"How charming it would be if it were possible to cause these natural images to imprint themselves durable, and remain
fixed upon paper"
Today marks the anniversary of the death of William Henry Fox Talbot who died this day in 1877.
Fox Talbot was an member of parliament, scientist and inventor but is most commonly known as a pioneer of photography. Fox Talbot's idea for the photograph came to him whilst on honeymoon by Lake Como in Italy, he was irritated at his inability to document the beautiful scenes around him and his lack of artistic skill that his wife had in abundance. He is said to have commented
"How charming it would be if it were possible to cause these natural images to imprint themselves durable, and remain
fixed upon paper"
From his home of Lacock in Wiltshire, Fox Talbot discovered what he called his "photogenic drawings." By placing objects in the sun, on a sheet of paper coated with a solution of salt and silver nitrate, these objects left a silhouetted image. Sadly for Fox Talbot, he had other commitments that took him away from his work, this delayed publishing his discoveries and in that time, one Louis Daguerre had published his photograph. He had captured an image in his "Camera Obsura" and therefore Daguerre became known as "the father of Photography."
A few years ago I was able to visit Fox Talbot's home at Lacock and was able to take the above photographs. My photograph on the left features Talbot's camera along with the famous negative (see below) placed in the Oriel window which was the subject of his photograph. The image of the window on the negative (above centre) which was the size of a postage stamp, was captured in 1835, four years before Daguerre's work became known.
Fox Talbot's image is the most famous in the history of photography and is now recognised as the oldest photograph in existence.
On the 16th October in 1813, the Battle of Leipzig, also known as the Battle of the Nations began, it was to last for three days.
This battle was fought by the coalition armies of Prussia, Russia, Austria and Sweden against the French. By the end of this battle between 90,000 and 100,000 men lay dead or wounded.
The Battle of Leipzig was the single largest battle of the Napoleonic Wars. The total amount of men taking part numbered between 625,000 soldiers, 430,000 coalition forces against 195,000 French. At the end of the battle the French were defeated and Napoleon returned home. A year later the coalition forces invaded France forcing Napoleon to abdicate and into exile. The Battle of Leipzig, with a fire power of 2,200 guns, was the biggest military engagement in Europe until the First World War.
I always think of the Napoleonic Wars in terms of 'modern warfare,' a dividing line between the medieval and modern battles fought from 1914 on wards, but what sets these battles apart from what I think of as modern combat are the relative proximity of the armies to each other upon the battle field. In this they were fought just like many a medieval battle, on a single field with units in close formation, massed ranks stretching out over the rolling countryside and opposing sides facing each other fighting over a short period of time. Modern warfare however is highly complex, it is military theatre fought with increasingly high tech conventional weapons for reasons that completely flummox me.
Of modern warfare Ernest Hemingway wrote:
"They wrote in the old days that it is sweet and fitting to die for one's country. But in modern war,
there is nothing sweet nor fitting in you dying. You will die like a dog for no good reason."
James Watt was a Scottish engineer, famous for his improvements to the steam engine.
The steam or Atmospheric Engine was used to pump water from coal mines. This steam engine had been invented in 1712 by Thomas Newcomen, but it is Watt who is remembered as one of the great engineers of the industrial revolution.
Watt was born to a wealthy shipwright from Greenock on the 19th January in 1736. At the start of his engineering career he began making mathematical instruments, but was soon branching out into the world of mechanics.
At the age of twenty-eight, Watt was given one of Newcomen's engines to repair, but he soon came to the conclusion that it was far from efficient and Watt's changes doubled fuel efficiency.
Thomas Newcomen's engine could be found in hundred of coal mines, but it was soon replaced with Watt's new design, and as stated previously, it was Watt, not Newcomen who is credited with the advances in the mining industry. Of course mine owners welcomed the change, for there was a greater demand for coal, they felt the benefits in their pockets. However, improved efficiency has its draw backs, and as a result coal mines got deeper and deeper and coal mining became more and more dangerous, for instance, in one year in an unnamed coal mine, 58 deaths out of a total of 349, involved children thirteen years or younger.
James Watt died on the 25th August 1819 and is buried at Handsworth near Birmingham.
You can read about life in the coal mines by clicking on the link below.
King Alfred the Great became King of England on the 23rd April 871 following the death of his brother Ethelred.
By 878, the kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England had fallen into the hands of the Viking invaders, it was King Alfred’s kingdom of Wessex that stood alone.
At this point in time the position England was in can be summed up in one famous tale, that is, King Alfred burning the cakes of some poor peasant woman who left him in charge. It is unlikely that this event ever happened, but as a tale it shows quite clearly the danger that England's last kingdom faced, and how much responsibility was placed on Alfred’s head. In reality, by the May of 878 Alfred’s Wessex was secured, and after years of fending off the Viking invaders King Alfred finally struck a deal with the Scandinavians following his famous victory at the Battle of Edington in Wiltshire.
Not only did he gain some control of these marauding Vikings, but he paved the way for the future unity of England. Soon after the Viking defeat, Alfred encouraged the Viking leader Guthrum to convert to Christianity. Guthrum’s baptism is said to have taken place at Wedmore and where, it is also said, a formal treaty, sometimes called the Treaty of Wedmore, was signed. However, historians think that this may have occurred else where and that the passing of time has merged the two events into one. Regardless of this, under this ‘treaty’ the vikings agreed to leave Wessex in peace and return to East Anglia to the area we know now as Danelaw.
King Alfred the Great is an English hero, who in my opinion, is a match for Henry V and outshines Richard I by miles.
Years ago, on a Sunday, usually after dinner, my mother and I would watch a film. My favourite was the epic, you know the kind of film I'm talking about - Spartacus, The Ten Commandments, Ben Hur etc.
I remember watching the 1966 film Khartoum, the story of General Charles Gordon's defense of the city of Khartoum from the forces of Muhammad Ahmad. This was one of the first films that had me asking questions about historical accuracy. General Gordon's death scene in the film was an almost accurate representation of George William Joy's painting - General Gordon's Last Stand. I remember learning that Joy liked to paint idealised images of patriotic heroes and the film too portrayed Gordon this way. (You can view that scene here youtu.be/rlvJznNXdto)
I later learnt that in reality, Gordon didn’t come out onto the veranda mesmerising the marauding enemy with his presence, he came out all guns blazing and after that it didn't take me long to come to the conclusion that films, more often than not, give us the wrong impression, fooling us into thinking that what we see is what really happened.
At the time I watched the film, I also couldn't make up my mind if Gordon was a hero or not, my mother said he was. However, I have to admit I know nothing of Gordon, other than these few facts I found an a book all those years ago.
The real Gordon, I believe, was in the Sudan for a number of years previous to his posting to Khartoum, but was sent back to sort out the aforementioned Mahdi's revolt. On the 25th January 1885 he died after being cut off in Khartoum for nearly a year. His actions in Khartoum and the horrific manner of his death, lead to General Gordon being hailed a hero, whilst Gladstone, who was Prime Minister at the time, was so disliked you'd have thought he'd thrown the spear himself. Garnet Wolsey, who was sent to relieve Gordon but did not get there in time blamed Gladstone calling him a
'tradesman who has become a politician."
I think I had better add General Charles Gordon's biography to my wishlist.
Below you can see a rather amusing depiction of Richard III by Victorian artist Sir John Gilbert. Gilbert has Richard looking
like an old man whose lost his walking stick. As usual Richard is depicted as malicious, here he has an evil eye, he is
crooked and sinister but with a penchant for black fur and funny hats, and it seems unable to walk unaided!
Christies of London had it up for auction and its final selling price was £2875.
The painting is oil on canvas and is entitled The Arrest of Lord Hastings, it is signed by the artist and is dated 1871.
An inscription on the back reads
''The Arrest of Lord Hastings''/'Gloucester: Thou art a traitor:/Off with his head! Now, by Saint Paul I swear,/I will not dine
until I see the same./Lovel and Ratcliff, look that it be done: The rest, that love me, rise and follow me.' Richard III Act III
This work was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1836, a water colour by Gilbert with a similar title "The Arrest of Lord
Hasting by the Duke of Gloucester" was also in exhibited 1836 but in a less than grand Suffolk street exhibition.
Would I have bought it if I had more money than I knew what to do with? I would not!
Nestling quietly in the Lincolnshire Wolds is the village of Somersby, it was here that poet Alfred Tennyson
was born on the 6th of August in 1809.
The fourth of twelve children, he was tutored by his father, the Reverend George Tennyson in classical and modern
languages. Tennyson attended Louth Grammar School but was eager to leave home due to family problems.
He left Lincolnshire in 1827 to attend Trinity College, Cambridge and by 1830 he had published a few poems, in 1832
he published a second volume of work that were not received well. Shocked by so negative reviews Tennyson
would not publish another book for nine years.
In 1836, he became engaged to Emily Sellwood but financial troubles caused his Emily's family to call off the engagement. The year 1842, was a turning point for Tennyson, his work received great praise and had become popular, by 1850 with the
publication of In Memoriam A H H, our local poet became one of Britain’s most popular poets. Tennyson was named Poet Laureate
in succession to Wordsworth and in that same year he married Emily Sellwood by whom he had two sons,
Hallam and Lionel. By the age of forty one, Tennyson had established himself as the most popular poet of the
Victorian era culminating in 1884 with a peerage, after which he was known as Alfred Lord Tennyson.
Tennyson died on October 6, 1892, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Today he is the second most frequently quoted writer in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations after Shakespeare.
Tennyson wrote a number of phrases that we use all the time today one being 'Better to have loved and lost, than never to
have loved at all' from his In Memoriam and "Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die' from his poem
The Charge of the Light Brigade.
We must not forget my favourtie work of his The Lady of Shallot.
On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And thro' the field the road runs by
To many-tower'd Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow
Round an island there below,
The island of Shalott.
Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Thro' the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot.
Four grey walls, and four grey towers,
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
The Lady of Shalott.
On the 6th September 1852 the first free lending library opened.
John Potter, Mayor of Manchester, must have been proud of himself when his library opened its doors for the first time.
Potter pictured below, set up the library under the provisions of the Public Libraries Act of 1850, he spearheaded a campaign to purchase the building and the 18,028 books that filled the shelves. The money, £4156 of which paid for the books, was raised from all areas of society, from a committee of working men to Prince Albert.
The House of Science in Campfield, which today is close to the site of the Museum of Science and Industry's Air and Space Hall housed the towns library. In 1877, the original building became unsafe and the collection was moved to the Old Town Hall in Kings Street, which by 1912 had become too small and the towns library was temporary housed in Piccadilly. It was not until after 1926, when a competition was held for the design of an extension to the Town Hall, together with a new library, that work began.
In 1845 and at the age of 30, John Potter began his career in public life, he had a seat on Manchester Town Council and was made Justice of the Peace for the borough. 1848 saw Potter elected as Mayor of Manchester and three years later, on Queen Victoria's visit to the city, he was knighted.
At the opening of the new library Potter invited Charles Dickens to speak at the ceremony, in the image below you can see Dicken's hand written acceptance letter.
‘Sir, I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your obliging letter and to assure you that I take great pleasure in accepting the invitation of the committee of the Manchester Free Library. My engagements are very numerous but the occasion is too important and the example too noble to admit of hesitation.
Very faithfully yours, Charles Dickens’.
It has been suggested that Dicken's visit to Manchester, inspired his 1854 story Hard Times, his shortest story incidentally, set in Coketown, a fictional industrial mill town.
Edward Bulwer-Lytton, politician and writer, famous for The Last Days of Pompeii who also attended the ceremony wrote
"I call it an arsenal, for books are weapons, whether for war or for self-defence; and perhaps the principles of chivalry are as applicable to the student now as they were to the knight of old - to courage, give man the service, and to heaven the glory ... what minds may be destined to grow up and flourish under the shade of this tree of knowledge which you have now planted, none of us can conjecture; but you of the present generation have nobly done your duty and may calmly leave the result to time, sure that you have placed, beside the sorrows, the cares, and passions of this common sense life, the still monitors that instruct our youth, that direct our manhood, and comfort our old age. "
Voices for the Library write
"Public libraries are currently under attack as never before. Quite apart from the imperatives of cutting council spending, many critics question the point of public libraries. With the advent of the internet and the ebook, public libraries are described as out -dated They are also accused of being too Middle Class and of being a luxury we cannot afford when other services are facing financial pressure."
Click on the link to their website to read about why libraries are still important
I say, thank goodness for men like John Potter!
What do they all have in Common?
Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury was born on 6th August in 1504.
Parker served as chaplain to Anne Boleyn, was involved in implementing the Thirty Nine Articles, a set of doctrines within the Church of England, he was also an avid book collector, salvaging medieval manuscripts that were set to be destroyed during the dissolution of the monasteries. His efforts meant he left us a priceless collection of manuscripts that are now housed at the Parker Library at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.
But did you know that Matthew Parker was the first 'Nosey Parker'?
A nosey parker as you will all know, means someone who pokes their nose into other peoples business. Allegedly, people thought Parker was far too inquisitive about church matters for his own good, they also thought he had rather a long nose.
Here's the man himself. His nose looks okay to me.
The term itself, sticking your nose into other people’s affairs, can be dated back the the late 1880's. Before then, anyone called nosey was just somebody with a big nose, like the Duke of Wellington, who had the nickname Old Nosey.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first citation of the statement was
“You’re a askin’ too many questions for me, there’s too much of Mr. Nosey Parker about you.”
My favourite has to be the 1907 'Adventures of Mr Nosey Parker' a set of postcards illustrating the antic's of a gentleman who never minded his own business.
Nosey Parker's origins may spring from the 1851 at the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park where a very large numbers of people attended the exhibition, so there would have been lots of opportunities for peeping Toms and eavesdroppers in the grounds.
Interestingly the word Parker is a medieval term, being used for an official in charge of a park, a park-keeper.
The mummies seen here were members of the German nobility whose titles were inherited by their male line descendants. The surnames of nobles such as these, were preceded by the word Von meaning of and this leads me nicely into writing about the mummy of the poor woman on the far right of the image who has been restrained.
She is Caroline Louise von Schoenberg, she was born in March 1740 she died on the 17th April 1821.
The Schoenberg's were an important and widespread Saxon noble family whose ancestry can be traced back centuries. Members of this family occupied important state and administrative positions, including bishops and ministers.
Legend has it that Caroline was buried alive, the fact that she was tightly bound goes some way to suggesting that the legend was true. She is bound but not gagged. I wonder what would have prevented her from shouting out? Maybe she was drugged too.
The reason for the murder of this elderly lady, according to the same legend, is as you might imagine money. Her grasping children had already divided their mothers estate, disposing of her in this way, it has been suggested, prevented her banging on the coffin lid during the burial service and revealing her wretched offspring's guilty secret.
Poor Caroline! True or not there must be a reason why she was retained. The answer may be found in the mummification and burial rituals of German nobility. Burial documents, dated to the 18th century suggests
'the aforementioned corpse should not decay in the vaults below the church.'
Archaeologist have discovered that many of these vaults have cleverly designed ventilation systems between the tombs, this aided mummification as did lining the coffins with sawdust and straw. This may have been tradition but it was not compulsory, it seems that the preservation of the corpses in this way was a conscious decision and a matter of choice. Quite a few people chose to have personal objects buried with them.
Another reason could be to do with the new religion of Protestantism and Martin Luther's teachings on the afterlife, this corresponds with the deaths and burials of earlier mummies. Luther translated the bible into German which these nobles would have read
"I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been
destroyed, yet in my flesh, I will see God."
Maybe wealthy protestants chose this method of mummification out of fear that they might not rise to heaven if their mortal remains rotted away.
After ten years in the workplace I became a mother to three very beautiful daughters, I was fortunate enough to have been able to stay at home and spend my time with them as they grew into the young women they are now. I am still in the position of being able to be at home and pursue all the interests I have previously mentioned. We live in a beautiful Victorian spa town with wooded walks for the dog, lovely shops and a host of lovely people, what more could I ask for.
All works © Andrea Povey 2014. Please do not reproduce without the expressed written consent of Andrea Povey.