Page 52. " The spire of the church at the top of the road had collapsed "

All Souls Church, Langham Place, 1828
Public DomainAll Souls Church, Langham Place, 1828 - Credit: Project Gutenberg
The church at the top of Regent Street is All Souls Church, a John Nash-designed Anglican church which is on Langham Place. Built of Bath stone, the church has a slender cone-shaped spire and is fronted by Corinthian columns. The church was consecrated in 1824 and still remains a frequented place of worship as well as a tourist attraction.

Page 53. " sufficiently grand for Marie Antoinette "
Marie Antoinette in her Coronation Robes (1775) by Jean-Baptiste Gautier Dagoty
Public DomainMarie Antoinette in her Coronation Robes (1775) by Jean-Baptiste Gautier Dagoty - Credit: French Ministry of Culture

 Marie Antoinette (1755-1793) was an Archduchess of Austria and Queen of France. She married Louis XVI of France and became Queen upon his ascension in 1774. Famously beautiful and charming, she quickly lost popularity amongst the French as the Revolution took hold and was accused of being vapid, promiscuous and harbouring sympathy with the enemy. By the end of her life, Marie Antoinette had come to symbolise all that was corrupt and unfair in the social class system of pre-revolutionary France.

Forced to flee with her family in 1792, she attempted to secure help from her relatives in Austria, but in an escape attempt the royal family were detained and imprisoned at Temple Prison. Marie Antoinette was tried and executed by guillotine in 1793, nine months after her husband met the same fate.

She remains a popular cultural figure, and her name is a byword for all that is luxurious and slightly frivolent. She is supposed to have said, on hearing about the plight of the poverty-stricken Parisians who had no bread to eat, ‘Let them eat cake.’ It is however unlikely that these words were actually uttered by her. A cultural revival has taken place of late in which Marie Antoinette has been portrayed as a victim, assumed to be spoiled and stupid because of her looks and privileged upbringing. Marie Antoinette, the 2006 Sofia Coppola film, is loosely based on her life.

Page 53. " heavy as those of a Botticelli heroine "


Sandro Botticelli (c.1445-1540) was one of the most famous Italian painters of the Early Renaissance. Born in Florence, he was apprenticed to Fra Filippo Lippi at the age of fourteen and had his own workshop by 1470. As well as paintings, he created a large number of frescoes for churches and villas, including the Sistine Chapel. Somewhat disregarded by the time of his death, his career was entirely eclipsed by later masters such as Michelangelo, until nineteenth century scholars began to exhibit, study and appreciate his work. In the first two decades of the twentieth century more books were written on Botticelli than any other painter. Like many of the Renaissance masters, the women in his paintings are characterised by their voluptuous curves and flowing hair – his two most famous masterpieces are the Primavera (c.1482) and The Birth of Venus (1486).

Page 53. " expensive stays in spa towns "

The Great Bath at the Roman Baths in Bath Spa
GNU Free Documentation LicenseThe Great Bath at the Roman Baths in Bath Spa - Credit: David Iliff
During the Victorian era, and especially before the rise of seaside holidays, spa towns were very popular as a retreat for the upper classes in terms of relaxation and health benefits. In towns with naturally occurring spring waters, men and women of high society would ‘take the waters’ over a number of weeks; cures involved anything from bathing treatments to exercise programmes to simply drinking the water. Patronised by royalty and the aristocracy, spa towns were very expensive places – not just visited for their health benefits and beauty, they were also the places that the Victorian elite went to ‘be seen’. Some of the most famous British spa towns (which continue to be so today) were Bath, Cheltenham, Royal Leamington Spa, Malvern, Harrogate and Royal Tunbridge Wells.

More articles on spa towns:

The Victorian water cure revived at Malvern

Victorian spa towns: pleasure or pain?

Page 54. " the latest pieces of work by Mr Dickens "

The Old Curiosity Shop in London, the alleged inspiration for the setting of Dickens' novel
GNU Free Documentation LicenseThe Old Curiosity Shop in London, the alleged inspiration for the setting of Dickens' novel - Credit: Lonpicman
The reference is to The Old Curiosity Shop, a novel written by Charles Dickens and serialised 1840-41 in his weekly publication Master Humphrey’s Clock. It was published in 1841 as a separate book. The story follows Nell Trent, an orphan who lives with her grandfather in his shop of curiosities. After he loses all his money at gambling (in an attempt to win a fortune for his granddaughter) the pair are evicted and Nell takes her grandfather away to the Midlands to live as beggars and escape some of the more unsavoury characters they have fallen in with in London. The journey weakens her and she dies at the end of the novel – portrayed as infallibly good throughout, her death was one of the greatest tragedies of Victorian literature and had readers openly weeping in the street; most famously the Irish leader Daniel O’Connell, who burst into tears and threw the book out of a train window when he read of her fate.

Page 55. " a house in West Eaton Place and an estate in Lancashire "
Mutual Mill, Lancashire
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeMutual Mill, Lancashire - Credit: R lee

West Eaton Place is a road running off Eaton Gate in the affluent residential area of Belgravia, in the City of Westminster.

The Red Rose of Lancaster
GNU Free Documentation LicenseThe Red Rose of Lancaster - Credit: Booyabazooka

Lancashire is a county on the north-west coast of England which dates back to the 12th century. The population today is around 1,500,000 and the county town, from which it derives its name, is Lancaster. Its most famous symbol is the Red Rose of Lancaster, dating back to the fifteenth century Wars of the Roses, the civil wars in which the House of Lancaster and the House of York (a white rose) fought over the throne of England. In the 19th century, Lancashire was a major centre of industry, in particular due to its wealth of cotton mills – in the 1830s, 85% of all cotton manufactured across the world was produced in Lancashire. Blackpool was also a popular seaside resort for holiday-makers from the mill towns. Increasingly urbanised during the 20th century, Lancashire’s population almost trebled between 1871 and the present day, and it remains a largely industrial county, although also experiences tourism due to its rich cultural traditions and historical heritage.

Page 56. " if a girl was not married by twenty-two, she would be lost "

Until 1823, the minimum legal age for marriage in Britain was 21, for both sexes. However, the Marriage Act 1823 meant that a man could marry without parental consent at fourteen, and a girl as young as twelve. On average, Victorians married between the ages of 18 and 23, and marriage became more popular than ever before. This was partly helped by the Marriage Act 1836 which legalised civil marriages (until then, only a recognised religious establishment would legalise a marriage, so Roman Catholics, Jews and other denominations could not have a legal union). There was particular pressure on upper and middle class women to marry, and as women outnumbered men in Victorian Britain the race to find an eligible bachelor and start a family was on – once a girl was past her late twenties she was considered too old and would have to be resigned to being a ‘spinster’. Young girls of the upper classes were introduced to society around the age of seventeen, carefully chaperoned and eventually married to a groom who was often decided upon by their parents. More information about Victorian courtship and marriage can be found here.

Page 59. " a church near Hoxton Square. St Agatha’s. "
The famous White Cube Gallery in Hoxton Square
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeThe famous White Cube Gallery in Hoxton Square - Credit: Fin Fahey

Hoxton Square is one of London’s oldest garden squares. It is in the East End London Borough of Hackney and most of its current buildings date from the Victorian era. Laid out in the late seventeenth century, it was a fashionable residential area notable for the Hoxton Square Academy, but by the nineteenth century was also home to industrial buildings and, being in the East End, no longer so fashionable. Since the 1990s, however, it has been home of the arts and media scene in Hoxton, and its restaurants, bars, galleries (notably the White Cube) and open lawns are especially popular in summer.

There used to be a parish of St Agatha’s in Shoreditch, near Hoxton, but the church no longer exists. The nearest church to Hoxton Square now is St Monica’s Roman Catholic Church.

Page 60. " the second movement of Mozart’s Fourth "

Mozart wrote his first four piano concertos in 1767, at the age of 11. No. 4 (KV 41) is in G major and written for strings, piano or harpsichord and pairs of horns and flutes. The second movement is an Andante in G minor.

The free music score can be found here.

Page 61. " near the British Museum "

A panorama of the old Round Reading Room in the British Museum
GNU Free Documentation LicenseA panorama of the old Round Reading Room in the British Museum - Credit: David Iliff

The British Museum has one of the world’s largest and finest collections on human history and culture. With over eight million works from across the world in its permanent collection, the museum owns a total of 13 million objects at the main site, 70 million at the Natural History Museum and 150 million at the British Library. Departments are dedicated to Ancient Egypt and Sudan, Greece and Rome, Prehistory and Europe, Prints and Drawings, Coins and Medals and more. The museum is also a centre for archives and research.

The British Museum
GNU Free Documentation LicenseThe British Museum - Credit: Ham
Founded in 1753 on the basis of collections owned by scientist Sir Hans Sloane, the museum was able to expand immeasurably over the next two centuries thanks to Britain’s Empire. The museum was originally housed in the 17th century mansion Montagu House, but the current building, designed by Sir Robert Smirke, was begun in 1823 and has been expanded and developed ever since. The British Library was housed under the same roof as the British Museum until 1997, centred on the famous Round Reading Room, and the Natural History collections have been located in a separate museum in South Kensington since 1887.

As a national institution, the British Museum is free and has the most visitors of any museum in the country and the second most of any in the world. The current director is Neil MacGregor.

Page 65. " like Robinson Crusoe "

 Robinson Crusoe is a novel written by Daniel Defoe and published in 1719. Attributed as being the first novel, it is a fictional autobiography of a shipwrecked mariner who spends 28 years on a desert island off the coast of South America. The novel chronicles his survival, adventures, friendship with the savage Man Friday and eventual rescue.

Robinson Crusoe is also profiled on Bookdrum.

Page 65. " Like the Dutch masters "

The Dutch Golden Age was a period in history spanning much of the 17th century when the Dutch Republic, newly free after the Eighty Years War, was the leading nation of Europe. Flourishing in art, science and trade, the new Dutch Republic was a prosperous, modern nation.

The painting of this era has influences from the European Baroque movement, but lacks a lot of the splendour typical of that style, instead using realist techniques. A major feature of the period was the limited amount of religious painting, and the development instead of specific genres, to one of which each painter generally adhered. These genres included historical paintings, portraits, landscape, maritime, still life and scenes of everyday life. The greatest Dutch painters of this period (the ‘masters’) included Vermeer (1632-1675), Rembrandt (1606-1669), Pieter de Hooch (1617-1684), Jan Steen (1626-1679) and Frans Hals (1580-1666).

Page 67. " Cocoa. They tell me the remedy is particularly good "

Hot chocolate drink with chocolate flakes
Creative Commons AttributionHot chocolate drink with chocolate flakes - Credit: Itisdacurlz
Cocoa, or hot chocolate, was invented as a drink by the Mayans around 2,000 years ago and was an important part of the Aztec culture. It was brought to Europe by Spanish settlers in the 16th century and became a fashionable drink throughout the courts of Europe and a very valuable luxury. Originally very bitter, sweet hot chocolate was first discovered in the 17th century, and a recipe using milk mixed with chocolate was introduced by the late 1600s. It was, however, not until 1828 that it became a readily available commodity, when Coenraad Johannes van Houten developed the first cocoa powder machine in the Netherlands. The powder was easier to mix with milk or water and sugar and also led to the production of solid chocolate bars. This was also when the name ‘cocoa’ came into regular usage: previously, the drink had been known as ‘chocolate’ but this was now reserved for the solid bar.

Traditionally there were always health benefits associated with drinking hot chocolate – amongst those claimed were help for fever, liver disease and chest ailments. The French also put about that cocoa could help limit anger, bad moods or nerves. Today it is suggested that the high level of anti-oxidants in cocoa may help fight cancer, but equally, some hot chocolate recipes require a lot of sugar which can have a negative effect as well.

Try a classic hot chocolate recipe here.

Page 68. " St Catherine, her body upon the wheel "

 St Catherine was a virgin princess and scholar from Alexandria, who lived and died in the 4th century. She became a Christian at the age of 14 when it was banned by the Roman Empire and converted hundreds of others. For this, she was condemned to death on the spiked breaking wheel by Emperor Maxentius, but in answer to her prayer the wheel was destroyed and so she was beheaded instead. Angels are supposed to have carried her body to Mount Sinai, where St Catherine’s Monastery can now be found. She is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers of the Catholic Church (protecting against sudden death) and her feast day is 25thNovember. The Catherine wheel, a sparking firework which rotates quickly and resembles her destroyed instrument of torture, was named after her.


Page 68. " Do you know how St Agatha died? "
The Martyrdom of St Agatha, painted by Sebastiano del Piombo in 1520
Public DomainThe Martyrdom of St Agatha, painted by Sebastiano del Piombo in 1520 - Credit: The Yorck Project

St Agatha of Sicily is a Christian saint who was martyred c. 251. A nobleman’s daughter, she dedicated her life and virginity to God and rejected the advances of a Roman suitor. She was persecuted for her faith and given to a brothel owner; tortures she underwent included the cutting off of her breasts, which were healed by St Peter. Her death sentence was to be rolled over a bed of live coals, but when carried out this induced an earthquake and she was instead put in prison, where she died. Her feast day is the 5th February, celebrated in Catania, Sicily, by a three-day festival and procession, and she is the patron saint of martyrs, wet nurses, fire, earthquakes and eruptions of Mount Etna.

Page 68. " The Romans were more imaginative in the torments they imposed "

Torture was commonly used in Roman times to extract confessions and punish criminals, often as a prelude to execution. Torture was so normal that the confessions of accused slaves could only be accepted if they had been extracted by torture – slaves were not deemed honest enough to confess unless under extreme circumstances. The most famous Roman form of torture was also a method of execution: crucifixion. Other forms of punishment included flogging, crushing, stoning, hot coals, the breaking wheel, dismemberment, disembowelment, bull baiting, being thrown to wild animals, impalement, drowning, strangling, racking, untrained gladiatorial fights and burning at the stake.

A list of Christian martyrs and the punishments they underwent at the hands of the Romans can be found here.

Page 72. " You will have your hair in a high pile "

The hairstyles of the Victorian period were in part influenced by the Regency period which had gone before it, in which a high, elegant bun was fashionable. The Victorian era saw the ushering-in of wearing flowers in the hair, first made popular by the Austrian Empress Elisabeth. In general, Victorian women were proud of their hair and it was extremely unusual to cut it. Towards the end of the century, hair became more natural-looking: loose locks were no longer just for children, and high, complex hairstyles were less in vogue.

Find more information on Victorian fashion or some tips for trying Victorian hairstyles yourself.