Tagged Victorian Science

In Which Gail Carriger Visits a Shooting Range in the Interest of Finishing School Research (Special Extras)

Posted by Gail Carriger


Occasionally, Gentle Reader, I conduct on the ground research, or in some cases in the air.

One of the things I have been meaning to do for a long time is visit a shooting range. I grew up around riffles (farming community) but never used one, and I have an ex who (after living through the LA riots) owned a shot-gun so large I couldn’t really lift it. But I, personally, have never found the idea of guns very appealing. Which may be the consequence of my part British upbringing, or it could be all those hippies.


However, guns do make the occasional appearance in my books and I have actually never shot one. I’d rather not get into the politics of guns, so I’ll merely say that they are historically present in my time period and my world-building, so I thought it best if I knew at least a little bit about them.

My dear friend J. Daniel Sawyer is an excellent marksman and volunteered to be my guide. He does, after all, have a book on the subject of guns for writers. So a week ago, we trekked to a nearby gun range so shoot some of their oldest guns.

I thought you might like a glance at my notes. Which were mainly things that surprised me . . .

  • 22 manually load, manually eject casing (single action Bearcat revolver)
  • 22 up close to temple could be an assassin’s weapon, but otherwise not all that effective
  • Thumb (not trigger finger) gets tired from pulling back hammer
  • Smaller gun doesn’t get that hot, just warm to the touch
  • Smaller lighter gun of same caliber seem to have more recoil, with a bigger 22 (10 shot double action revolver) the heaviness of the gun seemed to almost shield the shooter
  • Larger caliber gun was much louder but doesn’t effect how hard I had to pull the trigger
  • Recoil hit tender part between finger and thumb
  • Rough grip makes it easier to hold but harder on the skin, understand appeal of wooden handle, rubber later, and shooting gloves

The larger caliber proved too much for me. We had to jump from a .22 to a .45 (compact 1911) since the shooting range only had one .38 and that gun was challenging (they said). This was a little sad since Ethel, Alexia’s gun, is a derringer that would probably have been in the .38 range. But it did afford me the time to chat with some of the local enthusiasts while my friend finished the .45 rounds.



Being a materials scientist by training I was fascinated to learn about the so-called Perchatta gun grip on the 1902 gun they had in a case. It seems some sort of rubber mixed with plastic. I’ve never heard of such a thing and couldn’t find it on the interwebs under that name (given me by a suspect individual) so if you know more on the actually scientific name of the material.*



There it is, my visit to the range. In many ways the range itself was exactly as I suspected, and some of the psychology of, for example, the instructional video was decidedly… off. But I am glad I went because I really feel like I learned something that will effect how I write about using guns in my books. Improving, shall we say, my precision if not accuracy.

* A note the name of the material appears to be Gutta Percha also know as Victorian vulcanite. You can read more about it in the comments bellow. In an unrelated matter, I was looking up Victorian Mourning Jewelry and found Gutta Percha was often used in place of jet.

Antique Victorian vulcanite/Gutta Percha mourning jewelry; earrings and necklace colectorsweekly.com
RARE Victorian Mourning Jewelry Set in Original Box – Made of Gutta-Percha Sap. $1,295.00, via Etsy


Flanders says this of Gutta-percha:

“Gutta-percha was produced from the sap of the Isonandra gutta tree, native to Indonesia. When vulcanized, it acted as a waterproofing, insulating material, much as we sued rubber and now use plastic. It first appeared in Britian in the 1840s, becoming widelt used for, among other items, hot-water bottles, golf balls and the insulating cover for the first transatlantic telegraph cable.”

~ Judith Flanders The Victorian House (pg. 45)

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Your Moment of Parasol . . .

Paint Camille Monet on the beach at Trouville by Monet

Your Infusion of Cute . . .

Elizabeth Lefebvre via FB sharing Emily Mills’s photo

Your Tisane of Smart . . .
Travel Scenes from Around the World, 1986-1900

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  
9 Lessons I’ve Learned So Far About Writing & Publication

Quote of the Day:

“There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written.”

~ Oscar Wilde

Recipes Based on the Food in the Parasol Protectorate! (Special Extras)

Posted by Gail Carriger



Ever wonder about all the food in my books, Gentle Reader? Ever want to try to cook any of those dishes? Well if wishes were blogs…

Tentacle & Treacle

Quietly, behind the scenes for the past year or more Sariann Lehrer and I have been working to create a blog based on cooking the dishes written into my books. (Sariann is the genius behind A Feast of Ice and Fire: The Official Game of Thrones Companion Cookbook, with George of course). Most of the food and meals I talk about in the Finishing School and the Parasol Protectorate actually existed, and I do a lot of research to make certain they are authentic. On Tentacle & Treacle Sariann will take it one step further and cook the dishes using modern ingredients.

Sariann is doing most (well, all) of the work and she has a busy life, so please don’t expect posts all the frequently, but we have launched with a tried and tested treacle tart! We will be moving on from there with many more of adapted recipes from my books, both the tasty and the weird. So follow the blog if you want to cook away. I’m interested in your thoughts on these recipes if you chose to replicate them yourselves.

Of course, I am providing tea pairings for every dish cooked. As the posts drop, I will try to link to them here, but to make sure you don’t miss them you are better off following yourself.

Hoping you all are having happy holidays full of friends and good cheer, but most importantly, good food!


Your Moment of Parasol . . .

Robe à la Polonaise  1775  The Victoria & Albert Museum

Your Infusion of Cute . . .

Unzipped-Bag-Shaped Hand-Blown Glass Bowl

Your Tisane of Smart . . .

Libratone’s Loop Wireless Speaker

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  
Three Writing Tips Learned from NaNoWriMo

Book News:
The Bookworm Radio Show

Quote of the Day:

Victorian Medical Science in Reticence (Custard Protocol Special Extras)

Posted by Gail Carriger


Some gems of wisdom 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.
  • Theses 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.

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Your Moment of Parasol . . .
1895-1900 Mourning Parasol The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1895-1900 Mourning Parasol The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Your Infusion of Cute . . .
bacon egg candy
White chocolate + yellow m&m + pretzel sticks = bacon & egg candy.

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .
How Can We Avoid Cookie-Cutter Writing?

Quote of the Day:
“If the doctor told me I had six minutes to live, I’d type a little faster.”
~ Isaac Asimov

Why Did Gail Carriger Switch to Writing YA & More (Occasional FAQ)

Posted by Gail Carriger


Today, with the release less than a week away, here are some more philosophical frequent questions I am getting regarding Etiquette & Espionage . . .

Etiquette Finishing School Gail Carriger Shirt Team Soap

1. Why did you decide to write a YA series?

I adore YA. Since I picked up Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce I’ve been hooked. It’s still my favorite genre to read and I’ve always hoped to be able to write it. There’s something so breezy and tidy about the best YA novels. I find them comfortably immersive…and I can finish one in the space of an afternoon!

2. Why keep the Finishing School series in the same world as the Parasol Protectorate?

I felt there was more about the universe I wanted to explore. More about the way the Victorians accepted or reviled the supernatural creatures and their Steampunk technology. More about class structure and the etiquette of social interaction. More about what this environment was like for a normal, daylight girl. I’ve always admired writers like Mercedes Lackey who create a universe and then play with multiple books, various characters, and different time settings.

3. What’s the biggest aesthetic difference?

Etiquette & Espionage is set in 1851, while Soulless takes place in 1873. Aside from different kinds to steampunk technology and a much diminished presence of dirigibles (and more frequent use of hot air balloons) the clothing style is different. Alexia wears drape layers and bustle dresses, curiasse bodices, and perch hats. Sophronia wears large poofy skirts held out by multiple petticoats, often horsehair (crinoline had yet to be invented), the occasional Swiss waist, and classic broad brim bonnets. Alexia wields her parasol with untrained verve, while Sophronia carries about her person multiple small useful devices and weapons her first objective being to keep both hands free for nefarious purposes (or possibly porpoises).

1872 Afternoon Dress The Metropolitan Museum of Art 1854-1856 The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1872 Afternoon Dress The Metropolitan Museum of Art versus 1854-1856 The Metropolitan Museum of Art

4. How did you approach a younger audience?

I worked to create a more youthful and accessible voice and characters who would grow and change with the books. Sophronia has a different world view than Alexia. She’s private and introverted and must become more self actualized along the way by making new friends and discoveries. Her focus is on her immediate environment, less political, more personal.

5. Will we recognize any characters in Etiquette & Espionage?

Absolutely! One of the wonderful things about writing with immortals is they are immortal. Even though this series is set 22 years before Soulless there are plenty of familiar faces, although perhaps not immediately recognizable. There are also many lovable newcomers. In addition, I hope fans will have fun theorizing on how and why the technology is so different between the two time periods. Many steampunk details mentioned only in passing during Alexia’s journey will be explained through Sophronia’s adventures.

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Your Moment of Parasol . . .
1895-1900 Mourning Parasol The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1895-1900 Mourning Parasol The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Your Infusion of Cute . . .
A teacup planter from Hobby Lobby

Your Tisane of Smart . . .
MIND MELD: Rebranding Fiction as Young Adult

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .
Cakes wrecks goes all literal.

Quote of the Day:

“Six Ways of Wasting Time to be Guarded Against
1. Indefinite musings
2. Anticipating needlessly
3. Excessive speculation
4. Indulgence in reluctance to begin a duty
5. In doubtful cases, not deciding at once
6. Musing on what has been said or done, or what may be.”

~ Adapted from Schott’s Quintessential Miscellany (Indispensable Irrelevance)

Bumbersnoot Art! (Finishing School Special Extras)

Posted by Gail Carriger


Bumbersnoot is a new and excitingly silly character in the up-coming Finishing School series.

On his first introduction…

It had four legs—four very short legs—and a small, spiky tail. Steam emanated slightly from its underbelly, and smoke came out from under its leather earflaps. It looked a little like one of those sausage dogs the Germans were so fond of.

Sometime later . . .

Sophronia hesitated, and then—because everyone seemed to have forgotten him and he looked so forlorn—she scooped up the sausage dog mechanimal and hid him in her large pinafore pocket.

Sophronia names her new pet Bumbersnoot. And later introduces him to another new friend who has the following opinion . . .

“He’s quite the little beauty, isn’t he?”

Bumbersnoot had a long, sausage-like body, and while he was mostly bronze, it was clear he had some brass and iron parts, so that he was rather a patchwork. Fond of him though she was, “little beauty” was not a phrase Sophronia would have used to describe him.

“If you say so.”

A little while ago I ran an art contest and here are some images of Bumbersnoot!




Endless Pages
Endless Pages




More to come!


Your Writerly Tinctures . . .
Kurt Vonnegut Can Bite Me

Book News:
Interview about E&E over on PW Kidscast.

Quote of the Day:
“He wants to know if you can ride. he says you have the right build. ANd he says you are a pei-makhe halak – a milk faced boy.”
~ Second Lieutenant Francis Yeats-Brown, 1906 via Richard Holmes’s Sahib the British Soldier in India, pg. 263

In Which Gail Carriger Reviews Hysteria The Movie (Miss Carriger Recommends)

Posted by Gail Carriger


I finally saw Hysteria.

I liked it. Funny and fun and good costumes and an amusing foray into the quirks of medical history.

I like Maggie Gyllenhaal very much as an actress, but I don’t think this is her best effort. Her accent slipped up a few times and I was always very conscious of her acting, if you know what I mean? It was like she was trying to be Minnie Driver. The length of the courtroom scene was rather jarring, and (like the courtroom scene in Dangerous Beauty) is destined to be fast forwarded every time one rewatches.

I thought Felicity Jones rather stole the movie, and is maturing into the kind of young lady I could see play Prudence in the new series. Of course, one spend the entire film waiting for Rupert Everett to reappear. But when is that not the case? I believe I am waiting for Rupert Everett to reappear right this very moment.

In summation, I laughed out loud several times. I would certainly say this movie is worth renting. It’s a nice break to have a costume drama that is funny and light and stays that way.


Your Moment of Parasol . . .
1920 Chicago

Your Infusion of Cute . . .
Decayed Daguerreotypes

Your Tisane of Smart . . .
Suffragettes and Tearooms

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .
When Should You Stop Revising?
In my case, it’s when I have a deadline or another project that has to take precedence.

Book News:
Manga Vol. 2 Review from The Fandom Post

Quote of the Day:
“We are all dietetic sinners; only a small percent of what we eat nourishes us; the balance goes to waste and loss of energy.”
~ William Osler

Victorian Travel Times ~ Updated (Custard Protocol Special Extras)

Posted by Gail Carriger


Gentle Reader, occasionally the curious ask me how I calculate travel times, sooo… I wrote this blog post!

Before writing Changeless in late 2008, I knew there would be travel involved. I began by asking myself:

  • How efficient were trains back in 1874?
  • How long would it take to get from London to Scotland?
  • How might dirigible travel compare to this?

There seemed no simple answer on the net, so I had to draw my own conclusions. And here is how…

Horse Travel Base-line

A horse at a forced pace can cover c. 50 miles a day, depending on terrain and weather. A desperate man in very good physical condition can handle the same distance on foot. One horse, one rider could do 200 miles in 24 hours but the horse would probably die. Let’s call that 4 mph normal, and 8.5 mph at a push.

Werewolf Travel Times

In my world werewolves in wolf form can move faster than horses at a run, giving them about a 10 mph, but they can only do so at night.

Train Travel Times

In 1956, the 789-mile Madras-Bombay stretch was done in c. 29 hours by the Madras Express mail carrier (the fastest train on its route). That’s about 27 mph.

My characters in Changeless were traveling north of Glasgow into the Highlands towards Dunblane, I only needed a lose estimate.

It’s 414 miles from London to Glasgow.

So a train of a similar type to the Madras Express would take 16 hours or so. (Modern direct fast trains from London take about 6 hours to get Scotland, meaning we are now over 2x faster than the Victorians.) But no passenger trains of the Victorian Era traveled that quickly within the UK (in my steampunk Victorian time period or the real one). There would be stopovers and passenger pick ups.

So let us, for the sake of argument, double the time it would take to cross England into Scotland from 16 to 32 hours.

After all, this is my universe I get to make adjustments as I see fit.

Travel Times ~ The Parasol Protectorate Series

So from London to Glasgow

  • By train: 32 hours, or a day and a half. But given Victorian leisure ideals, it’d probably take more like 2 full days or 48 hours on a fancy sleeper train.
  • By horse: 103 hrs or 4 full days, but with resting each night, detours, and other stops, I’d say it’d take a little over 8 days.
  • By horse at top speed: 49 hours (switching mounts 2x), lowering that to save the horse to around 60 hours, that’s 2.5 full days, adding in overnights to sleep, a fast messenger would arrive at the end of day 3 with a winded horse.
  • By werewolf: 41.5 hours, but he only has darkness, which is about 8 hours each night in September. So it would take him 5 days (and he can’t travel on or around full moon)
  • By dirigible: in my world, these are said to move at about half the speed of a train, so it would take 4 days. But they are safer than ground transportation, as neither vampires or werewolves will travel by air, so people opt for them over trains if they have the time. Also they are considered more fashionable.

My estimates are probably a little high given weather and terrain.

The interesting thing is, of course, that the advent of the steam engine would have eliminated a major advantage initially held by werewolves, namely that they could move across the landscape faster than daylight folk.


Or is this the reason humans are so strongly in favor of increased transport speeds?

So, Gentle Reader, I wrote the above post is for 1874 all about travel times, train vs. werewolf vs. dirigible vs. horseback.
Then a few years later, when I was working on Curtsies & Conspiracies, I needed to do it all over again. Only this time I went back in time to 1852 when technology was more primitive.

Travel Times ~ The Finishing School Series

Older Technology

My original post concerned London to Glasgow, a little over 400 miles. Then I calculated Exeter to London or thereabouts, which is 200 miles driving in modern times (because there is no direct route, as the crow flies it’s more like 160).

So in 1874 it would take 4 days (96 hrs) get 400 miles by dirigible (c. 4 mph). (Ugh, that’s slow. Why did I write myself into that corner? Oh yes, Alexia had to be on board for a while.)

“Giffard’s first flight took place on September 24, 1852. He traveled almost 17 miles (27 kilometers) from the Paris racecourse to Trappes moving approximately 6 miles per hour (10 kilometers/hour).”

But that was with the wind and untroubled by weather.

My travel tech is more advanced in Sophronia’s 1850s world than in real Victorian 1850s (although still less so than in Alexia’s 1870s).

In the second book of the Finishing School Series, Giffard is flying the first aetherographic dirigible in the spring of 1852 instead of the first working dirigible ever. However, before he came along, floating had to be slower. So I made my Finishing School dirigible fly at a max of 2 mph.

That’s about 80 hours, plus some extras for shilly-shallying to get to London. So . . . 4 days to get from London to Exeter by dirigible in 1852.

It’s amazing how much time it took me to figure this out. But it gave me some good idea on plot and action, and that’s the important bit.

Just goes to show, pay attention in math, you never know when you are going to need it!

Travel Times ~ The Custard Protocol Series

Newer Technology of the 1890s

Then of course, I worked on the Custard Protocol Series, which is well into the future, about 20 years after the Alexia books, or the mid 1890s.

So everything has advanced again.

The aetherosphere has been conquered completely as a means of travel, and once people can get inside it, in my universe, it looks and acts in an entirely different manner than Sophronia or Alexia might have guessed.

Since I’m conceptualizing aether as the Victorians scientists did, neither air nor water but some other “elemental phase” (much in the same way light is both particle and wave) I get to have lots of fun with this fantastical part of my world.

Above the atmosphere and beyond!

In the case of more complicated world travel I based my calculations on the approximate speed of trains in the 1890s, combined with those of late pre-WWI steamer ships.

I decided that 1890s dirigible travel inside the aetherosphere is slighter faster than a combo of both, and, of course, you don’t have to transfer at ports. But there is a weight limit to dirigibles, so it’s no good for freight transport, only mortal human passengers. And, of course, the aetherosphere has other issues and concerns in terms of navigation, current predictability, and so forth.

That’s why everyone needs a Percy!

There are beacon ports and other stopovers because refueling is required.

That’s why everyone needs a Quesnel!

Ah travel, these days I’m either thinking about it, calculating it, or engaging in it myself.

First class rail carriage in 1856

Interior of a first class carriage via InteriorIlya Zonov tumblr

More on Victorian Travel

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Your Moment of Parasol . . .

1880 Ladies Parasols Nile

Your Tisane of Smart . . .
The Hackney Coach in the 1830s

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .
5 Tips to Trap Your Characters

Quote of the Day:

“What is meant by Highland clans? Tribes of Scotch Highlanders, who bore the names, and anciently lives upon the lands, of their respective chieftains, to whom they showed every mark of attachment, and cheerfully she their blood in their defense: these chieftains, in return, bestowed a protection upon their clans, equally founded on gratitude and a sense of their own interest.”

~ Mangnall’s Questions, 1830

Book most relevant to this post? 

Dear Author, How Could You End the Series? (Occasional FAQ)

Posted by Gail Carriger


Today, Gentle Reader, I introduce a new occasional series of installments of questions I get constantly.

How Could You End It?

I’m delighted you liked the series but it is finished. I believe in leaving a party while I am still enjoying it, and, perhaps more importantly, while others are still enjoying my company.

I’ve never been a “beat that dead horse, beat it!” kind of author.

Also, I like to have arcs completed in case I get run over. Far too many of my favorite authors have died on me without finishing their long running sagas. Or worse, been dropped by their publisher and never finished a series for lack of interest.

Fire Dancer
I’m looking at you, Ann Maxwell.


I’ve gotten bitter, I now rarely pick up a new series before the author has finished it. I know, this makes me the kind of reader authors and publishers hate. I’m embarrassed to admit it openly, but I’m a very emotional reader and I can’t help what disappointment has forced me to become.

So I finish may main character’s journey because I wanted the series to go out there and pull in new readers, like me, who would only pick up the first book with the intrinsic satisfaction of knowing there was a last one already available.

Parasol Protectorate

I hope you will forgive the few loose ends left in Timeless. If you want to know what happened to Biffy and Lyall, or whether Madame Lefoux ever got her girl, then you need to read The Supernatural Society series. Channing or any of the other werewolves? The Claw & Courtship series.

But what about the Hedgehog Incident? You want Meat Cute.

I did try to tie up as much as possible while keeping it realistic. After all, not everything in life ends with a comforting cup of tea.

Finishing School Series

Want more Soap and Sophronia, you get a glimpse of them working together in Meat Cute. Otherwise they are unlikely to be main characters again, but one or both of them often show up in my other books.

The other finishing school girls, Sophronia’s friends, enemies and in between, show up in the Delightfully Deadly series.

Please do rest assured that familiar friends and faces will turn up in my other series and novellas. There are many books and stories in the Parasolverse. One of the great pleasures of writing with immortals is that they are immortal, and so can show up throughout time.

Want More?

If you want to see more of any of my characters please say so in a review. I do keep an eye on them and it guides what I will write next.

I also blog about the writing practicalities in ending a series, and my emotional feelings on the matter.

Thanks again for your affection for my characters.

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Your Moment of Parasol . . .

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .
I am An Artist

Quote of the Day:

“These invalid carriages are furnished with comfortable couches, easy springs, abundant conveniences; and have the great advantage that they secure absolute privacy, and that they do away with the trying changes from one train to another, since the whole carriage is simply uncoupled from one engine, shunted to another line, and taken up by the new train.”

~ Lillias Campbell Davidson, 1889

Prudence ~ A Peek At Gail Carriger’s Research (Custard Protocol Special Extras)

Posted by Gail Carriger


I’m writing the first Custard Protcol book right now, Gentle Reader, set in 1895.

There are the usual pauses for research and as I thought you might enjoy a look at the rabbit holes I have been chasing over the past month in pursuit of fodder for Prudence.

Mainly so Rue can blow it up or insult it, you know how these things go.

Weird Research

  • The history of Barclay’s Bank
  • Maps and diagrams of the Island of Malta
  • History and alternate names for London’s Pea Soup fog best known today from Sherlock Holmes adventures.
  • History and use of the term “booby trap.”
  • Names and titles of workers on board a steamer ship around the turn of the century.
  • History and use of bergamot.
  • Victorian deserts that might travel well.
  • History and evolution of the iconography around the goddess Sekhmet.
  • History of Fortnam & Mason (aka Tum Tums)
  • Fisk Jubalee Singers tours in the 1800s.
  • Famously beautiful Arabic women.

Life as an author, in a very odd sort of nut shell.

Pip pip,

~ Your Writer Beast

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Quote of the Day:

“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.”

~ Richard Steele, Tatler, 1710

Medical Common Sense and Plain Home Talk, Gail Carriger’s Parasolverse Research (Parasol Protectorate Special Extras)

Posted by Gail Carriger


Rummaging about in my research books for inspiration and getting sucked yet again into

Medical Common Sense and Plain Home Talk by Edward B. Foote, M.D., 1871.

This book contains such delicious chapter titles as:

  • The Causes of Nervous and Blood Derangements (Violating the Moral Nature, Bad Habits of Manhood and Womanhood)
  • Common Sense Remedies (Therapeutic Electricity, Animal Magnetism)
  • Private Words for Women (Derangement of the Monthly Flow, Nymphomania)
  • and (my personal favorite) Three Phases of Monogamic Marriage Daguerrotyped

Chapters also contained gems of wisdom in support of:

  • female doctors
  • “practical involuntary masturbation”
  • ladies being allowed to “pop the question”
  • and the vital importance of married couples “sleeping apart” (by reason of the fact that if they sleep too often together they will grow to look like one another)

Very sensible stuff.

“From five to eight hours bodily contact in those magnetic elements which, when diverse in quantity and quality, produce physical attraction and passional love, promotes permanent unchange of individual electricities, and the absorption of each other’s exhalation, leading directly to temperamental inadaptation, and to the married pair growing alike physically. “

~ Edward B. Foote, M.D.
(original spelling)

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Your Tisane of Smart . . .
A Victorian message in a bottle uncovered at a church in Durham. As requested by the note, renovators noted down certain information, then resealed and replaced the bottle!

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .
Why Reread A Story You Already Know?

Quote of the Day:

“Let us live, my Lesbia, let us love,
and all the words of the old, and so moral,
may they be worth less than nothing to us!
Suns may set, and suns may rise again:
but when our brief light has set,
night is one long everlasting sleep.
Give me a thousand kisses, a hundred more,
another thousand, and another hundred,
and, when we’ve counted up the many thousands,
confuse them so as not to know them all,
so that no enemy may cast an evil eye,
by knowing that there were so many kisses.”

~ Catullus

Victorian Household Medicine (Special Extras)

Posted by Gail Carriger


A Household Medicine Cabinet 1870s

1. Powdered ipecacuanah [induce vomiting]
2. Purgative powder
3. Sulphate of quinine [malaria treatment]
4. Chlorodyne [chloroform and morphine tincture]
5. Carbolic acid [antiseptic]
6. Castor Oil
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
12. Tabloids of antipyrin and phenacetin [analgesic and antipyretic]
13. Aspirin
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. Kaye’s essence of linseed
19. Lint, cotton, wool, linen
20. Oiled silk
21. Roll of adhesive plaster
22. Bandages
23. Dressing forceps

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Quote of the Day:
“Ovid, a Latin poet of lively genius: his works are numerous; but his delicacy of sentiment by no means equals the purity of his diction.”
~ Mangnall 1833
(Talk about a back-handed compliment!)

Intellectual Salon ~ The Land Leviathan in Steampunk (Special Extras)

Posted by Gail Carriger


 Guest blogger the Doctor of Phlogiston is back.

He’s my resident steampunk philosopher.

This little posting is a tilt at the one windmill that I forgot last time I visited here – that ol’ steampunk favourite, the Land Leviathan. This staple of steampunk has been hanging about ever since they first turned up in HG Well’s ‘the Land Ironclads’ in 1903. We happily accept them in fiction, but how much of an actual possibility were they?

Victorian-era technology could certainly produce whopping big things capable of movement on land. Prime amongst them was the long-distance express steam engine, of which there were rather a lot of different sorts. My personal favourite is the Great Northern Railway’s Stirling Single class of 1870-1895. To my eye it is a perfect example of the aesthetic that sits at the core of steampunk. A Stirling Single weighed about 40 tonnes and could better 80mph on a good rail line while pulling 200 tonnes or more of train. This all well and good, but move the train away from its purpose engineered railway and it’ll sink up to its axles as it crosses the lawn. A purely railway design and technology approach just wasn’t capable of meeting the challenge of roadless ground.

It wasn’t until the early part of World War 1 that something approaching a real Land Leviathan came into existence, and it was the British that did it. We know these devices today as tanks. The early history of the tank is complex and fascinating, with rivalries between different arms of the British Military and a bunch of heavy machinery firms vying for yummy big military contracts. Even Winston Churchill was there, with his naval buddies and their Landship Committee (a most evocative name, if ever there were). The first production tank, the Mark 1, appeared in 1916 and about 30 of them were there at the tank’s combat debut at the Battle of the Somme. The Germans called them the Devil’s Chariots, and fair enough too.

Those early tanks were fearsome. They were also uniformly slow, fatally unreliable, intolerably noisy, useless in swampy conditions (like, for instance, most of the land between our trenches and theirs) and they were fairly easily disabled. It was almost as dangerous to be inside one as it was outside. Also, by leviathan standards, they really weren’t all that big- most early tanks were around the 25 to 35 tonne range and were narrow enough to be transported by rail (a useful thing considering most First World War tanks couldn’t manage 10 miles per hour flat-out and had an effective range of less than 50 miles). They were flawed, but still good enough to give the British and their allies a tactical edge. The presence of the Royal Tank Corps battalions at the Battle of Amiens in August of 1918 helped break the trench war deadlock and turn the war. Admittedly, of the over 500 tanks deployed, less than ten were still fit for service four days later…

So the land ironclads actually became reality within a couple of decades of their first appearance in fiction. I vaguely recall that HG Wells was given some credit for it too. They’re not the immense roving cities or giant steam robots our literature currently portrays them as, certainly, but still a major achievement of late-Victorian and Edwardian technology. And, as a closing remark to those that say ‘yes, but they’re not steam powered!’- a few prototypes were, but it quickly became apparent that driving around in slow moving iron box with a boiler simmering away at well over 100psi right underneath you while your opponents take a few cracks at you with some very big guns was just too dangerously silly to consider. Even for the British Military.

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Balderdash (n.): A rapidly receding hairline.

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