On Emergencies -- Drowning

Recovery of persons apparently drowned or dead. -- 1. Lose no time. 2. Avoid all rough usage. 3. Never hold the body up by the feet. 4. Nor roll the body on casks. 5. Nor rub the body with salt and spirits. 6. Nor inject tobacco smoke, or infusion of tobacco.

I'm a little worried they have to specify not to attempt to smoke or pickle a dead person. So what should we be doing?

Restorative Means, if apparently Drowned. -- Send quickly for medical assistance; but do not delay the following means:--

I. Convey the body CAREFULLY, with the head and shoulders supported in a raised condition, to the nearest house;

II. Strip the body and rub it dry then wrap it in hot blankets, and place it in a warm bed in a warm chamber.

III. Wipe and clean the mouth and nostrils.

IV. In order to restore the natural warmth of the body;

1. Move a heated covered warming pan over the back and spine. 2. Put bladders, or bottles of hot water, or heated bricks, to the pit of the stomach, the armpits, between the thighs, and to the soles of the feet. 3. Foment the body with hot flannels; but if possible. 4. Immerse the body in a warm bath as hot as the hand can bear without pain. 5. Rub the body briskly with the hand; but do not suspend the use of the other means at the same time.

V. To restore breathing, introduce the pipe of a common bellows, into one nostril, carefully closing the other and the mouth; at the same time drawing downwards, and pushing gently backwards, the upper part of the wind pipe, to allow the free admission of air; blow the bellows gently, in order to inflate the lungs, till the breast be a little raised: the mouth and nostrils should then be set free, and a moderate pressure made with the hand upon the chest. Repeat this process till life appears.

VI. Electricity to be employed early by a medical assistant.

VII. Inject into the stomach, by means of an elastic tube and syringe, 1/2 pint warm brandy, or wine and water.

VIII. Apply sal-volatile to the nostrils.


Please, if I am ever injured, do not call the Victorian paramedics.

Source: 'Consult Me -- For All You Want To Know', first published 1860s, this edition c.1900s, (W. Nicholson & Sons, Ltd, Halifax)

On what to eat for breakfast in winter

Mrs. Beeton provides the following menus for a week of family breakfasts in winter

SUNDAY. -- Grilled kidneys, baked halibut steaks, cold ham, stewed figs, marmalade, jam, butter, dry toast, toasted scones, bread, coffee, tea, hot and cold milk.

MONDAY. -- Scrambled eggs, grilled cutlets, tongue, marmalade, jam, butter, dry toast, rolls, bread, coffee, tea, hot and cold milk.

TUESDAY. -- Fried whiting, stewed kidneys, veal cake, marmalade, jam, butter, dry toast, rolls, bread, coffee, tea, hot and cold milk. 

WEDNESDAY. -- Croquettes of fish, Vienna steaks, brawn, stewed prawns, marmalade, jam, butter, dry toast, rolls, bread, coffee, tea, hot and cold milk.

THURSDAY. -- Findon haddock, sausages, pressed beef, marmalade, jam, butter, dry toast, toasted scones, bread, coffee, tea, hot and cold milk.

FRIDAY. -- Savoury omelet, grilled ham, beef roll, marmalade, jam, butter, dry toast, toasted teacake, rolls, bread, coffee, tea, hot and cold milk.

SATURDAY. -- Broiled fresh herring, boiled eggs, game pie, marmalade, jam, butter, dry toast, rolls, bread, coffee, tea, hot and cold milk.

Beeton also provides economical alternatives, again with marmalade, jam, butter, dry toast,  bread, coffee, tea, hot and cold milk featuring every day.

SUNDAY. -- Boiled eggs and cold bacon

MONDAY. -- Findon haddock

TUESDAY. -- Scrambled eggs and beef roll

WEDNESDAY. -- Fish cakes

THURSDAY. -- Brawn

FRIDAY. -- Rissoles of cold meat

SATURDAY. -- Broiled fresh herrings and boiled eggs.

Source: Mrs Beeton's Household Management, first published 1861, this ed. ~1920s. Ward, Lock & Co., Ltd. London & Melbourne. Pg 1424

Apothecaries' Weights & Measures

"Apothecaries' Weight.

20 Grains (gr.) make 1 Scruple,sc. equal to 20 grains Troy.
3 Scruples.............................1 Dram, dr., equal to 60 grains.
8 Drams ...............................1 Ounce, oz., equal to 480 grains or 24 scruples.
12 Ounces         ...............................1 Pound, lb., equal to 5760 grains, or 288 sc., or 96 drams.

By this weight, medicines are mixed ; but drugs are bought and sold wholesale by avoirdupois.


Apothecaries' Measure.

60 Minims make          1 Fluid Dram, dr.
8 Fluid Drams1 Ounce...........oz.
16 Fluid Ounces1 Pint................pt.
8 Pints1 Gallon.........gal."

My little research on this topic (read: Wikipedia) tells me that the 'Drams' here should more properly be called 'drachms' (pronounced the same; as seen in this post) when referring to apothecaries' measures; whereas the avoirdupois system used 'drams'. However, this book comes from right around the period when this distinction was first drawn, so may pre-date that decision.

Similarly, it is the root for 'a dram of whisky' - perhaps to suggest medicinal use of that liquor? You wouldn't get much though, as a dram is about three-quarters of a modern teaspoonful in volume; perhaps a repeat prescription is more in order.

Source: 'Consult Me -- For All You Want To Know', first published 1860s, this edition c.1900s, (W. Nicholson & Sons, Ltd, Halifax)

On the size of the tables at Wedding Breakfasts

The usual width of a table or tables for a wedding breakfast is from 3 feet to 3 feet 6 inches; the manner of placing the tables depends upon the size of the room and the number of guests expected.

A sitting-down breakfast demands more space than does a standing-up one; for the former 18 inches would be allowed for each guest, for the later [sic] 12 inches could be made to suffice; and small round tables are more convenient for sitting-down breakfasts than are long tables.

~ Party-Giving on Every Scale: Or the cost of entertainments with the fashionable modes of arrangement. (1880, reprinted 2007) Frederick Warne and Co., London.

On carpets

"Two rules are enough for the looks of a carpet;  choose small figures [patterns] and avoid contrasts of colour. Small figures, however, have different meanings to different people. As a rule, a small figure is not more than three inches at most, at any way across. Very, very few rooms there are [that do not] look better with carpets of small design."

God forbid your carpet pattern be a hair over 3 inches across...

~ 'The Home Cook Book', 1877 (Hunter, Rose and Co, Toronto.)

On manners

"A gentleman does not shake hands with a lady not of his kindred, unless she offers to do so. Unmarried ladies do not give their hands in salute to any but gentlemen relations. Ladies in any case give the hand, the gentleman respectfully presses it without shaking. It is a piece of stupid bad breeding, however,  not to take the hand of anyone offered in ignorance of the rule:

"The best breeding always adapts itself to the customs of those about one."

While the rules in the first part of this excerpt from 'The Home Cook Book', 1877 (Hunter, Rose and Co, Toronto) are no longer the norm, this last sentence still rings true, 140 years later.


Charlotteetiquette, 1870s
On paying visits

If one has been lucky enough to have been invited to a dinner party or a ball, one should visit one's hostess to 'pay a call' within two days of a ball or one week of a small party. While a lady may pay a personal visit, a gentleman need only leave his card.

"In town, leaving a card with the corner bent signifies that it was left by its owner in person, not sent by a servant. Bending the edges of a card, means that the visit was designed for the ladies of the house, as well as the mistress of it. If there is a visitor with the family whom you wished to see, a separate card should be left for that person, naming him or her to the servant. A card should also be left for the host, if the call was designed as a family matter, but more than three are not left at one house.

"From three to six are proper calling hours, and a visit may be from five minutes to half an hour, never longer, unless with a very intimate friend. A gentleman leaves his umbrella in the hall, but carries hat and cane with him, keeping the former in his left hand, never venturing to lay it on the table, or rack, unless invited to do so by the lady of the house. Her not doing so is a sign that it is not convenient for her to prolong his call."

"A soft hat is tolerated, but the dress hat is usually carried."

~ 'The Home Cook Book', 1877 (Hunter, Rose and Co, Toronto.)

I once wore a dress hat while paying calls, and boy, did I never live that mistake down.

On women's work, and its importance

"Never be satisfied with any but the nicest cooking, with variety enough to make your table a delight as well as a necessity. And don't let anybody lay it to you that you are pampering your family, and devoting yourself to a low sphere of action. 

"You are doing no such thing, but are giving them strong, active bodies, steady nerves and tempers, and clear brains to meet their work with. By just so much as you neglect your part of the work, they will fail in theirs. You are the engineer to feed the fires, and keep the wheels oiled, and the whole family system depends on you. 

"Don't dare to call such work low."

~ 'The Home Cook Book', 1877 (Hunter, Rose and Co, Toronto.)

A recipe for Pop Overs 

"One cup flour, one cup milk, one egg, piece butter size of a walnut, a little salt; to be baked in scallops in a very quick oven. This rule makes twelve."
So much pleases me about this recipe - the extended prose, the measurement of the butter, the ambiguity of 'a quick oven' - but I think the best part is the overwhelming impression that the author expects you to know how to make a cake; this is merely a variation on a theme.

Source: S. S. Pierce in The Home Cook Book, 1877 (Hunter, Rose and Co, Toronto.)

In case of constipation

The Victorians were a little obsessed with laxatives and purging one's bowels to rid oneself of disease. 'Consult Me' has no fewer than 9 recipes for 'aperients' (another word for laxative) -- a variety of tonics, pills and children's formulations. Here's one of the suggested remedies, which I chose principally for the alchemical units of measurement:

"Aperient for Children. -- Infusion of senna, one ounce ; mint water, half an ounce ; calcined magnesia, one scruple ; manna, three drachms ; syrup of roses, two drachms ; (a solution of sugar will do). Mix and give in doses of one or two teaspoonfuls at a time."

Other recipes in the book call for castille soap ("ten grains"), Epsom Salts ("half an ounce"), rhubarb ("five grains") and extracts of gentian and colocynth -- both flowers, the former a harmless placebo, the latter a violent purgative and abortant. The 'Home Cook Book' suggests a 'receipt' (recipe) for "Fig Paste for Constipation":

"One-half pound of good figs chopped fine, one-half pint of molasses, two ounces powdered senna leaves, one drachm of fine powdered coriander seed, one drachm of fine powdered cardamom seed. Put the molasses on the stove and let it come to a boil, then stir in all the rest and bring it to a boil again. A teaspoonful once in a while is a dose. It will keep, when covered, for a year. --Mrs. Gardner."

'The American Frugal Housewife' (1832) doesn't come right out and say that this is for constipation, but I believe Mrs Child's phrase 'for use when the digestive powers are out of order' is a euphemism for just that.

"Elixir proprietatis" -- "One ounce of saffron, one ounce of myrrh, and one ounce of aloes. Pulverize them ;  let the myrrh steep in half a pint of brandy, or N. E. rum, for four days ;  then add the saffron and aloes ;  let it stand in the sunshine, or in some warm place, for a fortnight ;  taking care to shake it well twice a day.  At the end of the fortnight, fill up the bottle (a common sized one) with brandy, or N. E. rum, and let it stand a month.  It costs six times as much to buy it in small quantities, as it does to make it." 

So not a quick fix, then. 

Please note that none of these writers (including me) were medically trained and many stole their material from earlier works - try these remedies at your own risk. I repeat them as a exercise in history, not in pharmacological advice.


Works consulted:

  • 'The Home Cook Book', 1877 (Hunter, Rose and Co, Toronto)
  • Mrs. Lydia Maria Child, 'The American Frugal Housewife -- Dedicated to Those Who Are Not Ashamed of Economy', 1833 (12th Ed.), (Carter, Hendee and Co., Boston)
  • 'Consult Me -- For All You Want To Know', first published 1860s, this edition c.1900s, (W. Nicholson & Sons, Ltd, Halifax)
How to leave a party

"Near the close of a party, the host and hostess usually are to be found near the door of the parlour, and guests take leave of them with a bow and compliment for a pleasant evening, then pass to the dressing rooms after wraps and vanish without further ceremony. In small circles a bow should be given to each person about one, and leave taken of any special friend whose conversation has been particularly pleasant."

In short, say goodbye to the people around you, to your host, and to the hottie you spent half an hour chatting up, then slip away without further adieu.

~ 'The Home Cook Book', 1877 (Hunter, Rose and Co, Toronto.)

On the personality of a good cook

"Make choice of a strong, healthy, intelligent, brisk, cheerful, honest person ; one who has been accustomed to obedience, and has been trained in habits of neatness, for it is scarcely possible to engraft these habits on one who has lived contentedly a sloven for fifteen or twenty years."

"An intelligent person is apt to have some temper. Amiability, it is true, is lovely in the human character, but a superabundance of this quality in a cook is not desirable."

Mrs Mary Ann Bryan Mason, "The Young Housewife's Counsellor and Friend: Containing Directions in Every Department of Housekeeping, Including the Duties of Wife and Mother." J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1871.