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Lost PropertyWe have all experienced that kind of day when we switch on the rolling TV news channels and find there is not much going on. A slow day for news we call it, and for the news channels it must feel like the silly season comes more than once a year. They have to scrape out the ridiculous, the ephemeral, the shallow vapid tales and make them newsworthy – persuade us we want them. The same goes for our daily newspapers, and it has to be said, the online news and blogs. Has that changed in three hundred years? Judging by the evidence derived from contemporary newspapers of the mid-eighteenth century, it appears that it has not. In 1764, it was thought worthy to add a paragraph to one London newspaper concerning someone's pet parrot who had laid four eggs over a period of ten days. Then there was some letter about the militia 'dancing' to music during exercises! Dotted interlinearly between the serious and the ridiculous are the stories, adverts and announcements that were considered of some importance to individuals, such as petty crimes and pleas for lost property, but to us, these may appear unintentionally amusing. And out of interest, what about Mr William Shakespear below? Doing his duty for poor old Isaac Elias – "if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?"

'Northern climes have always been observed to be most favorable to population, but we seldom meet with so curious an instance as the following, communicated to us by a correspondent at St. Petersburgh. There now lives in the district of Schuiske, a villager of the name of Foedor Vassili, who, of two wives he married successively, has had a very extraordinary number of children. The first, in 27 years, made him father of 69, having had four at a time at four successive births, three at each of seven following lyings-in, and two at a time in 16 more. The second wife was brought to bed only eight times; at six of her births she had two at a time, and three in the two ones subsequent, so that the above two wives in 35 lyings-in, made him father to 87 children, four only of whom died young, and his family now consists of 83!'

'A Gentleman in Suffolk writes thus to his friend in London: "Whilst you have horse and foot patrolling to protect you from the poor Spitalfields Weavers that are up in arms thro' want of their daily bread; we have at Bury 500 of our Militia learning to dance, and march to the sound of the fife. The new recruits are exercising morning and afternoon, without arms, to teach them first to make use of their legs. Picture to yourself a very awkward country fellow, whose legs are always left half a yard behind him, teaching to move to music, and stand upright. The scene is better conceived then can be expressed: To me it is excessive droll; though I heartily pity the poor Serjeants, and think they need more patience than Pedagogues: but let me do the justice to those who have been taught the exercise, to say, they are quite equal to the regulars, and both officers and men do that credit to their country which a well disciplined Militia was intended for, and may serve every other good purpose of a standing army."'

'Chelmsford, Nov. 16.
Monday the Fair began here, and Cattle in general sold dear. At Night a Tradesman found his Son in Company with a common Prostitute, and on desiring him to leave her, was refused; on which the Father got a Warrant, took up the Woman, and carried her before a Magistrate, who ordered her to the House of Correction; but as the Constable was conducting her, some young Bloods knocked him down, and carried off the Nymph in Triumph. In the Fray the Constable lost his Hat and Wig.'


'Yesterday John Eason, a soldier, who was on a recruiting party at Walton upon Thames, Surry. was committed to the New Gaol in Southwark, by William Shakespear, Esq; for breaking open a room, and robbing Isaac Elias, a travelling Jew, of his box, containing money, jewel, plate, and other effects, to a great value.'

A Plea
'If the benevolent Author of a Pamphlet, called the History of a Gentleman cured of HEATS to his face, would be so good, as by a line in this paper, to be particularly explicit, how the drops of the medice he reats of called Red Speedwell, are made and how many are to be taken in the day, and where the herb is to be procured, he will oblige one who hopes for relief from the use of them, and to be indebted to them for the benefit.

'Dr Lowther's Nervous Powder [for]
A Relaxation of the whole Nervous System, attended with Tremors, Lowness of Spirits, and great Dejections, Retchings, Startings, Hectic Heats, Wailing of the whole Habit of Body, greatly oppressed with Wind, Want of Appetite, indigestion, and violent Reaching for many Years, &c.

Lost Property
'Left in a Hackney Coach that set a Gentleman down at Westminster-hall Gate, on Friday the 25th of February last, between Six and Seven o'clock in the evening, a Row of ARTIFICIAL TEETH. Whoever will bring the same to Mr Meckleson, dentist, in Coventry-street, Piccadilly, shall receive a Guinea reward.

An Announcement
'This morning Laurence Richardson, esq; of Hampton Hedges in Leicestershire, was married to Miss Sally Essex, of Kensington; what renders the union remarkable is, that each of the parties have lost an eye, and were both born the 26th day of June, 1740.

From the Gossip Column
'Two or three absurd paragraphs have crept into our paper within this day or two, fabricated with the elegant design of giving uneasiness to one of the few amiable and repectable Ladies of St. James's. It is needless to observe that the paragraphs alluded to were written in a female hand, and the orthography required no small degree of correction!

Finally, this delightful piece of sarcasm about Sally the Small, subject of many articles on my other blog, Theatre History:

'Wonderful Intelligence. – "Sally the Small is as well as can be expected after her lying-in." To which we may add, by way of companion to this, that "yesterday died Jowler, only dog to Mr. Marrowbones, of Clare-market." – And now the public have information enough for one day!'

And that just about sums it up, only Yahoo OMG could do better. I must dash, having a hectic heat.


All stories taken from various London newspapers: London Chronicle, Morning Chronicle, Westminster Journal etc. between 1766-1795

The harmful vogue of Chinoiserie

18th Century Digressions, Occupations & Trades, The Georgian Home 1 Comment »


 'Chinese Baubles'

The growth of my passion for all things to do with the eighteenth century coincided with the success of retailers such as Past Times. Leafing through their gift catalogues whilst sipping from a glass of Pinot Grigio became a happy distraction and a moment to slip away from the present. The displays of decorative arts or chinoiserie wallpaper helped complete a fantasy that I could have my entire home ornamented in a vogue that reached its peak between 1750 to 1765.
   For many an eighteenth century wife, the style seemed to become a de rigeur home accessory for the fashionable much to the frustration of one commentator: 


Through the ignorant taste of the present times, ornamental China has become a universal fashion, and the veriest tradesman's wife within the weekly bills, would look down upon herself a downright Tramontane, unless she had an urn or a Mandarin on her chimney-piece. This pernicious custom has been a great loss to our carvers and dealers in looking-glass, who formerly supplied the ornamental part of our chimneys, and by that article alone, employed a prodigious number of hands, whose labour was extremely serviceable to the community; this circumstance, therefore is a fresh reason why the East India Company should be laid under some immediate and salutary restraints, as nothing can justify our allowing any set of adventurers an exclusive right to prejudice any manufacture of the kingdom”.
London Chronicle

 The writer continued to express his concern that thousands of pounds derived from the sale of such objects would go east to the Indian Princes, who would “acquire millions to squander on some European instrument of tyranny and murder”, while our industries are oppressed for the importation of “Chinese baubles”.
   These words were written as the fashion began to wane and décorative styles moved towards neoclassicism. The chinoiserie vogue faded and the impetus for the great British industrial engine was about to move up a gear and place these islands at the centre of new modes of manufacturing.

Catherine Palace

Lonely Hearts letters and the Pre-Nup, 1740

18th Century Digressions, Love & Marriage, Society and Politics 1 Comment »


I know if I have a very fine, beautiful, accomplished young Lady, (and Such a one only will I have) my Money must buy her'

Whilst searching through a number of 18th century newspapers, I was fascinated to read a Lonely Hearts Ad (1740) by 'Solomon Single' regarding his quest for a bride. The letter elicited a number of responses from 'females', three of which were submissive invitations to proceed further, one was a letter of cautious encouragement, though to settle for a widow (like herself) and the last was an angry verbal assault on vanity.
   My first reaction to them was that I was reading fake and contrived responses from 'females', caricatures of women from various sections of society: a widow, a gentlewoman, an actress coquette, a gullible fated maid, a chambermaid and probably a scold; the names or pseudonyms of the letter writers seemingly derived from the pages of The Old Bachelor. However, was 'Solomon Single' equally the butt of the same observations or genuine?
  The recipient and publisher of these letters was 'Henry Stonecastle', a pseudonym for the naturalist Henry Baker, proprietor of the Universal Spectator. As well as devising a system to instruct the deaf and dumb, Baker was also the son-in-law of Daniel Defoe and a member of the Society of Antiquaries and the Royal Society. 'Mr Stonecastle' ostensibly acted as agony aunt for the Universal Spectator, advising a Simon Wiseacre who was torn betwixt keeping a housekeeper and a wife because 'to keep a house-keeper is far more expensive than to keep a wife', to marry Mrs Mary… his house-keeper. 

The Letter from Solomon Single

As your Paper is calculated for the Fair Sex, and comes to the Hands consequently of a great Number of pretty young Ladies, I address this Letter to you, as the Contents of it regard their Interest as well as my own. You must know that I am an old Batchelor, worth forty thousand Pounds, in my Sixty-third Year, or thereabouts, somewhat infirm of Body, but perfectly Sound of Mind: I have always been averse to Marriage, but am now willing to enter into that holy State on such Conditions as will be hereafter specify'd. Having safely got over the Rigour of the late Severe Season, which has swept so many of my Age away, I am inclin'd to think from some sensible Juvenilities I perceive about me, that this Spring will make me twenty Years younger than I am, and that when Lent is over, then entering into the Bands of Wedlock would conduce much to my Health as well as Happiness. – Having such an Intention, and such a Fortune, you may wonder that I want a Match. Why, Sir, I know well enough that might not be long wanting would I But disclose my Mind to some Ladies; but, Sir, I am very bashful, and at this Time should not care to go through the least Formality of Courtship: I know if I have a very fine, beautiful, accomplished young Lady, (and Such a one only will I have) my Money must buy her; therefore I endeavour to get such a Purchase with as little Trouble as possible, and that is my Occasion of writing this Letter to you.

  'I have heard, that when Persons of my Wealth and Age marry such young Ladies as I have described, they are us'd very ill by them when they are in any Sickness; and that sometimes the Doctor or Apothecary, or Nurse, or something or other helps them forward to the other World, that the young Widow may the large Jointure settled on her: For which Reasons, Mr Stonecastle, that I may be under no Apprehension of having my Pillow pull'd from under my Head in a Fit of the Phthisick; and that I may have all due Care and Comfort administer'd to me by my Wife, I do propose to any young, beautiful, accomplish'd young Lady, who will take me for her wedded Husband, to give her three thousand Pounds down on the Day of Marriage and to settle on her six hundred Pounds per Annum, during my natural Life; but on the Day of my Decease the said six hundred Pounds per Ann. shall entirely cease, and go as I shall think proper to dispose of it by my last Will and Testament, she having no Claim or Title to any Part thereof.
You must see my Meaning by this Scheme; 'tis her Interest to have me live as long as possible: If any Lady, such as I have describ'd, will accept of this Proposal, let her send a Line to you, and on your advertising the Receipt, you shall hear from

  Yours, Solomon Single'.

Mr Stonecastle: 'If any Lady, after a very nice Calculation of the Value of such a Marriage, thinks proper to accept Mr Single's Proposal, on her writing to me I shall obey his Directions'.


Answers from several Ladies to Solomon Single's Proposals of Matrimony


'I have some Share of Beauty I heartily believe, not only from Self Flattery of our Sex, but because all the gay Londoners I have ever seen told me so'

'Worthy Sir,
our Intention to enter into the holy and comfortable State of Matrimony, truly bespeaks that Soundness of Mind which you declare yourself to have: Nor need you complain of your Infirmity of Body, when you have got over the Rigour of the late severe Season and even in this cold Spring can from sensible Juvenilities think yourself twenty Years younger than you are: But as you are bashful, and hate the least Formality of Courtship, I don't see how your Proposal can be made effectual but by one Method : A maiden, young, Lady could not in Modesty accept of it abruptly without a little Formality of Wooing; Such a Forwardness might shock your Batchelorlike Delicacy, and yet a young handsome Woman you would have.—What then can you do?—Take my Advice—Chuse a young handsome Widow—She has been courted, and won't stand on Punctilio's, and knows what's what.—As you have liv'd to these Years, and was never married, if you take a young puling Wench that never was married, Matrimony will be very awkard to you both, and neither of you will know how to behave to one another.
  'Now, good Sir, if you have a Mind to a brisk, young, handsome Widow, about twenty-one, who buried a very pretty young Fellow about Christmas last, I am  your Woman ; and it will be a proper Match I assure you: I dare swear I have Beauty enough for you, and you have Money enough for me, and I'll administer as much Care and Comfort to you as you desire-taking at the same time all due Regards to a Life, which will be without Flattery, dear Sir, so precious to me.
  'Your Speedy determinating, and an Interview, will oblige
Your Well Adviser Susanna Briskly, New Bond Street'


I Read your Proposal of Marriage this Morning, and considering every thing, I cannot think it disadvantageous to that Part of our Sex who have more Youth and Beauty than Wealth. I therefore, Sir, think it worthy of Acceptance, if the following Character of myself is worth your Esteem.
   'I am a Maiden Gentlewoman, brought up always in the Country under the Care of an Aunt, who, as I had no Fortune to be a polite Lady, taught me how to be a most notable Housewife and Oeconomist; and that I have some Share of Beauty I heartily believe, not only from Self Flattery of our Sex, but because all the gay Londoners I have ever seen told me so. Thus I think I am, according to your Description, sufficiently accomplish'd for your Spouse. As I may venture to say I may be agreeable, I positively assert I can be serviceable to you—I can make Jellies, and Soups, and Candles. -Things very comfortable and nourishing to a Person in his sixty-third Year.—I have read Culpeper's Dispensatory, and also Salmon's, and have some curious Books of Receipts admirable Nostrums by me, which I myself transcrib'd from my Aunt's Grandmother's Sister's Memorandums.——You will want no Doctors and Apothecaries, and if you like me, and find I take due Care of you, if you have a Mind to make me a Fee extraordinary, so be it. I am (as far as Modesty)

Dorothy Notable, Hertfordshire, March 24'



'Thou art an old Fool.-Grow wiser, and die a Batchelor'

I Look'd over your Letter several times with great Attention : I read that you worth forty thousand Pounds—forty times over, but do not altogether approve of your not continuing the six hundred Pounds as a Jointure after your own Decease. However, I take you to be a good Sort of a Gentleman, and have therefore so far trespass'd on my own Prudence, and risqu'd my Honour by writing to your Sex in my own Hand, and sign'd it with my own Arms.—I don't intend to make a Secret to you who I am, therefore I accept of your three thousand Pounds, on the Day of our Marriage, and six hundred a Year,-even during your Life only.-Nor when I tell who I am, think I have base mercenary Views alone—I have often been a Confident to a Crown'd Head-a Dutchess's Coronet has encircled my Brow at frequent Coronations; —yet I am but in my nineteenth Year.-In short, if you have a Mind for a fine heroic Lady, an Innocent rural Shepherdess, or a divine dancing Goddess, you may send a Billet-doux by your Slave, directed to Miss Flirt, behind the Scenes at • •  • • Theatre, according to which you shall have a proper Answer
from Lucy Flirt. • •  • • Theatre Green Room'


It was with the highest Delight that I read your Letter in the Spec; for, to be frank with you, I have long had an Ambition to marry some rich old Batchelor; and besides it is my Destiny, as I have been told by above a Hundred Fortunetellers.—It is surprizing to see how things fall out; I was shewn in the Coffee-Grounds just such an old Gentleman as you describe yourself, the Morning before I read your Letter, and on consulting Mrs. Foretell since, she says you are the Husband I have been so long waiting for. Don't think by my waiting long that I am an old Maid, for I am nor at my last Prayer to have any rather than fail, tho' my Stars have decreed me
Yours, Tabitha Hopewell'.

I am a Chambermaid to one of the finest Ladies in Town, am young, and by some Advances my Lord has made to me, have reason to say I have Beauty, and if I was your Spouse I wou'd shew the Town I had all the fashionable Accomplishments of it. With these Endowments, I am willing to accept of your Proposal, as your Rank of Life will give me an Opportunity to make an Eclat in the World, which wou'd more agreeable to my Humour than to bury myself in a dirty Country Village with Mr. Prim, our Chaplain, between whom and me a Treaty of Marriage is now on Foot.—A speedy Answer by the Spec, may if you please, determine me ever so subscribe myself.

Yours, Harriot Pinwell'.

'To an old Batchelor, who calls himself Single.
Friend Single,
I have read thy Letter, and thy vain Proposal to the young Maidens of this Land: I perceive by thy mentioning thy Juvenilities in thy Sixty-third Year, thou art an old Fool.-Grow wiser, and die a Batchelor.
Rachel Downright'

Solomon Single's Reply

'To all the Ladies of Great Britain, Maids or Widows.
My Friend Rachel Downright has judg'd right of me, for my sudden Fit of Juvenility has ended in a Fit of Rheumatism; therefore, without giving other Reasons, am determined to die a Batchelor.

Solomon Single'


I am interested in your feedback regarding these letters. Any thoughts? Are we viewing them through 21st century eyes? What are your thoughts on context and interpretation?

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