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Miscellany

Miscellany Family

Although the Oxford English Dictionary lists the etymology of “hooligan” as unascertained, one of the three speculations is that it derives from a popular music-hall song of the 1890s about a rowdy Irish family that went by that last name.

Miscellany Food

To celebrate King Henri III of France’s visit to Venice in 1574, a banquet table was prepared with some 1,286 items—from napkins and cutlery to figures of popes—all made from spun sugar.

Miscellany Home

“It requires great exertion,” wrote Lady Irwin in 1771 about the dangers of life in a grand country house, “to use exercise and stir about when the will is not so inclined and the sofas appear in every corner of the room.” 

Miscellany Politics

In The Third Man, Orson Welles’ character Harry Lime says, “In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.” Graham Greene, who co-wrote the script with director Carol Reed, said that it was “the best line of the film”—and that Welles wrote it. Welles recalled, “When the picture came out, the Swiss very nicely pointed out to me that they’ve never made any cuckoo clocks—they all come from the Schwarzwald in Bavaria!”

Miscellany Food

In the 1790s in the United States, the average American over the age of fifteen consumed almost six gallons of pure alcohol per annum. The modern figure is 2.8.

Miscellany Death

Slaves in ancient China during the Zhou dynasty were sometimes buried alive with their recently departed masters in order that they might continue to serve them in the afterlife.

Miscellany Fashion

Southern women during the Civil War chewed on newspapers, believing an ingredient in the ink whitened their faces.

Miscellany Family

Philocles, the nephew of Aeschylus, received the prize for tragedy at the dramatic festival the year that Sophocles presented Oedipus Rex. None of his one hundred or so plays is extant.

Miscellany Fashion

A Spanish gallant in the sixteenth century who followed the contemporary fashion of padding his trunk-hose with quantities of bran was surprised to learn while entertaining ladies that a nail on his chair had opened a hole in his hose, and bran had started trickling out. The ladies laughed. He continued, encouraged, but bran soon was pouring forth. The ladies’ laughter increased. Finally, the gallant noticed the bran, bowed, and left in shame.

Miscellany Home

Derived from the French bouder (to pout or sulk), the word boudoir once meant “a place to pout in.” “I have a boudoir, but it has one fault,” the Earl of Chesterfield wrote to a female companion in 1748. “It is so cheerful and so pleasant that there will be no such thing as pouting in it when I am alone.” Its “fault,” he added, could be remedied “by introducing those clumsy, tiresome, and disagreeable people whom I am obliged to admit now and then.” 

Miscellany Foreigners

To avoid the wrath of his lover’s father in Poland, Tadeusz Kościuszko went to America via France in 1776, later helping the colonists win the Battle of Saratoga and construct fortifications at West Point. At the end of the war, he was given U.S. citizenship and the army title of brigadier general. 

Miscellany Fashion

As a member of a Cherokee delegation to Washington, DC, Sam Houston wore traditional loincloth and blanket to an 1818 meeting with Secretary of War John C. Calhoun, who was offended and chastised Houston for his dress. Twenty-two years later, between terms as president of the Republic of Texas, Houston wore such a blanket to meet Jean Pierre Isidore Alphonse Dubois, comte de Saligny, in Austin.

Miscellany Family

“Have you been eating candy?” President John F. Kennedy asked his daughter Caroline before a dinner during the Cuban Missile Crisis. She did not reply. He inquired again and was ignored. “Caroline,” the commander in chief said, “answer me. Have you been eating candy—yes, no, or maybe?”

Miscellany Philanthropy

William Gladstone, prime minister of England four times between 1868 and 1894, walked the streets of London at night hoping to rescue prostitutes from their lives of vice. In 1848 he cofounded the Church Penitentiary Society Association for the Reclamation of Fallen Women; he would, it is said, offer streetwalkers a place to sleep, protection from their procurers, and a chance to give up their way of life.

Miscellany Communication

The so-called Wicked Bible, published in 1631, accidentally printed the Seventh Commandment as “Thou shalt commit adultery.” The printer, Robert Barker, was fined three hundred pounds.