Friday, February 6, 2015

News from the Past

Yvonne Ffrench - News from the past, 1805-1887: The Autobiography of the Nineteenth Century (1934)

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It's always a fascinating experience to page through old newspapers, not last week's but from a century back.  Editor Ffrench, a mostly forgotten poet (The Amazons) and author of books on Gaskell and Ouida, was also attracted to such papers (at the time actual dusty paper and not microfiche or digital) and compiled what she considered choice selections into this book.  It's a real grab-bag containing anything from reports of Trafalgar, disastrous fires, mass murders and opera premieres to lost cats, flea circuses, help-wanted ads and rat fights.  There's a woman trying to win a bet by walking 800 miles in 800 hours, the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war, a British ban on dancing the can-can, synopsis of the autopsy of the original Siamese twins, several reports on the Tichborne claimant, Henry Irving's Hamlet performances, the appearance of the telephone, the rise of anklet jewelry due to short ball dresses, an 1883 "plot to blow up London" and so on.