Magazine article History Today

Dr Trelawney's Cabinet of Historical Curiosities: This Month's Subject: Wax

Magazine article History Today

Dr Trelawney's Cabinet of Historical Curiosities: This Month's Subject: Wax

Article excerpt

In 1903 Gladys Marie Spencer-Churchill (1881-1977) began receiving injections of paraffin wax into her nose in an attempt to perfect her already famous 'Grecian profile'. Sadly the wax slowly slipped, leaving her with a lopsided jaw.

Physician -extraordinary to Queen Charlotte, Sir George Gibbes (1771-1851), was ridiculed for his essay on the conversion of muscle into a substance resembling spermaceti wax. One parody suggested the overcrowded graveyards of London could be cleared by turning their occupants into candles.

Male midwife Colin Mackenzie (1697/8-1775) dissected the body of a woman who had died in the last stages of pregnancy, injecting her veins and arteries with different coloured wax. From this he deduced the relationship between the maternal and foetal blood supplies.

Philosopher and politician Francis Bacon (1561-1626), concerned about growing old, noted in a letter of 1592 to Lord Burghley that 'I wax now somewhat ancient; one and thirty years is a great deal of sand in the hour-glass.'

Chef Georges Escoffier (1846-1935) escaped the siege of Paris in 1871 by taking the very last train to Versailles where he took a job cooking for the French army. During this period he also learned the art of making wax flowers for table decorations, a subject on which he later wrote a bestselling book.

The less than handsome author and member of the Lunar Society of Birmingham, Thomas Day (1748-1789), found it hard to find a wife and so adopted two foundling girls whom he took to France to educate in the hope that one would become an ideal spouse. One fared well and was brought back to England for further tuition, which included dripping hot sealing wax onto her arm. This she took affront to and he, considering that she was too emotional, decided against the match.

Alexander of Abingdon (fl. 1291-1316), also known as 'l'Imagineur', was one of a group of sculptors who collaborated on the monuments to Queen Eleanor ordered by Edward I between 1291 and 1294. …

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