Sunday, 2 May 2010

Enquire Within - Upon Everything!

IT is still raining, but not stair-rods - a fine lace or net perhaps, trailing down in the wind which is making the trees dance.

So I am amusing myself perusing a copy of  'Inquire Within Upon Everything', which I bought in a charity shop for just £2, and consider it to be money well spent.

The cover is a faded red, rather than the pink it looks here, and it is the 100th edition, published in 1903, inscribed on the flyleaf: Arthur Whittall February 23rd 1904.

I am curious to know who he was and what happened to him.  Did he live here in Ledbury?  Did he inscribe his name in the front, or did his mother present to him when he went off to university, so he would know how to look after himself? Or was it given when he got married and set up his own home, enabling him and his wife to find the solution to every problem?

I don't suppose I will ever know, but it is obviously a well-usedcopy, which now affords me much pleasure.

I am particularly fond of the section for cleaning and laundry.
Should you wish to polish tortoiseshell, clean ostrich feathers or 'render linen incombustible' then this book is just what you need.  However, I am not at all sure that I would find this 'recipe' for washing household linen as 'invaluable' as the editor claims!  It may 'save' your linen, but certainly not your labour.

And the 'Golden Hints for Housewives and Home Comforts are a real joy. Who now would hold a warming pan or shovel full of coals over varnished furniture to take out white spots?

But there are some who might agree that 'allowing children to talk incessantly is a mistake'!

Medicinal and cosmetic advice is even more fun: raw onions rubbed on the head cure baldness (though this remedy may well drive your friends away), while bleeding is recommended for many ailments, sometimes by cupping, and in other circumstances with leeches.  There are even detailed instructions for applying and removing the creatures!

The one thing which shines out like a beacon is how much women's lives have improved over the years.  Life in 1903, particularly for household servants, must have been very hard indeed with all that washing, ironing, dusting and polishing, fires to be cleaned and lit, and so on.

All these without vacuum cleaners, washing machines, tumble dryers, electronic irons, modern cookers, spray furniture polish, packets of washing powder...

Nostalgia is all very well, but there is a lot to be said for progress when it comes to housework!

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