Tagged Victorian Science

Introducing A New Character, Arsenic! Researching Lady Doctors in the Victorian Era for Reticence (Special Extras)

Posted by Gail Carriger

Reticence may have Percy on the cover but it opens with a fabulous new character, Arsenic! This is a teaser post and shouldn’t contain any spoilers so… read on!

The opening scene…

WANTED: Airship Doctor

Physician welcome, surgeon preferred. Remuneration according to experience level. Education open to negotiation. Progressive philosophy and equable temperament preferred. Must tolerate explosions and cats.

Arsenic turned the advertisement over in her hand. She’d spotted it three days before, in The Mooning Standard, which was a very forward-thinking paper. Yet it went beyond her expectations. It was, in a word, ideal. The author of such an oddly worded advert might be convinced to overlook her greatest failing as a doctor in the eyes of society: being female.

She read it over for the hundredth time. That last line was a corker. Arsenic knew of very few doctors who would put up with both explosions and cats. Or explosions caused by cats. She was one of the few.

So… Arsenic

As you can see, in Reticence we meet one of my most favorite new characters, Arsenic Ruthven. You can visit her inspiration board on Pinterest. Mild spoiler in the description if you didn’t already get it from her name.

Arsenic is partly driven into become a doctor to make amends for her mother’s profession. Arsenic is one of several sisters, all named after different poisons, and all much beloved by their doting father and in awe of their somewhat distant mother. (Spoiler behind the link, but if you want to read about how Arsenic’s parents got together, I wrote that book. Otherwise I hope my faithful readers will have fun figuring it out.)

From Reticence…

Arsenic turned to look curiously at the cheerful captain. “He tried to kill you?”
“Obviously he wasn’t successful.”
Arsenic nodded. Obviously. “My mother would say that shows a lack of follow-through.”
The captain grinned. “Your mother sounds logical.”
Miss Tunstell added, although not critically, “And a little bloodthirsty.”
It was a fair assessment. “You’ve no idea,” replied Arsenic, because it seemed they really didn’t.

Like Faith (How to Marry a Werewolf) Arsenic is very practical in her manners and mode of dress. She takes blood spatter into account and mobility, she was a former battle field surgeon.

Some Excerpts from 1871, Medical Common Sense & Plain Home Talk by Edward B. Foote, M.D.

  • The human machinery becomes clogged with poisonous humors.
  • As a female germ can not produce a child without the addition of a male germ, so there latent impure particles in the blood can not generate disease without meeting their affinitive poison.
  • These latent impurities, like the spoor of a minute plant buried far underground, must be of the right quality to unite with and engender specific diseases, or a person, however exposed, will escape.
  • Free circulation of vital or nervous electricity, and unruffled mind, and good blood are essential to health.
  • Leading us to the irresistible conclusion that the first duty of a physician to a patient is to see that his nervous system is set right, his mind emancipated from all depressing influences, and his blood restored to that condition which enables it to impart the tint of health to the skin, strength to the muscle, and abundant juices to all the tissues.

So there.

Medical Research!

I did a lot of research for writing a lady doctor in the late Victorian era. Wanna peek?

Victorian Lady Doctors!

Here are some interesting tidbits on the advancement of women gleaned from Godey’s Lady’s Book 1872.

On the Higher Education of Women in the United States

“Our readers are aware that a munificent offer of $250,000 has been made by Mr. Sage to the trustees of Cornell University, on condition that young women shall be admitted to the advantages of that institution on the same terms as young men. A correspondent states that President White, after having examined the practical workings of the co-education of the sexes at Antioch, Oberlin, the Michigan University, and several other institutions of less note, declared, in a recent speech, “that he was heartily glad that Mr. Sage had made this offer, and he should do all that he could to promote its acceptance.” Later accounts state that the gift has been accepted, and that the new buildings which will be required are soon to be commenced.”

~ Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine July 1872

A New Profession for Ladies: Dentistry

“We learn from the German papers that a young lady recently presented herself at the Faculty of Medicine at Munich for examination for a license to practice as a dentist. Being refused, she went to Erlangen. The question was here referred to the government, who at once authorized the examination on the ground that it was absurd to exclude a person desiring to submit herself to authorized professional tests of ability by reason of her sex. The young lady triumphed, and is likely to find immediate imitators.”

~ Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine September 1872

Very Satisfactory

An English Lady, Mrs. Chaplin Ayrton, has just passed her second professional medical examination (anatomy and physiology) in Paris, with the note of “very satisfactory,” the faculty having, with the liberality to strangers for which they are so justly renowned, accepted that lady’s certificates from Apothecaries Hall and the Edinburgh University as equivalent to a “degree” in letters and science and to their first professional presented herself for the first professional examination (chemistry, physics, natural history, and botany), also passed with “very satisfactory.”

~ Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine November 1872

Dr. Walker

In line with the above image…

Women Delivering Ice in 1918. I love this picture, it’s so very Vieve.

To give an idea of what they were up against:

“Truth is, the female sex is really as inferior to the male in vigour of mind as in strength of body; and all arguments to the contrary are founded on a few anomalies, or based on theories that can never be reduced to practice.”


“Men make fortunes, women make livings. And none make poorer livings than those who waste their time, and bore their friends, by writing and lecturing upon the equality of the sexes, and what they call “Women’s Rights.” How is it that most of these ladies live separately from their husbands; either despising them, or being despised by them?”

by Eliza Leslie (American 1864)

Yours never wanted to be a doctor but always fascinated by the profession,

Miss Gail

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The 5th Gender (A Tinkered Stars Mystery as G. L. Carriger).

Amazon | Elsewhere | Direct from Gail
Audio is coming. 

Sci-fi queer romance meets cozy mystery in which a hot space station cop meets the most adorable purple alien ever (lavender, pulease!) from a race with 5 genders.



Your Moment of Parasol . . .

After a design by Cornelis Pronk (Dutch, Amsterdam 1691–1759 Amsterdam), Chinese, for Dutch market

Cornelis Pronk (Dutch, Amsterdam 1691–1759 Amsterdam) Plate depicting a lady with parasol, ca. 1734–37 Chinese, Yongzheng (1723–35)–Qianlong (1736–95) period The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York,

Your Infusion of Cute . . .

facesofthevictorianera- Two Fashionable Ladies c. 1880s

Your Tisane of Smart . . .

From Arsenic to Electricity: A Brief look at Victorian Hair Removal

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  

Booksellers Announce First Annual Bookstore Romance Day: August 17, 2019

This is a soft launch for a hopefully annual event that is designed to facilitate community ties between romance readers and local bookstores.

Book News:

Nine Incredible Historical Romance Audiobooks (Romancing the Inventor makes the list)

Quote of the Day:

“Men don’t think any differently from women – they just make more noise about being able to.”

~ Tamora Pierce, The Woman Who Rides Like a Man

Your Moment of Gail


“I suspect it may be like the difference between a drinker and an alcoholic; the one merely reads books, the other needs books to make it through the day.”

(Interview with The Booklovers blog, September 2010)” ~ Gail Carriger

Questions about Gail’s Parasolverse? Wiki that sheez!

Want A Sneak Peek at the Research Behind Gail Carriger’s Competence? (Custard Protocol Special Extras)

Posted by Gail Carriger


Hello Gentle Reader,

Here, for you entertainment, amusement and titillation are a few links and peeks into some of the research that I had to do for Competence, Custard Protocol #3. I do hope you enjoy!


Blog Posts & Other Articles


What was the inspiration for setting Miss Primrose Tunstell in Singapore?

I was at the Singapore Writers Festival a few years ago and just fell in love with the place.

I also visited the National History Museum there and picked up a little book of collected primary source material from the 1890s that isn’t available elsewhere.

Then I promised the Minister of Culture Sim Ann (who is a fan of mine – squee!) that I would put it in the next book. I like to keep my promises.

Want a taste of Singapore’s infamous Kaya Toast? Just get this coconut jam (actually coconut curd) and spread on toast with salted butter (it’s not exactly right but it’s still so good).

Warning, must love coconut.

Yours forever (in coconutty goodness),

Miss Gail

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  • Coop de Book for July is Competence, of course. (Discussion here.


Competence and matched books that influenced

Amazon (hardcover) (audio) | B&N (hardcover) | Book Depository (hardcover)

 KoboiBooks | Audible

SIGNED edition, use the SIGNED button


 Amazon.uk (paperback)| Book Depository (paperback) Kobo

Direct from Gail for Kindle .mobi | non-Amazon digital readers .epub

 Competence by Gail Carriger is the third in the Custard Protocol series featuring Primrose, Rue, and all their crazy friends..

Accidentally abandoned!

All alone in Singapore, proper Miss Primrose Tunstell must steal helium to save her airship, the Spotted Custard, in a scheme involving a lovesick werecat and a fake fish tail.


Your Moment of Parasol . . .

Allen & Ginter (American, Richmond, Virginia)
Common Time March, from the Parasol Drills series (N18) for Allen & Ginter Cigarettes Brands, 1888

Your Infusion of Cute . . .

My new teapot purse!

Your Tisane of Smart . . .

The Subtle Sexiness of Parasols

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  

Book News:

Prim & Tash for Ace Artemis

Quote of the Day:

“Fish, to taste right, must swim three times – in water, in butter, and in wine.”

~ Polish Proverb

Questions about Gail’s Parasolverse? Wiki that sheez!

Egypt from a Dirigible: Imprudence & Timeless (Parasol Protectorate Special Extras)

Posted by Gail Carriger


In Imprudence Rue and her crew visit Egypt just as Alexia and Conall did in Timeless.

Rue goes in for the capital, Cairo, while Alexia spent most of her time in the port city of Alexandria.

Ancient Alexandria

  • Founded by Alexander of Macedon (the Great) c. 332-331 B.C.
  • Located in the Nile delta
  • Renowned for its giant lighthouse – one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, destroyed
  • Library at Alexandria, destroyed
  • Mouseion (of which the library was a part) Ptolomy’s center of science and philosophy
  • Roman catacombs
  • Capital of the country for close to 1,000 years
  • Citadel of Qait Bey, Pompey’s Pillar, the Roman Theater, the Presidential Palace, Montaza Palace, and the Ras el-Tin Palace
  • Additional information on Ancient Vine

Victorian Alexandria

Alexandia shoreline 1882, personal collection



  • Egypt under the Muhammad Ali Pasha dynasty (1805–1953)
  • Khedivate of Egypt under British patronage ~ specifically Sanctioned khedival rule (1867–1914)
  • Nominally independent Sultanate of Egypt and Kingdom of Egypt, ending with the Revolution of 1952 and the formation of the Republic of Egypt
  • 1882 civil unrest, rebellion

In Imprudence I have one quick reference to the troubles of 1882. I knew of this from my prior research for Timeless. I did a blog post about it at the time, in March of 2011 when we were experiencing the Arab Spring.

Alexandria 1882 landscape rebellion, personal collection


From Wikipedia: “Isma’il was succeeded by his eldest son Tewfik, who, unlike his younger brothers, had not been educated in Europe. Tewfik pursued a policy of closer relations with Britain and France but his authority was undermined in a rebellion led by his war minister, Arabi Pasha, in 1882. Arabi took advantage of violent riots in Alexandria to seize control of the government and temporarily depose Tewfik.”

Alexandria 1882, personal collection


“British naval forces shelled and captured Alexandria, and an expeditionary force under General Sir Garnet Wolseley was formed in England. The British army landed in Egypt soon afterwards, and defeated Arabi’s army in the Battle of Tel el-Kebir. Arabi was tried for treason and sentenced to death, but the sentence was commuted to exile. After the revolt, the Egyptian army was reorganized on a British model and commanded by British officers.”

Victorians leaving Alexandria by steam ship, 1882, personal collection




In Timeless, Alexia visits Alexandria, in April of 1876 when things are comparatively calm.

The eagle eye will notice that the background for the US cover is actually Cairo, where Alexia never goes in the book. Although I think I added a mention of her stopping over, just to explain away the cover. I’ve no idea what city is depicted in the background of the second omnibus.

Japan set Timeless floating over a rather lush river, it’s possible there are some areas of the Nile that are that green. Generally it’s a bit more bare or palm tree riddled, but I won’t quibble too much. Germany put Alexia back into Cairo.

Nile River


Alexandria is all the way off to the left in this image. Cairo is the bottom tip.



  • Rue visits my version of steampunk Egypt in October of 1895 during the reign of Tewfik’s son, Abbas II.
  • Sudanese territory has been lost (as the British would think of it) to an Islamic state.
  •  Shortly after Rue leaves in 1896 (Abbas II), a massive Anglo-Egyptian force, under “General Herbert Kitchener, began the reconquest of the Sudan.[12] The Mahdists were defeated in the battles of Abu Hamid and Atbara. The campaign was concluded with the Anglo-Egyptian victory of Omdurman, the Mahdist capital.”
  • At first I was going to take Rue back to Alexandria, partly so I could use Alexia to discuss how the city has changed in the past 20 years. But in Timeless I mention that Lord Maccon purchased property in Cairo for their retirement, well within the plague zone. So I switched Rue’s location to Cairo. Lost a bit of writing time there since I’d already done 2K on Alexandria in a new more steampunky form, but it worked much better for the plot line to be in Cairo, anyway.
  • I scrabbled about for any further Victorian perspectives on Cairo or the rest of Egypt between 1883 ~ 1895. But there appears to be no major issues of civil unrest and in this the British press seems akin to their modern counterparts, which is to say, not particularly interested if there is no blood involved.
  •  I didn’t spend a great deal of time on it as, quite frankly, Rue doesn’t spend a great deal of time in the city. Although I hope you will notice I steampunked Cairo up especially as compared to Alexandria in Timeless. The march of technological advancement is strong with this one.

Modern Alexandria

Alexandria Image #95


* second largest city in Egypt
* typical Mediterranean climate: extremely warm/humid days in summer, breezy and cool in the evenings, winter is chilly with rain and hail not uncommon, spring and autumn are best weather.

Mix of ancient and modern.



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Your Moment of Parasol . . .

carolathhabsburg- Mourning attire. Fashion plate, circa 1894

carolathhabsburg- Mourning attire. Fashion plate, circa 1894

Your Infusion of Cute . . .

Bean Back wiskers curled paws2

Your Tisane of Smart . . .

Why We Should Never Underestimate the Intelligence of an Octopus

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  

Female Spies and Gender Bending Soldiers Changed the Course of the Civil War

Quote of the Day:

“Indifference is the revenge the world takes on mediocrities.”

~ Oscar Wilde

Questions about Gail’s steampunk world? There’s a wiki for that!

Imprudence Research & Reference Links (Behind the Magic)

Posted by Gail Carriger


Hello Gentle Reader, with Imprudence releasing oh so soon.


Here’s a glimpse into some of the research I had to do for this next Custard Protocol book.

Queen Victoria via  Elaine Powell @ManchesterSteam


Politics in the Sudan before and after Rue visits


Generally Useful Victorian Stuff


In Which Rue References Things You Might Not Know Of

  • Maxim gun (as opposed to the Gatling or the Nordenfelt)
  • Maahes the ancient Egyptian lion-headed god of war, whose name means “he who is true beside her”.
  • Sekhmet

“Our Homes in 1883 estimated that the average person needed 22 gallons of water a day, divided up as:
Domestic usage, excluding laundry 9 gallons
WCs 5 gallons
Baths, one a week 5 gallons
Washing clothes 3 gallons”
~ The Victorian House by Judith Flanders
(According to USGS.gov the average water use per person per day in the US is 80-100 gallons.)

“Milk is the great difficulty in travelling tea-making. It cannot always be easily obtained, and milk carried about with one in a bottle does not long retain its freshness in hot weather. Some people do not object to the condensed or Swiss milk one buys in small tins. It has the advantage of being extremely portable, but I must confess, personally, to finding its effect detestable in tea or coffee.”

~ Hints to Lady Travellers: At Home and Abroad (Royal Geographic Society) by Lillias Campbell Davidson (1889)

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Your Moment of Parasol . . .

Fashion plate, 1896 via shewhoworshipscarlin

Fashion plate, 1896 via shewhoworshipscarlin

Your Infusion of Cute . . .

Your Tisane of Smart . . .

Victorian Sewing: A Brief History of Plain and Fancy Work

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  

10 Fantasy Authors Who Fight the Patriarchy, Gender Stereotypes, and Possibly Dragons

Book News:

Difficult, But Fascinating: The Gail Carriger Interview with William Pinfold

Quote of the Day:

“By the end, Rafe wore the long-suffering looking of an eagle being ordered about by a flock of excited pigeons.”

~ Heartless

Questions about Gail’s steampunk world? There’s a wiki for that!

How to Stock an Victorian Airship Medicine Cabinet ~ Gail Carriger’s Custard Protocol Research (Special Extras)

Posted by Gail Carriger

Primrose is particularly good at her job of ship’s purser (and chief of supplies) aboard the Spotted Custard.

One of Primrose’s jobs consists of stocking the medicine cabinet on board the Spotted Custard. Alexia in the Parasol Protectorate series is rather infamous for insisting that either vinegar or bicarbonate of soda could solve all of life’s ills, however her daughter is a bit more (shall we say) prudent on these matters.

Via the Smithsonian’s Pinterest Board

I’ve listed the items as the Victorians might have. [In brackets is the use or perceived use and/or more modern term.] I hope it goes without saying that this is in no way a suggested medical selection for modern times. However, this is the internet, so I’m saying it.

A Household Medicine Cabinet 1870s ~ 1900

  1. Powdered ipecacuanha [induce vomiting]
  2. Purgative powder [laxative]
  3. Sulphate of quinine [malaria treatment]
  4. Chlorodyne [chloroform and morphine tincture] & laudanum [opiate in alcohol, often sherry]
  5. Carbolic acid [antiseptic]
  6. Castor oil [Ricinus]
  7. Eno’s fruit salts
  8. One bottle each of M’Kesson and Robbin’s compound podophyllin and aloes and myrrh pills [for warts and verrucas, also purgative]
  9. Stick of nitrate of silver [antibacterial, often used in eyes for conjunctivitis, skin infections, ulcers]
  10. Cholera pills
  11. Iodine [used on rashes and wounds]
  12. Tabloids of antipyrin and phenacetin [analgesic and antipyretic]
  13. Aspirin [willow bark extract]
  14. Salicylate of soda [pain relief, for skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis]
  15. Boracic acid [disinfectant]
  16. Cough lozenges
  17. Tabloids of grey powder [mercury in calk, mainly purgative and antisyphilitic]
  18. Kay’s essence of linseed [coughs and colds]
  19. Clean undyed squares of cotton, wool, linen
  20. Oiled silk
  21. Roll of adhesive plaster
  22. Bandages [usually linen]
  23. Dressing forceps

Gail’s Sources:

I drew up this list from a combination of sources:

Foote‘s Medical Common Sense and Plain Home Talk (American 1871)

Southgate’s Things A Lady Would Like to Know (English 1876)

Davidson’s Hints to Lady Travellers (English 1889)

Steel & Gardiner’s The Complete Indian Housekeeper and Cook (1898, revised). Steel also includes recipes for common ailments, unfortunately not gun shot wounds.

Medical Common Sense & Plain Home Talk.


via @photosandbacon  Iron Cordial, King of Tonics, 1886 includes a remedy for being female


Other Blog Posts on Victorian Health & Medicine


via @photosandbacon

Now don’t even get me started on Victorian cosmetics.

Advertisement for Fould’s arsenic complexion wafers by H B Fould in New York, 1901. (Photo by Jay Paull_Getty Images)

{Gail’s monthly read along for July 2016 is Poison or Protect by Gail Carriger.}


Imprudence ~ Custard Protocol Book the Second

Rue and the crew of the Spotted Custard return from India with revelations that shake the foundations of England’s scientific community. Queen Victoria is not amused, the vampires are tetchy, and something is wrong with the local werewolf pack. To top it all off, Rue’s best friend Primrose keeps getting engaged to the most unacceptable military types.

Rue has family problems as well. Her vampire father is angry, her werewolf father is crazy, and her obstreperous mother is both. Worst of all, Rue’s beginning to suspect what they really are… is frightened.


Your Moment of Parasol . . .

1895 via @AngelaKCouch Twitter Parasol, design c.1895-1900

1895 via @AngelaKCouch Twitter Parasol, design c.1895-1900

Your Infusion of Cute . . .

The Bookworm: Part Bookshelf, Part Cocoon Chair

Your Tisane of Smart . . .

Seaside Fashions of the 19th Century

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  

Awkward Fear of the Romance Genre

Book News:

Gail’s Interview on No Don’t Die

Quote of the Day:

“I expect I shall feel better after tea.”

~ P.G. Wodehouse, Carry on, Jeeves

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Behind the Scenes Custard Protocol ~ Things I’ve Had to Research (Special Extras)

Posted by Gail Carriger

One of the best things about being an author, Gentle Reader, is all the odd things I end up having to look up.

Here’s a non-spoiler window into some of the things I had to research, investigate, or cogitate while working on Imprudence, as well as a few writer-beast revelations.

Book People Imprudence Display

Weird Goings On

Mid 1850’s Fern Fad:

“Women collected and classified ferns, the cultivated and bred ferns, the made outdoor ferneries, the dried, pressed, mounted and framed ferns. They made splatter pictures of them.”

~ The Victorian House by Judith Flanders

Quarrel is a wonderful word, and seemingly quite British sounding.

Queen Victoria had some pretty kicking mourning gowns after Albert died. But she doesn’t seem to be particularly fond of the normally ubiquitous crape. Perhaps she wore it early on and then went towards light mourning, keeping with black silks and velvets but trimming in lace and fringe and such? Anyway, this lead me down a mourning dress rabbit hole.


via CVLT Nation


One little “a” makes all the difference in managed versus manged.

Heterochromia iridum.

Introducing: Rue’s best day dress. Since the second book is set in October 1895 the dress is ahead of its time, but you know me, I am weak in the face of polka dots.


1897-1898  The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Incidentally, I keep track of Rue & Prim’s various dresses by storing the images by chapter for each book. (When I am using actual historic pictures.) Otherwise outfits are concocted based on descriptions out of the big blue book of Victorian dress AKA English Women’s Clothing in the Nineteenth Century: A Comprehensive Guide. I use this book so much that, having noticed it is also available as an ebook, I bought it again, so as to have it with me when on the move. I’m a sucker.

Games for Spoo & Virgil

  • blind-man’s-buff
  • hide-and-seak
  • puss in the corner
  • tick-tack-to
  • leap-frog

The discovery of oxygen. I think there is a word for when multiple scientists discover the same important thing at (basically) the same time in disconnected locals (Kuhn would mutter something about dominant paradigms and the structure of scientific revolutions but that’s neither here nor there, unless you’re an entomologist, in which case it’s both) but I can’t remember what that word is.

On the horrid atmosphere in Victorian London. R. John Simon, London’s first medical officer, noted in Paris the

“transparance of air, the comparative brightness of all colour, the visibility of distant objects, the cleanliness of faces and buildings, instead of our opaque atmosphere, deadened colours, obscured distance, smutted faces and black architecture.”

~ The Victorian House by Judith Flanders

Some interesting descriptive words used to describe a Worth skirt (for Prim):
  • basques
  • hollowing scallops
  • velvet arabesques
  • pannier puffs


via steampunk-art- tumble     Steampunk Art


Things that didn’t make it into the book but likely should have…

What would Rue’s theme food be?

  • Red Currant Clafoutis ~ right look and feel with the red currents gloating in the custard, spotted & custard and red like the ladybug balloon. But perhaps not British sounding enough? Then again Rue is an explorer and world traveler.
  • Eccles Cake + Custard ~ very British name, just confusing enough to be exotic to American readers, Rue does adore puff pastry, but the currents are not really floating in a spotty manner, and the custard is in sauce form, more as Americans would think of pudding.
  • Spotted Dick ~ later on in history than Rue, this boiled/steamed pudding is associated with schoolboys, perhaps a little crass in terminology even for our intrepid heroine, however sounds like an STD, also not a custard but served with a custard sauce.


Your Moment of Parasol . . .

Toilettes for Summer  May 1898 Delineator  Canadian Museum of History

Your Infusion of Cute . . .
Trigger the Cat

Your Tisane of Smart . . .
Queen Victoria, a polka, and 8,000 soldiers 1853

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  
Bookshelf Chair

Book News:
Sam Wachter of Cherry Blossoms and Maple Syrup says: “Prudence was totally worth waiting for, given all the hiccups before its release. It’s as sassy as the Parasol Protectorate series, but still has it’s own distinctive voice and sense of humour.”

Quote of the Day:

“She looked as if she had been poured into her clothes and had forgotten to say “when”. ”

― P.G. Wodehouse

A Conflagration of Research: Victorians & Food, Etiquette, Photo Resources (Finishing School Behind the Magic)

Posted by Gail Carriger


Today my dear Gentle Reader, I have a collection of stuff (all the stuff!) I thought might be of interest. Have fun!

Some stuff about the Victorians and Food!

Two of my most favorite subjects rolled together like a pig in a blanket.

“As, for the fashionable, dinner moved later, after-dinner tea was no longer necessary to bridge the gap until bedtime. Instead it moved forward, to fill in the longer period between luncheon (which in families without children was a light meal) and dinner, and to greet the office worker on his return home. This took time to be assimilated. In the 1850s the Carlyles still invited people to tea after dinner, at about seven o’clock: this was thriftier than having them for the meal itself, and made an evening entertainment.”

~ The Victorian House by Judith Flanders

“It is well, while at table, to avoid any discussion of the demerits of the dishes. On the other hand, you may praise them as much as you please.”

Food Apricot Pie Germany Colmar 2013

~ The Ladies’ Guide to True Politeness and Perfect Manners or, Miss Leslie’s Behaviour Book by Eliza Leslie (American 1864)

“For a large company, a table with tea, coffee, and cakes, may be set in the ladies-room, women being in attendance to supply the guests with those refreshments before they go down.”

~ The Ladies’ Guide to True Politeness and Perfect Manners or, Miss Leslie’s Behaviour Book by Eliza Leslie (American 1864)

“Eliza Acton, in her cookery books at the beginning of the century, was the first person to write a recipe more or less as we would recognize today, by separating out the ingredients from the method, which no one that thought of doing before. No longer was a cook told to take ‘some flour’ or ‘enough milk’, but now quantities and measures were introduced.”

~ The Victorian House by Judith Flanders

Les Modes Parisiennes Date-  Thursday, March 1, 1855 Item ID-  v. 37, plate 52


Food Gail Carriger Flowers Hat Candied Orange Peal

Matters of Etiquette

“When you purchase an umbrella, desire that, before sending it home, your name be engraved on the little plate at the termination of the handle, or else on the slide. “To make assurance doubly sure,” you may get the name painted in full in small white or yellow letters on the inside of one of the gores of silk.”

~ The Ladies’ Guide to True Politeness and Perfect Manners or, Miss Leslie’s Behaviour Book by Eliza Leslie (American 1864)

Robe à Transformation  1855  The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Random Moments of What?

A bunch of fun Victorian Photo Resources:


On the classic Victorian concept of the sickly maiden or spinster:

“Illness was a way of putting achievement definitively out of reach. This is not a twentieth-, or twenty-first-century interpretation of nineteenth-century situation. Her brother Henry wrote later that ‘tragis health was, in a manner, the only solution for her of the practical problem of life’.”

~ The Victorian House by Judith Flanders

“The English are “starved with cold”—Americans only starve with hunger.”

~ The Ladies’ Guide to True Politeness and Perfect Manners or, Miss Leslie’s Behaviour Book by Eliza Leslie (American 1864)

Le Bon Ton Date-  Tuesday, July 1, 1856 Item ID-  v. 38, plate 65


And some fashion links!


Alfred Stevens (Belgian artist, 1828-1906) In the Country (with a parasol)


“Every lady should own a small light umbrella, or else a very large parasol, of extra size, covered with strong India silk that will not easily tear or fade, and that may be used, on occasion, for either sun or rain; and that will not be cumbrous to carry, though quite large enough to shelter one person.”

~ The Ladies’ Guide to True Politeness and Perfect Manners or, Miss Leslie’s Behaviour Book by Eliza Leslie (American 1864)

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Your Moment of Parasol . . .

1Columbian Magazine Date-  Monday, September 1, 1845

Your Infusion of Cute . . .
Adorable Tea Bag Cookies

Your Tisane of Smart . . .
Steampunk Your Pumpkin This Halloween

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  
How to Undress a Victorian Lady in Your Next Historical Romance

Quote of the Day:

“But when the time comes that a man has had his dinner, then the true man comes to the surface.”

~ Mark Twain

Teapot Carrier ~ AKA the Carriage Cozy with Victorians On the Go (Special Extras)

Posted by Gail Carriger


Some time ago, Gentle Reader, a dear friend gifted me with a teapot carrier. At first, when I saw it I was confused. Why would she give me one of those 1950’s hair dryer cases?

Then I opened it up and inside was a perfectly nested teapot!

I thought, “My my my, Primrose would LOVE this!”

The teapot is modern, from Cost Plus, but I believe it came with the carrier when she bought it at the Alameda Antiques Fair.

Whenever I tweet about this carrier it gets lots of attention and interest, so I thought I would do a little research. Because I have a deadline, and a book I should be writing instead, why not investigate tea carriers?

The Relevant Tea Leaf has a blog post on the tea cozy including a mention of carriers.

“I’ve read different accounts for its use.   The term ‘Carriage Cozy’ came about because it carried the tea and  teapot by carriage – perhaps to a picnic.  It is said servants also used this cozy to carry the tea and teapot  from the downstairs kitchen to  their employers upstairs.  The cozy made transport easier, protected the porcelain teapot, and most importantly it kept the tea warm.” ~ Phyllis Barkey


The Relevant Tea Leaf’s Carrier

Apparently, these carriers are still made in Holland.

It is hard to see how they would be useful if filled with tea at the time of transport. Surely it would slosh out and dampen the interior of the case? Perhaps they came with is a cap or cork for the spout?

The Tea Blog of the English Tea Store has a discussion on cozies too. They refer to this specific style of cozy as the Western Style Carriage Cozy.

Source mentioned above.

“A style of traveling, or carriage, cozy that may be more familiar to Western tea drinkers is fashioned of cloth on a metal or wood frame, with a handle and a clip to hold it closed. The teapot is nestled into the deep padding.  These may have been used as far back as Victorian times for carrying tea to friends’ homes. Nowadays tea drinkers probably don’t carry them much further than the back yard. I’ve used mine a couple of times and it’s very efficient at keeping tea hot, although somewhat awkward once on the table.” ~ teaguide

via MilnerMercantile on Etsy

MilnerMercantile on Etsy refers to their listing of a carriage cozy as Vintage item from the 1960s. I wouldn’t be surprised if mine is also from around that time period. It doesn’t have the feel of being much older (I’ve my materials archaeologist hat on when I say this). And while mine is in much worse condition (one of the reasons I don’t mind using it) it has the same clasp, handle style, and general shape as the above example.


This hatbox shaped one turned up on Etsy and sold for $43. So they do seem to become available eventually.

The following carriage cozy is listed as being from the 1930s. I do love the little feet. But I am beginning to question the dates on these puppies as they seem all over the place.

Etsy listing.

While this one below was listed as a Victorian Horse Carriage Teapot Cozy or Caddy.

Again the clasps and styles are all so very similar that the archaeologist in me seriously questions the dating on these cozies. I’d love to see an advertisement in a dated magazine, or a fashion plate or photograph or something showing these with a sustainable date and provenance. Although in the closed position they look so much like a large purse or hatbox it would be hard to find due to miss categorization, methinks. That said, in all my research into Victorian times and travel journals I have never seen image or mention of a carriage cozy. (My research being confined to 1830-1900.)

Yes, they look Victorian, and the temptation is to want them to be from that time period but I think it more likely that they are post turn of the century at the very least. Although the lined wicker/basket ones certainly can be earlier.

Auction item.

The above is listed as 19th/Early 20th Century and that certainly correct to dating the pot inside it. Ceramics I do know a thing or two about.

It looks like you can snap this red one up right now for $43 out of Canada, if you like. Look at the little cap for the spout!



“In good vintage condition this teapot carrier was used in days gone by to keep tea warm while traveling in a carriage or going to a picnic. There is a small matching accessory that goes over the spout so the tea doesn’t spill. Clean condition. Metal closure. Stands about 14 ” with handle. About 12″ wide and 10″ deep. Unique conversation piece. Tea pot not included.”

{Gail’s monthly read along for August is My Man Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse}


Your Moment of Parasol . . .

Le Follet Date-  Saturday, June 1, 1844 Item ID-  v. 28, plate 77

Your Infusion of Cute . . .

My new mug.

Your Tisane of Smart . . .
8 Crazy Facts about Octopuses

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  

Book News:
Le Monde de Mara says of Waistcoats & Weaponry: “J’ai retrouvé Sophronia avec plaisir, comme on retourne une jeune soeur ou une jeune cousine un peu farfelue. Ce tome 3 prend place quasiment que dans un train, durant un voyage vers l’Ecosse.”

Quote of the Day:

“One of the drawing-rooms was ‘draped’ in a way that was quite painfully aesthetic, considering the paucity of the draperies. The flower-pot were draped, and the lamps; there were draperies round the piano-legs, and round the clock; and there there were not draperies there were bows, all of the same scanty description. The only thing that had not made an effort to clothe itself was the poker and by contrast it looked very nude.”

~ A disgusted visitor describes a drawing-room in the Victorian era via The Victorian House by Judith Flanders

Gail Carriger’s Steampunk Book Suggestions (Miss Carriger Recommends)

Posted by Gail Carriger


Hello my dear Gentle Reader! I’m back. OK so you didn’t even notice I was gone.

But I did pay a short visit to a local convention, Convolution, this last Saturday. It was pretty low key with an excellent greenroom and good company. I didn’t stay for the parties. I did get to meet GOH Tanya Huff. She is marvelous. It was my third time meeting her. (She doesn’t remember me ~ see it happens to me too!) Anyway, managed to ascertain that there would be no follow up to The Silvered. I may pick that for a read along next year, although it is quite violent.

Now, here for your amusement is a glimpse into my brain: some book recs from my first panel.

Steaming Outside Victorian London

Alt. history same time period: Scott Westerfeld, Cherie Priest, The Native StarM.K. Hobson, Pillars of Hercules by David Constantine, Ministry Of Peculiar Occurrences ref New Zealand, non-books League of S.T.E.A.M., possibly Murdoch Mysteries(?). Also got onto the subject of the Antikythera devise (featured in in Curious Case).

History shift location: A Nomad of the Time Streams by Michael Moorcock has some in China, The Anubis Gates has Egypt, non-fiction Daughters of the Empire, movie Castle in the Sky and TV series Last Exile. I want to know: What if the Inka has steam technology? Others on the panel wanted to bring on the seapunk.

Off world:
Clockwork Heart, Tobias Buckell, some Terry Pratchett, non-books Space 1889 RPG and Galaxy 999 out of Japan.

We also got into a heated discussion about whether people are less gullible now than 100 years ago. I promised that I would email More or Less for a statistical answer. I have done so and I will keep an ear to the podcast and let you know if they decide to answer me.

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Your Moment of Parasol . . .

edwardian-time-machine tublr: Parasol with amethyst pug knob, 1900–1910

Your Infusion of Cute . . .

Your Tisane of Smart . . .

Oooo, fancy drawers cutting board compost thing. I love it!

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  

Lilliput sits on my story bibles

Quote of the Day:
“When he talked the conversation was all on his side.”
~ Around the Tea Table by T. De Witt Talmage (1875)

Victorian Houses – Peek into Gail’s Research (Parasol Protectorate Special Extras)

Posted by Gail Carriger


I’mm talk a bit about England, Gentle Reader.

Gail Shoulder Notes Writer Victorian House

One of the things I love about traveling in the UK is the architecture. I’m a particular fan of the mixing of time periods you often find in smaller towns.


However, while I am in London, I’ll be paying attention to the less flashy Victorian houses, because I have been researching them lately.

In the late 1890s an American visitor to London describes the houses as:

“very tall, and very plain, and very narrow, and quite expressionless, except that it wore a sort of dirty brown frown. Like its neighbours, it had a well in front of it, and steps leading down in to the well, and an iron fence round the steps, and a brass bell-handle lettered ‘Tradesmen’. Like its neighbours, too, it wore boxes of spotty black greenery on the window-sills – in fact, it was very like its neighbours . . . Half-Moon Street, to me, looked like a family of houses – a family differing in heights and complexions and the colour of its hair, but sharing all the characteristics of a family – of an old family.”

~ Judith Flanders The Victorian House (pg. li)

Victorian Terrace houses in Leeds, Wiki Commons


In the 1890s a standard house in town would be arranged roughly like so:

  • Top floor: servants and children’s bedrooms (usually two)
  • Half-landing: bathroom (often)
  • Second floor: master bedroom, dressing room (in larger houses), second bedroom
  • First floor: drawing room
  • Ground floor: dining room, morning room
  • Basement: kitchen, scullery, possibly a breakfast room

~ Judith Flanders The Victorian House (pg. li)

The Duchess of Duke Street or You Rang, M’Lord? are both great TV shows to watch to get the feel for houses of this type. (And no, I had not seen You Rang, M’Lord? before I chose Ivy’s name.)

The complexity of the bedroom is particularly interesting to me.

Victorian Bedroom Painting


“Mattresses were of organic fibre: horsehair mattresses were the best; cow’s-hair ones were cheaper, although they did not wear as well; even less expensive were wool mattresses. A straw mattress, or palliase, could be put under a hair mattress to protect it from the iron bedstead. Chain-spring mattresses were available in the second half of the century, but they were expensive, and they still needed a hair mattress over them. It was recommended that a brown holland square should be tied over the chains, to stop the hair mattress from being chewed by the springs. The hair mattress itself then needed to be covered with another holland case, to protect it from soot and dirt. If the bed had no springs, a feather bed – which was also expensive, hard to maintain, and a great luxury –  could be added on top of the mattress. An underblanket, called a binding blanket, was recommended over the hair mattress.”

“After the basics (all of which needed turning and shaking every day, as otherwise the natural fibre had a tendancy to mat and clump), the bedding for cold, usually fireless rooms consisted of an under sheet (tucked into the lower mattress, not the upper, again to protect from soot), a bottom sheet, a top sheet, blankets (three or four per bed in the winter), a bolster, pillows, bolster and pillow-covers in holland, and bolster- and pillow-cases.”

~ Judith Flanders The Victorian House (pg. 11)

Bedding clearly was in just as many layers and just as complex a Victorian ballgown! Speaking of which over on Retro Rack I lay out a fantasy of some of Alexia’s underthings.

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Book Relevant to this post?

Soulless Alex Award Scarf Gail Carriger Parasol Protectorate


Your Moment of Parasol . . .

1870  The Victoria & Albert Museum

Your Infusion of Cute . . .

Postcard from my Grandfather’s travels

Your Tisane of Smart . . .

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  

Book News:

80sidol-tumblr talk to me about my love for ormond tunstell and ivy hisslepenny

Quote of the Day:

“Don’t blame a man for the style of his literary apartments and more than you would for the color of his hair of the shape of his nose.”

~ Around the Tea Table by T. De Witt Talmage (1875) 

Victorians In Egypt ~ Researching Timeless (Behind the Magic of the Parasol Protectorate)

Posted by Gail Carriger


With the release of the trade paperback of Timeless immanent, Gentle Reader…

1880 Ladies Dahabia Egypt Nile Parasol Travel

1880 Ladies Dahabia Egypt Nile

I thought you would enjoy a flashback glimpse at some of my research for that book.

British Paintings tumblr: Joseph Interprets Pharaoh’s Dream – Reginald Arthur 1894


British Paintings tumblr: 1839 David-Roberts-Interview-With-Mehmet-Ali-In-His-Palace-At-Alexandria


Below are some quick sources off the top of my head for the Victorians in Egypt, some you need a library, some are available to buy, some are in Google online or project Gutenberg. They range in time from early to late Victorian. Because of #AmazonJail I am leaving the source up to you. I trust you are intelligent enough to get hold of the book from wherever you like, should you wish.

Secondary Sources:

  • Queen Victoria’s Little Wars
  • Rape of the Nile
1880 Ladies Dahabia Egypt, Gutenberg project



  • A Thousand Miles Up the Nile
  • Baedeker’s Upper Egypt
  • Baedeker’s Lower Egypt
  • Travels in Greece, Palestine, Egypt, and Barbary, during the years 1806 and 1807 (FA de Chateaubriand) ~ this is too early but I still found it useful. And you better believe I drew upon it heavily for Alessandro, especially to soon to release short story.
1876 Port of Alexiandria, Gutenberg project


  • Google Images search: 1882 London Times coverage of the riots in Egypt (I’ve blogged about that already)
  • Google Images search: lithographs of David Roberts: A bit earlier than Victorian times but a great visual for what many of the famous sites looked like back then.

Some images that informed Timeless most particularly…

1882 Alexandria Suburbs, Gutenberg project
Desert Balloon 1 via Wiki commons
Hatshetsup’s Temple Wiki commons

Random thing: Portrayals of Cleopatra on film.

 Via booksnbuildings tumblr – Houses in Cairo showing carved windows, 1868 Photo by Frank M. Good (Getty)


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Your Moment of Parasol . . .

1882 Picnic Nile River, Gutenberg project

Your Infusion of Cute . . .

Tomb of Two Brothers wiki commons

Google it, you won’t be disappointed. Let’s just be quite clear, they are most likely NOT brothers.

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  
This Is Your Brain on Writing

Book News:


Quote of the Day:

“It is to be supposed that before her arrival, the mistress of the house has inspected the chamber of her guest, to see that all is right—that there are two pitchers full of fresh water on the stand, and three towels on the rail, (two fine and one coarse,) with a china mug for teeth-cleaning, and a tumbler to drink from; a slop jar of course, and a foot-bath.”

~ The Ladies’ Guide to True Politeness and Perfect Manners or, Miss Leslie’s Behaviour Book by Eliza Leslie (American 1864)

Victorian Pregnancy Research for Heartless (Parasol Protectorate Special Extra)

Posted by Gail Carriger


July 1, 2014 Heartless and Timeless released in trade paperback size to the US market. At that juncture the mass market editions have been discontinued.

If you have already read the Parasol Protectorate series, read on! (Or if you don’t mind spoilers.) Otherwise, just skip today’s blog post, OK?

It should come as no surprise at this juncture, I hope, that in my fourth book, Heartless, Alexia is pregnant. Very pregnant, in fact. This book was so much fun to write, partly because in her advanced state the slapstick part of humor writing was really easy to come by.

Never having endured the condition myself, I did a lot of research into what it was like to be pregnant. Fortunately for me, at least half my friends were in various states of inconvenience at the time. I asked them many questions. I had them tell me stories which entered the text in new and Victorian form. Alexia is tired and hungry all the time, the werewolves around her are in a snack-carrying panic. The thing with the fried eggs staring back at her? Yeah, that’s my friend Willow.

Maternity corset, 1908via shewhoworshipscarlin tumblr


But I also did a lot of research into Victorian pregnancy as it actually was particularly the ridiculous medical advice surrounding it. That thing about avoiding bad expressions in people around you when pregnant or the child will end up ugly and looking like them? Yeah, real advice from Medical Common Sense and Plain Home Talk by Edward B. Foote, M.D., 1871.

“– gave the signs of pregnancy, in order of appearance, as ‘ceasing to be unwell’ (i.e. menstruate); morning sickness; painful and enlarged breasts; ‘quickening’ (which would not have been felt until the nineteenth week); increased size. That meant that no woman could be absolutely certain she was pregnant until the fifth month. As early as the 1830s it had been known to doctors that the mucosa around the vaginal opening changed colour after conception, yet this useful piece of information did not appear in lay publication until the 1880s, and the doctor who wrote it was struck off the medical register – it was too indelicate, in its assumption that a doctor would perform a physical examination. Neither doctors not their patients felt comfortable with this.”
~ Judith Flanders The Victorian House (pg. 15)

Maternity corset, 1900-20svia shewhoworshipscarlin tumblr


And a note for the upcoming Prudence books, you may notice that there is a certain awkwardness between the young persons, now grown up, and their respective parents. Some of this has to do with personality, but not all.

“The higher up the social scale, the more open about this distance from their children the parents were.”
~ Judith Flanders The Victorian House (pg. 15)

Example from the footnote, same page, references upper-class child Augustus Hare.
“Hare’s uncle, also an Augustus Hare, died shortly before his godson-to-be was born; his widow, Maria, stood god-mother instead, and she tentatively asked his parents if she could perhaps have the child to stay for a while. The answer to her letter was immediate: ‘My dear Maria, how very kind of you! Yes, certainly, the baby shall be sent as soon as it is weaned; and if anyone else would like one, would you kindly recollect that we have others.’ Maria Hare cared for him for the rest of her life, and he called her his mother.”

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Your Moment of Parasol . . .

Godeys Aug 1872

Your Infusion of Cute . . .

My new tiny under seat travel case for going to England. So cute.

Your Tisane of Smart . . .

My repainted coffee table

Sometimes when I am really over-run with writign obligations I need an art project to just rest my brain wish a less demanding creative endeavor. This month I worked on sanding down and repainting the house coffee table. The finished product appears above! Super pleased with myself.

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  

Book News:

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Quote of the Day:

Water-Cure Journal, June 1855

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