I'm missing 18th century London. My novel, The Posture Girl, is with my agent and with it has gone my excuse to explore the stinking streets of the burgeoning capital. I miss the white hair powder, the corsets and the Drury Lane Theatre. I miss the home brewed gin and the sponging houses.
The Cabinet of Lost Minerals
In 1810, Sir Charles Greville's substantial collection of minerals were bought by the British Museum for a small fortune. Yesterday morning, before the public came, I met with the Minerals Curator to search for any of his specimens that we could find - over 200 years later.
The Story of Admiral Nelson in Cape Town
I love a good afternoon tea. Landing in Cape Town to a feast of cucumber sandwiches and scones at the Mount Nelson was heavenly. Nearly. The long history of racial inequality and stories of our Anglo Saxon empire endure in surprising ways.
Tokens of Love
After the festivities and the feasting, my mind turns to the tokens that mothers left to identify their babies at the Foundling Hospital in the 18th century. These pathetic scraps of hope are probably the most poignant objects I've ever seen.
Voyeurism and Rowlandson
We live in an abundantly voyeuristic period, where we can find anything that arouses us online. Yet, the 18th century artist, Thomas Rowlandson, illustrates that voyeurism isn't a modern phenomenon. Perhaps it's human nature.
The Season of Grottos
From late November, it's impossible to go anywhere in London without coming across a grotto. Some are for the whole family, some are made of cardboard and wrapping paper, some are Victorian-themed, but they all house a man in red with a long, white beard. Is he the 21st century oracle?
My Search for Snuff
It seems that the once popular and refined pastime of inhaling finally ground tobacco through the nostril is now an alternative, fringe activity. I found a couple of biker websites where the chat turned to where in London good snuff could be bought.
Naked Nymphs and Horny Satyrs
I popped into the Wallace Collection yesterday, after having lunch with my brother near Oxford Street, and found myself entranced by the erotic miniatures in the Boudoir Cabinet. Nestled between the Study and the Boudoir on the first floor of Hertford House is a windowless, murky room where paintings small enough to hold in your … Continue reading Naked Nymphs and Horny Satyrs
George Romney and the Kendal Mint Cake
I went into a hiking and outdoors shop a couple of weeks ago to buy a head torch for my daughter. And as I was paying, a rectangular, flat packet in blue and white plastic next to the till caught my eye. “Romney’s Kendal Mint Cake” was emblazoned in white on dark blue across the … Continue reading George Romney and the Kendal Mint Cake
London in the 18th century was a city of spectacle and display. Any interest or inclination, albeit scientific, prurient or thrill seeking, could be satisfied for money. And perhaps one of the most grotesque of these popular distractions was the exhibition of unnatural humans: "monsters" or "freaks".
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