Archive for January, 2011

Resource: “To Horatio, from Emma, with Love”

You know what it’s like: you visit an antiques fair, see a piece of silver and say to your husband: “How pretty! And it’s only 15’000 quid! Let’s buy it, Reginald!” Happens every day. Or on the Antiques Roadshow.

Well, looking at the piece of silver in question, I can understand the buyers, because it’s truly lovely and should make the heart of every person interested in naval art and history beat faster.

There are two globes (the celestial one is the inkwell, the terrestrial one the sander), the taper stick is an anchor, and just look at the fantastic “dolphins” (fishes) which make the feet!

But while this is all very beautiful and impressive, it’s the inscription the inkstand carries which convinced the buyers to spend £ 15’000:

“Horatio from Emma” – is it possible that the lucky couple have found a so-far unknown token of love from Emma, Lady Hamilton to Horatio Nelson? That’s a tricky question. The inkstand is dated “1805”, and carries the maker’s mark of John Eames. But while the period is right and John Eames did make silver for Nelson, there’s no way to prove that the inscription is genuine. Without proof of some kind, the value of the inkstand would be about £ 6000. But if it can be proven that the inscription is genuine and Emma really gave this inkstand as a gift to her lover, then we’re talking about an estimated value of £ 40’000 here! (I’ll give you a moment to pick your jaws up from the floor).

Personally, I think that it is genuine, and I also feel that it’s the kind of gift Emma would have chosen for Nelson. Very lovely, and the thought that she must have given it to him in the year of his death is touching. Who knows, maybe it was even used on the Victory? I hope that the owners will find a way to prove that it’s a genuine item.

To be honest, I would die to have an inkstand like that. It’s a gorgeous piece of naval art, no matter if maker and previous owner were famous or not. If I could park my quills there, I’d probably even manage to write readable poetry!

14 January, 2011 at 12:57 am 9 comments

Resource: Bebreeched Regency Bare Fist Fighters!

While boxing is not really my cuppa (means: I like it even less than Formula 1, cricket, tennis and golf), I still found the following pottery plaque (and the story behind it) very fascinating. It must be the breeches!

In January 1824, Thomas Spring (English heavy-weight champion) and Jack Langan  (Irish heavy-weight champion)  fought in Worcester. 50’000 attended the spectacle, and the two gentlemen knuckled it out for 77 rounds (!!!) – 2 hours and 29 minutes!

Thomas Spring won, signed a sponsoring contract with Procter & Gamble and co-starred in a string of TV commercials with David Beckham.
No, he didn’t. But I like the idea.

The crowd in the background covers all classes, and, unusual for a portrayal of that time, there’s also a black gentleman in the audience.

I highly doubt the artist thought “hey, let’s be diverse!”, so there must be a reason for this man’s presence. Now, many fighters were freed slaves, so maybe the gentleman in question was a fighter himself? Did he make a “VIP” appearance in the picture? It would be nice to know, so if any boxing experts should read this: share your knowledge, please!

The Antiques Roadshow expert valued the plaque at between £ 3000 – £ 4000. Not bad for two blokes with whiskers!

13 January, 2011 at 3:41 pm 2 comments

A Collingwood Society? I’m all for it! And you?

Friends! Romans! Countrymen! Lend me your ears!

Exciting news via Old Cuddy:

There are talks about the formation of a Collingwood Society! I think we can all agree on a very loud “AYE!” here, but there’s something each of you can do to contribute to this cause:

Please e-mail your views and ideas regarding the formation of a Collingwood Society on this temporary address:

collingwoodsociety at

Your mail will go to the people behind “Collingwood 2010″.

Please read more


12 January, 2011 at 10:40 pm 4 comments

Books: “The Radiant Boy – Four Ghost Stories from the Age of Sail” now available on Amazon UK

It’s a miracle… or maybe somebody defrosted the computers? Be that as it may,

Four Ghost Stories from the Age of Sail

by Emma Collingwood
with colour illustrations by Amandine de Villeneuve

is now available through Amazon UK!

It’s definitely cheaper for you to buy through Amazon than through my website, so order while it lasts!

Happy reading!

5 January, 2011 at 8:39 pm Leave a comment

Resource: The Snuffbox, The French Admiral and the Lieutenant’s Wife

Another naval gem from the Antiques Roadshow, but this time, the really interesting bit is not some invaluable item found in the attic –  it’s the story behind it.

This golden table snuffbox showing Paris originally belonged to French Admiral “le comte de Grasse” (François Joseph Paul de Grasse, marquis de Grasse Tilly), who was beaten in battle by Admiral Lord Rodney. (de Grasse is best known for leading the French fleet in the Battle of the Chesapeake – where he was not beaten…).

The gentleman who brought the snuffbox along didn’t know which battle it was where the admiral was captured by the Royal Navy, but it must have been the Battle of the Saintes in 1782.

He became a prisoner of war in “America”, and was put in the custody of the uncle of the great great grandfather of the gentleman who now owns the snuffbox (too many greats and grands here…). The painting here shows said great great grandfather, and as you can see, he was with the navy.

When Monsieur le Comte finally returned to France (where a court martial awaited him), he gave the snuffbox to his custodian, Alexander Littlejohn, “for civilities shown and services rendered him during his residence as Prisoner of War on parole, at Kingston in the Island of Jamaica, A.D. 1782”.

Aww… but wait, we’re not finished yet, because there’s a really lovely story to be told about the great great grandfather as well: our officer here served in Woodlark and ran aground off Calais, ending up as a prisoner of the French for nine years. But he had only been married for a year when this happened, and so his wife travelled by fishing boat to Holland, then overland to France – and spent the whole nine years with him in captivity! If that’s not love, then I don’t know what is!

Unfortunately, the name of the officer wasn’t mentioned in the programme, but thanks to the “note of dedication” in the snuffbox, I had something to work with.

It appears that his name was Thomas Innes. As usual, hunting ships of the Napoleonic wars on the internet was a bit of a nightmare, but eventually, I found the Woodlark! This document (an extract from “Shipwrecks of the Royal Navy” by William O. S. Gilly, 1857) proves that Lieutenant Thomas Innes was the commanding officer at that time and became a prisoner of war in 1805.

From other documents (blessed you be, google books!) we learn that the Woodlark was “wrecked near St Valery to the eastwards of Calais, because of an error by her Pilot” on the 18th of November (some say 13th), 1805. Only good news about it: the “crew was saved”.

The snuff box was valued at £ 5000 – £ 8000, by the way. But the story behind it? Priceless.

3 January, 2011 at 5:50 pm Leave a comment

2010 in review

WordPress sent me this “blogalysis” for Joyful Molly 2010. My own stats give me different numbers, though – each review of the “Garrow’s Law” episodes  had more readers than my review of the Garrow-biography, and there are many posts which got far more hits than “Anne Lister”. Hardly anybody came looking for the “Colossus of Rhodes”, but tons of people were looking for “18th century navy uniforms”. I guess that many visitors have blocked WordPress cookies, and that’s why the stats are flawed, but still, it’s interesting to see what I’ve been up to last year. Now I only have to decide whether this means that I should write more or less!

* * *

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 71,000 times in 2010. If it were an exhibit at The Louvre Museum, it would take 3 days for that many people to see it.

In 2010, there were 61 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 249 posts. There were 325 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 14mb. That’s about 6 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was December 6th with 569 views. The most popular post that day was Books (and gavels!): Sir William Garrow (biography) by John Hostettler and Richard Braby.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for hms victory, anne lister, 18th century erotica, rowlandson, and colossus of rhodes.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Books (and gavels!): Sir William Garrow (biography) by John Hostettler and Richard Braby April 2010
1 comment


Resource updated: Molly Joyful’s list of naval and historic resources October 2007


Resource/art: 18th/19th century e-ro-ti-ca June 2007


TV Tip / Resource: “The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister” – BBC2 March 2010


Resource/art: even more 18th century naval naughtiness! July 2007

2 January, 2011 at 10:49 am Leave a comment


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Four Ghost Stories from the Age of Sail

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Love, Suspense and Sarcasm in the Age of Sail

Adventure and Romance

Tribute to Admiral Lord Collingwood on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of his death at sea

2010 is the year to celebrate a great man.


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