Saturday 28 March 2009

(Don't) Pump It Up!


John Snow is one of those Victorians who ought to be revered, and it's interesting to note that several books about him have appeared in recent years. He both pioneered anaesthetics (chloroforming Queen Victoria during childbirth) and was amongst the first to suggest that cholera was not caught by 'miasma' (foul vapour) but transmitted by drinking polluted water - famously, in the case of the Broad Street pump in Soho, where brewers, drinking beer exclusively, were shown to be free of contagion.

Anyway, a reader points me to this site, a companion piece to Cholera, Chloroform, and the Science of Medicine: A Life of John Snow (Oxford University Press, 2003) which is packed full of all things Snow - well worth a look.

See also my earlier post, here.

Sunday 8 March 2009

Object Lessons


An email from out of the blue invites me to join Creative Spaces, a new site which is very web2.0, basically a mixture of facebook, digg, stumbleupon &c. &c. but focusing on the collections of nine museums and galleries. To be honest, it's not for me ... all my efforts are devoted to ... but if you like that sort of thing - or, rather, if you have the time to devote to it - it could become a nice meeting-space for the museum-inclined. I have, however, trawled its search engine for anything interesting and Victorian, and found the following:

- a rather nice 1840s dollhouse (V&A)

- a moustache spoon (V&A)

- a clockwork pig (V&A)

- a stereoscope (V&A)

- a bustle pad (V&A)

- a songsheet satirising the young Oscar Wilde (V&A)

Spot the connection? Yes, you can find a lot of interesting stuff at the V&A ... see!



Any attempt to chronicle the instances of suicide in Victorian London, as glimpsed through the pages of the press, would be a morbid and onerous task. However, occasionally, I follow up a story in the online databases and find something interesting ... here is a case of an unfortunate young woman indeed ... notable for being yet another instance of gun crime, and another close call in recognising a poisoning - indigestion, indeed! - how many poisoners escaped detection, one wonders? [pic from Mysteries of London - sorry, I just like to include these!]


Mr. Troutbeck held an inquest at St. Martin's vestry hall, Westminster, on Monday, upon the body of Arthur Augustus Horne, who shot himself upon the platform of the Charing-cross District Railway station on the previous Thursday.

William Henry Horne, who lived in Corporation-buildings, Farringdon-road, and was a printer, identified the body as that of his son, Arthur Augustus Horne. He was 18 years of age last August, and was a printer's layer-on. He lived with witness. Witness knew his son was in the habit of going out with Matilda Horton, and they appeared to be on good terms with each other. His son had never threatened to commit suicide after any quarrel, but he was of an irritable temper.

Matilda Horton, who said her right name was Matilda Lympany, was then called, and deposed that she lived in Clerkenwell-close with her grandmother. She was employed at a stationer's, and had been keeping company with the deceased for over three months. She was Horne on Saffron-hill at 10 minutes to eight on Thursday morning last. They did not meet by appointment. She spoke to Horne and asked him if he were going to work. He replied "No," and asked her where she was going. She answered "Home." He walked home with her and waited for her. They then went for a walk together, passing through Fleet-street to Westminster-bridge, and as they went along Horne bought her an engagement ring, which he put on her finger. They then went to the Underground station at Westminster-bridge, and Horne took two first-class tickets to Blackfriars-bridge. Horne got in first as the train was moving, and the witness was left on the platform. The witness took the next train, and on arriving at Charing-cross Horne came to the window and said, "You are in the wrong train." She got out and sat on a seat. He stood on the left side of her, and draw what she thought was a revolver. She had felt the revolver in his pocket on the previous night, and asked him what it was. He then said it was a sailor's dagger. Horne then fired the revolver over her right shoulder. She did not think he pointed it at her. She was too terrified to look. Three shots went off, and Horne fired one into his own mouth. They had had no words together that morning or on the previous evening. After he had left her at home on Thursday morning he went to his own home. They had had one or two quarrels; one of which had reference to a ring someone else had presented to her, and which he did not wish her to wear. She could make no conjecture why he had committed suicide. - By a Juror: When she saw Horne on Thursday morning she went out to see whether he was going to work. She went out to meet him on this particular morning because "she had fears." The reason why she "had fears" was because of his possessing what she believed to be a revolver, but what he said was a knife. He had told her on Monday that he had had a "row" with his foreman, and he believed he would be discharged on the Friday following.

Job Baker, a porter at Charing-cross station, deposed that when the shot was fired and Horne fell the girl said nothing but threw herself on Horne's body.
Mr. Bowery, house surgeon at Charing-cross hospital, gave evidence as to the cause of death, which had been instantaneous.

The jury returned a verdict of "Suicide whilst in a state of temporary insanity."

Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper, October 16 1887


Last evening Dr. G. Danford-Thomas held an inquest at the Clerkenwell Coroner's-court on the body of MATILDA LYMPANY, aged 19, unmarried, who had resided since a child with her grandparents at 5, St. James-street, Clerkenwell. About a year and a half ago, the deceased was shot at by a lover at Charing-cross Station, who fortunately missed her. He then immediately shot himself, the wound proving fatal. By the occurrence the deceased had, it was stated, sustained a nervous shock, from which she never wholly recovered. Further, it was said, another young man had committed suicide because of the deceased. At the time of her death she was engaged to Edward Brooks, a coachman, and between them there had just before been a slight quarrel. Thomas Horton, a lithographic printer, her grandfather, stated that on Tuesday and Wednesday, the deceased complained of pains at her side, and on Wednesday night, as she was evidently seriously ill, the assistant of Dr. Gabe, of Mecklenburgh-square, in the absence of his principal, saw her, and, believing she suffered from indigestion, prescribed a simple remedy. The next morning, however, at 6, she was found by her grandfather dead in bed. Dr. Gabe, who had attended her within six months and knew her to be suffering from a weak heart, was prepared to certify that she had died from syncope and asphyxia, but a paragraph appearing in the papers stating that she had taken poison, the coroner ordered a post-mortem examination to be made and held that inquest. Dr. G.E. Yarrow of 317, City-road, deposed that he had examined the body in the presence and with the assistance of Dr. Gabe. The witness added that he found from the appearance of the stomach that an irritant poison was the immediate cause of death. The witness further stated that he discovered the deceased was enceinte. The girl's mother said she was not aware of her daughter's condition. The coroner remarked that at first sight it would seem that the deceased had taken poison probably with an unlawful object. Dr. J.R. Gabe, Mecklenburgh-square, acquiesced in the evidence of Dr. Yarrow. Edward Brooks, a coachman of 118 Euston-road, said he had been "keeping company" with the deceased four months. He had quarrelled with her occasionally. He had no knowledge of her condition. He had often heard her say of late "She wished she was out of the way," but he did not ask why, nor did she voluntarily assign any reason for her wish. When he saw her on Wednesday night in bed she was at first unconscious, but subsequently recognised him. The inquiry was adjourned to admit of an analysis of the stomach and its contents.

The Times, February 20 1890

Saturday 7 March 2009

How much?!


A hint from the wonderful VICTORIA list is a new site on price comparisons between the Victorian era and nowadays ... see The different measures give, justifiably, different results (eg. Retail Prices or Salaries?) but it's an interesting exercise, perhaps more useful to academics. My own novelistic (is that a word?) footnotes, can be found here.

Tuesday 3 March 2009

British History Online


A great site for searching the history of famous London streets and areas, now added to the Topography section, bottom left: British History Online.

Breathe Deeply

chloroform inhalerBREATHE DEEPLY

Another quirky database of images and text ... the 'Brought To Life' online exhibition by the Science Museum, covering the history of medicine, drawing on objects from the museum's collections. Example left is a chloroform inhaler, of course. The only drawback, for a Victorian enthusiast, is the timeline browser is a bit of flash Flash, if you understand me ... all mouseover and no trousers ... a simple vertical scrolling screen would probably have done just as well. This is, however, mere carping ... lots to discover here!