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Criminal Travels in the Regency Era

Some of us dream our entire lives of a journey abroad; a coast somewhere far from home where every day is sunny and untroubled! Uh…

But for certain people in Britain, during the 18th and 19th centuries, this was their worst fear realized. Of course, I am referring to penal transportation that the British Empire imposed on convicted criminals and other people, that were specified as “undesired”. 

Penal transportation was a tactic that the British implemented to exile people that were convicted of a crime. It has its origins in the ancient years and specifically the Hellenistic period of the Roman Empire when undesired individuals were exiled from Rome as a form of punishment. Sometimes, this was even an indirect tactic; they would send officers that were deemed “dangerous” for Rome, to serve in remote provinces. 

The British borrowed quite a few strategies from the Romans (one might also take account of their name “Pax Britannica” which derived from “Pax Romana”). Transportation was a form of punishment as well, imposed by the United Kingdom to convicted criminals and at first, it had a specific term and duration. The time spent abroad had to be equal to their sentence. However, even after serving the years of their sentence, most of the prisoners did not have the financial means to return home, so they stayed in exile for the rest of their lives.

Even though the death penalty was in use, penal transportation was first used for convicted felons whose crimes were not considered so significant to deserve the capital penalty. So exile, in a sense, was a better fate for some! However, legislation concerning crime conviction was changing from year to year, making it difficult to assess a person’s sentence. For example, forgery was considered a serious crime and signified the end of a person’s life. Near the end of the Regency Era, 1820, though, the capital penalty was reduced to transportation for the same felony.

The Status Of The Prisoners

The prisoners were moved to the British colonies, like North America or specifically-made settlements called “penal colonies”, like the ones in Australia (New South Wales) or New Zealand. The latter were custom made establishments constructed to receive such criminals and exploit them in terms of dependent work.

The people arriving in such places were considered to have the status of an indentured laborer. This meant that the subjects were unfree workers bound by a contract to work without pay for a certain period of time. 

This sounds quite fair for someone that has committed a crime, does it not?

However, there is an ugly face as well…

Due to the Industrial Revolution, that started in the middle of the 18th century, people who were deprived of work in the countryside, often decided to move to urban centers for better job opportunities. This resulted in big cities like London being congested and consequently crime rates going extremely high. 

By the time we reach the first years of the 19th century, our very own Regency Era, jails are overflowing, the United States - having gained their independence - refuse to accept more convicts, and there is not enough coin to built new ones. Thus, transportation wasn’t really a favor to the criminals, but a necessity for the British Crown. 

The most horrible part of the story is, though, that most of these convicts were exploited by their “employers” in their new settlements. There are examples of people that were lied to regarding their sentence just to remain in plantations or other businesses as unpaid workers. Allegedly, “letters” would come from the Kingdom, informing the criminal of an increased sentence due to undisclosed reasons. 

Most of these people were illiterate and could neither read the supposed letter nor write in protest. Thus, they remained employed and exploited.

An ugly fate awaited some of the convicts arriving in West Africa. The British Empire, having previously established colonies, protectorates and other forms of rule in the African continent, attempted to direct some of the convict ships there. However, most of the people died due to the hard conditions of living in Africa; convicts and personnel as well, died of disease, starvation, and desertion. The rest of them were exploited by the slave trade and were transported to places like the Caribbean, or the southern states of the USA as slaves.

Imagine one day being a British citizen, and the next a slave! Oh my! 

The Bright Side

After adopting New South Wales as a destination point, some convicts were actually treated humanly and were able to live a better life. In Sydney Cove, Australia, for instance, the convicts were held in “open-air” prisons. They were surrounded by wilderness, outdoors, but within a designated area.

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

Some of them were offered the opportunity to learn a new skill or sharpen an old one, such as carpentry. However, these offers were influenced by personal gain too, as the skilled convicts were used in building and other labor works in nearby towns. And the hot climate of New South Wales made their exertion even harsher.

Penal transportation was terminated by the Penal Servitude Act of 1856. This brought, though, good news and bad news. The good news was that people stopped being moved overseas as a form of punishment. The bad news was, that unfortunately in most crimes, the penal transportation was yet again replaced by the capital sentence. 

Thank goodness these years are behind us! 

Written by Patricia Haverton

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

Female Education in the Regency Era

Nowadays, many young women thrive in science and other academic disciplines, but women’s education was not always a given rather a privilege! This change towards women’s rights in education started in our very own Regency era, at the beginning of the 19th century.

Young girls of the aristocratic class were mostly taught at home by governesses, while girls belonging to the middle class were attending private institutions, known as ‘dame schools’. Unfortunately, girls of the working classes did not have the financial means for any of the above and had to be limited to draft versions of so-called schools, like churches.



The 'Social Spheres'

Even though change started to appear in the first and second decade of the 19th century, when organizations promoting women’s education were initially established, the notion of the ‘separate spheres’ was also in operation. This meant that men and women had different roles in society; men in the sphere of the “outside” and women in that of the “inside”. This limited girls’ learning opportunities and restrained them in the household.

Accordingly, the classes taught to each sex respectively were influenced by the belief of the separate spheres. While boys were taught courses that would consecutively aid them in being admitted to universities, girls were taught classes that would enhance their ability to manage their household or care for their children, thus their roles as wives and mothers.

The schooling of young girls was mostly practical training to prepare them for their domestic role. This included lessons on how to read, write, and count, although always using cookery or piety books, and never poetry, politics or classic literature.


Of course, decorum couldn’t be missing; everything regarding a woman’s habits, body posture, movements and even lessons on how to get in or out of a room were included in the school curriculum. Moreover, they were taught sewing or needlework, while dancing, drawing, playing music or speaking modern languages were considered ‘accomplishments’ and were highly praised. 

However, most of these ‘accomplishments’, were just acquired in order to attract a husband and to improve a young lady’s odds in making a better match. The dominating belief at that time was that girls should be educated to be “decorative, modest, and marriageable” beings. Therefore, in most cases, these talents that were gained through great effort and personal struggle were abandoned or, at best, neglected after marriage. 

Such a pity!


Woman reading line art.

Bright Examples

Any further pursuit in education was primarily a matter of personal choice. The efforts for a better education were, however, very limited and always derived from personal initiative. Usually, the subjects of such a choice were women being taught by understanding parents, older siblings or teaching themselves from their libraries. Those women defied the rules and the social and educational embargo imposed upon females and advanced their cognitive development on their own.

Although examples of such cases were rare, some bright examples did exist; take for instance Elizabeth Montagu, the inventor of the Blue Stocking Society and her sister and famous novelist, Sarah Scott. The two girls could speak Latin, French, and Spanish, and they both studied literature.

And to think that I couldn’t get up in the morning to go to school! 🙂

However, their case is not one of caring parents, but rather neglectful ones. Even so, they both grew to establish themselves as central figures in the advocacy for women’s rights in education. 

And well, love may not cost a thing, but education surely did!

A governess, which by the way, had necessarily to be an unmarried woman of impeccable reputation, was paid 15-20 pounds a year (approximately 800-900 pounds today). This was a significant amount of money at that time, considering that this was the price of a good horse! Speaking of horses and strong independent women, read my fellow writer, Hanna Hamilton’s, book about an aspirant horse-rider here!

In many cases, governesses that were released of their duties after a certain time had passed, and the young lady’s education was considered complete, were kept at the house as paid companions. 

Well, that was pretty much it! 

What do you think about women’s education? 

Let me know in the comments below! 

Until next time, 

Written by Emma Linfield

Scottish Whisky: the World’s Most Famous Drink


Hello my lads and lassies,

Who doesn’t enjoy a good Scotch on the rocks to calm their nerves? The Scottish whisky is the world’s most
renowned alcoholic drink, in my humble opinion. 🙂

But what is its history, and how did it come to be so popular amongst the people all around the world?

Well, let’s find out! 😀

Vintage cellars. Image source.


Origins and History

In actuality, the term “whisky” comes from the Gaelic phrase “uisge beatha”, which means “the water of life”. But to in order to make any alcoholic drink, you would need a distillery. When was the first distillery used in Scotland?

Well, chances are you probably guessed wrong. It’s quite older than what you think: distillation in Scotland had started as far back as 1494! You could find the official records of the government at the time, in the Exchequer Rolls, who had the role of auditing and deciding on Royal revenues in Scotland. The government sent eight bottles of malt to Friar John Cor. Here you can see the official quote:

“To Friar John Cor, by order of the King, to make aqua vitae, VIII bolls of malt.
— Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, 1 June 1495.”

Aqua vitae is Latin for “water of life”. How cool is that? You know the phrase “water of life” in three languages! 🙂

Scotch Whiskey was a favorite of King James IV of Scotland, but after his defeat in 1513, King Henry VIII of England dissolved all the monasteries and made it illegal to endeavour that drink.

But how did it actually become that popular?

A Brief History of Scottish Whisky. Image source.


Two events: first, the introduction of the column still in 1831. This type of still produced whisky much more efficiently than the traditional pot stills. This process made manufacturing more popular, dramatically increased production, and made the taste of the whisky less intense and smoother.

​The second event that led to the popularity of the whisky was a shortage in wine, brandy and cognac in France, that peaked in 1880. The shortage was due to the phylloxera bug, an insect that destroyed many wine vines. Almost 40 new distilleries opened in Scotland at the time, and their success would continue if it wasn’t for the World War I and the Great Depression. Most of them closed due to these terrible events and never re-opened.

Greybeard Heather Dew Scotch whisky jug. Image source: wikipedia

Economic Effects


Whisky production was taxed for the first time in 1644, which resulted in a rise of illicit whisky production in the country. From the 1760s to the 1830s, most of the illegal trade originated in the Highlands. Actually, in 1782, more than a 1,000 distilleries were seized in the Highlands. It is estimated that, that number, was only a fraction of the actual distilleries in operation. Lowland distilleries were not that lucky, unfortunately, and could not avoid taxation; they complained that illicit Highland whisky made up for more than half of the market.

Even in modern times, the Scottish whisky industry supports the modern economy, accounting for billions in exports, increasing more and more each year! 

Johnnie Walker produces a line of blended whiskies. Image source: wikipedia

Varieties and Distilleries


Scottish whisky is split in two categories: types, and blends.

There are two types of Scottish whisky, out of which all blends are made: single malt Scotch, which is distilled at a single distillery, using pot stills and made from a mash of malted barley, and single grain Scotch, which is pretty much the same, except that it may also involve whole grains of other malted or unmalted cereals. “Single” does not mean a single variety of grain; rather, it means a single distillery was needed to complete the process!

Then, we have three types of blends that are defined for Scotch whisky:

-Blended malt Scotch whisky means a blend of two or more single malt Scotch whiskies from different distilleries.
-Blended grain Scotch whisky means a blend of two or more single grain Scotch whiskies from different distilleries.
-Blended Scotch whisky means a blend of one or more single malt Scotch whiskies with one or more single grain Scotch whiskies.

Bowmore Distillery. Image source: wikipedia. 


You can find a lot of distilleries in different regions of Scotland. In the Lowlands, you can find well-known companies such as Auchentoshan, Bladnoch, Glenkinchie, etc. The whisky is mostly lighter, sweeter and with a floral aroma. 

The Highlands is the largest region in Scotland and has over 30 distilleries. Some of them are: Aberfeldy, Edradour, Balblair, Ben Nevis, etc. and its whisky is mostly "fruity, sweet, spicy, and malty.

Of course, there are many more regions, and many more distilleries you could visit on your next trip to Scotland. 😉

Do you like whisky, me bonnies? Let me know which one is your favorite!

Until next time…
Written by Lydia Kendall

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

Ghost Stories of The Wild West

Howdy, my loves! 

This time I have something different for you... I would advise you to turn off the lights and wrap yourself in a blanket because this is going to be a scary journey!

The Old West was and still is a fascinating place for most of us! Doesn’t it excite you whenever you think of it, my dears? Because it sure does excite me! 

But the last thing we can imagine when thinking of the Old West is…ghosts. That’s right, ghosts. Who would have thought that they used to have their own haunted stories back then? It’s amazing when you think of it!

This is why today, I have prepared some of the most terrifying Old West stories, that I’m sure will keep you awake at night. Are you ready?


1. The Sorrow of La Llorona

The legend of La Llorona is extremely popular in Mexico and Mexican culture, and it’s so widespread, that even the United States has its own version of the story.

In our folk-tales, La Llorona was a young woman who used to love dancing. Dancing was her passion. She would spend hours dancing every day, again and again, even going as far as to neglect her own family’s needs! 

In her obsessive mind, her children limited her ability to follow her dream so she started growing resentful of them. It got so bad, that she started threatening them and wishing to kill them. 

One day, she went out of her mind; she simply didn’t know what she was doing. She took her two young kids and drowned them in a local river, killing them in the most horrible way! When she came back to her senses, she felt so guilty for what she did that she jumped in the river, taking her own life! 

Since then, many testimonies have arisen, of a young woman wandering around the same river every night, crying and shouting “Oh! My sons! Where are my children? Give me back my children!”. 

There are many different versions of it too, with only some minor things changing. For instance, some say that her husband caused her mental breakdown when he came back home from a trip, with a younger woman. Nonetheless, she went mad!

Parents tell their kids this story, to remind them not to wander outside alone because La Llorona will take them. I think this story is enough to stop all of us from walking out alone, especially near a river!

2. The Horrifying Skinwalkers

Do you believe in dark magic? Because this legend is going to make you question everything.

The Navajo, the second-largest Native-American tribe, have their myth of strange creatures called the skinwalkers or yee naaldlooshii, which means “they who walk on all fours”. According to legend, they used to be witches and healers who took the path of dark magic and transformed into something out of this world. 

It’s hard to find details on this topic because even talking about them can result in great harm to the teller. By most sources, they can shift into any animal and imitate any sound to lure people towards them. Their intention is to kill!

Cowboys started spreading tales of the skinwalkers throughout the Old West, creating a sense of fear. The skinwalkers were blamed for almost everything after that; whether it was a murder or a disappearance, they would take the blame over any culprit. Pretty convenient, huh?

3. Jesse James, A Unique Ghost Story

As a gang leader, Jesse James, an infamous robber, was a nightmare for every Sheriff. He committed criminal acts all across the Midwest and he soon became a wanted man. Every bad and good deed is repaid, however, and this is exactly what happened to him. 

He was shot down by a member of his own gang! People didn’t believe it, of course, because of his unmatched reputation. An experienced criminal got killed by an unknown person? Impossible! People did not believe that he was really dead or that anything could ever stop him!

This all changed when people spotted him… or his ghost. When they would try getting close to him, his figure would disappear. There were many testimonies and the myths only grew from there. 

Even to this day, locals report eerie voices, and pictures of his figure still circulate online! Most support this is all Jesse James’ ghosts doings, who wants to live a peaceful life on the farm, a century after his death…!

Maybe he really is out there!

This is enough to give me nightmares tonight! Have you ever heard of these stories before?

And do you have your own to share? Please do comment below and share everything you know!

See you next time!

Written by Cassidy Hanton

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

Who was the Arthurian Lady of the Lake?

Alright, time for one little confession…

I’m the BIGGEST King Arthur fan.

Ever.

I’ve read every relevant book I’ve managed to get my hands on, I’ve watched every TV and movie adaptation (I’m looking at you Sean Connery) and I’ve visited a ton of historical sites that were allegedly visited by King Arthur. I’ve even written a book that incorporates the Arthurian Legend, which you can find right here!

I’m not ashamed to admit that I once got into a heated argument with a university classmate about whether or not King Arthur broke the Laws of Chivalry before in his life. She insisted he did, I insisted he didn’t.

Long story short, she was wrong, and I was right. Period.

Having said that, the Arthurian Legends are full of interesting characters that come with their own unique stories.

And my favorite (second to King Arthur, of course) has to be the fabled Lady of the Lake.

Who was the mysterious woman who not only gave King Arthur his magical sword, Excalibur but kidnapped Sir Lancelot as a child only to later cure him of his madness? 

The Lady of the Lake may have been a Celtic goddess in origin, perhaps even related to the Gwagged Annwn, the lake ferries in modern Welsh folklore. According to Ulrich, she was a fairy that raised Sir Lancelot from birth and was the mother of Mabuz, identical to the Celtic god Mabon.

The Lady of the Lake’s character is super ambiguous, even in her most early appearances in the legends and stories. In the French Vulgate Estoire de Merlin, she loves the enchanter and seals him in a beautiful tower, magically constructed, so that she can keep him for herself forever. She would visit him regularly and ended up giving her love to him. 

In the continuation of the Vulgate, known as the Suite du Merlin, the relationship is very different. When Merlin shows her a tomb of two lovers, magically sealed, she enchants him and has him cast into the tomb on top of the two lovers, whereupon she reseals the tomb and Merlin dies a slow death.


Alfred Lord Tennyson turns Vivien into the personification of evil. Edwin Arlington Robinson, in the poem, Merlin, makes Merlin’s “captivity” voluntary, and his Vivian is less of an enchantress than an interesting woman whom Merlin truly loves. 

So, who is the Lady of the Lake or Vivien? Was she good, evil or a bit of both? Perhaps she was a combination of many imaginative tales and came to be popularized as one of the primary characters of the Arthurian legends.

The Lady of the Lake has been known by many names. The most common are Nimue, Viviane, and Vivien. Nimue became the most popularly used name for this character from Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur.

Morgana Le Fay was also, at some point, theorized to have been the Lady of the Lake, though that theory never gathered a lot of momentum due to the overwhelming lack of writing to support it.

Morgana le Fay is, in Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, Arthur’s half-sister, the daughter of Arthur’s mother Igraine and her first husband, the Duke of Cornwall. She is also presented as an adversary of Arthur’s: she gives Excalibur to her lover, Accolon, so he can use it against King Arthur and, when that plot fails, she steals the scabbard of Excalibur which protects Arthur and throws it into a lake.


Despite the motif of Morgana’s enmity towards Arthur and Guinevere, she is also presented as one of the women who take Arthur in a barge to Avalon to be healed.

Although the Lady of the Lake is most famous for giving King Arthur the sword, this title has been used to refer to many different people: water fey, an enchantress who Merlin fell in love with, etc. It makes sense that she’d have multiple names because it actually wasn’t the same person in all these legends.

Since no one actually knows the origins of the Lady of the Lake legend, people have theorized that she originated from the Celtic Water Goddess, Coventina, as it is believed the name Viviane stems from Co-Vianna, which is a variation of Coventina.

Nimue, the woman who sealed Merlin in a cave (or a tree), put him under a spell and deprived King Arthur of his services (but later on rescued the King twice, with one time being from Accolon, who -as mentioned above- was given Excalibur by Morgana Le Fay), is also mentioned as one of the maidens who aided King Arthur’s passage to Avalon.


Legend says that King Arthur now sleeps in Avalon waiting to return to England. Some stories say he will rise again when England needs him most. 

And I, for one, cannot wait for his return. 😉

Written by Hanna Hamilton

Scotland in Middle Ages: Architecture


Hello my wonderful readers!

Scotland has a long history of art, architecture, great men and women! However, in this article, we are going to talk only about the architecture of Scotland in the Middle Ages! I am pretty sure you’re going to like this one!

Scotland’s architecture dates back thousand of years. For example, as we have learned in another article, one of Europe’s most complete Neolithic village, Skara Brae, was found in Scotland. It dates back to 6000 years ago!

Skara Brae, a Neolithic settlement, located in the Bay of Skaill, Orkney. Image source.


But, of course, architecture has progressed quite a lot since then. One of the most important periods of the architectural history of Scotland is the Middle Ages. During that time, the country had buildings left from the departure of Romans in the early 5th century, that natives evolved continuously, until the adoption of Renaissance style in the early 16th century.

Vernacular buildings

Let’s start with the housing, shall we?

In Medieval Scotland, housing buildings used to be vernacular. They used cruck construction, employing pairs of curved timbers to support the roof, but these were at most times hidden from view. Especially in rural areas, they would use turf to fill in the walls, but unfortunately, this material wasn’t very long-lasting. They would have to rebuild this every two to three years! Imagine building your house again and again? Oh my!

The Moirlanich Longhouse is a blackhouse built in the nineteenth century in the traditional manner with a cruck frame. Image source: Wikipedia.


After the 12th century, burghs started developing. These were towns that were granted certain privileges from the Crown, and they would often have distinctive patterns in their buildings. They would have a palisade around them (a fence or defensive wall, typical in Celtic villages), and most of them also had a castle! They also included a market place, often marked by a mercat cross, and houses with elaborate styles for the nobles and high-ranking individuals. 

However, most houses for the urban poor were completely destroyed 🙁

Rosslyn Chapel. Image source.


Churches

The introduction of Christianity came to Scotland from Ireland, around the 6th century. Church architecture had progressed a lot since then. It started with very simple, masonry-built churches. In the Highlands, the architecture was even simpler, and the churches would often be similar to simple houses or farm buildings!

The true colors of Scottish architecture were shown in churches of the Gothic style, starting in the 13th century. There are two prime examples, both built by French master-mason John Morrow: Glasgow Cathedral, and Melrose Abbey. The carvings at Rosslyn Chapel, created in the mid-fifteenth century, elaborately depicting the progression of the seven deadly sins, are considered some of the finest in the Gothic style.

Did you know? Scottish architecture, especially from the Renaissance period, was mostly influenced by Rome and the Netherlands, as a reaction against English forms. The Scots were opposing the English even using their buildings!

Melrose Abbey. Image source.

Castles

Who doesn't love castles? I certainly do so, very much!

Look for example at this magestic castle:

Caerlaverock Castle, a moated triangular castle, first built in the thirteenth century. Image source: Wikipedia


In the sense of a fortified structure for a Laird or a noble, castles arrived in Scotland in the 12th century. Elements of Medieval castles, royal palaces, and tower houses were used in the construction of Scots baronial estate houses, which were built largely for comfort, but with a castle-like appearance.

Elements of the Scots Baronial style would be revived from the late eighteenth century and the trend would be confirmed in popularity by the rebuilding of Balmoral Castle in the nineteenth century and its adoption as a retreat by Queen Victoria.

The first recorded siege in Scotland was the 1230 siege of Rothesay Castle where the besieging Norwegians were able to break down the relatively weak stone walls with axes after only three days! The first gunpowder weapons introduced in Scotland in the 1330s also affected the architectural design; the stronger the forces that could break it the stronger the built of the castle. By the 15th century, this new technology had altered the nature of castle architecture, for good! 

Edinburgh Castle. Image source.


There are hundreds of castles all around Scotland. One of the most famous castles would be Edinburgh Castle, set atop a craggy extinct volcano high above Scotland’s capital. Another one would be the Balmoral Castle, with Queen Victoria describing it as her ‘dear paradise in the Highlands’. It still remains a private home for the Royal family!

Balmoral Castle. Image source.

What did you like most about Scottish Architecture lassies and lads? 

I am so in love with the Castles!

As always, I would love to read your thoughts!

See you next time!

Written by Maddie MacKenna

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
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