Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Here Comes the Bride...18th century style

The Marriage of Stephen Beckingham and Mary Cox, 1729, by William Hogarth
Ahhh, June, the month so often associated with weddings. Having just attended a lovely wedding in the green hills of Vermont, I began pondering the brides and their wedding dresses of yesteryear, 18th century brides to be exact. As always, I find the best place to get a feel for the life and fashion of an earlier era is to peruse the paintings of the time and, when possible, photos of actual dresses preserved within the care of museums. So, dear Readers and wedding dress aficionados, I happily present you with a bevy of 18th century bridal beauties for your enjoyment and edification. Perhaps you will find inspiration for your own wedding! (Oh, and pay close attention to the gowns at the end of the post which could double as wedding reception tables!) 
Late 18th Century care of Historic New England
Mid 18th Century, care of Historic New England

Wedding scene from Ramsay’s The gentle shepherd, Act V,
Printed for G. Reid and Co., 1798 
The Lewis Walpole Library at Yale University
1780, Victoria and Albert Museum, London
1759 care of the Rijkmuseum, Netherlands
1766, care of Royal Armoury Collection, Sweden
Have a good week, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now! 


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

18th Century Vacation Destination...taking to the waters of Bath, England

Bath, England (per: Wikimeida Commons, public domain)
Now that the summer season has arrived, it’s vacation time here in America and in other places around the globe. I believe it’s called “on holiday” across the Pond in Great Britain. With a variety of activities and guests I, myself, am expecting over the next couple weeks, I will be taking a short (one week) vacation from my blogging once this week's post has published. 

So where did our 18th century ancestors spend their free time for rest and recreation? Of course many never had the luxury of taking time off from their daily toil but for those who did, especially those living in or near England, one of the first such destination spots was that of Bath (England, this time, not little Bath, North Carolina of which I wrote on May 7, 2014.)
Roman Bath in Bath, England (per: Wikimedia Commons public domain)

The town of Bath, England was blessed with natural hot springs and utilized as a place of healing all the way back to the times of the Roman occupation. Although known even earlier for its restorative qualities, the Romans built the first bath houses, as well as a temple, around AD60 and named the spa town, Aquae Sulis (“the waters of Sulis.”) Sulis was a Celtic goddess, referred to by the Romans as Sulis Minerva. This goddess was often asked to punish individuals who had stolen from others while at the baths. Stone tablets have been found with inscriptions imploring her help in such matters. One reads, "Docimedis has lost
Goddess Sulis Minerva at Bath ( per: Wikimedia Commons)
two gloves and asks that the thief responsible should lose their minds and eyes in the goddess' temple."

Over the years, many additional bath houses were constructed for the sick, lame, or just plain tired to “take the waters” for healing of mind and body. Once Anne, Queen of England, visited Bath in 1702, it became THE place to go on holiday. As might be expected, other recreational activities flourished along with the waters, especially those involving gambling, music, wining, dining, and dancing. 

A fairly epic poem, “A Description of Bath” was written in 1733 by Mary Chandler, a resident
             Princess Amelia of Great Britain, 1738, by Jean-Baptiste van Loo
of the town, expounding the attributes of Bath and dedicating the writing to Princess Amelia, daughter of King George II, after her time spent there. She was sickly as a child but was quite healthy as an adult, living to the age of seventy-five. (Not to be confused with Princess Amelia, daughter of King George III who, after years of various illnesses died at the age of twenty-seven.) In order that you may get a taste of how Bath was viewed by the people of the time, I have printed, below, several verses from Miss Chandler’s poem. At the end of this excerpt, the poet refers to a “wonderful machine” which was a new-fangled method of pulling rocks down from the mountains in order to use them in the making of more buildings for the town.

From “A Description of Bath” by Mary Chandler, 1733

…To sing the Town, where balmy Waters flow, 
To which AMELIA'S Health the Nations owe…
 Prior Park (Bath), 1750, Engraving by Anthony Walker

…Safe from the Ruin of a thousand Years
These salutary Streams alone can boast 
Their Virtues not in thrice five Ages lost. 
The floating Waters, from their hidden Source, 
Thro’ the same Strata keep unerring Course; 
The flowing Sulphur meets dissolving Steel,
And heat in Combat, till the Waters boil: 
United then, enrich the healing Stream, 
HEALTH to the Sick they give, and to the Waters, FAME…

…THE Min’ral Streams which from the BATHS arise, 
From noxious Vapours clear the neighb’ring Skies: 
When FEVERS bore an epidemic Sway,                                             
Bath inside Queen's Bath, 1806 Aquatint by J.C. Nattes
Unpeopled Towns, swept Villages away; 
While Death abroad dealt Terror, and Despair, 
The Plague but gently touch’d within their Sphere…

…BLEST Source of Health, seated on rising Ground, 
With friendly Hills by Nature guarded round;    

From Eastern Blasts, and sultry South secure; 
The Air’s balsamic, and the Soil is pure

…THE BATHS adjoining form two ample Squares, 
Around the Walls the Roman Art appears; 
Niches and Arches there the Bathers find,                                                  

Roman Bath, Bath, England (per: Wikimedia Commons)
A Shelter from the Rain, and blust’ring Wind. 
BLADUD himself sits Guardian of the Streams, 
Whose noble Virtues give them Royal Names…

…NOT far from hence, a Bath of gentler Heat, 
The tender Virgin finds a safe Retreat  
From Sights indecent, and from Speeches  lewd, 
Which dare not there, with Satyr-Face, intrude. 
Just in the midst a Marble Cross there stands, 
Which Popish Minds with pious Awe commands, 
Devoid itself of Powe’r to heal our Woes,

Yet, deck’d with monumental Crutches, shows 
What mighty Cures this wond’rous Pool has done, 
And these the Trophies from Diseases won… 

…The lovely Landscape, and the silent Stream, 
Inspire the Poet, and present the Theme.                                                  
Round the green Walk the River glides away,         
Where ‘midst Espaliers balmy  Zephyrs play,             
And fan the Leaves, and cool the scorching Ray:        
View the brown Shadows of yon pathless Wood; 
And craggy Hills, irregular and rude
 NATURE sports romantick:  Hence is seen
The new-made Road, and wonderful Machine,
Self-moving downward from the Mountain's Height,
A Rock its Burden of a Mountain's Weight...

Have a good (2) week(s), dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now! 


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

18th Century Women Gone Wild...female pirates you need to know

Anne Bonny and Mary Read from an illustration by Benjamin Cole
for Defoe's A General History of the Pyrates
Much is written and known of those "manly men" of the high seas, the pirates of the Golden Age of Piracy (1715 to 1725,) but what of the ladies who set sail, throwing caution and convention to the four winds? Hollywood has given us a few movies featuring these women such as Against All Flags and Cutthroat Island but, most often, women have been portrayed as hapless victims of those leering, lecherous, and otherwise no good sea-going bandits. Enter upon the historical stage or ship's deck, as the case may be, two female pirates who really lived the brigand's life: Mary Read and Anne Bonny.
Calico Jack Rackham, woodcut illustration
from Defoe's A General History of the Pyrates

In late spring of 1719, the infamous, flamboyantly dressed pirate, "Calico Jack" Rackham brought his men to Nassau, Bahamas to receive the pardons Governor Woodes Rogers was handing out to pirates who agreed to go and sin no more. Of course, a goodly number of those reformed pirates simply took the pardons as a temporary means of enjoying their plunder unmolested by the authorities and Rackham was no exception. While living the life in port, Rackham fell in love with Anne Bonny, the wife of another pardoned pirate, James Bonny. The feelings were mutual so the enamored couple asked Mr. Bonny for an annulment of his marriage to Anne so she would be free to join her new-found love, Calico Jack. Having grown accustomed to his wife's many extra-marital dalliances and with no love lost, Bonny consented as long as he was financially compensated. Rackham agreed and sought a reliable witness to the bargain. Unfortunately, that witness went straight to Governor Rogers and tattled on the trio. With much righteous indignation, Rogers proclaimed to Anne Bonny, if she went through with the annulment, she would be sent to prison and her lover forced to whip her. Oh my, my my. According to historical researcher and author of The Republic of Pirates, Colin Woodard, Anne's response was she "promised to be very good, to live with her husband and keep loose company no more." 
Anne Bonny from Defoe's A General History of the Pyrates
Right. To avoid such interference, Rackham and Anne Bonny simply took their relationship out to sea and the pirate resumed his former occupation with the help of his lady love by his side.

One of Anne Bonny's Nassau buddies was a woman by the name of Mary Read who, had for years, dressed like a man and sailed the seas with impunity. The two ladies were well known by Nassau inhabitants to curse with all the raw vehemence of any of their male counterparts. For several months, Rackham and his crew, along with his two lady pirates, plundered ships and laid waste those who would get in their way. One of their captives later testified at trial, the women would wear the usual female finery aboard ship until a potential victim was spied, then they would dress like men and fight along side the pirates. Another former captive, fisherwoman Dorothy Thomas, later told the courts she was terrorized by the women who cursed and swore they would kill her if she testified against them. Thomas said she could only tell them from the other crewmen by the manner in which they filled out their shirts!
                           Mary Read from Defoe's A General History of the Pyrates

In October, 1720, Captain Jonathan Barnet (a privateer given orders to bring Rackham and his crew down) fired upon the pirate ship. Most of the crew was too drunk to fight back and fled down into the hold leaving the two women to fend for themselves. According to Defoe's A General History of the Pyrates, Anne Bonny yelled down to the cowering pirates to come back up and fight like men. When no one met her challenge, she fired into the hold, killing one man and wounding several others. The ship and its crew were taken and sent to Spanish Town jail in the Virgin Islands. On November 18, 1720, the day Calico Jack was to be hanged from the gallows, it is reported Anne Bonny was allowed to see him one last time. Her words? "I'm sorry to see you here, but if you had fought like a man you need not have hanged like a dog."

As far as the trial of the two women pirates went, on November 28, 1720, they were both found guilty and sentenced to death but both "plead their bellies" (meaning they were both pregnant at the time and by British law could not be hanged until their innocent babies delivered.) After medical examination they were, indeed, proclaimed pregnant and their sentences set aside. Neither woman was ever hanged by the neck until death, however. Mary Read and her unborn child died in prison in April, 1721 when she became ill and died amidst a violent fever. Her grave is at St Catherine's Church in Jamaica. There is no record of Anne Bonny's execution or death by other means nor of what happened to her and her child.  Colin Woodard speculates her wealthy South Carolina plantation owning father may have come to her aid and bought her freedom. Who knows? There may, to this day, be little Calico Jacks and Pirate Queen Annes running around the streets of Charleston causing all manner of mischief!      

Have a good week, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now!