A Taste Of Marmalade!

Nicola here. I have a new timeslip novel coming out in a few weeks’ time, The Other Gwyn Girl. It tells the story of Rose Gwyn, the much less well-known sister of Nell Gwyn, actress, orange-seller and mistress to King Charles II. It’s also a fun co-incidence that this is the perfect time of year to make Seville orange marmalade, so this week I’ve been busy making some celebratory “Gwyn Girl” marmalade using my grandmother’s fabulous jam pan. I have to admit that I’s a bit of an irony but I am the only person in my family who doesn’t actually like marmalade! Everyone else is very keen and the Scots ancestors have a marvellous whisky version that is even more popular.

First, a bit of marmalade history, as I always like to research these things! The word marmalade comes from the Portuguese marmelada, which means “made of quince.” The first fruit preserves were made by the Greeks, who discovered that quinces cooked with honey would “set” when they were cool. Both the Greeks and the Romans made preserves out of quince with lemon, rose, apple, pear and plum. In 1524, King Henry VIII received a gift of a “box of marmalades” from a Mr Hull of Exeter. This was probably quince paste, as was the “marmalet” that was served at another Tudor wedding feast. It was said that “marmalado” as it became known, was a favourite with Anne Boleyn.

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The shawl of beauty and grace

Madame-recamier-by-francois-gerard 1802

An old familiar friend of a painting, but do we ever look at the shawl?

Joanna here, talking about that fashion accessory of the Seventeenth, Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, the shawl.

Why shawls? We wear form-fitted, sleeved outer garments mostly — coats and sweaters and parkas and anoraks and Macintoshes — in the Twenty-first Century and feel pleased and practical doing so. Why did folks spend centuries throwing loose garments around themselves that didn’t button up and had to be draped and fidgeted with in a manner that may strike us as awkward?

I think an ideal of feminine beauty was at the root of it. The drape and swirl of a shawl, the varied possibilities with all their minute adjustments were alluring to the watcher. Displaying the shawl was an art, and this length of silk or wool might well be the most expensive object a woman wore.

So let’s talk paisley, since we’re talking shawls.

Paisley is based on a repeated, teardrop-shaped design pattern called a bota or boteh – a word that means  “shrub” or “cluster of leaves” in Persian.

Wenches star shaped tile from iran 1262

A decorative Persian tile from 1262. The boteh design comes from such roots

 This boteh is an ancient pattern, widespread in rugs, paintings, and tiles. It's an abstract shape that probably comes from the simplification of many sorts of feathers, fruit, flowers and so on in older designs. That is, there's no one origin. It's derived from many complexities that lost detail as they were copied and recopied.

In the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries the East India Company imported these Indian designs to Europe where they became immensely popular. Soldiers returning from service in the East brought back lovely, expensive scarves of silk and soft Kashmir (cashmere) wool to their sweethearts and family. The British version of the scarves might cost more than 20 pounds. Sir Walter Scott’s French bride Charlotte Carpentier was given a Kashmir shawl in 1797 for her trousseau that cost 50 guineas, a huge sum in those days.


A fine shawl wrapping up mother and child 1825

Period portraits are full of these Kashmiri scarves gracefully swirled round the shoulders of women in flimsy low cut, high-waisted dresses. The survival of generations of scantily clad British beauties doubtless depended on these lengths of wool.

Wench british hand loom wool asilk 1810

British wool and silk paisley shawl showing boteh 1810

Almost as soon as the imported scarves arrived, they were copied enthusiastically by European weavers, among them the craftsmen of the Scottish city of Paisley, so much so that the Persian design ended up named "paisley" after that city in Renfrewshire, Scotland, far, far from the exotic mountains and plains of the East.

The handlooms and, after 1820, Jacquard looms, of the misty north produced quite a good imitation of the original Indian product. But it was  not a perfect likeness.

Throughout the import period, imported Kashmiri shawls were more expensive and preferred over the British version. The colors were more varied. Even at the height of Scots weaving they were using a mere 15 colors as opposed to the more than 40 colors used in the Eastern imports. The quality of foreign weaving superior, and the fabric itself was lighter. British shawls were made from sheep’s wool. Kashmiri scarves, from softer, more supple, more lustrous goat’s hair. And Kashmiri weavers used the “twill tapestry technique”.

Those of you in the know about weaving technique will recognize that this means the horizontal (weft) threads of the pattern do not run all the way across the fabric but are woven back and forth around the vertical (warp) threads to where the color is needed again. This is the way Europeans weave tapestries. And no, I knew nothing about weaving technique before I looked this up.

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The Persistence of Fireplace Tools

Wench a_cottage_interior_william_redmore 2

Pensive, with bellows.

I was cleaning ashes out the woodstove today and putting aside some of the fireplace tools to carry out onto the porch to polish and get ready for storage for the summer.

Not all of them. Just the ones I don’t use often. I’m mostly done with the wood heat for the year, but there’ll be one or two more fires to light on cool evenings. From here on out it’s just for enjoyment. Just for the beauty.

Anyhow, I was considering my woodstove which is fairly sophisticated as woodstoves go. It’s covered with pretty tile and has fancy corrugations inside that do something about fire efficiency. There’s flues. There's a trap in the bottom to remove ashes while the stove is in operation. There’s thermal insulating rope around the door that has to be replaced every couple of years which is why I know about it. It has a thermal glass door. Thermal glass!

Space age woodstove.

Wench shovel

Also pensive. Has shovel. See broom to the side.

But my array of fireplace tools would settle comfortably next to my Regency heroine’s bedroom hearth. Or Elizabeth Tudor’s hearth. There is a perfection of form and design that’s brought these humble implements through centuries unchanged.

So. What do I have? Leesee …

A poker. Actually I have two. No idea how I ended up with two but I can’t bring myself to throw out the extra one.

You see, if I were a Regency heroine and were menaced by the villain, I’d bop him over the head with a poker and be perfectly safe.
But what if there were two villains? Huh? What then?

Nobody ever thinks about that.

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Oranges and Lemons, Say the Bells of St. Clements

Raphaelle Peale (American artist, 1774-1825) Orange And A BookOranges and Lemons,

Ring ye bells at St. Clements.
When will you pay me,
Ring ye Bells at ye Old Bailey.
When I am Rich,
Ring ye Bells at Fleetditch.
     Tradtional Counting Rhyme 

There are any number of interpretations as to what this all means, but I see it mostly a reminder that poetry does not necessarily have to make sense.

Joanna here, talking about Regency oranges.

Those of us with a keen interest in botany will have noticed that oranges — not to mention lemons — don't thrive in the British climate.  Well, maybe down in south Devon where hopeful souls sometimes plant palm trees.  But citrus isn't plucked off the tree on Hampstead Heath or in the Welsh mountains.

What is an orange doing in an old, old counting rhyme?
Not to mention lemons.
How come?

Because the Regency and Georgian folks imported their oranges (and lemons) enthusiastically or grew them enthusiastically in greenhouses.  

Musee carnavalet orangerie exterior Paris 1


I'll just wander off track for a minute to point out that greenhouse in the Regency didn't mean a building all made of glass with a roof of glass panes.  That's Victorian.  In the Regency a greenhouse was a tall room with high windows, like this to the right.

Sometimes, they called them orangeries.
I think not.

In the Regency we're talking about three different species of oranges, just because life is complicated.

Our first guest orange  . . . the bitter one.

The oraOrangeBloss_wbnge is another of those marvelous botanical productions of the Orient, like lychees and tea and peaches.  They've been cultivated in China for four thousand years, in several varieties. The bitter or sour orange, Citrus aurantium— what we'd call a Seville orange — made a complicated journey overland to Europe, piggybacking its way from the Middle East to Italy and Spain with the returning Crusaders.

Here's a picture of an early orange in Van Eyck's Amolfini Portrait of 1434.  This picture records a
Van_Eyck_-_Arnolfini_Portrait full sizemarriage and it's just bristling with nifty references faithfulness and fertility. 

Van_Eyck_-_Arnolfini_Portrait detailSee those those oranges in the Van Eyck painting, over next to the window?  Symbolic as heck.

Oranges were symbolic of marriage, maybe because the plant bears its flowers and its fully ripened fruit at the same time, thus being both the potential fertility of the innocent flower and the fecundity of the plump fruit. 
Queen Victoria wore orange blossoms in her hair at her wedding.  Maybe some of the folks reading this today wore them too.  You can look at that Van Eyck and know the symbol is more than 500 years old.

As a totally unrelated side comment, Isobel Carr points out that the little dog in that picture might just be the earliest depiction of a pet animal in a European painting. 
Its name is Max.
. . . Okay.  I'm kidding about the name.

They called the bitter orange a 'Seville orange' because that's where they were grown and shipped from in Tudor times and beyond. 
Our English, French and other European folks used skin, juice, root, leaf and branch in
medicine and for making cordials and syrups and orange-water for scent
and flavoring.

"Nor can I blame you, if a drop you take,
of orange-water, for perfuming-sake."
John Breval

Seville oranges nowadays are used about exclusively for making that wonderful marmalade you can still pick up in the grocery if you go searching a while for the authentic stuff.  It's the same marmalade they made in Regency times.  When you spread it on your toast, you can think about Elizabeth Bennet doing pretty much the same, except she's sitting across the breatkfast table from Mr. Darcy.

Looking next at . . . 
. . .  Ahem. 
Eyes off Mr. Darcy, if you please.  Thank you.

Turning to this second type of orange, I hear you saying, "What about the sweet orange, Citrus sinensis, my supermarket orange, the ones that the lack of is like a day without sunshine, the ones Nell Gywn sold at Drury Lane?"

I will pause an instant to offer Samuel Pepys' take on orange juice:
"and here, which I never did before, I drank a glass, of a pint, I believe, at one draught, of the juice of oranges, of whose peel they make comfits; and here they drink the juice as wine, with sugar, and it is very fine drink; but, it being new, I was doubtful whether it might not do me hurt. "

Anyhow, these newcomer sweet oranges showed up in the 1500s.  They were called sweet oranges because, well, they were sweet, and China oranges to distinguish them from the Seville oranges which were not so sweet.  'China' because, unlike their bitter cousins, they didn't migrate slowly overland.  They arrived in style by ship, brought by Portuguese and Italian merchants directly from China. 

This is when the orange became a hand-eating f3 Francis Wheatley (English artist, 1747-1801) Cries of London 1792-1795 Sweet China Oranges, Sweet Chinaruit, sold in baskets on the street.  Nell Gywn, before she became mistress of King Charles II and presumably went out of the retail fruit business, was one of the scantily clad young women who sold sweet oranges in the Drury Lane Theatre (sixpence apiece,) for the refreshment of the patrons and as a handy means of expressing dissatisfaction with the performance.

In case you were wondering — as who has not — whether the orange fruit was named after the color,

("Oh look! There's a whole bunch of oranges up in the tree, and some reds over on this tree and look at all those blues down here on the bushes.")

or the color was named after the fruit.  I can set your mind at rest.
The color is named after the fruit.
The word orange meandered into English from the Sanskrit word for the fruit —nāranja — through Arabic, Old Provencal, Old French and Middle English.

Before the Fourteenth Century, folks had to refer to the color as geoluhread.  As in, "Wow. Love your geoluhread i-pod!"  Geoluhread would roughly translate as yellow-red and I am sure we are all grateful to Sanskrit for its intervention into what would have been a dismal shade with a long name.

How common were oranges in Georgian and Regency England?  How expensive? 
In the mid-1700s oranges sold on the street four a penny when hot cross buns were 'one a penny, two a penny'.  That doesn't seem outrageously expensive, does it — two oranges for the price of a bun? 

Zurbaran 1633 still life

lemons and oranges in 1633

Karl Phillip Moritz, about that time, wrote, "All over London as one walks, one everywhere, in the
season, sees oranges to sell, and they are in general sold tolerably cheap, one and even sometimes two for a halfpenny."

By 1828, one could speak of "The China, or sweet oranges, with which this country is now so amply supplied, and at such moderate prices that all classes of society enjoy them as perfectly as if they had been indigenous to the climate."  John S. Skinne


Francisco_de_zurbaran about 1630

a really annoyed cup, above

And our third orange? 

It was almost the blood orange.  I mean, there the blood orange was, in Italy, as a
mutation among sweet oranges in the 1600s.  Really no reason it couldn't have been a trade item.
I'd love to add it to the Regency table.

But it looks like they weren't imported.  Mention is made of blood orange trees brought into England as greenhouse curiosities in the 1820s. I suppose some intrepid traveller might have brought back a box of fruit for friends any time. 

Must have been a shock when that first blood orange was cut open at the table for everyone to see.

But the third of the Regency orange trio turns out to be the mandarin orange, the tangerine, our friend Citrus reticulata, which is technically a kind of orange rather than a separate fruit altogether, if we listen to those tricky botanists who dabble in such matters.  Trees were brought to England direct from China — the word mandarin is a dead giveaway — in about 1805. It settled into the greenhouses of England.  Not a fruit for the street crowd.  An exotic treat.  As late as 1817, a botanist could say it was a pity none of the countries exporting citrus to England had established the tangerine as a crop. 

After 1805, your Regency heroine might be offered a mandarin, sensuously peeled, by someone who owns a very fancy greenhouse.  A spiffy little factoid.

Seville orange leMoynCOME buy my fine oranges, sauce for your veal,

And charming when squeez'd in a pot of brown ale;
Well roasted, with sugar and wine in a cup,
They'll make a sweet bishop when gentlefolks sup.


The world would be a poorer place without oranges — and I happen to notice I've got a half-eaten clementine beside me as I write this post.

What's your favorite oranges recipe?  I used lemons to make a fancy syllabub not so very long ago, but I bet it'd be equally good with oranges.  And I love me some orange cake.  Also Benedictine-just-abour-anything.

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It’s a Magic Lantern

SANDBY, Paul The Laterna Magica c 1760Joanna here …

Before moving pictures.  Before silent film.  Before black and white.  Before Clara Bow and Charlie Chaplin.  

There was the Magic Lantern.

Let's say you're a Regency thrillseeker, out to squeeze all possible enjoyment from an evening.  You might go to a Magic Lantern show at a friend's house. You might put one on yourself.

Jan_Vermeer_van_Delft_019People had known more or less forever that light shining through colored glass carried that color to where the light fell.  Every stained glass window in Europe, even every translucent leaf in the sunlight, every light source shining through colored glass cast an image.

The beauty of that.  A picture painted in light.

Magic lantern alphabet late C19

Or it can be educational

Being the inventive species we are, we wanted to do that at will, casting the image we chose.  The earliest technology for doing this dates to the Seventeenth Century.  Shine candlelight through a demon or ghost thinly painted on glass; let your image fall onto a gauze screen or a column of smoke; and presto! 

You got magic in your magic show.

You're a hit with the locals whom you have just terrified. 

 In the Eighteenth Century, itinerant 'lanternists' travelled the countryside carrying the cabinet that held their slides and their lantern, giving shows at country inns and fairs.

Organ player

A lanternist, looking disgruntled

One disgusted contemporary writer remarks,
"These showmen were not romantic troubadours, but often as unwholesome and grotesque in appearance as the images they cast onto the white sheet."

The Magic Lantern became sort of a parlor amusement and novelty.  Samuel Pepys bought one in 1666,"to make strange things on a wall."

You can think of it as a Georgian slide projector.  
(Though a slide projector is getting to be a n antiquated piece of technology itself.)  

How did it work?
(You can skip this bit if you want.)

The anatomy of tInstrumentarium_LaternaMagicahe Magic Lantern is:

(a) An oil lamp making light.  It's inside the casing on the left of this picture where you can't see it, but it has that little stack for the heat to come out of. 

(b) A condensing lens — which you also can't see because it is inside that casing — sending all the lamp light through a slot, which you can see.

(c) Painted glass plates fit into that slot. The top picture is without a glass


attrib Lokilech and TimDrury

slide.  The lower picture has a glass slide.

(d) And then you have a barrel on the right end with a lens that enlarges the image as it emerges and heads toward whatever wall or sheet is being used as a screen. 

You see the limiting factor here, don't you?  It's the light source.  An oil lamp is just not very strong. The Argand lamp, after 1780, went a ways toward creating that powerful and beautiful image you wanted to project.


Argand lamp in use

The Argand produced a light of six or eight candlepower.

<sound of crickets>

Okay.  I can see you are bowled over by the blazing beacon of six or eight candlepower.  But this was a significant advance.  Trust me on this.

And just as a side note, oil lamps you see in Regency portraits are like as not Argand lamps.  They were the halogen bulbs of their day.

But let us leave mere apparatus.  The Magic Lantern was all about The Show.

Aviation slides c 1900

four pictures painted on glass

Your traveling lanternist in the inn parlor or tent at the fair could be projecting "Ogres, grinning skulls, bloody battle scenes, shipwrecks" or pictures of distant lands, or scenes from folk tales and bible stories.
Often, he'd insert a long strip of glass with  four or five images painted on it and draw that through the slot in the magic lantern, changing scenes as he lay down his experienced patter.  His exciting story.  He might even have an assistant providing music. 
Then he'd pass the hat.  

Glass plate 2 half c19 louvre

here's your ship at sea image

Particularly skilled practitioners of the art of the Magic Lantern might have several slides in the slot at once, one in front of the other. 
Perhaps a sky with clouds and a sea.  The other slide would have boats.

A contemporary expert advises:
"You are then to pass the glass slowly through the groove; and when you come to that part where the storm begins, you are to move the glass gently up and down, which will give it the appearance of a sea that begins to be agitated: and so increase the motion till you come to the height of the storm.  At the same lime you are to introduce the other glass with the ships, and moving that in like manner, you will have a natural representation of the sea, and of ships in a calm and in a storm."Auguste edouart 1826-61 the magic lantern

Wild times in Regency England.  It's a  Magic Lantern show in the Squire's drawing room.  Cummon, Regency dandy, grab some popcorn and hold your sweetie close.
(Okay.  Maybe not the anachronistic popcorn.)

But this Magic Lantern is the Olduvai ancestor of the Saturday Matinee, of Star Wars and The Avengers, of iMax 3D.  Look at it there, smack in the middle of Georgian and Regency times.

Our Regency characters would always remember going to a Magic Lantern show. 

Pulling on that thread … What's your most treasured memory of going to the movies?

For me it's heading down to the Saturday morning early show in the summer,
because the movies were Air Conditioned! — and the house wasn't.
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