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Monday, 27 September 2010

Kron - The Little Londoner

Antique books are a bit of a hobby of mine and of course, I tend to collect only Victorian books, that being my era of fascination. One of the most interesting genres of Victorian publication (outside of journalism) I find is the guide book.

There are plenty of books out there aimed at Victorian tourists, explaining and mapping the delights of London for visitors, and for someone trying to write about the period, these can be invaluable.

I am currently working (my hardest) on a novel (pipe dream) set in London between 1860 and 1875, and one of the most helpful books I have come across is “Murray’s Modern London 1860” which you can have a look at here
This is an extremely comprehensive tour guide, which takes the visitor through everything from a map of the Thames to a description of the markets, details about the bridges to the royal parks and much more. This book is still being reproduced now, clearly, and along with the Stanford maps, Cassel’s guides et al, can give great descriptions of places, medicines, and buildings etc.

When antique guide books come along its all the more pleasing – some weeks ago I was perusing an antiques shop not far from Hampton Court, and I stumbled across a curious little book entitled:
The Little Londoner –
 a Concise Account of the Life and Ways of the English with Special reference to London

It wasn’t too expensive so I bought it and had a look.
I have the fifth edition, published in 1901 by the German publisher J. Bielefeld, based in Karlsruhe, so its not quite Victorian. The original publishing date, I'm fairly certain, is also 1901, this is clear due to the following paragraph in the chapter on the British Empire:

“The present Sovereign is King Edward VII, born on the 9th November, 1841. he succeeded to the throne on the 22nd of January, 1901, on the death of his mother, Queen Victoria. King Edward is also Emperor of India…”

The contents are quite delightful and charming, and it is the most detailed and comprehensive guide book I think I’ve ever read, with chapters ranging from guides to food and meals, seasons and weather, the human body, London, and even toilet.

Well, I know you want to hear about the toileting habits of the Edwardians, so here goes:
(note – I have omitted the opening paragraph for fear that it may cause offence)

“Every one of us, before going to bed at night, takes off his clothes, ie undresses, and puts on his night-shirt, or pyjamas, ie a flannel or silk sleeping-suit (jacket and trousers). Every morning, we dress (or put on our clothes).
  When I wake up (or awake) after a good night’s rest, I involuntarily rub my eyes, and then get up (or rise) in order to dress. I first put on my pants (or drawers), then my socks (reaching up to the calves), or stockings (reaching to the knee), my trousers (familiarly bags, or breeches; in America pants, or pantaloons), and my slippers.
  Then I go to the wash(ing)-stand and have a thorough wash in cold water, which is far more refreshing and wholesome than (luke)warm (or tepid) water. In washing I use a sponge and a cake or tablet of unscented soap. I have a rough and a soft towel to dry myself with. Many people have a bath-room close to their bed-room and have (or take) a tub, ie a bath (hot or cold) every morning.
  Then I clean (or brush) my teeth with a tooth-brush and tooth-powder (or dentifrice), and gargle (or rinse my mouth). After every meal I also clean and rinse my mouth to prevent my teeth from decaying. When I have done washing (myself), I comb and brush my hair [with a comb and a (hair-) brush]. I detest pomatum and perfumes (or scents), and never put any on my hair.
  My beard grows very fast, and so I (have a) shave (or get shaved) every other morning. being (or getting) shaved by a barber is an unpleasant affair for me, so I prefer to do it by myself. I have a complete shaving-tackle (a razor, strop, brush, and shaving soap).
  I then put on my (under-)vest and my (day-)shirt; I fasten a stick-up (or stand-up) or a turn-down, (or lay-down) collar to it by means of studs, put on a silk tie or scarf, a pair of cuffs with links, and lastly my waistcoat and my coat (or jacket).
  Before going down to breakfast , I take off my slippers and put on a pair of clean, well-blacked boots or shoes. (Englishmen mostly wear laced boots). In summer I also wear brown boots or tans, ie boots of a tan or yellowish colour. As for my patent (leather) boots, I only put them on in very fine weather or when I go to a party. When there is snow or bad weather, I wear waterproof goloshes over my boots. Before going out, I brush my felt hat or silk hat, and put on a pair of gloves (kid, buckskin, doeskin or woollen gloves. White buckskin gloves are only worn in the Army and Navy).”

I’m not quite sure who chapters like this are aimed at, and its incomprehensible that a modern day version of this would ever be published, but I certainly got a few chuckles reading it.
A slightly more useful chapter, perhaps, for the foreign tourist of 1901, is the chapter on transport, which includes a little section about the language to be expected when hiring a London cab.
You can almost picture Mr German, all washed and shaved with boots on, holding this little guidebook and attempting to converse with a London Cabbie on his Hansom.
The suggested conversation in the book goes like this:

Gentleman: Hallo! Are you engaged?
Cabman: No, I am disengaged, Where to?
Gentleman: Take me to 14, Westmoreland Road, Bayswater.
Cabman: All right, shall I take your portmanteau?
Gentleman: Yes, you may put it on the top, but mind it doesn’t come down!
Cabman: No fear of that!
Gentleman: Stop! You have gone too far, turn back, please!
Cabman: Well, didn’t you say number forty?
Gentleman: No, I told you to take me to number fourteen.
Cabman: Ah, that’s quite different.
Gentleman: Stop! Here it is. What’s your fare?
Cabman: One and sixpence fare, and twopence for the luggage, one and eight in all.
Gentleman: Here are two shillings, keep the rest for yourself, and hand me down the portmanteau, will you?
Cabman: Here you are.

Quite charming, as I said! Other chapters that may have proved useful are ones about English society, one entitled “Clubs, restaurants, public houses, cafes, newspapers, smoking” and another “Post, letters, telegraph, cable, telephone and electricity”.

But I haven’t seen any other guidebook which includes a chapter on basic arithmetic and how to tell the time. I suggest that any tourist unable to tell the time will have done well to arrive in London at all! But then, there is a chapter on Travelling by Land and Sea, of course!

A lovely little book, if the above has interested you at all why not try Ebay, or even better, get out and about in your local (or non local) antique shop and try and find a copy, you never know what else you may stumble upon.

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