In the Georgian era strenuous exercise seems to have been something predominantly undertaken by the men, with the main form of exercise for women at that time being around deportment.
Exercise for men was highly recommended! The benefits, according to Professor Voelker, who established his first gymnasium in May 1825, were the obvious one of improved fitness, but also that weak and sick persons recovered their health and these exercises were, perhaps, the only effectual remedy that could have been found for their complaints. The judgement of physicians, in all places where these exercises were introduced, concurred in their favourable effect upon health; and parents and teachers uniformly testified, that by them their sons and pupils, like all other young men who cultivated them, had become more open and free, and more graceful in their deportment.
A subscription to Professor Voelker’s gymnasium was:
1 shilling for one month
2 shillings and 10 pence for 3 months
4 shillings for six months
6 guineas for twelve months.
For one to one tuition, the charge was a guinea per lesson.
Exercises included the following:
Running for a length of time, and with celerity. If the pupil follows the prescribed rules, and is not deterred by a little fatigue in the first six lessons, he will soon be able to run three English miles in from twenty to twenty-five minutes. Some of Mr. V.’s pupils have been able to run for two hours incessantly, and without being much out of breath.
Leaping in distance and height, with and without a pole. Every pupil will soon convince himself to what great the strength of the arms, the energy of the muscles of the feet, and good carriage of the body, are increased by leaping, particularly with a pole. Almost every one learns in a short time to leap his own height, and some of the pupils have been able to leap ten or eleven feet high. It is equally easy to learn to leap horizontally over a space three times the length of the body; even four times that length has been attained.
Climbing up masts, ropes, and ladders. Every pupil will soon learn to climb up a mast, rope, or ladder of twenty-four feet high; and after six months’ exercise, even of thirty-four or thirty-six feet. The use of this exercise is very great in strengthening the arms.
The exercises on the pole and parallel bars, serve in particular to expand the chest, to strengthen the muscles of the breast and small of the back, and to make the latter flexible. In a short time, every pupil will be enabled to perform exercises of which he could not have thought himself capable, provided that he does not deviate from the prescribed course and rules.
Vaulting, which is considered one of the principal exercises for the increase of strength, activity, good carriage of the body, and courage, which employs and improves the powers of almost all arts of the body, and has hitherto always been taught as an art by itself, is brought to some perfection in three months.
Fencing with the broad sword throwing lances, wrestling, and many other exercises.
In 1826 Professor Voelker opened a second gymnasium, so the first must have proved very popular.
Should you prefer to exercise alone then perhaps this machine would suit you needs better.
If you suffer from gout then here we have a satirical image for exercise to improve the condition.
The Every Day Book: Or, A Guide to the Year Volume 1 by William Hone
White’s is the oldest gentleman’s club in London. It was founded in 1693 when it was a chocolate house where people visited to drink hot chocolate and have a chat. Towards the end of the 1700s White’s took rooms on St. James’s at which time they limited membership to a certain number of male subscribers and remains exclusive today.
In the second half of the Eighteenth Century, the passion for making wagers reached its height, in those days many members of White’s were almost addicted to chance. Men would stake their guineas lavishly on any chance that might occur to them, bets ranged from a few shillings to hundreds of pounds.
Never failing subjects for wagers were the duration of a person’s life, the increase of a lady’s family right through to which raindrop on a window pane would reach the bottom first, but curiously enough the Betting Book contained very few wagers on legitimate matters such as sport and athletics. We thought we would share with you some of the bets placed.
William, the 5th Lord Bryon’s love affairs always proved a popular topic for discussion and therefore an obvious choice to place a wager on. Who would he marry?
September 12th, 1746 – Mr James Jeffreys bets Mr John Jeffreys one hundred guineas that Lord Byron is married to Miss Shaw before Michaelmas 1748. If Lord Byron or Miss Shaw die or either of them marries any other person Mr James Jeffreys loses his hundred guineas.
October 20th, 1746 – Mr James Jeffreys bets Mr Fanshaw fifty guineas that Lord Byron is married to Miss Shaw on or before Lady-day next. A Captain Draper also went five guineas with Mr Jeffreys in this bet.
It appears that Mr James Jeffreys won his bet as Lord Byron did, in fact, marry Miss Elizabeth Shaw, the daughter and heiress of Besthorpe, Norfolk on March 28th, 1747.
March 3rd, 1784 – The Duke of Queensbury bets Mr Grenville ten guineas that Mr Fox does not stand a poll for Westminster if the parliament should be dissolved within a month from today. If a coalition takes place between Mr Pitt and Mr Fox this bet is to be off.
A more curious bet Mr Talbot bets Mr Beau Brummell five guineas that one of the editors of the three papers, the Examiner, the British Press and the Chronicle, is committed to prison for libellous matter contained in one of the said three papers before March 29th, 1812.
November 18th, 1817 Mr Bouverie bets Ld. Yarmouth a hundred and fifty that H.R.H the Duke of Clarence has not a legitimate child within 2 years of this day.
Mr Bouverie must have won, as the Duke of Clarence, who became King William IV had no legitimate children.
On November 4th, 1754, is entered the following wager, Lord Montfort wagers Sir John Bland one hundred guineas that Mr Nash outlives Mr Cibber. This refers to two very old men, Colley Cibber the actor, and Beau Nash. Below this entry is written in a different hand ‘Both Lord M. and Sir John Bland put an end to their own lives before the bet was decided’.
The first of these tragedies took place on New Year’s Day, 1755. Lord Montfort’s death and the circumstances of it attracted great attention. He had come to the end of his fortune and had spent vast sums of money on his house, lived in extravagance and no doubt lost heavily at White’s.
The final blow seems to have been the loss of sixteen hundred a year by the deaths on the same day of the Earl of Albemarle and Lord Gage, who presumably paid him annuities during their lives. After this, he became reckless and even staked his life on receiving a government appointment. He hoped to be appointed as the governor of Virginia or to be granted Mastership of the Royal Hounds – he received neither. Immediately after this, he enquired of his friends as to the easiest mode of self-destruction. He allayed these suspicions by asking the same friends to dine with him at White’s that evening. He and his friends saw in the new year together. The following morning Lord Montfort sent for his lawyers and witnesses and having made a will, asked if it would hold good even though a man should shoot himself. He was informed that it would. On receiving this, he asked the lawyer to wait for a minute, stepped into an adjoining room and shot himself.
In September of the same year, the second party to this wager, Sir John Bland of Kippax Park, found himself in financial difficulties reputed to be due entirely to gambling. Walpole said that he had flirted away his whole fortune and that during a single sitting had lost about thirty-two thousand pounds. Sir John shot himself on the road from Calais to Paris.
It could be argued that given members ability to bet on virtually anything that possibly they found it difficult to amuse themselves!
London Evening Standard 22 September 1892
Bourke, Algernon Henry, 1854-1922. The history of Whites [with the Betting Book from 1743 to 1878 and a list of members from 1736 to 1892]
A Club of Gentlemen. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
In the Georgian era, if you weren’t afflicted by gout you were as good as a nobody, it was very much a statement of wealth and class, almost something to aspire to suffer from. Most sufferers of this complaint ate too much rich food and drank even more – port being regarded as one of the most common causes.
Gout was described in ‘A Treatise on the Nature and Cure of Gout’ by Charles Scudamore, written in 1816, as
a constitutional disease, producing an external inflammation of a specific kind; the susceptibility to it often depending on hereditary conformation and constitution, but more frequently wholly acquired; not occurring before the age of puberty, seldom under the age of five and twenty; and most frequently between the ages of twenty-five an thirty-five; affecting chiefly the male sex; and particularly persons of capacious chest and plethoric habit; in the first attack invading usually one foot only and most frequently at the first joint of the great toe; but in its return affecting both feet, the hands, knees and elbows, often accompanied by a fever.
Today, of course, medical knowledge has moved on and we now know that gout is caused by a build-up of uric acid which the body cannot break down and presents as a swelling in a joint, usually the big toe with red skin around the affected joint, as can be seen in this caricature by James Gillray. This being only one of countless caricatures of the day, mocking sufferers.
Where there was illness, there were plenty of so-called doctors ready to offer you a quick fix. So much so that they proudly advertised the efficacy of their product in the newspapers, with claims that they could not just ease the condition, but totally cure it. So confident were they in their products that they provided testimonies apparently from people they had treated such as this one for ‘Mr Gardner’s Pills and Plaisters’.
Wright Esq. No. 40 Duke Street, Manchester Square, was many years afflicted with the gout, is cured by Gardener’s Pills and will with pleasure satisfy the afflicted.
Mr. Watson, Merchant and Underwriter, No. 25 Mincing Lane, seven years afflicted.
Mr. Purser, Talbot Innkeeper, Whitechapel, twenty years afflicted.
If that didn’t take you fancy, then no problem, why not try a more palatable cure?
Spilsbury’s Antiscorbutic Drops. This medicine had undergone a series of trials and held a variety of certificated of efficacy and could cure scurvy, gout, leprosy, rheumatism etc. The drops themselves were reputed to be pleasant to take, required no confinement. They were supplied in moulded bottles, with fluted corners and the words Francis Spilsbury, chemist, his Antiscorbutic Drops, by the King’s Patent, indented on each 5-shilling bottle and were supplied with directions to usage.
Interesting to note that almost half the advertisement seemed to focus on the appearance of the container rather than its contents. Whilst it seems feasible that these drops could help to prevent or cure scurvy, as they were predominantly a form of vitamin C tablets, there seems little evidence that they could have any effect on gout.
So, who amongst the great and the good of the day suffered from gout? well naturally, the Prince Regent, with his excessive lifestyle was a prime candidate and the newspapers reported instances of him having suffered ‘a slight attack of gout in his knee’.
Sir Joseph Banks whose gout became so debilitating that he had to resort to using a wheelchair. Both William Pitt, the elder and the younger were both troubled by the complaint. Pitt, the younger being advised to avoid port and to drink wine instead. If you read the letters of Horace Walpole, you will find countless references on the subject of gout!
Lord Byron, noted in 1814 that King Louis XVIII of France was another sufferer of gout and nicknamed him ‘Louis the Gouty’.
We will finish with an extract from the work of Rev. Jonathan Swift
As, if the gout should seize the head,
Doctors pronounce the patient dead;
But, if they can, by all their arts,
Eject it to th’extremest parts,
They give the sick man joy, and praise
The gout that will prolong his days.
So what were the women of the eighteenth-century like? Well, we came across this publication ‘Sketches of the Fair Sex’ written about eighteenth-century women, so we thought we would share with you a few extracts about the author’s view of women across Europe, although the book provides descriptions and anecdotes from around the world in 1799 plus much, much more! It is not clear as to whether the author was male or female, the author simply described themself as being ‘a friend of the sex’. Please remember these are the author’s views alone and were probably meant to be complimentary when written over 200 years ago!
No women upon earth can excel, and few rival them, in their almost native arts of pleasing all who approach them. Add to this, an education beyond that of most Europeans ladies, a consummate skill in those accomplishments that suit the fair sex and the most graceful manner of displaying that knowledge to the utmost advantage. Such is the description that may be safely given of the French ladies in general. But the spirit, or rather the evil genius of gallantry, too often perverts all these lovely qualities and renders then subservient to very iniquitous ends. In every country, women have always a little to do and a great deal to say. In France, they dictate almost everything that is said and direct everything that is done. They are the most restless beings in the world. To fold her hands in idleness and impose silence on her tongue would be to a French woman worse than death. The sole joy of her life is to be engaged in the prosecution of some scheme, relating to either fashion, ambition or love. Among the rich and opulent, they are entirely the votaries of pleasure, which they pursue through all its labyrinths, at the expense of fortune, reputation and health. Giddy and extravagant to the last degree, they leave to their husbands’ economy and care, which would only spoil their complexions and furrow their brows.
When we descend to tradesmen and mechanics the case is reversed: the wife manages everything in the house and shop, while the husband lounges in the back shop, an idle spectator or struts about with his sword and bag-wig.
Matrimony, among the French, seems to be a bargain entered into by a male and female to bear the same name, live in the same house, and pursue their separate pleasures without restrain or control.
Almost every traveller, who has visited Italy, agrees in describing it as the most abandoned of all the countries of Europe. At Venice, at Naples and indeed in almost every part of Italy, women are taught from their infancy the various arts of alluring to their arms the young and unwary, and of obtaining from them, while heated by love or wine, everything that flattery and false smiles can obtain, in these unguarded moments.
The Italian ladies are not quite so fay and volatile as the French, nor do they so much excite the risibility of the spectator; but, by the softness of their language and their manner, they more forcibly engage the heart.
They are not so much the chameleon or the weathercock, but have some decent degree of permanency in the connections, whether of love or friendship. With regard to jealousy, they are so far from being careless and indifferent, in that respect, as the French are, that they often suffer it to transport them to the most unwarrantable actions.
An Italian female of birth and fortune, bred in the prison of a cloister, is brought forth when marriageable to receive her sentence; and conducted like a victim to the altar, there to be made a sacrifice of to a man whom she hardly knows the face. Among them, we find none of those antecedent homages of a lover, none of those engaging proofs of attachment, which only can secure a reciprocation. In short, no medium of courtship intervenes, and therefore no opportunity is given to create an affection on either side.
As the Spanish ladies are under greater seclusion from general society, than the sex is in other European countries, their desires of an adequate degree of liberty are consequently more strong and urgent. A free and open communication being denied them, they make it their business to secure themselves a secret and hidden one. The Spanish women are little or nothing indebted to education. But nature has liberally supplied them with a fund of wit and sprightliness, which is certainly no small inducement, to those who have only transient glimpses of their charms, to wish every earnestly for a removal of those impediments, that obstruct their more frequent preference.
Unlike French women, their affections are not to be gained by a bit of sparkling lace or a tawdry set of liveries. Their deportment is rather grave and reserved, and on the whole, they have much more of the prude than the coquette in their composition.
Something more than a century ago, the Marquis D’Astrogas having prevailed on a young lady of great beauty to become his mistress, the Marchioness hearing of it, went to her lodgings with some assassins, killed her, tore out her heart, carried it home, made a ragout of it, and presented the dish to the Marquis “it is exceedingly good” said he. “No wonder” she answered, “since it is made of the heart of that creature you so much doted on”. And, to confirm what she had said, she immediately drew out her head all bloody from beneath her hoop and rolled it on the floor, he eyes sparkling all of the time with a mixture of pleasure and fury.
The women of England are eminent for many good qualities both of the head and of the heart. There we meet with that inexpressible softness and delicacy of manners which cultivated by education, appears as much superior to what it does without it, as the polished diamond appears superior to that which is rough from the mine. In some parts of the world, women have attained so little knowledge, and so little consequence, that we consider their virtues as merely of the negative kind. In England the consist not only in abstinence from evil but in doing good.
There we see the sex every day exerting themselves in acts of benevolence and charity, in relieving the distresses of the body, and binding up the wounds of the mind; in reconciling the differences of friends and preventing the strife of enemies; and, to sum up all, in that care and attention to their offspring, which is so necessary and essential a part of their duty.
The English women are by no means indifferent about public affairs. Their interesting themselves in these gives a new pleasure to social life. The husband always finds at home somebody to whom he can open himself, and converse as long and as earnestly as he thinks proper, upon those subjects which he mad most at heart.
It is only a few years since the Russians emerged from a state of barbarity. A late Empress of Russia, as a punishment for some female frailties, ordered a most beautiful young lady of a family to be publicly chastised, in a manner which was hardly less indelicate than severe.
It is said that the Russian ladies were formerly as submissive to their husbands in their families, as the latter are to their superiors in the field; and that they thought themselves ill-treated if they were not often reminded of their duty by the discipline of a whip, manufactured by themselves, which they presented to their husbands on the day of their marriage.
During our August break we decided that as well as posting our own blogs, we would add a monthly roundup of blogs written by other bloggers that we’ve enjoyed reading, a sort of eclectic ‘in case you missed it‘ review.
Our original idea was merely to include Georgian posts given our blog title, but as our new book ventures through the Regency and into the Victorian Era this seems an ideal place for us to include some additional posts that are out of our usual time frame, so we’ve taken a somewhat bolder step of including blog posts from any period that grab our attention and that we think you might enjoy.
We plan to run this post monthly, on the first Sunday of each month. So why not make yourself a drink, put your feet up, relax and have a read. We hope you enjoy our choices, do let us know as we’d love to hear from you.
One of the more obscure sources of information for family historians who are looking specifically at the 18th century, are hair powder certificates. William Pitt the Younger was responsible for a whole series of taxes at the end of the 18th century, including the first income tax, either directly or indirectly to help fund the expensive war with Napoleonic France. The introduction of a tax on hair powder was one such measure.
Individuals who used hair powder were required to purchase a certificate from their local Justice of the Peace for which they were charged one guinea. The list of those that had paid was lodged at the local Quarter Session court and a copy of the list affixed to the door of the parish church by the parish constable. It was common practice also, to fine those who did not pay this tax.
The information included in the list will provide a date, a parish, a list of names and a description being usually the relationship to the head of the household or another role such as servant. So, like a census return, it is possible to piece together some familial relationships.
The lists however will of course be much less complete than a census because most people were not of a status to wear wigs or hair powder and there were also many exemptions such as clergymen with an income of under £100 a year, non-commissioned officers, militia, mariners, officers in the navy below commander and many others. One payment was acceptable for a group of servants in one household.
Contrary to popular belief women did not wear wigs, but simply had the equivalent of today’s hair extensions added to their existing hair. Women mainly powdered their hair grey or blueish grey and from the 1770’s it was never bright white like men. Wig powder itself was made from finely ground starch to which was added lavender, jasmine, roses and scented with orange flower and was occasionally coloured violet, blue, pink or yellow, but was most often used as off-white.
In 1869 the Act was repealed as less than 1,000 people were by that time wearing wigs – maybe it was the cost of paying such a large amount of duty that led people to change their appearance. Certainly, a more natural hairstyle was adopted by fashionable young gentlemen in Regency England.
It is still possible today to find records around the country of hair powder certificates if you contact the relevant archives.
There were, of course exemptions from this tax.
We will finish with this extract from the Derby Mercury 21 September 1797
Samuel Richardson wrote two best-selling novels– Clarissa and Pamela in the 1740′s, published whilst he was living at Parson’s Green in Fulham, a close neighbour of the Earl of Peterborough and his mansion, Peterborough House. Clarissa tells the story of Clarissa Harlowe, a young girl whose family are newly come into a fortune.
First betrothed to Richard Lovelace in anticipation of the Earldom he will inherit, she is then forced by her family to marry a man she loathes, Roger Solmes. Lovelace, intent on marrying her to avenge himself on her family as well as wanting to possess her, tricks Clarissa into running away with him before she can marry Solmes; she is subsequently held prisoner by his before being drugged and raped. Pamela was published slightly earlier tells the story of a maidservant Pamela Andrews whose master Mr B made unwanted advances toward her.
Mr B was infatuated with her looks and her innocence and intelligence, but his position in society prevented him from marrying her, so instead, he abducted her and locked him up in one of his houses, during which time he attempted to seduce and rape her. She, of course, resisted, but over time fell in love with him. He intercepted letters she wrote to her parents, eventually, she tried to escape. Her virtue was finally rewarded when he proposed marriage to her. In the second part of the novel, Pamela attempts to build a successful relationship with him and to acclimate to upper-class society.
The reason for mentioning this is that there are many similarities between Richardson’s stories and one of our future books. It does raise the question was our heroine telling the truth or had she actually read his fictional stories and decided that her life story would be more interesting if there had been more drama in it? You’d have to read our book for the answer to that question.
Samuel Richardson, the Novelist (1684-1761), Seated, Surrounded by his Second Family by Francis Hayman, 1740-41; Tate