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  • Natator 2#: Buckland Speaks March 29, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Natator 2#: Buckland Speaks

    Natator had no biographer: who would be equal to such a life! However,  10 August 1867 Frank Buckland the celebrated naturalist and son of a great British eccentric (who once ate a king’s heart) visited the Cremorne Gardens to examine Frog Man. We learn more from this account than from any other. First, the aquarium: […]

    Natator 1#: Arrival of the Master! March 28, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Natator 1#: Arrival of the Master!

    Nineteenth-century London. Three million human beings crammed into rookeries and tenements, villas and palaces and desperate for stimulation outside the normal run of work, gin and jellied eels. The theatres and music halls did their best, of course, but even the wildest cant, the heartiest acting, the prettiest legs quickly jade in the world capital. It was […]

    The Eyes Have It: Lenin’s Screwing Orbs March 25, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Eyes Have It: Lenin's Screwing Orbs

    Eyes! Novelists are forever going on about them, even philosophers occasionally get excited about them: blue eyes are beautiful, brown eyes are sublime, Kant insists.  Beach personally has never understood all the fuss: of the twenty members of his family he probably has noticed the eyes of three and knows the colour of six or […]

    Not the Shawl, Josephine! March 24, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Not the Shawl, Josephine!

    This is a chamber pot story, one which Beach stumbled upon during his recent research into chamber pot enemies. We are in France in the theatre at Saint-Cloud and during the first act, Napoleon’s wife, the Empress Josephine ‘was seized with an uncontrollable desire to make water’. This comes from an edition in 1896 and […]

    The Mystery of the Victoria Reservoir at Southport March 22, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Mystery of the Victoria Reservoir at Southport

    Southport is a Lancashire seaside town. In the nineteenth-century Southport had something of a reputation, tourists flocked from throughout the north and in 1860 Southport would build the second largest pier in Britain: a big deal back then when coast towns measured their self esteem by ‘how long’ they were. At the centre of these […]

    Death by Joke March 21, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Death by Joke

    The historical practical joke tag has now reached almost a dozen posts and Beach thought that he would celebrate with a brief survey of a particularly unusual form of practical joke: jokes that ended in the joker or jokee dying. Beach limited himself to British newspapers from 1 Jan 1880 to Dec 31 1899 and […]

    Disturbingly Nude Victorian Mermaids March 18, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Disturbingly Nude Victorian Mermaids

    Nothing like a really beautiful mermaid, right: hair breezing sea blue blonde, scales shining with Brasso, tail whipping like a pike dropped in a bucket of acid? Well, yes, and Beach has previously celebrated the alluring mermaids of Venice: what some of his students would call ‘babes’. But he has been disturbed today by a […]

    Preserving Foolish Enemies March 15, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Preserving Foolish Enemies

    A very speculative post. In war there may be something to be said, in strategic terms, let’s forget the tiresome debates around international law, for killing enemy leaders. Sometimes this is a simple decapitation strategy (American attempts to annihilate Sadam Hussein at the beginning of the Second Gulf War or earlier US targeted bombing on […]

    Chamber Pot Enemies March 14, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Chamber Pot Enemies

    Chamber pots have been practically banished from modern western households but as late as the Second World War most families had a ceramic bowl that passed as a toilet; a potty for grownups with no running water in the house. These chamber pots were, of course, carefully decorated. Some of them were twee, some were […]

    Child Stealing and Bridge Building in Bosnia March 13, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Child Stealing and Bridge Building in Bosnia

    This story appeared in 1897 in the British newspapers, it circulated around the world appearing in New Zealand and Pennsylvania, as well, though it is one of those tales where there was no follow up: did it reflect facts on the ground or a desperate hack with nothing to write about? It related, in any […]

    Selling Children in the 1800s March 10, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Selling Children in the 1800s

    An amazing report from Oldham, 1888: On Monday evening a woman about 40 years of age was seen in Curzon Street with two children, one in arms, and the other, about three years old, walking by her side. From what transpired it appeared that the woman wanted to sell her children, and thereupon a large […]

    Review: The Victorian Book of the Dead March 6, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Review: The Victorian Book of the Dead

    In the last thirty years historians have found a new way to pattern their vast bibliographies. Rather than just include twenty pages in alphabetical order – too easy for the scholarly mind – many have decided, instead, to split the bibliography in two. The first bibliography will be primary sources and the second bibliography will […]

    Hair Harvests and Hair Theft February 27, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Hair Harvests and Hair Theft

    The hair harvest was the trick of selling your beautiful head of hair, an option open to hirsute young women, to the local barber for a sovereign (or somewhat less). The practice was common enough in Victorian Britain that it appears in a Hardy novel, The Woodlanders, where Marty lops off her hair and sells […]

    Historical Ménage a Trois February 23, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Historical Ménage a Trois

    Beach has recently become fascinated by those who live a ménage a trois, leaving behind the conventional marriage of two and creating something like a marriage of three: a man lives with his wife and lover; a man lives with a gay policeman and his wife… etc etc Such a coupling (tripling) is difficult to pull off today, […]

    Crossing the Rhine and Surrendering: 1793 February 19, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Crossing the Rhine and Surrendering: 1793

    ***Stephen D sent this one in: thanks!*** The following post describes an attempted French invasion across the Rhine at Huningue, just to the north of the Swiss border in September 1793. It goes without saying that amphibious operations are hellishly difficult in modern times. The Huningue operation began with the decimation of the officer ranks. […]

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