Monday, March 14, 2011

How far the Candle

Sargent-carnationlily 1885lilyI'm over at Word Wenches today, talking about light, and how folks avoided being the thing that went bump in the night and banged its shins in 1800 or so.

"How far that little candle throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world."  William Shakespeare
The Lacemaker-s
For the most part, people took the low tech approach.  Daily life followed the sun.  Country folk got up with the chickens, not just because the chickens were making an almighty determined racket, but because there was a day of work to get to.  Every hour the family stayed awake past sunset cost money.

They made good use of the daylight while they had it.  The well-to-do had tall  windows in their houses, the better to invite the sunlight inside.  Even the stables had windows. If you want to shell peas or sew some fine embroidery, you took it to the wiEdmund_Blair_Leighton_-_On_the_Thresholdndow seat or went out to sit on the doorstep of the cottage.  The hero is apt to find the heroine reading a letter on the garden bench because that's where there light was good.

"When Thomas Edison worked late into the night on the electric light, he had to do it by gas lamp or candle. I'm sure it made the work seem that much more urgent. "
George Carlin

 The rest at WordWenches here.


  1. I love the history lesson of the day.

  2. I find all this history stuff just fascinating. Not so much 'Who was Prime Minister?'
    The everyday stuff.

  3. I just read the article in its entirety at Word Wenches--it was so interesting, thank you. God bless that Thomas Edison!

    And the Chinese proverb is hilarious.

  4. I enjoy the everyday life stuff... comparing how we live to how they had to live, depending on situation & place.

    We really need to count our blessings.... it may have been 'simpler' then, but no plumbing & no electricity!! and what if the cow or horse dies? no milk! and you are walking everywhere!!

  5. I am an unmitigated fan of modern technology, even if I think we use it stupidly. And I agree with Skittles on counting our blessings.

    I was eating raspberries yesterday. In March. Taking it for granted.

    People still living remember when fresh strawberries or raspberries, oranges or cherries, were seasonal. They were long anticipated, gorged on for a week or two, then gone till next year.

    Are we better off getting the kinda-second-rate fruit all year . . . and missing the vine-ripened real stuff? Taking it for ho-hum granted?
    Is there greater pleasure in appreciating the special and transient?

    I love this cogitating on how folks lived in the past. The nitty gritty of it. The 'anthropology of 1800', as it were.

    I do like writing historical.

  6. Love when you do these posts Jo - the everyday stuff is just the sort of information I wonder about. It's especially exciting when it's something I can replicate in my own life, just to see what it's like; DH and I have read by candlelight before [g]

  7. Now you've got me curious.

    We have paintings of folks reading, writing and studying by candlelight, but I've never tried it myself. Mostly because I've never written a scene where anybody did . . .

    I will have to try this.

  8. Of course, when I'm being pedantic (is that the word?) I'd like to try it with a non-petroleum-based candle and a very very old book. The oldest I've got is late 19th century - I'd love to be like that New England couple that found a 15th century book in their attic!

  9. Hi Deniz --

    I think it'd be ok to use beeswax. If you were reading in 1800, the chances are you'd be doing it by good candles. *g*

    Nobody says anything good about tallow candles.

    I am not sure I'd like to find a 15th century book in the attic, since the house is not quite that old and it would turn out to be WWII spoil and get me in hot water.