Glossary - Bevan letters

A light, four-wheeled open carriage, usually drawn by a pair of horses.
Fosbury is near Hungerford, and was the home of Silvanus and Louisa Bevan. The letters show that Louisa was less attached to the house than Silvanus. See also
The use of bark for the treatment of 'nerves' and pain is widespread throughout the letters. It is likely that the bark in question is that of the willow tree. Willow bark contains salicylic acid. A synthetic derivative of this product is the active ingredient in modern aspirin.
A financial agreement between the two spouses or by the wife's family and that of her husband.
Syrup of poppies
Poppies have been used as drugs for many years, and provide the raw material for opiates, including heroin and morphine. Syrup produced from the seed head was used as pain relief and as a sedative. Charlotte talks about giving her children syrup of poppies as medication for various ailments.
Outside blinds and shutters
The shutters on the outside of a Georgian house were normally closed down during bad weather to protect the windows which were glazed with crown glass. This glass was very fragile. We read in one of Charlotte’s letters that 66 panes of glass were broken in the house during a freak storm when the shutters were not employed. Other houses in the area lost even more glass.
A fly was a horse-drawn public coach or delivery wagon, especially one let out for hire. In Britain, the term also referred to a light covered vehicle, such as a single-horse pleasure carriage or a hansom cab. From
A plant, commonly known as Marsh Woundwort (Stachys palustris) used variously as a poultice or for injuries.
An operation performed to aid breathing, which involved making an incision into the trachea or windpipe. This operation was carried out on Robert Malcolm Dewar, while he was at sea, but it is not said why, except to prevent him suffocating.
Tallow candles
Tallow is made from the fat of sheep and cattle. It was melted and wicks dipped into it, each time building up another layer until the required thickness was reached. Pure tallow would have burned more cleanly than if it was adulterated. Charlotte may have been jesting when she says that Richard likes real tallow candles, as the family could have afforded bees wax candles. It is also possible that Richard preferred tallow candles to oil lamps.
Scarlet fever
Scarlet Fever is an infectious disease, which is today generally treated with antibiotics including penicillin. In the 19th century, prior to antibiotics, illnesses took a higher toll. Though complications may still occur today, other medication, such as paracetamol can help relieve the symptoms and aid recovery.
Asses milk
Asses' milk is characterized by a decidedly sweet taste, and also by the fact that it is more easily digested than any other kind of milk. Its use is therefore indicated in the case of very weak persons, and feeble children can be best brought up with it when the maternal milk fails. The fact that it so closely resembles mother's milk makes it very useful for suckling children. It is quite a remarkable fact that among all animals the ass is the one whose milk most closely resembles human milk. Already in ancient times quite a number of healing properties were ascribed to asses' milk, and Nero's consort, Popp e, when on a journey, always took along 500 asses, in order to be able to bathe in their milk. Asses milk is, in fact, worthy of much greater attention than it receives, and should be more frequently employed. Its rather sweet taste is not agreeable to every one. From
By the Regency period, pistols were more frequently used in duels than swords. Duels were meant to settle disputes of “honor” in the Norman tradition of “trial by combat” (a la Lancelot fighting other knights to clear Guinevere’s name). After a challenge had been issued, the offending party could apologize, but if he opted not to, then he and his opponent would have to meet on the “field of honor.” Technically, duelling was illegal, but it was rarely prosecuted, probably because it was the rich and privileged who were the main participants. The where and when of a duel was worked out by the “seconds,” and friend and representative of the participant who would have to fight in his place if the guy chickened out and didn’t show up. A duel required the presence of at least one surgeon to give immediate medical care to the wounded. After the Regency, the authorities began prosecuting duels more seriously, until they eventually died out. Famous Regency figures who participated in duels include Byron, Fox, Pitt, Canning, and Wellington.
Arrowroot was widely used as a food for invalids who could not consume much, but it is actually a low calorie food, and much of the nutrition would have come from the milk it was mixed with. It was also used as a baby food, and as a setting agent.
Measles is a highly contagious illness. In an era before modern medicine it was hard to deal with fevers and high temperatures. Patients were isolated and sometimes siblings sent elsewhere. There is still no cure for measles, but as more of the population is immunized, cases should become increasingly scarce. Measles is a significant infectious disease because, while the rate of complications is not high, the disease itself is so infectious that the sheer number of people who would suffer complications in an outbreak amongst non-immune people would quickly overwhelm available hospital resources.
Bitters were widely used in the 19th century as a form of medicine, in the way we take a tonic nowadays if we are feeling off colour. They are recommended in letters to Richard and Charlotte by Louisa and Silvanus, much as we might recommend someone should take a multi-vitamin tonic today. Bitters were originally medicines. If you tell a bartender you have an upset stomach, he’ll probably give you a glass of soda and bitters – and it will probably work. (
Bitters have been shown to stimulate and heighten nervous system function, as well as the immune system, helping people recover more quickly from various chronic illnesses. Bitters are often prescribed by physicians and natural health practitioners alike in many parts of Europe for mild to moderate digestive problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome, colic, gas, and constipation.
Turkey for Christmas Dinner was not traditional in the 19th century. Many people ate goose (A Christmas Carol) or other meats, depending on the part of the country you lived in and how much money you had. Turkey was expensive, which could explain why Sibella hopes Sarah will accept the turkey she has ordered for her.
Book of memories
A book compiled of memories of someone. In an era before mass photography and modern communication, the Dewar family planned to pull all the correspondence about the illness and death of Robert Malcolm together into one volume.
The former name for Istanbul, in Turkey.
Addiscombe Military Seminary, where Raymond Dewar was a student and sat the entry exams for officer, 'was established in 1809 and continued until 1861 when was superseded by the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich following the amalgamation of the Company's forces with the British Army'. See 'In 1809 Emelius Ratcliffe sold Addiscombe Place to the British East India Company, whereupon it became a Military Seminary - the Addiscombe Military Academy. The company dealt in the importation of tea, coffee, silk, cotton and spices, and maintained its own private army. The officers of this army were trained at Addiscombe before setting off for India.' See
Registered post
A system whereby the post has to be signed for on arrival, nowadays recorded or special delivery. The Dewars used it as a means to circulate letters related to the death of Robert Malcolm Dewar.
Balaklava became famous during the Crimean War (March 1854 - February 1856) because of the Charge of the Light Brigade in 1854. This engagement led to the death of over 200 English cavalry, along with 400 horses. One letter states that Robert Malcolm Dewar had been at sea for five months, indicating he joined up after the war ended.
According to the Dewar family letters, this is the burial place of Robert Malcolm Dewar, aged 13. It is about 7 miles from Constantinople, modern Istanbul.
Shorthand forms of writing have been around since antiquity, with one form, created by the secretary of Cicero, being used into the Middle Ages. There are various modern forms, including Gregg and Pitman. Shorthand is often associated with secretarial skills.
Typhoid fever
In an era before antibiotics, illnesses which today are treatable could kill. Typhoid is spread by poor hygiene, and is treated today with antibiotics and rehydration.
The telegraph was the internet of the 19th century, allowing information to be passed across land and sea quickly and easily. In an era of slower transport (no cars or planes) it was how news was passed around the world, and how families received information quickly. A letter from the Crimea could take up to three weeks to reach Britain in 1856, whereas a telegram could carry the same news in hours. (
Legacy duty
This seems to be the equivalent of Death Duty, as Richard Bevan advises his wife to distribute extra funds to his children while she is still alive, and not to accumulate wealth.
A trustee is a person who holds your property on behalf of others while your estate is being administered. Frequently, Trustees are appointed to hold your estate for the benefit of infants until they reach the age of eighteen. In 1849 Richard Bevan had three daughters and one son, the eldest of whom was only 21. His daughters would have had no access to funds before the age of 21 at the earliest and as unmarried women, would have remained in the family home. The Mrs Bevan of his 'Will' was their step-mother, hence the comments about how she has looked after them, and his desires for them all to continue living together until his daughters marry. 
Church of England
Charlotte refers to the Church in some of the letters. She is probably referring to the Church of England. Richard Bevan states in one piece of correspondence that he is a dissenter from the Church of England.
India rubber
India rubber had been known about and used for some time before Charles Macintosh developed a method of waterproofing fabric in 1823, the same year that the first rubber factory in England was established. It was not until 1839 that Charles Goodyear discovered how to vulcanise rubber. This process made it a more stable product and one which did not break down so easily under normal circumstances. It appears that it was still a novelty when Richard gave Charlotte an india rubber pen in 1834.
Zoological gardens
It is not stated which Zoological Gardens Charlotte is referring to in her letter, but the London Zoological Gardens were opened first in 1828.
Those people who dissented from the established Church of England. They were permitted to hold services only after the Act of Toleration was passed in 1689. See also
Brighton pier
When the letters of the 1820s and 1830s talk about the Pier in Brighton, they are referring to the very first pier - the Chain Pier, opened in 1823 at a cost of 30,000 pounds. The West Pier was opened in 1866, and the Palace Pier (the one fully remaining pier) in 1899. For further information about the piers in Brighton see
Public libraries as we know them today did not exist in the early 19th century. There were subscription libraries, where one paid to borrow, and circulating libraries which worked on the same principle. The difference seems to have been whether those subscribing had a say in what was bought as stock. It would have been very important that Silvanus ensured that items borrowed from the library were returned, as books were still relatively expensive.
"Gig" is a contraction of "whirligig" a derisive term for any cheap owner-driven two-wheeled vehicle. Such a vehicle would normally be used in country districts. From A whirligig was also a childs toy, like a spinning top.
Quarter day
The four quarter days during the year were traditionally a time when rent and other debts were paid. For England, Wales and Ireland the days were: 25 March (Lady Day), 24 June (Midsummer Day), 29 September (Michaelmas), 25 December (Christmas Day).
Dung straw
Straw, mixed with dung used to deaden the sound close to sleeping accommodation. Straw was also used to reduce the noise around a house at any time when the noise of a carriage would be disturbing, such as during pregnancy, illness or bereavement.
A small bunch of flowers, typically given as a gift.