December 26, 2011

Boxing Day

written by Rosa Morgan

Salutations Gentle Reader,
With expectations spent and wrapping paper littering the front parlor, the day after Christmas is so often anti-climactic. Instead, let us embrace the customs of Boxing Day and enjoy an extension of the holidays.

Boxing Day goes back to the early Christian era when metal boxes placed outside churches were used to collect special offerings tied to the Feast of Saint Stephen. And just as King Wenceslas, went out on this day to give offerings to those less fortunate, so can you.

As lords and ladies of olden days once gave Christmas boxes to the manor's servants, please give consideration to those who've rendered you services year round. The milkman will duly appreciate your generosity.

Sports of all descriptions are associated with this day. Whether it's prize fighting, rugby, or ice hockey, do amble outdoors and participate in some type of physical exertion or team spirit. I, myself, enjoy a rigorous walk amongst nature.

Cook has experienced long days in the kitchen with extravagant holiday dinners and cookie baking; show your appreciation for her labors by eating leftovers, or better yet, massage the poor soul's weary feet and take her out for dinner.

Assess those gifts piled high in corners that you want to return, but do not rush to market on this day, as so many of your eager brethren plan to do. Instead, spend the time writing a thank you letter to those who sent you the over-sized tea cozy or dried out treacle pudding.

We so often rush headlong toward Christmas with unreasonable fantasies and when they fail to materialize wonder why we are depressed. On this Boxing Day, sit back, have a cup of hot tea and scone and promise yourself that next year you'll enjoy the simple joys of the season.

December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Salutations Gentle Readers,

Sending you Good Wishes and many thanks for following "The Victorian Times"!


December 12, 2011

Lenore & Archibald's First Christmas Pudding

written by Rosa Morgan Lockwood

With the teapot set to boil, Lenore bustled around the kitchen excitedly. This would be her's and Archibald's first Christmas together, and she was intent on creating memories they would cherish forever. Pinning back her curls and tying on her bib apron, she began preparations for Stir up Sunday. She had already gathered the makings for the requisite Christmas Pudding; thirteen ingredients, one for Christ and twelve for his apostles. It was a time honored receipt, handed down from mother to daughter, and one she was a bit in a tizzy to master.

"Let me see," she said, studying the items before her. "There's the sultanas and suet and black treacle; I'm certain this will be the best pudding ever. And when Archibald comes home for his mid-day luncheon, I shall have him stir it in the black cauldron for good luck, just as all of our family members did when I was a lass. From east to west, he'll stir, in honor of the Magi's journey.

"I shall put in a silver sixpence to ensure wealth for the coming year, a wishbone for good luck, a thimble for thrift, and an anchor for safe harbor. Then I shall wrap it in cheesecloth and hang it for weeks from a hook in the inglenook.

"Then like mother's hearty pudding, I shall poke a sprig of holly in it's top and alight it with port!"
At this point in her narrative, Lenore danced around the room with abandon, imagining the delight and pride on her husband's face, when the very man appeared unexpectedly in the doorway.

"What in heavens are you doing here?" she cried, as she took a seat, lest she faint straightaway.
Beaming with affection for his darling wife, Archibald asked with amusement, "Is that anyway to greet your love, who you've not set eyes upon for at least three hours?"
"I'm sorry," she swooned, as he came near. "I just didn't expect you so early, my darling."
Breathing in her essence, with their lips nearly touching, he said, "I heard you talking about the Christmas pudding. It sounds brilliant, save for the port at the end. Mother always used brandy to alight it."

Like a slap to her face, Lenore recoiled and shrieked like a harpy, "Your mother? Brandy?" With his innocent suggestion, tears pricked her eyes and all her tender daydreams evaporated. It would take much cooing and bended knee for the bewildered husband to make amends. Rest assured, Lenore and Archibald's first Christmas pudding would most definitely be blazing with port not brandy.

November 28, 2011

Zazel "The Human Cannonball"

written by Rosa Morgan
My name is Rossa Matilda Richter, but do call me by my professional name, Zazel. Being the first human cannonball, I would enjoy ever so much the opportunity to recall my maiden performance at the vernal age of fourteen.

It happened on April 2, 1877 at the newly opened Royal Aquarium. With its glass roof, palm trees, and fountains, the Aquarium was fashioned after the Crystal Palace, and was intended to hold highbrow lectures and art exhibits. However, working class gents didn't fancy spending their hard earned pence on such dubious fare, and so the developers turned to more entertaining venues. That's when I came into the picture.

Scheduled to appear after the dancing bears and hypnotists, I found my knees knocking so terribly, I considered backing out of the whole shebang. To my rescue came William Hunt, better known as The Great Farini. It was he, who designed the devilish cannon and who convinced me of its safety. I had trained long hours for that moment; calisthenics to strengthen my legs, and a strict diet to maintain my weight, lest our precise mathematical computations of thrust and matter be thrown off course. And so, with the crowd cheering crazily in anticipation, I lowered myself into the cold black hole of that cannon, whispered a curt Hail Mary, and faced possible death head on.

The brief moments I stood there with body rigid and mind intensely focused, felt an eternity. Though I knew gunpowder was to be used for dramatic effect only, elastic springs being the impetus for propelling me, I was still quite startled by the fantastic explosion that resounded in my ears and the indescribable affect of finding myself actually flying through the air at a height of thirty feet. Though my aerial escapade lasted only a few seconds, the thrill of it was intoxicating, and when I landed safely in the net, I was fully prepared to do it all over again.

( Zazel went on to work with P.T. Barnum, but retired after breaking her back in a fall. Out of 50 human cannonballs, 30 have died, mostly from missing the net.)

November 14, 2011

Thaddeus Turkey at Thanksgiving

written by Rosa Morgan Lockwood

Thanksgiving Day became an American national holiday in 1863, and much of the activity of the day is centered around the meal. From it's early days, the menu has not altered from its roast turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, potatoes and pumpkin pie. I shall present the following vintage Thanksgiving images with perhaps an altered interpretation from their original intent; ever mindful that poor Mr. Turkey wants to enjoy the day too.

My name is Thaddeus Turkey, and there was a time when I was thought of as a great noble bird, even considered by Benjamin Franklin to be a representative of America. In the beginning, I was a wild animal; eating, mating, and flying freely through the forest.

One day, while contentedly foraging for breakfast, I was startled by the appearance of two little boys. They were ever so kind to me, offering sweet bits, I dare not refuse.

To my astonishment, I found a rope soon tied round my neck and I their unwilling captive. From that day forth, Iwas subjected to forms of humiliation, too embarrassing to elaborate upon.

Having lived amongst people for nearly a year, there came a chilly morning when one of my companions was gathered up and unceremoniously slaughtered. That very night, the whole family feasted on the unfortunate fellow, stuffing his innards with bread and apples.

Henceforth, I set out to be a most unpleasant farm animal, chasing the children till they cried out in fear, and gobbling at ungodly hours to everyone's dismay.

A full year passed and it was soon another chilly morning when one of the boys came to the coop with his sharpened ax. There was no doubt the murderous glimmer in his eyes was directed towards me, and I was intent on evading his plans.

Lo and behold, it was my good fortune that Miss Charity arrived on the scene in her corncob automobile, and with a gobble gobble gobble, we turned our tail feathers and drove away from those, who so single-mindedly wanted to rob us of our lives. That dreadful day turned into my most cherished, for my love and I came upon a justice of the peace, and an impromptu wedding was performed. I, too, shall celebrate Thanksgiving Day, giving thanks for my life and happiness.

Benjamin Franklin's Letter to his Daughter

“I am on this account not displeased that the Figure (representative of our country) is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America . . . He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”

October 31, 2011

All Hallow's Eve

written by Rosa Morgan

For at least one night of the year, I shall lay aside my logic and embrace all the hobgoblin superstition and magic of All Hallow's Eve. Let's start with the tradition of carving jack-o'-lanterns, which originated from the Irish tradition of carving will-of-the-wisps. These tiny turnips with their fearsome faces embodied wandering souls lost in purgatory.

In North America, the native pumpkin replaced the turnips. I love the process of picking out the perfect squash, its bottom flat and its sides unblemished, and whether they wear a spooky snaggle toothed grimace or an impish grin, their glowing embers in the dead of night are sure to imbue a haunting spirit.

Games are an important ingredient for an evening's fun, and nothing brings as much lighthearted laughter, as trying, without aid of hands, to catch an apple on a string, or bob for one in a tub of water. Let us hope this elegantly dressed woman does not spoil her frock, or, if she does, her companion will be at the ready with a nicely starched handkerchief.

Dressing up in a costume to go trick-or-treating, or guising, is a custom evolving from medieval souling, when poor folk went door to door on Hallowmas (November 1), to receive food in return for prayers for the dead on All Soul's Day (November 2). One can choose playful costumes, such as these darling little ones in their pointed hats,

or fearful disguises, like these strange masked people.
Pray, hope the temperatures are cool enough, so they do not overheat, nor hover too close to an open hearth.

I always feel cheated if I'm not a little frightened on this night. Reading a passage from Dracula, making a nighttime trip to a graveyard, or telling a ghost story, always elicits a spine tingling shiver.

So, on this day embrace the kid in you; eat some candy apples and caramel corn, and hide behind the curtain and jump out with a BOO!, for All Hallow's Eve is a tradition we'd be the poorer to lose.

Enjoy: H-A-double L-O-W-double E-N spells Halloween

October 17, 2011


written by Rosa Morgan
Salutations, Gentle Reader,

As we approach the ghoulish celebration of All Hallow's Eve, I thought it timely to consider olden superstitions that our forefathers took to heart.
I myself, do not hold an ounce of stock in them, but they are amusing, and you may find them prudent to follow.

If you are sick in bed, it is a bad omen to hear a dog howling. To counter its ill effect, reach under the bed and turn over a shoe.

Always cover your mouth when yawning, so your spirit doesn't leave your body and the Devil doesn't enter.

Corpses should be removed from the household, feet first, to prevent the spirit from looking back and beckoning another member in the family to follow.

Lest you see a funeral procession approaching, turn around posthaste, and proceed in the opposite direction.

After a loved one has deceased, pray, cover all looking glasses in the house to prevent the spirit of the deceased from hiding there. Also, beware that the next reflection seen in the mirror shall be the next to die.

Stop the clock at the time of a deceased's passing, in order to avoid your own untimely death.

Bodies in graves should be oriented with their heads to the West and feet to the East, so the final summons to Judgment will come from the East.

October 3, 2011

Gall's Phrenology

written by Rosa Morgan

Standing at his lectern, the priest stared steadily upon one man in the congregation: Franz Joseph Gall. With his angry voice echoing off the church's hallowed walls, he pronounced,"There are those amongst us, who have lost their way from our Lord's divine path. With pomposity, they state the mind is situated in an organ as mushy and insubstantial as the brain. What ludicrousness is this, when all intelligent men know that God has imbued our thinking into our very soul, whereupon no one can put his finger precisely on the spot!"

The German doctor had heard similar diatribes from his own peers in scientific circles, so the priest's virulent attack was merely as bothersome as the faint buzz of an offending fly.

The priest bellowed, "This quackery declares human conduct to be innate, and is determined by localized areas of the brain. Do they suggest we disregard our spiritual makeup as well as God and the Devil's influence upon us?"

Shifting uncomfortably in the pew, Gall wanted to swat the boorish priest, saying, "Aristotle, himself, believed mental ability originated in the brain, but I have taken it one step further. I have developed a system called phrenology, which correlates a person's skull formation with his traits and proclivities."

The priest wiped his sweaty brow and continued his rant, "This parlor game of running one's fingers over a person's head in search of bumps and indentations has been taken up with much vigor in England and America. They actually employ it to determine a child's future, or who they shall marry."

Losing his composure, Gall fumed to himself, "What does a man of the cloth know about science? My calculations of the twenty-seven individual organs of the brain are based on precise measurements with calipers. And my methods were enthusiastically received by the prestigious Institute of France, that is until Napoleon Bonaparte reprimanded the professors for being taught anatomy from a German."

By this time the priest was fit to be tied as he railed against Gall's colleague, Johan Spurzheim, who evangelized these preposterous teachings to justify discrimination.

Having had enough abuse, Gall stood up before a shocked congregation, and with head held high, walked out from the church. The popularity of his phrenology would fluctuate throughout the 19th century, and though it eventually was completely disregarded, it went onto influence the development of psychology, criminology, and anthropology.