J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

How You Will Spend Your Christmas Vacation

I’m quite pleased to have stumbled into Georgian London, Lucy Inglis’s blog about life in the capital of the British Empire in the 18th and early 19th centuries, and especially life in the capital’s underside.

This week’s posts are dedicated to Hannah Glasse, author of The Art of Cookery, with extracts from her writings. Inglis writes:

Hannah was born in 1708 in London, but raised in the North. She married John Glasse, a man in service and moved with him first to Essex, then to London. As a wife and mother, Hannah spent her time producing the enormous Art of Cookery, but the year it was published, by subscription, her husband died. She struggled to support her family, despite the huge success of her book and it seems likely she was taken advantage of. Hannah would go on to write more books, but nothing equalled the success of her mammoth cooking and household manual, and she died in 1770 with only a short note in the London Gazette to her name.
Of course, that was more notice than most women who had been in service received.

Other topics aren’t so appetizing, such as Inglis’s discussion of the hard lives of child chimney sweeps:
Should any of these boys survive to adolescence, they were prone to the serious malady ‘soot-warts’. For decades it was believed to be a venereal disease resulting from sooty love-making, probably because it arrived at the same time as puberty. It was Percivall Pott, in 1775, who recognised it as the first occupational cancer in his treatise Chirurgical observations Relative to the Cataract, the Polypus of the Nose, the Cancer of the Scrotum. Pott’s treatise is not for the faint-hearted or for anyone in possession of a scrotum…
But there are some happy stories, such as the prosperity of the dwarf couple Robert and Judith Skinner:
With such a large family to support they decided, in 1742, to exhibit themselves in Westminster at intervals over two years in order to raise some money. They were quite the characters about town, being described as ‘very good-looking, perfectly straight and well made, witty, intelligent and jocose’.

Their exhibition proved very successful and they had a small carriage made so that they might tour St James’s Park, ‘No larger than a child's chaise, drawn by two dogs, and driven by a lad of twelve years old, attired in a purple and yellow livery’. After the two years they retired and lived in comfort until Judith died in 1763. Robert isolated himself and died the following year in Ripon, ‘of a broken heart’, leaving a fortune of over twenty thousand pounds.
There are also lots of big pictures. I don’t think one can navigate the blog by date, so one is left to the tags, which are intriguing enough to keep you there for days.

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