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  • Breaking the Ampoule January 23, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Breaking the Ampoule

    A WIBT moment from eighteenth-century France: the collision of the hoary old with the bright-eyed, metallic and ghastly new. It involves a cathedral, a hammer and the crystal fragments of a Roman perfume bottle, the Sainte Ampoule, one of the longest continuously used objects in world history. This tiny flacon had been made in the late Roman […]

    Richard Cosway Meets the Wandering Jew January 22, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Richard Cosway Meets the Wandering Jew

    This story appears in Cyrus Redding’s Fifty Years in the third volume (1858). Redding is describing a Mr. Beckford, an immensely rich Englishman in the late eighteenth, early nineteenth century with whom he was personally acquainted. The following story is not from Beckford but from a friend of Beckford which means, of course, we are […]

    19C Rumours from Britain January 20, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    19C Rumours from Britain

    In his search for Victorian urban legends, Beach has recently been chasing the word ‘rumour’ through the Victorian press. He did not find much in the way of urban legends but he did find lots of inexplicable international gossip. Of course, in the age of the internet the rumour that the Prince of Wales had drowned […]

    The Servant Who Became a Bride January 19, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Servant Who Became a Bride

    Beach has often offered up stories that sound like that they may be urban legends from Victorian Britain. Many of these stories involve crime because crime was acceptable to the reading palate of Victorians: morality, punishment, sometimes redemption… There were unquestionably many sexual urban legends. Unfortunately most of these went unrecorded because of Victorian sensibilities. […]

    Japanese Dragon Hunt January 17, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Japanese Dragon Hunt

    Beach has a busy day, so he offers this story up almost without comment. It would be fun to expand it though. Can anyone help with original sources, or at least ones nearer the fount: drbeachcombing At yahoo DOT com Thousands of peasants in the province Sessbu [in Japan] are engaged in a dragon hunt. […]

    Best Irish Fairy Books: The Twentieth Century January 15, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Best Irish Fairy Books: The Twentieth Century

    Yesterday we offered the best nineteenth-century writing on Irish fairies. Today the best of the twentieth century: 1911: In this year W. Y. Evans-Wentz changed fairy writing for ever by publishing his brilliantly bizarre The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries. Evans-Wentz offered a collection of fairylore for all the Celtic nations (Cornwall, Man, Scotland, Brittany, […]

    Best Irish Fairy Books: the Nineteenth Century January 14, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Best Irish Fairy Books: the Nineteenth Century

    So you have decided to become an expert on fairies. Your eyes wander over the map of western Europe and after some consideration of the different regional varieties you settle on Ireland: English fairies too pompous; Dutch fey MIA; Icelandic elves aloof; Scandinavian trolls stupid… But where do you begin? There follows a list of […]

    Dumb Duels #5: Golf Duel January 13, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Dumb Duels #5: Golf Duel

    A golf duel from the US picked up by a British newspaper in 1927 and so dating to that year? From America comes an account of a strange duel – a combat with golf clubs and balls as ‘the weapons’ wherewith two disputants went out to seek satisfaction. A St. Louis man and a visitor […]

    Wandering Jew in Tunis January 12, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Wandering Jew in Tunis

    Beach offered, just the other day, a Wandering Jew story. Here is another encounter, this time from Tunis: incidentally how can the WJ live in both Tunis and Monte Carlo, perhaps he got the boat over once a year? Canadian movie star Matheson Lang meets a fan, after he produces a play, The Wandering Jew. […]

    Invisible Library: Sherlock Holmes’ Publications January 11, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Invisible Library: Sherlock Holmes' Publications

    Beach once before ran a post on missing Sherlock Holmes stories in the Invisible Libraries series: books that do not exist save in the imagination. However, he missed a trick. There are not just missing Sherlock Holmes stories there are also missing Sherlock Holmes publications. On several occasions in the canon Sherlock refers, en passant, […]

    Wandering Jew Plays Roulette January 10, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Wandering Jew Plays Roulette

    There is a book, admittedly a very small book to be written about sightings of the wandering jew: the man cursed by Christ to walk all over the earth for refusing a drink on the road to crucifixion. Here is one of the most curious of these myths. This one was first attested 18 Jan 1902 and […]

    Fairy Vampires #1: Spence Speaks January 9, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Fairy Vampires #1: Spence Speaks

    Vampire legends arrived in Britain and Ireland from the east of Europe in the eighteenth century and were, then, celebrated in fiction in the early, mid nineteenth century (The Vampyre, 1819 and Varney the Vampire, 1847). Two of the great popularisers of vampires in, what was then, the UK were, of course, Irish: the brilliant […]

    Victorian Criminal Slang January 8, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Criminal Slang

    Beach has been enjoying Pickpockets, Beggars and Ratcatchers by Kellow Chesney on London’s underworld in the teeming, dirty and unmatchable nineteenth century: the illustrations are great too. One of the joys about entering this world is the lively slang used by the underclass. The following come from Pickpockets but also from one of the most […]

    Spoilt Royal Brats: Alexei Romanov January 7, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Spoilt Royal Brats: Alexei Romanov

    Royal parents have a unique problem. They have to bring up their children like anyone else (or, ok, pay others to do so), but they also have to convince their children that they are God’s anointed. Infants painfully learn that the world does not revolve around them: yet, in the case of royal children, particularly heirs […]

    Epiphany Gift: Superstitions of the Irish Peasantry January 6, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Epiphany Gift: Superstitions of the Irish Peasantry

    These nine stories were published in 1825, then somehow fell through the cracks of history. William Wilde (Oscar’s dad) claimed in 1852 that they were the best things out there on Irish folklore. Yeats later (from what Beach can see) pretended to have read them, but there is suggestive evidence that he had not. Here […]

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