Happy Victorian Halloween

The following are excerpts from The Book of Days for 1832.

There is perhaps no night in the year which the popular imagination has stamped with a more peculiar character than the evening of the 31st of October, known as All Hallow’s Eve, or Halloween. It is clearly a relic of pagan times, for there is nothing in the church-observance of the ensuing day of All Saints to have originated such extraordinary notions as are connected with this celebrated festival, or such remarkable practices as those by which it is distinguished.


The leading idea respecting Halloween is that it is the time, of all others, when supernatural influences prevail It is the night set apart for a universal walking abroad of spirits, both of the visible and invisible world; for, as will be afterwards seen, one of the special characteristics attributed to this mystic evening, is the faculty conferred on the immaterial principle in humanity to detach itself from its corporeal tenement and wander abroad through the realms of space. Divination is then believed to attain its highest power, and the gift asserted by Glendower of calling spirits ‘from the vasty deep,’ becomes available to all who choose to avail themselves of the privileges of the occasion.

There is a remarkable uniformity in the fireside customs of this night all over the United Kingdom. Nuts and apples are everywhere in requisition, and consumed in immense numbers. Indeed the name of Nutcrack Night, by which Halloween is known in the north of England, indicates the predominance of the former of these articles in making up the entertainments of the evening. They are not only cracked and eaten, but made the means of vaticination in love-affairs.

It is a custom in Ireland, when the young women would know if their lovers are faithful, to put three nuts upon the bars of the grate, naming the nuts after the lovers. If a nut cracks or jumps, the lover will prove unfaithful; if it begins to blaze or burn, he has a regard for the person making the trial. If the nuts named after the girl and her lover burn together, they will be married.

There is an old custom, perhaps still observed in some localities on this merry night, of hanging up a stick horizontally by a string from the ceiling, and putting a candle on the one end, and an apple on the other. The stick being made to twirl rapidly, the merry-makers in succession leap up and snatch at the apple with their teeth (no use of the hands being allowed), but it very frequently happens that the candle comes round before they are aware, and scorches them in the face, or anoints them with grease. The disappointments and misadventures occasion, of course, abundance of laughter. But the grand sport with apples on Halloween is to set them afloat in a tub of water, into which the juveniles, by turns, duck their heads with the view of catching an apple.

Among these is the custom still prevalent in Scotland, as the initiatory Halloween ceremony, of pulling kailstocks or stalks of colewort. The young people go out hand-in-hand, blindfolded, into the kailyard or garden, and each pulls the first stalk which he meets with. They then return to the fireside to inspect their prizes. According as the stalk is big or little, straight or crooked, so shall the future wife or husband be of the party by whom it is pulled. The quantity of earth sticking to the root denotes the amount of fortune or dowry; and the taste of the pith or custoc indicates the temper. Finally, the stalks are placed, one after another, over the door, and the Christian names of the persons who chance thereafter to enter the house are held in the same succession to indicate those of the individuals whom the parties are to marry.

Another ceremony much practised on Halloween, is that of the Three Dishes or Luggies. Two of these are respectively filled with clean and foul water, and one is empty. They are ranged on the hearth, when the parties, blindfolded, advance in succession, and dip their fingers into one. If they dip into the clean water, they are to marry a maiden ; if into the foul water, a widow; if into the empty dish, the party so dipping is destined to be either a bachelor or an old maid. As each person takes his turn, the position of the dishes is changed.

The ceremonies above described are all of a light sportive description, but there are others of a more weird-like and fearful character, which in this enlightened incredulous age have fallen very much into desuetude. One of these is the celebrated spell of eating an apple before a looking glass, with the view of discovering the inquirer’s future husband, who it is believed will be seen peeping over her shoulder.

What may perhaps be termed unhallowed, rites of All Hallows’ Eve, is to wet a shirt-sleeve, hang it up to the fire to dry, and lie in bed watching it till midnight, when the apparition of the individual’s future partner for life will come in and turn the sleeve

Other rites for the invocation of spirits might be referred to, such as the sowing of hemp-seed, and the winnowing of three wechts of nothing, i.e., repeating three times the action of exposing corn to the wind. In all of these the effect sought to be produced is the same—the appearance of the future husband or wife of the experimenter.



Above illustration is from News from the invisible world; or, Interesting anecdotes of the dead, published between 1800 – 1830

Victorian Parlor Games

I assure you that I was researching innocent historical children’s games (see The Girl’s Own Book) when I came across Games And Sports: Being An Appendix To Manly Exercises And Exercises For Ladies, Containing The Various In-Door Games And Sports, The Out-Of-Door Games And Sports, Those Of The Seasons, &C, published in 1837.  The last chapters of the volume include some “interesting” parlor games for young ladies and gentlemen.  And really,  how could I resist a title that includes “Manly Exercises”?

Just look at those men being manly!

Le Bon Genre has some illustrations of kissy games in the Regency era, but I couldn’t find any such illustrations closer to 1837.  So, I’m including French fashions from Petit Courrier Des Dames


The Deaf Person

The person on whom this temporary infirmity is inflicted, rises and stands in the middle of the circle, and must answer three times, ” I am deaf, I can’t hear ;” and, the fourth time, “I hear.”

Of course the spite of the players induces them to render the penance severe. If the deaf person be a gentleman, a lady approaches and offers something agreeable to him ; and the unfortunate wight is compelled to reply in the stated form. Two other malicious ladies make him similar offers; or a gentleman, taking a lady by the hand, says, ” I bring this lady to you—salute her.” The deaf person hears not. At the fourth question, however, when his ears are opened, he is told to conduct some lady to kiss the wall, to sing a song, &c. The deaf man is allowed to refuse, and of course does not neglect his privilege.

This penance is also inflicted on ladies; but then it is by no means so amusing.


 Punishments for Ladies

In the French games, kisses are too much multiplied. In Britain, they can be assigned as punishments only to ladies.

Kiss Your Shadow

When the lady attempts to do this, a gentleman may place himself between the candle and the shadow.


Kiss the Candlestick

A gentleman presents the candlestick somewhat elevated; and, when the lady is about to kiss it, she is saluted by the gentleman.

Or, if this punishment be imposed on a gentleman, he requests a lady to hold a lighted candle for a few seconds; and, having thus transformed the lady into a candlestick, he salutes her. This penance is imposed only on young gentlemen, who, it is thought, will be stupid enough to kiss the real candlestick, and thereby create some laughter; or when it is thought that the same effect will be produced by the young lady being ignorant of the consequence of holding the candle.


Baiser A La Capucine

The lady and gentleman are placed on their knees, back to back. They both turn their heads at the same time, one to the right and the other to the left, and endeavour to bring their lips together for the required salute. The gentleman may pass his arm round his companion’s waist, in order to lessen the fatigue and support her, if she lose her equilibrium.

Basier A La Religieuse

This is remarkable for the difficulty of performance. How unpleasant to be unable to salute the lady of your choice, except through the close bars of the back of a chair !


The Deceitful Kiss

The lady who performs this penance approaches a young man, who advances eagerly to salute her, but finds himself repulsed and the favour granted to his neighbour.

When this trick is known, the young man who advances first cannot be deceived again; therefore he is not the one whom they endeavour to mystify; but his neighbour who, thinking he has only to present himself, advances; and the lady, whose choice is free, repulses him, and bestows the favour on the next to him. Sometimes she returns to the one who was before deceived, which renders the game more piquant.

Kiss The Four Corners Of The Room

When the lady attempts to do this, four gentlemen place themselves in the four corners of the room, and she is forced to salute them one after the other; or one gentleman, when the thing is not understood, may in succession, occupy more than one of the four corners of the room, and salute her in each.

To Kiss The Person You Love Best Without Any One Else Knowing It

For a lady, this penance consists in receiving a salute from more than one gentleman in the room.


The Postman

When any one is ordered as a punishment to perform the office of postman, he must commence in the following manner :—He must get together in a bag, or reticule, or in the corner of a shawl, as the sex may be, several pieces of paper folded up as letters. He then stands up in front of the players, and, addressing the player who was on his right hand, when he was seated, presents a letter, saying, ” It is from such a place, &c.” and takes care to make some allusion to the acquaintance, friendship, or relationship existing amongst the players. The party to whom the letter is sent asks how much the postage is? The postman demands as much as he chooses: for instance, he may charge four, six, eight, ten, or twelve pence : the postage is of course paid in kisses. But the lady may refuse to take in the letter, if she thinks the postage too heavy, as a proof that she is not satisfied ; and the postman must pass on. This is a lesson for those gentlemen who are too bold ; for a postage of two or three pence is, almost by the rules of the game, paid immediately in ready cash.

This penance is generally prescribed to a gentleman, who addresses himself to the ladies only. But if, by the casting of the lots, it comes to the turn of the lady, she presents letters to the gentlemen only in the party. In this case, the postage is very trifling, as the lady generally says the postage is paid, &c. &c.

If a successor is found for the postman, by the substitution of his right hand neighbour, this penance becomes a game.

The postman receives a *forfeit from every one who refuses to pay the postage, on account of the demand being exorbitant: the lady, on the contrary, receives forfeits from those that want to pay the postage.

Susanna’s note: *Explanation of a forfeit.

This game is amusing enough for two or three rounds : it is not often played longer, because it accumulates plenty of forfeits and offers no variety.


The Bailiff, Or The Creditor

The gentleman condemned to act as the bailiff, says to a lady, ” Pay, or I must put in a distress for so many kisses ;” and at the same time he endeavours to get possession of her gloves, handkerchief, bonnet, reticule, or shawl. ” But,” says the lady, ” I am short of money ; at all events take off something; the interest is usurious;” with similar phrases. The creditor stands out for the full amount of his demand; but as the lady will not surrender, they bargain between them till finally the lady pays.

When the lady resolutely refuses, and ” says I am insolvent,” she lets the importunate creditor carry off some trifle belonging to her, that he has been able to get possession of, and which he is afterwards obliged to return.

But when this penance is turned into a game, the article seized becomes a forfeit. The creditor passes from one lady to another to the end of the circle.

In the second round, the ladies become creditors, and distrain on the gentlemen; but, instead of demanding kisses of their debtors, they require a song, a declamation, and very frequently an extemporary verse. If the unfortunate debtors cannot comply, the lady endeavours to enforce the distress ; this however, as the gentlemen are on their guard, is not always easily effected.

The creditors, both male and female, are replaced in the same manner as in the preceding game.


Patipata, Who Shall Kiss That ?

The company being seated in circle, one of the players, who is the penitent or Patipata, kneels down before a person of different sex; but to prevent fatigue, especially if the penitent be a female, she is seated on a footstool or cushion. The person on whose knees the penitent’s head reclines, takes good care that he can see nothing; and, pointing with his finger to some person or object in the room, says, ” Patipata, who shall kiss that ?” The penitent names any one he chooses; and the person so named is obliged to obey. As soon as that is performed, Patipata is again asked, and another player is named, and the game continues till Patipata names himself, for then he kisses the object pointed out, and is absolved from his penance.

This game of penance in which a great many players join, is extremely amusing, in consequence of the curious circumstances which the chance decisions of the penitent produce. He frequently sends one gentleman to embrace another; and a lady to kiss the hands or hair of another lady; a third is obliged to kiss her own arm or knee; and a fourth to imprint a kiss on his own cheek or forehead. The door, the walls, the vases, the furniture, chimney, clock, &c, come in also for their share of the kisses which the blind distributor orders.

As Patipata can answer ‘I’ whenever he chooses, he generally takes care to do so immediately after any disagreeable object has been embraced, because he knows they change the object: but it frequently happens that he is mistaken in his conjectures, and, when he expected to indemnify himself by saluting a rosy cheek, finds himself obliged to kiss the back of a sofa, the snuffers, or some such object. Patipata is allowed to raise his head and witness the execution of his decisions ; and he lays it down immediately afterwards.

When this penance is a game, and Patipata names himself, and embraces one of the players, the latter takes his place; but when it is an inanimate object, the unlucky Patipata is obliged not only to kiss it, but also to continue his task. If he does not like to abide by his own decision, he may refuse the salute, by paying a forfeit, and must continue his unsuccessful career; no one else has this privilege; and the penitent can take advantage of it only three times: the fourth time he is obliged to accede to his own decisions. If the object however is animated, the player who sat originally on the right of Patipata, is obliged to take his place.




Juicy Regency Gossip

Excerpted from “The Rambler’s Magazine; Or, Fashionable Emporium Of Polite Literature, The Fine Arts—Politics—Theatrical Excellencies— Wit—Humour—Genius—Taste— Gallantry— And All The Gay Variety Of Supreme Bon Ton

Images from “Belle Assemblée: Or, Court and Fashionable Magazine; Containing Interesting and Original Literature, and Records of the Beau-monde,” published in 1826


Kensington Gardens, where monarchs once delighted to range and breathe “sweet odours,” has now become a sink of vice, filth, and infamy, nearly as bad as Vauxhall—that nursery of prostitution.

Some steps should be taken to purify this summer scene of guilt,  where every bush is made a brothel, and vice as notorious as the sun at noon day. The keepers are of no use; they encourage the scenes they are ordered to prevent; and, for a bribe, will wink at the most horrible depravities.

‘Tis but the other day, that a person observed a lady, the wife of a Member of Parliament, whom at present we will not name, go into the Marine Temple; (an edifice that ought to be destroyed) from motives of curiosity he followed. She was apparently sitting on one of the seats, and addressed him with “What do you want here? Go about your business; you impudent fellow,” &c. He then discovered that she had a companion; and said,—”Oh! madam, I did not at first perceive you had got a gentleman behind you. I beg your pardon.” He then bowed, and retried. The gentleman proved to be the Earl of B  — , a young and gallant nobleman. What he did behind the lady, we do not pretend to know; but this we know, that he had not any business there with his friend’s wife. We shall say no more at present, as we have an intention of giving the tale to the world in a different form, with a plate of the interior of the Marine Temple, and the scene of the Lovers. We again repeat that this temple of debauchery ought to be destroyed, and the gardens closed, if nothing can be done to purge them of vice ; for as they are, no woman who values her character will enter them.


A gentleman, who has been lately spoken of as the champion selected by ministers as the advocate of high-church principles, and defender of religion’s cause, during last week, to amuse himself at this dull season, eloped with the wife of one of his friends.

The family of Lord B — are thrown into the greatest distress by this event, and the harpies of the long robe anticipate a plentiful harvest on the occasion. The parties are rich and powerful. The honourable seducer (if we may so call him) will no doubt be made to pay for having taken Leg with his friend’s wife, and will stand his trial. It is to be presumed he will not, like many of our men of fashion, less religiously inclined, take “leg bail,” and leave the plaintiff to hunt for damages, especially when he can be backed by the Treasury. As to his lordship, a man that passes his time in Italy, writing operas for the Tuscans and Florentines, whilst his wife pines in a solitary bed in this cold climate, he cannot set much value on what he has lost; and the lady, who could not have his whole body, as a substitute, was content to take a Leg to her arms, which may, at some future time, give the Herald’s Office a job to alter the family escutcheons.


At the death of his wife General B—t—n became mean and penurious—probably the bad debts owing to him by his party, soured him against future liberality. He sold his town house, and lodged at an hotel in Grosvenor Street or Pall Mall; his three daughters occupied his house near Brighton, with a small establishment, and were refused an introduction at court, on account of their father’s misconduct.

Jemmy Gordon had been a quarter-master in the General’s regiment in India, and was dismissed for peculation. He opened a hell in St. James’s Street, under his old master’s patronage. Jemmy had little money, but plenty of wit and roguery. The house was luxuriously furnished at the General’s expense. A stock of most expensive and delicious wines and cordials filled the cellar ; and the back rooms were laid out after the plan of Madame Frederick’s Palace of Pleasure at Madras. The finest beauties of the day were provided, and dressed from the house wardrobe in silks and jewels, to seduce the unwary into their snares. Proper watch was kept upon them—they were not permitted to depart till they had been examined—and the profits of their prostitution shared between the General, Jemmy Gordon and themselves; Jemmy charging them so much per hour for the use of the finery.

Sal Jamieson, now the respected wife of a northern barrister, made her fortune in this place, and how she made it is worthy of being related in this memoir. A young man was introduced by the General several evenings, and played pretty deep. When tired with gambling, he amused himself in the arms of Miss Jamieson, with love and wine. He always paid her handsomely—he was, moreover, her countryman—and she pitied him. One day he lost £4000, and having no more cash on his person, he dispatched her with a draft on his banker for £6000. The General had been Sal’s friend, and had known her for years; they had often trusted her, and she never deceived them—they anticipated a glorious harvest at her return, and she made them (the two partners) sign an agreement to give her an equal share of the spoil, at the consummation of the young man’s ruin. This happened about noon-day. The young man had been playing all the preceding night, and was so completely overcome with wine that he did not know what he was about. Hour after hour passed, and trusty Sal returned not. The biters saw that they were bit and loudly taxed their dupe with imposing upon them—declaring he had sent no draft by the girl—they refused to lend him a sixpence, and he was turned out into the street, at ten o’clock on a wet night. He repaired to his lodgings, and threw himself on a sofa, reflecting on the manner he should finish his existence—he had no doubt but the girl had received the money, and it was the last sum he had in the world—he was aroused from his reverie by a loud rap at the door, and a lady was announced as his visitor. She followed the servant up stairs, and throwing off her cloak, discovered his chere amie, Sal Jamieson.

She made him sit down and compose himself; she exposed the infamy of the set he had got linked with, and as a proof of it. she produced the agreement, signed by the General, for her share in his plunder. He knew not which to admire most, their infamy, or her magnanimity, when she put into his hands the £6,000 in bank notes, assuring him that she only drew it from the bank to prevent it falling into their hands by means of a fresh check, which she doubted not he would have been weak enough to give. From this time she attached herself to this young man’s fortunes, and abandoned all her former courses. At the end of a few years he married her; they have three children, and in the place of his residence the former life of the lady is not known.


The public, no doubt, recollect, not many months past, that Mr. Best of dueling notoriety with Lord Camelford, appeared at Bow-Street with a very young lady Miss Bartolozzi, sister to Madame Vestris, the Don Juan of Drury Lane, where it appeared Mrs. B. the mother of Miss Bartolozzi, wished to prostitute her to Lord Petersham, in consideration of the sum of £500 value received, which the girl resisted, and her kind mother swore a robbery against her. Mr. Best appeared at Bow-Street to have taken Miss Bartolozzi’s part from moral and fatherly motives, and perhaps he did so.

Mr. Best then bore the young lady off in triumph, who appeared soon after to have been reconciled to her would-be seducer, as we saw them more than once in company at the theatres. Miss Bartolozzi appeared now in court, to show cause, why a bill for sundries applied to her use should not be paid by her, but Mr. Best, who for some reasons, to us unknown, had become a party to the debt.

Nominal damages were given of £1,000, subject to an award out of court, so that Mr. Best will have something to pay for, whatever that something may be it is not our business to enquire. The fair defendant was attended by her sister, Madame Vestris, and her noble counsel Lord Petersham, who overshadowed her with his bushy whiskers, and grinned horribly a ghastly smile when the verdict was given in court. Miss Bartolozzi was evidently under the protection of this sprig of noble morality in court, and out of it, we suppose, she is the same—at any rate, to be in the company of two Don Juans, is more than sufficient to give Miss B. a nameless name in the annals of gallantry; and we think no woman that valued her reputation at a rush, would hazard it by coming in contact with a professed libertine.

As to Madame Vestris, she is what she is—and either in breeches or petticoats, will be Don Juan; but we feel for her sister, who looks so much like an angel, really we should have mistaken her for one, had she not been surrounded by such wicked devils.


The elopement of the two Miss W——’s from Staffordshire, has excited a strong sensation in that and the adjoining counties. These ladies being nearly connected with the first families in England and Wales, and the youngest only sixteen years of age. It seems, that being at Bath last winter for the completion of their education, (having lately lost their mother) they were closely beset by two young sons of Mars, and to avert the threatened danger, were sent to the house of their aunt, Mrs. A—, who is separated from her husband, and resides in the neighbourhood of Stafford. Here, as it was more than suspected, an attempt would be made to carry them off, they were accompanied by two trusty female servants; but all the eyes of Argus were wanting; for watching an opportunity, they got out of the drawing-room window, and ran for two miles into the turnpike road, where a coach and four, with their happy swains, awaited their arrival. Their aunt followed them as soon as she could procure four post-horses, but relinquished the pursuit at Newcastle; the lovers having got two hours ahead of her in their road to Gretna Green. We understand the parties are safe returned, properly linked in the bands of wedlock.

Le Bon Genre – Parisian Social Life in the Early 1800s

As I research potential blog posts, I often run across references to Le Bon Genre.  Well, I’ve finally found the obscure book or, to be more accurate, series of prints illustrating Parisian social life in the early 1800s. I’ve posted about twenty images from the many in the document. If you are a Regency enthusiast, I highly recommend that you view the entire collection which is now public domain and online thanks to the wonderful, wonderful Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

Usually I try to restore the old images that I place on my blog. However, the Le Bon Genre pictures looked so fabulous that I didn’t do anything cosmetic to them.