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  • Spectacle in the Victorian Theatre September 14, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Spectacle in the Victorian Theatre

    The Victorians had a wonderfully superficial streak, which somehow went beyond mere materialism and teetered on the sublime. There are few times where this comes out more than in their theatre spectaculars where content was sacrificed ruthlessly to effect and appearance. You want to put on Anthony and Cleopatra? Great, gut about seven of the […]

    Unlucky Days: Rufus Fears Speaks September 13, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Ancient
    Unlucky Days: Rufus Fears Speaks

    It’s always fun when academics go off message in the middle of talks. Here is a particularly crazy example from a lecture by Rufus Fears, the celebrated classics professor and editor of Lord Acton, recorded for the Teaching Company, Famous Romans, 3. (The TC, btw, puts some great stuff out there and this series of […]

    Review: The Hikey Sprites September 12, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Modern
    Review: The Hikey Sprites

    Review of Ray Loveday, The Hikey Sprites: The Twilight of a Norfolk Tradition (Norfolk 2009) The Hikey Sprites (aka Hyter Sprites) were Norfolk fairies that were summoned up by parents and grandparents to corral children into decency: ‘you be good or the Hikeys will get you’; ‘get home before dark or the Hikeys will get […]

    Hooping Cough Cures September 11, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Hooping Cough Cures

    We are in 1862 A correspondent transmits the following account of a superstitious ceremony which took place the other day at Neilston [Lowland Scotland]. The jolly blacksmith there is in possession of a fine young she ass, which, with her frolics, has caused great amusement amongst the boys of the town, while some calculating old […]

    Weird Birth Omen and the Youngest Roman Emperor September 10, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Weird Birth Omen and the Youngest Roman Emperor

    ***Thanks for David M for pointing out this fascinating piece*** Diadumenian was one of the unluckiest Roman emperors. He was made emperor by his father when he was about nine and he was dead within just over a year (obit 218), when one of those apparently endless third-century revolts pulled the rug from under his […]

    The Things We Couldn’t Say September 9, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    The Things We Couldn't Say

    A heartbreaking story yesterday. A friend works with the terminally ill, helping those suffering and family members ‘survive’ the process. She is a trained psychologist and a very energetic and capable, elderly woman came under her care. As part of a therapy of ‘release’ this elderly woman, with a steadily growing malignant tumour inside her, […]

    The Axe Murderer Who Became A National Hero September 8, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    The Axe Murderer Who Became A National Hero

    Nations and cities have passionate rivalries with their neighbours. Beach, for example, grew up in Britain a country where national identity is based not on love of the Queen or respect for the rule of law but rather on disliking the French. However, the whole British-French thing (‘the best of enemies’) is a fairly tame […]

    Boggart Catching September 7, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Boggart Catching

    This little passage appears in Harry Speight, Chronicles and stories of old Bingley. A full account of the history, antiquities, natural productions, scenery, customs and folklore of the ancient town and parish of Bingley, in the West Riding of Yorkshire (London: Elliot Stock 1898), 268. It is typical of those extracts in general books that […]

    Burning Lesbians September 6, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Burning Lesbians

      Christianity has never been particularly friendly to homosexuality, but from the thirteenth century things started to heat up immensely. There were some footling differences between sodomy and other ‘sex crimes’, but if a man was accused of having sex with a man in any form then there was an excellent chance that both would […]

    Cauls in the Deep South September 5, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Cauls in the Deep South

    Beach has been obsessed the last couple of weeks with baby’s cauls. The caul for readers who don’t know (and Beach was vague previous to the obsession) is the amniotic sac which holds us in our mother’s belly. In some very few cases, a baby is born with a caul in place, in the same […]

    Professional Pipe Smoking September 4, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Professional Pipe Smoking

    The strange sports series continues. So far we have enjoyed naked running, clowns playing cricket, homicidal basketball and, of course, purring. This time we are in a weird little corner of the South Pennines in northern England. In this particularly nineteenth-century village the highlight of Wakes week – working man’s summer holiday – was the […]

    Imaginary Kingdoms September 3, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Modern
    Imaginary Kingdoms

    Beach has often featured forgotten kingdoms on this blog. But what about imaginary kingdoms? There seem, in the lives of some children, to be a moment when the young create a magical world for themselves that takes on a permanent form: perhaps a more (or less?) elaborate version of the invisible friend? These are often […]

    Unripe Bananas and Almost Meeting Charles Dickens: The Index Biography September 2, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    Unripe Bananas and Almost Meeting Charles Dickens: The Index Biography

    So you want to know about a famous man or woman; you need a potted biography. You don’t have access to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (or other national equivalents). Wikipedia is often a bit long and can be inaccurate. The Encyclopedia Britannica is worse. And you threw away your reference volumes because you […]

    Beachcombed 39 September 1, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Beachcombed
    Beachcombed 39

    Dear Reader, a long argument just finished with elder daughter about why she can’t buy ‘a short pointy thing’ for a three year old boy; almost as good as the argument about why we can’t keep a wolf as a pet (yesterday and the day before). In any case, onto more important things. August was […]

    Hydropathy: Roby Comes Through August 31, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Hydropathy: Roby Comes Through

    Hydropathy was one of Victorian England’s most interesting errors, the belief that by ‘taking the waters’ various serious conditions could be cured. Stuff and nonsense? Well, according to modern medical science, yes: and Darwin in the nineteenth century himself experimented with hydropathy (for his mysterious health condition) concluding that any success was really just a […]

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