A short history of the Crossword…..

  The concept of the crossword puzzle is so straightforwardly simple that it is hard to believe the puzzles were not invented until the early part of last century, and that “crossword” did not enter British dictionaries as a legitimate word until 1930. The crossword puzzle was the brainchild of …

A very short history of the magazine……

  Newspapers were developed to appeal to the general public; magazines, on the other hand, were intended from the start to deliver more narrowly focused material to special-interest groups, and they experienced a difficult birth. In England, early magazines failed so quickly and frequently that the species was continually endangered, …

1 Farm Street, London……..

  Tallulah Bankhead, the famous actress lived here in 1926 when she was twenty three. She once confessed to being “as pure as the driven slush” and when being told that Shirley Temple had been photographed through gauze, she replied “Then they ought to photograph me through linoleum”. Bankhead boasted …

I want my colonies back!…….

  As a preview to my forthcoming book on Eccentrics, let me tell you the story of the wonderfully odd William North, 11th Baron North (1836–1932) Lord North was a rather strange individual. He married in September 1876 and spent his honeymoon in the Caribbean. When he returned with his …

The school of etiquette…….

  Queens Square College a fashionable school of etiquette which was founded in London in the early 19th century, became known as the ‘the Ladies Eton’. It was run by the formidable sisters, Misses Stevenson, who were originally from Dublin and was exclusively for the daughters of the growing middle …

A very short history of shoe sizes……

  Did you know that until the first decade of the fourteenth century, people in the most civilised European societies, including royalty, could not acquire shoes in standard sizes? And even the most expensive custom-made shoes could vary in size from pair to pair, depending on the measuring and crafting …

The language of nations…….

  This is from the preface to Nathan Bailey’s Universal Etymological Dictionary of 1721: Some have remark’d that there is a constant Resemblance between the Genius of each People and the Language which they speak, and thence The French who are a People of great Vivacity have a Language that …

A very short history of trousers…….

  St. Pantaleone was a fourth-century Christian physician and martyr known as the “all-merciful.” Beheaded under orders of Roman emperor Diocletian, he became the patron saint of Venice, and a reliquary containing his blood (allegedly still liquid) is housed in the Italian town of Ravello. Pantaleone is probably the only …

Napoleon and the dog……….

  Napoleon may have marched to victory over most of Europe, but prior to Waterloo he met with his first defeat in Josephine`s bed on his wedding night. They married on the 9th of March 1796 following a small civil ceremony. Later that night as they returned to her apartment, …

The brontasaurus and Tennyson……

  I was saddened to read recently that brontosauruses never actually existed. Not only does that mean that one of the toys of my childhood was mischristened, it also means that there is no creature called a thunder lizard, and I think that’s a shame. You see, sauros was just …