Women in Late Joseon Korea – Part One

I spent a great deal of time in 2018 through early 2020 laid up in bed, feeling lousy. Later, I learned I had been suffering from allergies that had grown more acute with age and my recent move. Stuck in bed, I was too fatigued to write or even read, but I could watch streaming videos on my iPad. As many of you know, I’m a romance writer, so I enjoy romantic stories. Sadly, the Hallmark channel wasn’t working for me and, somewhere along the way, I had burned out on the numerous remakes of Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. That was how I discovered the marvelous world of K-Dramas. The contemporary K-Dramas were quite accessible to me (although I’ve come to learn that I miss a lot of cultural subtleties.) However, the historical K-Dramas truly perplexed me because the traditions and cultural roles were so unfamiliar. Nonetheless, I was entranced.

Since my blog is mostly Georgian through Edwardian American and British history–because those are the settings of my writing–I thought I might add a little Korean history.  Unfortunately, I have a serious Korean language barrier issue. Luckily, I found Quaint Korea, by Louise Jordan Miln, published in the last years of the Joseon Dynasty, which lasted from 1392 to 1897.

Miln was an American actress who traveled with her husband’s theatrical company around the world. She penned several books and numerous articles on her experiences in Asia. After her husband’s death, she wrote romances set in China.  

I’ve excerpted sections from Quaint Korea concerning women’s roles in society.  There is so much information that I’m splitting it across multiple posts and weeks.

Of course, Miln only offers one Victorian woman’s observations of Joseon Korea (I’ve tried to edit out her opinions), and she may not be accurate. You are welcome to politely correct or add relevant information. Miln mostly documents poor and middle-class women, as well as Ki-saing (geisha.) But she didn’t write much information about court life, which many K-Dramas are set in.

I’ve included trailers for historical K-Dramas. Enjoy!

Socially and politically, in Korea, woman simply does not exist. She has not even a name. After marriage she is called by her husband’s name with the prefix of Mrs. Before marriage she has not even this pretence to a name.

***

Korean women are not uneducated, though they never go to schools; and books and materials for writing and painting are freely at their disposal.

***

Korean girls, long before they reach a marriageable age, live in the seclusion of the women’s quarters. After her betrothal a girl belongs not to her father but to her mother-in-law. Upon marriage she becomes the property of her husband, and is, in most cases, immediately taken to his dwelling. As in China, married sons live with their fathers. Sometimes three or four generations of one family occupy one home. But, unlike Chinese wives, each Korean wife has a room or rooms of her own. The only man who (in most families) ever enters them is her husband.

Korean girls are usually married between the ages of seventeen and twenty-two; and if married to a bachelor, he is almost invariably three or five, and often even eight, years their junior. But when a widower marries, or a man takes a second, or third, or fourth wife, he invariably selects a woman younger than himself.

***

In Söul, and in one other large city, children are commonly betrothed when the boy is seven or eight, but it is not so in the other parts of Korea. Korean widows must remain unmarried, or marry men who are the social inferiors of their dead husbands. And in Korea, as in China, a widow who re-marries is disgraced, and becomes more or less of a social outcast.

***

A Korean man cannot house his concubines or second-class wives under the roof that shelters his true or first wife, without her permission. Strangely enough, the first wife very rarely objects to living in rather close companionship with the other women of her husband’s household. Perhaps the longing for human companionship is stronger than jealousy in woman’s breast. And perhaps it is because the companionship of men is forbidden her, that a Korean wife comes to not only tolerate, but to enjoy the companionship of the women who share with her, her husband’s affection, attention, and support.

Korean women have not always lived in the strict seclusion in which they live now. Some of the older historians, Chinese and others, describe the appearance of the women and their manners without any hint that seeing them and knowing of them was anything unusual.

***

In every Korean house of any pretension the women’s apartments are in the most secluded part of the building. They open on to a garden, and never on to a street. The compound is walled, and no two families ever live upon the same compound.

***

The wives and daughters of well-to-do Koreans spend a great deal of time in their gardens, sharing naturally enough the intense love of their menkind for nature, and probably finding their peculiar lives more endurable among the trees and the birds and the lotus ponds, than they do in their queer little rooms, through the paper windows of which they cannot look unless they poke a hole with their fingers first—rooms in which there is little space and less furniture.

After the curfew rings it is illegal for a Korean man to leave his own house, unless under circumstances which I have stated in a previous chapter; then it becomes legal for Korean women to slip out and take the air and gossip freely.

***

As for Korean gentlewomen, they are skilled in Korean music, in Chinese and Korean literature. They are unsurpassed mistresses of the needle, more than able with the brush, and thoroughly acquainted with every detail of the complicated Korean etiquette. They are deft in the nice ceremonies of the toilet. They know the histories of Korea, of China, and perhaps of Japan. They are familiar with their own folklore, and can repeat it glibly and picturesquely. They are nurses and mothers and wives by nature, and wives, mothers, nurses, and accoucheuses [midwives] by training. Above all, they are taught (and they learn) to be amiable.

***

Among the poor all the household work is done by women, but among the rich the women have no domestic duties except those of nursing and sewing. All the garments of a Korean family are made by the women of the family. The purchase of a ready-made garment, or to hire it made, would be considered a disgrace to the family, and a deeper disgrace to its women.

Shhh. This image is from 1904.

***

I have spoken of the well-to-do Korean as having a plurality of wives. This is not so. And that such a misstatement has been made by writers of eminence, and ordinarily of great exactness, is no excuse for me. A Korean can have but one wife, one true and absolute wife, but … he may have as many concubines as he can afford, and their position, though not so high of rank, is as honourable, and as respectable as that of his wife.

***

As I have said, they are not on a social equality with the wife, but they are, to the best of my belief, on a moral equality with her, both in the eyes of law and in the eyes of morality itself.

***

A Korean’s concubines are almost as absolutely the handmaidens of his wife as of himself. They must serve her and do her bidding, and can only escape from this in the rare instance when one rises in the man’s eyes to higher favour than the wife.

The children of a concubine do not as a rule rank with the children of a wife, but they are neither despised nor shamed. They are born to a slightly lower rank, it is true, but that signifies little, for in Korea every man must carve out his own niche in the social rock, and they, the children of the handmaidens, have as fair a start in life, and as clean a name, as the children of the wife.

***

All must yield unquestioning obedience to the husband, and, in his absence, all the concubines must yield and do yield as implicit obedience to the wife. She in return is very apt to make them her playfellows and her bosom friends.

***

Though a Korean woman nominally counts for nothing in the ruling of her own household, and, as far as the workings of the State go, does not exist, she is invariably treated with the manner of respect; she is always addressed in what is called “honorific language;” to her the phraseology is used which is used to superiors, people of age, or of literary eminence. A Korean nobleman will step aside to let a Korean peasant woman pass him on the street. The rooms of a Korean woman are as sacred to her as a shrine is to its image. Indeed, the rooms of his wife or of his mother are the sanctuary of any Korean man who breaks the law. Unless for treason or for one other crime, he cannot be forced to leave those rooms, and so long as he remains under the protection of his wife, and his wife’s apartments, he is secure from the officers of the law, and from the penalties of his own misdemeanors.

***

There are very few crimes for which a Korean woman can be punished. Her husband is answerable for her conduct, and must suffer in her stead if she breaks any ordinary law.

Queen Min

***

Korea has had many remarkable women who have left their as yet indelible stamp upon the customs and the laws of their country, and upon the thought of their countrymen. Korea has had at least three great queens.

The present King of Korea owes his kingship, in large part at least, to his great-grandmother, Dowager Queen Cho, who adopted him, and in 1864 was largely instrumental in securing for him the throne to which the royal consul had elected him.

***

And until the breaking out of the Chino-Japanese war, the most powerful person in Korea was, and for twenty years had been, a woman, the king’s wife. Queen Min, for even she has no name, and is known only by the name of the race from which she has sprung, comes of one of the two great intellectual families of Korea; and the great family of Min has produced no cleverer woman or man than the wife of Li-Hsi.

***

A Korean once told me (he was a kinsman of Queen Min, a traveller, a linguist, and a man of—cosmopolitanly speaking—most considerable attainments) that his wife was more widely and more thoroughly versed in Chinese literature, modern and classic, than he. And Chinese literature is indisputably the greatest literature that Asia has ever produced.

The Queen of Korea is, with the possible exception of the Dowager Empress of China, as well educated as any royal lady in Asia.

***

The Queen is pale and delicate-looking. She has a remarkable forehead, low but strong, and a mouth charming in its colouring, in its outlines, in its femininity, in the pearls it discloses, and sweet with the music that slips through it when she speaks. She dresses plainly as a rule, and in dark but rich materials. In this she resembles the high-born matrons of Japan. And in cut her garments are more Japanese than those of other Korean women: she wears her hair parted in the middle, and drawn softly into a simple knot or coil of braid. She wears diamonds most often; not many, but of much price. They are her favourite gems. In this one particular she is almost alone among the women of the East; for pearls are the beloved jewels of almost every woman and girl-child that is born in the Orient.

Queen Min has been as assiduous as she has been powerful in advancing the interests of her family—the family of her birth I mean, for her marriage—unlike the marriages of other Korean women—has no whit divorced her from the people of her blood. All the desirable offices in Korea were held for years by her kinsmen.

Queen Min has not only been the power behind the Korean throne, but she has been, even more than the King, the all-seeing eye of Korea. Her spies have been everywhere, seen everything, reported everything.

She—the most powerful Korean in Korea—is content to be nameless; a sovereign with almost unlimited power, but without a nominal individuality; and to be called merely by the family name of her forefathers, and to be designated only as the daughter of her fathers, the wife of her husband, and the mother of her son.

It strikes an Occidental as even more strange that a woman so supremely powerful with her husband and king should be so graciously tolerant of the women of his harem. She not only tolerates them, she seems to like them, to take pride in them, and she is on the friendliest terms with Li-Hsi’s eldest son, who is also the son of a concubine. True her own son is the crown prince, but it is probable that his elder brother and not he will be Korea’s next king, if the present dynasty be destined to have another king. Li Hsia—Queen Min’s son—is not the imbecile he has been reported, but he has not the greatest mental strength, and less strength of body.

Susanna’s Note: Quaint Korea was published in 1895, the same year Queen Min was assassinated.

 Royal palaces: Changdeokgung and Changgyeonggung

Baking Victorian Bread

Years ago, when I was a Mark Bittman devotee, the no-knead bread craze hit. I hadn’t made bread before because I was scared of the process, which seemed like a sacred art of sorts. When Mark Bittman published his version of the no-knead recipe in the New York Times, I had found a bread recipe that even I could do. I had started my gluten-free-ish lifestyle by that time, but I still loved making bread for the sensory aspects: the smell, texture, how the bread transformed over the cooking process, and the joy that warm bread gave others.

However, my growing children demanded my time, and it was easier to buy bread at the grocery store bakery than to bake our own. That is until the pandemic hit and store shelves were stripped bare. Now, stuck at home, I, like many Americans, have been baking. I’ve found an updated version of my beloved no-knead recipe that makes wonderful bread. My children are amazed that I can actually bake. However, my teens are amazed whenever I show any kind of aptitude. This morning, as my latest baking project rose on the counter, I researched Victorian bread making. I’ve decided to excerpt from two books that are from the earlier decades of the Victorian Era because they explain how to make yeast.  

Let’s start with The Good Housekeeper, Or the Way to Live Well, And To Be Well While We Live, published in 1839 and written by Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, supposed author of “Mary Had A Little Lamb” and a long-time editor for Godey’s Lady’s Book.

ADVANTAGES OF BREAD MAKING. If you wish to economize in family expenses, bake your own bread. If this is good, it will be better as well as healthier than baker’s bread.

The rich will find several advantages in having a portion, at least, of their bread baked at home, even though the saving of money should not be an object. They can be certain that their bread is made of good flour. This is not always sure when eating baker’s bread. Much damaged flour, sour, musty, or grown, is often used by the public bakers, particularly in scarce or bad seasons. The skill of the baker and the use of certain ingredients-(alum, ammonia, sulphate of zinc, and even sulphate of copper, it is said, has been used !)—will make this flour into light, white bread. But it is nearly tasteless, and cannot be as healthy or nutritious as bread made from the flour of good, sound wheat, baked at home, without any mixture of drugs and correctives. Even the best of baker’s bread is comparatively tasteless, and must be eaten when new to be relished. But good home-baked bread will keep a week, and is better on that account for the health.

If the sponge be set at seven or half past, in the morning, and everything well managed, the bread will be ready to be drawn from the oven by twelve. Four or five hours of attention, then, is required ; but three fourths of this time might be employed in needlework, or other pursuits. Only half or three quarters of an hour, devoted to kneading the bread, is wanted in active exertion ; and this would be one of the most beneficial exercises our young ladies could practise.

I have dwelt at length on this subject, because I consider it as important as did “Uncle John,” that “ Girls should learn to make bread—the staff of life”–and that to do this well is an accomplishment which the lovely and talented should consider indispensable, one of the “ must haves” of female education.

There are three things which must be exactly right, in order to have good bread—the quality of the yeast; the lightness or fermentation of the dough ; and the heat of the oven. No precise rules can be given to ascertain these points. It requires observation, reflection, and a quick, nice judgment to decide when all are right. Thus, you see, that bread-making is not a mere mechanical treadmill operation, like many household concerns ; but a work of mind ; the woman who always has good home-baked bread on the table shows herself to have good sense and good management.

MAKING BREAD, A large family will, probably, use a bushel of flour weekly; but we will take the proper quantity for a family of four or five persons.

Take twentyone quarts of flour, put it into a kneading trough or earthen pan which is well glazed, and large enough to hold double the quantity of four. Make a deep, round hole in the centre of the flour, and pour into it half a pint of brewer’s yeast, or the thick sediment from homebrewed beer—the last if good, is to be preferred. In either case the yeast must be mixed with a pint of milk-warm water, and well stirred before it is poured in. Then with a spoon stir into this liquid, gradually, so much of the surrounding four as will make it like thin batter; sprinkle this over with dry flour, till it is covered entirely. Then cover the trough or pan with a warm cloth, and set it by the fire in winter, and where the sun is shining in summer. This process is called ” setting the sponge.” The object is to give strength and character to the ferment by communicating the quality of leaven to a small portion of the flour ; which will then be easily extended to the whole. Setting sponge is a measure of wise precaution-for if the yeast does not rise and ferment in the middle of the flour it shows that the yeast is not good ; the batter can then be removed, without wasting much of the flour, and another sponge set with better yeast.

Let the sponge stand till the batter has swelled and risen so as to form cracks in the covering of flour ; then scatter over it two table spoonfuls of fine salt, and begin to form the mass into dough by pouring in, by degrees, as much warm water as is necessary to mix with the flour. Twentyone quarts of flour will require about four quarts of water. It will be well to prepare rather more ; soft water is much the best ; it should in summer be warm as new milk ; during winter, it ought to be somewhat warmer, as flour is a cold, heavy substance.

Add the water by degrees to the flour, mix them with your hand, till the whole mass is incorporated; it must then be worked most thoroughly, moulded over and over and kneaded with your clenched hands, till it becomes so perfectly smooth and light as well as stiff, that not a particle will adhere to your hands. Remember that you cannot have good bread, light and white, unless you give the dough a thorough kneading.

Then make the dough into a lump in the middle of the trough or pan, and dust it over with flour to prevent its adhering to the vessel. Cover it with a warm cloth, and in the winter the vessel should be placed near the fire. It now undergoes a further fermentation, which is shown by its swelling and rising ; this, if the ferment was well formed, will be at its height in an hour-somewhat less in very warm weather. It ought to be taken at its height, before it begins to fall.

Divide the dough into seven equal portions ; mould on your paste-board, and form them into loaves ; put these on well floured tin or earthen plates, and place immediately in the oven.

The oven, if a good one and you have good dry wood, will heat sufficiently in an hour. It is best to kindle the fire in it with dry pine, hemlock furze or some quick burning material; then fill it up with faggots or hard wood split fine and dried, sufficient to heat it-let the wood burn down and stir the coals evenly over the bottom of the oven, let them lie till they are like embers; the bricks at the arch and sides will be clear from any color of smoke when the oven is sufficiently hot. Clean and sweep the oven, throw in a little flour on the bottom, if it burns black at once, do not put in the bread, but let it stand a few moments and cool.

It is a good rule to put the fire in the oven when the dough is made up—the batter will rise and the former heat in about the same time.

When the loaves are in the oven, it must be closed and kept tight, except you open it for a moment to see how the bread appears. If the oven is properly heated, loaves of the size named, will be done in an hour and a half or two hours. They will weigh four pounds per loaf, or about that—thus giving you twentyeight pounds of bread from twentyone quarts (or pounds) of flour. The weight gained is from the water.

It is the best economy to calculate (or ascertain by experiment) the number of loaves of a certain weight or size, necessary for a week’s consumption in your family, and bake accordingly. In the winter season bread may be kept good for a fortnight; still I think it the best rule to bake once every week. Bread should not be eaten at all till it has been baked, at least, one day. When the loaves are done, take them from the oven, and place them on a clean shelf, in a clean, cool pantry. If the crust happen to be scorched, or the bread is too much baked, the loaves, when they are taken out of the oven, may be wrapped in a clean, coarse towel, which has been slightly damped. It is well to keep a light cloth thrown over all the loaves. When a loaf has been cut, it should be kept in a tight box from the air, if you wish to prevent its drying.

YEAST. It is impossible to have good light bread, unless you have lively sweet yeast. When common family beer is well brewed and kept in a clean cask, the settlings are the best of yeast. If you do not keep beer, then make common yeast by the following method.

Take two quarts of water, one handful of hops, two of wheat bran; boil these together twenty minutes ; strain off the water, and while it is boiling hot stir in either wheat or rye flour, till it becomes a thick batter; let it stand till it is about blood warm ; then add a half pint of good smart yeast and a large spoonful of molasses, if you have it, and stir the whole well. Set it in a cool place in summer and a warm one in winter. When it becomes perfectly light, it is fit for use. If not needed immediately, it should, when it becomes cold, be put in a clean jug or bottle ; do not fill the vessel and the cork must be left loose till the next morning, when the yeast will have done working. Then cork it tightly, and set in a cool place in the cellar. It will keep ten or twelve days.

MILK YEAST. One pint of new milk ; one tea-spoonful of fine salt, and a large spoon of flour-stir these well together; set the mixture by the fire, and keep it just lukewarm; it will be fit for use in an hour. Twice the quantity of common yeast is necessary ; it will not keep long. Bread made of this yeast dries very soon; but in the summer it is some. times convenient to make this kind when yeast is needed suddenly

Never keep yeast in a tin vessel. If you find the old yeast sour, and have not time to prepare new, put in salæratus, a tea-spoonful to a pint of yeast, when ready to use it. If it foams up lively, it will raise the bread, if it does not, never use it.

HARD YEAST. Boil three ounces of hops in six quarts of water, till only two quarts remain. Strain it, and stir in while it is boiling hot, wheat or rye meal till it is thick as batter. When it is about milk warm add half a pint of good yeast, and let it stand till it is very light, which will probably be about three hours. Then work in sifted [corn] meal till it is stiff dough. Roll out on a board; cut it in oblong cakes about three inches by two. They should be about half an inch thick. Lay these cakes on a smooth board, over which a little flour has been dusted; prick them with a fork, and set the board in a dry clean chamber or store-room, where the sun and air may be freely admitted. Turn them every day. They will dry in a fortnight unless the weather is damp. When the cakes are fully dry, put them into a coarse cotton bag ; hang it up in a cool dry place. If rightly prepared these cakes will keep a year, and save the trouble of making new yeast every week.

Two cakes will make yeast sufficient for a peck of flour. Break them into a pint of lukewarm water and stir in a large spoonful of flour, the evening before you bake. Set the mixture where it can be kept moderately warm. In the morning it will be fit for use.

Let’s cross the ocean to England and look at yeast made from potatoes, as well as, a time-table for baking rolls. This excerpt comes from  The Young Cook’s Assistant, and Housekeeper’s Guide, published in 1841.

To make Yeast or Barm.

Boil three pounds of potatoes, in as much water as will cover them, to a mash, and pass them with the water through a sieve (take care in paring the potatoes that all the eyes are picked out); then add more water, till it is about the thickness of common yeast. Put in six ounces of lump sugar, and when nearly cold, add four table spoonfuls of good yeast: stir it in at the time, but not after. Let it stand twelve hours in a rather warm place-any part of a room where there is a fire will do. Then put it in a cold situation, and in twelve hours it will be fit for use. Put it in a jar, and tie a paper over: it will keep a week or ten days.

Another.

When good potatoes are not to be had, use a flour paste made about as thick as gruel. Add to every pint of it, when nearly cold, one ounce of sugar and a spoonful of yeast. Work it as the potato yeast, and keep it in a jar. As this is seldom made except in hot weather, it will not keep more than three or four days. It must stand in a cold place, but not in ice, for that destroys the strength of the yeast.

Rolls for Breakfast. The last thing over-night take three pounds of fine flour, rather more than half-a-pint of potato yeast, or of the paste-yeast, a little salt, and two eggs: then warm a little milk (which in hot weather should boil and get cold again), and make a light dough of it; set it on the kitchen table all night, covered with a cloth. The next morning turn it on the dresser, mould it over, and make it up in whatever shape you want it. Twists are made by taking a bit of butter on the dresser instead of flour, and rolling out a long thin length of the dough: then cut it in lengths and turn it in whatever shape you fancy, or may have seen. Place them on the baking-sheet and set it by the fire half-an-hour, to rise, while the oven is heating. For French rolls, put a piece of dough in each shape, set them to rise, and place them in the oven ten minutes before the others, as they must be rasped. The very small fancy twists, &c., should be brushed over the top with an egg, beaten with a little milk, before you set them to rise. Bake these in a slow oven, as they should be coloured but very little.

Buns. Take a piece of the dough made for the rolls; dissolve a bit of butter in a very little warm milk, beat it together, and mix with the dough. Add a little sifted lump sugar, one egg, a little allspice, carraway seeds, and currants—any or all of them, as approved. It must then have an hour to rise; after which, take a little flour on the dresser, and make the buns in whatever shape you please. Place them on the bakingsheet, and set them by the fire to rise. Brush them over with the eggs and milk as prepared for the small rolls, or sift a little white sugar on the top; for which purpose whisk the white of an egg, brush it over, and then sift the sugar upon it. These must have rather a slow oven, and will take a little longer baking than rolls of the same size.

Household Bread. The potato yeast is best for this purpose; and moist sugar will do if lump is a consideration. For a bushel of flour use the quantity of yeast that two pounds of potatoes make, with a handful of salt, and lukewarm water. First make a hole in the middle of the flour, put in the yeast and salt, and three quarts of water, and stir it up to a stiff batter: this is what is called the sponge. Shut it up two hours, and then make it into dough with warm water, but not very stiff.

Cover it up again another hour, or an hour and a half, and in the meantime heat the oven; then take out the dough on the moulding-board before the oven, and mould it in pieces the size of half a loaf: give it a good moulding, and leave it on the board before the fire, at least half-an-hour; it will then only require making into loaves, when the oven is ready. If you make eight loaves of a bushel of flour, they will take three hours and a half baking. Take care the oven is hot, and while it is heating frequently scrape one side and turn the fire over to it, and then scrape the other side. You need not shut the door at first, if too warm.

French Cottage Bread. French bricks are made of the same dough as rolls, or they may be made of a piece of the bread dough. Mould it well, and put it into a tin shape-it should be only half full-set it by the fire, and it will rise to the top. Do not shake it in putting it into the oven. Bake according to the size of the tin used: all kinds of bread ought to be well baked.

Victorian Home Necessities

I’ve been organizing, provisioning, cooking, and trying to stay positive.  I need a break! I’m posting information concerning essential Victorian room furnishings and other domestic advice from this fabulous work:

emember that to govern a family well, you must first govern yourself.

If you wash Monday, bake Tuesday, iron Wednesday, clean Thursday, mend Friday, and bake Saturday. Of course you will be somewhat governed by the peculiar situation of the family; but it will be found to be a good plan to have a regular routine for each day. If you keep but one servant, it will be found more convenient to wash Tuesday, putting the clothes in soak Monday. There can then be a nice cold dinner prepared for washing day, and the same can be arranged for ironing day.

Henrik Olrik – Portrait of Caroline Charlotte Suhr

HINTS TO YOUNG HOUSEKEEPERS, IN SELECTING HOUSE AND FURNITURE.

In selecting a house choose one not only within your means, but with reference to the number of persons in your family.

A large, empty house is only a burden, especially when good servants are scarce, and means limited. If possible, obtain one with a good hall, the principal rooms opening from it: rooms interfering with others are a great annoyance to housekeepers, as it is impossible to keep a room tidy when used as a thoroughfare by members of the family without frequent use of broom and duster, which is a constant wear on carpet and patience. The dining-room ought either to open out of the kitchen, or be separated by a hall; each should have a closet opening from them; and the kitchen have a passage to the cellar, and an outside door. The parlor is the most pleasant facing north, and should be independent of the other part of the house. The nursery is most convenient on the principal floor. Small bedrooms are preferable with closets to large ones without. Spring and rain water should be near the kitchen. Furniture appears well in small, that would hardly be called respectable in large, rooms.

Furnish your house with uniformity; nothing looks more vulgar than a splendidly furnished parlor, while the remainder of the house is hardly decent.

Decide how much you can afford to spend on furniture ; commence in the kitchen, and go through the house, making a list of all necessary articles, with their prices. If, after this is done, you find the sum appropriated not expended, select the superfluities, being careful not to crowd the parlors.

NECESSARY KITCHEN FURNITURE.- Range, or stove, for cooking; pot and kettle with covers; two small kettles with oval bottoms; tin boiler with steamer; tea kettle and steeper; coffee pot and mill; dripping pan and spider ; gridiron and meat fork; preserving kettle and saucepan ; griddle and pancake turner; iron ladle and spoons; knives, with forks strong and large ; butcher and bread knife; dippers, quart and pint, colander and large skimmer; waffle irons with rings; butter ladle and potato pounder; bread board and rolling pins; sieve, cake pans, and grater; mixing and baking pans, for bread; milk pans and strainer; milk pail and small skimmer; pie plates and pudding bakers; pepper shaker and wooden salt dish; flour dredge and cooky or biscuit cutter; bowls of common ware and dishes; jars for soda, cream of tartar, and spices; canisters, or bottles, for tea and coffee; tin box for bread, and one for cake; jugs for molasses and vinegar; spring and rain water, cleaning, and swill pail; iron ash pail and firebox ; shovel, tongs, and match safe ; kitchen table and chairs; candlesticks and snuffers; broom, dust pan, and scrubbing brush ; bottle cleaner and stove brush ; boxes with handles for sugar, etc. ; wash-boiler, and wash-tubs; clothes line, washboard, and clothes pins ; flat irons, ironing blanket and sheet; skirt and bosom board; clothes basket; knife and spoon basket; market and chip basket; dish pans and towels.

With these necessary articles, the writer closes the list, although there are many conveniences not enumerated, which are pleasant to use.

Dining-Room.—Table and chairs according to family ; tea and dining set, full or not, as desired; knives and forks for dinner and tea; tea and table spoons; mats and waiter; carpet or oil-cloth on the floor; two high lamps, or candlesticks; small side table; tablecloths and napkins; tea and coffee pot with stands; covers for meats, of wire; castor, butter knife, and carver; fly broom, pitchers, and goblets.

Hall.—Oil-cloth, lamp, and hat-stand.

Almost all prices being fixed to these articles according to their beauty and value, the purchasers must be governed by their means and taste.

Family Bed-Room.—Bedstead, with furniture and crockery; bureau, washstand, washbowl, and pitcher; slop jar, soap dish, foot bath, and two pint mugs; rocker, and other chairs; footstool, stove, and window shades; looking-glass, and small table; carpet, broom, and dust brush.

Parlor.—Carpet, table, chairs, sofa, lamp, footstools, shades.

Library.—Book-case, with all conveniences for writing ; table, chairs, and oil-cloth or carpet.

Spare Chamber.—Bedstead and furniture; washstand and furniture; Foot bath, slop jar, teeth mugs, and towel rack; dressing bureau, or table with glass; small stand, stove, chairs, windowshades, and carpet.

Bed-room.—Carpet, bedstead and furniture; washstand, bowl, and pitcher; looking-glass, small table, and chairs; window-shades.

Servants’ Rooms.—Bedsteads, chairs, small stand, looking-glass.

Josephus Laurentius Dyckmans  – Grandmother’s Birthday

Every member of the family should have a bag for soiled clothes; where there are closets in the bed-rooms it is well to fasten them on the inside of the closet doors; take one yard and a quarter of dark drilling, fold it so as to make a bag a half-yard deep, with the quarter projecting beyond, bind it all around with strong colored tape, make loops in the corners to hang up by, and put them on the door with carpet tacks. good method is to have a bag for each variety of patch, cotton, woollen, silk, etc., and sew a square patch on each bag, to show what they contain ; for instance, on the calico patch bag sew a square of print, on the silk, a silk patch, etc.; we find this the most convenient method of designating them, as we often have help who cannot read sufficient English to bring a bag with the contents written or printed on it.

A bag made in the form of the old-fashioned needle-books, with pockets just deep enough to hold shoes, and one in the same form for combs and brushes, will be found convenient. A paper bag should hang in the kitchen, containing refuse paper for covering cake, etc., when baking. One with bits of woollen and cotton for holders and iron wipers; and one to contain the bits of twine which come around bundles.

We ourselves would not know how to keep house without these bags. Every spring they are assorted, and all superfluous patches put with carpet or paper rags, which keeps them in good order the year round, and saves much needless trouble in hunting patches, buttons, etc., from among quantities of rubbish.

John Everett Millais  –  Peace Concluded

The Emperor’s Prized Dogs

This painting of Xiang Fei, the Fragrant Concubine, led me on a fascinating artistic hunt. Why did the portrait strike me? I couldn’t put my finger on it at first, but upon later study,  I realized my fascination with the painting was because it blended Western and Eastern styles.

Giuseppe Castiglione or Lang Shining painted the portrait in the 18th century. Castiglione, born in 1688 in Milan, trained as an artist in Europe before joining the Jesuits at 19. He was sent to China to serve under the Qing Dynasty emperor.

Emperor Qianlong by Giuseppe Castiglione
Emperor Qianlong’s Pleasure during Snowy Weather by Giuseppe Castiglione

In China, Castiglione adopted the name Lang Shining and fused his Western artistic training with Eastern techniques. He served under three Qing Dynasty emperors, ultimately becoming a court painter. He died in China in 1766.

He painted several series for the emperors, including my favorite, the Emperor’s prized dogs!

Merry Winter Solstice

I had quite forgotten about Winter Solstice this morning when I stumbled down to the kitchen for chocolate and coffee. I only remembered when my friend sent a text from her annual solstice sunrise pilgrimage. So, in lieu of a cold hike in the darkness to see the cleansing sunrise, I’m posting about the origins of the Yule Log from The Book of Days. A Miscellany of Popular Antiquities in Connection with the Calendar, 1864. I can’t vouch for the correctness of the information presented, but it makes for a good story.

The burning of the Yule log is an ancient Christmas ceremony, transmitted to us from our Scandinavian ancestors, who, at their feast of Juul, at the winter-solstice, used to kindle huge bonfires in honour of their god Thor.

Thor going off on giants.
Mårten Eskil Winge 

Hmmm, maybe I could celebrate the solstice by watching Thor: Ragnarok by candlelight.

The custom, though sadly shorn of the “pomp and circumstance’ which formerly attended it, is still maintained in various parts of the country. The bringing in and placing of the ponderous block on the hearth of the wide chimney in the baronial hall was the most joyous of the ceremonies observed on Christmas Eve in feudal times. The venerable log, destined to crackle a welcome to all-comers, was drawn in triumph from its resting-place at the feet of its living brethren of the woods. Each wayfarer raised his hat as it passed, for he well knew that it was full of good promises, and that its flame would burn out old wrongs and heartburnings, and cause the liquor to bubble in the wassail-bowl, that was quaffed to the drowning of ancient feuds and animosities. So the Yule-log was worthily honoured, and the ancient bards welcomed its entrance with their minstrelsy.

And here, in connection with the festivities on Christmas Eve, we may quote Herrick’s inspiriting stanzas :

Come bring with a noise,
My merry, merry boys,
The Christmas log to the firing;
While my good dame she
Bids ye all be free,
And drink to your heart’s desiring.

With the last year’s brand
Light the new block, and,
For good success in his spending,
On your psalteries play
That sweet luck may
Come while the log is a teending. (burning)

Drink now the strong beer,
Cut the white loaf here,
The while the meat is a shredding;
For the rare mince-pie,
And the plums stand by,
To fill the paste that’s a kneading.

The allusion at the commencement of the second stanza, is to the practice of laying aside the half-consumed block after having served its purpose on Christmas Eve, preserving it carefully in a cellar or other secure place till the next anniversary of Christmas, and then lighting the new log with the charred remains of its predecessor.

The due observance of this custom was considered of the highest importance, and it was believed that the preservation of last year’s Christmas log was a most effectual security to the house against fire. We are further informed, that it was regarded as a sign of very bad-luck if a squinting person entered the hall when the log was burning, and a similarly evil omen was exhibited in the arrival of a bare-footed person, and, above all, of a flat-footed woman!

Robert Alexander Hillingford – Yule Log being brought in at Hever Castle