Good morning! It’s the middle of the week, I’m on deadline and I’m trying not to panic. I want this book finished, yesterday. Too bad for me that I’m more tortoise than hare. If I can think of one word that defines our current culture, it’s impatience. Most of us want everything now, immediately. We hate waiting in lines, waiting for our computers to boot-up, waiting for the commercial to end so we can get back to our regularly scheduled program.
I miss simpler times, when there were only four television channels, radios were large, and we kids were banished from the house with the order to play outdoors “until the streetlights come on,” or as my mama called it: Dark Thirty. That’s not to mean I don’t love modernity. I adore being able to click a key on my computer and find a Google map that will allow me to walk the streets of Paris without ever leaving my office. I love electricity, hot showers and ice-cold diet coke. I also enjoy fixing my hair and applying makeup. I’m a girly-girl and proud of it. I consider makeup application an art.
Is it any wonder I recently purchased several reference books that shared beauty tips from the Victorian era? This is the same era I set my westerns, by the way. As you can imagine, this book is gold. Pure gold.
So, what beauty tricks did women have at their disposal during the 1880s? Well, here are a few that stuck out to me (from Victorian Household Hints by Elizabeth Drury, 1981).
• To blacken eyelashes and eyebrows rub the areas often with elderberries. You may also use a burnt cork, or clove burnt at a candle.
• To make the most of your complexion and impart a brilliancy of the eyes apply fine carmine that has been properly pulverized.
• To make lip-honey: Take two ounces of fine honey, one ounce of purified wax, half an ounce of silver litharge, and half an ounce of myrrh. Mix ingredients over a slow fire, and add milk of roses, Eau de Cologne, or any other perfume you prefer.
• To make cold cream: Melt together 1 dram of white wax, 1 dram of spermaceti with 2 ounces of olive oil. Add 2 ounces of rose water and a half ounce of orange-flower-water. Rub together till they are thoroughly incorporated and the mixture is the consistence of cream.
• A make a wash for the teeth and gums: Take the juice of half a lemon, a spoonful of very rough claret or port wine, ten grains of sulphate of quinine, a few drops of Eau de Cologne, or oil of bergamot. Mix, and keep in a well-stopped phial.
• To make a draught for bad breath: Take one dram of sulphate of magnesia, two drams of tincture of calumba, an ounce and a half of infusion of roses. Combine these ingredients into a draught, to be taken every morning or every other morning, an hour before breakfast, for at least a month.
There are a lot more tips, but I find I now have to stop and go look up most of these ingredients.
Okay, so here are the definitions I had to look up at Dictionary.com
Carmine: A crimson pigment obtained from cochineal, which is a red dye prepared from the dried the bodies of the females of the cochineal insect.
Litharge: A yellowish or reddish, odorless, heavy, earthy, water-insoluble, poisonous solid, PbO, used chiefly in the manufacture of storage batteries, pottery, lead glass, paints, enamels, and inks.
Myrrh: An aromatic resinous exudation from certain plants of the genus Myrrhis.
Dram: An eighth of an ounce.
Spermaceti: A pearly white, waxy, translucent solid, obtained from the oil in the head of the sperm whale: used chiefly in cosmetics and candles, and as an emollient.
Quinine: A white, bitter, slightly water-soluble alkaloid, C 2 0 H 2 4 N 2 O 2 , having needlelike crystals, obtained from cinchona bark: used in medicine chiefly in the treatment of resistant forms of malaria.
Bergamot: A small citrus tree, Citrus aurantium bergamia, having fruit with a rind that yields a fragrant essential oil.
Calumba: The root of a plant indigenous in Mozambique. It has an unpleasantly bitter taste, and is used as a tonic and
So, um, who’s happy for modern conveniences now? I’m raising my hand!