Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Did You Know...? - Smuggling #3

Not that sort of barrell!
What links the following items: Prunes, salt, string, soap, paper, black pepper and brandy?

The answer is they were all once smuggled goods. In the 18th century it wasn’t just luxury items that were smuggled, but anything in demand that would raise a profit. Indeed, one chapel in Pembrokeshire was lit by candles made of smuggled tallow:
"One evening, the chapel being lighted with those candles, by some means… the excise officer became aware…and suddenly appeared and commandeered all the candles, leaving the congregation in the dark."
A smuggler's barrell with hidden compartments.
In order to maximise the quantity of smuggled goods per run, alcohol and spirits were transported undiluted, straight from the still. This was dangerously strong, and virtually colourless. Dilution to make it drinkable was a relatively simple matter, but no one wanted to buy clear brandy, and so caramel was added to achieve the traditional colour.
Undiluted spirits were drinkable but potentially lethal. When a smuggler's ship ran aground in shallows near Harwich, they threw their cargo of barrels overboard to lighten the vessel. Soldiers from a nearby fort seized the alcohol and took the opportunity to celebrate - the next day four of them died from alcohol poisoning.

Tubs and barrells were sometimes hidden beneath the boat.
Because the alcohol was so concentrated, it could be transported in smaller barrels, or tubs, making it easier for men to carry ashore. The writer Thomas Hardy recalls these tubs in his notebooks.
"…my grandfather used to do a little smuggling, his house being a lonely one. He sometimes had as many as eighty tubs in a dark closet…the spirits often smelt all over the house, being proof, and had to be lowered for drinking."
He goes onto describe a tub and how it became an everyday object.
"The tubs …were of thin staves with wooden hoops. I remember one being turned into a bucket by knocking out one head and putting in a handle."
Thomas Hardy.
Modern Calais.
It's also interesting to note that many modern French ports owe their development to smuggling. Ports such as Boulogne, Calais, Dieppe and Le Havre were conveniently placed for short crossing from England and had good harbours. They may have started as sleepy fishing ports but as they realised the potential for free-trade and easy money, they transformed themselves into centres of commerce.

"Roscoff…and unknown and unfrequented port…grew in importance so that from small hovels it soon possessed commodius houses and large stores…These….gave every incentive to the British smugglers to resort there and …the French government afforded encouragement to the merchants."
French report, 1767

Whilst smuggling may have started small scale, when for instance a draper wished to stock his shop more cheaply, but in the mid 18th century a change took place. Wealthy city backers started financing runs as a form of investment. These men fronted the cash to buy foreign supplies and pocketed the profits, but avoided the physical lifting-and-shifting of smuggling. They were a bit like modern speculators on the futures market, city financiers who weren’t worried about the ethics of their trade.
These wealthy men risked a lot of money and in 'Hope's Betrayal', our villain is just such a man, and when he perceives Hope has betrayed him to Captain Huntley, becomes obsessed with revenge and resolves to destroy what the Captain holds most dear.

Photo courtesy of Inkity.com

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Dinner with Mrs Rundel. Welcome to Maria Grace!

Today I'm delighted to welcome author, Maria Grace, to the blog.
Maria has been writing since she was 10, although those early efforts are not for public consumption! She has one husband, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, six cats, seven Regency-era fiction projects and notes for eight more writing projects in progress. To round out the list, she cooks for nine in order to accommodate the growing boys and usually makes ten meals at a time so she only cooks twice a month.
So without further ado, a warm welcome to Maria who posts on 19th century dining!
Maria's book has an awesome 4-plus * rating on Goodreads (27 reviews)
Dinner with Mrs. Rundel.
Oftentimes writers write what they know and I suppose I am no exception. With three teen-aged sons, food can be a big deal. Lots of entertaining and important things happen around the dinner table. So it isn’t surprising that in nearly everything I write I feature at least one important mealtime scene.

All this is well and good, except that food, like everything else has changed a great deal in the last two hundred or so years. What constitutes a satisfying meal today looks entirely different from the expectations of the 1800’s. Can anyone say ‘research’?
Enter my newest, or should I say oldest, favorite cookbook: New System of Domestic Cookery: Founded up Principles of Economy; and Adapted to the Use of Private Families, by Mrs. Maria Eliza Ketelby Rundell (1745-December 16, 1828). ‘Mrs. Rundell’ as it was often referred to, was the most popular English cookbook of the first half of the nineteenth century. The first edition came out in 1806, several later editions were published with additions by other contributors.
At the time, few books on domestic management were available. Mrs. Rundel collected tips and recipes for her three daughters out of her thirty years’ experience running her household in Bath. Initially she planned to have four copies made, but Jane Austen’s publisher got involved and the rest is, as they say, history. 

For anyone interested, replica editions have been published and the original itself is available free on line:http://digital.lib.msu.edu/projects/cookbooks/html/books/book_03.cfm  or

With Mrs. Rundel’s assistance I learned a great deal about both food and domestic concerns in the early 1800’s. Who would have guessed stale white bread was good for cleaning wallpaper?
Just as cleaning methods changed, what foods are served for a meal have changed as well. For dinner I might serve a lasagna, green salad and dinner rolls or corn salad, roast broccoli and mushrooms, Peloponnesian pot roast and barley pilaf. Not so our ancestors. A whole host of unfamiliar dishes and meal plans awaited me in the pages so generously penned by Mrs. Rundel.

Her final chapter contains dinner plans for family dinners. For us, dinner consists of three or four dishes, she starts at five and works her way up very quickly, all the way up to two courses of eleven dishes plus removes. (Removes were dishes that were replaced with something else part way through the course). I have to admit, the thought makes my head swim. For a big holiday dinner with all the relatives coming, I might make eight dishes, not including dessert, which I try to have someone else bring. Twenty two to twenty four dishes and you might just need to lock me up in a room with very soft walls!
The contents of Mrs. Rundel’s menus were also very heavy on the meat dishes. For example, a five course meal might include: Half Calf's Head, grilled, (Remove and replace with Pie or Pudding.)Tongue and Brains, Carrot Soup, Greens round bacon, Saddle of Mutton, and Potatoes and Salad, at side table.  That’s three mean dishes out of the five. Atkins friendly I suppose.

Her most elaborate meal plan,eleven and eleven, and two removes’ just made my head spin. It is hard to imagine how much kitchen staff it would take to accomplish this meal, especially when you take into consideration the lack of refrigeration and other modern conveniences. Notice the mix of dishes too. I would never serve a raspberry tart and lobster and duck all on the same course.

FIRST COURSE
Salmon, (Remove and replace with Brisket of Beef stewed, and high Sauce,) Cauliflower, Fry,
Shrimp Sauce, Pigeon Pie, Stewed Cucumbers, Giblet Soup, Stewed Peas and Lettuce, Potatoes, Cutlets Maintenon, Anchovy Sauce, Veal Olives braised, Soles fried. (Remove and replace with Quarter Lamb roasted.)


SECOND COURSE
Young Peas, Coffee Cream, Ramakins, Lobster, Raspberry Tart, Trifle,  Orange Tourt,
Grated Beef, Omlet, Roughed Jelly, Ducks.

Mrs. Rundel kindly includes recipes for many, though not all of these dishes. (I cannot for the life of me figure out what ‘Fry’ is.) A few of them are rather interesting.
I am not sure how many of these are going to show up on my dinner table. But I may just try the Stewed Cucumbers one of these days.

Some of these dishes make appearances in my Given Good Principles series. The first book, Darcy’s Decision was released in January and is available on Amazon.com. The second, Darcy’s helpmate (or possibly The Future Mrs. Darcy—indecision is taking its toll on me right now!) will be released in July. The final volume, Principles and Virtue is slated for release at the end of 2012.

And in case you’d like to know what I’m serving for dinner, here’s my Peloponnesian Roast recipe, simple, unique and flavorful.

Peloponnesian Pot Roast
2.5-3 lb pot roast
24 oz. tomato sauce
2 T vinegar
1 t ground nutmeg
½ t ground cinnamon
½ t ground all spice.
Brown meat in heavy pot.  Mix remaining ingredients and pour over roast.  Simmer 1 ½ hours, until cooked through.  Alternatively, cook in a crock pot, 3-4 hours high, 6-8 hours low.


Thank you so much, Maria, for a gem of a post - right up my street. The Mrs Rundel book is a real find and one I'm going to check out. Best of luck with your writing - I cannt wait to read 'Darcy's Decision' - it has some awesome reviews on Goodreads!
Grace x

Darcy's Decision - the story.
Six months after his father's passing, Fitzwilliam Darcy still finds solace in his morning reflections at his parents' graves. Only in the quiet solitude of the churchyard does he indulge his grief. None but his unlikely mentor recognize the heartache and insecurity plaguing him as he shoulders the enormous burden of being Master of Pemberley.
Not all are pleased with his choice of advisor. Lady Catherine complains Darcy allows him too much influence. Lord Matlock argues, "Who is he to question the God-appointed social order?" But the compassionate wisdom Darcy finds in his counselor keeps him returning for guidance even though it causes him to doubt everything he has been taught.
In the midst of his struggles to reinvent himself, his school chum, Charles Bingley, arrives. Darcy hopes the visit will offer some respite from the uproar in his life. Instead of relief, Darcy discovers his father's darkest secret staring him in the face. Pushed to his limits, Darcy must overcome the issues that ruined his father and, with his friends and mentor at his side, restore his tarnished birthright.
Author, Maria Grace.

Maria can be contacted at: author.MariaGrace@gmail.com.
You can find her profile on Facebook: facebook.com/AuthorMariaGrace
or visit her website at AuthorMariaGrace.com



Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Would You Break the Law? - Smuggling #2

            I love this comment on the character of smugglers:
            "…a person who…would have been in every respect, an excellent citizen had not the laws of his country made that a crime which nature never meant to be so."
            Adam Smith. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations 1776.

Smuggling - the art of concealment?
            In the 13th century custom houses were concerned with collecting export duties on the wool that made England wealthy. It was the 18th century that saw heavy taxation placed on the import of goods - leaving meagre number of officers to enforce collection - hopelessly outnumbered by spirited Englishmen determined to defraud the crown of revenue.
            In the 18th century smugglers saw themselves not so much as law breakers but 'free traders.' Indeed, such was the sympathy for cheating the crown of tax that whole communities mobilised themselves to unload illegal landings of tobacco, brandy and tea
.

            So who were these smugglers?
            This quote about Niton, Isle of Wight, sheds some light on the answer.
            "The whole population are smugglers. Everyone has an ostensible occupation, but nobody gets money from it….here are fishermen who never fish…and farmers who farming consists of …standing like herons on look out posts."
            Sidney Dobell, 1860

            Daniel Defoe (author of Robinson Crusoe) wrote of Lymingtion in 1724;
            "I do not find they have any commerce, except smuggling and roguing, which… is the reigning commerce of all this part of the English coast."

Celebrated author, Daniel Defoe.
It seems everyone was either involved with the illegal importing of foreign goods, or the purchasing of them, as John Wesley recounts of St. Ives.
            "well-nigh one and all bought and sold uncustomed goods."

John Wesley had plenty of opportunity for observing those around him.
Those involved in the illegal trade were not just shady characters or poor fishermen, but stretched to doctors, clerics and even rich aristocrats in search of excitement. The Rev. Forbes Phillips in his book "The Romance of Smuggling" tells a story of one of his predecessors at the vicarage. Apparently one visitor to the parish spotted illegal activity on the shore and cried out,
            "Smuggling! Oh, the shame of it! Is there no magistrate to hand, no justice of the peace? Is there no clergyman, no minister?"
            The na├»ve visitor's protests were silenced when the locals pointed out it was the vicar holding the lantern.
Smugglers on-shore, awaiting the arrival of their load.
Of course the incentive for taking part in, or turning a blind eye to, smuggling was financial. At a time when everything from salt to silk, and tea to tobacco was taxed, cutting out the governments share meant people might be able to afford a little comfort in their lives. Such was the way of the world back then, that a little casual handling of illegal goods was looked on as common place, as in this diary entry by Parson Woodforde.
            "Andrews the smuggler brought me this night about 11 o'clock a bag of Hyson Tea, 6 lb weight. He frightened us a little by whistling under the parlour window just as we were going to bed. I gave him some Geneva (gin) and paid for the tea at 10/6 a lb."
Smuggled goods being transported ashore.

In Hope's Betrayal, our heroine Hope Tyler, turns to smuggling as a means of supporting her ailing father. So the question is, would you break the law if all around you were doing the same, and is it acceptable to defraud the government? Do share you thoughts and leave a comment.

How do you smuggle a cat into a football stadium?
             

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Welcome! Guest authors Bill and Susan Hayes.


A warm welcome to husband-and-wife writing team Bill and Susan Hayes. I'm delighted to have you visit today. Please do share a little about yourselves by way of an introduction.
Bill and   Susan Hayes have been professional entertainers all their lives.  They appeared together on the cover of Times Magazine representing soap opera in 1976, and are still on Days of Our Lives the forty seven year old daytime drama.  Bill and Susan Hayes .com is our website if you wish to examine our past.  In the present our double memoir  Like Sands Through the Hourglass was published in 2005, and we just released our first novel for Decadent Publishing.  Bill has BA in Music and English and a Doctorate in Education.  Susan began acting professionally at age four. 
Susan and Bill Hayes.

 I understand you have a new release, "Trumpet" , please tell us a little about the book.
Trumpet is a historical novel, telling the story of a young girl’s journey to maturity through the world of English theater and beyond.  Ambitiously the tale begins in 1803 and closes in 1821.   We took our heroine Elizabeth Trumpet to the heights of fame and the disasters of loss, filling every page with our own extensive life experience.  The most exciting and colorful persons of the age are interwoven with the fictional characters, keeping true to historical events.  We personally visited the sites of her story, London, Italy, Egypt, Waterloo’s battlefield and the city of Charleston.  For the past seven years research has been our middle name.   
That sounds wonderful, I think visiting the locations adds such depth to a story. What aspect of the book are you most pleased with? 
It’s a large canvas, yet it reads colorfully and easily, with enough spice to make your heart race.   We always strive to inject humor, and feel there is a perfect combination of laughter and tears. Our goal is to make our readers enter a far away world, yet experience emotions true to the human heart.
Sounds like just my sort of escapist read! How did you feel when you first learnt that Trumpet was to be published?
Joyful.   It was such a great chunk of our lives and marriage, we plunged into the last rewrite with furious pleasure.  Creating Lizzie Trumpet’s world has bonded Hayes and Hayes even closer than our onscreen romance on NBC, as Doug and Julie.  We highly recommend such a project for any relationship that needs to deepen intimacy,   
There is a lot of competition for readers’ attention these days. What do you think singles out your book so that people will want to read it?
Profound parallels to the struggles of our lives today.  A grinding war with no end in sight, the distressing failing of a beloved parent, the many steps and missteps on the way in a career for young women; these are some of the conflicts we threw at our heroine. We mixed in  two of the most compelling lovers anywhere, one of whom was a real giant in history as well as the bedroom.  Dare I say we have the inside track on knowing about the lives of actors from a rather rich experience?  Yes, we do.    
What is the best and the worst thing about writing historical fiction? Do you find some aspects more enjoyable than others?
We drew a passel of characters from our backstage lives and read every word of dialogue aloud with each other until it danced on the page. Pure pleasure. Pin pointing point of view was not nearly as much fun   
It seems eBooks are taking off in a big way. What is your opinion on eBooks vs. traditional paperbacks?
Bill loves to grasp a good bound book, but is peering into his little Nook every night with equal devotion.  Susan says the wider the audience the better.  E books are so reasonably priced, she sees their charm
Tell me, Bill and Susan, if you need to escape from the cares of the world, how do you relax?
Open a volume of Patrick O'Brian.  Take a driving trip to anywhere.  Go to the opera. Plan a journey to somewhere in Italy.  Have a See’s chocolate.
What is the kindest act anyone has ever done for you?
Well lets see, Susan says “When Bill asked to marry me.  That was big.  And I still appreaciate it.”  Bill says “When Susan said, “OK!” 
(Awh, so sweet! G )
What would your nearest and dearest say is your most annoying habit?
Susan is neat.  More neat than accurate.  Bill sings continually.  On pitch too. 
Have you heard of ‘Room 101’ – the room where an object once placed disappears forever…I wish all alarm clocks went there! What 5 things would you put in Room 101 and why?
Nuclear warheads.  Skin heads. Bed bugs. Throw rugs. Wet slugs.  I feel further explanations unnecessary.
It’s been lovely chatting with you both, and before you go, where can we find out more about Trumpet?
Those who have read Trumpet, say they hated to see it end, because it was so much fun.  Writing it was like planning a party for our dearest friends.  Everything we love is in those pages.   Dear readers, open Trumpet and have a wonderful time.

SYNOPSIS.
Brilliant and sassy Elizabeth Trumpet fantasizes starring on the London stage, but to become an actress in 1803 is tantamount to losing her virginity in the most debasing way.
After watching her mother die and her father lose his mind, the courageous sixteen-year-old must find a way to save her family. She scores her first acting job as a fencer—the deadly skill she learned from her brother training for the military. Blessed with talent and a rare singing voice, Lizzie pursues her career, learning from theatrical characters high and low.
When reckless actor Jonathan Faversham sets eyes on Miss Trumpet, he knows he’s found the partner of his life. But Faversham carries ruinous baggage from a dark past. Entangled in lust and ambition, Lizzie gives him her heart and they reach the heights together. Until Lizzie gets more applause than he…
From the magnificence of Regency palaces and the Theatre Royal Covent Garden to the sun-baked pyramids of Egypt and the arms of a real-life Samson, Lizzie is never far from trouble. As her brother rides to glory with Wellington in the Napoleonic Wars, great events threaten her survival. Danger lurks behind stage curtains, when a madman sets fire to take her life and she lifts a sword in revenge.
Will this once innocent girl, with her rise to stardom, be remembered for her art? Or for her shame?
Trumpet is published by Decadent Publishing, and is available from Amazon UK, Amazon US, All Romance eBooks, Smashwords and all other good eBook retailers.
*****
COMMENT TO WIN!
Bill and Susan are generously giving away two prizes on this tour! One is their double memoir, Like Sands Through the Hourglass, and the second is Bill's CD, This is Bill Hayes. Just leave a comment (please include your email address in the body of the comment) on this post to be entered. This giveaway is tour wide, and the more comments you leave, the more chance you have of winning, so check out the rest of the tour schedule here: http://www.writermarketing.co.uk/prpromotion/blog-tours/currently-on-tour/bill-susan-hayes/


Wednesday, 13 June 2012

A Local Legend - Smuggling

'The Smugglers' cottage, IOW, getting ready for the Diamond Jubilee!
18th century smuggling - a world of danger, daring, hi-jinks and romance!
This June, with the release of "Hope's Betrayal", welcome to a series of blog posts about the world of smuggling, including: press-ganged doctors, church hideouts, ghosts, tunnels, fake funerals, myths, pitfalls and more!
Low tide in St Helens harbour- the shallow waters made it ideal for smugglers to navigate.
The starting point on this journey is the Isle of Wight which is also the inspiration behind "Hope's Betrayal." I fell in love with the Island about ten years ago. In a strange quirk of fate for seven years I lived in Portsmouth, a twenty minute ferry ride away but without visiting. It took motherhood and two dinosaur mad sons both desperate to visit the newly opened "Dinosaur Isle" museum on the IOW (Isle of Wight) for us to go. 
Dinosaur Isle Museum (shaped like a Pterosaur) Sandown, IOW.
We stayed in a caravan park overlooking St Helens harbour and on a walk round the village I spotted a blue plaque on a fisherman's cottage. (In the UK places of special historical interest are marked with a 'blue plaque' giving brief details of who lived there.) Intrigued by the inscription about "The Lady of Chantilly" I visited the Newport Museum to do some research. The result was a fascinating true story of a humble fisherman's daughter, born around 1792, who was a part-time smuggler. This girl was so beautiful, that when caught her red-handed, the revenue officer couldn’t bring himself to arrest her. What a fabulous idea for a historical romance and out of this local legend, the idea behind "Hope's Betrayal" was born.
The blue plaque that inspired a novel!
My story is a fictional account of two people on opposite sides of the law, falling desperately in love. How can such love survive if it means compromising everything they believe in? In a choice between betraying your family, or losing a career, what you chose?
I was on the Island during the recent Diamond Jubilee celebrations for Queen Elizabeth II and hope you enjoy the photos of some of the local cottages, decked out with bunting.
The local pub (overlooking the Village green) decked out with bunting.
Next week: Smuggling - Women Smugglers.

'Hope's Betrayal' - the story:
One wild, winter's night two worlds collide.
Known for his ruthless efficiency, Captain George Huntley is sent to stamp out smuggling on the south coast of England. On a night raid, the Captain captures a smuggler, but finds his troubles are just beginning when the lad turns out to be a lass, Hope Tyler.
With Hope as bait, the Captain sets a trap to catch the rest of the gang. But in a battle of wills, with his reputation at stake, George Huntley starts to respect feisty, independent Hope. Challenged by her sea-green eyes and stubborn loyalty Huntley now faces a new threat - his growing attraction to a sworn enemy. But a love where either Hope betrays her own kind, or Captain Huntley is court-marshaled, is not an easy destiny to follow.
Widget relaxing whilst on holiday on the IOW.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Historical Dogs: Mysterious and Romantic - by Carola Dunn

Today I'm thrilled to welcome author Carola Dunn to the blog. Carola has an impressive back catalogue of books ranging from the regency novels that started her career in 1981, to the Daisy Dalrymple mysteries set in 1920's England and a new series of Cornish mysteries, set in the 1960's and 1970's. So without further ado, please welcome Carola!
Historical dogs--mysterious, romantic...
by Carola Dunn
Apart from a few years when I was first married and we kept moving from rental to rental, I've always had dogs in my life, from the German Shepherd, Wendell, who kept the District Nurse away from my pram to my present companion, Trillian (border collie, probably, with a bit of black Lab?). Is it any wonder that so many of my books have dogs who aren't merely present but are characters and often an important part of the plot?
Trillian (A Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Universe reference? G)
Nana (named after the dog in Peter Pan) enters my Daisy Dalrymple mystery series, set in England in the 1920s, in the seventh book, Styx and Stones. She's a farm-bred puppy of uncertain ancestry. At her first appearance, she's car-sick, hardly surprising considering the state of rural roads in 1923. However, she redeems herself in Mistletoe and Murder by finding a clue. Unfortunately, just as the police are about to examine it, she steals it back and runs off to rebury it. Dogs will be dogs.
Nana's big moment comes in Black Ship, when she discovers a body in the bushes. She actually appears on the cover of the book—not looking at all as I'd imagined her. The cover now adorns the e-book edition, so I guess that's how she'll be for all eternity.
My other series, the Cornish Mysteries, set in 1970 or thereabouts, has a permanent resident West Highland Terrier, Teazle. She's modelled on my mother's last dog. So far she hasn't discovered any bodies, nor starred on a cover, but she goes everywhere with my sleuth, Eleanor Trewynn.
The author, Carola, with Candy.
Before I started to write mysteries, I wrote a large number of Regencies. Needless to say, dogs were important in many of them. There was Osa, in Angel, who saved her master from drowning; Curly, in The Improper Governess, who not only had curly fur but kept a little boy warm by curling up with him for the night when he ran away from home; Ragamuffin, in the Tudor Signet; and in A Lord for Miss Larkin, large black Midnight and small snow-white Flake, Goose, and Drop.
The only unpleasant canine character I ever created was Mudge, a pug, in Mayhem and Miranda. He was a beastly little biter, but he, too, had a major role to play. He not only saved his mistress from a kidnapper, he brought the hero and heroine together.
I also wrote a dozen or so Regency novellas. Maera, large and shaggy, was a major character in A Conformable Wife, now in the e-collection A Second Spring.
Given my predilection for dogs, my reaction when asked to write a novella about a kitten was predictable: Can't I make it a puppy? "No," said my editor. "Kittens sell." So Wooing Mariana (in My Dearest Valentine)* does indeed include a kitten, Pirate. Of course, I sneaked a puppy, Lyuba, into the story as well. Kittens do indeed "sell," especially in German translation!
(*Originally titled (by the publisher) A Kiss and a Kitten, in the anthology Snowflake Kittens.)
There was one other memorable feline, a kitten in The Road to Gretna. Lily was constantly getting into trouble, hardly surprising as she was taken on a days-long carriage trip by her equally troublesome young mistress.
But I'm a dog-person, and now it's time to give Trillian and her visiting friend 'Oli their dinners.
Trillian's visiting friend, Oli.
Thank you Carola, for such an animal friendly post. As you may have gathered I have a bit of a bias towards cats, but as you saw the light with your kitten books, I'm sure we can agree to differ!
If you would like to know more about Carola and her books please visit:
Grace x

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Mouse-Skin Eyebrows - A Short History of Makeup.



The modern beauty is not afraid to wear false eyelashes, but how would she feel about adding mouse-skin eyebrows?
            This is not such an odd question as it sounds, because as we discovered in earlier posts, lead-based makeup had several unwanted effects on the skin, which included making hair fall out. Whilst this could be of benefit for a hirsute top lip, it's not so great when fashion in the 17th century demanded bold black eyebrows.
            "All the ladies have…snowy foreheads and bosoms, jet eye-brows and scarlet lips."   Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, 1716, describing fashionable ladies at the theatre.

Ester Boardman - 1780 - who wore mouse-skin eyebrows.

            One way round this was to use black-lead to paint on a defined brow, and the other was to trim a glossy mouse pelt into shape and glue it to the forehead!
            It seems ladies were quite philosophical about setting mouse traps to provide a fresh, glossy pelt for the next day.

            On little things, as sages write,
            Depends our human joy or sorrow,
            If we don’t catch a mouse tonight,
            Alas! No eyebrows for tomorrow.

            Unfortunately these glued on brows had a habit of coming unstuck, and many a grand society lady had trouble keeping her dignity whilst covertly trying to reposition a wayward eyebrow that had slipped out of place. The poet Matthew Prior wrote in 1718:

            Helen was just slip into bed
            Her eyebrows on the toilet lay
            Away the kitten with them fled
            As fees belonging to her prey.


            Of course, there is nothing quite so beautiful as a smile that reveals a lovely set of white teeth, but when oral hygiene was poor and teeth frequently fell out (lead makeup again!) or were black with decay, this wasn’t easy. One solution was false teeth - hippo ivory was very popular as it was a good colour match to human teeth! And for those whose cheeks had sunk in, there was always 'plumpers'. These were defined in the Fop Dictionary, 1690 as:
            "Made of cork…very thin, round and light balls to plump out and fill up the cavities of the cheek."
            Heaven knows how anyone managed to talk whilst keeping plumpers and hippo-false teeth in place!


            Another artificial adornment to beauty was the use of patches. The Romans first used patches in emulation of the goddess, Venus. She was reputated to have a beauty spot, the one lovely touch of darkness that highlighted her otherwise perfect complexion. In England the idea caught on in the late 16th century and persisted well into the 18th.
            Beauty spots were make of black silk, velvet or fine leather and glued to specific parts of the face to highlight certain qualities. For instance a coquette would wear it by the corner of her mouth, a flirt by the corner of her eye, whilst a gallant as a dimple in the middle of the cheek. However, some people had no choice since they used patches to cover scars and pimples. There were others who became addicted to patches and wore far too many, giving the appearance of being covered by a swarm of flies!
A hamster trying out cheek plumpers.

            And finally, there were those who used patches used to denote political allegiance:
            Politically minded dames used their patches as party symbols: the Whigs patching on the right, and the Tories on the left side of their faces, while those who were neutral, decorated both cheeks.
            The Spectator 1711.