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Category: Isobel Carr

We’ve been having a truly awful heatwave here in Northern California. My house is overrun with ants and I’ve been hearing half the people I know complain about sudden outbreaks of fleas (no outbreak here *knock on wood*), but it got me thinking: what did people do when there was no Advantage, no Capstar, to turn to? My books are full of dogs, and my work in progress has a housekeeper squaring off with a new wife and a puppy with fleas is a perfect fight!

Well, there is actually advice on that in multiple period sources! Huzzah!!! Research! Here’s a bit of advice from a little period magazine I own (from 1819) The Complete Dog-Fancier’s Companion, Describing the Nature, Habits, Properties, etc. of Sporting, Fancy, and Other Dogs; with Directions of choosing the genuine breed, Instructions for rearing, manner of training for water and the field, Disorders they are generally subject to, Methods of cure etc. etc. (Interspersed with many curious and entertaining anecdotes of the useful and faithful animals).

Dog advice 2



Not sure I want to rub my dog in goose-grease or olive oil, but I imagine it would do the trick of suffocating the fleas. And the cumin and hellebore might work, too. I know the organic spray I have is made of mint and cloves, which a Georgian person would also be able to easily obtain (BTW, you can download a scan of this book for your personal collection HERE).

Yet more advice from Canine Pathology, 1817.

And from A Treatise on Greyhounds (1816):

From A New Present for a Servant Maid (1771):

From The Housewifes Companion (1674)

I’m hoping a few domestic battles will be fun to write and I’m having a good time looking into just what people might have done to combat the “nimble gentry” in the Georgian era.


Let’s admit I had a plan for this weeks post that had NOTHING to do with soup, portable or otherwise … I’ve been tinkering with the Georgian Map of London and was reviewing my copy of T20150915_203341-1he Epicure’s Almanack (the 1815 Zagat’s of London) looking for locations when I noticed that soup was a very popular item among the listings. It’s noted again and again at chophouses, taverns, inns, even coffee houses that “good soup is always available”. Ok, I thought. Well, it was the tail-end of a mini ice age, and as such soup was probably pretty welcome most of the time (and it’s one of the cheaper items to offer at a restaurant so it makes perfect sense that lots of places always had a spot over the fire).

Then I started to see “portable soup” on offer occasionally. Intrigued, I fell down the research hole. I was trying to picture some kind of “pastie” filled with soup. A Cup O’Noodles, Regency-style. Maybe even a bread bowl (we know day old bread has long been used as a “trencher” by the poor). So I start searching for “portable soup” and lo and behold it’s basically period boullion!

There’s a great write up on the Lobscouse and Spoted Dog page (another food book 20150915_203625-1I adore, in which two intrepid cooks attempt to recreate all the food from Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin novels).  It seems like a lot of work, but as we all know, labor was cheap during our period of fascination, it was everything else that was expensive.  And a method of capturing every last drop of goodness in the kitchen offal was going to be widely popular (I totally make stock from the striped carcases of rotisserie chickens and all the odd bits of veg that I toss in the freezer for this exact purpose).

So back to portable soup …


So basically, it’s the ultimate take away. You likely don’t have a real kitchen in your London lodging, which even if it’s in The Albany is a suite of rooms. But you likely have a fireplace and a pot. And now, with a store of portable soup, you have a base for making a stew or hearty soup, or a restorative broth at the very least (see the currant hipster fad for “bone broth).

This is totally something I can see the valets of my younger sons having on hand for when their master has a cold (or when they have a cold), or when someone needs sobering up.

Sake Dean Mahomed by Thomas Mann Baynes (c. 1810)

Sake Dean Mahomed by Thomas Mann Baynes (c. 1810)

I’m still having fun digging into The Epicure’s Almanack and have found another rather interesting rabbit hole to fall down. I think many of us know that in England “a curry” is the undisputed king of takeaway. It’s also (along with kebab) the top food sought out by late night drunks. So when I stumbled across information about the first Indian restaurant in England having been established in 1810, I had instantaneous visions of Regency rakes getting a curry after the theatre, perhaps with actresses in tow.

Now for the history part … Sake Deen Mahomet came to England in 1782, accompanying his friend Captain Godfrey Evan Baker when the captain retired from the British East India Company in which they had both served. He eloped with an Irish girl a few years later (over her family’s objections) and from all evidence the marriage was a great success. One of their sons was the proprietor of the Turkish baths at Brighton and ran a boxing and fencing academy there as well. A grandson went on to be an internationally famous physician! Those looking for a model for a non-Caucasian hero, take note!!! This guy and his descendants would be great models.

In 1794, Mahammad published The Travels of Dean Mahomet (a prime example of a book which Google has scanned but which is now unavailable, I assume because this annotated version from 1997 is in print).

In 1810, Mahomet opened the Hindoostanee Coffee House at no. 34 George Street (near Portman Square). They offered Indian cuisine, fine wines, and hookahs. Unfortunately, the restaurant does not appear to have been a great success, and it closed a couple years later. This is what The Epicure’s Almanack has to say about it:

“At the corner of George Street, there was until very lately an establishment on a novel plan. Mohammed, a native of Asia, opened a house for the purpose of giving dinners in the Hindustanee style, with other refreshments of the genus. All dishes were dressed with curry-powder, rice, Cayenne, and the best of Arabia. A room was set apart for smoking from hookahs with oriental herbs. The rooms were neatly fitted up en suite, and furnished with chairs and sofas made of bamboo canes.”

But fear not, by 1814 Mahomet and his wife were in Brighton, where they opened the first public “shampooing” bath in England (note: “shampooing was a type of massage and was conducted in a Turkish Bath-like steam room). Unlike his restaurant, his bathhouse was an enormous success (so much so that he was appointed as “shampooing surgeon” to George IV and William IV).

So bring it on, Regency authors! I want to see a private party at this establishment or one modeled after it. I want to see Anglo-Indian heroes. Are you with me, readers?

I’ve had the most miserable cold recently and it got me thinking about what treatments my characters might have used for my condition (this research also falls into line for my WIP, since I want to have some scenes of the heroine in the stillroom). First things first, did they call it a cold? Yes, the OED assures me they did, as far back as the 16thC. What I had might also have been called rheums or catarrh or influenza depending on the actual symptoms.

Recommendations for treatment include doing nothing (and avoiding sudden changed in temperature), bleeding (of course), the administration of “blisters” to the chest (for lung congestion; this sounds worse than bleeding), and sometimes modern-esque treatments which can be found in the period treatises as well.

In Modern Domestic Medicine (1827), there are lots of recipes and treatment suggestions, some of which sound truly terrifying (like ammonia-based liniments) and some of which sound like basic modern homeopathy (honey for a sore throat).

cold 2

Treatment suggestions for a common cold

cold 4

This is quinine, which reduces fevers and dulls pain.

cold 8

Yes, I’m willing to bet honey and opium made you feel a whole lot better.

cold 6

Some less drastic cough treatments

cold 5

This seems actually civilized as a treatment for a cough.

cold 11

Pre-eucalyptus being introduced this is probably the best you could hope for.

cold 10

I really don’t think I want a liniment of ammonia on me.

Anyone have any favorite sickroom romances? I mean, aside from the Restorative Pork Jelly of Frederica?


Yesterday was National Tea Day, and it of course got me looking at period tea resources.

tea set

Still Life: Tea Set, ca. 1781–83, painting by Jean-Étienne Liotard

One of the things I found was a small pamphlet from 1785 called The Tea Purchaser’s Guide; or the Lady and Gentleman’s Tea Table and Useful Companion in the Knowledge and Choice of Teas (seriously, they loved long titles in the eighteenth century). It was written by one G. Kearsley of No. 46, Fleet Street, formally of the East India company’s Service “particularly in the Tea Department” (price one shilling).

It has sections on types of tea, judging tea quality, and the making to tea, all of which is great fodder for scenes in books where you need someone to be doing something nonconsequential while events unfold. So while the hero might expound upon snuff, the heroine (or indeed the hero, as men like tea, too!) can talk about tea, or have a calamity where the housekeeper has purchased adulterated tea, or talk about the blending of tea (of which he also gives advice).

I found his opinions about black verses green tea interesting as well. Black tea, he maintains, is injurious to those with coughs, asthma, or other issues with their lungs. In particular, he believes bohea (the lowest quality black tea) will particularly add to your suffering if drunk while ill with any such issues. Green tea on the other hand he says is “of great disadvantage to shattered constitutions, and those that are worn down by long and continued fever.”

What I find most interesting though is his lumping tea in with drugs and warning people not to consume too much of it.

tea 1

So happy tea drinking! Is there any tidbit of tea history you’d like to share? Please let us know what your favorite obscure tea fact is in the comments. Or just talk about your favorite kind. Mine is Numi’s Basil Mint Pu-Erh, which they have  sadly discontinued. I went a little nutty when they did and bought 20 (100 tea bag) cases. It will be a sad, sad day at my house when those bags are gone…

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