Friday, July 31, 2009

Female mysteries explained: 1833

Married or young ladies cannot leave a ball-room or any other party alone. The former should be accompanied by one or two other married ladies, and the latter by their mother, or by a lady to represent her.

--From The Gentleman and Lady's Book of Politeness and Propriety of Deportment--

This is why women always go to the bathroom in groups! It's an old rule of propriety which has managed to survive when so many others have fallen by the wayside.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Something blue: 1670

There is something modern about this painting. The expanse of blue almost looks abstract.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Something borrowed: 1833

When a lady has borrowed ornaments of another, as for instance, jewels, the latter should always offer to lend her more than are asked for; she ought also to keep a profound silence about the things which she has lent, and even abstain from wearing them for sometime afterwards, in order that they may not be recognised. If any one, perceiving they were borrowed, should speak to the person of it, he would pass for an ill-bred man. If the borrower speaks to you of it, it is well to reply that nobody had recognised them. All this advice is minute, but what kind will you have ? it concerns female self-esteem.

--From The Gentleman and Lady's Book of Politeness and Propriety of Deportment--

The last sentence is so French... I practically want to clap my hands upon reading it.

You were brilliant Madame Celnart, brilliant.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Advice on trolls: 1833

But if you have to do with one of those people who, possessed with a mania of discussion, commence by contradicting before they hear, and who are always ready to sustain the contrary opinion, yield to him; you will have nothing to gain with him. Be assured that the spirit of contradiction can be conquered only by silence.

--From The Gentleman and Lady's Book of Politeness and Propriety of Deportment--

Timeless advice.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Problems: 1833

If a lady has cares, let her conceal them from the world, or not go into it.

--From The Gentleman and Lady's Book of Politeness and Propriety of Deportment--

You've got problems? No one wants to hear them!

Lucrezia Borgia, she had problems. Like not bringing enough antidote for all the people she poisoned. I'm sure the book of deportment will cover that in a later chapter.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Greeting cards: 1833

We have before said that when we do not find persons at home, or when we are afraid of disturbing them, we leave a card; but this is not what we call particularly visits by card (visites par cartes.) In these last visits, it is not our object to see the persons, since we do not ask for them, and we confine ourselves to giving our card to the porter or domestic. This custom, which has been introduced necessarily among persons of very general acquaintance, and especially at times when every one ought to be visited, as on the new year's day, is not considered ridiculous; but it becomes so by the great extent which has been given to it for some time past. This extent consists in making a visit without leaving our apartment; that is to say, merely by sending our card by a domestic, or indeed by means of an agency established for this purpose. The practice of visits by cards, seems to persons of good society the most impertinent and vulgar thing which can be imagined.

--From The Gentleman and Lady's Book of Politeness and Propriety of Deportment--

Some people send out greeting cards thinking they are keeping a nice tradition alive; but traditionally, business cards were the only cards given out, and almost always in person.

What was considered especially vulgar was leaving out cards other people gave you.

Take that Hallmark!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Breast Feeding, circa 1500

In another post a commenter, Trooper York, says:

"Milk in the breasts of the Virgin Mary"

Holy blashemy Batman (or however you spell that).

So of course, I have to post a picture!

I love how the angels are carefully looking at the floor, and the angel on the left seems to have a knowing smile. Everything about the picture is over-the-top in its religiosity, except for baby Jesus, who's painted plainly, but as cute as can be.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Exotic pets, 1656 edition

...and yet there was an honest woman (so always formerly reputed) executed at Cambridge in the year 1645 for keeping a tame Frog in a Box for sport and Phantasie, which Phantasie of keeping things tame of several species is both lawful and common among very innocent harmless people, as Mice, Dormice, Grasshoppers, Caterpillars, Snakes; yea a Gentleman, to please his Phantasie in trying conclusions, did once keep in a Box a Maggot that came out of a Nut, till it grew to an incredible bigness...

--From A Candle in the Dark--


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hanky Panky, 1656 edition

...few men knowing the juggling Witchcraft that was therein, until at the command of the Parliament it being pulled down, there were found therein the several slights to move the Arms, Eyes, and Heads of the Images, and the Pipes to convey the water to make the Images shed tears in compassion to the people's prayers, and to convey Milk into the breasts of the Images of the Virgin Mary...

--From A Candle in the Dark--

Moving statues people probably wouldn't believe today, but tears and milk, yes!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hocus Pocus, 1656 edition

...I will speak of one man more excelling in that craft than others, that went about in King James' time, and long since, who called himself, The King's Majesties most excellent Hocus Pocus, and so he was called, because that at the playing of every Trick, he used to say, Hocus pocus, tontus talontus, vade celeriter jubeo...

--From A Candle in the Dark--

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Gems, 1833 edition

-Thanks to custom, it is sufficient in order to be recognised as amiable, that he who is the subject of a malicious pleasantry may laugh as well as the author of it.

-Moderation in every thing is so essential, that it is even a violation of propriety itself to affect too much the observance of it.

-To dress with neatness, and elegant simplicity is important, even at home.

--From The Gentleman and Lady's Book of Politeness and Propriety of Deportment--

I thought I'd take these sentences out of context and present them as aphorisms.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Fashion tips, 1833 edition

To suppose that great heat of weather will authorize this disorder of the toilet, and will permit us to go in slippers, or with our legs and arms bare, or to take nonchalant or improper attitudes, is an error of persons of a low class, or destitute of education.

No shorts!

For to make a noise in walking is entirely at variance with good manners.

No flip-flops!

Young people who become bald, should not hesitate to have recourse to wigs. Nothing more saddens the appearance, than those bald skulls, which seem always to invite the observations of the anatomist.

Hair pieces are okay!

--From The Gentleman and Lady's Book of Politeness and Propriety of Deportment--

Friday, July 17, 2009

France, 1833 edition

The present work has had an extensive circulation in France, the country which we are accustomed to consider as the genial soil of politeness...

--From The Gentleman and Lady's Book of Politeness and Propriety of Deportment--

Well, the politeness of the French is still noted today. I can say that much!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Free Music, 1836 edition

I can remember getting magazines with CDs full of free songs, but in the past it was not unusual to see sheet music printed right in the pages of your magazine. Most of the music in this volume of The Lady's Book is dead, you wont see recordings of it anywhere, no matter how popular the publisher said it was. But this particular piece of sheet music is from an opera that is still performed:

Unfortunately, I couldn't tell which piece in the opera matches the sheet music because of something very strange. The opera is Italian, but the sheet music is in English:

Was this to make it more accessible to magazine readers or how it was originally performed? To find out I went digging for information in this book:

Mrs. Wood, formerly Miss Paton, and Lady Lennox, of London, her husband, Joseph Wood, a tenor with a sweet voice...

Joseph Wood must be the "Mr. Wood" mentioned on the sheet music:

This company brought out "Cinderella," "Guy Mannering," and, on February 14th [1835], for the first time, Bellini's delightful opera " La Sonnambula,"Amina, Mrs. Wood ; Bodolpho, Brough ; Almno, Wood ; Alettio, Walton ; Lisa, Mrs. Rowbotham. This opera was a great success. It held the theatre for fifteen nights. The managers were so much impressed with their good fortune that they commissioned Thomas Sully to paint a full- length portrait of Mrs. Wood as Amina. He produced a splendid likeness, and the picture decorated the lobby of the Chestnut Street Theatre for many years.

And this must be the performance. It doesn't tell me if the opera was performed in English or Italian, though. But there is more:

(Talking about another opera)
The translation of the libretto was by J. Reese Fry and William H. Fry, and they gave great attention to the scenery, costumes, and accessories.

"Translation" could mean "interpretation." However, in talking about even other operas:

his first appearance upon the American stage, translated from the Italian libretto, and rendered with the music of Rossini.

...and during her engagement introduced for the first time on the American stage " Cinderella" in English, with the original music by Rossini...

They played the " Marriage of Figaro," and some other pieces, in English.

I still can't say if the opera from the sheet music was performed in English or Italian, but I do know that some operas were translated and performed in English.

There are opera purists who only want to hear vocals performed in the original language. There are also people who think of translations as innovative. But when the translation is almost as old as the opera itself I have to wonder about claims of authenticity and innovation.

I guess I would tend to side with the purists, but I still want my innovations. I wont pretend to be an opera fan, but this was the only version of the opera I found interesting, and if there were more like it I might change my mind.

Now I need to find it on DVD.

UPDATE: Found it! It's not an entire opera, just a collection of arias shot in a music-video style. One reviewer said it was awful because it wasn't "serious and sensible;" sounds perfect to me.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Thighmaster, 1836 edition

Introducing the exercise craze that's sweeping the nation! We call it "the wand":

Order now and receive a free roll of rope, allowing you to convert "the wand" into "the bar":

(Not affiliated with "the stick" or "the stick, with string".)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Health advice, 1836 edition

" It is necessary, especially in hot weather, to wash the feet frequently, as they perspire much, and are more exposed to dust, than any other part of the human frame. The water should be warm, but not too much so, because hot water, thus used, relaxes the fibres, drives the blood upwards, and occasions' head-aches. The proper degree of heat for young persons to wash in, is between 96° and 98° of Fahrenheit; and, for the aged, between 98° and 100°, or somewhat more than milk-warm."

--From The Lady's Book--

Can you imagine people running around with thermometers making sure the temperature of water they are bathing in is within two degrees? Forget that, can you imagine "warm water" being a major health concern?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Beauty tips, 1836 edition

How to write a letter:

The injurious effect produced upon the figure by leaning in the manner indicated by fig. 12, must be evident to any one, who will compare the position of fig. 12 with that of fig. 14, or even fig. 13. Mr. Shaw, a gentleman who has written very learnedly upon this subject, recommends, in cases where the body has a decided inclination to the left when writing, to equalize the shoulders, by placing a book under the left elbow; and, if this should not be found sufficient, to balance a book on the head.

--From The Lady's Book--

"Why do you have a book on your head?"

"I'm writing a letter to Grandma."


Saturday, July 11, 2009

The mail, 1836 edition

Our subscribers, during this season of the year, must have a little patience with us. Our work is always ready in time, but we cannot control the elements. The box containing December numbers, for our Eastern agents, was shipped early in December. Where the vessel got to with them, we are unable to say,—but they did not arrive in Boston until a few days before the January number. Large as the box is, it will in future be sent by rail-road line and steam-boat. Mail subscribers are also liable to disappointments. A few days since, a bundle was returned us from the Post Office, containing a lot of December numbers reduced to a jelly, and looking like the material in a paper-maker's vat, absolutely reduced to first principles.

--From The Lady's Book--

Friday, July 10, 2009

Body issues, 1852 edition

--From Moniteur de la Mode--

In the past, the media didn't warp women's minds and make them think of themselves as ugly. They could be any size they wanted; well, except in one part of the body. Fortunately, early and continued use of a corset would ensure the skeletal changes and organ displacement required for the perfect figure.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

America, 1860 edition

But, for profound seriousness of statement, is there anything outrageous in even American romance to match the subjoined paragraph in the President's Message to Congress?--

"It is a striking proof of the sense of justice which is inherent in our people that the property in slaves has never been disturbed, to my knowledge, in any of the territories. Even throughout the late troubles in Kansas there has not been any attempt, as I am credibly informed, to interfere, in a single instance, with the right of the master. Had any such attempt been made, the judiciary would doubtless have afforded an adequate remedy. Should they fail to do this hereafter, it will then be time enough to strengthen their hands by further legislation. Had it been decided that either Congress or the territorial Legislature possess the power to annul or impair the right to property in slaves, the evil would be intolerable."

...But to talk of this right of property in Slaves, as though under a solemn conviction of its moral existence, is surely possible only to those who are inspired with that peculiar sentiment which Mr. Buchanan happily describes as "the sense of justice which is inherent in our people."

--From Punch, or The London Charivari--

We are informed that the President also took time in the same speech, to say how awful the slave trade was. America, with all her talk of "freedom" must have looked like the worst hypocrite imaginable. Thank goodness that problem ended with slavery.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Pope, 1860 edition

Alarming Accident to the Pope

His Holiness, in promenading yesterday on the Corso, met with a sad accident. His foot slipping in a puddle of blood, he fell and broke his head. The accident has been pronounced to be a fracture of the temporal bone.

--From Punch, or The London Charivari--

That was supposed to be a joke, from a publication similar to Mad Magazine, but much more serious and political. Almost every issue piled scorn upon His Holiness.

I suppose this is the price you may have to pay if you insist on mixing your politics and your religion.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Home, sweet home; 1796 edition

According to Google Books this was the first mention of the phrase in English:

Sing a sweet melodious measure,
Waft enchanting lays around ;
Home, a theme replete with pleasure,
Home, a grateful theme, resound !


Home, sweet home ! an ample treasure !
Home ! with ev'ry blessing crown'd !
Home ! perpetual source of pleasure !
Home ! a noble strain resound !

--From The Beauties of England and Wales; Volume VI--

This was an English translation of a Latin song, Dolce Domum, sung by students at Winchester College just before they went home for summer. At the time of its translation it was considered to be about 100 years old.

Here is the song being performed.

Monday, July 6, 2009

CD player, 1889 edition

According to the patent, the invention wasn't the entire piano, just an attachment that let you play recordings on it with a crank. Fun times.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Completely modern, 1823 edition

Mercury and lead, manufactured in various forms, are unhappily too common ingredients in many of our modern cosmetics...

--From A Modern System of Domestic Cookery--

Everyone who has ever lived, has lived in modern times.

Here's some modern music:

It turns out "Home, Sweet Home" is from an opera. The song became a pop hit, and all those needlepoints with the words "Home Sweet Home" on them are actually homemade memorabilia!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Clearasil, 1823 edition

To such females as are determined to make use of cosmetics, instead of attending to the more effectual means to preserve the bloom of the skin, it may be of service to point out one or two external applications, in order to prevent them from resorting to the dangerous and destructive contrivances of quacks.—According to Dr. Withering, a physician of great eminence at Birmingham, an infusion of horse-radish in milk, makes one of the safest and best cosmetics.

To deal with pimples they recommended a mixture of horseradish and milk. Both milk, fresh from a cow, and horseradish have antibacterial properties, so the remedy is at least plausible.


Carefully avoid all immoderate and violent dancing, as the sudden alternations of heat and cold, not only impair the general state of the skin, but are likewise of the greatest detriment to beauty. Abstain from the too frequent and copious use of heating liquors of every kind, particularly punch and strong wines. Avoid, farther, every excess in hot drinks, as coffee, chocolate, tea, particularly the last. Tea taken hot, and in immoderate quantities, not only has a tendency to weaken the organs of digestion, but it causes fluctuations and congestions in the humours of the face, and frequently brings on a degree of debilitating perspiration.

--From A Modern System of Domestic Cookery--

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Six-pack abs, 1894 edition

They've always gotten attention, and they let you walk around in your underwear. For comparison, here's a crowded beach in 1901. Try counting how many people don't have shirts on:

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Views on Homosexuality, 1894 edition

We have shown the special functions and really indispensable import of the homogenic or comrade love, in some form, in national life, and it is high time now that the modern States should recognise this in their institutions—instead of (as is also done in schools and places of education) by repression and disallowance perverting the passion into its least satisfactory channels. If the dedication of love were a matter of mere choice or whim, it still would not be the business of the State to compel that choice; but since no amount of compulsion can ever change the homogenic instinct in a person, where it is innate, the State in trying to effect such a change is only kicking vainly against the pricks of its own advantage—and trying, in view perhaps of the conduct of a licentious few, to cripple and damage a respectable and valuable class of its own citizens.

--From the educational pamphlet Homogenic Love--

The author also makes the claim that free societies benefit from homosexuals since they are often unencumbered with children and therefore more likely to stand up to tyrannical behavior.

Here is the Wikipedia entry on the author : Edward Carpenter. He was a gay, nudist, vegetarian who introduced sandals to England and helped found the Fabian Society and the Labour Party. Wow!