Exhibition: Love Bites – Caricatures by James Gillray

To mark 200 years since satirist James Gillray's death, the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford is currently holding an exhibition in his honour. During his lifetime he created over 1000 prints, and here on display is a group of 60 examples ostensibly held together by heartstrings – they explore the artist's often scathing view of love, sex. marriage, friendship... Continue Reading →


Beauty, Sex & Power at the Restoration Court

... Or, what not to read on a packed bus. I don't often harp on here about things written recently (or, you know, since the Crimean War), but I SO enjoyed this romp of a book that I thought I'd give a little sneak peek at it. It was published to accompany an exhibition on the... Continue Reading →

‘A love sick fool no more’: the perils of the honey-moon

From Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language Ah, those heady days of blossoming love. Here we have two couples at either end of the 'honey-moon' period, giving some hints of how a relationship changes in its early season - and perhaps some signs of foreboding for the future too. According to the OED, the origin of... Continue Reading →


The tale of Elizabeth Smith (and her second husband’s first wife’s first husband), 1766

Sometimes, when trawling through historical records, a researcher comes across personal stories that seem destined for Hollywood. Take this dramatic tale of romance triumphing against all the odds, featuring sexually-charged teenage servants, illegimate pregnancy, forced separation, triple bigamy, a few deaths, and a gouty clergyman in a sedan chair. All in that world-renowned town of passion and enchantment... Bicester. Before... Continue Reading →


8 Bad Reasons for Getting Married, 1792

What would you say makes the most solid foundation for a marriage? Trust? Financial security? The sort of profound and death-defying passion that would make Jack & Rose weep with envy? [let's face it, they are the modern-day Romeo & Juliet, and I'm only moderately ashamed to admit it.] It was in the latter half of the... Continue Reading →


A merry life & a short one!: The Drunkard’s Coat of Arms, 1707

Alcohol has long been accountable for the peaks and troughs of many romantic relationships, from bleary-eyed beginnings to booze-fuelled disputes and divorces. It has been at the centre of social life for thousands of years, providing endless amusement for onlookers as well as excuses and encouragement for amorous behaviour – in The Art of Love (1st-century AD), Ovid recommended... Continue Reading →


Beware the wife who wears the breeches, 1682

Selecting a wife is a tricky business. The main concern of a merry young bachelor was often that, if he chose badly, he could end up chained to a woman intent on wearing the breeches. And let's face it, there could be little more embarrassing for our seventeenth-century gent than being ruled over by a woman (especially... Continue Reading →


Why you shouldn’t marry a lady of learning, 1708

This charming epistle on the horror that is a woman choosing to better herself through education comes from  The Modern World Disrob'd (1708), by satirical writer Ned Ward. I'm particularly taken with the idea that the more languages a lady speaks, the more varied the opportunities for scolding her husband with them. Her poor unfortunate husband will... Continue Reading →


Five Things a Man Don’t Like in a Wife, 1785

Five Things a Man don't like in a Wife - A Woman who will cuckold her Husband - She who carries false Tales from one to another - She who will be drunk before her Husband - She who runs her Husband in Debt without his Knowledge - She who pretends to love her Husband,... Continue Reading →


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