Answer: Yes, about some things at least. and can get away with it.
So the time of Beau Brummell has just past but his influence lingers – especially his encouragement to bathe every day. Not everyone agrees, but enough do, to make soap for those bathing a profitable concern. If you can manufacture in sufficient quantity and quality as well as economically enough to make a profit. During the 19th century soap manufacture was a very fragmented activity. Many old plans of towns all over the country provide evidence of small local soap works, and some housewives in rural areas would still make their own soap in the home.
Interesting that the author has ‘thrown in’ people of colour owning businesses and being entrepreneurs not just servants. And women knowing enough to run businesses and invest sensibly too. I’m sure there were more them there is commonly acknowledged too.
I liked the story line and writing style, even though I thought there could have been social and political background to round out the commercial discussions.
English Heritage tells us about black workers in the 18th century the following:
“Waged and enslaved servants formed the largest group of black workers. A black servant, often a young page or handmaid, was a status symbol, adorning the houses of the well-to-do. Their experiences and legal statuses varied enormously. Some, like John Rippon, lived comfortably. Others were displayed as walking, talking objets d’art, wearing silver and brass collars on which was engraved the name and address of whoever had bought their lives.
A small number rose from servitude (often with the help of their former masters) to enjoy independent lives. Prominent among this class were the Westminster shopkeeper, lettrist and composer Ignatius Sancho, the coal merchant and property owner Cesar Picton in Kingston-upon-Thames and the Nottingham-based George Africanus, who ran a servants’ register in the city.
Estimates are that in the late 18th century at least 10,000 black workers or servants lived in London, with a further 5,000 + throughout the country. In terms of the most common businesses owned were Public houses owned by black men which could be found across the country, and here is Pablo Fanque, who was born as William Darby in Norwich, and who rose to become the proprietor of one of Britain’s most successful Victorian circuses. There were also several well known musicians and many served in the army and navy – not always voluntarily.
The main difficulty being that black people were frequently not identified as such in the registers and documented history of the time, race and colour was not considered important to record except when the person was special in some way
I liked the story about Egypt, antiquities and fakes! I wonder how many items in people’s special collection are good fakes? More than they care to admit I’m sure. This was the time when the rich made collections of the strange and wonderful from plants to china to mummies to… and is the reason we find Roman leaded sarcophagi being used as plant troughs in many Ducal gardens now. And Italianate looking buildings and ‘ruins’ dotting their gardens – and a systematic looting of ancient monuments was undertaken by the young men undertaking their Grand Tours post the Wars.
Wikipedia says “Egyptomania was the renewed interest of Europeans in ancient Egypt during the nineteenth century as a result of Napoleon‘s Egyptian Campaign (1798–1801) and, in particular, as a result of the extensive scientific study of ancient Egyptian remains and culture inspired by this campaign. In addition to its aesthetic impact on literature, art, and architecture,”
Now as for John Soan’s house – it is real – a Museum now and I have visited. Really a strange place with collections of all sorts. Interesting but not so easy to visit (when I went) as a disabled person – too many stairs…Egypt was all the rage after the Napoleanic Wars and the great victories of Nelson at the Battle of the Nile, and Abercromby at the Battle of Alexandria. And as for Cleopatra’s Needle this was donated to London in 1819 (slightly out of timeline for this book) in commemoration of the battles. I liked the writing style and the use of the ‘real’ English language without being too prissy as so many novels about this era are. They are inclined to pretend that everyone spoke in such proper style without using any cuss words. Which we all know would not have been the real case… .