1875: Passing Days

John Melhuish Strudwick - Passing Days (1875)

John Melhuish Strudwick: Passing Days (1875)

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1793: With Jocund Music Charm his Ear

The Shepherd's Dream, from 'Paradise Lost' 1793 by Henry Fuseli 1741-1825

Henry Fuseli: The Shepherd’s Dream, from “Paradise Lost” (1793)

The “shepherd’s dream” in Paradise Lost (1667) is an extended simile that Milton uses at the end of Book I after Satan and his fallen angels have lost in their first rebellion against God, been cast into the Lake of Fire, and have gathered on its shore to consider their situation. The are mighty and grotesque, still clad in their battle armor; one is “Moloch, horrid king, besmeared with blood / Of human sacrifice, and parents’ tears.”

Satan speaks, proposing they gather to consider whether they should mount another attack against God’s forces. Immediately, the demons mine into the Earth for gold and construct a great temple called Pandemonium in which the summit can take place. The demons, thenhundreds of thousands of themswarm around it like bees around a hive. As they enter Pandemonium, Milton, says, they need to magically shrink themselves so they can all fit ; those who seemed like giants now appear smaller and smaller,  like “faery elves” in a peasant’s dream. The most powerful demons stay their original size, “in their own dimensions like themselves.” There is a short silence, and the great discussion begins.

Behold a wonder! They but now who seemed
In bigness to surpass Earth’s giant sons,
Now less than smallest dwarfs, in narrow room
Throng numberlesslike that pigmean race
Beyond the Indian mount; or faery elves,
Whose midnight revels, by a forest-side
Or fountain, some belated peasant sees,
Or dreams he sees, while overhead the Moon
Sits arbitress, and nearer to the Earth
Wheels her pale course: they, on their mirth and dance
Intent, with jocund music charm his ear;
At once with joy and fear his heart rebounds.
Thus incorporeal Spirits to smallest forms
Reduced their shapes immense, and were at large,
Though without number still, amidst the hall
Of that infernal court. But far within,
And in their own dimensions like themselves,
The great Seraphic Lords and Cherubim
In close recess and secret conclave sat,
A thousand demi-gods on golden seats,
Frequent and full. After short silence then,
And summons read, the great consult began.

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1784: First Woman to Fly


On June 4, 1784, at the age of 19, a French opera singer named Élisabeth Thible became the first woman aeronaut in history by ascending in a hot air balloon in Lyon.

A painter named M. Fleuranthad had been scheduled to fly with the Comte de Laurencin, but Laurencin got cold feet after an earlier rough landingand Thible enthusiastically volunteered to take his place.

As the balloonnamed La Gustave in honor of King Gustav III of Sweden, who was present that dayrose over the buildings, the passengers began to sing arias from comic operas: Thible, dressed as Minerva, sang “I am victorious, I am Queen” from La Belle Arsene and Fleurant sang from an opera called Zémire et Azor, based on The Beauty and the Beast.

After climbing to an estimated height of 1,500 meters for a 45-minute flight, the balloon landed badly near the fort of the Duchère, about four kilometers distance. The balloon burst open at the top and the canvas covered and trapped them. Fleurant cut his way out with a knife, only to find that Thible had already freed herself with nothing worse than a sprained ankle.

Sources: French Wikipedia and Ballooning: A History, 1782-1900 by S.L. Kotar and J.E. Gessler (2010)

Image: Colored etching of a Montgolfier balloon ascending in January 1784 (source)

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1891: The Young Woman in Dress and Appearance Corresponded with the Visitor of the Dream

Queen Square, South Side, taken c 1924

When living in Glasgow we had a neighbour, the Rev. Donald McKinnon, who resided in a villa next to ours, with whom we were on very friendly terms. His wife had been dead some time, and the old gentleman kept house as best he could with servants, and pursued his usual ministerial work.

One evening, towards the end of 1891, I returned home rather later than usual. The children were in bed, and my wife and I were sitting at supper about half-past ten. During the repast my wife told me of a dream she had had that morning about the Rev. Mr M., our next-door neighbour. She dreamt that we had been sitting in that room talking, and that she heard some-one come up the graveled walk and ring the bell ; she went to the door, and there was a young woman whom she had never seen before, whom she described to me, who had come to her in great distress and asked her to come and see the minister, for he was very ill. She went with her to see him, and she described to me the room and the state that he appeared to her to be in, in her dream. While we were conjecturing whether there was anything in it, someone was heard coming up the walk, and the door-bell was rung. The servant being in bed, my wife went to the door, and there indeed was the young woman—a new servant recently engaged by the minister, whom she had never seen before—standing at the door, who implored my wife to go round and see the old gentleman, who was very ill. Mrs Coates called me, and I saw that the young woman in dress and appearance corresponded with the visitor of the dream. My wife hastened to go round, and I went and called upon a well-known physician, Dr Ebenezer Duncan—now Professor Duncan—to attend the case. As it was some little time before the physician was able to go, I went to the minister’s house, and on going upstairs to his room I saw things pretty much as my wife had described them in telling me her dream. Dr Duncan came in and advised, and my wife remained to see that his orders were carried out. The doctor had been told of the dream, and he laughed, and said that he believed such things were possible and that my wife was “a witch.” Although not exactly as a matter of evidence, but of conversation, when the minister’s son and daughter-in-law—whom I had wired for—arrived, they were told of the dream. The reverend gentleman recovered, and we had many chats about this and other matters; and while a strictly religious and orthodox man, he believed in “second-sight,” and told us of many instances which came to his knowledge.

—James Coates: Seeing the Invisible: Practical Studies in Psychometry, Thought Transference, Telepathy, and Allied Phenomena (1909)

See also: this entry.

Image: Queen Square, South Side, Strathbungo [detail] (c. 1924) (source)

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1932: from the “Penaglis M. Hadoulis”

John Everett - Seascape from the Penaglis M. Hadoulis (1931-32)

John Everett: Seascape from the “Penaglis M. Hadoulis” (1931-32)

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1990: Black Leather Jacket

Black Leather Jacket

From a museum show of leather jackets. This site dates this jacket to “ca. late 1970s–early 1980s,” but the “Punisher” pin and Cannibal Corpse patches clearly indicate a date in the 1990’s.

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1862: Till Hell Freezes Over

John Collier - The Devil Skating when Hell Freezes Over (2012)

The phrase “until Hell freezes over” seems to originate during the civil war, as the earliest examples in print date from that time. In his 1869 book, The Life and Campaigns of General U.S. Grant, from Boyhood to his Inauguration as President of the United States, Phineas Camp Headley puts the phrase in the mouth of a boastful rebel soldier during Grant’s first effort to capture the Confederate stronghold of Vicksburg, Mississippi; the dialogue takes place on December 29, 1862:

During Monday, the 29th, several brilliant charges were made on the works; but all was in vain; the [Union Army] men were outnumbered by the enemy, and could not hold the positions, even after they were taken. General Blair’s brigade, led by, himself, on foot, particularly distinguished itself, and suffered the greatest loss. As the men, swept down by the iron and leaden hail, fell back, the last of the brigade lingering behind in the storm was its commander.

After hostilities had ceased, and the slain and wounded were borne away under a flag of trace, the pickets had their talk:

“How far is it to Vicksburg?”

Rebel picket. “So far you’ll never git thar”

Federal picket. “How many men have you got?”

Rebel picket. “Enough to clean you out.”

Then another rebel, who seemed to be the stump speaker of the squad, with a flourish, added:

“Banks has been whipped out at Port Hudson, Memphis has been retaken, and you Yankees will not take Vicksburg till hell freezes over.”

And so the conversation went on during the four hours of truce. The profane assertion of the rebel was destined to be refuted in the heat of the next midsummer.

In a 1865 profile of Grant in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, the phase is attributed to Gordon Granger in a comparison of the persistence and tenacity of Union generals:

It is difficult to say which excels in these qualities. Grant’s famous dispatch from Spottsylvania, “I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer,” was written with compressed lips—the reader naturally reads it with clenched teeth—and fairly and graphically illustrates the perseverance and stubbornness of the man. It is even more forcible than the memorable dispatch of Thomas, “We will hold Chattanooga till we starve”; and in better taste than that of Granger’s, ” I am in possession of Knoxville, and shall hold it till hell freezes over.”

This would date Granger’s use of the phrase to 1863, as that’s when Knoxville fell to the Union army.

Image: John Collier: The Devil Skating when Hell Freezes Over (2012)

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