All Posts by Cobalt Fairy

Beauty Marks: A Brief History of Tattoos in the Victorian Era

Hello, again, my dearies!

In 2020, there are very few people who don't have even a small tattoo on their bodies. But what happened in 19th century Victorian England?

The mark in ancient times was called punctuation and the act was stigmatization. The mark on the body was called a
tattoo.

The word tattoo, which has been in the top ten searches on the internet since 1999, is a paraphrase of the word tattawing in Maori (New Zealand).

Tattoo means "the design that gives you the protection of the gods". It also has the concepts of "indelible mark", "drawing on the skin", "mark something", "embroider on the skin".

But tattooing is not something new, so I decided to take a brief historical look back at those times when tattoos were neither fashionable and -at times- nor acceptable.

If you are interested in learning more then keep reading! 😉

The First Man With Tattoos

The first person we know of that had a tattoo is Otzi, the Iceman. In 1991 the body of a frozen body was found on a mountain between Austria and Italy, in the Ötztal Alps.

His skin carried 57 tattoos, simple dots, and lines on the spine, a cross inside the left knee, six straight lines 15cm long above the kidneys and many parallel lines on the ankles.


He is estimated to have lived around 3300 BC and it is unknown to this day what those tattoos meant to their owner.

Victorians

Victorian court records state that 58,002 defendants in the 19th century had tattoos on them. Back then they thought these people had a bad reputation and used tattoos to mark themselves and appear to belong to a criminal gang. But the investigation revealed that the convict's tattoos expressed a surprisingly wide range of positive and even modern sentiments.

In Victorian England, tattoos were a particularly popular phenomenon and were not confined to sailors, soldiers, and convicts, as we have known. They were usually chosen by people who did not leave another written record and thus wanted to show their identity and emotions.

The themes were varied, with numerous recordings of images related to British and American identity, as well as drawings on astronomy, pleasure, religion, and sex.

Among the most popular were nautical themes with anchors, mermaids, ships, sailors, but also expressions of love. The most popular form of tattoos were the names or initials of these, which were present in 56% of all descriptions, as well as the misunderstood dots that took up 30% of that sum. Flowers and animals were also popular themes.

Often, tattoos at that time were used for purely decorative purposes. They were a form of working-class embellishment that was cheap and
easy to manage. It is not clear how tattooing had spread, but evidence suggests that it had grown widely across all walks of life during the 19th century.

Thus, by 1900 tattoos had penetrated many parts of British society. Their ingenuity, creativity, and evolution took place in the early 20th century, where tattoos became fashionable and reflected cultural trends. It was no longer just about convicts and marginalized people, but also about people with particular identities and interests.

Sutherland Macdonald, the First British Tattoo Artist in the Victorian Era

On June 25, 1860, Sutherland Macdonald, the first British tattoo artist of the Victorian era, was born.

For many, Macdonald, besides being a pioneer, is one of the greatest artists in tattoo history. It is said that he first came in contact with tattoos in the 1880s when he was in the British Army.

Those who wanted to get their own tattoos had to go to the professional studio opened in 1889 - after its first in Aldershot - on 76 Jermyn Street in London, over a Turkish steam bath.

When it was released in 1894, the Mailing List had to add a new professional category to its pages, in which, for the next four years, we only met Macdonald: the word created to describe his profession was tattooist, a combination of tattoo and artist.

After starting tattooing on several young officers, Macdonald began to gain more and more clients, with many celebrities and aristocrats among them.

Trivia

In Europe, it is rumored that Queen Victoria of England had tattoos. It is also rumored that the design was of a Bengal tiger fighting a python.

The mother of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill also had tattoos. It was a distinctive bracelet imitation on her wrist.

The photo below depicts London tattoo artist George Burchett, who, while working with his needles on his clients' bodies, wore a white apron similar to that of doctors.

The recent revival of tattoos dates back to the 1970s, when it became mainstream, permeating consumer culture through the media and the exposure of tattoos by various celebrities. This has led to tattoo recognition as an art form and today, 180 years later, one in five Britons has a tattoo.

Well, my dear, this is it!

Thank you for reading my article…I hope you found it interesting and that you have learned a lot!

I would love to know your thoughts on today’s topic so please leave a comment below!

Do you have a tattoo, my dears? I don’t… I’m too afraid of needles. 😉

Written by Scarlett Osborne

The Green Death of the Victorian Era

Well, ladies and gents!

The people of the Victorian era loved green. And not just any green, but a specific deep and vibrant green.

The corresponding dye was called Scheele's Green by the Swedish pharmacist and chemist who manufactured it in 1775. In 1814 two chemists discovered an improved version of this dye, known as Paris Green.

The problem is that both of these chemicals were made of Arsenic and although their toxicity was known and expected, no one seemed to notice this…

For a whole century, Europeans, and especially Britons, completely overlooked the danger they were exposed to daily. Then the infamous metalloid, the Arsenic, was everywhere.

It was used for dyeing clothes and upholstery, even food and cosmetics. It was found in baby strollers, vegetable fertilizers and, in Austria, it was also used as a libido pill.

We've talked about the arsenic in previous
articles, but do you know just how popular and deadly it was?

Well, keep reading, hun! 🙂

An Invisible Killer

If we were to choose an accessory that was a staple in every Victorian home, it's wallpapers.

Unlike the earlier Classicism and Regency, where walls usually had neutral colors and simple patterns, wallpapers now come into every home - thanks to their automated, mass production - and feature-rich patterns and vibrant colors.

We are in the time when the electricity comes into homes which means that for the first time people can brighten the interior of some rooms after sunset ... so of course, in light of electricity, they want to show off their wonderful green wallpaper!

And if it doesn't look creepy enough to cover the walls of your home with wallpapers full of deadly poison (plus sofa fabrics, painted wooden furniture, and kids' toys), consider how homebuilding combined with dampness and poor humidity ventilation, favored the development of mold between the wall and the wallpaper, which is dispersed throughout the room along with particles of deadly pigment.

First Deaths

Children were more susceptible to poisoning, and soon deaths appeared to be taking the form of an epidemic (eg, getting sick and dying one kid after another).

The disease progressed over a short period of time, and death came more like a relief after an agonizing and painful martyrdom. Most doctors attributed these deaths to Cholera or Diphtheria as some of the symptoms of acute Arsenic poisoning resembled these diseases, which were common in the era.

One prominent doctor named Thomas Orton nursed a family through a mysterious sickness that ultimately killed all four of their children. In desperation, one of the things he started to do was make notes about their home and its contents. He found nothing wrong with the water supply or the home’s cleanliness.

​The one thing he worried about: the Turners' bedroom had green wallpaper. In the mid-19th century, some doctors began to associate these deaths with the arsenic contained in green pigments.

This theory declared that, even though nobody was eating the paper (and people did know arsenic was deadly if eaten), it could cause people to get sick and die. Upholsterers were trying to reassure the world in every way, some even wanting to eat their wallpapers to prove how safe they were.

Money over Health

William Morris was an artist and designer associated with both the Pre-Raphaelites and the Arts and Crafts interior design movement. He was the designer of the most famous wallpaper of the nineteenth century.

Typical were the patterns of plants in his designs, many of which were decorated with green-painted wallpapers and which he publicly proclaimed to be safe. Less known, however, was that he owned the largest arsenic mine in the world!

Despite the assurances of the experts, by the end of the century, the world was already gradually moving away from the use of these wallpapers, so manufacturers following the market trend began to produce arsenic-free wallpapers.

Note that in Britain, officially, the use of arsenic as a pigment has never been banned. Beyond the immediate victims of poisoning, no one will ever know how many people have been affected or even died due to chronic arsenic poisoning.

According to some theories, Napoleon Bonaparte's bedroom upholstery (of course, painted in his favorite, green) in the years he lived in exile on the island of Saint Helena seems to have played a role in his death.

Overwhelmed by the arsenic and other heavy metals contained in the pigments, the painters of the time were also very susceptible to this deadly combination of chemicals.

Thank you for reading this article of mine and write below your replies so that I can see them!

And please let me know your thoughts—did you enjoy the topic?

If there is anything else you’d be interested in reading about the Regency Era, feel free to let me know…

…and who knows? Maybe you will read about it soon!

Written by Olivia Bennet

Penny Dreadfuls of the Victorian Era

Hello, my sweetie!

Metropolitan London of the Victorian era was a labyrinthine universe that was rapidly expanding; a dangerous world full of risks.

The melodramatic stories that were at the heart of the cheap booklets of the time functioned largely as a relief valve to this chaos. It is noteworthy that the same position occupied by the penny dreadfuls in London's entertainment was undertaken by the cinema addressed to the same audience a few decades later. 

The penny dreadfuls appeared in Great Britain in the late 19th century causing an unprecedented publishing phenomenon. These were cheap-cost dramatized sequels aimed primarily at the lower social classes.

The subjects they dealt with were largely grotesque, overflowing with the sole aim of causing awe and amazement. They usually involved extreme and frightening incidents, serial killings and all sorts of atrocities, often deriving their content from real incidents that took place in the dark alleys of Victorian metropolitan London.

The episodes were circulated on a weekly basis and consisted of 8 to 16 pages, accompanied by rich text and illustrations. The front page was dominated by the title in large letters and a large black and white illustration typical of the theme and story of the episode.

Keep reading, sweetie! 🙂

First Appearance

The first publications appeared in the 1830s and were immediately beloved by the working classes to which they were primarily targeted. But they were also loved by many readers from the upper social classes, which undoubtedly contributed to their dissemination.

The number of published titles rose sharply in the 1830s and 1850s. In particular, by the end of 1850, there were already over 100 publishers of penny dreadfuls across England.

The first penny dreadful, "Lives of the Most Notorious Highwaymen, Footpads, & c.", was published in 1836 with the main theme of the adventures of notorious robbers and other thugs. It was a great success and completed in sixty episodes.

Mysteries of London

The most successful commercial series was George W. M. Reynolds' Mysteries of London. The series began in 1844 and has enjoyed great success for 12 consecutive years, publishing 624 issues.

Much of his success was due to the subject dealing with life in nineteenth-century London. It presented the city as a distinct mosaic of contrasts. The stories brilliantly highlighted the crime and poverty of the London slums as well as the wastefulness and wastage that characterized the wealthy inhabitants of the city.

Even today this series is of great interest as it is considered one of the first examples of steampunk text.

Sir Varney, An Aristocratic Vampire

One of the most interesting cases is Varney the Vampire; or, The Feast of Blood.

It consists of 220 issues that were published between 1845 and 1847 and tell in an intense melodramatic tale the stories of an aristocratic vampire, Sir Francis Varney, who persistently pursues the Bannerworth family. The paternity of the text has not been fully ascertained as the work is sometimes attributed to James Malcolm Rymer and other times to Thomas Preskett Prest. 

Varney the Vampire is considered particularly important in literary rule, especially in the category of Gothic horror, not so much for the quality of its writing or its inventive plot but for its role in the development of vampire literature. The image of the aristocrat-vampire as we know him today, and as Bram Stoker inspired him in "Dracula" (1897), owes his form to a significant degree in Victorian love for Vampire Varney.

The Vampire Varney has canines and its bite marks on the victims' throats. He also possesses submission forces and superhuman strength. He differs from the classic form of the vampire in the following elements: he is not afraid of garlic and circulates undisturbed in daylight. Also, although he does not need water and food to survive he can feed on human food.

But the most important element of Varney is that he is the first vampire in Gothic literature who expresses strong signs of dissatisfaction with his vampiric nature.

Spring-Heeled Jack And Batman

One particularly popular hero of the penny dreadfuls was Spring-heeled Jack. This character was based on a legend that sprang from the urban imagination and quickly found himself in the cheap brochures of Victorian society.

The appearances of the real Jack split and terrorized the Victorians, and the recordings of his appearances/attacks quickly took on mass hysteria.

The legend speaks of a tall man with a cape who has the ability to make supernatural jumps, hence the connection to the springs at his feet. Those who claimed to have seen him spoke of a devilish figure with glossy nails, eyes firing and a mouth that fired blue gases at his victims, who were usually young girls or constables.

The first recorded report of this strange man's appearance was made in 1837 in London. There have even been government agencies that have publicly confirmed his existence to some extent. A typical example is a mayor of London, Sir John Cowan, who referred to Jack in a speech given on 9 January 1838.

Jack's legend with the springs on his feet has been so crucial that it has become central to dozens of cheap periodicals and plays. The evolution of the character through the penny dreadfuls is of particular interest because, from an urban legend, Jack was quickly turned into an anti-hero in the 1870s and from 1880 until the early 20th century emerged as a classic superhero.

Jack's legend is intertwined with another popular masked hero as the resemblance between them is obvious. Specifically, Jack the penny dreadful Spring-Heeled Jack: The Terror of London was a wealthy eccentric aristocrat who had set his life's purpose in enforcing law and order. Hosted by a secret hideout and very good technological know-how for his time, Jack was disguised in the streets of London trying to fight injustice and crime.

The resemblance to Batman is obvious, and many today consider Jack a worthy ancestor of the Dark Knight. Bob Kane, the creator of Batman, however, claims that his hero is not based on Jack whom he did not know. So, whether Jack's dreadful Victorian penny is related to Bruce Wayne is worth investigating. It is highly likely that these stories were passed unconsciously through collective imagination without Kane having to be fully aware of the Victorian legend.

The Social Value Of Penny Dreadfuls

Although penny dreadfuls are considered a cheap form of art, with many even questioning their categorization as a kind of art, it is extremely important to consider their value based on the historical and social context in which they appeared.

On the one hand, their dissemination was favored by the possibilities of the development of printing itself, which until recently seemed impossible. On the other hand, this was helped by the increase in the population that could read. These two factors, as well as the very subject of these cheap publications, have helped to make the penny dreadfuls so popular with the British public.

Well, my sweetie, this is the end of this article!

I hope you enjoyed it—I certainly did while writing it!

Thank you for accompanying me on my writing journey!

It would be lovely if you could share your thoughts with me! Or whatever you like...Surprise me! 

Written by Violet Hamers

The Fasting Girls of the Victorian Era

Hello, again, my dearies!

Our relationship with food is complex, and every woman I know has at some point in her life, questioned herself and others about what she is eating – is it too much, too little, too fatty, too sugary, not healthy enough?

As it seems this is not a first! During the Victorian Era,
fasting girls - captured the admiration and attention of the public due to their miraculous ability to live without food. Can you imagine that?

Fasting girls were usually young, pre-adolescent girls who claimed to be able to survive without any kind of nourishment over long periods - even forever!

A famous fasting girl could be a financial boon to a struggling family, as people would pilgrimage to them and leave monetary offerings.

Misunderstood and misdiagnosed, the Fasting Girls may have been the undiagnosed victims of anorexia nervosa during the Victorian era.

Here are a few of their stories. If you are interested in learning more then, my dears, keep reading! 🙂

The Brooklyn Enigma

In 1865, Mollie Fancher or The Brooklyn Enigma, as they used to call her, was seriously injured when her skirt got caught on a carriage wheel and she was dragged down the street for nearly a block.

Miraculously she survived but she suffered brain damage and slipped in and out of consciousness. She claimed to have lost her sight but gained a connection with the kingdom of spirits. Oh my!

Although she had lost her sight, she claimed that she could see from the back of her head just by putting her hands behind her. Also, that she could read, even without her eyes, and predict the future. She created beautiful wallpapers despite the fact that her hands were paralyzed.

“I am sometimes conscious of what others are not,” she said and explained how she stopped eating. “I rejected it. My doctor thought I was insane, but, as a matter of fact, I had never been more rational in my life.”

She stated that she had no need to eat or drink and that she was able to survive for unlimited periods of time without food. She stayed in her bed for the next 48 years.

Fancher was just one of the many
Fasting Girls of the Victorian era that fascinated the public, while something much darker, something yet unnamed, was screaming for attention.

Welsh Fasting Girl

Sarah Jacobs, the Welsh Fasting Girl, claimed that she stopped eating at the age of 10.

Her vicar said she was a gifted child and she enjoyed a long period of publicity, during which she received numerous gifts and donations from people who believed she was miraculous.

But doctors were becoming increasingly skeptical about her claims and eventually proposed that she be monitored in a hospital to see whether her claims about fasting were true.

Under the constant surveillance of nurses, Sarah began to starve herself. When her parents refused to let the nurses feed her, as they claimed that they’d seen her in this state before, she died at the age of 12. 

The subsequent legal proceedings, which culminated in her parents being convicted of manslaughter and imprisoned, give an insight into more than simply a tragic local incident but also highlight the competing claims of Victorian science and popular religion.

Other Fasting Girls

Another tragic case was that of Lenora Eaton, a respectable girl from New Jersey, who was examined in 1881 for allegedly living without food. After investigators arrived at her home to survey her case and doctors were sent to help her, Eaton continued to refuse to eat and died after forty-five days.

In 1889, The Fasting Girl
Josephine Marie Bedard, of Tingwick, Quebec, was also revealed to be a fraud with a derogatory title in the Boston Globe: “Who Took the Cold Potato? Dr. Mary Walker Says the Fasting Girl Bit a Doughnut.”

Thérèse Neumann claimed that after 1927, nothing but the Eucharist had passed her lips. In 1954 Bergen Evans wrote: “The most famous of contemporary non-eaters. The number of ecclesiastical and medical dignitaries who have vouched for the truth of her claims is impressive... Millions of sober, sensible people believe beyond doubt that this woman does not eat or drink. The Roman Catholic church has never, officially, recognized her claims as true.”

The interesting thing about these girls was that they received gifts from the public, but they came from wealthy, middle and upper-class families, and thus needed no money.

Anorexia Nervosa

Nowadays, all this sounds like eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa - which was barely understood at the time. It was not until 1873 that it was designated by one of Queen Victoria's personal physicians, Sir William Withey Gull.

That same year, a French doctor published a document with other cases, the De l'Anorexie hystérique, but in the second half of the 20th century, the disease became widely known.

Anorexia Nervosa always depends on many factors: biological vulnerability, psychological predisposition, as well as the home environment and culture in general.

The same thing happened in 1870, a time when the ideal woman was trying to become a living porcelain doll. Without knowing it, she poisoned her eyes with drops of Atropa belladonna to make them look big and shiny. Women had a fainting couch. Many would go vegetarian "because the meat was a hot food associated with lust”.

Thus, upper-class Victorian girls who decided to eat - or not - on their own terms, gained radical and persistent control over their lives, even if the messages they sent were mixed.

Unfortunately, these cases almost always resulted in tragedy and did not elicit a progressive public response. My friend, Olivia Bennet has written an article about those Deadly Traps of the Victorian era.

There have always been eating disorders.

In antiquity, there were descriptions of religious fasting dating back to the Hellenistic era, while in the Middle Ages fasting was common practice because of women's belief in religious piety and purity.

St. Catherine of Siena and Mary the Queen of Scotland are believed to have suffered from the disease.

Well, my dear, this is it!

Thank you for reading my article…I hope you found it interesting and that you have learned a lot!

I would love to know your thoughts on today’s topic so please leave a comment below!

You’re fantastic 🙂

Written by Scarlett Osborne

Deadly Traps of the Victorian Era

Well, ladies and gents!

Women have always been doomed to withhold a certain position in society: slaves to fashion, cosseted and striving to please men, whatever the cost. Just like today’s women attempting plastic surgery or wearing really high heels to look good, Victorian women also took extravagant efforts for the sake of fashion.

But sometimes, when it came to looking pretty, some ladies would really go the extra mile! And Machiavelli’s famous saying, The end justifies the means, could go a little bit too far… or close to death!

Although technologically advanced, the British society of the Victorian era was characterized by great rigor in the morals first expressed by Queen Victoria herself, a model for every respectable woman of the time.

The model dictated the lady of the house to be a loving mother, a fashionable lady, and always well-mannered. Creating and maintaining this image, however, entailed many risks for women.

Well, keep reading, hun! 🙂

Victorian Silhouette

Even though the official timeline of Regency Era is from 1811 to 1820, the regency style in fashion really began around 1795.

The typical Victorian silhouette demanded a very slim waist, which was possible only with the use of a
corset. Thanks to the industrialization and production of garments, corsets were accessible to all walks of life.

The corset pressed the sides and the chest which in turn, pushed the internal organs. The immediate problem, of course, was that movement was limited and breathing was difficult.

Many girls started wearing corsets at a very early age, even as infants, when their bodies had not yet been formed, resulting in a completely deformed skeleton. Corsets on children were often used as training tools to prepare them for the corsets they would wear in adult life. A child’s corset was less intense and usually given its shape by the rough material sewn in cords rather than the baleen or steel rods they would wear as grown-ups. When they were confirmed at the age of 15, and thus able to get married, they got their first real corset. This was a shoulder corset or a girl's pair of stays.

And if you think that pregnant women could escape the stylistic norm, well… think again! Women wore corsets throughout pregnancy, often causing miscarriages or giving birth to malformed babies and, of course, developing uterine prolapse.

This situation was doubly tragic for women of the time, as their value was calculated on how many children they would give birth to and how many of them would be able to spend their childhood healthy (and there were many more traps in the Victorian home to prevent this…).

Hourglass Silhouette

The corset guaranteed the delicate waist and toned bodice, but for the effect of the hourglass silhouette to be complete, the pelvis and the entire skirt should be highlighted as well.

To do this, women put a crinoline through their dress, a wooden or metal construction that created the characteristic umbrella shape.

But women were taking this trend too seriously. In their effort to get more and more diameter in their dresses, which made navigating the space difficult and dangerous, they usually put themselves in danger.

There were several incidents where women were pushed, dropped or dragged by carriage wheels because of the crinoline. But the biggest problem was the hundreds, maybe even thousands, of women over the decades who were burned alive because their skirts caught fire.

Additionally, the dresses and the coats were so long that they literally dusted the streets of Victorian megacities, bringing home dirt and disease.

Footwear

The bad balance given by crinoline would finish with the right shoes of course!

The industrial-produced shoes of the time did not have right and left. In order to reduce the cost and time of production, factories produced same-shaped shoes for both feet! Their shape was straight and flat making them uncomfortable and unstable.

Makeup

To complete the image of Victorian beauty we can not miss skincare.

The use of obvious makeup and toiletries was considered immoral. It was, of course, a common secret that all women used cosmetics, often hiding them in bottles with other labels, to be passed on as medicines, for example.

There were two dominant trends in the makeup of the time: the Natural (The English Rose look) and the… Kardashian! (the too painted).

The painted look was not for everyone. It was chosen by women who were so rich that they did not care about social conformities and gossip, or by women of a more ‘unconventional’ way of life.

But if you chose it, it became part of yourself and you could never go back to the natural look for two reasons: because everyone knew you were a painted lady and due to the fact your skin was so damaged by the use of paint that you couldn’t show it anymore without it.

Women used poster colors to cover the natural tone of the skin on the head, neck, and hands and achieved the color of a living dead. These paints, however, contained a highly corrosive lead, so each time a larger amount of paint was needed to cover the damage the previous layer had made.

They washed their face with ammonia to make it softer… Many women dropped Atropa Belladonna in their eyes to have dilated eye pupils to transmit innocence and be considered more attractive. However, Belladonna has alkaloids that caused severe toxicity as well as death, which the ladies of course knew.

Number One Source of Poisoning

But the trademarked and number one source of poisoning of the time was arsenic.

Did Victorian people know that arsenic is poisonous? Yes! Did they still use it, literally everywhere, as a pigment and as a beauty product? Yes! Even when it was clearly associated with multiple deaths.

In order to achieve a natural whitish complexion, many women wore arsenic-containing powders resulting in them consuming a small amount of it daily. Their body tolerated higher concentrations of arsenic while the skin gradually became whitish.

The problems with this were two: first, they gradually became addicted to it and if they discontinued its use they would eventually die. Second, if they accidentally got more than they should, acute toxicity and death would occur once again (and the higher dose was an easy thing in an arsenic-filled home).

Without seeking it, the girls of the time, trying to emulate the literary, romantic aspect of philanthropy with the practices they followed, were driven near death.

One can’t help but wonder how harmful our habits and tendencies are to our health today, considering them to be normal or even healthy.

Thank you for reading this article of mine and write below your replies so that I can see them!

And please let me know your thoughts—did you enjoy the topic?

If there is anything else you’d be interested in reading about the Regency Era, feel free to let me know…

…and who knows? Maybe you will read about it soon!

Written by Olivia Bennet

How do Chocolates Relate to the Celebration of Valentine’s Day?

Hello, my sweetie!

You may not know it, but while Saint Valentine's is rooted in the Roman era, the custom of donating sweets for his celebration is much more modern.

Ancient sources reveal that Saint Valentine, who lived during the Roman era and died on February 14, was not just one person, but many.

And none of them had anything to do with love! 

But, truffle hearts, pralines, and red heart-shaped boxes; these are Valentine's Day timeless symbols for all lovers of the world.

But how did chocolates turn out to be a tradition for the sweetest feast of the year?

Keep reading, sweetie! 🙂

Who was Saint Valentine?

Some say that the real Valentine was a priest who performed illegal marriages for Emperor Claudius' soldiers, while others that he was a man who signed a letter with the signature "Your Valentine" to his guardian daughter, whom he had cured of blindness.

But none of the above stories have ever been proved.

The celebration of Valentine's Day as the day of lovers actually emerged in the 14th century and probably came about thanks to Geoffrey Chaucer's poem in 1382.

The Middle Ages and the Victorian era

During the Middle Ages, there was a "tendency" towards illegal but pure love. And as sugar was a valuable commodity in Europe at that time, the knights confined themselves instead, to give the noble roses and songs that glorified their beauty.

By the early 1840 Valentine's Day had spread to almost the entire English-speaking world. It was the golden age of Valentine’s Day, during which, Victorians glorified pure love and offered cards and other gifts to the object of desire.

Just a few years later, in 1868, a crucial invention occurred that linked the celebration to the use of chocolates; Mr. Cadbury’s heart-shaped boxes. 

The intelligent Mr. Cadbury and his collectible boxes

Richard Cadbury, a descendant of a British wealthy family in the business of chocolate, and responsible for sales at a critical juncture in the company, appeared during this time.

Cadbury had recently improved the technique of chocolate making, to get pure cocoa butter from whole grains, creating a delicious chocolate drink that had nothing to do with what the British knew until then.

This process resulted in a huge amount of cocoa, which Cadbury used to make various varieties of what was then called edible chocolate.

Richard realized that this product was a great opportunity for the market and began selling his chocolates in nice boxes he designed. It didn't take long for the heart-shaped boxes, now known to all of us, to appear. Although Richard Cadbury never patented this design, he is believed to be its original creator.

This way, his products, wrapped in heart-shaped boxes and colorful ribbons, could be used to express love and affection. 

In fact, he made sure to present these boxes as dual-use boxes. After all the chocolates had been consumed, the box itself was so beautiful that it could be used again and again to store souvenirs of all kinds.

These boxes later evolved and became more elaborate until the outbreak of World War II, when sugar became a luxury again and celebrations of lovers' diminished.

Nevertheless, many Cadbury boxes from the Victorian era still exist and are kept as heirlooms or valuable collectors' items.

Well, my sweetie, this is the end of this article!

I hope you enjoyed it—I certainly did while writing it!

Thank you for accompanying me on my writing journey!

It would be lovely if you could share your thoughts with me! Or whatever you like...Surprise me! 

Written by Violet Hamers

The Vinegar Valentines in the Victorian Era

Hello, again, my dearies! 

Are you lovebirds getting ready for Valentine’s day?

In the late 19th century, Valentine's Day was more than an opportunity to express love to their mate by sending cards or gifts.

It was also the day to express their frustration, bitterness or even hatred to those who did not love them. And there was no better way to let someone know they were unwanted than with the ultimate insult: the Vinegar Valentine.

The Vinegar Valentines were postcards designed with caricatures and satirical images intended to mock or even annoy the recipient. They were sent anonymously, so the receiver had to guess who hated him or her and, as if this weren’t bruising enough, the recipient paid the postage on delivery. Can you imagine that?

They were available in stores from America to Europe and starred next to beautiful Valentine's Day cards with hearts and flowers. Commonly sold at a cost of only a penny each, they were very popular among the poor and working classes. However, the upper class was just as eager, if not more so, to insult their acquaintances via the use of such cards.

Back then, they were called mocking, insulting, or comic valentinesvinegar seems to be a modern description.

If you are interested in learning more then, my dears, keep reading! 😉

First Appearance

The tradition began in America around the 1840s and had been going on for an entire century.

Vinegar Valentines was once a booming business. They accounted for 50% of the cards sold each year on Valentine's Day. These cards featured an illustration and a short line or poem that, rather than offering messages of love and affection, insulted the recipient.

The cards were also used as a means to communicate hatred and frustration towards neighbors, enemies or even friends, and not just unrequited love. The design of the cards was based on cheap materials, so their low cost allowed everyone to express their feelings.

People's Reaction

These nasty cards were sometimes crass, always funny, and definitely mean. Anyone who received one of these surely got the point.

Even by Victorian standards, Vinegar Valentines were considered distasteful, vulgar and morally depraving.

Some did not hesitate to accuse card makers of inciting anti-social behavior and encouraging hatred.

Others complained that the value of Valentine's Day was waning.

Modern Years

There have been a few cases of overreacting to receiving these cards. People have committed suicides or homicides, as a result of receiving one! Not a strange phenomenon as there were cards that suggested or urged the reader to commit suicide. And many of them were written as though these negative thoughts were popular opinion.

In 1885, London’s Pall Mall Gazette reported that a husband shot his wife in the neck after receiving a vinegar valentine from her. Oh my!

This trend has gradually declined; the year 1940 was the last time Valentine's Day hate cards were exchanged. Surviving examples of actual Vinegar Valentines are scarce. For obvious reasons, recipients did not keep them. 

Well, dearie, your husband didn't get you the gift you wanted? Think that it could be worse like the message below! 😉

Well, my dear, this is it!

Thank you for reading my article…I hope you found it interesting and that you have learned a lot!

I would love to know your thoughts on today’s topic so please leave a comment below!

You’re fantastic 🙂

Written by Scarlett Osborne

The Charm of a Ballerina’s Bun

Well, ladies and gents!

It is no coincidence that this sleek cut, always flawless, has become an ultimate classic. Dance groups around the world, tapping on their toes, reveal why the Ballerina’s bun is the ultimate female hairstyle.

Although the hairstyle is synonymous with ballet, it has its roots in the women of Ancient Greece, who created a hairstyle known today as Greek knot. A simple, low-necked chignon, typically decorated with jewels, was a symbol of elegance for wealthy Greek women.

The bun returned to modern society during the Regency period of 1800. Anyone familiar with the movie adaptations of Jane Austen's books will recognize the stylish hairstyles that were popular among middle and upper-class women.

Women of the Regency era in England loved classical aesthetics which was associated with the fashion and hairstyles of Ancient Greece and Rome. The women began to wrap their long hair in a bun, but lift it higher than the Greek bun at the back of the head.

Well, keep reading, hun! 🙂

Victorian Era

The rise of the bun came in the Victorian period. In the 19th century, there were many variations of the bun.

"Apollo's knot" was a popular hairstyle during the 1820s and 1830s and consisted of a middle chignon and curls around the face and ears.

Another popular variant of the bun called "La Chinoise" resembled Princess Leia's famous hairstyle in Star Wars.

Queen Victoria

The "Victoria" hairstyle by Queen Victoria was a more conservative hairstyle that reflected a dark and serious Victorian England. Two braids on both sides were attached to a simple bun on the back of the head and hung around the ears.

Under the influence of Queen Victoria, the bun became a more elegant and serious hairstyle that is typically associated with the stereotype of an "oppressed" Victorian society. 

In all of these variations, however, the bun was an important symbol of the category of discrimination for many women and a reflection of the times.

Modern Years

As the Victorian bun transformed into the more relaxed and natural "Gibson Girl" chic of the 1890s, it’s dominance came to an end.

During the  1920s, fashionable ladies gave up complicated hairstyles for free buns. 

And yet the charm of the bun remains strong today and is still in vogue, signaling a classic kind of hairstyle.

In ballet, of course, it never left.

Thank you for reading this article of mine and write below your replies so that I can see them! 

And please let me know your thoughts—did you enjoy the topic? 

If there is anything else you’d be interested in reading about the Regency Era, feel free to let me know…

…and who knows? Maybe you will read about it soon!

Written by Olivia Bennet

Victorian-era Graffiti and Symbols You Didn’t Know About

Hello, my sweetie! 

From the Middle Ages to the present, the British capital has always been the metropolis of visual communication and one of the birthplaces of modern advertising.

By the Victorian era, labels of the type “Florist”, “Tavern”, “Smithery” had disappeared. They had been replaced by inventive names, puns that impressed upon the mind and fancy paintings.

In fact, some brands that are now established as representatives of specific stores have their roots in Victorian London.

Keep reading, sweetie! 🙂

The Red Stripe Roller

The red stripe roller that exists outside many barberries was established by the London barbers.

Before the 11th century, when medicine in England was still in its infancy, many barbers used to perform the duties of a dentist and surgeon, since regular scientists were kind of deficient. In order for people to distinguish those who provided these extra services, the barbers placed a red wrapped pillar outside their store.

The pole symbolized the wooden stake that the barber gave the clients to hold during the operations so that their hand remained steady and the blood flow consecutive. The red cloth symbolized the blood. 

Over the years, the barber's responsibilities have been limited to haircuts and shaving. However, the pole with the wrapped red stripe had been established and remained out of several barbershops, still.

Other Uses of Symbols

Similarly, the representation of Adam and Eve in the gardens of Eden became synonymous with the grocery store, the unicorn horn was adopted by pharmacists and a bag full of nails by ironworks. 

Each merchant adjusted the facade of his shop according to his style, but always with the use of visual aids. Thus, until the invention of photography and printing, the London markets had been transformed into a large and colorful canvas, made up of fancy inscriptions competing against each other on impressing passers-by.

For example, a representation of the Pompeii disaster seemed to be the ideal “barker” of a business that undertook cockroach insecticides and disinfection.

Illustrations of housewives over steamy pots adorned grocery signs. The importance of allegory and subconscious messages in advertising was theorized many centuries later. English retailers had done it long before marketing became a science.

The First Graffiti

During the same period, the first graffiti appeared.

Street art was born as a form of protest. One of the first recorded graffiti in London was a poem written in Latin. In the following decades, people of lower social classes and “children of the street” used to “mark” the walls of their area with their names.

Young people began to write slogans of social, religious and political content. By way of example, some of the graffiti one could encounter on the streets of the British 18th-century would write: “Christ is God”, “Damn the Duke of Richmond!” or “Murder Jews”! 

Graffiti Art

The prison walls were also full of graffiti. Curses, names of loved ones, and verses of the Bible were at the top of the prisoners' preferences for decorating their cells.

The beggars on the streets also left their mark. They used to carve the pavement or write on the walls behind them. “Can you help me?”

Artists selling their work on the street followed a similar pattern. “Everything is my own creation”, they carved the floor next to their works. 

So London was never a dull city. The buildings, the streets, the shops always had a story to tell, as the residents made sure to imprint it on them...

Well, my sweetie, this is the end of this article!

I hope you enjoyed it—I certainly did while writing it!

Thank you for accompanying me on my writing journey!

It would be lovely if you could share your thoughts with me! Or whatever you like...Surprise me! 

Written by Violet Hamers

The Fascinating Story of Gentlemen’s Clubs

Hello, again, my dearies! 

Every well-respected Regency novel should mention at least one Gentleman's Club. In my mind, when I think of those clubs, I picture staid facades hiding smoke-filled rooms and intrigue amid wallpapers, expensive carpets, leather and mahogany furniture...

The Gentlemen's Clubs started in London in the 17th century and were places where the men of high society in England were gathered. Every respectable Regency gentleman belonged to a gentlemen's club. 

When a member was accepted into the club, it was known as an “election.” All exclusive gentlemen's clubs in London used a method of voting for proposed new members whereby a system of back and white balls were deposited, in secret by each election committee member, into a special box. A single black ball was sufficient to deny membership. Hence the term “blackballed.”

But why did men of that time need special places like those? If we take a look at the conditions that prevailed then, we can see how these clubs came about.

If you are interested in learning more then, my dear, keep reading! 😉

How the Gentlemen Clubs Got Started

The gentlemen's clubs were born in England. The first club to operate and pave the way for their expansion was White's, in west London. Initially, it was a shop selling hot chocolate and tea. Not what we have in mind, uh?

The man who founded White's in 1693 was Francesco Bianco, an Italian immigrant. In just a few years White's had become a privately owned club consisting of exclusive members.

White's started out as a traditional English coffeehouse, where customers met and discussed business and current affairs. The noticeable difference from classic pubs was that they did not serve alcohol at the coffeehouse. So customers who would like to stay sober and discuss some business, would go to the White's. Can I have a brandy, please? 

As the years passed, White's reputation spread and it became increasingly difficult to become a member. It gained the reputation that it was the right place to gamble. It had become so famous that his customers were called "White's gamblers."

Brooks's was the second club to open, long after White's, in 1762. It was opened by three former White's members, who were excluded for life from entering the club, and decided to open their own.

In the 18th and especially in the 19th century, most clubs were divided according to the political preferences of the members. In the 19th century, clubs were associated with parties of the time. Few were members of two clubs that supported different parties.

White's was frequented by members and friends of the Tories party (today's Conservative party), while Brook's was more targeted by Whigs’ friends (whose evolution is the Liberal Democratic Party).

However, the more clubs opened, the more specialized their goal became. For example, there were gambling clubs or travel clubs.

The Acne of Gentlemen Clubs 

The popularity of gentlemen's clubs was increasing in England. According to historical records of the time, their number exceeded 400 (!) clubs, the most well known being Almack's, Carlton, and the East India Club.

In the mid-19th century, the British parliament passed a series of legislation (also known as the Reform Acts) that gave more and more men the right to vote. The number of gentlemen was constantly increasing. Their status required them to become members of one club, and this created the need for more clubs.

In the Victorian era, the rules of good behavior controlled the lives of both women and men. The clubs were a place where men could be more relaxed and away from the "politically correct" behavior of the time.

English men of the time were often forced to marry women of the same upper social and economic class. Many times these women were from another country. There have been cases where the couple first met on their wedding day. As was natural, the couple often suffocated and illicit relationships and scandals were flourishing at that time. However, a scandal could lead to financial ruin, social disintegration, and even disengagement from the club, so everyone made sure to keep those relationships as secret as possible.

In their spare time, Englishmen of the time were playing billiards, gambling, reading, discussing theater and music, as well as timeliness. At the clubs, they found everything they wanted for them to be comfortable. Some clubs even had beds, but only for their members to sleep, as women were strictly forbidden. Oh my!

In 19th-century England, gambling was allowed only in certain places, and the clubs served this purpose precisely: to allow the upper classes to play gambling.

Historians of the time say that gambling was the main occupation of the gentlemen's clubs. The most popular game was the whist, the precursor to today's wistful.

In most games the players and those who watched them made bets. The amounts of bets have often been mythical. An example is Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington, who allegedly wagered £100.00 each night on the whist. White's had become the second home for the wealthy Duke, who had been sleeping in the club for years. 

The situation went beyond the limits in many cases. For some men, the passion for gambling became an obsession. Various bets have been recorded, such as which raindrop on the glass would reach the bottom of the window first, or if the next member coming to the club would enter the club  with his right or left foot…Men, am I right?

Gentlemen Club Today

Over the years the number of clubs began to decline. The socio-economic changes that took place in the 20th century led many clubs to close down.

Nowadays, while the aristocracy in England—with its titles of nobility and vast fortunes—remains, the upper classes have changed form. Technology has also played a role in this, as the internet and virtual reality have come into our lives for good. Places like clubs, small cinemas, and video clubs tend to gradually disappear...

For example, gambling was one of the main ways to entertain club members. With the legalization of gambling in recent decades, there was no longer any need for gentlemen's clubs.

However, the gentlemen's clubs have not completely disappeared; although in most cases there are no longer any restrictions on gender or socio-economic status.

White's is still there, though it has now been moved to St. James street, and continues to be an attraction for the British aristocracy. Prince Charles and his son, Prince William, as well as other members of the British royal family are members of the club, which still retains its old style.

Well, my dear, this is it!

Thank you for reading my article…I hope you found it interesting and that you have learned a lot!

I would love to know your thoughts on today’s topic so please leave a comment below!

You’re fantastic 🙂

Written by Scarlett Osborne
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