Bristol – where you can sell your wife for half a crown

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Unbridled passions! Sibling rivalry! Threatened suicide! Wife selling! A party down the pub!

What more could you want from this news report of 1787? Not only does it give a lively insight into love and marriage in the eighteenth century, but it proves once and for all that Bristol is a city where romance never dies…

- Chelmsford Chronicle, 12th January 1787

Bristol, Jan 6. – A correspondent who may be relied on has sent us the following:– Two brothers of the name of Scott, who live at Wookey, being equally captivated with the charms of a female of Wells, the daughter of one – Lovell, a mason, paid their addresses to her: when the elder brother perceiving that she manifested a partiality for the younger, declared, that unless she would accept his hand at the Altar of Hymen, he would hang himself – The tender-hearted nymph, to prevent so melancholy a catastrophe, promised to gratify his wishes, and they were accordingly married on Tuesday se’nnight, but the parties soon found themselves so much deceived in each other, that on Saturday last the husband actually sold his bride (with her own approbation) for a half a crown, to his brother, to whom he that evening delivered her with a halter round her neck in the presence of a large party at a public house, where the purchase money contributed towards the expences of a convivial evening.

-Thomas Rowlandson, Selling a Wife (c1812–14)

Carnivalesque #88

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Hello and welcome to the 88th edition of Carnivalesque – I shall be your hostess this month. If you need me, you’ll find me behind the bar. While I help this shrieking young muck-spout to another quart of gin, The Georgian Bawdyhouse presents for your delight and delectation a collection of some of this month’s most fascinating early modern history blog posts.

I’ll start off with a few exploring depraved subjects dear to my old heart: early modern crime, lewdness and disorder.

At Early Modern Whale, we are introduced to The Unnatural Practices of Elizabeth Pigeon, an “appalling, cunning and dangerous” woman rampaging around Southwark and busying herself with sinful extra-marital projects in the mid-seventeenth century.

In an unfortunate sexual encounter rather less calculated but even more distressing for her victim in 1791, Jen Newby tells the story of “seasoned metropolitan whore” Susannah Hill over at Writing Women’s History.

The ever fabulous Madame Guillotine takes a detailed look at the sinister and scandalous life of Erzsebet Bathory, a Hungarian Countess reputed to be the most prolific murderess in history.

More on the supposed crimes of early modern women in an account of the Pendle Witches four hundred years after their trial at the Public Domain Review.

Giblet-guzzling and chain-vomiting abound in the History Hack’s really rather disgusting but compelling post on the ‘entertainment’ provided by The Hibernian Canibal of 1699. Heave.

Of course, Europe was not alone in its early modern misdemeanours, and Executed Today details the first recording hanging in what would become the United States, that of Daniel Frank in 1623 (poor starving fellow only helped himself to someone else’s calf).

There were also a lot of great posts on the history of print this month…

Over at Many-Headed Monster, Brodie Waddell explores early modern precedents of the comic strip in early examples of sequential art, including Hogarth’s notorious Moll Hackabout and, fascinatingly, an obscure pictorial tale from 1683 following an unfortunate gent as “Satan tempteth him from his Study to evil company”. Really fantastic stuff.

Showing an equal fascination with the intricacies of early modern print, Sarah Werner – self-professed future Empress of Folding – has achieved the admirable feat of producing her course syllabus in quarto. That, ladies and gents, is dedication.

I really enjoyed this beautifully illustrated instruction in How to Read like a Renaissance Reader from Adam G. Hooks at Anchora, inspired by early manuals to schooling and education.

As I am a big fan of eighteenth-century ephemera, I can’t leave these out from the Lewis Walpole blog: a collection of printed bills from Georgian inns and a bill for various entertainments in eighteenth-century Birmingham (featuring “the Flying Phenomenon, whose wonderful Leaps have been the admiration of all Ranks, in all Courts of Europe!!!”). Wish I could’ve seen it. Sigh.

And as there was so much great stuff this month, an early modern miscellany to round things off…

Susan Abernethy offers an exploration of the glamorous, tragic life of Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun, talented artist and close companion of Marie Antoinette over at Saints, Sisters and Sluts.

Sally Osborn treats us to some insight into how to clean your teeth like a true Georgian gent. Sulphuric acid and cuttlebone, anyone?

A detailed discussion of the sixteenth-century cosmos in Attitudes towards heliocentricity before 1610 at The Renaissance Mathematicus.

Fascinating Civil War letters from the pen of parliamentary soldier Neremiah Wharton as he grumbles and pillages his way around Buckinghamshire, lovingly transcribed by Gavin Robinson at Investigations of a Dog.

Sylvia Morris at the Shakespeare Blog delves into becoming a courtier and ideal masculinity in sixteenth-century Italy, and considers what Italian conduct writer Castaglione might have thought of Shakespeare’s Richard III.

Elena Carrera discusses the uses of anger in medieval and early modern medicine at QMUL’s brilliant History of Emotions Blog (featuring an etching of a terrifying angry man).

The macabre doodlings of a seventeenth-century anatomy student form the basis of a thought-provoking post on desensitisation and learning emotional detachment through dissection at The Chirurgeon’s Apprentice.

Possibly pushing it a bit taking ‘early modern’ to the mid-Victorian era (a debate I frequently find myself embroiled in), but this photo of Brighton Swimming Club in 1863 is too brilliant to miss: Top hats and swimming trunks from Chris Wild (aka the Retronaut).

And, to play us out on this 88th History Carnival, rustic musicians, dancing monkeys, elves and cats walking on two legs at The Fairy Ballet Carnival from BibliOdyssey. Do pop by again.

What to do with a nagging wife?

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Plagued by your scolding wife? Or a drunken husband?

This eighteenth-century relationship advice could work a treat. Just give them a gallon of gin first thing in the morning, and a peaceful existence will be yours to enjoy.*

- from A New Fortune-Book (undated)

* I do not recommend murdering your spouse by drowning them in gin, not even a bit. Don’t let anybody tell you I do.

If the land lubbers have been pumping your hold, I am off…

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Ah, romance!

I came across this shining example of the eloquence and fidelity of the jolly Jack Tar in a collection of fictional love letters from 1799. What a lucky girl dear old Sall is! I sincerely hope she didn’t suffer any dastardly land lubbers to paddle in her dock, for everybody’s sake.

From a Sailor just arrived in the Downs, from a long Voyage, to his Mistress at Wapping.

Deer Sall,

This is to let you know, that we are just returned from a long cruize, beyond the Atlantic, where we had hard blowing weather, some calm, and plenty of sound blows, but thanks be to God, we have brought home our timbers and rigging unhurt, and a good deal of kelter in the hold. I hope Sall, during my absence, you did not suffer any of the enemies to fall foul of your quarter deck, and that I shall find my frigate tight and in good condition, lying in ordinary, and unmanned, as I left her, for d––n my e––s, if I find that any of the lubberly fresh-water sailors, have been paddling in your dock, but I’ll throw up the command, and look out for a merchant ship, well freighted; and you know I can have one in a giffey, if I but throw out the signal to chase. There’s Moll Scrapital, you remember this yourself, told me before I went, that she would have me, and buy me out of the ship, but then d––n my e––s, I liked you better, and so, if so be as how you have behaved yourself well in the service, while I was on the look out for the enemy, why I will have you, but, if I find that the land lubbers have been pumping your hold, I am off – so that’s all. Direct to me, Mr John Mainmast, midshipman, on board the Invincible, man of war, my own ship, mind in the Downs.

No more from

Deer Sall, 

Your kind lover, 

J.M.

Varieties of Lewdness, 1795

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According to a ‘Physician of Bath’, the sexual tastes of eighteenth-century Englishmen were becoming increasingly irregular. After pointing an obligatory finger at all foreigners – and absolving women by asserting that, left to their own inclinations, all they could ever think to do with a man’s mouth would be to kiss it, or rub it with a greasy dish-cloth (?!) – the author proceeds to list the most common peculiar sexual predilections.

While some – ‘The Flogging Cull’ and ‘The Back Door March’ – seem clear enough, my mind is well and truly boggled by some of the others.*

Any ideas, gentle readers? Answers on a postcard, please. Or the comments section at the bottom. Don’t be shy.

The ladies in general, it is said, are averse even to the innocent varieties of love; and never, with their free consent, will act in a direction contrary to the good old established custom. Men, on the other hand, indulge themselves in all the varieties suggested to their imagination, by a depraved and craving appetite.

To excite and exercise the wits, to inform the reverend clergy, to entertain the curious; and, that posterity may not be ignorant, how the irregulars of Venus, at this time of day, contrive to spend their amorous moments, we here subjoin a syllabus of the names of the chief culls, or the letches, said to be most prevalent. If in some cases, an explanation may be thought necessary, and if doubts should arise in the mind of any curious enquirer after truth; we must beg leave to refer such critics to the lady abbesses of Saint Mary-le-bonne, King’s Place, or Covent Garden, where they will not fail to receive the most ample satisfaction.

The Hair Cull – The Oral Cull – The Singing-Bird Cull – Scotch Music – Hand-Insurance, or Turnwrist Plowing – The Hanging Cull – The Pitcher Cull – The Running Cull – The Crying Cull – The Cooking Cull – The Glove, Stocking, and Shoe Cull – The Chicken-bone Cull – The Bawdy Cull – The Frightening Cull – The Flogging Cull – The Ring Cull – The Second-hand Cull, or Hot Rowl and Butter – The Looker-on – The Blown-up Cull – The Sanguinary Desire – The Exquisite – The wilfull Mistake of Ports – The Gomorrah Minuet, or Back Door March.

- A Safe Conduct through the Territories of the Republic of Venus, 1795**

* The word “cull” was usually used in reference to a man, and was commonly applied to those visiting bawdyhouses. Francis Grose gives the following definition: “CULL.- A man, honest or otherwise.”

** For the sake of brevity (and clarity), this passage has been edited down a bit. If you’d like the full version for research just get in touch.

The man who buried himself alive, 1753

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Lancastrians know how to have a GOOD TIME.

Lancaster, May 24. The following Story, however strange it may appear, is undoubtedly true: A Man who lived at the side of a Common near Galgate, within three Miles of this Place, has lately buried himself alive; not according to the common Phrase, for he has actually done so. He digged his own Grave some Months ago, and told one Person his intention: The Strangeness of the Story soon spread it abroad, and induced many People to go and see this Grace; but the noise it had made had pretty near subsided, and the Country People’s Curiosity was almost satisfied, until last Week, when a Gentleman, who had seen the Grave, going to the Place a second Time, in order to shew it to a Friend, to their great Surprize actually found the Man dead in the Grave, wrapp’d up in a Blanket, with his Face downwards, and a large Thorn laid over him. How long he had lain there is uncertain; but he had not been seen for three Weeks before he was found. He was always look’d upon as a miserable Fellow, and lived like a Hermit.

- from the Oxford Journal, Saturday 12 May 1753

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