Or it might shine from a more expensive beeswax candle and provide a much steadier, longer-lasting light that didn’t require snuffing and smelled much more pleasant than a sheepy tallow candle.
However, candles were expensive and heavily taxed—one pence a pound for tallow candles, 3 ½ pence a pound for beeswax. So for the very poorest, their light might come from rushlights—basically a rush (a marsh plant) dipped in drippings or some other greasy substance—that could be made for free, but didn’t provide much illumination.
Or the fire that was giving you light might come from an oil lamp, in its most basic form consisting of a chamber to hold some type of oil and a wick that served to draw up the oil and burn...but by the 19th century had grown fairly sophisticated, with special holders to lengthen and shorten the wick and so provide more or less light. Plant oils like olive oil and palm oil might be used, but whale oil was probably the most popular oil for lighting—not only in houses, but in businesses, theaters, and on the streets, where lamplighters made their rounds every evening and morning to light and then extinguish streetlamps.
But all this would change in 1807...and even more dramatically in 1812. Stop by in two weeks to learn how!
In the meanwhile, don’t forget that our Young Bluestockings Book Club read of Pride and Prejudice is coming up next week—get your copy out, and have fun spending time with the Bennett sisters and