Mishap on a Train

Quick Quotes 10. The following is taken from Charles Marriott’s A Spanish Holiday (1908), and takes place on a train journey from Toledo to Madrid.

It must have been here that we were joined by a Civil Guard, more approachable than his fellows, who accepted a cigarette and told me many things about his corps; their life, duties, and number — which last I have forgotten, though it surprised me at the time. I fancy that he presently feared that he had been too communicative, or perhaps I bored him, for when I settled myself in my corner with closed eyes he very quietly picked up his rifle and moved to the compartment at the other end of the carriage. A smell of burning mingled with my dreams, which were cut short by a yell from James. He had dropped off to sleep with a lighted cigarette in his fingers, and the result was devout thankfulness that he had brought a second pair of trousers, and that circumstances permitted a change en route.


“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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A Bad Afternoon

Quick Quotes 9. The following is taken from Charles Marriott’s A Spanish Holiday (1908):

In our anxiety to see the pictures in the Prado Museum we disregarded the friendly counsel of the gentleman from the Embassy and foolishly set out directly after lunch. The heat of the sun was terrible; we walked slowly, even to speak or to turn the head seemed an immense effort, and when we emerged from the deserted Carrera de San Jerdnimo we hesitated before the wide open space of the Plaza de las Cortes as if it had been the fire zone of a battle-field. We crossed over to the Paseo in a series of zig-zags, taking “cover” in the thin, circular shade of every acacia tree, and when we reached the Museum we found it closed. Why, I don’t know; it certainly wasn’t raining, and allowing for that possibility, Baedeker says the Museum is open daily from ten to four, except on Sundays and festivals, when it closes at one. This was a Saturday. Assuming that it was a festival, it was perhaps as well that we did not know the name of the saint. We did not trust ourselves to speak, but turned instinctively to plunge into the thick shade of the Botanical Garden. It was closed until four o’clock.


“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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The Cross-Dressing Waiter

“Four in Hand” by Thomas Eakins (1880)

“Four in Hand” by Thomas Eakins (1880)

Snippets 124.  The English Hotel Nuisance by Albert Richard Smith (1855) is one long glorious rant about how annoying it was to stay in a hotel or inn at the time. The following is part of a description of a very old inn Smith visited, that was struggling to “keep up appearances”. Warning: the last sentence might make you laugh out loud – I certainly did!

At the back of the old inn were acres of stables: the amount of slowness, and feeing, and discomfort that the former occupants of these drew after them, was terrible to think about. Not much was going on here now. Two or three post-chaises were rotting under a shed tenanted by pigeons; and when I wanted to go to the station they said they would “order the fly to be brought out.” They had no notion of going to the corner of the street and calling a cab – of which there were several – in a few seconds. And I posed the waiter by saying, “What can I have for dinner besides chops, steaks, and broiled fowl?” Thus anticipated, he only staggered for a second, but then said he would go and see; and returned shortly to tell me I could have anything I liked. But I found afterwards the latitude allowed was too broad.

It must have been a terrible struggle for this old inn to keep up its old illusions. I suspect now that its staff of servants was made to appear larger by popping them in and out at different places, or bringing them on in different dresses, as theatrical processions are treated. Indeed, I once thought I saw an awful likeness between the waiter, who came in to light the fire, and the chambermaid.


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Too Hot in Spain

Quick Quotes 8. The following is taken from Charles Marriott’s A Spanish Holiday (1908):

In our anxiety to see the pictures in the Prado Museum we disregarded the friendly counsel of the gentleman from the Embassy and foolishly set out directly after lunch. The heat of the sun was terrible; we walked slowly, even to speak or to turn the head seemed an immense effort, and when we emerged from the deserted Carrera de San Jerdnimo we hesitated before the wide open space of the Plaza de las Cortes as if it had been the fire zone of a battle-field. We crossed over to the Paseo in a series of zig-zags, taking “cover” in the thin, circular shade of every acacia tree, and when we reached the Museum we found it closed. Why, I don’t know; it certainly wasn’t raining, and allowing for that possibility, Baedeker says the Museum is open daily from ten to four, except on Sundays and festivals, when it closes at one. This was a Saturday. Assuming that it was a festival, it was perhaps as well that we did not know the name of the saint. We did not trust ourselves to speak, but turned instinctively to plunge into the thick shade of the Botanical Garden. It was closed until four o’clock.


“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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The Sandwich Rip-off

Quick Quotes 7. The following is taken from Albert Smith’s The English Hotel Nuisance (1855):

I went one morning, in the autumn of 1850, into a leading hotel at Scarborough with my brother, and we ordered a plate of sandwiches and a bottle of pale ale. On my word in print, I was charged for this, and I paid, seven shillings (it was put down in the bill as two luncheons at three shillings each, and the ”Bass” at its usual price). The sandwich was not near so excellent as that you get with a glass of ale for fourpence in London; and as regards the beer, had it been furnished at my club, I should have “backed my bill.” But it was served in a gaunt expensive coffee-room, with solemn stately waiters – quite another race to the quick, intelligent, pleasantly-communicative brigade of the Maison Doree, Philippe’s, or the Trois Freres: and all the heavy, lumbering, tasteless disposition of mahogany, mantlepieces, tumblers and Sheffield ware had to be paid for.


“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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Fashionably Late

Tripler Hall, 1850, which burned down in 1854 and was replaced by The New York Theatre, later renamed The Winter Garden.

Snippets 123. One of the earliest references to the concept of being “fashionably late” can be found in an 1843 edition of an Ohio newspaper, which could tend to suggest that the trend originated in America. In Jonathan and his Continent (1889), French travel writer Max O’Rell certainly seemed to be of the opinion that this was an American phenomenon.

The Americans have an unbearable trick of arriving late at the theatre. For twenty minutes after the curtain rises there is a constant bustling and rustling of new comers, which debars you from the pleasure of following the actors’ speeches. If the play begins at eight, they come at a quarter-past; if it begins at a quarter-past, they come at half-past, and so on. At the time appointed for the curtain to rise the stalls are empty. This bad habit annoys the actors and disturbs the spccteitors ; but the evil is incurable, and managers try vainly to stop it. I know one who followed the advertisements of his play by this paragraph :

“The public arc solemnly warned that, unless the whole of the first scene be witnessed, the subsequent action of the play cannot be understood,”

His efforts were crowned with failure. Not to understand the play is a pity; but not to create a sensation when one comes in, dressed in one’s most killing attire, is out of the question.

It is the same at concerts and lectures. Those who have engaged their seats in advance, come in a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes after the time fixed for commencing. When every one is placed, the concert or lecture begins. The early comers, who have to wait until the late ones have arrived, utter not a murmur. The patience of the American public is angelic.


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Tender Memories

Quick Quotes 6. The following is taken from William Howitt’s A Country Book: for the field, the forest, and the fireside (1859):

But if the days of June are now warm, and brilliant, and beautiful, ah! how soft and beautiful is a June night! Oh, what is there that can equal its pleasant obscurity, which is yet not darkness! What can equal the calm, clear, lofty beauty of the sky, where the moon beams like a celestial creature, as she is, and the evening star burns with the radiance of immortal youth? There is a balmy softness in the air. The trees stand in shadowy masses, that seem to listen to the still and musing sky above them. There is a soft gloom beneath umbrageous hedges, or as you walk through shrubberies and plantations, that is peopled with all the tender feelings of the present, and the tender memories of the past. What would we not give to go hand in hand again with those with whom we have enjoyed such hours and talked of death, and wondered who should first explore its mysteries — and they were those first? — and we walk on, through deepening shadows, and wonder what and where they now are.


“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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