October 1, 2013

The Collyer Brothers Revisited

Salutations Gentle Reader,

I was recently contacted by Dr. Darnita L. Payden who has a Ph.D. in counseling psychology and is a featured expert on A&E’s hit show “Hoarders” in which she compassionately helps those living with this disorder. To my pleasant surprise she had discovered a post I had written back in January of 2012, called “The Hoarding Collyer Brothers” and asked to use it as part of a series of trainings she would be giving in the Washington, DC area.
In the post I tried to humanize the cold facts of the story I had researched, showing the different rationalizations Homer and Langley had utilized and which ultimately resulted in their being buried alive by their stuff.

Though my blog receives approximately 200 hits a day from around the world, it is the rare reader who acknowledges my writing, and so I was gratified and honored when Dr. Payden asked to use this cautionary tale. I admire her work and the help she brings to those who try to fill their lives with things.

You can find out more information about Dr. Payden’s work at http://drdclutter.com/
and if you missed my previous post on hoarding you can read it at

Best regards,
Rosa Morgan

September 17, 2013

Victorian Barbershop

written by Rosa Morgan

Because of my spectacles I am often taken for being much older, but in truth, I turn eighteen today. To commemorate this rite of passage I am venturing to the barbershop. Up until now, my dear mother took shears to my head and there being no moustache to speak of and only peach fuzz upon my chin, I had no previous use of that establishment. But I am now clerking at Goslings & Sharp of Fleet Street and appearances are everything as I aspire to one day seek promotion.

And so with sweaty palms I entered the cigar smoke filled bastion of gentleman grooming and affected an air of experience and confidence whilst taking a seat on the bench to await my turn.
On the shelves were the customers' personal shaving cups each decorated with their name. There was a section entirely devoted to clientel who were Masons and I could only hope that one day I would have my own cup up on that shelf.
Nervously studying the diagrams of possible haircuts, I felt the other chaps' eyes upon me and when one asked my occupation, my voice broke as I declared my newfound position. This was a respected establishment and I knew they accepted no customers lower than a baker, but my answer seemed to be accepted without any qualms. When I was finally asked to take a chair, my heart skipped a beat and I slid giddily on the hair clippings littering the tiled floor.
With an abruptness I had not expected, my collar was ripped off, a starched sheet draped over me and my body flung backwards. A steaming towel infused with witch hazel was wrapped around my jaw and then as if examing the contours of my face,

he chose a brush from his collection, dipped it into a bowl of bubbling water and whilst pinching my nose sharply, lathered my face with the hot soapy mixture.

With almost diabolical gusto he ran the blade a few times along the pigskin strop then brought it up to my extended neck. I feared how he would navigate my Adam's Apple without making me a permanent falsetto, but my trepidation was for naught for like an artist with his paintbrush, the barber deftly manipulated his tool throughout an incessant chatter.
"Lilac water, sir?" he asked when he had finished
I nodded and felt a tingling, slightly burning sensation of the fragrant tonic. I handed him the two pence payment, nodded to the other gentlemen, and sauntered out, ready to take on the world.

June 21, 2013

How Victorians Kept Cool

written by Rosa Morgan
The dog days of summer have arrived and with them comes the unbearable heat that proves a trial to escape. We can change into our white cotton frocks, and the men will don their seersucker suits, but more innovative measures will have to be undertaken in order to maintain a cool disposition. For decorum's sake it is necessary for us ladies not to perspire.

Fans come in all manner of materials: lace, bamboo, or pearl, and though they are ideally suited for discreet communications between lovers, they also bring swift relief on a still hot afternoon.

Gentlemen of the British Raj who truly suffer from torrid conditions find respite through the assistance of this poor fellow, known as the Punkhawala.

This lady of leisure enjoys her tea under the very large punkha hung from her ceiling. Note the string attached to the fan and leading off to the left.

It is held onto by her Punkhawalla who has fallen asleep from the demanding job.


 I find it far more egalitarian to fan myself, and this floor model is an absolute breeze to operate.

Enough of fans, let us move onto cool and refreshing beverages. Your household inventory is not complete unless you have an insulated pitcher. Made of silver and lined in porcelain, it is a far more elegant way of keeping your champagne chilled than is a bundle of wet newspapers.

It is a challenge in this heat to keep your custards from curdling but with the iceman delivering blocks of ice right to your front door; it is possible. 

 If all these measures fail to keep you cool, then head to the seaside and enjoy a dip.

March 20, 2013

Art & the Victorian Cottage Garden

written by Rosa Morgan

Salutations, Gentle Reader, Spring's Vernal Equinox has arrived and it presents the ideal time to stroll through a few choice gardens captured forever by talented Victorian painters. Enjoy!

Charles Hunt's painting, Behind the Hollyhocks depicts the flower's tall stems and multiple blooms as an essential addition to the cottage garden. Thomas Jefferson cultivated a dark red one at his plantation, Monticello.

Charles Courtney Curran delightfully captured this young woman in his painting Blue Delphiniums. The flowers are also known as Larkspur because their spur is the shape of a lark's hind toe.

What a treat this little girl is enjoying in Rose Mary Barton's watercolor, Grandpa's Garden. 

Charles Walbourn's father initially disapproved of him leading the life of an artist. Thankfully he persevered and painted many landscapes including The Country Garden.

 You can practically smell the flowers in the French painter, James Jacques Joseph Tissot's painting, The Garden Bench.

March 4, 2013

Isabella Beeton's Book of Household Management

What moved me, in the first instance, to attempt a work like this, was the discomfort and suffering which I had seen brought upon men and women by household mismanagement. I have always thought that there is no more fruitful source of family discontent than a housewife's badly-cooked dinners and untidy ways. I will present a few tips from my book to ease the burden of today's busy homemaker.


Silk handkerchiefs require to be washed alone. When they contain snuff, they should be soaked in lukewarm water two or three hours, rinsed, soaked in cold water for an hour, soaped in lukewarm water and rinsed in salted water.

 After items are mangled, they should also be ironed in the folds and gathers; dinner napkins smoothed over, also tablecloths, pillowcases and sometimes sheets. The bands of flannel petticoats and shoulder straps to flannel waistcoats must also undergo the same process.


Brick ovens are generally considered the best adapted for baking bread: these should be heated with wood faggots, and then swept and mopped out to cleanse them for the reception of the bread.


Cold water, a clean scrubbing brush and a willing arm are all that are required to make bedroom floors look white.


After having lighted the kitchen fire, carefully brush the range, and clean the hearth, proceed to prepare for breakfast. Thoroughly rinse the kettle, and, fill it with fresh water, put it on the fire to boil. Then go to the breakfast-room or parlour, and there make all things ready for the breakfast of the family.

Gentle Readers, of course it is most desirable to direct these instructions to your housemaid rather than you do them yourself. However if circumstance makes it necessary for you to follow them then I hope you will rise to the occasion with a smile on your face.