Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Collection Snapshot: Late for dinner?

November 29th, 2017

It’s that time of year when dinner parties and invitations of all sorts abound, so we thought it might be interesting to turn to a nineteenth-century etiquette book to explore its advice on the age-old question of when to arrive for dinner.

Stamped cloth binding of Etiquette for Gentlemen (1841 edition)  Title page of Etiquette for Gentlemen

Stamped cloth binding and title page of  and title page of Etiquette for Gentlemen: With Hints on the Art of Conversation. London: Tilt and Bogue, 1841. Call #: A445. Click images to enlarge.

Of the numerous etiquette books in Spencer Research Library’s collections, Etiquette for Gentlemen: With Hints on the Art of Conversation offers particularly unyielding guidance.  Its anonymous author advises:

If you accept [a dinner invitation], you arrive at the house rigourously at the hour specified. It is equally inconvenient to be too late and to be too early.  If you fall into the latter error, you find every thing in disorder; the master of the house is in his dressing-room; the lady is still in the pantry; the fire not yet lighted in the parlour.  If by accident or thoughtlessness you arrive too soon, you may pretend that you called to inquire the exact hour at which they dine, having mislaid the note, and then retire to walk for an appetite. If you are too late, the evil is still greater, and indeed almost without remedy.  Your delay spoils the dinner and destroys the appetite and temper of the guests; and you yourself are so much embarrassed at the inconvenience you have occasioned, that you commit a thousand errors at table.  If you do not reach the house until dinner is served, you had better retire to a restaurateur’s, and thence send an apology, and not interrupt the harmony of the courses by awkward excuses and cold acceptances.

Passage on arriving at the appointed time for dinner in Etiquette for Gentlemen

Arrival etiquette in Etiquette for Gentlemen: With Hints on the Art of Conversation. London: Tilt and Bogue, 1841. Call #: A445. Click image to enlarge.

Etiquette for Gentlemen appears to have been first published in 1838, and the library holds the 1841 edition. The book’s advice, however, is hardly new as its preface confesses:  “It is […] scarcely possible that anything original should be found in a brochure like the present: almost all that it contains must have fallen under the notice of every gentleman who has been in the habit of frequenting good society.”  As with many etiquette books, the volume’s directives will strike modern readers as by turns sensible, humorous, odd, ill-conceived, and offensive. The volume itself is small enough to fit in the palm of one’s hand (and certainly one’s pocket) for ready consultation whenever the need might arise. Although, isn’t it perhaps impolite to pause a social interaction in order to consult one’s etiquette book?!

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian

Collection Snapshot(s): Victorian Fashion Edition

November 4th, 2014

One of the wonderful things about class visits is that they often send you hunting through the far reaches of the library’s collections in search of interesting and relevant holdings.  A recent visit from ENGL 572: Women and Literature: Women in Victorian England led me to happen upon two very rare Victorian fashion periodicals among Spencer’s collections. These British weeklies offered up the latest styles (hint: full skirts are in) alongside commentaries and entertainments that the editors thought might interest their nineteenth-century female readership.

The Ladies’ Penny Gazette (published 1832-1834) dates from the period just before Queen Victoria’s  ascent to the throne in 1837. Subtitled the Mirror of Fashion, and Miscellany of Instruction and Amusement, this weekly combined fashion with articles on subjects of interest to women, theater reviews, sheet music, and literary pieces. Subscribers were treated each month to a bonus sheet of “Coloured Fashions of the Lady’s Penny Gazette,” in which the dresses were hand-colored, even if somewhat hastily so.  For those interested in literature, the Gazette offers some finds as well.  Next to a discussion of lace and caps on one side and an article on “Bengal Marriages” on the other is “A Fragment”  by the poet L. E. L.  (Letitia Elizabeth Landon).

Image of coloured fashion sheet and first page of The Ladies’ Penny Gazette (1833)

Image of coloured fashion sheet and first page of The Ladies’ Penny Gazette (June 8, 1833)

Opening from the February 2nd, 1833 issue of The Ladies' Penny Gazette, featuring L. E. L.'s "A Fragment"

Top and middle:  the “Coloured Fashions” supplements and first pages of issues No. 16 (1833 February 9) and No. 33 (1833 June 8) of The Ladies’ Penny Gazette; or, Mirror of Fashion, and Miscellany of Instruction and Amusement. Call #: D4551.  Bottom: an opening from issue No. 15 (1833 February 2) featuring L.E.L’s poem “A Fragment.”  Click images to enlarge.

Though brief by modern standards–at a lean eight pages an issue–The Ladies’ Penny Gazette made the most of its allotted space, presenting pithy, sometimes biting, commentary between its longer pieces.  One such quip, titled “Small Talk,” gives a sense of how the magazine’s conceptions of womanhood are more complicated than a label like “Victorian fashion magazine” might immediately suggest:

Small Talk — Small talk is administered to women as porridge and potatoes are to peasants–not because they can’t discuss better food, but because no better is allowed them to discuss. (No. 42,  August 10,  1833, page 30)

Young Ladies of Great Britain (also known by the longer title, Illustrated Treasury for Young Ladies of Great Britain) ran between 1869 and 1871 before continuing on until 1874 under slightly different titles and formats.  Though each issue touched on the newest fashions (in England and in Paris), the first page of the weekly was usually reserved for one of the pieces of fiction serialized in its sixteen pages, accompanied by an attention-grabbing  (and often melodramatic) illustration.  Priced also at a penny, the magazine targeted a  younger readership than The Ladies’ Penny Gazette, and in its mission to divert and educate, lacks the edge at times found in the earlier magazine.  A piece simply titled “Characters; A Wife”  (see the middle image below) offers a discussion of three “types” of wives: the tawdry, careless wife; the domineering matron; and “the good wife,” whose character “cannot be delineated, she possesses so many minute, undeniable excellencies.”  Men aren’t entirely spared from this typology; the husband who is drawn to the “domineering matron” is described as an “easy-tempered simpleton, who lets her rule as she lists.”

Cover illustration for Vol. 1, No. 4 (March 13, 1869)

Opening from Young Ladies of Great Britain featuring a discussion of wife "types" and (on the verso) fashion design

Opening from Young Ladies of Great Britain, featuring New Shapes in Costume and Designs for Fancy Needlework

Fashion for Victorian Brits: Illustrated Treasury for Young Ladies of Great Britain. 1.4 (1869 March 13) and 1.5 (1869 March 20). Call Number: O’Hegarty D390. Click Images to enlarge.

Whatever their circulation might have been in their day, these magazines are now quite scarce.  KU appears to hold the only library copy of The Ladies’ Penny Gazette in North America, (with copies also recorded at the British Library, Oxford, and the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in the Netherlands), and KU, New York Public Library and the British Library are the only places listed in WorldCat as holding physical copies of Young Ladies of Great Britain.  These weeklies are “rare birds” indeed, but the fascinating cultural texts they offer make them worth seeking out.

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian

Collection Snapshot: Notes from Underground …

June 27th, 2014

If you’re interested in matters Polish and Russian or in travels in Slavic lands and in sights seen through western eyes AND if you can read this page from the manuscript diary of an Englishwoman traveling in the summer of 1828 (186 years ago!), then YOU may be the person to transcribe the contents of this little volume. You will get to know “Roberta” and “Mr. Sayer” (their real names), who were her companions on the trip. We can picture Ms. English Lady settling into the pension at night to write … Inside the front cover she begins, “The weight of the statue of Peter The Great …” You’ve seen the blurb; now read the book!

Image of a page from the diary of an English woman open to entry for Warsaw, June 22, 1828.

An English Lady: An anonymous manuscript travel-diary, a detailed account of the sights, costumes, social services, village and town life, war aftermath, travel mishaps in Russia and Poland. Warsaw-Smolensk-Moscow-Novgorod-St. Petersburg. 22 June to 21 July 1828. Call Number: MS B144. Click image to enlarge.

Sally Haines
Rare Books Cataloger

Adapted from her Spencer Research Library exhibit, Frosted Windows: 300 Years of St. Petersburg Through Western Eyes.

 

 

Counterparts and Crossed-out Prohibitions against Fornication; Or, Adventures in Indentures

September 26th, 2013

Anyone who has ever tried to read the fine print on a lease or an online click-through user agreement knows that contracts can at times be rather stultifying documents. Even in the early modern period, contracts used formulaic language that could be dry and impenetrable enough to put off all but the most dedicated reader. However the physical formats of these documents can be quite fascinating, especially to modern eyes.

An indenture is a legal contract between two or more parties which reflects an obligation or covenant between those parties. Common types of indentures include leases, bonds, apprenticeship agreements, and marriage agreements, to name a few.

Image of a lease indenture from the Kaye Family Estate Papers, 1639

Lease indenture between John Kaye of Denby Grange and lessee John North of Bankend for land in Almondbury in Yorkshire, 1639.  Kaye Family Estate Papers. Call Number: MS 240B: 111. Click image to enlarge.

The term “indenture” originally referred to the physical form of this contract. As a security and authentication measure, two or more copies of the deed would be written on the same piece of parchment (animal skin), usually head to head (i.e. with top of one copy facing the top of the other) and then the parchment would be cut in two in a wavy or zigzag pattern to produce the two copies of the contract. The authenticity of the indenture could then be validated by reuniting and matching its edges to those of its “counterpart.”

Image of an indenture and its counterpart matched along their serrated edges.

Indenture and counterpart matched along their scalloped edges. Lease between John Kaye, of Denby Grange and lessee John North of Bankend for land in Almondbury in Yorkshire, 1639. Kaye Family Estate Papers. Call Number: MS 240B: 110-111. Click image to enlarge.

In later years, it was not uncommon to see printed indentures–essentially “forms” in which the formulaic parts are printed and the particulars were added in manuscript.  Spencer’s English Historical Documents collection includes many printed apprenticeship indentures from the 19th century.  It is fascinating to see how the printed forms (still on parchment, mind you!) can be tailored to cover the specific details of a given agreement.  A common stipulation of such agreements was that the apprentice agree not to partake in a variety of activities that might negatively impact his Master or divert the apprentice’s attentions (“he shall not play at Cards, Dice, Tables, or any other unlawful Games…” nor “haunt Taverns or Playhouses, nor absent himself from his said Master’s Service Day or Night”).  In the case of the apprenticeship indenture of young Thomas Inkpen (who, based on his name, clearly missed his calling as a scrivener) to the tailor Dennis O’Leary (below), we can see that the prohibition against fornication or marriage has been struck out, leaving him free to marry during his seven-year term of apprenticeship. Indeed, this stipulation may have been omitted because Inkpen was already married or engaged. (It’s also interesting to note that Inkpen signs his own name, but O’Leary, the tailor to whom he will be apprenticed, signs only with his “mark.”)

Image of an apprenticeship indenture with fornication/marriage clause struck out, 1821.

Photograph of a detail from an apprenticeship indenture with clause prohibiting fornication/marriage struck out, 1821

Apprenticeship indenture of Thomas Inkpen to tailor Dennis O’Leary. February 28, 1821. English Historical Documents Collection. Call Number: MS 239:3818.  Click images to enlarge.

Female apprentices might also occasion the alteration of the printed part of the indenture, which most often assumed a male apprentice.  In the 1834 indenture of eleven year-old Rebecca Dale to  Richard Gray, a Tambour worker and Dressmaker, male pronouns on the printed part of the form have been crossed-out and replaced with female ones.

Image of an apprenticeship indenture form modified by hand for a female apprentice, 1834.

Detail from an apprenticeship indenture form with manuscript modifications for a female apprentice, 1834.

He to She and His to Her: Apprenticeship indenture for Rebecca Dale to Richard Gray, Tambour worker and Dress maker . December 13, 1834. English Historical Documents. Call Number: MS 239:3823. Click images to enlarge.

 Female apprentices soon became common enough that some printers left blanks on their forms to allow for the possibility.  Though the following 1842 indenture is for a boy, William Hicks, to be apprenticed to John Weekes, a Tinman, Coppersmith, and Brazier, the blanks permit it to accommodate a female apprentice with equal ease and even allow for a “Mistress” rather than a “Master.”

Image of apprenticeship indenture with blanks to accommodate both sexes, 1842

Image of a detail from a printed apprenticeship indenture with blanks to allow for either a master or mistress or a male or female apprentice

Fill in the blank: M(aster) or M(istress)? Indenture for William Hicks, Jr. to be apprenticed to John Weekes, Tinman, Coppersmith, and Brazier. November 28, 1842. English Historical Documents Collection. Call Number: MS 239: 3787.

Spencer’s English Historical Documents collection, comprising over 7000 English deeds and manorial, estate, probate and family documents dating roughly from 1200 to 1900, offers a rich resource for investigating the changing face of the indenture.  It also offers insight into two prominent English families, the Kayes of Yorkshire, and the North Family, whose illustrious members include Frederick North, Prime Minister of Great Britain during the American War of Independence.   An online finding aid is currently in progress, but in the interim we encourage interested researchers to contact us with their queries.

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian
[With special thanks to Mary Ann Baker, processing archivist for the English Historical Documents collection, for locating and identifying the counterparts referred to in this post.]

Gossip and Literary Celebrity, circa 1871

March 21st, 2013

Though public figures in late nineteenth-century England might not have had to contend with paparazzi or gossip bloggers, their lives and personal writings were nonetheless a subject of interest and speculation.  What might begin innocently as a jovial private communication between friends could one day find itself before a much wider circle of readers, or so Pre-Raphaelite artist and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) warned his friend and fellow poet Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909).

Photogravure of Dante Gabriel Rossetty by G. F. Watts.        Image of black and white reproduction of Dante Gabriel Rossetti's portrait of Algernon Charles Swinburne

Left: Dante Gabriel Rossetti from photogravure by G. F. Watts;  Right: Black and white photograph of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s portrait of Algernon Charles Swinburne, both reproduced in H. C. Marillier’s Dante Gabriel Rossetti: An Illustrated Memorial of his Art and Life. London: George Bell and Sons, 1899. Call Number: E1470.

In a letter likely dating from November 1871, Rossetti cautioned Swinburne,

[…] You seem to think that such things are likely to be restricted to the circle of their recipients. Why, my dear fellow, every line you have ever written will one day be religiously raked up by greedy & often doubtless malevolent exploiteurs, and it is very hard for those who receive these wonderfully funny things of yours to resolve on taking the only safe course with them for your sake — that is, to destroy them after they have been abundantly laughed over by a circle of friends who know what mere fun they are. (Call Number: MS 23D:3.2)

Though we can only hope that Rossetti wouldn’t have considered the staff at the Spencer Research Library to be greedy and malevolent “exploiteurs”–he had in mind perhaps critics of the day, publishers, or members of the periodical press–time has proven the validity of his concern.  For example, a number of Rossetti’s own private communications now reside in Spencer’s collection of Rossetti Family Correspondence (MS 23).  This collection includes letters by his father, Gabriele Rossetti, his sister, the poet Christina Georgina Rossetti, his brother, critic William Michael Rossetti, and his sister-in-law, painter and biographer Lucy Madox (nee Brown) Rossetti.  These letters are a boon to scholars, students, and the general public, even if their creators might not have wished for all of them to reach our prying eyes.

To read Rossetti’s letter to Swinburne, click on the thumbnails below to enlarge:

Image of Rossetti to Swinburne [circa Nov. 1871p.1]  Image of page 2 of Letter from Rossetti to Swinburne.  Image of page 3 of letter from Rossetti to Swinburne  Image of page four of letter from Rossetti to Swinburne

Letter from Dante Gabriel Rossetti to Algernon Charles Swinburne. [Shortly after 6 Nov. 1871?]. Rossetti Family Correspondence. Call Number: MS 23D:3.2. Click images to enlarge.

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian