Fast and loose

New History Hoydens post up about Regency scams and con artists!

“Pin-and-girdle” and “prick-the-garter” are two names for the same game, in which a belt or long piece of cloth is doubled and then folded a number of times, then held in the swindler’s hand. The flat is given a pin and bets that he can stick the pin in the belt at the place where it was doubled. Of course, the game is rigged and he can’t. This game dates back a good long way. This game has many names and variations, but one of its earliest names was “fast and loose” (attested 1578, and using “fast” in the sense of “immobile, fixed” as in “stand fast”), which is where the idea of “playing fast and loose with” something or someone comes from!

I can't avoid a lingering sense of unease, as if I'm picking history's pocket.

New History Hoydens post up about stealing real events for my fictional characters.

I had a vague recollection of this anecdote…he ran out of ale, so he opened up his expensive French brandy? I couldn’t remember where I’d seen it, but I thought I might have posted it on my blog. After backreading for half an hour, I almost gave up. I don’t need the real anecdote, I thought. It’s fiction. Maybe I can improve on it, make it even better than the real thing.

Then I found the real thing. There is no improving on this. This is perfection. Unless it’s apocryphal and someone’s already improved on it! Who knows? Either way, I covet the glory of this anecdote for myself, and I will take it.

Women's electoral rights

New History Hoydens post up about my upcoming book and women’s pre-1832 electoral rights!

When the vote was based on a property qualification, women who owned qualifying property had an interest in the resulting vote!

It’s not known (yet) if women ever voted directly, but Chalus writes: “Derek Hirst’s work on the seventeenth century has revealed instances of women who believed that they had the right to vote in parliamentary elections, of candidates who tried to poll them, and of election officials who were ready to accept their votes…”

FLESH-BAG: a shirt

New History Hoydens post up! Part 1 of 2, excerpts from James Hardy Vaux’s 1819 Dictionary of the Flash Language (i.e. criminal slang).

BEST: to get your money at the best, signifies to live by dishonest or fraudulent practices, without labour or industry, according to the general acceptation of the latter word; but, certainly, no persons have more occasion to be industrious, and in a state of perpetual action than cross-coves [criminals, as opposed to square-coves, honest men]; and experience has proved, when too late, to many of them, that honesty is the best policy; and consequently, that the above phrase is by no means à-propos.

Without the Mace, the House is totally powerless

New History Hoydens post up on some interesting UK Parliamentary traditions, including: the mace, the House of Commons snuff-box, and my personal favorite, the House of Commons opera hat! Yes, I know they don’t use the opera hat anymore, but they DID until 1998.

(Longtime readers may recognize the post as a revised and illustrated version of this one…in which case I will be extremely flattered that you remembered it!)

The actual loss to government by the sudden destruction of the Custom House cannot be calculated

History Hoydens post up on the London Customs House fire of 1814! The fire destroyed not only the Customs House and all the records of the Revenue Service (including the irreplaceable notebooks kept by revenue officers stationed all over England), but also many of the surrounding buildings—partly because a rumor started that there were barrels of gunpowder stored in the building and the firemen refused to get near it…

Come and tell me about your favorite disaster!