Nature’s Freezer

La Carriole Rouge by Clarence Gagnon

Quick Quotes 18. The following is taken from Travels in Lower Canada, by Joseph Sansom (1820):

Quebec is subjected to frequent rains, by the neighbouring mountains which arrest the clouds in its vicinity; and it has little to boast of in summer, though the days are very long, from its high northern latitude, (46. 55.) The sun now rises about four o’clock, and sets about eight. The winter is allowed to be the season of enjoyment here.

A sufficient stock of meat and poultry is killed when the cold sets in, which it usually does in November, continuing without intermission till April, and sometimes encroaching upon May. The snow then usually lies upon the ground from four to six feet deep. The meat, as well as every thing else that is exposed to the cold, instantly freezes; and it is thus kept, without further trouble, till it is wanted.

As the snows fall, the inhabitants turn out to keep the road open, that their intercourse with their neighbours may not be impeded. The air is constantly serene and healthful; the nights are illuminated with the aurora borealis; and the time is spent in giving and returning visits between town and country. Dancing-parties are frequently formed by the young people at one another’s houses, and the gay scene is at its height when the great river freezes over, as it sometimes does from side to side. The island of Orleans is then accessible, and every body turning out upon the “pont,” as they call it, on skates, or else in sleds and carrioles,

“The then gay land is maddened all to joy.”

Spring at length opens suddenly; the ice breaks up with tremendous crashes; and vegetation follows in surprising rapidity, as soon as the surface of the ground is clear of snow.

Such they say is, occasionally, the extremity of the cold, that wine freezes even in apartments heated by stoves, the pipes of which are conveyed through every room. Brandy exposed to the air will thicken to the consistence of oil; and the quicksilver of thermometers condenses to the bulb, and may possibly congeal, for even mercury freezes at 39 degrees below the beginning of Fahrenheit.

A carriole is a Canadian sledge pulled by a horse or by dogs.


“Quick Quotes” are some bonus content for the blog. Each time I find an interesting or amusing little quote from and old (verging on forgotten) book, that does not really need any further explanation or background information, it will appear on Windows into History under this heading. You can keep updated each time I post a new entry by clicking on the follow button on the right of the screen. I welcome any comments or suggestions, and will consider guest posts.

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Beauty and Misery

vinesQuick Quotes 17. The following is taken from Travels in Lower Canada, by Joseph Sansom (1820):

On my return toward Quebec, I proceeded more leisurely than I had done in coming down, and now found time to admire the beautiful plants, or rather vines, which were occasionally to be seen hanging from the lintel of an open window; the windows in Canada opening on hinges, from side to side, instead of being hung with weights, to rise and fall, as with us. These vines, it seems, are called fils d’araigner, or spiders’ threads, from the singular delicacy of their tendrils; they are suspended in small pots, winch the earliest leaves soon cover, so as completely to conceal the vessel which contains them; the plant then pushes forth its pendent strings of sprigs and flowers, green, red, and blue, the clusters of which seem to be growing in the air: frequently single pots of pinks, marigolds, and other flowers, occupied the sills of the windows in the meanest cottages, and gave them, more than any thing within, an appearance of domestic enjoyment.

As I walked along, the men had generally turned out to mend the roads, much rain having fallen latterly, and the surface being full of holes rooted up by the hogs. I asked one grey-headed man how old he was. He told me he was eighty-one. “Ah! Monsieur,” added he, “J’ai vu bien de la misere, au monde.” [“Ah! Sir, I have seen a great deal of misery in my time.”] I quitted him with the obvious remark, that such were generally those that lived the longest.


“Quick Quotes” are some bonus content for the blog. Each time I find an interesting or amusing little quote from and old (verging on forgotten) book, that does not really need any further explanation or background information, it will appear on Windows into History under this heading. You can keep updated each time I post a new entry by clicking on the follow button on the right of the screen. I welcome any comments or suggestions, and will consider guest posts.

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Life and death in Rio

A Broome watercolour, of Rio and Sugerloaf Mountain.

Snippets 150 / Guest Post 14.  Henry Arthur Broome was born in 1857, the youngest child of the Vicar of Houghton in Norfolk. He was the perfect example of a Victorian “rolling stone”, seldom staying more than a couple of years in any one country, although he did return often to South Africa. His autobiography, published 1913, was justifiably entitled “The Log of a Rolling Stone”. 1889-90 found him working in Brazil as a clerk to a coffee shipper. He took the job in spite of knowing that British Post Offices and some other public places featured official notices posted up which warned against travelling to Brazil. Broome was based at Rio de Janeiro and wrote about the “intoxicating beauty of the environs of Rio”. As a keen amateur artist he painted a number of watercolours of the scenery. He was less enthused about the morals of the city, especially the openness with what he politely called the “oldest trade in the world” was accepted. He was also struck by the matter-of-fact way the locals regarded the issues of life and death. Until the city was fitted with proper drainage yellow fever was rife.

Calling on an acquaintance one day, I was informed by his clerk that he had not come down to business that day, not being well, and would I be so good as to step in again later in the afternoon? I did so, and the clerk then languidly told me his master had yellow fever, and was not expected to live that night, and, if he succumbed, would I care to attend his funeral on the following evening? A place would be reserved for me in the special tramcar conveying the party out of town to the ‘pauton’ or cemetery beyond San Cristovao. I need not trouble to call again, but as the tram-line passed my house, he would tell the hearse driver to stop there and pick me up, in case the death actually occurred, and I was to be so good as to please put on evening dress. At the appointed time I was ready, and sure enough there came an equipage drawn by six mules, with bells, at a fast trot, which pulled up directly the driver saw me at the door. The colour chosen for mourning in Brazil is scarlet, but I was not then aware of this, nor of the gorgeous trappings provided for the dead, and stood more amazed at what I saw, than even when the clerk had made me the weird arrangements to meet me. The six mules drew a handsomely fitted car with canopy of gold and scarlet, and a pall of the same colour enshrouded my friend’s coffin, placed in the centre and alone. Attached to this was a trailing car, with open transverse seats, which were occupied by the male friends of the deceased, all of whom were bareheaded in evening dress, and smoking cigarettes. Directly I took my place, the driver let go the fast little mules at a spanking trot, and with bells merrily ringing we proceeded on our four miles’ journey to the cemetery. There the deceased was interred, and, I understood, would be allowed to remain undisturbed for fourteen years, after which period the grave would be broken up, and the ground, which was valuable, would be used for someone else. Needless to say, everyone in Brazil is buried invariably in quicklime.

Much as Henry Broome waxed lyrical for several pages about the beautiful country that was Brazil, after less than two years living there he took a voyage on a little coffee brig to Cape Town and the country of South Africa where he spent more years of his life.


The guest post article above has been kindly contributed by Geoffrey A. Pocock, author of Outrider of Empire: The Life and Adventures of Roger Pocock (University of Alberta Press) and One Hundred Years of the Legion of Frontiersmen (currently out of print).

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Bald head? Use some beef.

hairSnippets 149.  In 1903 a book of useful household advice was published in Australia, How to Make and Save Money.  Some of the advice might not have stood the test of time, so it is probably best to read the following in the spirit of historical curiosity.  If you are really looking for a hair restorative, etc, look elsewhere!

Hair Restorative — A tea made by pouring one pint of boiling water on two teaspoonfuls of dried rosemary leaves, with a wineglassful of rum added, is excellent.

Hands, to Soften — Before going to bed take a large pair of old gloves and spread mutton tallow inside, also all over the hands. Wear the gloves all night, and in the morning wash the hands with olive oil and white pastile soap.

To perfume the Breath — Extract of liquorice three ounces, oil of cloves one and a half drachms, oil of cinnamon fifteen drops. Mix and divide into one grain pills, and silver them.

Snow White Teeth —Take one part chloride of lime and fifteen parts prepared chalk, adding half an ounce of pulverized Peruvian bark and a few drops of otto of roses. Use it thoroughly morning and evening.

A Rapid Hair Promoter —Beef marrow soaked in several waters, melted and strained, half-a-pound ; tincture of cantharides (made by soaking for a week one drachm of powdered cantharides in one ounce of proof spirit) one ounce; oil of bergamot, twelve drops.

How to Grow a Moustache — Tincture of benzoin compound, two drachms ; tincture of Spanish flies, two drachms ; castor oil, six ounces ; oil bergamot, one drachm; oil of verbena, fifteen drops; strong alcohol, nine ounces. Circulation should be stimulated first by friction with a rough towel. Apply mornings and evenings.


If you enjoyed this “snippet” please consider sharing on Facebook or Twitter, to help other people find and enjoy Windows into History. You can keep updated each time I post a new entry by clicking on the follow button on the right of the screen. I welcome any comments or suggestions, and will consider guest posts.

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The Legend of “She”

Maurice Greiffenhagen’s original book illustration from the first edition of “She”

Snippets 148 / Guest Post 13. Major Tudor Trevor, known to his friends as “Toodles”, was born in 1865, the sixteenth of seventeen children. The Trevor family was Welsh and could trace its history back centuries. Trevor spent forty years living and working in southern Africa. During those years he met many famous and influential men as well as some rather odd characters who scraped a living in Victorian Africa. His 1932 autobiography “Forty Years in Africa” is crammed with fascinating anecdotes and stories of the famous, the infamous, and men of influence. In 1903 he was involved in problems with the Malabok, Magoeba and Madjijie people.

Far more interesting than Malabok was Madjijie.

Most startling was the fact that although Madjijie ruled, there was no such person as Madjijie!

The Madjijie people consisted of seven small tribes, whose indunas [leaders] were supposed to visit Madjijie in a cave, where she gave them orders. She was said to be a white woman and over two hundred years old. It is believed that the legend, actually, gave Rider Haggard his inspiration for ‘She’.

The legend was vague, but, pieced together it was to the effect that at a time when the tribe lived on the coast and was starving and the men were away, a white girl with blue eyes appeared at their kraal. She led them to ‘great plenty’ as the natives put it. They thought that she was a goddess. Later they trekked under her guidance to the Woodbush mountains, their present location. When she had learned their language, she told them that she was not a goddess, but the messenger of one. She would never marry, and when they prayed her to do so in order that her children might rule them, she declined, but promised that her spirit would continue to direct their destinies.

She lived in a cave, and as she got older, she appeared less and less often, until at last she was never seen at all. Before the war against her people, as a great favour, I had been taken to ‘see Madjijie’. It was one of the most theatrical, even melodramatic scenes I have ever witnessed.

The time was nightfall. There was a rough stone enclosure at the base of a beetling cliff, under which were some rock shelters of unknown magnitude. In front of these were two conical altars, about three feet high, on top of which fires were burning. I and my two guides took our seats on the ground far in the front, and there were many others present.

So soon as the sun was down, two or three companies of girls, whitened with ashes and draped in queer reed veils, commenced dancing to the time of unseen drums. Monotonously the audience clapped. This went on without a break until it was pitch dark, but more and more fire was thrown on the altars – and more and more did I get the sensation that they were trying to mesmerise me. At last, as the moonlight began to appear, some material was thrown on the fire that caused dense aromatic smoke, like the light of a setting sun on clouds, and at once I began to see outlines that shaped themselves like dream castles. But the castles and all the larger shapes dissipated until I saw only a woman’s left hand.

I was speculating as to what would come next when there was a roll of drums followed by a dead silence. I shook myself out of my dreamy state and became thoroughly awake. The place was empty save for the two men who had brought me, one of whom was a witch-doctor of repute.

He looked at me very hard and asked me what I had seen.

I did not tell him that I had gone into a semi-trance and said prosaically, that I had noticed a lot of smoke.

“Was there nothing else that you saw?” he persisted. “Nothing?”

I admitted that I had been dreaming and had dreamed that I saw a woman’s hand and forearm.

He replied swiftly, “You are good – but not good enough!”

Did that mean that I was not so bad that I was to be denied a glimpse of Madjijie, but that, on the other hand, I was not good enough to deserve a complete vision of the woman ruler? I don’t know.

(Forty Years in Africa, p.81-82)

According to Tom Pocock’s 1993 biography of Rider Haggard “Rider Haggard and the Lost Empire”, halfway on a journey between Pretoria and the ruins of Zimbabwe Haggard had been less than a hundred miles from “the curious tribe of the Lovedu…They, it was said, were ruled by a white queen with magical powers, who was said to be immortal.” (p.66), although: “Even Haggard himself was uncertain how he came to invent such a parable” (p.67). The story of the immortal white queen ruling over a secretive tribe is one that was told by other African tribal storytellers.

Trevor’s opinion was that Madjijie was the survivor of a shipwreck from long in the past who led the tribe to the wreck where they could salvage the cargo. As to what he believed he saw, one has to wonder whether what was thrown on the fire could have been some hallucinatory drug.

Wherever the story originated, Rider Haggard’s “She”, published in 1887, was a phenomenal success and is still read today.


The guest post article above has been kindly contributed by Geoffrey A. Pocock, author of Outrider of Empire: The Life and Adventures of Roger Pocock (University of Alberta Press) and One Hundred Years of the Legion of Frontiersmen (currently out of print).

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Soup, soup and soup please.

Boulevard des Italiens in Paris at night, by Eugene Lami.

Snippets 147.  On October 22nd 1881 the first ever issue of Tit-Bits was published, with a simple aim of extracting all the best quotes from other newspapers, magazines and books.  It was successful enough to run for over a hundred years, until 1984.  The following amusing quote is from the very first issue:

An Englishman in Paris went into a restaurant to get his dinner.  Unacquainted with the French language, yet unwilling to show his ignorance, he pointed to the first line on the bill of fare, and the polite waiter brought him a plate of thin soup.  This was very well, and when it was despatched he pointed to the second line.  The waiter understood him perfectly, and brought him a vegetable soup.  “Rather more soup than I want,” thought he; “but it is a Paris fashion.”  He duly pointed to the third line, and a plate of tapioca broth was brought him.  Again to the fourth line, and was furnished with a bowl of preparation of arrowroot.  He tried the fifth line, and was supplied with some gruel kept for invalids.  The bystanders now supposed that they saw an unfortunate individual who had lost all his teeth, and our friend, determined to get as far from the soup as possible, pointed in despair to the last line on the bill of fare.  The intelligent waiter, who saw at once what he wanted, politely handed him a bunch of toothpicks.  This was too much, the Englishman paid his bill and left.


If you enjoyed this “snippet” please consider sharing on Facebook or Twitter, to help other people find and enjoy Windows into History. You can keep updated each time I post a new entry by clicking on the follow button on the right of the screen. I welcome any comments or suggestions, and will consider guest posts.

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Hellgate, Newgate, Cripplegate and Billingsgate

An 18th Century illustration of Newgate prison.

Snippets 146. In the late 18th Century a familiar family nicknamed “Newgate, Cripplegate, Billingsgate and Hellgate” were notorious among the aristrocracy. Richard Barry, 7th Earl of Barrymore, was known as Hellgate, and lived a short and wild life, dying at the age of 23. Newgate was his brother Augustus, named after reputedly the only prison he hadn’t been inside, Cripplegate was his club-footed brother Henry, and Billingsgate was his potty-mouthed sister Caroline. His enthusiasm for the theatre made him a colourful subject for Thomas Munden’s biography of his father, well-known actor Joseph Shepherd Munden. The following quote is taken from Memoirs of Joseph Shepherd Munden.

The man in this society, who was most talked of at the time, was Lord Barrymore. He was one of a motley trio known by the nicknames of Newgate, Cripplegate and Hellgate. His Lordship was the first; his successor, the next lord, who was lame,— the second; and the Honorable Augustus Barry, a clergyman, the third. The latter gentleman passed much of his time in prisons for debt. The two noblemen were both addicted to gambling; with this difference, that the first played to lose, and the second to win, and they both, by their several ways, succeeded in the attempt. The habit of extravagance was early fostered in Lord Barrymore. It is asserted that his grandmother, who doted on him, gave him when he went to Harrow a thousand pounds, just as a good-natured old woman would slip a crown piece into her darling’s hands at parting. The freaks that this nobleman played have not been equalled in our days, so prolific in lordly riots; but it will always be the case, when young men of rank come early into the possession of their vast estates without control: the usurer supplies them at first with the ready means of folly, and when the rents are collected, there is no want of hangers-on; the very excesses they commit enable those scoundrels to take them unawares and secure their plunder.

Among the ingenious expedients which Lord Barrymore invented to ruin himself was,— drawing straws from a truss with the Prince of Wales; the holder of the longest straw to receive £1000. He gave a sumptuous entertainment at Ranelagh, to which it is said only himself and two other persons came – drove a tandem along the cliffs at Brighton close to the declivity: it was one of those high tandems, which Sir John Lade brought into vogue, and from which Lady Lade used to step into the first floor window. At the theatre in that town he played Harlequin, and jumped through a hoop. He was a very good comic actor, as may be seen from the representation of him in Bell’s Theatre, in Scrub, with Captain Wathen in Archer; and, with all his wildness, at bottom a man of sense and education. In a company, where more than one literary man was present, it was proposed that each person should write an epigram, upon a given subject, within a very limited space of time, and Lord B. was the only one who accomplished it. He built a theatre at his seat at Wargrave, where he played, with other amateurs, and occasional professional assistance. The whole audience were afterwards entertained at supper. His end was an untimely one. In stepping into his curricle to convey, as commanding officer of the militia in the district, some French prisoners from one depot to another, he accidentally trod upon the lock of his carbine, and the contents lodged in his brain. He had not been many years of age, but he had contrived to dissipate an enormous fortune.


If you enjoyed this “snippet” please consider sharing on Facebook or Twitter, to help other people find and enjoy Windows into History. You can keep updated each time I post a new entry by clicking on the follow button on the right of the screen. I welcome any comments or suggestions, and will consider guest posts.

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