who travel with an equipage.”

Naturally, the people who travelled needed to have an independent income from home. Sometimes this income was supplied by parents or guardians who funded the trips of their children. For others this income came in the form of their estates or investments. It is misleading to assume that those travelling were all the richest Earls or Lords or even titled gentlemen, however those that did venture out of England did need to have sufficient income to meet the expenses incumbent on an often lengthy trip.

"The Landing of Sir John Bull and his family at Bolougne sur mer", by James Gillray (1792)

“The Landing of Sir John Bull and his family at Boulogne sur Mer”, by James Gillray (1792)

Difficulties Frequently Encountered

There were often difficulties with transport. The roads were often difficult to negotiate, and delays could occur from damage to carriages or from scarcity of post horses. Tourists had to endure complications from bad weather, river crossings, and snowy mountain terrain. When boat travel was the only option, bad winds, bad weather, or indifferent seamen all played a part in aggravating the poor travel-worn tourists. One feels sorry for one gentleman leaving Cologne, when:

We had not gone far on our way to Dusseldorf when we perceived our postilion to be a very obstinate fellow, who notwithstanding all the signs we could make, would not move beyond a foot’s pace, till the gentleman got out to walk, and then he endeavoured to ride away from them. We were near four hours going ten miles to Opladen; here the master of inn used all his eloquence to make us pass the night, but finding it was all labour lost, he was near 40 minutes before he produced the horses with a postilion as slow as the last. Threats, entreaties, signs were as ineffectual as with the other. We still moved on, our accustomed funereal pace […] between one and two [am] the carriage stopped at the gates of Dusseldorf, having been nine hours coming 21 miles […] We found, as we knew we should, the gates of the city shut, and had therefore the pleasure of sitting in the carriage till five o’clock when they were opened.

The quality of accommodation between major towns and cities was often poor. Tourists who ended up stranded for some reason or other often found it difficult to find a decent bed. One tourist wrote “on account of the road [we were] detained one night in a public house consisting of only one room which was occupied by 11 human creatures besides dogs, cats and a pig. As however we had luckily had a great deal of exercise that day we slept soundly upon some straw on the floor.”

The options for food and drink were also often limited when travelling through the countryside. Tourists often resorted to carrying food with them on their journeys, such as cold meat, bread, eggs and wine. Tourists visiting larger cities often complained about the differences between the traditional English meals they were used to and the more spiced Continental foods. Even with such differences in cuisine, many people also recorded good reports of the foods they encountered in different areas.

There were also the dangers of war, ill health (possibly leading to death), accidents (particularly carriage accidents), and crime, for these intrepid travellers to combat. On one particularly amusing occasion in 1751, a gentleman experienced:

… the worst roads I have yet seen in Germany. The carriage broke into pieces before we got to the end of our journey, fairly separating the fore part of the chaise, from the hind, leaving us miserable and ridiculous spectators in the middle of the highway, whilst the postilion drove away with the coach box and fore wheels. Mr Hubert was fast asleep when this happened, and I was reading Peregrine Pickle’s verses on Lady Vane, but we were both obliged to change our easy situation for that of a hard trotting chaise horse, with miserable saddles so bad that we were ashamed to ride into the town, therefore alighted at the gate and walked to the inn.

Miseries of Travelling, by ... (1807)

Miseries of Travelling, by Thomas Rowlandson (1807): “Just as you are going off with only one other person on your side of the coach, who you flatter yourself is the last – seeing the door suddenly opened and the Landlady, Coachman, Guard &c – craning, shoving, buttressing up an overgrown puffing, greazy human Hog of the butcher or grazier breed, the whole machine straining and groaning under its cargo from the box to the basket – By dint of incredible efforts and contrivances, the Carcass is at length weighed up to the door where it has next to struggle with various obstructions in the passage.”

Entertainments

Sexual adventure and intrigue was one aspect of entertainment available in the large Continental cities, such as Paris and Venice. The contraction of venereal disease was often one of the unfortunate results, but it was not always a big deterrent as eighteenth century medicine was believed to cure the distemper. The sexual choices ranged, with a ready availability of street prostitutes and whore houses, as well as paid mistresses and married women who were prepared to have sexual liaisons.

It is observable, that the French allow their women all imaginable freedoms, and are seldom troubled with jealousy; nay, a Frenchman will almost suffer you to court his wife before his face, and is even angry if you do not admire her person: And, indeed, by the liberties I have often seen a married lady use, I have been at a loss to distinguish her husband from the rest of the company.

Gambling was also a prevalent entertainment in polite society, as admission to these circles required tourists to gamble large amounts for long periods. It appears to have been harder to avoid than it was in England, due to the lack of alternative company in foreign lands.

It is a great misfortune for a stranger not to be able to play but yet a greater to love it. Without gaming one can’t enter into that sort of company that usurps the name of Beau Monde, and no other qualification but that and money are requisite to recommend to the first company in France…

Drinking was another popular pastime with young men making their Grand Tour. One poor man could not get to sleep in his lodgings in Milan, because:

…last night a party of them, about a dozen, drank thirty-six bottles of burgundy, claret, and champaign, (as our landlord showed us in his book) and made such a noise till six in the morning we could not sleep.

Other more constructive entertainments included music (operas and orchestral concerts), theatre, viewing and purchasing artworks (both paintings and sculptures), and interest in architecture. It is apparent that the British were appreciative of all aspects of the arts, often giving insightful critiques in their letters home. The musical culture in London was well established, giving the tourists ample opportunity to appreciate good music, and many of the richer portion of tourists spent much time and money purchasing antiquities to take home.

Other Benefits of the Tour

One of the primary benefits that the Grand Tour was supposed to provide to a class of gentleman who would soon play a role in the governance of their own country, was to educate them about the political systems in other countries. Often this information was difficult to arrive at due to language barriers and the need for access to the Court, and even when these hurdles were overcome sometimes political conversations were not encouraged.

Political issues were usually related to social issues, which were often easily seen from a traveller’s perspective. The political issues prevalent in the eighteenth century concerned absolutist states and despotic rulers, republican states, the principle and practise of constitutions, feudal powers, ecclesiastical powers, Protestantism versus Catholicism, and peasant poverty versus aristocratic riches. In 1783, one tourist wrote of Evian that there was:

little to be seen but the appearance of dirt and poverty – the people in its neighbourhood are like its inhabitants – effect of bad government and high taxes. It is said that the Kind or Sardinia draws annually 170,000 pounds from his subjects in Savoy, which is supposed to be equal to 3/4 of the product of their labour and property.

The End of the Grand Tour

The French Revolution ultimately put an end to the Grand Tour. Initially the events in France were a great curiosity and did not seem overly menacing, with a few tourists even visiting Paris with the intention to witness some of the revolutionary beginnings. However, during 1792 there were surges in crime in France and war was declared between France and Austria. In 1793 the Reign of Terror began, where the highly unstable French government was continually overthrown and ruled by various political parties, who each promptly killed all their opposition, or “enemies of the revolution”, when they were in power. Prussia, Britain, Holland, and Spain all became involved and Continental travel was never quite the same.

This book has enormous and sometime tedious details of the personal accounts of people who embarked on the Grand Tour. Whilst the level of detail could be boring to those who are not as interested in history, it does give a wonderful sense of the complexity and variety of eighteenth century experiences across the Continent. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys delving into the depths of historical personal experience and is interested in the details and differences between these experiences, rather than those who prefer a general historical overview.

Related Posts

The Case for a Dictator – despotism and democracy in the eighteenth century

Sources and Relevant Links

All quotes from: The British Abroad: The Grand Tour in the Eighteenth Century, by Jeremy Black – buy on Amazon

Image Source: The Landing of Sir John Bull and his Family at Boulogne sur Mer, by Gillray (1792), National Portrait Gallery

Image Source: Miseries of Travelling, by Rowlandson (1807), from The Lewis Walpole Library

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James Boswell, painted by George Willison in 1765.

James Boswell (1740-1795) was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and was the firstborn son of the Scottish advocate and judge, Alexander Boswell. He was heir to the Auchinleck estate in Ayrshire, and inherited it in 1782.

Upon reaching adulthood he had many struggles with his father, as they were both quite different in temperament. James suffered from “melancholy” and was prone to depression, often being affected by his frequent emotional swings. His father wanted him to begin a career in law, but Boswell much preferred literary pursuits and the company of theatre people and authors. After running away on a brief jaunt to London in 1760, James managed to gain his father’s approval to spend a year in London. Boswell’s plan was to obtain a commission in the Guards so that he would not have to study law, which would mean he would still have some means to independent income. His father reluctantly consented to this idea.

On this second trip to London (1762-1763), aged 22, Boswell kept a journal detailing the people he met with and the activities and conversations he was involved in. Reading his journal gives a good day-to-day idea of what life was like for a gentleman bachelor, living in London, who had a very modest allowance of 200 pounds a year.

One of the things that fascinated me most about this journal is the excerpts that relate to the obtaining of sexual favours from prostitutes. I had initially thought that a person would probably avoid writing down these types of activities, particularly because Boswell did allow his close friends to read his journal. However, it does paint an interesting picture of what occurred in this type of scene in London at this time, as well as some of the prevalent attitudes regarding prostitution. It is estimated that one in five women were prostitutes in eighteenth century London.

Below I have inserted excerpts of his journal which relate to these escapades. The first entry is written six days after his arrival in London.

25th November, 1762

I had now been sometime in town without female sport. I determined to have nothing to do with Whores as my health was of great consequence to me. I went to a Girl, with whom I had an intrigue at Edinburgh but my affection cooling, I had left her. I knew she was come up [to London]. I waited on her and tried to obtain my former favours; but in vain. She would by no means listen. I was realy unhappy for want of women. I thought it hard to be in such a place without them. I picked up a girl in the Strand and went into a court with intention to enjoy her in armour. But she had none. I toyed with her. She wondered at my size, and said If I ever took a Girl’s Maidenhead, I would make her squeak. I gave her a shilling; and had command enough of myself to go without touching her. I afterwards trembled at the danger I had escaped. I resolved to wait chearfully, till I got some safe girl or was liked by some woman of fashion.

Boswell had contracted venereal disease on his previous visit to London, and had endured much pain as a result. He has determined that they only way he would participate in intercourse with a prostitute is with “armour”, or a “cundum”. This was a prophylactic sheath made of animal membrane. It was reusable, and was tied at the open end with a ribbon, but had to be moistened with water before use. It was not designed as a contraceptive, but as a shield against contracting venereal disease. Boswell considers “women of fashion” or genteel girls to be safe from disease.

4th December, 1762

At night, Erskine and I stroled thro’ the streets and St. James’s Park. We were accosted there, by several Ladies of the town. Erskine was very humourous, and said some very wild things to them. There was one in a red cloak of a good buxom person and comely face whom I marked as a future peice, in case of exigency.

A Harlot’s Progress (Plate 3 of 6), by William Hogarth (1732): Depicts the progress of Moll Hackabout, who comes to London and becomes a prostitute.

From the 14th December to the 20th January, Boswell obtains a mistress who was “a handsome Actress of the Convent-Garden Theatre”. He calls her Louisa in his journal. They participate in intercourse without “armour” on several occasions, and then Boswell ends the affair when he discovers that he has another bout of venereal disease. In the eighteenth century, venereal disease was considered cured when the symptoms went away, often after treatment with various mercurial medicines. In fact, venereal disease actually lay dormant in the body. From the 21st January through to the 27th January, he remains at his quarters, too ill to go out.

25th March, 1763

As I was coming home this night I felt carnal inclinations raging thro’ my frame. I determined to gratify them. I went to St. James’s Park and like Sir John Brute, picked up a Whore. For the first time did I engage in Armour which I found but a dull satisfaction. She who submitted to my lusty embraces was a young shropshire Girl only seventeen, very well-looked, her name Elizabeth Parker. Poor being. She has a sad time of it!

Boswell has purchased a “cundum” since his first encounter with a prostitute on 25th November, when he asked her if she had one and she didn’t. According to The Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1785), by Captain Francis Grose, these were said to be invented by a Colonel Cundum. And just in case you were unsure where to purchase them, the dictionary informs you that “these machines were long prepared, and sold by a matron of the name of Phillips, at the green canister in Half-moon-street, in the Strand.”

31st March, 1763

At night I stroled into the Park and took the first Whore I met, whom I without many words copulated with free from danger, being safely sheeth’d. She was ugly and lean and her breath smelt of spirits. I never asked her name. When it was done she slunk off. I had a low opinion of this gross practice and resolved to do it no more.

Boswell often remarks after these sexual episodes, that he feels bad about them and then “resolved to do it no more”. At one stage, he even makes a promise to his close friend, William Temple, that he will not engage in “low debauchery” any more, but these promises are often short-lived.

9 April, 1763

…then came to the Park and in armorial guise performed concubinage with a strong plump good-humoured girl, called Nanny Baker.

13 April, 1763

I should have mentioned last night that I met with a monstrous big Whore in the Strand, whom I had a great curiosity to lubricate as the saying is. I went into a tavern with her, where she displayed to be all the parts of her enormous carcase; But I found that her Avarice was a large as her A_; for she would by no means take what I offered her. I therefore, with all coolness pulled the bell and discharged the reckoning, to her no small surprise and mortification, who would fain have provoked me to talk harshly to her, and so make a disturbance.

I was so much in lewd humour, that I felt myself restless, and took a little girl into a Court; but wanted vigour: So I went home resolved against low, street debauchery.

10 May, 1763

At the bottom of the Hay-market I picked up a strong jolly young damsel, and taking her under the Arm I conducted her to Westminster-Bridge, and then in armour compleat did I engage her upon this noble Edifice. The whim of doing it there with the Thames rolling below us amused me much. Yet after the brutish appetite was sated I could not but despise myself for being so closely united with such a low Wretch.

17 May, 1763

…so I sallied the Streets and just at the bottom of our own, I picked up a fresh agreable young Girl called Alice Gibbs. We went down a lane to a snug place; and I took out my armour, but she begged that I might not put it on, as the sport was much pleasanter without it; and as she was quite safe. I was so rash as to trust her, and had a very agreable congress.

19 May, 1763

I then sallied forth to the Piazzas in a rich flow of animal spirits, and burning with fierce desire. I met two very pretty Girls, who asked me to take them with me. “My Dear Girls,” said I – “I am a poor fellow. I can give you no money. But if you chuse to have a glass of wine and my company, and let us be gay and obliging to each other, without money, I am your Man.” They agreed with great good humour. So back to the Shakespear I went. “Waiter” said I, “I have got here a couple of human beings, I don’t know how they’ll do.” “I’ll look, your honour” (cried he) and with inimitable effrontery stared them in the face, and then cried they’ll do very well. What said I, are they good fellow-creature? bring them up, then. We were shown into a good room and had a bottle of Sherry before us in a minute. I surveyed my Seraglio and found them both good subjects for amourous play. I toyed with them, and drank about and sung “Youth’s the season” and thought myself Captain Macheath: and then I solaced my existence with them, one after the other, according to their Seniority. I was quite raised, as the phrase is. Thought I was in a London Tavern, the Shakespear’s head, enjoying high debauchery, after my sober winter. I parted with my Ladies politely and came home in a glow of spirits.

The following excerpt takes places as part of the festivities on the King’s birthday. “It was the King’s Birth-night and I resolved to be a Blackguard and to see all that was to be seen.” Boswell dresses himself in a disguise, that of a lower class of person, and goes out for some fun around the town.

4 June, 1763

I went to the park, picked up a low Brimstone, called myself a Barber, and agreed with her for Sixpence, went to the bottom of the park, arm in arm, ann dipped my machine* in the Canal, and performed most manfully.

*Here, the “machine” is his “armour”, which needs to be moistened with water before use.

In the Strand, I picked up a profligate wretch and gave her sixpence. She allowed me entrance. But the miscreant refused me performance. I was much stronger than her; and volens nolens** pushed her up against the Wall. She however gave a sudden spring from me; and screaming out, a parcel of more Whores and Soldiers came to her relief. “Brother Soldiers (said I) should not a halfpay Officer r-g-r for sixpence? And here has she used me so and so.” I got them on my side and abused her in blackguard stile, and then left them.

**Volens nolens – Latin for “whether she would or not”

At Whitehall I picked up another girl to whom I called myself a highwayman, and told her I had no Money; and begged she would trust me. But she would not.

18th June, 1763

At night I took a street-walker into privy Garden, and indulged sensuality. The wretch picked my pocket of my handkerchief; and then swore that she had not. When I got home, I was shocked to think that I had been intimately united with a low abandoned perjured pilfering creature. I determined to do so no more; but if the Cyprian fury should seize me to participate my amorous flame with a genteel Girl.

On 16th May 1763, James Boswell met Dr Samuel Johnson, the writer of the famous Dictionary (and many other publications). As time went on, Boswell spent more and more time with Johnson, often copying down large segments of their conversation in his journal. Boswell held a great admiration and regard for the older gentleman, and they became quite good friends. Later, in 1791, Boswell would write a biography of Johnson, entitled Life of Samuel Johnson.

16th July, 1763

Since my being honoured with the friendship of Mr Johnson, I have more seriously considered the dutys of Morality and Religion, and the dignity of Human Nature. I have considered that promiscuous concubinage is certainly wrong. It is contributing one’s share towards bringing confusion and misery into Society; and it is a transgression of the Laws of the Allmighty Creator who has ordained Marriage for the mutual comfort of the Sexes, and the Procreation and right educating of Children. Sure it is, that if all the men and women in Britain were merely to consult Animal gratification, Society would be a most shocking scene; Nay it would soon cease altogether. Notwithstanding of the Reflections, I have stooped to mean profligacy even yesterday. However, I am now resolved to guard against it.

28th July, 1763

As we [Boswell and Johnson] walk’d along the strand tonight, arm in arm, a Woman of the town came enticingly near us. “No” (said Mr Johnson) “No, my Girl, it won’t do.” We then talked of the unhappy situation of these wretches, and how much more misery than happiness, upon the whole, is produced by irregular love.

3rd August, 1763

I should have mentioned that on Monday night [two days earlier], coming up the Strand, I was tapp’d on the shoulder by a fine fresh lass. I went home with her. She was an Officer’s daughter, and born at Gibratar. I could not resist indulging myself with the enjoyment of her. Surely, in such a Situation, when the Woman is allready abandoned, the crime must be alleviated, tho’ in strict morality, illicite love is allways wrong.

This is the final entry related to this topic in his journal. It appears that, whilst Boswell has come to believe theoretically that prostitution is very bad for the health of Society, he struggles to behave in a way that is consistent with that belief.

Having been unsuccessful at obtaining a commission in the Guards, Boswell submits to his father’s wishes and consents to study law. As part of this, Boswell persuades his father that he should begin his study during a Grand Tour of Europe, before he comes home to take up this profession. He leaves London for Utrecht, Netherlands, on the 5th of August, 1763.

Related Posts

James Boswell’s Trip to Tyburn

A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue

Sources and Relevant Links

Boswell’s London Journal (1762-1763) – buy on Amazon

A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, by Captain Francis Grose (1785) – free e-book on Google Books

Life of Samuel Johnson, by James Boswell (1823 edition) – read online

The Secret History of Georgian London: How the Wages of Sin Shaped the Capital, by Dan Cruikshank (2010) – buy on Amazon

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