May 26

Amber pages

Augustine, the first archbishop of Canterbury, apparently the founder of the Catholic Church in England, died today in 604. But I am confused. Is this the Saint Augustine who Bob Dylan dreamed he saw? The one whose Hippo is a place, not a zoo-animal? The one who confessed his hatred of Jews, and even more of women? The patron saint of brewers? And why am I doing his death-day anyway?

Alexander Pushkin, Russian poet and author, born today in 1799

Amelia Jenks Bloomer, born today in 1818, totally forgotten as a significant social reformer, but remembered for her knickers, which actually weren't knickers anyway, though both were a kind of trousers (knickers were really knickerbockers, and men wore them, not women, and in the 1920s not the 1860s), a kind of Persian trousers, a kind of shalwar kameez; a way of getting women out of the prison of corsets and into something both more comfortable and less socially restrictive... the woman on the left of the illustration is Amelia, the one on the right an artist's model.

Maybe I should start a collection of these curios: this one alongside General Burnside on May 23 ... shame Hetherington called his a "top hat" and not a Hetherington (see January 15), but there is Charles Mackintosh on June 17, and the Hansom cab on October 26, the sandwich on November 3...

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