January 2017

About a Famous Pie


Taken from ‘Little Folks a Magazine for the Young’ of 1890.

“Sing a Song of Sixpence” is a favourite nursery rhyme; but every child who knows it probably thinks it is a rhyme and nothing more. It has a meaning, however, of a very beautiful kind. and I am sure you will be delighted with it.The twenty-four blackbirds are said to represent the twenty-four hours of the day.The bottom of the pie is supposed to be the world, and the top crust the sky. When the pie is opened day breaks, and the birds begin to sing; and then such a sight becomes a “dainty dish to set before the king.” The King counting money in his chamber is the sun, and the golden coins he so lovingly handles are golden sunbeams. The Queen in her parlour is the moon; and, of course, the honey represents moonlight. The busy maid in the garden is the peep of the day, the clothes which she hangs out are clouds, and the blackbirds that takes such a liberty with her nose is the sunset. And thus in the homily and prosaic figure of a pie we have a representation of a whole day.’

A Curious Race

Taken from ‘Little Folks; a magazine for the Young.’ 1890.



‘In the north island of Japan and in some parts of the extreme north-east of Asia there lives an interesting race of people called Ainos. Where they came from nobody seems to know, for in many respects they are not at all like the Japanese and Chinese. The men are well built but rather under-sized, and their bodies are covered more or less thickly with hair. As the portrait in the New Heading shows, they wear long beards, and the hair of their head is also long and bushy. The women are not so well looking, as they have to do all the hard work of the tribe. The folk are not gifted with much intelligence, and they worship natural objects and animals, the bear being specially selected for this purpose. They spend their time in fishing and hunting. It is hard to tell what is the number of the Ainos. But they are not supposed to number more than 50,000 at the most, it is likely that they will sooner or later become extinct.’


The Eyes of the Junk

.Taken from ‘Little Folks; the Magazine for the Young’ of 1890


‘Why a boat should have eyes is probably not quite clear to you, but the Chinese sailor thinks them absolutely necessary. So the junks of the Flowery Land all have pairs of eyes painted on the side of their bows, and the native sailor will not sail in a vessel that has not got them. “For,” quoth he, “no have yes, no can see; no can see, no can go.” While sailing up the river Pei-ho to Pekin, Bishop fowler happened to sit in a free and easy way with his legs hanging over the side of the boat so that they covered one eye. He observed that the crew grew very uneasy, but could not make out the cause of their anxiety till at last they came to him and asked him to move his legs away, as the ship could not see to go!’


Taken from ‘Little folks; A Magazine for the Young” 1890.

‘This is a nice name for an evening bell, is it not?


 It sounds a great deal pleasanter than the “cover fire,” or curfew, of the Normans.

   Many years ago it was the custom in Edinburgh to have a bell rung at eight o’clock at night, as a sign that it was time to shut up the shops. Such a bell struck sweetly on the ears of the tired shopmen, and so they gave it its pretty name. But more prosy folk called it the “aucht (eight) hours’ bell.”


Only a Cabin Boy.

Taken from ‘Little Folk; A Magazine for the Young.’ 1890. relating a 17th c tale. 

‘A big battle was being fought between the English and Dutch Navy. Sir John Narborough was the English Admiral, and the masts of his ship had been shot away almost directly the fighting began.


 In spite of the greatest care and the and the most splendid bravery, Sir John saw that the English sailors must be beaten unless he could get help.

   There were a few ships some distance off to the right, but they were to act as reserve, and would not enter into the battle without a message from him. Sir John stood a moment, and wondered how that message could be sent. It was not possible to signal; there was only one way-the message must be carried.

   Sir John wrote his order, telling the captain of the reserve to come and help him at once; then he called aloud for anyone willing to be be messenger.

   Think of the scene a moment, and then will will understand a little what a brave heart was needed to carry that note.

   Below was the sea;above,around,in it there rained a heavy shower of bullets. The long swim would be trying enough, but to swim with the chance of being shot every second was terrible. Yet many sailors came forward at their admiral’s call, ready to risk their lives for their country’s good.

 They were all grown-up men, and they must have stared in wonder as one of teh cabin boys, Cloudesley-Shovel by name, stood up among them.

   “Why, what can you do , my fearless lad?” said the admiral kindly.

   “I cam swim sir; and if I am shot I shall be missed less than anyone else.”

   After a moment’s hesitation the paper was handed to the boy, who put it between his teeth and sprang overboard. How the men cheered him and watched him as long as he could be seen! He reached the reserve ships in safety, and as they went into action at once, a victory was gained by the English.

   When the sun was setting, Cloudesley-Shovel stood once more on the deck of the admiral’s ship, and received his heartiest thanks.

   “I shall live to see you have a flag ship of your own,” he said. And the words came true, for the brave cabin boy became Sir Cloudesley-Shovel, one of the greatest British admirals.’

Who Invented Umbrellas?

Penned in the 1881 ‘Sunday Reading for Young and Old.’

‘Who Invented Umbrellas?


Nearly a hundred years have gone by since Jonas Hanway, the first man who is said to have dared to carry an umbrella, died, about the year 1780.

   He was a remarkable traveller, and, like every one who has the courage to introduce novelty or improvement, was exposed to the insults of the ignorant. After sheltering himself under his invention for nearly thirty years, he had the satisfaction before his death of seeing the much abused umbrellas come into general use.’

The First Tea in Scotland.

This little snippet is from ‘Sunday Reading for Young and Old’ 1881.

‘The First Tea in Scotland.


It is said that tea drinking became general in England much earlier than in Scotland; and the reason given is as follows-

   The widow of the Duke of Monmouth, in the year 1685, sent a pound of tea to one of her relations living in the north country. This Chinese product was hitherto unknown there. It was carefully examined, and a cook was summonsed, who, after lengthy examination, gave it as his opinion that it was a dried herb.

   The costly plant was entrusted to him to do as he pleased with it, and he set to work at once, boiled the leaves, threw away the water, and dished them up like spinach.

   The guests found the vegetable but little to their taste, and the credit of tea suffered for a long time afterwards in consequence.’



Hugo Grotius, The Learned Dutchman

My fist post on this site comes from ‘Sunday Reading for Young and Old‘ dated 1881.

‘Truth is stranger than fiction. The wonderful escapes of some of the slaves from their hard and cruel masters in America a century ago may well induce us to think so.

    One poor fellow got away by being packed in a box, and sent hundreds of miles by the common carrier.

   But Hugo Grotius long before had escaped from prison in quite a wonderful manner.

  Hugo was born at Delft on the 10th April, 1583. His father was anxious that his son should obtain a good education, and employed the best masters to instruct him. Hugo was not unmindful of the care bestowed upon him. So industrious was he that, when only eight years old, he was able to compose poetry in the Latin language; and when fourteen he was able to deliver public lectures on mathematics, law and philosophy.

   At this early age, as a reward for his great industry, he obtained the applause of the most eminent men of the time, and was deemed a prodigy of learning.

In 1598, when only fifteen years of age, he was taken by the Dutch Ambassador to France, where he was introduced to the King, Henry IV., who was so pleased with Hugo that he presented him with his own portrait and a gold chain. While in France he had conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Laws; and on returning to his native place, although then only seventeen, he commenced to practice as an advocate in the law courts. He was in the same year appointed to an important office, in preference to several learned men who had applied for the post. then he became Advocate General of the Treasury for Holland and Zealand; and then in 1613, he obtained a seat in the Parliament of Holland.

   A fishing dispute having occurred between the Dutch and the English, the latter claiming an exclusive right of fishing in the Greenland seas, Grotius was sent to England to endeavour to adjust the dispute. He was received with honour and kindness by King James, before whom he fearlessly and faithfully pleaded his country’s rights.

   But Grotius was not a time-server. He would and did oppose his own government when in the wrong. He was an honest man first, and then a statesman. His honesty caused him to be thrown into prison. He would not consent to sacrifice his religious principles at the bidding of the Government, who sentenced him to perpetual imprisonment.

   after remaining in prison a year and a half his wife contrived an ingenious way to obtain his escape. She persuaded him to get into a large chest, which she sent out of prison under the pretence of sending off loads of books, to prevent her husband killing himself with hard study. A servant who was entrusted with the secret accompanied the box to a friend’s house.

On the box being opened Grotius was found quite uninjured.He then dressed himself like a mason, and carrying in his hands a rule, trowel, and other tools, he walked through the Market-place, and stepping into a boat was taken to Antwerp, where he arrived on the 22nd of March, 1621.

   When the escape of Grotius was discovered his wife avowed that she had assisted him, which confession caused her to be imprisoned, but she was afterwards released.

   Grotius, who escaped to France, we may well believe, was overjoyed to see his wife again.

   Louis XIII., the French monarch, received him most kindly, and permitted him to remain in his country as long as he desired. Christina, Queen of Sweden, however, knowing the talents and honesty of Grotius, invited him in 1684 to her court, and made him her counsellor, and afterwards sent him as her Ambassador to France.

   While Grotius was thus busy in public affairs he employed his spare hours in the composition of books, some of which are much read and valued by the learned men of our day. Being a sincere Christian, he wrote several religious works, which have been translated into other languages, and will be read as long as true Christian learning is valued.

   He finished his work in 1645,after a life of earnest effort to make the world  better than he found it.   His remains were carried to Delft and placed in the tomb of his parents, over which a truthful description might have been placed. “Here lies the remains of a truthful son and a good man.”

(The article was penned by J.J. No clue as to his identity.)


Welcome to my Victorian world

Have you ever delved into those musty old tomes that can be found tucked away at the back of Great Grandma’s cupboard?

They’re well worth a quick glance if nothing else.


The old illustrations are incredible pieces of work, albeit etchings, woodcuts…many are made by top artists of the day and created by the engravers who transform them into book illustrations.

Then there are the articles…full of Victorian snippets.

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