250 years ago today Robert Burns was born. Today people all over the world will gather to celebrate his life and work. Why? Who was Robert Burns? He was a Scottish farmer-poet and you will know one of his songs even if you’ve never heard his name. Auld Lang Syne, the song the world sings at New Years…that’s Robert Burns! Technically he died before “The Regency” began, but his poetry heavily influenced the poets and politics of the nineteenth century. Read more…
Last Tuesday I spent the day in London. I was early for the morning 9:26 train so I sat there in the cold watching endless people come and go almost all of them wearing black or at least some sort of black coat. I felt like I was on the set of The Damned. I must have looked like a circus freak in my happy multi-coloured striped wool sweater (my Fairy godmother sent it to me for Christmas) worn over my bright orange sweater (they really do match). My sister Sarah will be relieved to hear I did NOT wear my white knitted cap that rides up and makes me look like I dream of being the Pope. My hair looked really good and I felt really beautiful! It was probably the magic lipstick my Fairy godmother also sent me (I have an amazing Fairy godmother). So there I was all Joseph and his Amazing coloured dream-sweater and trying to remember not to put my feet on the opposite train seat because they arrest people for that heinous crime over here and I don’t really want a police record. The ruling Labour Government, when they were at school all read George Orwell’s 1984 and mistook it as a handbook. It must be true because they seem determined to recreate it, but never mind the unelected Mr Brown and his mindless-minions. I’d decided I was going to have a fantastic day. Read more…
Wealthy Georgians desperate to have a child in 1780 would have heard about Dr James Graham’s Grand Celestial bed with curiosity and hope. (Lord Cranston’s parents tried it without success.) Dr Graham rented a house in Pall Mall and constructed this contraption that he advertised as an aid to fertility. Patrons paid £50 a night for a chance to use it. In modern money given the fluctuating state of inflation one night would have cost over 4000£ (that’s about $7000 US dollars) for the privilege of spending one night in a bed, but this was no ordinary bed! Dr Graham (a real doctor who became known as the Doctor of Love) designed this bed himself as an aid to procreation. It was based on his previous experiments with electrocution and magnetism (and I assume his own fertile adventures).
Quite often I accidentally come across strange Regency related information. (I plan to start sharing these nuggets of the weird and bizarre regularly if you’re interested). Today I was perusing the Gutenburg Project with the intention of reading Edgar Allan Poe and looking up Mary Wollstonecraft’s The Vindication of the Rights of Women. I read “The Purloined Letter” and then out of curiosity I thought I’d skim through the list of authors starting with A. I ended up in Anonymous and came across the title, “Goody Two Shoes”. Having spent most of my teen years in the 80’s this title conjurs up that irritating song by Adam Ant. It was a phrase that I assumed had come out of the 1940’s or 50’s. But no…it was a book. I clicked on it and found that it was a children’s book first published by John Newbery in 1765. The following excerpt is taken from the preface of a Victorian edition. It’s like a peep-hole through time.
“…in 1802, (the Regency link) Charles Lamb in writing to Coleridge (the poet), said–
If you tried to list all the people who changed the world, the list would long and inevitably incomplete because we’ll never know who invented the wheel or the genius who figured out how to make soap, however, can even Einstein or Newton even remotely compete with the genius who invented “The pillow” ? I don’t think so! Because without a decent nights sleep, would Einstein and Newton have been able to do their thing? Au contraire! This morning I had a Eureka moment. I’ve been sleeping for months on this pillow which I thought was good for me because it’s a special neck supportive pillow only as the months passed my poor neck has been feeling decidedly unloved and the last few months I’ve been waking every morning with an aching neck and an aching lower back that I have to stretch out before I can do anything. I’m not Einstein, (obviously or I’d have bought myself a new pillow months ago) but I knew there could only be several reasons for this change; the mattress had died (it was guaranteed 20 years and we’ve only had it nine), my stress level is so off the scale that I’m going catatonic (stress over what?), the rubbish chair I sit in while obsessively writing has caused me repetative strain injury (definitely a possibility so I’ve stopped being lazy and now wheel the Goblin’s superior chair into my room every morning), I’ve been abducted by aliens every night and used as a guinea pig or my poor neck…and this seemed most likely…was being ruined by my evil pillow.”
While eating my dinner, instead of watching another episode of Hercule Poirot on You Tube, I read this great blog I came across last month. In one entry this woman, who wasn’t inclined to exercise, decided to set a goal for 2008 to run thirty minutes one hundred times in the year. She made it and she had all these adventures doing her runs which made me almost wish I felt inclined to such self-torture (almost) but reading through the comments…one person remarked that the entry had brought to mind the song “I Ran So Far Away” by A Flock of Seagulls (one of stupidest names ever thought up for a pop group). She was right…and as I thought about it I had to go buy it. I’m listening to it as I sit here digesting my pizza and fighting off the temptation to go eat a slice of chocolate cake (topped with cream and cherries and cranberries). It should be my theme song (if you know the tune sing along) And I ran…I ran so far away….so so so far away…from the chocolate cake!