Funiculì, Funiculà? “One-an-threppence”

funicularSnippets 128. When the first funicular cable car on Mount Vesuvius opened in 1880, renowned Neapolitan journalist Peppino Turco came up with the idea of a commemorative song and made the suggestion to composer Luigi Denza that he could put something together. The result was “Funiculì, Funiculà”, which is a very well known song to this day. Two decades later, American travel writer Thomas Rees visited Naples (more about which will follow in later blog posts) and the song made a strong impression on him. Arriving in London, on a later part of his tour, he found the song was still in his mind, and set out to buy the score, but encountered an unexpected language barrier. The following quote is taken from Sixty Days in Europe and What We Saw There (1908):

The pronunciation of the various money terms which are used by the thoroughbred Londoners is very confusing to an American visitor. For instance, when they mean two pennies they say “tuppence,” the u in tuppence having the same sound as it has in the word cup, and the two words, two and pence, being thrown so close together that a stranger can hardly recognize the word “tuppence” as having any meaning in common with the word two pence, or two pennies.

There is a song very popular in Italy called “Funiculi Funicula.” It is also sung in America, but it was drummed into my ears so persistently when I was in Italy that I concluded to get a copy of it if I could. I was told that I could procure it in a certain store in London. This store was on Paternoster Row, which is famous for its book trade, and is located near the Cathedral of St. Paul. I found the little street by going through a narrow alley about six feet wide between two big buildings.

Entering the store, which was full of sheet music, that was being handed out by several clerks, I stepped up to one of the counters and asked the gentleman behind it if he could furnish me with the Italian song with the above title. Without making a move, he replied very promptly, ” One-an-threppence. ” I asked again if he had the song, to which he again made the same reply. I then asked him to tell me in English exactly what he meant, and he explained that he meant that he had the song, that he would get it for me immediately if I wanted it, and that the price was one shilling and three pence. This is very simple when you know it, but it is very difficult when you ask a man if he has got a thing to understand what he means when he comes back at you with the simple proposition, “one-an-threppence.”


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President vs Queen

Quick Quotes 16. The following is taken from Max O’Rell’s Jonathan and his Continent (1889):

Upon the strength of a six months’ sojourn in America, one would hardly attempt to deliver a verdict on the political system of the country.

I think, however, that it may safely be affirmed that the English are a freer people than the Americans; that the constitutional — I had almost said republican — monarchy of England is preferable to the authoritative democracy of America.

The American Constitution was copied from that of the England of 1776, and the President of the United States was invested with a power about equal to that of George III. Since that date the English have advanced, but the Americans have not. Now, in these cases, not to advance is to go back. The English of the year of grace 1888 would soon give their queen notice to quit, if she took it into her head to ask for power equal to that possessed by the President of the United States: it would take less time, perhaps, than the Americans would need to get rid of a troublesome President.


“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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Dreams of Childhood

Quick Quotes 15. The following is taken from Thomas Rees’s Sixty Days in Europe and What We Saw There (1908):

In childhood we live in the fancy of anticipation and we long for the time to come when we will go out into the world and visit the enchanted lands we have pictured as being in existence.

In old age we live in the past and the commonplace things that we knew in youth take on clothing of magnificence until it seems as we look back that we lived and grew up in a fairy land.

In middle age we are so engrossed in the struggle for wealth, for fame, or in the regulation of affairs that we forget the anticipated fancies of childhood and, not having reached the sweet old age of mellowed recollections, we are apt to think there are no fairy lands to visit, that there are no places where the sun always shines, except when the stars are coquetting with the roses. But we are mistaken in this. There are spots on this real earth where the real things are as fanciful, as romantic and as lovely as the dreams of childhood or the golden recollections of old age; where mountain peaks are lightened by the sun’s bright rays, and where crags crowd each other with majestic shapes, where vines intermingle with verdant trees and where hills and mountain sides are clothed with roses and garlanded with flowers of many hues. There are such places, and the Island of Capri in the Bay of Naples is one of them.


“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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Breaking Wind

gas maskSnippets 127.  Today’s quote is taken from Voyages to the East Indies, by Dutch explorer John Splinter Stavorinus (1798):

The king, who was addressed by the title of Touang Sultan, or My Lord the King, appeared to me to be a man of between forty-five and fifty years of age…

The king frequently broke wind upwards during his meal, and his example was assiduously followed by all the gentlemen in company, which afforded matter of no little surprise to me. But I afterwards was informed, that this custom, so contrary to European notions of decency, was an etiquette of the court of Bantam , and was affected, in order to show that one’s appetite was good, and the victuals tasteful, which was very pleasing to the king…

In the meantime, some large china bowls with boiled rice, and some dishes, of fish, which came from our table, were set before the nobles, who were at the end of the hall, and who speedily emptied them, with continual eructations, which echoed through the hall.

As this quote illustrates, passing wind has not been universally thought of in a negative manner throughout history.  Another example is Saint Augustine’s The City of God, which has the following tidbit of information:

We know, too, that some men are differently constituted from others, and have some rare and remarkable faculty of doing with their body what other men can by no effort do, and, indeed, scarcely believe when they hear of others doing… Some have such command of their bowels, that they can break wind continuously at pleasure, so as to produce the effect of singing. I myself have known a man who was accustomed to sweat whenever he wished.


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Runaway Hansom!

Quick Quotes 14. The following is taken from Thomas Rees’s Sixty Days in Europe and What We Saw There (1908).  Rees visited the Savoy Theatre to see a performance of a Gilbert and Sullivan opera, and when he left afterwards he was confronted with a strange sight:

As we came out from the performance a driver with a hansom cab came rapidly down this little street in an endeavor to secure us or somebody else for a trip. He was in such a hurry to get ahead of all rivals, as he came down the hill, that when he came to the opera house door and jerked up his horses, the momentum was so great that the horses simply sat down and the rig, horses, driver and all went as though they were on a toboggan slide all the rest of the way down the little street and nearly to the bank of the river. It is hardly necessary to say that he didn’t catch a passenger as he went by.


“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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Grey People in a Grey Land

Quick Quotes 13. The following is taken from Charles Marriott’s A Spanish Holiday (1908).  Returning home to England after a long holiday in Spain, Marriott felt strangely out of place.

The effect of being transported from Spain to England with only an interval of sea, which is no man’s country, was very strange. Both James and I are lovers of our native land, but for a few minutes as we stood in the chill rain at a street corner waiting for a tram we suffered an acute depression of spirits. There was no colour anywhere; nobody spoke or moved with any vitality. They were grey people in a grey land. We had no place here. The impression of strangeness lasted only for a few minutes, and then we took hold of reality again.


“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 Chilly Night

canada snowSnippets 126. In 1815 George Head, the assistant commissary-general of the commissariat of the 3rd division of the Spanish army, undertook a journey across North America, snappily titled Forest Scenes and Incidents in the Wilds of North America, Being a Diary of a Winter’s Route from Halifax to the Canadas. His diary was published in 1829. Finding accommodation during his journey was not a simple matter, and often involved relying on the kindness of strangers who allowed him to stay in their homes. Sometimes this involved severe hardship:

I had been indebted to Miss Turner for my supper, and she had made arrangements to prepare an apartment for me in the house, to which when I retired I found I had made an exchange very much for the worse. The house was ill-built, and my room so miserably cold, that to sleep in it seemed a forlorn undertaking. Several panes of glass were cracked, and others were entirely out of the windows, while the ceiling and walls were also out of repair. They had no bed to offer me, and a hay paillasse was the substitute. This I drew as near to the chimney as I could as soon as Miss Turner had consigned me to my meditations. Wrapping myself in my buffalo skin I attempted to go to sleep; but that was quite impossible and I never remember to have suffered so severely from the cold, while I was in the country as on that night. I had no thermometer; but the temperature, I am sure, was some degrees below zero. On getting up in the night to mend the fire with the tongs, the iron froze to my fingers, so as to feel quite sticky, — an effect of cold I have subsequently experienced on several occasions. I passed a very miserable night, sometimes walking about the room and beating my sides with my arms, and then trying in vain to sleep by the fire.

However, at other times Head received a much warmer welcome:

Although the dwelling of a Canadian peasant may not deserve much praise, too much cannot be said of his fire. An enormous log, so big as to require the strength of two or three men with levers to bring it in, is laid at the back of the hearth, and this the Canadians call the ”buche”: a large one lasts full forty-eight hours, and ours this night was a brilliant specimen. So that my lodging was at least good, and I slept soundly on the boards, wrapped up in my buffalo skin.


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