A History of Lost Sensations 4

A History of Lost Sensations 4

The painting is Life at the Seaside or Ramsgate Sands by W.P. Frith. By modern standards these seaside tourists of 1853 look horribly uncomfortable because they look horribly over-dressed. That it’s a hot is obvious from the number of parasols. But why, we ask ourselves, the bonnets and shawls, the bowlers and top hats, the neckties and the waistcoats? Why is no-one, apart from the […]

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A History of Lost Sensations 3

A History of Lost Sensations 3

The olfactory world of the Victorians was more rank than ours. Let’s start with sewage. Most people know about the Great Stink of 1858, when a heatwave acting on the raw sewage in the Thames produced a stench so overpowering that Parliament was forced to close. Among the reasons for the sewage pollution in the river were the well-meant reforms of the 1830s and 40s […]

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A History of Lost Sensations 2

A History of Lost Sensations 2

In the last blog I offered soundscapes from the present, from fifty years ago and from 1533. What about a hundred and fifty years ago? We think of the modern world as a noisy place and, if you live under the Heathrow flight path, no doubt it is, but I think we’d be surprised by how noisy life in Victorian cities really was. Thomas Carlyle […]

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A History of Lost Sensations 1

A History of Lost Sensations 1

Here’s a modern urban and domestic soundscape: – Unsilenced motorcycle exhausts, burglar alarms, lorry reversing beepers, pings and buzzes from your mobile, other people’s ring tones, humming of fridges, music from builders’ radios, clang of scaffolding poles being loaded and unloaded, rasp of garden strimmers, creak of cooling radiators, rip of opening Velcro, rumble of trains on bridges, drone of microlights, chimes of ice cream […]

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The Retrospective Destinator

The Retrospective Destinator

The Retrospective Destinator   If you follow the link you will find an audio file of The Advertising Copywriter’s Tale (Part One). It takes about fifteen minutes to listen to. The story concerns two men who advertise themselves as follows: ‘Retrospective destinators – Messrs Hancock and Breeze offer a discreet service as makers and menders of damaged or incomplete reputations.’ The idea was suggested by […]

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Joseph Paxton and the Crossley Family – A Tenuous Link, but a Personal One

Joseph Paxton and the Crossley Family – A Tenuous Link, but a Personal One

The photograph at the head of this blog is of the ‘peach cases’ at Somerleyton Hall in Suffolk, which I visited last week. They were commissioned in the 1840s by Samuel Morton Peto, the railway entrepreneur, and designed by Joseph Paxton, then head gardener at Chatsworth House and future architect of the Crystal Palace. One of the wonders of the age, the Crystal Palace outlived […]

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The Waltz

The Waltz

One of the Mr Blackwood  proof readers queried both the appearance of the waltz and the use of dance cards in The Corporal’s Tale, which is set in the year of Waterloo. After further research I replied to her as follows: You’ll be pleased to know that I’ve incorporated all your amendments – bar one. And that, of course, is the waltz. I thought you […]

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A Napoleonic Postscript

A Napoleonic Postscript

Although Mr Blackwood’s Fabularium is set in 1851, some of the stories are set in earlier periods. One of them is The Corporal’s Tale. Corporal Costello is a veteran of the Peninsula War and Waterloo. He was also in the army of occupation in Paris, which is where the events of his tale take place. I found this very hard to research. It took me […]

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Thoughts on a Rainy Day

Thoughts on a Rainy Day

To escape Storm Freya I went to the Russell Cotes Museum in Bournemouth today. Both the house and its contents are an enormous splurge of Victorian bad taste. I couldn’t help noticing the buckets in the conservatory (see photo). Fair enough, I suppose, the wind and rain being so fierce, but I did wonder how watertight most Victorian conservatories were. According the memoirs of Hector […]

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There and back : A tale of two pilgrimages

There and back : A tale of two pilgrimages

Those of you who know the Canterbury Tales will know that Chaucer originally intended each of the thirty-odd pilgrims to tell two tales on the outward journey and two on the return, making one hundred twenty tales in all. Either Chaucer died before completing the scheme or at some stage thought better of it and would have substituted a more modest commitment had he lived […]

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