A volcano in the garden, 1841
Plus ça change…
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The folding doors of the drawing-room being thrown open, the inner room appeared like a blaze of light & luxury…
Another brief vignette this week while I devote myself to mince pies. This is a little slice of Christmas from 180 years ago, written by the Quaker businessman Robert Barclay Fox (1817–55) on Christmas Eve, 1841, at Falmouthin Cornwall. Merry Christmas everyone.
Christmas Eve festivities. We were amongst a select few invited by Sterling’slittle people to witness the unfolding of a mighty mystery which had occupied their small brains for the last week.
The folding doors of the drawing-room being thrown open, the inner room appeared like a blaze of light & luxury. In the centre stood a fir tree reaching nearly to the ceiling,covered in all directions with lighted tapers & various gay & glittering symbols, while pendant from the lower branches were numerous presents for children and guests.
Papa’s ingenious irony had placed a foolscap on the top, immediately overshadowing the man in the moon & the Pope of Rome; crowns and helmets, paper flags & necklaces sparkled among the foliage & we all, old children and young, gave ourselves up to the enthusiasm of the moment.
My present was a beautiful ivory pen tipped with silver & wreathed with laurel, a most elegant compliment. A.M. & C. were given some very fine engravings. The excitement having somewhat subsided, I put off a volcano in the garden. The abandon of the children to their supreme delight was beautiful.
If you should find yourself there, my friend Will runs a brilliant historical walking tour.
This refers to the Scottish author John Sterling, who was at this point living in Falmouth.
1841 was when Christmas trees were at the height of fashion in Britain, partly thanks to Queen Victoria and her new husband Prince Albert.