Did Marie Antoinette Say ‘Let them Eat Cake?’

Did Marie Antoinette Say ‘Let them Eat Cake?’

Did Queen Marie Antoinette ever say ‘Let them eat cake’?

‘Let them eat cake.’ is one of the most famous quotes in history, but did the queen ever say it and what was going on in France for such a quote to become so popular?

Love her or hate her Marie Antoinette is one of the most famous women in French history but was she blamed for things she never said or had any control over?

 

The Weather in 1788

Agriculture, Wheat Field, Clouds, Summer, Cloudscape

Historians and archaeologists are becoming increasingly aware of the influence of weather on the world’s significant events and as someone who has been researching life in the 18th century Britain and France I was amazed to find that the weather could be said to one of the causes of the French Revolution.

In the spring and summer of the year before the Revolution France suffered a drought. Although there was no drought in England the summer of 1788 was an unusually warm one in London. As temperatures soared in the capital, the incidence of Scarlet fever and Typhus spread through the city. In August over 1000 deaths were attributed to fever alone.

As Londoners sweltered the French baked. The French were not particularly competent farmers at the time, the aristocracy and major landowners were not interested in developing and improving their land for agriculture and food production, unlike their British counterparts. Consequently, food production was already pretty miserable when the drought struck.

The drought of 1788 ended when the skies opened and hail the size of fists fell from the sky bashing the fruit from the trees and the smashing the crops in the fields to smithereens so when the French entered the winter of 1788-9 food stocks were at an all-time low. The storms of July caused damage in parts of the country. To make matters worse, the disastrous harvest was followed by months of freezing weather. The temperature barely rose above freezing for three months through November, December and January. In London, the river Thames froze.

The bad weather was most likely caused by the eruption of the Laki volcanic fissure in southern Iceland which spewed out ash for eight months from 8 June 1783 to February 1784 killing much of the livestock and perhaps a quarter of the Icelandic population at the time. The British naturalist Gilbert White described that summer in his classic Natural History of Selborne as “an amazing and portentous one … the peculiar haze, or smokey fog that prevailed for many weeks in this island, and in every part of Europe, and even beyond its limits was a most extraordinary appearance, unlike anything known within the memory of man.”

The State of French Agriculture

Potatoes, Tubers, Arable, Agriculture, Garden, Harvest

Tobias Smollett wrote about Boulogne near Calais in 1763. As much as he hates France he can see that the peasants and landowners around the town have adopted some English farming improvements unlike in the rest of France.  ” I am certain that a man may keep house in Boulogne for about one half of what it will cost him in London; and this is said to be one of the dearest places in France. The adjacent country is very agreeable, diversified with hill and dale, corn-fields, woods, and meadows. There is a forest of a considerable extent, that begins about a short league from the Upper Town: it belongs to the king, and the wood is farmed to different individuals. In point of agriculture, the people in this neighbourhood seem to have profited by the example of the English. Since I was last in France, fifteen years ago, a good number of inclosures and plantations have been made in the English fashion. There is a good many tolerable country-houses, within a few miles of Boulogne; but mostly empty. I was offered a compleat house, with a garden of four acres well laid out, and two fields for grass or hay, about a mile from the town, for four hundred livres, about seventeen pounds a year: it is partly furnished, stands in an agreeable situation, with a fine prospect of the sea, and was lately occupied by a Scotch nobleman, who is in the service of France.” ( Project Gutenberg’s Travels Through France and Italy, by Tobias Smollett.)

 

High Prices and High Taxes

Image result for tax burden france 1789 commons licence

The poorer classes, 95% of whose diet consisted of bread and cereals and which before the drought had to spend about 55% of their earnings on bread, were forced by the famine conditions of the first half of 1789 to spend now 85% and over of their income on this staple food. In France rural taxes called “privilege seigneriaux” or seigniorial privileges, severely burdened farmers.The clergy and nobility exercised a preeminent right over all land property but evaded most of the taxes and financial burdens of managing it.  By 1789, some 90% of the population were hungry by the beginning of 1789. The famine added to the woes of the French people who was also suffering  from a 10 year economic slump with its attendant unemployment.

 

The Riots and the Queen’s Response

Food, Chicken Pot Pie, Crust, Pie Crust, Chicken, Pie

When the riots did come, they were triggered by a chance remark by a wallpaper manufacturer named Reveillon, who said in a public meeting that the government should lower grain prices so that wages could be limited to 15 sous. Rumours of impending wage reductions swept the restless capital and set off the train of events we call The French Revolution.

Queen Marie-Antoinette never said, “Let them eat cake,” on hearing there was no bread to be had in Paris but it was just the sort of thing the crowd thought her capable of saying.  As was expected of a woman of her class and position she was remote but she was also totally unaware and untroubled by the plight of her people. She was, as all 18th century monarchs in Europe were, living a life of secluded luxury in their palaces. Marie Antoinette was of course living at one of Europe’s most opulent homes, the Palace at Versailles.

The phrase,’Let them eat cake’  first appeared in a slightly different form about Marie-Thérèse, the Spanish princess who married King Louis XIV in 1660. Marie-Thérèse allegedly suggested that the French people eat “la croûte de pâté” (or the crust of the pastry or the top of the pie – this was usually discarded as pastry was designed to protect the meat while it cooked). Over the next century, several other royals had the phrase attributed to them including two aunts of Louis XVI as it was a phrase that spoke of the royal family’s callousness to their people.

Land Reform

Tomatoes, Garlic, Greens, Market, Outdoor, Vegetables

The Revolution brought the repealed feudal tenures, freed all those bound into serfdom, abolished feudal courts, and cancelled all payments not based on real property, including tithes. Once the reforms were in place; however, the peasants seized the land and refused to pay rent to the government, and in 1792, all payments were finally cancelled. Property of the clergy and political emigrants was confiscated and sold at auction, together with common land. The terms of sale, however, often favoured the wealthy, which may explain the rise of a new class of large landowners among the supporters of Napoleon I. The redistribution of land became the basis of French democracy and the small family farm has been the main feature of French agriculture ever since. Having secured their piece of land, there was little incentive or money to improve it for the peasant owners and so the economic benefits of the reforms were limited, France still struggled to feed itself and agricultural improvements that were being introduced in England were slow to be adopted.

France was a rural nation as late as 1940. After the creation of the land owning peasant class after the Revolution a next major change came in with the railways in the 1850s according to Peasants Into Frenchmen (1976), by historian Eugen Weber. Weber traced the modernisation of French villages and argued that rural France went from backward and isolated to modern and possessing a sense of French nationhood during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He emphasised the roles of railways, republican schools, and universal military conscription. He based his findings on school records, migration patterns, military service documents and economic trends. Weber argued that until 1900 or so a sense of French nationhood was weak in the provinces, a view that has been called into question by several writers. Nevertheless, he gives a good account of the development of rural France in the 19th century. Reforms brought in after World War II and France’s engagement in the European Union has transformed agricultural production again.

Sources:

https://www.britannica.com/topic/land-reform/History-of-land-reform

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_peasants

Great Historical Events That Were Significantly Affected by the Weather: The Year Leading to the Revolution of 1789 in France, J. Neumann, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel
Drought and the French Revolution:The effects of adverse weather conditions on peasant revolts in 1789, Maria Waldinger (London School of Economics)

Julia Herdman writes historical fiction. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 Kindle

Sinclair is available of Amazon. Click here to get your copy.

Sinclair is set in the London Borough of Southward, the Yorkshire town of Beverley and in Paris and Edinburgh in the late 1780s. Strong female leads include the widow Charlotte Leadam and the farmer’s daughter Lucy Leadam. Sinclair is a story of love, loss and redemption. Prodigal son James Sinclair is transformed by his experience of being shipwrecked on the way to India to make his fortune. Obstacles to love and happiness include ambition, conflict with a God, temptation and betrayal. Remorse brings restitution and recovery. Sinclair is an extraordinary book. It will immerse you in the world of 18th century London where the rich and the poor are treated with kindness and compassion by this passionate Scottish doctor and his widowed landlady, the owner of the apothecary shop in Tooley Street.  Sinclair is filled with twists and tragedies, but it will leave you feeling good.

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18th Century Smuggling Fact and Fiction

 

 

 

 

Voltaire in Love

Voltaire in Love

Voltaire, the great rationalist, was always falling in love and had numerous love affairs. His love life began with great passion when he was just seventeen years old.

‘Voltaire in Love‘ is perhaps the best known work about his love life. It is a popular history of the sixteen-year relationship between Voltaire and the Émilie, the Marquise du Châtelet. I wrote about Emilie last month, she was a great physicist who died tragically young giving birth to her lover’s child (not Voltaire’s their affair was long since over). The book was written by Nancy Mitford and first published in 1957. As well as telling the story of Voltaire’s love for Emilie it explores the French Enlightenment.

A musical featuring the music of Leonard Bernstein with contributions from the greatest lyricists of the 20th century, Stephen Sondheim to Dorothy Parker, is an outrageous musical satire that tells the story of Voltaire’s character, the naïve Candide, who is banished for romancing the Baron’s daughter only to be plagued by a series of absurd hardships that challenge his optimistic outlook of life and love. Candide will leave you enchanted. As you will see from the letter below the story is somewhat based on his own experience.

In my novel Sinclair, Voltaire (1694-1778), the French philosopher is one of my eponymous hero’s favourite authors. He takes a copy of Candide to India with him and loses it when the ship goes down but once he’s established himself in Tooley Street he’s quick to buy himself another copy.

“Knowing there was no going back, he made himself comfortable. He lit his lamp, took out a battered copy of ‘Candide’, his favourite book, and checked the hour with his treasured pocket watch. Like the book, it was French, and the most beautiful thing he had ever owned. He cradled it in his palm. The warmth of its golden body reminded him of the smoothness of a woman’s skin; its pearly white face was elegantly marked with Roman numerals; and the back, the part that he loved most of all, was made of cobalt blue enamel and shimmered like the silk of Iona McNeal’s ballgown the night they had danced at the Edinburgh Assembly Rooms. He turned it in his hand and kissed it then he put it back in his waistcoat pocket and started to read.

He chose the scene where Candide, the hero of the story, and his professor friend, Dr Pangloss, are nearly drowned in Lisbon harbour along with a sailor called Jacques. Candide and Pangloss survive, but Jacques dies attempting to save a fellow sailor. To explain how this is all part of God’s harmonious plan, Pangloss says that Lisbon harbour was created specifically so that Jacques could drown there and fulfil God’s divine plan for him. This was an idea so preposterous, like so many in the book, that it made Sinclair laugh out loud.”

Voltaire was incarcerated in the local prison for his own good to keep him away from the girl he had fallen in love with,Olympe Dunove.  Olympe’s mother and the French ambassador disapproved of their relationship. Such was the power of French aristocrats before the Revolution. Shortly after he wrote the letter below, he managed to escape by climbing out of the window.

Voltaire to Olympe Dunover, written in 1713 while in prison in the Hague.

“I am a prisoner here in the name of the King; they can take my life, but not the love that I feel for you. Yes, my adorable mistress, to-night I shall see you, and if I had to put my head on the block to do it.

For heaven’s sake, do not speak to me in such disastrous terms as you write; you must live and be cautious; beware of madame your mother as of your worst enemy. What do I say? Beware of everybody; trust no one; keep yourself in readiness, as soon as the moon is visible; I shall leave the hotel incognito, take a carriage or a chaise, we shall drive like the wind to Sheveningen; I shall take paper and ink with me; we shall write our letters.

If you love me, reassure yourself; and call all your strength and presence of mind to your aid; do not let your mother notice anything, try to have your pictures, and be assured that the menace of the greatest tortures will not prevent me to serve you. No, nothing has the power to part me from you; our love is based upon virtue, and will last as long as our lives. Adieu, there is nothing that I will not brave for your sake; you deserve much more than that. Adieu, my dear heart!”

Arout, (Voltaire)

According to Victor Hugo: “To name Voltaire is to characterize the entire eighteenth century.” Goethe regarded Voltaire to be the greatest literary figure in modern times, and possibly of all times. According to Diderot, Voltaire’s influence on posterity would extend far into the future.

Napoleon commented that till he was sixteen he “would have fought for Rousseau against the friends of Voltaire, today it is the opposite…The more I read Voltaire the more I love him. He is a man always reasonable, never a charlatan, never a fanatic.”

Frederick the Great commented on his good fortune for having lived in the age of Voltaire.

Catherine the Great had been reading Voltaire for sixteen years prior to becoming Empress of Russia in 1762. In October 1763, she began a correspondence with the philosopher that continued till his death. The content of these letters has been described as being akin to a student writing to a teacher.Upon Voltaire’s death, the Empress purchased his library, which was then transported and placed in The Hermitage.

In England, Voltaire’s views influenced Godwin, Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft, Bentham, Byron, and Shelley.[195] Macaulay made note of the fear that Voltaire’s very name incited in tyrants and fanatics. Voltaire was a man of reason and passion just like my character Sinclair. You can read about his escapades in my novel – see below.

Julia Herdman writes historical fiction that puts women to the fore. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 Kindle £2.42  Also available on:

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Most Loved Patterns

Most Loved Patterns

The colonisation of the Indian sub-continent from the mid sixteenth century onward had some unexpected results; one was the impact of Indian patterns and designs on European fashion. The demand for printed Indian calico grew so rapidly that the East India Company was unable to meet the European demand for it and the obvious solution to European entrepreneurs was to start producing it themselves but European manufacturers didn’t know how to.

In 1640, Armenian merchants, armed with the secrets of the Indian techniques, introduced textile printing to in Marseilles in southern France and the fashion industry never looked back. England followed with its own printing works in London around 1670 and the technique had made it to Holland by 1678.

Example of ‘Indian Style’ floral design in Crewel Work on a restored sofa at Osterley House, National Trust

In France, the phenomenal success of the first textile print works was soon to be challenged. The well established wool and silk manufacturers objected strongly to this unexpected rivalry from the Indian imports and the Crown was against it too. Home manufacture meant no customs revenue for the king and in order to protect the status quo, the importation, manufacture, and usage of any Indian calico prints was forbidden by Royal Ordinance in 1686. England followed suit and from 1700 to 1774 there was a ban on imports. The lifting of the bans meant that from the 1780s onwards whilst most printed cottons continued to be manufactured in India the mills in England, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland began to produce their own versions.

In Europe and in India printed cottons were created with vivid vegetable dyes using a variety of printing techniques. The designs were mainly floral, the Europeans favouring tulips, carnations, roses, and daises which they combined with traditional Indian motifs on a white background. In the 1780s, bolder designs with twisting stems became increasingly fashionable. In the 1790s, small floral “sprig” designs with tiny motifs on pastel backgrounds became cheap, and therefore became popular for working class clothing; also, some clothing fabrics veered away from the white backgrounds to include yellow, red, and brown.

In France, these printed fabrics were called indiennes and toiles peintes (“painted cloths”) and toiles imprimés (“printed cloths”). In England and the American colonies, there were similarly a number of terms used: calico, derived from the Indian port of Calicut, was a general name for Indian cotton fabric, including plain, printed, stained, dyed, woven with coloured stripes or checks. We got the word chintz, from the Hindi word chint (“variegated”), was a term for printed or painted calicoes. The English and American colonialists also used the term Indiennes to refer to French-made copies of Indian printed cottons.

These 18th century patterns have remained a firm favourite and are still a key feature of the English Country House Style. They are the mainstay of many interior design catalogues even today.

Illustration: Actress Kirsten Dunst in Marie-Antoinette

Julia Herdman writes historical fiction that puts women to the fore. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 Kindle £2.29  Also available on:

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History of Women in Science: Gabrielle-Emilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, Physicist

History of Women in Science: Gabrielle-Emilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, Physicist

Astronomy, mathematics and physics were popular fields of study for many of the brightest 18th-century women with access to money and books. Gabrielle-Emilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil was one such woman. She was the daughter of the French court’s chief of protocol and her father rather unusually for the time encouraged her education. By the time she was twelve she was fluent in Latin, Italian, Greek and German.

Gabrielle-Emilie was a precocious teenager as well as a child genius; she liked to dance, was a passable performer on the harpsichord, sang opera, and was an amateur actress. Being short of money for books, she used her mathematical skills to devise highly successful strategies for gambling. Her mother Gabrielle-Anne was horrified tried to have her clever daughter sent to a convent.

In 1725 Gabrielle-Emilie married the Marquis du Chatelet at the age of 19 and lived the life of a courtier at the French court. She bore her husband three children, but at age 27 she began studying mathematics seriously and then branched into physics. This interest intensified when she started an affair with the philosopher Voltaire. Their friendship, if not their relationship, was lifelong and one of mutual respect and admiration.

Her philosophical magnum opus, Institutions de Physique or Foundations of Physics, was published in 1740 when she was 34. It was an immediate success, circulated widely, and republished and translated into several other languages within two years of its publication. With a growing reputation in the world of men, she participated in the famous vis viva debate concerning the calculation of the motion of orbiting bodies – the planets. However, Du Chatelet’s most lasting contribution to science was her French translation of Isaac Newton’s Principia, which is still in use today.

At age 43, she fell in love with a young military officer and became pregnant; she died following complications during the birth of their child. Posthumously, her ideas were included in the Encyclopédie of Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond D’Alembert.

Sources: Smithsonian Magazine, Wikipedia, Illustration: The Granger Collection, New York.

Iona McNeal, is a character in my new novel, Sinclair. Iona is a bright young woman, the daughter of the head of Edinburgh’s medical school. She studies mathematics, physics and astronomy at home. You can find out what happens to her in my latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 and on Kindle

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From Housemaid to Commit Catcher – Caroline Herschel

Witch or Saint ? Maria Gaetana Agnesi

Nursing by Numbers

Byron’s Daughters – A Tale of Three Sisters

Mary Wollstonecraft’s Friends

Mary Wollstonecraft’s Friends

Mary Wollstonecraft was born on 27 April 1759 she is one of the world’s first feminist writers.

Wollstonecraft decided to become a writer in 1787, 230 years ago, when she moved to 45 George Street, in Southwark, now called Dolben Street. It was from Dolben Street[1]  that she launched her career, with the publication of her novel, Mary: A Fiction or Maria: or, The Wrongs of Woman is a philosophical and gothic novel that revolves around the story of a woman imprisoned in an insane asylum by her husband. The story focuses on the societal rather than the individual “wrongs of woman” and criticises what Wollstonecraft viewed as the patriarchal institution of marriage in eighteenth-century Britain and the legal system that protected it. However, the heroine’s inability to relinquish her romantic fantasies also reveals women’s collusion in their oppression through false and damaging sentimentalism. The novel pioneered the celebration of female sexuality and cross-class identification between women. Such themes, coupled with the publication of Godwin’s scandalous Memoirs of Wollstonecraft’s life, made the novel unpopular at the time it was published.

Two friendships shaped Wollstonecraft’s early life. The first was with Jane Arden. At the age of nine Wollstonecraft was taken to a farm near Beverley in Yorkshire with her brothers and sisters. They lived a wild life, roaming around the flat land of the Humber estuary until her father took a house in the town opposite the Minster. It was in Beverley she met Jane Arden. Life in Beverley was remarkably civilised, there was a theatre, dances at the Assembly Rooms and a race course with a spring meeting that co-inside with the Spring Fair. Part of my own novel Sinclair is set in Beverley.

Image result for Beverley yorkshire creative commons

Beverley, Yorkshire

The girls frequently read books together and attended lectures presented by Arden’s father, a self-styled philosopher and scientist. John Arden was the descendant of the playwright Arden of Faversham but was disinherited by his family, and forced to set himself up as a roving teacher of practical mathematics and experimental philosophy. After a spell in Germany, he settled in Bath for a while where he became a founder member of the Bath Philosophical Society. Then moved onto Derby where he made friends with the artist Joseph Wright. Wright painted him as the Philosopher in his work entitled: A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery, or the full title, A Philosopher giving a Lecture on the Orrery in which a lamp is put in the place of the sun, in 1766.

 

Image result for The Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery

The Orrery, Joseph Wright of Derby – Derby Museum and Art Gallery

The Orrery, which now hangs in the Derby Museum, caused a sensation at the time because it replaced a classical motif with a scientific one. In this picture, Wright replaces the awe inspired by God with the wonder of science.  [John Arden – The Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery, iOpening Books 2016.]

 

 

 

At fourteen Wollstonecraft revelled in the intellectual atmosphere of the Arden household and valued her friendship with Jane Arden greatly, sometimes to the point of being emotionally possessive. Wollstonecraft wrote to her: “I have formed romantic notions of friendship … I am a little singular in my thoughts of love and friendship; I must have the first place or none.” In some of Wollstonecraft’s letters to Arden, she reveals the volatile and depressive emotions that would haunt her throughout her life. Mary’s crush for Jane ended badly, in quarrel spiked with jealousy and rage.

Her second and more important friendship was with Fanny (Frances) Blood, who was introduced to Wollstonecraft by the Clares, an elderly couple from Hoxton who became parental figures to her. Mr Clare was a retired clergyman with a taste for poetry, and Mrs Clare encouraged Mary’s reading, providing her with copies of Milton, Shakespeare, Pope and Johnson. Like Fanny, Mary learned the accomplishments expected of a middle-class woman from Mrs Clare – sewing, drawing and letter writing. Above all, she learned to be feminine and neat.

Unhappy with her home life, Wollstonecraft struck out on her own in 1778 and accepted a job as a lady’s companion to Sarah Dawson, a widow living in Bath. However, Wollstonecraft had trouble getting along with the irascible woman (an experience she drew on when describing the drawbacks of such a position in Thoughts on the Education of Daughters, 1787).

In 1780 she returned home because she was called back to care for her dying mother. Rather than return to Mrs Dawson’s employ after the death of her mother, Wollstonecraft moved in with the Bloods.

Fanny Blood was paid by the botanist William Curtis to paint wildflowers for his book Flora Londinensis. When Mary was living with the Bloods Fanny became engaged to Hugh Skeys, but the pair could not marry immediately and Skeys was forced to go the sea to finance the marriage. Fanny’s brother Lieutenant George Blood (1762–1844), became good friends with Mary so much so that William Godwin, Mary’s husband wrote that Mary had “contracted a friendship so fervent, as for years to have constituted the ruling passion of her mind”.

Blood, together with Mary Wollstonecraft and Wollstonecraft’s sisters, Eliza and Everina, opened a school first in Islington, which soon failed, and then in Newington Green. The school was combined with a boarding house for women and their children.

On February 24, 1785, Fanny Blood married Hugh Skeys who had made himself into a successful wine merchant based in Dublin. When Blood married and left the school, Wollstonecraft left too, and so their other school failed.

Fanny died in childbirth in Lisbon, Portugal, on November 29, 1785. Wollstonecraft was deeply affected by Blood’s death and in part inspired her first novel, Mary: A Fiction in 1788. She also named her own daughter, Fanny Imlay (1794–1816), after her friend.Frances “Fanny” Imlay was Mary’s daughter by the American commercial speculator and diplomat Gilbert Imlay. The pair never married and when Mary died Fanny remained part of the family of the man her mother had married, William Godwin. She was born in Le Havre in 1794 as the French Revolution took hold. Her half-sister Claire Clairmont would become Byron’s lover and her sister by Godwin would elope with the poet Shelley and write the gothic novel Frankenstein.

In later years, Mary realised during the two years she spent with the Blood family she had idealised Fanny as a woman like herself, fiercely independent and intellectual but Fanny was not like Mary, she wanted to be a wife and a mother more than a revolutionary. Nevertheless, Mary loved the Bloods and remained dedicated to them throughout her life. Wollstonecraft had envisioned living in a female utopia with Blood; they made plans to rent rooms together and to support each other emotionally and financially, but this dream come to nothing. The weight of economic reality and social conformity as well as  being women in what was to all intents and purposes a world designed and run by men for men made their dream impossible to fulfil.

Mary followed the publication of Mary: A Fiction, with works on the education of children. Her own experience of motherhood forcing her to reconsider her views on women and children.

Through her association with her friend and publisher Joseph Johnson, she met Thomas Paine, the writer of The Rights of Man. Paine who would become one of the great influencers of the both the French Revolution and the development of the American state opposed the idea of hereditary government and the belief that dictatorial government is necessary, because of man’s corrupt nature. She also met her future husband and one of the forefathers of the anarchist movement William Godwin through Johnson. The first time Godwin and Wollstonecraft met, they were both disappointed in each other. Godwin had come to hear Paine, but Wollstonecraft assailed him all night long, disagreeing with him on nearly every subject.

It was after she left Dolben Street in 1791 that she published A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792). There is no doubt that her time at Dolben Street, Southwark was the furnace of her intellectual development, and was the site of her most intensely creative years.

For more information on Wollstonecraft see: https://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/keywords/mary-wollstonecraft

 

Notes:

[1] George Street was formed circa 1776 and the houses on either side were completed and tenanted by 1780 when the street name first occurs in the sewer rate books. It was built across the open fields shown as “tenter grounds” on Rocque’s maps, on part of what became known as Brown’s Estate. The formation of George Street was part of the rapid development of the area which followed the erection of Blackfriars Bridge. The street was renamed Dolben Street in 1911 in honour of John Dolben (1625–86), Archbishop of York, who in 1671, when Bishop of Rochester, officiated at the consecration of Christ Church. Throughout the period that these houses are shown in the rate books and directories they have been occupied by small tradesmen, chandlers, bakers, etc., and by artisans. https://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol22/pp127-128

Southwark was the location of several London prisons, including those of the Crown or Prerogative Courts, the Marshalsea and King’s Bench prisons, those of the local manors’ courts, e.g., Borough Compter, The Clink and the Surrey county gaol originally housed at the White Lion Inn (also informally called the Borough Gaol) and eventually at Horsemonger Lane Gaol.

One local family of note, was the Harvards. John Harvard went to the local parish free school of St Saviour’s and on to Cambridge University. He migrated to the Massachusetts Colony and left his library and the residue of his will to the new college there, named after him as its first benefactor. Harvard University maintains a link, having paid for a memorial chapel within Southwark Cathedral (his family’s parish church).

Sources:The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft By Claire Tomalin, Mary Wollstonecraft and the Feminist Imagination by Barbara Taylor,  & Wikipedia

My own novel, Sinclair takes place in Southwark and Beverley.

Julia Herdman is a novelist. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1 is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 on Kindle

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Byron’s Daughters – A Tale of Three Sisters

Madame Staël – A woman who abored all that was tyrannical, cynical, or passionless

White’s Chocolate House

White’s Chocolate House

Think of the words ‘white’ and ‘chocolate’ and the images that come to mind are those of the ‘The Milky Bar Kid’ or that luxury white chocolate flecked with fine black vanilla seeds but White’s and chocolate in the 18th century meant something entirely different; gambling.

The impetus for London’s chocolate craze came from France, introduced as an ‘excellent west indian drink’ in the mid 17th century. A decade later pamphlets proclaimed the miraculous, panacean qualities of the new drink, saying that it would boost fertility, cure consumption, alleviate indigestion and reverse ageing: with a mere lick, it was said, it would ‘make old women young and fresh and create new motions of the flesh’.

Unlike in Paris and Madrid, chocolate drinking was not confined to the social elite in London however it was never as popular as coffee with its enlivening caffeine boost.. It was only around St James’s Square that a cluster of super-elite self-styled ‘chocolate houses’ flourished. The principal chocolate houses were Ozinda’s and White’s, both on St James’s Street, and the Cocoa Tree on Pall Mall.As befitted their location their interiors were a cut above the wooden, workmanlike interiors of the City coffeehouses, boasting sofas, polished tables, dandyish waiters and, at least in Ozinda’s case, a collection of valuable paintings for the customers to admire. In fact Ozinda’s comfortable surroundings became a hot bed of Jacobite intrigue. On one occasion in 1715, Jacobite supporters were arrested there and taken off to Newgate prison.

White’s started life at 4 Chesterfield Street, off Curzon Street in Mayfair, in 1693; owned by an Italian immigrant named Francesco Bianco. It was later re-named Mrs. White’s Chocolate House with a side line in tickets for the King’s Theatre and Royal Drury Lane Theatre White’s quickly made the transition from cafe into an exclusive club. It was notorious as a gambling house; those who frequented it were known as “the gamesters of White’s.” The club gained a reputation for both its exclusivity and the often raffish behaviour of its members. Jonathan Swift referred to White’s as the “bane of half the English nobility.” In 1778 it moved to 37–38 St James’s Street and was from 1783 the unofficial headquarters of the Tory party, while the Whigs’ club Brooks’s was just down the road.

White’s had such a terrible reputation Hogarth depicted its inner gambling room as ‘Hell’, in the sixth episode of Hogarth’s Rake’s Progress. The place is on fire but no one seems to notice. It is a picture of greed and despair so far removed from the images of chocolate we have today.

Illustration: Meissen Chocolate Cup and Saucer.

Julia Herdman is a novelist. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1 is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 Kindle £2.29

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