Podcast: C18th chat-up lines, with Dan Snow

Happy Valentine's Day! To celebrate, a look back at my chat with Dan Snow about love, romance and sex in the 18th century, including some of my favourite historical chat-up lines & a bit of a swoon over Sharpe and/or Mr Darcy. Podcast link below: History Hit Valentine's Day Special: Emily Brand on Love &... Continue Reading →

A call to arms, for Mary Wollstonecraft!

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–97) was a pioneering figure in the fight for women's equality. So why no statue? She was a remarkable woman: a devoted friend and sister, a traveller, a single mother, a philosopher and a writer. She had groundbreaking ideas about the future of women's rights, why changes would be better for both sexes, and... Continue Reading →

Dating disasters of the Regency era

Confession: First Dates is my televisual jam. (For the uninitiated, in brief: strangers are set up on dates at a London restaurant by a suave Frenchman called Fred {above}, said date is filmed, & they are then subjected to having their dating style reviewed. It’s hugely high-brow.) From teenagers looking for their first love to... Continue Reading →

In love with Lord Byron

On My Thirty-Third Birthday JANUARY 22 1821  Through life’s dull road, so dim and dirty, I have dragg’d to three-and-thirty. What have these years left to me? Nothing – except thirty-three. Lord Byron did not like birthdays. He intentionally avoided his own 21st and 24th parties, and considering how miserable he was at the prospect... Continue Reading →

The Mighty Power of a Sigh, 1676

Let us take a moment to consider an important but lost art of love – the sigh. Nowadays, very few languishing lovers will attempt to seduce a lady by looking her square in the eyes and forcefully expelling the air from his lungs. In the late seventeenth century, however, this was considered a crucial tool in... Continue Reading →

Beware, gents: A pair of Mantraps! 1780s

Just wanted to share these two lovely prints, depicting a couple of women of dubious morals, or 'MANTRAPS' as the artists have it.  The images are obviously meant to titillate, but the warning is clear, gentlemen: giving into such a temptation could be your ruin! The first dates to 1780 and shows a fashionable (and rather... Continue Reading →

How to be a Beauty, 1787

Being a 'beauty' in the eighteenth century was certainly a boon, and thankfully there were plenty of men around to inform the ladies exactly what was required of them. One such list, covering the 30 'capital points' of beauty, can be found in The Dictionary of Love (1787). Some are familiar, suggesting the abiding popularity... Continue Reading →

Husband-Hunting in c18th India

As is perhaps inevitable for someone so interested in social history, I am also a keen genealogist – and so I was very excited last month when I was given exclusive access to the brand new 'British in India' collection over at findmypast.co.uk. Naturally I busied myself primarily with the marriage records, and over a... Continue Reading →

Nelson’s last letter to Emma Hamilton, 1805

The notorious love affair between military hero Horatio Nelson and lady-of-dubious-morals-turned-society-beauty Lady Emma Hamilton is perhaps one of the most famous of the eighteenth century. As the story of a romance between a naval officer and a probable former prostitute, it was always going to be a favourite of mine. Quite by chance, however, I... Continue Reading →

Thirty Marks of a Fine Woman, 1722

Fair readers, I present a rather-bawdier-than-I-expected poem of the early eighteenth century, revealing the author's idea of the perfect woman. Thirty sure Marks point out each beauteous Fair; Such as Helen had, as Histories declare: Three White, Three Black, Three Red, the Maid must have; Three Long, Three Short, if she'll her Credit save: Three... Continue Reading →

Sex & The c17th City

The tendency of women to gossip about their sex lives with their friends has set men a-fretting for centuries. Far from being a phenomenon of the 'Sex & the City' era, women of the seventeenth century were just as likely to have intimate discussions about their man's skills and equipment, past experiences, how to keep... Continue Reading →

How to tell her you love her, c18th style

In the era of instant messaging and online chat, the modern suitor is only ever a 'winky face' and a click away from declaring his amorous intentions. All things considered, I'd say courtship has taken a distinctly unromantic turn. Two hundred years ago, love tokens offered a far more enduring and emotive means of expressing devotion... Continue Reading →

The Ruined Girl, 1786

THE RUINED GIRL. 'Oh! fatal Day when to my Virtues wrong, I fondly listen'd to his flattering Tongue, But oh! more fatal Moment when he gain'd, That vile Consent which all my Glory staind.' In this print of 1786, a young woman of some fashion appears to have received a letter from her beau, informing... Continue Reading →

Husband Wanted, Military Man Preferred

Possibly my favourite possession in the world is my little collection of eighteenth-century newspaper scraps, apparently compiled by a Georgian gent with a particular interest in matrimonial adverts (fascinating) and buying horses (not so fascinating). Frustratingly I have no idea who he was, although his few helpful scribblings suggest that he was busying himself with... Continue Reading →

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