Sunday, April 19, 2009


I recently introduced you to Janet Schaw and her Journal. It is but one excellent source for historical interpreters and reenactors to make use of in their role-play today. Once more, my oft-repeated caveat - always make sure the sources used are pertinent, not only to time, but to location. The following observation by Janet Schaw in her writings was c1774 and in South Carolina. Had she visited the New England colonies she would have found a different attitude and approach to:

Candle making and Laundry

“The myrtles thro’ all this swamp is the candleberry myrtle which makes the green candle you have seen at home. They give very pleasant light and when placed in a silver candlestick they look extremely pretty. And here for a moment let me lead you to admire what Nature has done for the inhabitants of this country. This is an Article which every housewife grudges the expense of - here they have it for nothing if they would only accept of it. The cotton is in plenty growing everywhere for the wick if they would take the trouble to spin it. The berries hang to the hand and seem to beg you to gather them but they generally beg in vain - not one out o fifty will take the trouble to make them into candles. The poorer sort burn pieces of lightwood which they find without trouble and the people of fashion burn only spermaceti, and if any green wax it is only for kitchen use. I have seen it prepared however and its process is the most simple you can imagine. When the berries are gathered and picked from the stalk they are thrown into a kettle of water which is set to boil and is kept boiling for a few hours in which time the berries melt almost away. It is then set to cool and when cold you will find the grosser parts have sunk to the bottom of the kettle, while the pure wax forms a cake on the top. To have it fine it requires to go thro’ several boilings and then it will become so transparent as to be seen thro’. All that is further done is only to melt it and pour it into proper moulds when it will afford the most agreeable light a candle can give”.

"As soap and candle are commonly a joint manufacture I will now mention that article which they have here very good as they have the finest ashes in the world. But when you have occasionally to buy it however you meet only with Irish soap and though some housewives are so notable to make it for themselves, which they do at no expense yet most of them buy it at the store at a monstrous price. They are the worlds worst washers of linen I ever saw and tho’ it be the country of indigo they never use blue nor allow the sun to look at them. All the cloaths coarse and fine, bed and table linens, lawns cambrics and muslins, chints, checks, all are promiscuously thrown into a copper with a quantity of water and a large piece of soap. This is set to boiling while a Negro wench turns them over with a stick. This operation over they are taken out, squeezed and thrown on the Pales to dry. They use no calender they are however much better smoothed than washed. Mrs. Miller offered to teach them the British method of treating linens which she understands extremely well as to do her justice, she does everything that belongs to her station and might be of great use to them. But Mrs. Schaw was affronted by the offer. She showed them however by bleaching those of Miss Rutherford, my brothers and mine, how different a little labor made them appear and indeed the power of the sun was extremely apparent in the immediate recovery of some bed and table linen that had been so ruined by sea water that I had thought them irrecoverably lost. Poor Bob, who has not seen a bleaching-washing since a boy was charmed by it, and Mrs. Miller was not a little pleased with the compliments he made her on it. Indeed this and a dish of hodge podge she made for him have made her a vast favourite and she promised him a sheep’s head. But as she rises in the Master’s esteem, she falls in that of the Mistress who by no means approves Scotch or indeed British innovations”.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


on various and sundry matters

On Gentility: An elegant manner and easiness of behaviour are aquired gradually and imperceptibly. No man can say “I’ll be genteel”. There are ten genteel women for one genteel man, because they are much more restrained. (Samuel Johnson as quoted by Boswell - 1776)

On Hair: A very close look at a series of original fashion plates, last half of the 18thcentury, show evidence of the lock of hair just above the ear being cut - no longer than an inch in length. The rest of the front hair is brushed back and up over padding or whatever, according to the individual styles. For this time period the hair is completely off the forehead with no bangs or errant curls.

Of Quills and Quilling and other definitions
An obvious and common definition is the feather of a large bird, often a goose or turkey, formed into a pen by pointing and slitting the lower end of the barrel.

A plectrum formed of a feather for plucking the strings of a musical instrument; in instruments of the harpsichord type, a piece of crow quill set on a jack and put into motion by the keys.

The float of a fishing line made of a quill. - A convenient way to pick the teeth.
Threads wound on a quill, ready for the weaver.

To form small cylindrical plaits or folds, to goffer: thus using papers or fabric or ribbons, or lace. Would you like to quill a ruffle for your cap? Smooth out your fabric strip while wet, place a series of quills (plastic drinking straws0 over and under the strip and let it dry.

On the letter Y
The y in ye, yt, and so on, is a relic of the runic thorn, signifying ‘th’. Some time in the 14th century, the y and the thorn became confused and the y came to serve as a symbol for th in manuscripts and printing. As the Oxford English Dictionary explains, it is now only used jocularly, as in Ye Olde Shoppe, but in the 17th & 18th centuries, ye and other quick forms such as wch were normal. With the exception of yr for your, the y stands for th and is so pronounced. Thus ye is pronounced the.

On Wages:
Prices set by Concord, Massachusetts Selectmen and ordered by the Great and General Court to prevent monopoly and oppression, June 9, 1777 . . . “. .Women’s labor: spinning linen, 5d. per skein, 14 knotted; and other spinning in proportion. Weaving plain common cloth, yd wide, 4 pence half penny per yd. Striped ditto; 5 pence per yard woolen ell wide, 5 pence half penny per yard.

&&& Wednesday 21 January 1784 - Comet seen in Boston
&&& Nov. 29, 1783 - ½ 10 of the clock at Night a Shock of an earthquake in Boston.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


My second-hand copy of Journal of a Lady of Quality: Being the Narrative of a Journey from Scotland to the West Indies, North Carolina and Portugal, in the years 1774 to 1776 is the third printing in 1923 by Yale University Press, and scotch-taped in the front of the book is a letter signed by Andrew Keough, Yale University Librarian, attesting to the fact that the Journal is a genuine document and not a literary fake. If you can beg or borrow a copy you will find it a delight, and a fascinating perspective on the time.

The manuscript from which the text is taken is known as Egerton, 2423 in the British Museum. It is a quarto volume labeled Travels in the West Indies and South Carolina, 1774, ’75.

The writer was Janet Schaw, a lady born in Lureston, a suburb of Edinburgh. She was from an old Scots family and was a third cousin once removed of Sir Walter Scott.
Editor Evangeline Walker Andrews in collaboration with Charles McLean Andrews, a Farnham professor of American History at Yale, has included extensive research and the footnotes and appendices add considerably to this fascinating account.

Janet Schaw was a well born Scotswoman, loyal to her country and her king. In her tastes and preferences an aristocrat, and in religious, social and political views a typical member of the educated class inn Scotland in the latter half of the eighteenth century.

She was possibly thirty-five or forty years of age at the time of her voyage. Accompanying her were her brother Alexander, and three children. Fanny, age eighteen, John Jr. and William Gordon Rutherford, who were returning to their home in North Carolina. Also Mrs. Mary Miller, a maid referred to as an abigail, and Robert who was Alexander’s East Indian servant.

I plan to post from time to time the following as a sampler of her accounts:
*. Hot weather clothing
*. The glamorous and not so glamorous aspects of a ball in North Carolina.
*. A patriotic treatment of tea.
*. The ideal man
* Candle making and laundry

Hot weather clothing:
The heat daily increases, as do the Mosquetoes, the bugs and the ticks. The curtains of our beds are now supplied by Mosquetoes’ nets. Fanny has got a neat or rather elegant dressing room, the settees of which are canopied over with green gauze, and on these we lie panting for breath and air, dressed in a single muslin petticoat and short gown. Here I know your delicacy will be shocked, and I hear you ask if our young man bear us company in this sequestered apartment. Oh yes, my friend, he does, but he is too much oppressed himself to observe us.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

MORE 18th Century WOMEN . . . .

A Dauntless Spirit:
Jenny Andrews was the wife of William Andrews, a farmer from Edinburgh. In 1796 the couple settled on a 200 acres grant at Upper Woods Harbor, Nova Scotia.

She was a woman of quality who married against her parents will. Jenny had a large frame and a dauntless spirit. William’s skill with the flute relieved the loneliness of their home for they had no children and few neighbors.

About 1824 William died, and Jenny, having tested her endurance by walking to Shelburne for a doctor, now carried his body in her arms to Halifax for burial in consecrated ground.

Mlle Clairon was the stage name of Claire Joseph Lerys who was thoroughly disreputable and made a career of it. In Paris her ardors were famous. According to a police report dated 18 September 1748 “This woman is known to have a strong and passionate temperament and to be lascivious in the extreme. She shouts so loudly when she makes love that the neighbors have to close the windows”.

She was so successful that she aroused envy, and as many more eminent people of the day, Clairon was attacked inn obscene pamphlets and songs, printed abroad and smuggled in. From The Hague, where there was no censorship came a brochure entitled “History of Mlle. Cronel [anagram of the misspelled Clairon] called Fretillon [wriggler] written by herself”. It was an immediate hit.

Epitaph of a Female Soldier:
St. Nicholas’ Churchyard, Brighton, England
In Memory of Phoebe Hessel who was born at Stepney in the Year 1713.

She served for many years as a private soldier in the 5th Regt of Foot in different parts of Europe and in the year 1745 fought under the command of the Duke of Cumberland at the Battle of Fontenoy where she received a bayonet wound in her arm.

Her long life which commenced at the time of Queen Anne extended to the reign of George IV by whose munificence she received comfort and support in her later years.
She died at Brighton where she had long resided 12 December 1821 Aged 108 years.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


- from other 18th century letterwriters:

July, 1775 - "I was struck with General Washington. You had prepared me to entertain a favorable opinion of him, but I thought the one half was not told me. Dignity with ease, and complacency, the Gentleman and soldier look agreably blended in him. Modesty marks every line and feture of his face."
Abigail Adams

1775 - "It is unsafe to return to Cambridge, as the enemy were advancing up the river, and fixing on the town to stay in. Thus with precipitancy we were driven to the town of Anderson, following some of our acquaintance - five of us to be conveyed with one poor tired horse and chaise; thus we began our pilgrimage, alternately walking and riding, the roads filled with frighted women and children; some in carts with their tattered furniture, others on foot fleeing into the woods. But what added greatly to the horrors of the scene, was our passing through the bloody field at Monotong, which was strewed with the mangled bodies. We met one affectionate father with a cart, looking for his murdered son, and picking up his neighbors who had fallen in battle in order for their burial."
Hannah Winthrop

October, 1775 - "The desk, the pews and other encumbrances are taken down in Old South to make it convenient for the accomodation of Gen. Burgoyne’s light horse; while the infamous Dr. Morrison, whose character I suppose you are acquainted with, reads prayers in the church on Brattle street to a set of banditti who after the rapines, robberies and devastations of the week, dare - some of them - to lift up their sacriligious hands, and bow before the altar of mercy" . . " I will breathe one wish more; and that is for the restoration of peace - peace, I mean on equitable terms, for pusillanimous and feeble as I am, I cannot wish to see the sword quietly put up in scabbard, until justice is done to America”.
Mercy Otis Warren

And a Different Viewpoint
From the Journal of a Lady, Her Journey from Scotland to the West Indies & to North Carolina
"They had got some news that had not been agreeable, which had been transpired by the arrival of a ship from Boston. This was a battle having happened on a place called Bunkershill . . . I shall not be easy until I go into town to inquire the particulars of this battle. . . . .I have seen a newspaper published by the committee's order, where the whole story of the battle is denied, 'tho it is said that the Americans had made an attack on us and killed many of our officers, amongst others they mentioned Major Pitcairn. I hope this is not the Pitcairn that was married to Miss Dalrymple, as I know many of her relations. But though 'tis false altogether, I hope the publisher will be hanged, for they have vexed me, though I do not believe them."
Janet Schaw


. . . more about the Bas Bleu
The correspondence of these ladies is interesting and this letter was written in 1778to Mrs. DELANEY by Mrs. BOSCAWEN: The Honorable Mrs. Boscawen, daughter of Wm. Evelyn Glanville of Saint Clair, Kent, was always elegant and well bred as becomes the wife of an admiral and mother of a viscount and was widowed in 1744. She was one of the four founders of the bluestockings.
How Hatch, near Warley Camp
October 15, 1778
You are at a loss to know my dear madam where your most kind and agreeable epistle wou’d find me why - had it marched without halting (for I have caught the military style) it would have found me in the middle of a battle. Yes I assure you and a most tremendous battle I thought it un feu terrible and continuel made me wish myself anywhere else still more do I wish that nobody lov’d battles more than I do and then all wou’d be peace blessed peace! which I long for. I have been in this warlike neighborhood ten days, and am now returning to my quiet cottage, with the satisfaction of leaving my dear daughter much better than I found her for alas! she has had a most terrible sprain (of the leg that was broke), and I found her quite helpless upon the couch carry’d and lifted about but now she is able to walk supported by sticks and is quite free from pain I thank God. We have had fine airings however almost every morning; sometimes I get out, and she remains in the coach but yesterday we both dine’d in the Col. of the Grenadier’s tent (that is his Grace of Beaufort), and we were entertain’d with the musick of ye 25th Regt that us’d to play to Her Majesty at Windsor last year; I have been at Lord Petre’s and seen the magnificent and superb preparations he has made for the reception of his royal guests but I can hardly afford to our gracious Queen all that cannonading wch I saw heard and felt last Monday when the army rehears’d something of that whch they are to perform when the King comes. I hope however it will agree with her better than it did with me (who am a coward). The beginning of it was charming when all the army here march’d in battalions by the general and saluted without firing the musick playing but afterwards when the horrid cannon open’d their brazen mouths and all the troops attack’d or defend’d we wou’d have retreated if we could but the light infantry occupy’d the wood thro’ wch we must have pass’d and kept up a continual fire in short I promise myself never to be in another battle and I made it worse by thinking “if such is a mock fight what must a real one be?”

Your account of yourself my dear madam and of the agreeable autumn you have enjoy’d pleases me much and I heard too (from Ly Gower) that she found you quite recover’d. Mrs. Leveson is still at Portsmouth Mr. Leveson is to come in there (to clean I understand) and then go out again. He will be able to make a visit to Lady Gower I shd suppose tho probably a short one. I was very sorry for Ly Thanet. Were you not surpris’d to hear that Mr. Ed. Foley was going to be marry’d to Ly A Coventry? Deux vauriens je crois n’est-ce pas? Adieu dear madam it is late for we had company at supper Ld Winchelsea was one who seems a very agreeable man I think.

I hope you have got the Duchess again and beg my best respects to her Grace.
Faithfully and gratefully yours
F. Boscowen
I hope Mrs, Port is well and poor Mrs. Smith better

Monday, April 6, 2009


I have always been interested in this departure from what high society deemed appropriate at that time. Much of this commentary was in my earlier publications of the "The Circle of the Rose".
Or Bluestocking Stories:
The aim and inspiration of the BasBleu, or English Salon, was to enjoy society in "blue stockings" that is without the forms and ceremonies of fashion.

MRS. MONTAGU and MRS. VESEY are said to have invented the art of conversation as a Social Function. There was no hint of affectation then attached to the word bluestocking, which was indiscrimitately applied to men and women.

A lightening sketch of a "Conversazione" by MRS. THRALE reveals the normal mingling of the sexes: "Mrs. Montagu was brilliant in diamonds, solid in judgement, critical in talk. Sophy smiled, Piozzi sang, Pepys panted with admiration,, Johnson was good humoured, Lord John Clinton attentive, Dr. Bowdler lame and my master not asleep. Mrs. Ord looked elegant, Lady Rothes dainty, Mrs. Davenant dapper, and Sir Philip's curls were blown in the wind."

HANNAH MOORE refers to "a very pleasant comical dinner" of "only nine females" as a startling experiment - and she adds that "we all agreed that men were by no means so necessary as we had been foolish enough to fancy".

They took up serious activities without neglecting the social amenities. Above all they dissociated themselves from Swift's "woman of quality, who scrawled and spelt like a wapping wench". They found no shame in studying the classics, a little science, and a good deal of philosophy. They established the right of women to use their minds and charm mankind by their wits.

Always ladies, not pedants, they regarded life with intelligence and common sense, formed their own opinions, followed their own tastes; and accomplished something toward the ideal of a gay and frank comradeship with brilliant and learned men.

MRS. DELANEY was often regarded as their doyenne although she was not an active Bas Bleu. She did provide an example of femenine distinction that other ladies were content to follow. She was a beloved friend of Their Royal Majesties.

The so-called Queen of the Bluestockings was ELIZABETH MONTAGU. She had a constant stream of conversation and was a very extraordinary woman who "displayed such powers of ratiocination, such radiations of intellectual eminence, as are amazing".

MRS. VESEY, "The Sylph", had a gay and volatile nature, and abhorring a formal arrangement was wont to push all the small sofas, as well as the chairs, pell mell about the apartments, and even placed the seats back-to-back so that individuals could or could not converse as they pleased.

All the Bas Bleu ladies were ardent Richardsonians, but MRS. CHAPONE's link with the great novelist was extremely close. Some of his most attractive female characters were based, it is said, upon her.
. . .to be ontinued . . .

Sunday, April 5, 2009

18thc WOMEN: Known - Unknown - Little Known

Elizabeth Smith was born in Chatham, Massachusetts on 15 May, 1735. On the 16th of July in the year 1752 she married Archelaus Smith. The following account is of their coming to Nova Scotia to take up land.

Archelaus had sent for his family to come from the Cape to Barrington in Nova Scotia. Reports about the Indians caused him to send a message to Elizabeth to postpone her trip, and then Archelaus headed for home, departing through the west passage.

As he left, Elizabeth and her four children were already heading through the east passage in Captain Eldad Nickerson's vessel. Finding herself quite alone she sought the assistance of some fishermen who made her a log shelter and left what provisions they could when they went away.

Archelaus was storm-stayed and unable to get back that winter with food and their house frame, but Elizabeth and her four were helped from time to time by some of the Indians and she fought off the bears with fire brands.

Ruth Parker, wife of thirty-four year old Nathaniel Parker of Pepperell, Massachusetts watches her husband as he stares moodily into the fireplace. Does Nathaniel see a battlefield in the glowing coals? In four months he will lie dead in the trenches of Breeds Hill. Ruth will stand alone beside their five children, facing her own battlefield.

The following obituary appeared in the Inverness Journal of 17 July 1812. "Died lately in the Parish of Knocklando, County of Elgin, an eccentric character known as Red Jean, or Jean Roy. She disliked her own sex, and always pretended to be a man, weariing a kilt, jacket and blue bonnet. She generally worked as a day laborer."