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Tom Jones was published in 1749, and set during the 1745 Jacobite rebellion. King George II was on the throne, the Whigs were in Parliament, and England was engaged in several foreign wars. The industrial revolution had yet to begin. Poverty in the countryside was driving people to the cities. The Church of England was being challenged by an Evangelical revival and the new Methodist religion, which reached across class barriers and promoted social justice. Philanthropists and writers were increasingly concerned with social problems, and agitated for the founding of hospitals and orphanages, the abolition of slavery and prison reform.
London was a place of fashionable coffee houses and theatres, gaming houses, and gin shops which allowed the poor momentarily to forget their troubles. For much of the city’s population, life was characterized by poverty, gambling, prostitution and heavy drinking.
The gentry were moving into luxurious new town houses in areas such as Grosvenor Square and Hanover Square. They attended masquerade balls, went to the theatre, read newspapers and engaged in clever conversation. But the line between wealth and poverty was often precarious, and many gentlemen and women languished in debtors’ prisons as a result of gambling habits or changing fortunes.
The poor lived in ramshackle tenements and shacks along dark and dirty alleys. The city’s buildings were relatively new; much of London had been rebuilt after the fire of 1666. But housing for the poor was hastily erected and of bad quality. Collapsing houses were fairly common, often killing occupants and passers-by. In 1738 Dr. Johnson described London as a city "where falling houses thunder on your head." Tenements jostled with slaughterhouses and tanneries. The worst slums were concentrated around Covent Garden, St Giles, Holborn and the older parts of Westminster in the west. To the East, they spread through Blackfriars and beyond the Tower, to Limehouse Reach, Wapping, Shadwell, Ratcliffe Highway, Southwark, Stepney and Whitechapel.
Drowning one’s sorrows was a popular pastime. In 1751, more than 11 million gallons of gin were consumed in the city (the population had yet to reach one million). In the same year, more than 9,000 children died of alcohol poisoning.
Prostitution was ubiquitous. Dan Cruickshank, in The Secret History of Georgian London, suggests that one in five of London’s female population was engaged in prostitution. The Strand was lined with brothels, alongside gentlemen’s coffee shops. Country girls arriving in the city were quickly snapped up by procuresses, as illustrated by the fate of Fanny Hill in John Cleland’s 1748 novel Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, and Moll Hackabout in Hogarth’s Harlot’s Progress engravings. A visitor at the time noted, 'no place in the world can be compared with London for wantonness.' Venereal disease was rife; syphilis and gonorrhea observed no class distinctions.
Newgate Prison and Bridewell swallowed up those poor who fell foul of the authorities. Every six weeks, wooden carts would roll along what is now Oxford Street, taking the condemned to the communal gallows at Tyburn (opposite present-day Speakers' Corner). “Poor’s Holes” were scattered around St. Martin’s, St. James’s and St. Giles: large open pits filled with the corpses of those whose families could not afford burial.
Bayonne Ham, or Jambon de Bayonne, is an air-dried salted ham that takes its name from the ancient port city of Bayonne, in the far southwest of France.
Bologna sausage originated in the Italian city of Bologna, and is made of highly seasoned minced meat. It is now commonly referred to as baloney or polony.
Bridewell Prison and Hospital was established in a former royal palace in 1553, as a place in which to punish the disorderly poor and to house homeless children in the City of London. It was located on the banks of the Fleet River, and was the first house of correction in England, and a major charitable institution. Petty offenders were committed to Bridewell by City officers, including constables and magistrates, and occasionally by parents and masters. Offences might include vice, vagrancy, property crimes, prostitution or "smaller acts of dishonesty". Between 1701 and 1760, offenders from the eastern half of the City were usually sent to the Workhouse of the London Corporation of the Poor in Bishopsgate, while those from the western half were sent to Bridewell. Most prisoners were given punishments, which were determined by the governors. These included whipping and hard labour.
The Guildhall is a building in the City of London. It has been used as a town hall for several hundred years, and is still the ceremonial and administrative centre of the City of London Corporation. The term Guildhall refers both to the whole building and to its main room, which is a medieval-style great hall. Parts of the current building date from 1411. Many famous trials have taken place in the great hall, including that of Lady Jane Grey.
King Pyrrhus was a Greek general and statesman of the Hellenistic era. He ruled as King of Epirus from 297 BC, with financial and military aid from Ptolemy I. By 286 BC he had taken control of kingdom of Macedon, but was driven out 2 years later. In 280 BC he led the Greek city of Tarentum, in southern Italy, in a war against the Romans. He entered Italy with an army consisting of 3,000 cavalry, 2,000 archers, 500 slingers, 20,000 infantry and 20 war elephants. He defeated the Romans in the battle of Heraclea. There were many thousands of deaths on both sides. The following year he fought the Romans again, and won a victory at the battle of Asculum, but his army was decimated. This inspired the term Pyrrhic victory, meaning a victory won at a crippling cost.
The Hampton Court Beauties are a series of portraits by Sir Godfrey Kneller, commissioned by Queen Mary II of England and depicting the most glamorous ladies from the court of William II. They adorn the state rooms of King William III at Hampton Court Palace.
A generation previously, Sir Peter Lely had been commissioned to depict the most beautiful ladies of the court of King Charles II of England, a series christened the Windsor beauties. The Hampton Court Beauties are considerably plainer and less erotic than the Windsor Beauties, reflecting the changes at court.
There were 12 original Hampton Court Beauties. Those whose names and portraits survived through the years are:
Isabella Bennet, Duchess of Grafton (1667–1713)
Margaret Cecil, Countess of Ranelagh (1672–1727)
Carey Fraser, Countess of Peterborough (c.1658-1709)
Frances Whitmore, Lady Middleton (1666–1694)
Mary Scrope, later Mrs Pitt (born 1676)
Diana De Vere, Duchess of St Albans (1679–1742)
Lady Mary Bentinck, Countess of Essex (died 1726)
Mary Compton, Countess of Dorset (1669–1691)
The Kit-Cat Club was an early 18th century club, with strong political and literary associations, committed to the furtherance of the Whig objectives of Parliamentary democracy and a limited monarchy. Its first meetings were held at a tavern in Shire Lane, near Temple Bar, which was run by an innkeeper called Christopher (Kit) Catling. He gave his name to the mutton pies known as 'Kit Kats' from which the club took its name. A famous characteristic of the Kit-Kat was its toasting-glasses, used for drinking the health of the reigning beauties of the day. The toasting glasses were engraved with verses in their praise.
Some of those who were toasted include Lady Godolphin, Lady Sunderland, Lady Bridgewater, and Lady Monthermer, all daughters of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough.
In ancient Greece, the city-state of Sparta was located on the Peloponnesus, a peninsula southwest of Athens. Spartan society was dedicated to militarism. The life of every individual, from the moment of birth, belonged absolutely to the state. Military training began from the age of 7, and all male citizens between the ages of 20 and 60 served in the army, and ate and slept in the public barracks. Music was limited to war songs, and no luxury was allowed – even speech has to be kept short and to the point.
Early in the 6th century Sparta attacked Tegea, the most powerful of the Arcadian cities. The campaign was initially unsuccessful, but Sparta kept up its efforts over many years. Sparta eventually defeated Tegea, and attributed their subsequent conquest of Arcadia to their theft of the bones of Orestes from Tegea.
A seraglio was the enclosed living quarters used by wives and concubines in an Ottoman household, the harem of a house or palace.
"The Seraglio" may refer specifically to the Topkapi Palace, the residence of the former Ottoman Sultans in Istanbul. Beautiful and intelligent slave girls were either captured in war (mainly Christian Europeans in the Balkans), recruited within the empire, or procured from neighbouring countries to become imperial concubines.
Samos is a Greek island. In ancient times, it was a rich and powerful city-state. It was the birthplace of philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras, the philosopher Epicurus, and astronomer Aristarchus, the first person recorded as proposing that the Earth revolves around the sun. The island was a center of Ionian culture and luxury, renowned for its Samian wines and its red pottery. By the 7th century BC Samos was established as one of the leading commercial centers of Greece.
Samos’ most famous building was the Ionic order Temple of Hera, the Heraion. The goddess Hera annually bathed in the spring of Kanathos, close to Nauplia, to renew her virginity. These rites were not to be spoken of (hence the ‘mystery’). At Samos, the ritual bathing of the Goddess was represented by the archaic wooden cult image of Hera being taken out annually and ritually washed in the sea.
Ancient Arcadia occupied the highlands at the centre of the Peloponnese. The area takes its name from the mythological character Arcas. The region was mostly mountainous, apart from the plains around Tegea and Megalopolis, and the valleys of the Alpheios and Ladon rivers.
In ancient and medieval times, Arcadia was renowned as a beautiful, secluded area. It was sparsely populated, and the inhabitants were mostly pastoralists. In literature and art, the area was associated with an idyllic rural paradise, where people lived in harmony with nature. This image is portrayed in Virgil’s Eclogues, and later by Jacopo Sannazaro in his pastoral painting, Arcadia, of 1504. During the Renaissance, Arcadia was imagined as a lost Eden.
In modern times, Arcadia is one of the regional units of Greece, covering the central and eastern part of the Peloponnese peninsula.
Historians suggest that Fielding is in fact referring to the Battle of Ramillies, which took place on 23 May 1706, and was a major engagement of the War of the Spanish Succession. It saw the Grand Alliance (Austria, England, and the Dutch Republic) engaging the Bourbon armies of King Louis XIV. Louis had urged his armies to go on the offensive in the Spanish Netherlands. The French army of 60,000 encountered the Duke of Marlborough’s Anglo-Dutch force of 62,000 close to the small village of Ramillies. In less than four hours Marlborough's forces overwhelmed the French. The battle proved decisive, and a succession of towns soon fell to the Allies. By the end of the campaign the French army had been driven from most of the Spanish Netherlands.
The two parties had agreed before the battle that the sick and wounded who fell into the hands of the enemy would be cared for and not considered prisoners of war. The agreement, a precursor of the Geneva Convention, was honoured by both sides.
In late 1700, an alliance comprising Russia, Denmark-Norway, and Poland-Lithuania, simultaneously attacked Sweden from several directions. Charles XII of Sweden, assisted by the Dutch Navy, won an early victory against Denmark-Norway, forcing them out of the alliance. During November, Russian troops surrounded and laid siege to the Swedish city of Narva, in Estonia. On 19 November Charles XII positioned his 8,000 men opposite the besieging Russian army of about 33,000 troops. While the Swedish army was commanded personally by Charles XII, Peter the Great of Russia had left Narva days before to return to Russia. For much of the day, a blizzard engulfed both armies, making attacks impossible. However, at midday, the winds changed and the snowstorm blew directly into the eyes of the Russians. Charles advanced on the Russian army under cover of the weather, broke through the Russian lines, and rounded them up. A bridge over the Narova river collapsed under retreating Russian troops. That and the resulting stampede led to losses of 6,000 to 18,000 Russians. The remaining troops surrendered.
Leadenhall Market is a covered market in the City of London. The market dates back to the 14th century and originated as a meat, game and poultry market. Today, it continues to sell mainly fresh food. Vendors include cheesemongers, butchers and florists.
The Battle of Sedgemoor was fought on 6 July 1685, near Bridwater in Somerset, England. It was the final battle of the Monmouth Rebellion, and followed a series of skirmishes around south west England between the forces of James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, and the army loyal to the reigning King, James II. The royalist forces prevailed and about 500 troops were captured. Monmouth escaped from the battlefield but was later captured and taken to London for trial and execution.
The Venice Carnival is an annual festival that begins 40 days before Easter and ends on Shrove Tuesday. It dates back to 1296, when the Senate of the Republic issued an edict declaring the day before Lent a public holiday.
Historically, costumes would be worn throughout the period of the carnival, generally a cloak with a long-nosed mask. The streets of Venice would fill with masked revellers, and it would be impossible to distinguish between nobility and commoners.
The Carnival declined in the 18th Century, but was revived in the late 1970s and now attracts thousands of tourists from around the world.
The violin or fiddle, while it has ancient origins, acquired most of its modern characteristics in 16th century Italy. Violinists and collectors particularly prize the instruments made by the Gasparo, Maggini, Stradivari, Guarneri and Amati families from the 16th to the 18th century in Brescia and Cremona in Italy, and by Jacob Stainer in Austria. The school of Cremona began in the first half of the 16th century with violas and violone, and began making violins in the second half of that century. In Cremona, the Amati family produced violins from 1500 to 1740, as did the Guarneri family from 1626 to 1744, and the Stradivari family from 1644 to 1737.
A ‘trull’ is an archaic word for a prostitute. Its first known use in English is in 1519. It is believed to derive from the Middle English word trollen (to travel about, wander), which in turn derived from the Old French troller or treiller,which meant to hunt for game without a scent or path.
The Bethlem Royal Hospital in London specialises in the treatment of mental illness. While it has changed locations and varied its name over the centuries, it has existed as a facility for the mentally ill since the 1300s, and is the world's oldest such institution. The word bedlam, meaning uproar and confusion, derives from one variation of the hospital's name.
Bethlem originated in 1247 as a priory of the Order of the Star of Bethlehem. Its first site was in Bishopsgate, where Liverpool Street Station now stands. In 1337 became a hospital. It admitted its first mentally ill patients in 1357, but did not become a dedicated psychiatric hospital until later.
For the first few hundred years, treatment amounted to little more than confinement. Dangerous patients were manacled and chained, and conditions were appalling and inhumane.
Things began to improve from 1700, when the hospital began referring to ‘patients’ rather than inmates. From 1725, patients were separated into ‘curable’ and ‘incurable’ wards – suggesting that efforts at treatment were actually being made.
Since Roman times, Bath’s hot mineral springs have pumped a quarter of a million gallons of spring water a day at a steady 49°c. The original Pump Room was erected in 1706. In 1708, Thomas Harrison built the Bath Assembly House, for which the public paid fees to dance and gamble. Visitors promenaded up and down the Pump Room, drinking the waters from 8am to 3pm, catching up on gossip, seeing and being seen, while an orchestra played in a semi-circular gallery above their heads.
During the mid-18th to early 19thcentury, Bath’s population exploded from 2,000 to 38,000, becoming the eighth largest city in England by 1801. The Pump Room was enlarged in 1751, a new portico added in 1786, and a new frontage constructed in 1791. The number of visitors continued to swell, however, and in 1796 an entirely new room was built, 85 feet long, 46 feet wide, and 34 feet high.
Mount Parnassus is a mountain of limestone in central Greece. In Greek mythology, the mountain is sacred to Apollo and the Corycian nymphs, and is home to the muses. The mountain is named after Parnassos, the son of Kleodora, a nymph, and Kleopompus, a man. As the home of the Muses, Parnassus was associated with poetry, music, and learning.
The Maritsa or Evros river was known in ancient times as the Hebrus. It runs for 480km, across the Balkan interior. It originates in the Rila Mountains in Western Bulgaria, and flows southeast between the Balkan and Rhodope Mountains, to Turkey. It forms a border between Bulgaria and Greece, and between Turkey and Greece.
Grosvenor Square is a large garden square in London’s exclusive Mayfair area. Sir Richard Grosvenor obtained a licence to develop Grosvenor Square and the surrounding streets in 1710. Development commenced in about 1721.
Grosvenor Square was one of the most fashionable residential addresses in London during the 18th and 19th centuries. Between 1727 and 1741, the residents included 16 peers (including two dukes and nine earls), six children of peers, four baronets, four knights, and five titled widows, as well as 19 Members of Parliament, and various generals. Members of the Grosvenor family lived in the Square from at least 1755 to 1885.
The original houses generally had three stories and an attic, and were built to individual designs.
Nearly all of the older houses were demolished during the 20th century and replaced with blocks of flats in a neo-Georgian style, hotels and embassies. The central garden was originally reserved for the use of the occupants of the houses. It is now a public park.
A London guide from the 1800s describes the Bull and Gate as being ‘at 243, three doors E. from Little Turnstile, Lincoln’s Inn fields.’
John Nichols, in The Gentleman's magazine, 1818, explains that ‘the Bull and Gate in Holborn is a corruption of the Gate of Boulogne, a gate at Calais on the road to Boulogue.’ He further explains that ‘the Bull and Mouth, a large coach inn… exhibits a bull standing by the side of a monstrous human mouth, almost as large as the bull itself,’ and is a corruption of the mouth or harbour of Boulogne. Nichols explains that ‘the sign was probably intended originally as a compliment to Henry VIII, who took the sea port in 1544.'
White's is a London gentlemen’s club, established at 4 Chesterfield Street in 1693 by Italian immigrant Francesco Bianco, otherwise known as Francis White. It was originally established to sell hot chocolate, at the time a rare and expensive commodity. "Chocolate houses" were seen as hotbeds of dissent by Charles II, but many converted into fashionable and respectable gentlemen's clubs.
In the early 18th century, White's was notorious as a gambling house. Those who frequented it were known as "the gamesters of White's." Jonathan Swift referred to White's as the "bane of half the English nobility."
In 1778 White’s moved to numbers 37-38 St James Street. From 1783 it was the unofficial headquarters of the Tory party.
The Franco-Dutch war of 1672 - 1678 saw the French army under Louis XIV overrun the Dutch United Provinces ‘up to the gates of Amsterdam.’
On one side of the war were France, Sweden, the Prince Bishopric of Munster, the Archbishopric of Cologne and England. On the other was the Dutch Republic, later joined by the Austrian Habsburg lands, Brandenburg and Spain.
Louis considered the Dutch to be trading rivals, republicans, heretics and an obstacle to French expansion into the Spanish Netherlands. England, in turn, felt threatened by the growing naval power of the Dutch, and was willing to partner with the French to take them down a peg or two.
France mobilized about 120,000 men against the Dutch United Provinces, while England was expected to launch amphibious landings against the Dutch (this never happened). The French marched to the heart of the Dutch Republic, and tried to gain sixteen million guilders from the Dutch in exchange for peace. The Dutch, however, were incensed, and flooded the countryside by opening their famous dikes – thus blocking further French advances. Attempts by the Anglo-French fleet to invade the Dutch Republic by sea were thwarted. England abandoned the war in 1674.
Tyburn was a village in the county of Middlesex, close to the current location of Marble Arch in London. It was the principal place for execution of London criminals and traitors, including religious martyrs. The first recorded execution there took place in 1196. The unfortunate soul was William Fitz Osbern, a populist leader of the poor of London.
In 1571, a large gallows was installed, nicknamed the "Tyburn Tree." It allowed several people to be hanged at once. In 1649, 24 prisoners were hanged simultaneously. Executions were public spectacles and attracted crowds of thousands. Spectator stands ensured everyone had a view, if they were willing to pay for it.
The Tyburn gallows were last used on 3 November 1783, to hang highwayman John Austin. The site of the gallows is now marked by a plaque on a traffic island in the middle of Edgware Road.