History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

29 October 2012

The Epicure’s Almanack

Yes, I have a new research book…one I’m really enjoying. It’s The Epicure’s Almanack (1815) edited and annotated by Janet Ing Freeman. The introduction alone was nearly worth the rather hefty price. It included basic information I’d never known or understood before, such as what it means for a business to be a “house”, “tavern”, or “shop”. “Shops” don’t have designated space for eating, but are only for “take out”. “Taverns” (as opposed to public houses) are dedicated to wine, not beer and ale. Many—indeed it would appear most—coffee shops and pubic houses also kept rooms that people could hire, and were in fact, a form of inn or hotel. 

A few favorite tidbits:

John o’Groat’s, near modern Piccadilly Circus, had tables laid ready for dining (cloths, silverware, glasses, and even had a priced menu on the table just like what we’re used to today. 

You could get a curry in London as early as 1773 (at the Mistress of Norris Coffee-House in Haymarket), and there was even a curry house with hookahs! It was opened by Deen Mahomed, who later went on to open bath houses in Brighton, received a royal warrant from both George IV and William IV, and even published a treatise on “shampooing”. I’ve located the treatise on Google Books, but have yet to follow the rabbit down the hole and read it. Hoping for insight into the hammams of the era (which, unlike bagnios, were respectable).

The Chapter Coffee-House had all the British newspapers, as well as most of the monthly journals, magazines, reviews, and circulating pamphlets. Much like a library, the patrons did not speak, except when placing orders with the waiters. 

One of the amusements of fairs, boxing matches, etc. was “tossing the pieman”. You threw up a coin, the pieman called heads or tails, and if he was right, he kept the coin and gave you nothing. If he was wrong, you got your pie and kept your money. 

People, even fashionable ones, actually lived at the hotels and inns and coffee-houses. They list a widowed countess who made her home at just such a place in Mayfair during the Season. There’s also plenty of information about the cost of food items and whole meals, as well as the cost of rooms. A person whose means might not stretch to renting a house could take a decent suite of rooms in a good part of town (two bed chambers and a private saloon, meals included) for somewhere between 20-30 guineas a month. 

Tattersalls had a coffee-room of its own, where they kept a registry of bets of the turf, and where they held a high court to determine the legality of disputed debts of honor. I love this bit “You may sometimes behold a right honorable selling a well-bred puppy, with a pedigree longer even than his own will be for generations to come.” 

Lest you think the book only covers the haunts of Mayfair and St. James’s, there are also interesting notes about places like the Sessions’ Eating-House (across from the Old Bailey), whose “principal business is to supply the poor prisoners, and those good Christians who visit them in prison.” It also warns those who visit certain taverns near the docks to be wary of East India Crimps (men who shanghai you into service). 

All-in-all, I’m going to call it money very well spent! Ideas for new books are already swirling ...

22 October 2012

Perfect freedom of action

Lively St. Lemeston, the small Sussex market town at the heart of my next two (at least) books, is the first town I've written about. In for a Penny takes place on a country estate, and A Lily Among Thorns is set in London. But towns were becoming more and more important in England during the Regency as the balance of the economy shifted, with more jobs being created in industries and jobs in agriculture being lost. Of course there were the great factory towns (most of them in the North of England) like Manchester, and London itself increased greatly in size in the period, but even small towns saw growth and change.

One thing I learned was that "town" covered a huge range of sizes. ("City" had a pretty specific meaning in period: a town with a cathedral, that is, the center of a Church of England see, and didn't really denote anything in terms of size.) I imagine Lively St. Lemeston having a population of about 1500. But what I have to remember is that that sounds a lot smaller to me (my high school was bigger than that) than it would have to a Regency English person. Because there were many fewer urban areas and long-distance travel was fairly impractical for most people, even a town of that size could have a very well-developed social and political life, with its own Assembly Rooms, clubs, theatres, libraries, workhouses, jails, newspapers, &c. &c.

But one thing a lot of towns lacked was effective infrastructure. Most towns had very low taxation, in some cases only enough to pay for an annual feast for the town councilmen. The primary taxes were the poor rates, which paid for whatever form of welfare the town provided and which were administered through individual parishes (of which some towns had several, and some towns had too few to actually service the potential congregation, since the parish boundaries were usually hundreds of years old). There was no income tax, and even though a national one was briefly passed during the Napoleonic Wars to fund the army, it was immediately repealed when peace came. Any new expenses, such as streetlights or improving the roads, often had to be provided for in an Act of Parliament, and they could be difficult to get passed if the measure was controversial in the town.

One measure that was almost always contoversial in England at this period was an expanded police force. It's hard for me to wrap my head around how people in the eighteenth century thought about government. Growing up in the United States of the present day, I take it for granted that I pay taxes to the government and in return, they maintain the roads, provide public schools, have fire and police departments, run community centers, fund social programs like Medicaid, SSI, and welfare, and make laws that regulate my day-to-day life.

In eighteenth century England, that simply wasn't the case. Furthermore, crime was very different. Before mass production and the relative cheapness of consumer goods that industrialization brought about, all personal property was extremely valuable. It was possible to make a living only stealing handkerchiefs. (Sorry, I've mentioned that before, but it really blew my mind.) The most common form of crime was non-violent property theft. (Compare pickpocketing, relatively rare now, to mugging, relatively rare then.) In rural areas, where people knew their neighbors, anonymous crime was so difficult as to be almost non-existent. People just didn't see the need for any larger police force than the parish constable. And huge numbers of people financially benefitted from the constant organized theft, poaching, and smuggling going on all around them, so it was hard to muster public support for stopping it.

(I know I'm ignoring sexual assault and child abuse, probably a form of crime that was as endemic then as it is now. But it's hard to talk about that in this context because the laws and attitudes around it were so different that I'm not sure how much it would have entered people's minds when thinking about the advantages or disadvantages of policing.)

In 1822, a Parliamentary Select Committee on Policing the Metropolis concluded that, "It is difficult to reconcile an effective system of policing with that perfect freedom of action and exemption from interference, which are the great blessings and privileges of this country."

Perfect freedom of action and exemption from interference. Definitely not something most modern people expect.

Of course, it didn't help that the police forces that did exist were either ineffectual or corrupt or both. This was largely due to the extremely low pay of the officers (parish constables were not paid at all), who were generally obliged to personally pay the costs of prosecuting any criminal they brought charges against, and received a monetary reward on a successful conviction. This led to a situation where the police forces were as notoriously corrupt as the Gotham Police Department.  Whether the average citizen knew it, I can't say, but criminals certainly did. Bribery was common, streetwalkers paid night watchmen for protection, police swore under oath to Parliamentary Committees that "flash houses" (basically headquarters for London criminal activity, sort of combination brothel/fence/boarding house/gaming dens/you name it)  did not exist even though it was public knowledge that they did.

You can see something of the public attitude toward night watchmen in this Cruikshank illustration for Life in London, entitled "Tom Getting the best of a Charley." ("Charley" was a nickname for the night watchman.)

Image copyright The Museum of London. (Of course, rich young men being rude to cops continues to be a popular subject for fiction, but they don't get away with it much anymore. I still fondly remember that time on Smallville that Lex Luthor had to attend anger management seminars after smashing up a traffic cop's car with the golf clubs he was planning to donate to a charity auction. And didn't Logan Echolls do something similar on Veronica Mars?)

Here is another entry from James Hardy Vaux's Dictionary:
WEIGH FORTY: term used by the police, who are as well versed in flash as the thieves themselves. It is often customary for the traps, to wink at depredations of a petty nature, and for which no reward would attach, and to let a thief reign unmolested till he commits a capital crime. They then grab him, and, on conviction, share (in many cases) a reward of 40l., or upwards; therefore these gentry will say, Let him alone at present, we don't want him till he weighs his weight, meaning, of course, forty pounds.
And don't even get me started on some of the really shocking cases of entrapment I've read about--that's another whole post!

But crime got worse and worse, and public opinion was turning against capital punishment, the traditional deterrent of crime (partly, of course, because it was fairly ineffective as a deterrent, and made juries reluctant to convict anyway). Clearly something had to be done, and many towns did pass Policing Acts. One alternative that great numbers of towns tried were prosecution associations, which raised money through member subscriptions to pay for the prosecution of criminals.

A Policing Act is one of the biggest local political issues in Lively St. Lemeston, and most of my characters have an opinion of one kind or another (my Sweet Disorder heroine's mother will bore you for hours with hers). But for now, they just have a constable and a paid night watchman. This makes it an interesting place for the hero of my next book, Crimson Joy [ETA: since retitled True Pretenses], since he's a con artist with a London background...

I'll probably be posting more about this, but in the meantime, a few links to further reading if you're interested:

"The Origins of Policing and Law Enforcement in England," by Stevie Woods at The Macaronis historical romance blog.

"Night Watchmen Through the Ages (with a little help from Richard Armitage)," by Cheryl Leigh at Historical Hearts.

An extended quote from Government and Community in the English Provinces, 1700-1870 by David Eastwood at my tumblr; it was too long to include here but it has some great insights into the whole context of how people were thinking about crime, private property, and public spaces in this period and how that was shifting.

A couple of other great sources on the topic are The English Town, 1680-1840: Government, Society and Culture by Rosemary Sweet and The Regency Underworld by Donald A. Low (although that one mostly deals with London).

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15 October 2012

Motherhood, Copy Edits, & Fashion

I've been going through the copy-edited manuscript of my next book, The Paris Affair. My last chance to tweak the prose before publication and all inevitably the time I find myself double checking a bunch of research minutia, adding in things like description of gowns, verifying word usage, etc... . It coincided this week with unexpected car trouble, the power going out, and a morning visit to a nursery school my daughter may some day attend. All of which is a round about way of explaining why instead of writing a new post, I'm recycling one I wrote for my own blog, with a few embellishments and updates.

This post is a favorite of mine because it combines two topics dear to my heart - being a mom and (at the risk of sounding frivolous) fashion. I confess I love clothes. I love putting together outfits each morning, choosing accessories – it’s like a chance to create a costume and decide who to be that day. My friends will testify that I have a tendency to dress up much more than I need to – why not wear heels and a dress for an afternoon of writing in a café? (which in fact is what I'm wearing as I write this post). Why not wear a cocktail dress to a casual dinner with friends instead of leaving it hanging in the closet? Why not wear a long gown at the smallest excuse? Last night was Mélanie's 10 month birthday. We went out to dinner with a friend at a nice restaurant where we wouldn't look out of place in jeans (after all jeans rarely look out of place anywhere). But instead I wore an LBD and Mélanie wore the her "princess" party dress (which previously belonged to two other little girls) because the pink tulle skirt always puts a smile on her face.

It’s probably a sign of shallowness, but I confess that one of the things i wasn’t looking forward to about pregnancy was finding things to wear. I was afraid getting dressed wouldn’t be fun anymore. But as it happened, I found I enjoyed the challenge. Fortunately I love empire-waisted dresses, so some things already in my closet worked through pregnancy. A black jersey dress I splurged on at a post-holiday sale a few years ago got me through everything from meetings to lunches to cocktail parties. And I found I was able to buy new clothes that weren’t maternity clothes, including a gauzy taupe dress that looks like a short version of a Regency gown which among other things was great for two baby showers and Thanksgiving dinner with a variety of cardigans. Realizing that my diaper bag was going to double as my purse, I bought a big Longchamp tote in a nice solid brown instead of something floral patterned.

I went home from the hospital in another empire-waisted dress I’ve had for years with a good neckline for nursing. And thus I went from the challenges of pregnancy dressing to the challenges of new mother dressing. A lot of my friends loved the fact that they didn’t have to dress up when they had new babies. For me it was the opposite. I wanted to curl my hair and put on makeup and wear dresses and heels. Part of it was that it was the holiday season when Mélanie was born, so there were lots of parties and special events. But part of it, I think, is that it was a way to hang on to who I was. I love being a mom, but I still wanted to be Tracy. My baby gift to myself was a new black dress with lace sleeves (which you can see me wearing in countless photos including the one above). When Mélanie was less than two weeks old, we got up at almost the crack of dawn the morning after Christmas and went Boxing Day sale shopping at Union Square in San Francisco. I was delighted to see lots of others parents with young children (everyone with strollers was using the elevator) as well as moms with teenage daughters which made think about trips with Mélanie when she’s older. The need for clothes that work for nursing provided an excellent excuse for shopping (I fear I’m all too good at find excuses for shopping). I learned that surplice mock wrap bodices are great for easy, discreet breastfeeding. I found a wonderful dress in this style at Teddy http://www.shopteddy.comin New York that goes everywhere from writing afternoons to to meetings to dinners out. I got in two colors on two different trips.

But while I’m still able to have fun with clothes, it’s not quite the same as before. There was the night I went to the symphony with my uncle and aunt in a cute cocktail dress, carrying a tiny black bag instead of my big tote/diaper bag. I came home from my sophisticated evening out to find that the cute cocktail dress had been unzipped on the side the entire evening because i breastfed before I went out (it has a slip, so I was covered up, but still…). There was the day I got Mel and me dressed in cute outfits and out the door at an early hour for a day of lunch and meetings only to realize I’d forgotten to wear earrings for probably the first time in twenty years (I went around all day with my hair combed over my ears). And there was the recent afternoon when I left Mel with a friend and went to a meeting at the Opera House and drinks next door at Jardinière wearing a cute LBD I hadn’t worn since before my pregnancy. Only to realize when I got home that the cute LBD had avocado and baby sunscreen smeared on the shoulder.

All of which is something of a metaphor for a deeper truth. While I still am the person i was before Mélanie was born, being Mélanie’s mom has changed me. Which is a good thing.

One of the things I've been doing in my copy edits is layering some additional clothing descriptions where they can accentuate character details. Particularly fun with my heroine Suzanne who frequently is in disguise in the book. Do you find clothes help define who you are in different parts of your life? Do clothes in books do the same for characters?

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12 October 2012

The Victorian Home

Isobel's post on Tuesday, about the difficulties of finding a suitable proto-residence for someone who doesn't live in Chatsworth-like splendor, resonated deeply for me.  You see, I'm in the midst of house-hunting and I have a very specific sort of house in mind.

For my next stand alone novel, my modern (2009) heroine is about to inherit a house in a suburb of London called Herne Hill.  The story goes back and forth between Herne Hill in 2009 and the same house in 1849.  Naturally, I went out to Herne Hill this summer, around the same time of year my heroine makes her initial trek up the hill (which, by the way, is, indeed, a hill-- and steep) and poked around a bit, but I had the usual on the spot research problem: things change.  The railroad came through in 1862 and with it a wave of Victorian villas that replaced the earlier and larger dwellings of the wealthy early Victorian bourgeoisie.  Herne Hill went from being a semi-rural outpost of the city to a genuine suburb.

Again, my problems echo Isobel's.  If I wanted to find a Victorian great house, I would have no trouble.  Many have been preserved and are open for view.  (My husband was dragged through several this summer, and announced that he never needs to see a Victorian kitchen again.)  There are volumes and volumes on the residences of the upper classes, from their town mansions to their country estates.

But what I need is something quite different.  My folks in this book are the wealthy middle class.  They made their money in trade; many of them are still in trade.  As close to the metropolis as they are, many have cultural pretensions, but their morals and tastes are still more middle class than aristocratic.  We're talking about people who have a cook, a parlor maid, and maybe an upstairs maid.  If there are children, there will be a nanny.  There are no footmen.  The odds are that they hire a carriage and horses rather than owning, or, if they do own, they outsource stabling.  We're not talking vast estates with large service wings.  The maids might share a room in the attic; the cook probably sleeps near the kitchen.  

Another challenge was the location.  This wasn't a country cottage, per se, even though the area still had rural aspects.  People were very aware of living within reach of the metropolis, many of the men commuting back and forth to their offices in the City.  On the other hand, it's not a town house either.  Unfortunately, very few houses of the right period remain, so it's hard to get a good idea of what the housing stock in 1849 would have been.  Most were torn down to make room for the late Victorian terraces that currently line the long street up the hill.  (Here's the hill in 1823, twenty-six years before my story opens.)

I generally like to start from a real house and tinker with it from there, so the house that I'm using as my model for the Grantham house in Herne Hill is Ruskin's childhood home.  Ruskin's parents moved to a grander house in the same neighborhood a bit later on, but this was his original childhood residence, eminently suited to a comfortable middle class family.

If you look closely, you can see the basement window next to the stairs, where the kitchen would have been.  Kitchen and scullery would be down in the basement area, with the parlor and dining room on the floor above.  Ruskin describes his childhood home as three stories, with garrets above.  My guess is that he's referring to the three main stories on which the family lived, counting neither the kitchen level nor the attic level in his floor count.

As you can tell from the facade, the house is pre-Victorian, which means that books on early Victorian architecture and floor plans, while helpful for mapping the homes of more up to date neighbors, weren't much use to me.  (Ruskin describes these more modern houses as "certain Gothic splendours, lately indulged in by our wealthier neighbours".)  Instead, what I wound up with for my 1849 family was a late Georgian home furnished to early Victorian taste.

Part of the fun of this particular project is that I get to revisit the same home in two different eras.  While the house my 1849 family lives in is reasonably simple, by the time my modern heroine inherits in 2009, there have been some major late Victorian additions, including a rather bulbous conservatory, and, of course, lots of twentieth century updates, including a hideously avocado colored kitchen with 1970s appliances.  

If anyone has any good sources for late Georgian/early Victorian suburban homes, let me know!

09 October 2012

The Problem with Younger Sons’ Domiciles

My current WIP needs a house. A very particular kind of house. Something less than a Pemberly and more than a Longbourn if you know what I mean. I need a Nertherfield. Planning great estates for my characters’ families is easy. There are numerous books on the great estates of England and almost every great house has a website of its own. Floor plans are fairly easy to come by, and so many BBC productions pay loving attention to them. Planning something on a lesser scale for my younger sons however can be something of a challenge.

I poured over a bunch of books this weekend looking for inspiration, since this is going to be a house book. It has to be right. It’s going to be character in and of itself. And the heroine has to love it. Most of my books were not at all useful. To focused on the grand houses of the era. But The Georgian Villa showed promise. It has floor plans for more modest houses. I settled on two that looked promising and had floor plans in the book, Shawfield Park (1711) and Hawkhill (1757).

Hawkhill interior
Shawfield is a Palladian house which is described as “a modest seven-bay house with a pedimented and slightly projecting centre-piece, hipped roof.” It has a belvedere on top for added interest and a nice long, open terrace running along the entire front. It is two stories over a basement with small garret rooms for the servants (so four stories effectively) There is a full article with minute descriptions of the layout and rooms on JSTOR for $14, which I held off buying.

I also looked at Hawkhill, which was built designed by Adams. I’ve been in several of his houses, so I know what to expect of the interiors. Hawkhill was torn down in 1971, but I still managed to find pictures of it which confirm that though a far more modest house than Osterly Park, Hawkhill shared the same design flair.

In the end I think I will go with a combination of the two. Hawkhill for the principal floor and Shawfield for the others (Hawkhill has a horrible layout on the first floor where the bedrooms are, no windows on the entire back side in what must be the servants’ quarters).

05 October 2012

I haven't posted for many weeks, but here, at last, is some news: My new book, The Bride and the Bandit, is out in digital form, with the print version to follow in November. Here's a brief description: When Frank Burkett steps off the train from Colorado, he sets up a portrait photography studio. But he's no photographer. Frank is actually an undercover detective sent to Maple Falls, Oregon, to capture the mysterious Black Bandit who has been boldly robbing the townspeople. But the town librarian, Geneva Stanton, snares him into performing Antony to her Cleopatra in her summer theatrical, The Trials of Cleopatra, and that turns out to be the ultimate challenge for them both. This comic tale was wonderful fun to write! The novel deals with photography in the 1870s, the struggles of librarians, the unorthodox battle to reinstate a "disgraced" schoolteacher, and the production of a small-town summer theatrical using a collection of amateurs and unique townspeople. The Bride and the Bandit is available from Amazon, Turquoise Morning Press (www.turquoisemorningpress.com), Barnes & Noble, and Createspace.

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01 October 2012

Oliver is in town

This is part two of my favorite entries in James Hardy Vaux's 1812 Dictionary of the Flash Language. Part one is here.

(I'm rereading the dictionary, and reading Vaux's memoirs, because my next book has changed direction. After a conversation with my agent at the RWA conference about the marketability of ghosts at the moment, I've temporarily shelved The Ghost and Miss Moore and have started another book about a con man and the daughter of the Tory patron of my little market town from Sweet Disorder. Its working title is Crimson Joy [ETA: since retitled True Pretenses] and so far I'm still in that new-book first-flush-of-love stage with it!)

LETTER Q: the mace, or billiard-slum, is sometimes called going upon the Q, or the letter Q, alluding to an instrument used in playing billiards. [BILLIARD SLUM: The mace is sometimes called giving it to 'em on the billiard slum. See MACE.

MACE: to mace a shopkeeper, or give it to him upon the mace, is to obtain goods on credit, which you never mean to pay for; to run up a score with the same intention, or spunge upon your acquaintance, by continually begging or borrowing from them, is termed maceing, or striking the mace.]

LETTER-RACKET: going about to respectable houses with a letter or statement, detailing some case of extreme distress, as ship-wreck, sufferings by fire, &c.; by which benevolent, but credulous, persons, are induced to relieve the fictitious wants of the imposters, who are generally men, or women, of genteel address, and unfold a plausible tale of affliction. [I think my hero and his brother have done this one a fair number of times in their careers.]

LUSH: to drink; speaking of a person who is drunk, they say, Alderman Lushington is concerned, or, he has been voting for the Alderman.

[Some scholars believe that this term derived from an actors' fraternal organization, "The City of Lushington." According to the Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson (as quoted here), "Near Drury Lane Theatre in London was the Harp Tavern, where a club of hard drinkers called The City of Lushington had been founded in 1750. Lushington's had a chairman, the 'Lord Mayor,' and four 'aldermen,' who presided over the wards [a type of urban administrative district] of Poverty, Lunacy, Suicide, and Jupiter (the supreme Roman god who presided over all human affairs).[...]'Lush,' at least as a generic term for beer or drink, first appeared in about 1790, long after The City of Lushington's formation, and it could very well be a contraction of the club's name."

By the way, when the club stopped allowing stage hands and other crew members to attend meetings as guests, it spun off a theatre technicians' organization called the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes which has lasted as a fraternal organization to the present day (although it is no longer affiliated with the theatre).]

MONKERY: the country parts of England are called The Monkery.

NUT: to please a person by any little act of assiduity, by a present, or by flattering words, is called nutting him; as the present, &c., by which you have gratified them, is termed a nut.

NUTS UPON IT: to be very much pleased or gratified with any object, adventure, or overture; so a person who conceives a strong inclination for another of the opposite sex, is said to be quite nutty, or nuts upon him or her. [Wow, is that where that comes from?]

OLIVER: the moon.

OLIVER IS IN TOWN: a phrase signifying that the nights are moonlight, and consequently unfavorable to depredation.

PEAR-MAKING: inlisting [sic] in various regiments, taking the bounty, and then deserting.

PIGS, or GRUNTERS: police runners. [Wow, some things never change.]

RINGING CASTORS: signifies frequenting churches and other public assemblies, for the purpose of changing hats, by taking away a good, and leaving a shabby one in its place; a petty game now seldom practised.

SPANK: to spank a glaze, is to break a pane of glass in a shop window, and make a sudden snatch at some article of value within your reach, having previously tied the shop-door with a strong cord on the outside, so as to prevent the shopman from getting out, till you have had full time to escape with your booty; to spank a place, is to rob it upon the spank; a spank is a robbery effected by the above means.

STAR: The star is a game chiefly practised by young boys, often under ten years of age, although the offense is capital. It consists of cutting a pane in a shop-window, by a peculiar operation calling starring the glaze, which is performed very effectually by a commen penknife; the depredators then take out such articles of value as lie within reach of their arm, which if they are not interrupted, sometimes includes have the contents of the window. A person convicted of this offense is said to have been done for a star.

TURN UP: to desist from, or relinquish, any particular habit or mode of life, or the further pursuit of any object you had in view, is called turning it up. To turn up a mistress, or a male acquaintance, is to drop all intercourse, or correspondence, with them. To turn up a particular house, or shop, you have been accustomed to use, or deal at, signifies to withdraw your patronage, or custom, and visit it no more. To quit a person suddenly in the street, whether secretly or openly, is called turning him up. To turn a man up sweet, is to get rid of him effectually, but yet to leave him in perfect good humour, and free from any suspicion or discontent; this piece of finesse often affords a field for the exercise of consummate address, as in the case of turning up a flat, after having stripped him of all his money at play, or a shopkeeper, whom you have just robbed before his face of something valuable, upon the pinch, or the hoist.

TURNIPS: to give any body turnips signifies to turn him or her up, and the party so turned up, is said to have knap'd turnips.

While writing this post, I discovered that almost all of these entries appeared word-for-word in Pierce Egan's 1823 expanded edition of Francis Grose's Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (subtitle: "Revised and Corrected with the Addition of Numerous Slang Phrases Collected from Tried Authorities")! I don't know enough about nineteenth-century copyright law to know whether that would be considered plagiarism. (I guess it's possible that he paid Vaux's publisher for the rights...does anyone know?) If it was, I can't decide whether James Hardy Vaux would be annoyed and want his share of the cash, or appreciate Egan's sharp practice.

One of the things I consistently try to remember while writing is how valuable every piece of personal property was before consumer goods became mass-produced and semi-disposable. I remember researching a few years ago what a Regency house would have in its rooms in place of a trashcan and realizing they wouldn't have had anything because nothing was thrown away. Absolutely nothing. It's hard for me to imagine a world where handkerchiefs cost enough that you could make a good living just from stealing those, but it must have really informed how people thought about their surroundings, and it definitely informed how professional crime and the underworld functioned.

And with that I must leave you! Here, have some of these:

photo of turnips

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