The following ghost story, in time for Halloween, is taken from The Morning Post, 16th October, 1822.
A WELL-AUTHENTICATED GHOST STORY
(FROM THE EDINBURGH OBSERVER.)
An old woman had for many of the latter years of her life indulged herself in sitting up in bed in such a position that her knees and her chin were constantly next door neighbours. From this attitude she never departed; so that, for a long time previous to her decease, the tendons and muscles which are used in extending the lower limbs of the body were contracted, and refused their offices.
In this situation she was in the habit of taking exercises by gently see-sawing, or rocking herself backwards and forwards. She died at last, a fate which all persons, eminent or not, must submit.
Her corpse was watched by some of her female acquaintances and relations, “who, towards the witching time of night,” had their meditations or speculations interrupted by a noise which they fancied was a dreadful peal of thunder.
The first impulse was to cast their widely opened eyes towards the body of the old dame, when, to their utter horror, they beheld her started from the recumbent posture of death, into her usual position, and exercising herself in rocking or see-sawing, as if nothing extraordinary had happened.
This sight was beyond the endurance of any female fortitude, and the whole party rushed out of the room without politeness enough to wish the old body joy on returning to its customary occupation. On the circumstance being bruited abroad, the undertaker, a man of considerable resolution, ventured into the haunted apartment, and there found the fact as stated by the terrific feminines.
But he presently solved the mystery, by observing that the large weights which he had placed on the corpse to straiten it for burial, had rolled off and fallen on the floor, which was the cause of the noise, and the body being released from its unwonted confinement, had relapsed into the contracted state to which it had so long been habituated. Some oscillations naturally followed the unexpected recovery of liberty, which made the attendants imagine that they beheld the workings of supernatural powers.
We are delighted to introduce the lovely Sue Wilkes as our latest Guest writer. Sue’s latest book ‘A Visitor’s Guide to Jane Austen’s England’ in which she takes an intimate look at daily life in Austen’s day for the middle and upper classes has just been released by Pen and Sword Books. To find out more about her book you should gallop post-haste to her blog Austen blog but in the meantime she has penned an article for us on fashionable hours to dine in the Georgian period.
We now hand over to Sue.
While I was researching my book A Visitor’s Guide To Jane Austen’s England I was struck by the way that social customs can change within a person’s lifetime. The time of day when Georgian ladies and gentlemen dined was dictated by class, by how fashionable they were, and whether they lived in the town or country. But dinnertime became later and later in Jane Austen’s day.
For example, when Mary Hamilton (later Mrs John Dickenson) stayed at Bulstrode Hall, the Duchess of Portland’s Buckinghamshire residence, in 1783 her hostess breakfasted at 9.30 in the morning. Dinner was served at 4.30 in the afternoon, and supper about 10.30 in the evening. At the more humble Austen family home of Steventon Rectory in Hampshire, Jane dined at 3.30 p.m. in the 1790’s.
Although the haut ton did not dine until at least 5 or 6 o’clock, some hostesses still kept very unfashionable hours. When Lady Newdigate stayed at Stansted Park in 1795, she commented that: ‘The hours of ye family are what ye polite world w’d not conform to viz. Breakfast at 8½, dine at 3½, supper at 9 and go to bed at 10, but Everybody is at Liberty to order their own Breakfast, Dinner or Supper into their own Rooms and no questions ask’d’.
It’s clear from Jane Austen’s letters that as the years passed her dinner hour gradually changed. While staying with the Bridges family at Goodnestone Farm in 1805, Jane mentions dining at 4 p.m. so that they could go walking afterwards. Three years later, when the Austen ladies were living in Southampton, Jane noted in a letter: ‘we never dine now till five’.
During a visit to her brother Henry’s new residence in Henrietta St, London, Jane wrote to her sister Cassandra (15 September 1813) that after five o’clock, shortly after her arrival, the family enjoyed ‘a most comfortable dinner of soup, fish, bouilée, partridges, and an apple tart’.
By the year of Austen’s death (1817) Sir Richard Phillips lamented the change in manners in his Morning’s Walk from London to Kew: ‘the dinner hour of four and five among the great, or would-be great, having shifted to the unhealthy hours of eight or nine, the promenade after dinner [in the parks] in the dinner full-dress, is consequently lost’.
On the 25th October 1809 the jubilee of King George III was celebrated across the nation. Opinion was divided as to whether the jubilee had been celebrated a year too early; 25th October 1809 was the first day of the 50th year of George III’s reign, he had not actually reigned yet for a full fifty years.
In honour of the completion of the fiftieth year of his reign Robert Hobart, the 4th Earl of Buckinghamshire decided to place a statue of the King, made out of Coade Stone (artificial stone manufactured by Eleanor Coade in Lambeth) on the top of Dunston Pillar in Lincolnshire, an old ‘land lighthouse.’
The Dunston Pillar, originally known as Dashwood’s Lighthouse, stands six miles to the south of the City of Lincoln, actually much closer to the village of Harmston than to Dunstan itself, and the pillar, with a spiral staircase inside and originally with a lantern on top reached by a surrounding balustraded gallery, was erected in 1751 by Sir Francis Dashwood (of Hellfire Club fame) to guide travellers across the dark and desolate heathland and to attempt to deter highwaymen and, so it is said, to please his wife.
It is reputed that Sir Francis, 15th Baron le Despencer, later landscaped the area around the pillar, even adding a two story dining hall and it became a popular place for picnics, known as the ‘Vauxhall’ of Lincolnshire. Around the pillar Dashwood built ‘a square walled garden, less than an acre in extent, within a larger enclosure of heathland. There was an opening or gateway in each side of the wall, and a little stone pavilion at each corner. There were plantations outside the walls, and a bowling green just beyond the opening on the north side’. It was recorded in 1836 that an inhabitant of Lincoln remembered seeing as many as sixteen or eighteen carriages there at one time about fifty years previously.
William Wroughton, the Vicar of nearby Welbourn, described the pillar in a letter to Lord le Despencer in 1776 thus:
. . . the Vauxhall of this part of the world. The Bowling Green is the best and kept in the best order I have ever seen and the plantations are all in a very thriving state and will in a few years be the Paradise of Lincolnshire. It was used for the accommodation of parties resorting thither.
From the gallery at the top of the Pillar the magnificent Lincoln Cathedral could be seen to the north and, weather permitting, the Boston Stump to the south.
A decade earlier than the construction of the pillar a local landowner named Charles Chaplin had remodelled the Green Man Inn, part of the Blankney estate and situated very close to the Pillar, where the ‘Lincoln Club’ which included Dashwood and Chaplin, met in the 1740’s, although the purpose or aims of the Club have been lost to time. Indeed, as it is not even known how long the Lincoln Club continued to meet then the story that Dashwood built the ‘land lighthouse’ to please his wife may perhaps more realistically be retold to say that he built it to light his and his friends journey to the ‘Lincoln Club’.
Standing over 90ft high the lantern was lighted every night until 1788 and it was last used in 1808. A year later a storm brought the lantern tumbling to the ground.
On the 9th September, 1810, a Lambeth stonemason named John Wilson, no doubt employed by the Coade works, whilst engaged in fixing the statue of George III to the Pillar fell from the top to his death. He was buried in the nearby Harmston churchyard, his epitaph reading:
He who erected the Noble King,
Is here now dead by deaths sharp sting.
To the memory of John Wilson who departed this life Sept. 9th 1810
The Stamford Mercury newspaper dated 9th November 1810 reported the following once the statue of the King had been firmly fixed atop the pillar:
Among the numerous testimonies of loyalty offered by a grateful people to their Sovereign, none perhaps has been more appropriate than what the Earl of Buckinghamshire has recently completed upon his estate at Dunston, in this county. In the year 1751, Sir Francis Dashwood erected the Pillar on Dunston Heath, about five miles south of this city. It was a plain quadrangular building, 92 feet in height, with an octagonal lantern on the top, 15½ feet high, surrounded at its base with a gallery. – It was then of considerable utility to the public, the heath at that time being an uncultivated and extensive waste; but since that period the lands have been inclosed, which has rendered it entirely useless. – Upon the west side of it is the following inscription:-
The lantern and gallery having been removed, the Earl of Buckinghamshire has erected upon the Pillar a magnificent colossal Statue of our venerable Sovereign. It was executed by Code in artificial stone, and measures 14 feet in height, standing upon a pedestal 9 feet high. His Majesty is represented in his coronation robes, with a crown upon his head and a sceptre in his right hand. – Though its elevation from the ground is 115 feet, yet the features are perfectly distinct, and altogether it makes a grand and magnificent appearance. – Two feet above the old inscription is affixed a tablet, with the following record of his Lordship’s loyalty:-
“The Statue upon this Pillar
was erected A.D. 1810,
by Robert Earl of Buckinghamshire,
to commemorate the 50th anniversary
of the reign of his Majesty
King George the Third.”
During WWII the statue was taken down (and damaged in doing so) and the Pillar shortened to prevent any collision with low-flying aircraft as it was near to two airbases. The bust of King George III, all that remains of the statue, can still be seen in the grounds of Lincoln Castle.
We do so hope the following is true, as it’s a wonderful image, although an outdated gender stereotype. Today the correspondent would no doubt have filmed the antics of the Exquisite and uploaded them to YouTube, or taken a photo to mock him on Facebook or Twitter. But not so back in the days of the Regency. Then, it was a letter to a paper (written in August 1818) and a satirical print (published in 1819) instead.
A correspondent furnishes us with the following picture of an Exquisite alias a Dandy in distress.
AN EXQUISITE ALIAS DANDY IN DISTRESS!
“Walking in one of the squares last week it was my fate to follow an Exquisite, stock’d and stay’d laced and bound collar’d and pilloried in all the fashion, so slender so straight and so stiff that a man of ordinary strength might have used it as a walking stick. This thing flourishing a very nice perfumed handkerchief happened to let it drop; the question then was how to get it up again; stoop it could not, and I confess I enjoyed its distress; for tho’ for any other female I would have raised the handkerchief with alacrity, I wish’d to see how this creature would help itself, then thus it was: having eyed the handkerchief askance, something like a magpie peeping into a marrow-bone, it gently straddled out its legs, and lowering the body between them it brought the right hand in contact with the object sought. What shall we say to the association of ideas, when I assure you, that looking on this unmanly figure, brought into my mind the knights of old, who when once unhorsed, could never from the weight and stiffness of their armour hope to mount again.” N.B. It is found remarkable convenient in such a case for the Exquisite to carry a cane or stick with a hook at the end, as he may fish up anything he unfortunately drops without breaking his back or exciting the pity or risibility of the spectators.
So our readers can appreciate the difficulties presented by the underpinnings worn by an Exquisite, this Robert Cruickshank print from 1818 shows him in his stays.
The Demon of Fashion SIR FOPLING bewitches
The reason his Lady betrays
For as she is resolved upon wearing the Breeches
In revenge he has taken the Stays!
The following definitions of Dandy and an Exquisite, which illustrate the (minor) differences between the two (mainly the use of stays!) are taken from Slang: a dictionary of the turf, the ring, the chase, the pit, of bon-ton, and the varieties of life, 1823.
DANDY – an invention of 1816, and applied to persons whose extravagant dress called forth the sneers of the vulgar; they were mostly young men who had this designation, and they were charged with wearing stays – a mistake easily fallen into, their wide web-belts having that appearance. Men of fashion all became dandy soon after; having imported a good deal of French manner in their gait, lispings, wrinkled foreheads, killing king’s English, wearing immense plaited pantaloons, the coat cut away, small waistcoat, with cravat and chitterlings immense: Hat small; hair frizzled and protruding. If one fell down, he could not rise again without assistance. Yet they assumed to be a little au militaire, and some wore mustachios. Lord Petersham was at the head of this sect of mannerists.
EXQUISITE (an) – another name for Dandy, but of more refined or feminine manners. The Chronicle says, “It is a fact that an Exquisite fainted away on Friday, Dec. 20th, in Bond-street, and was assisted into a shop, where he remained some time before he recovered. Medical aid being sent for, it was ascertained that his valet had laced his stays too tight.” Such were ‘Dandy-prats,’ circa 1750.
Trewman’s Exeter Flying Post, 27th August, 1818
Liverpool Mercury, 28th August, 1818
Lewis Walpole Library
Slang: a dictionary of the turf, the ring, the chase, the pit, of bon-ton and the varieties of life by Jon Bee Esq, editor of the Fancy, Fancy Gazette, Living Picture of London, and the like of that, 1823
We have the immense pleasure of welcoming our first guest to the blog, none other than Professor Chris Stephens of Bristol University. He has given us the following information about himself, his excellent new book and the Reverend Dr Thomas Sedgwick Whalley.
Professor Stephens retired in 2002 after 35 years in academic dentistry spent teaching orthodontics and undertaking pioneering work in the application of computers to dentistry and dental education. By this time he was also a professional dry stone waller and had helped to establish a SW England Branch of the Dry Stone walling Association of Great Britain.
In 2006 Chris was asked by the Woodland Trust if he could assist them in restoring the perimeter wall of their Dolebury Warren Wood property on the north slope of the Mendips. The work, undertaken with the help of local volunteers took three years to complete during which time Chris discovered that the walls had formed part of the estate which surrounded Mendip Lodge, an Italianate house built in the late 18th century by the flamboyant Reverend Dr. Thomas Sedgwick Whalley.
This long lived would-be poet and playwright had married a series of rich widows, the first of whose riches enabled him to buy a house in Royal Crescent Bath which became a centre of social life in Bath at the end of the 18th century.
By 1790 he had built Mendip Lodge high above Upper Langford looking out over Somerset and the Severn estuary as his summer retreat. While his life in outline is known from his letters edited and published by his great nephew in 1863, research over the past 10 years has revealed a far more interesting and complete account, much coming from his extensive correspondence with his friends Mrs Thrale (Piozzi), Hannah More, Anna Seward and the actress Sarah Siddons.
Whalley was a highly intelligent, sensitive and generous man who spent a large part of his long life and much of his wealth supporting his beautiful and talented young niece after the tragic death of her mother when she was only 8 years old. This recently published book is one of very few to detail the long of life of a sensitive and wealthy 18th century man from the correspondence of his friends both male and female. Much of Whalley’s estate, which included Dolebury Camp now in the ownership of the National Trust, is accessible to the public. A foot path runs past the remains of Mendip Lodge which was sadly demolished in the 1950’s.
Chris also appears in the new film Hannah More which is due out early next year, in the role of Rev Thomas Sedgwick Whalley.
Stephens, C. The Rev Dr Thomas Sedgwick Whalley and the Queen of Bath – A true story of Georgian England at the time of Jane Austen. (Candy Jar Books, 2014) ISBN 978-0-9928607-6-9. £9-99
We know our blog is dedicated to the history of the Georgian era but, for this subject, we must first venture back into the previous century to set the scene.
Our subject today is Oliver Cromwell, or, more accurately, his head. Cromwell had died on the 3rd September 1658 and, after lying in state at Somerset House, his body was buried in Westminster Abbey (the actual burial taking place two weeks before his official funeral as his body was quickly decaying). And there his body remained until King Charles II was restored to the throne.
In an act of vengeance against the regicides who had executed his father, the new King ordered that the surviving ones were to be hanged, drawn and quartered and three of those who had died, including Oliver Cromwell, were to be exhumed and posthumously executed at Tyburn. Their bodies were hung from the gallows on the 30th January 1661 (twelve years to the day after King Charles I had been beheaded) and, after being taken down, Cromwell’s head was cut from his body and placed on a spike above Westminster Hall.
The head was still there twenty-three years later but after that its whereabouts are disputed for almost a century. Most sources seem to believe it was blown from its spike in a violent gale towards the end of the 1680s and vanished from sight. A head claimed to be Cromwell’s was exhibited by Claudius Du Puy, a French-Swiss collector, in a private museum in London in 1710. According to repute, the head was found by a sentry on duty near Westminster Hall who took it home thinking he could make some money from it but hid it when he was afraid of getting into trouble for possessing such an object, the insinuation being that he subsequently sold it to Du Puy.
By 1775 it was certainly in the possession of one Samuel Russell, stated to be both an alcoholic and a failed comedic actor. Russell made an attempt that year to sell the head to Sidney Sussex, Cromwell’s old college, without success. He then approached James Cox (1723-1800), a wealthy goldsmith and toymaker who, like Du Puy before him, owned a private museum. Terms could not be agreed on the price to be paid but Cox eventually contrived to buy the head from Russell in 1787 for £118, significantly less than the £200 he originally wanted for it.
However, we have discovered a newspaper report from 1782 which throws a different light on the head’s missing years. This report says that the head, when it blew from its spike in the gale in the late 1680s did not immediately fall to the ground but instead it lodged out of sight on the roof, only eventually tumbling to earth around the early 1760s. A sentry did indeed then find it and he, at his death, bequeathed it (what an inheritance!) to his wife and daughter.
The daughter subsequently married a man named Mr R___ (Mr Russell?), who appears to be a man from whom she expects some future ill-treatment, a description which could easily fit the alcoholic Samuel Russell. In this newspaper article, Mr R___ tries to sell the head to Mr C___ (James Cox?), without initial success.
We, therefore, speculate that the head exhibited as Cromwell’s in 1710 may have been a fake and that the head really remained in obscurity for some seventy years hidden on the roof of Westminster Hall. Unless that is, the real fake was the one Samuel Russell owned…
From the CALEDONIAN MERCURY
Anecdote of OLIVER CROMWELL.
About twenty years ago, a centinel who was upon guard nigh Whitehall, one windy night, heard something fall from the roof nigh his centry-box. He picked it up, and found it to be a head on an iron bar. He concealed it for that night, until he could have an opportunity of taking it home. Upon inquiry, he was told it was the head of Oliver Cromwell, which had been supposed to have been stolen some years before, but had only been blown down, and lodged upon a part of the roof, from whence it had fallen the evening the centry found it. He took it to the Society of Antiquarians, who comparing it with the bust of the Protector, agreed that it was his real head. They, therefore, offered the soldier fifty pounds for it, – but he refused to sell it for less than an hundred: so that it remained in his possession during his life; and he left it as a legacy to his wife and daughter. Some years afterwards the daughter married, – and the husband, in looking into an old box in the absence of his wife, found there the head concealed. Upon his wife’s return, he asked how the head came to be there deposited? She confessed whose it was said to be, and why she had concealed it from him: she thought it would be a resource to her, to raise some money in case he should oblige her to leave him by ill treatment. The husband took the head immediately to Mr C___; but although he was assured of its being the real head of the Protector, he could not be prevailed on to give the sum demanded by the proprietor Mrs R___.
(Caledonian Mercury, 26th August 1782)
The head was subsequently exhibited by the Hughes brothers who bought it for £230, possibly from James Cox. Their publicist was John Cranch (1751-1821), a self-taught painter and a man known to John Constable who commented to a friend in 1799 that Cranch’s “whole time and thoughts are occupied in exhibiting an old, rusty, fusty head with a spike in it, which he declares to be the real embalmed head of Oliver Cromwell! Where he got it I know not; ’tis to be seen in Bond Street, at half a crown admittance.”
The exhibition was a failure and after languishing for some years the head was sold by a daughter of one of the Hughes to Josiah Henry Wilkinson in 1815 (when the novelist Maria Edgeworth breakfasted with Wilkinson in 1822 she was shown the head).
Eventually, the head did end up at Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge, bequeathed to them by the Wilkinson family, where it was buried in 1960, finally laying it to rest.
Well, who would have believed it, in 1737 a book was written outlining how a woman should behave! It is a fascinating little book as combined with The Duty of a Virgin, a Wife and a Widow we have cookery recipes, modesty, religion and best of all ‘a wife’s behaviour to a drunkard’.
It could possibly have been a Georgian equivalent of a ‘Mrs Beeton’ maybe. The book was written to provide a woman with guidance about how to live her life during all three stages and appears to have been written from a female perspective although whether it was actually written by a woman seems unclear. In all likelihood it was written by a man and there appear to be some suggestions that it could have been written by a William Kenrick, but whether correct or not we will never know as the book had no author named.
Rather than looking at the duties of a woman in this blog we are going to look at the cookery section and for those with an interest in Georgian cuisine it is full of amazing recipes and most notably their immense obsession for adding nutmeg to nearly every recipe! There are recipes for virtually every day of the year, along with meals planners, so no shortage of ideas. Below we offer a sample for your delectation.
Gravy for White Sauce
Take part of a knuckle of veal or the worst part of the neck of veal, boil about a pound of this in a quart of water, an onion, some pepper, six cloves, a little salt, a bunch of sweet herbs, half a nutmeg sliced, let it boil an hour then strain it off and keep for use.
An Oyster Soup
Your stock must be of fish, then take two quarts of oysters, set them and beard them; take the hard part of the oysters from the other and beat them in a mortar with ten hard yolks of eggs, put in some good stock, season with pepper, salt and nutmeg, then thicken up your soup as cream; put in the rest of your oysters and garnish with oysters.
Salmon in Cases
Get a piece of salmon, take off the skin; mince some parsley, green onions and mushrooms. Put your parsley and green onions into a stew pan with some butter , season with pepper and salt then put in your salmon without putting it over the fire again and toss it up to give it a taste; place your slices of salmon in a paper case. Put your seasoning upon it and strew crumbs over all, let it bake to a fine colour. Your salmon being done serve it up with lemon juice for a small entrée.
Fillets or slices of beef larded, marinated with vinegar, salt, pepper, cloves, thyme and onions must be roasted leisurely on a spit and then put into good gravy with truffles and garnished with marinated pigeons or chickens.
Get a pint of fine oatmeal, boil it in new milk and cream, a little cinnamon and nutmeg and beaten mace and when it is about the thickness of a Hasty Pudding, take it off and stir in half a pound of sweet butter and eight eggs (leave out the whites) very well beaten and put in two or three spoonfuls of sack and make a puff paste and lay round your dish and butter it very well and bake it well, but not too much.
Stewed Red Cabbage
Cut your cabbage fine and small, stove it with gravy and sausages and a piece of ham; season with pepper and salt before you sent it away , put in a little elder vinegar and mix it well together which will turn it a reddish colour to serve away hot.
We take a pint and somewhat more of thick cream, ten eggs, put in the whites of three only, beat them well with two spoonfuls of rose water. Mingle with your cream three spoonfuls of fine flour; mix it so well that there are no lumps in it. Put it altogether and season it according to your taste. Butter a cloth very well and let it be thick that it may not run out and let it boil for an hour as fast as you can, then take it up and make a sauce with butter, rose water and sugar and serve it. You may stick some blanched almonds upon it if you please.
Header image: Still Life of a Bowl of Strawberries, Standing Cup, a Bottle of Rose Water, a Sugar Loaf and a Box of Sugar; The Merchant’s House