Commerce governed by luxury

During the eighteenth century the concept of luxury in a modern commercial society meant luxury was anything that was not a necessity and enjoying luxurious excess was a way to embrace modern comfort, convenience, sociability, splendid taste, aesthetics, and refinement.With improvements in transport and manufacturing technology, opportunities for buying and selling became faster and more efficient than ever before and with the rapid growth of towns and cities, shopping became an important part of everyday life. Social status was conveyed by visible displays of consumer goods and fashion and eventually luxury gradually lost its former associations with corruption and came to include production, trade, and the refining influence of extreme commodities. Entertainment through wining and dining remained fashionable among the wealthy and even the poorest members of society were able to partake in most forms of lavish entertainment. Most eighteenth century cities had shops and taverns where meals could be bought cheaply and drinks such as coffee and alcoholic beverages could be consumed. The newly transportable world of extravagant goods to cities concluded the unimportance of a commercial society and individuals were given honor and status according to the clothes they wore and the sophisticated items they possessed.

The association of luxury and trade opened a much broader debate of commercial expansion and consumer society and luxury was increasingly seen in terms of economic advantage for Britain.  National industry and the wealth of the nation lay in its ability to increase the quantity of necessaries and conveniences which its labor could produce or exchange relative to its population.  Hume held luxury as a refinement in the gratification of the senses and an incentive to the expansion of commerce which would make available to all persons not just the necessaries of life, but its conveniences. The consumer incentives offered by world trade provided the drive to domestic economic development.   According to Hume in his essay, Of Refinement of the Arts: “The increase and consumption of all the commodities, which serve to be ornament and pleasure of life, are advantageous to society; because, at the same time what they multiply those innocent gratifications to individuals, they are a kind of storehouse of labour, which, in the exigencies of state, may be turned to public service” (272).   This statement promotes the belief that luxury nourished commerce and industry and helped to make the poor rich through various forms of work including agriculture and trade, creating a middle class in Britain for the first time, which made the gap between the classes more narrow.  Indulgence was not just about goods, but about social behavior and it was progressively perceived as a sociable activity, fashioned by cities and shared in by the middling and upper classes of society.

While in London our class was able to visit Sir John Soane’s Museum which was formerly the home of the neo-classical architect Sir John Soane. The museum is in the Holborn area of central London, near Lincoln’s Inn Fields. It holds many drawings and models of Soane’s projects and the collections of paintings, drawings, and relics that he accumulated.  The domed ceiling of the Breakfast Room, inset with convex mirrors, has influenced architects from around the world and the Library-Dining Room reflects the influence of Etruscan tombs and perhaps even gothic design in its repertoire of small pendants like those in fan vaulting.

The Study holds a collection of Roman architectural fragments and the two external courtyards, the Monument Court and Monk’s Yard contain an array of architectural fragments. This lovely but small museum gives visitors the opportunity to see the diverse collections of Sir John Soane and the rather amazing buildings which he remodeled to house them. The collections are exactly as he left them in the 18th century, beautifully presented in a rather cluttered fashion.  The collection is luxurious in the fact that the museum represents his exquisite and eccentric taste. Every corner, nook, and cranny has been filled with trinkets, artifacts, fragments of Gothic architecture, and paintings.  Incomprehensible things have been done to the internal layout of the house to create unexpected passageways and galleries, illuminated by skylights and a multitude of mirrors.  Soane took pleasure in collecting different historical pieces and creating beauty, while others concerned with indulgences were focused on living luxuriously and fulfilling personal pleasures and desires.

Eighteenth century Edinburgh also has excellent examples of extravagance which were in full swing during the Enlightenment Period. Modern day Georgian House, was completed in 1796 and was purchased for £1,800 by John Lamont to serve as his townhouse to be used during the social season. Even though John Lamont was a relatively rich man, due to his extravagant lifestyle his financial troubles began to add up and in 1817 he sold Georgian house for £3,000, giving up on his inner-city pursuits. Georgian House has been restored to exemplify what the house would have looked like when the Lamont family occupied it during the late eighteenth century.

The Drawing Room is located at the front of the house, overlooking Charlotte Square garden and it runs the full width of the house. It is where the family would have entertained guests on a more lavish scale and there are many fine paintings on the walls, some by well-known artists. The room is also equipped with a neo-classical marble fireplace which enhances the extravagance of the entertaining space. As it is located in Edinburgh’s new town, this stylish late eighteenth century Georgian town home is characteristic of the area’s architectural style and represents the need the wealthy of Edinburgh had to emerge from the slums of old town into a more spacious setting.

In Smollett’s account, The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker, his character Bramble has this to say of the Edinburghians: “I have discovered among them uncommon pains taken to display their fine linen, of which…they have a great plenty, their furniture, plate, housekeeping, and variety of wines…are profuse…A burgher of Edinburgh, not content to vie with a citizen of London, who has ten times his fortune, must excel him in the expense as well as elegance of his entertainments” (234). Smollett is drawing attention to the weakness of vanity, which was a real distress during the enlightenment because of the pursuit of luxuries. Edinburgh is also described as being full of people and carriages; all who want to pass through to experience the luxury and exchange of goods it has to offer.

In From a Picture of England, German historian Johann W. de Archenholtz states: “If … the natural consequences of luxury and superabundance of wealth, were to be reformed, the effects would be very pernicious to the trade and commerce of a country” (598). This opinion gained popularity as the age of reason matured; discontinuing the want of expensive comforts was more commonly believed to be detrimental to the prosperity of a country’s economic condition. If one looks at it in this light, luxury is the use men make of wealth and industry to assure themselves of a pleasing existence; however, it is not simply an economic marvel, but the central moral and political issue of modernity.


The Balancing Act

The London and Edinburgh: Sites of Enlightenment Program has been the greatest opportunity I’ve taken advantage of since I enrolled into Indiana University at South Bend. The sites of each city coincided with the course work perfectly to illustrate the Unions effect upon commerce, art, and the overall culture. The given course work along with the trip has allowed me to grasp a better understanding of the Union of England and Scotland, as well as the significance that the union had upon the economy. The Union of 1707 set the foundation for the Commercial Revolution which led to the creation of an upper middle class. I’ve also learned that the enlightenment period gave birth to new technologies which allowed the Commercial Revolution to reach its maximum potential.  Along with an increased understanding of the Union of 1707 we also gained practical knowledge from travelling. We learned our way through couple of the busiest airports in the United States, and how to navigate the underground tubes of London. We learned the streets of both London and Edinburgh gradually, as well as where were a few of the best places to eat in each city. While in London I learned how to navigate my way from English architect John Soane’s home to the tube station nearest the University Hall, then I somehow found my way home from Gladstone’s land on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. In both cities we went to these sites as a class and by doing so I was given the chance to truly imagine how these people lived during the 18th Century. There was a concise division between the philosophy of the middle class and the upper-middle class men like John Lamont and John Soane. It was simply the pursuit of happiness as oppose to the struggle to survive. Those living at the Gladstone house were the typical middle class as oppose to upper-middle class men with connections like John Soane. John Lamont was also a member of an elite circle known as the gentry and he sold land he owned in the country to maintain a luxurious home in Newtown, Edinburgh.

“Artifact Filled Room (Soane’s House)”

As trade became a big part of 18th century culture tradesmen could transcend classes, with the right amount of passion and the right connections. In London we had the opportunity to see the living conditions of Soane who was both a tradesmen and architect. He had a middle class income with upper class connections, in which he took on the same pursuit of happiness as those men. The overall process of apprehending this feeling was summed up as, “Human happiness, according to most of the received notions, seems to consist in three ingredients: action, pleasure, and indolence” (Hume 269). Hume explains that in order to be happy a person must first do what they love, and by doing what they love they’ll become what they do, which is what they love. Soane personally found pleasure in collecting different artifacts although other people like John Lamont were also focused on living luxuriously, fulfilling pleasures, being grand. The people living on the Gladstone land were living under filthy and crowded conditions in which the only had room for necessities. A class reading gives three concepts that summarize the life of the average middle class tradesmen. The reading states, “Three things are chiefly before us in the appointment of our time: 1. Necessaries of nature. 2. Duties of religion, or things related to a future life. 3. Duties of presence life, namely, business and calling “(45). He explains that the people of Gladstone’s place were primarily focused on survival, faith, and hope. The people of Gladstone’s land were struggling to survive while fighting off plague infested rats but at the same time Soane was pursuing his passion with a home full of expensive artifacts. Again creating the sense that one group lived their lives pursuing everything they could want and the others lived only to obtain what they needed. The lifestyle of the middle class on Gladstone’s Land was simply confined to business, food, and sleep because there was almost no room for anything else. They were living in somewhat of an apartment complex, each family had a floor therefore their space was limited.

“Middle Class Bedroom (Gladstone’s Land)”

The lifestyle of the middle class during the plague was such a hard reality to live in that many probably couldn’t see themselves surviving, let alone following a passion and upgrading their way of living. As a result they developed a survival mentality in which their only goal was to maintain. Although the more elite obtain luxuries many lacked the ability to maintain luxurious lifestyle for instance: John Lamont was a man of the gentry and he owned the Georgian house until his passion made him go bankrupt. Lamont was spending more money than he was making because he lacked the simple business, food, sleep mentality of the middles class struggling person. The Georgian House was big enough to host multiple servants and a butler unlike the family from Gladstone’s Land that only had space for work, a cook, and family. Lamont had a lavish home that seems as if it was built solely to amuse or entertain company. Rather he did it for the sake of business or his simply ego, living a luxurious lifestyle was one of the few passions John Lamont. There was in imbalance in the class philosophies because the middle class was based in patience, while the elite were grounded in their passions. Twentieth century African American poet Maya Angelou stated, “Seek patience and passion in equal amounts. Patience alone will not build the temple. Passion alone will destroy its walls” (Maya Angelou). She believes that it is necessary for people to maintain an equilibrium point where passion and patience are equal. Explaining that a hoping without any action will always leave you hoping and as a result nothing will get done. Although claiming that on the other hand if you over indulge in what you love it can be just as detrimental as being stagnant or even worst. It seems to be that the middle class lacked the passion to obtain the finer things in life but the elite didn’t have the patience to plan to prevent poor performance.


“Upper Class Dining Room (Georgian House)”

Most of the middle class during 18th century lived in a traumatic environment that was govern by the fear of death in which the middle class felt they had nothing to be passionate about. All in all without a love for something or passion, the middle class couldn’t be what they loved, because they couldn’t do what they loved. They were compacted in small living areas with people that had diseases and poor hygiene while the upper-class servants were living a better life than most merchants. On another extreme the upper class were so invested into their own emotions that they’d allowed their passions to control them. The upper classes lack of control derives from their lack of patience and planning, which as John Lamont illustrates may lead to poor decisions making. This course has taught me a lot about life and the significance of balancing one’s passion with patience because in the long run practicing patience alone will never entice a person to progress although too much passion will result in bad decisions making. All in all it takes the upper-middle class passion to pursuit happiness in order to obtain luxury yet it takes the middle class mentality of patience in order to sustain that lifestyle.

St. Andrews Castle

For my free day while in Edinburgh, I decided to go on an adventure outside of the city to to the small town of St. Andrews! 

This town is just an hour northeast of Edinburgh in the Scottish county of Fife. It is known for many different things such as being the home of golf as well as having the oldest university in Scotland–University of St. Andrews (which is where both Kate Middleton and Prince William went to study). 

Although this town is known predominately for these two things, I decided to do something different while visiting: I went to the ruins of St. Andrews Castle. Even though I had seen many castles before seeing this one, I will definitely say that this one was the most picturesque being that it is right near the beautiful North Sea and overlooks a small beach called Castle Sands. 


St. Andrews Castle (photo taken by me)

The castle has been standing as early as when Roger de Beaumont was bishop of St. Andrews from 1189-1202. However this castle has been destroyed and rebuilt several times–once during the Wars of Scottish Independence in the late 13th century and during this time it changed hands between the Scots and the English frequently. Furthermore, the castle was also known as a notorious prison and when Archbishop Patrick Graham was judged to be insane and was imprisoned in the castle, even though he owned it at the time in 1478 (Source). 

While visiting this castle Myrna and I went down to the small Castle Sands beach where there was a ton of sea glass present! When at the beach I could not get over how beautiful the scenery was (although it was a cloudy day and had been raining). When looking up at the ruins of the castle it was hard to imagine exactly how it looked in the very distant past due to how much of it has been destroyed. Nevertheless, it was stunning! 


Castle Sands Beach (photo taken by me)

If you ever find yourself in Scotland, you should definitely go to St. Andrews and visit this castle! There is also a very old and cool looking cemetery in close proximity as well as the campus of St. Andrews University. If visiting from Edinburgh, you will take the Scotrail train from Waverly Station to Leuchars Station (there is not a train station in St. Andrews) and from there you will take a short 10-15 minute bus ride into the town. You can learn more about St. Andrews here

Chelsea Ray-Dye

Westminster Abbey 

There are many instances when people say that things look so much better and more beautiful in person than in photographs. Although I cannot claim this is true every time, I will say that it is definitely true about Westminster Abbey! 

Sure, Westminster Abbey looks pretty stunning in photographs, but it is completely different when you see the glory of it all right before your eyes. There were so many times that I had seen it in photographs or in films and TV shows (it is an iconic symbol of London along with Big Ben and the London Eye) but I still found myself in awe of its gorgeous gothic architecture and stained glass designs.

Westminster Abbey (photo taken by me)

It was when I first entered the Abbey that I first noticed the gorgeous stained glass, and being such a photography junkie that I am I really wanted so badly to take a picture of it- but alas photographs are not allowed inside to my disappointment. However, I understood the reasons behind this and decided it was best to respect the Abbey as it is a church and thus, a sacred place for many people. 

Westminster Abbey is filled with many monuments and grave sites of many different and important people in British history such as soldiers, warriors, Kings, Queens, and prominent inventors and literary geniuses. There is a small corner dedicated to many of these literary and poetic geniuses called Poet’s Corner. Here you will find memorials for individuals such as William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, C.S. Lewis, and Geoffrey Chaucer (first poet interred in Poet’s Corner in 1556).

Poet’s Corner (photo taken from Wikipedia)

Although everything about the exterior and interior of the Abbey was amazing and aesthetically pleasing to look at, one of my favorite parts of it was the Sanctuary where the High Altar is present. This is the altar where coronation takes place and the king and queen are officially crowned. I really loved the whole design of this altar, more specifically the marble floor which dates back to 1268. The method of its decoration is known as Cosmati work named after the Italian family who created this intricate design. You can learn more about Cosmati design here.


Cosmati pavement at the High Altar (photo taken from

I would very much recommend visiting Westminster Abbey as I believe it is a must see for anyone who is traveling to London! You will not be disappointed! 

Chelsea Ray-Dye

Tell Me a Story

Storytelling was a way of passing down history before the written word and before writing became common. Storytelling was also a form of entertainment, and was a large part of scottish history and heritage.

Storytelling Centre- Edinburgh Google Image Search:

Storytelling Centre- Edinburgh
Google Image Search:

On Thursday I attended a show at the Storytelling centre in Edinburgh, Scotland. The show though had an interesting story to it, it was a show about prostitutes! “Ladies of Pleasure” is an interesting, and some what enlightening show based off of a real historical pamphlet that had listed all of the brothels and prostitutes that were available to gentlemen in Edinburgh.

The main plot of the show consisted of a madame of a brothel is confronted with her long lost love, and father of her child. The lover, a gentleman of society who had come seeking advice on choosing a lady of pleasure, did not now the true identity of the Madame. The night continues with the two discussing the different women offered and the true meaning of the descriptions. At the end of the night many truths are revealed.

One of the most enlightening moments for me was the fact that the Madame had once been a governess for the gentry. She had a real life, with a real job and all that ended by being intimate with the wrong person. Her whole life ended by sleeping with a man of wealth, and by getting pregnant. And here they are years later, he is still sleeping around, even though he is married, and she is destined to be a lady of pleasure, and a single mother.

The inequality of the entire situation was just astounding to me. I could not believe the injustice that only the woman in this situation would suffer and the man would continue on in the same manner of living, for the rest of his life. I knew that gender equality was unheard of at this point in history, but having that thought shown to you in personal story format made it all the more real to me.

Scotland Stories

Scotland Stories

The theme of our time in Edinburgh seems to be stories. On our group tour to the Trossachs and my solo bus tour to Loch Ness, the tour guides told us stories from Scotland’s rich history, like that of William Wallace, Rob Roy, and Mary, Queen of Scots. We heard the story of Mary King’s Close performed by a tour

The Parlour at the Georgian House.

The Parlour at the Georgian House. Google Image Search.

guide in costume and character. The buildings themselves tell stories through posted historical information and anecdotes, like in Edinburgh Castle, or through their architecture, as the differences between New Town and Old Town express. When we visited Gladstone’s Land and the Georgian House today, the volunteer attendants told us stories about the families that lived in those houses, and the activities that passed beneath those roofs for decades.

Our experience at the Scottish Storytelling Centre seemed a fitting part of our journey, even if it wasn’t quite what we expected.

We had tickets for a performance of “Ladies of Pleasure” and we were all very interested in the “historic guide to the intimate pleasures available to Gentlemen in Eighteenth Century Edinburgh,” as the description on the Centre’s website reads. I think we were all expecting to hear a comedic (and likely a bit raunchy) but historic narrative; however, it wasn’t quite like that…

Noreen and John Hamilton, storytellers from Heritage Stories wrote and acted out a scene based on the pamphlet Ranger’s Impartial List of the Ladies of Pleasure in Edinburgh, written as a sort of advertisement for the various prostitutes a gentlemen could employ from brothels along the 18th-century Royal Mile. It was a partially scripted, partially improvised conversation between the manager of a brothel and a gentlemen searching for the “company” of his ideal prostitute. It included florid, euphemistic readings from the pamphlet about the girls’ “special talents,” Madame’s witty yet realistic interpretations, and bawdy recitations of a little Robert Burns. However, the storytelling was indirect; instead of a “this happened and then this happened and then this happened” story, the scene was a sort of subdued love story woven into a

Hogarth, "A Rake's Progress, Plate 3," 1735. Gentlemen soliciting prostitutes in a tavern. From Google Image Search.

Hogarth, “A Rake’s Progress, Plate 3,” 1735. Gentlemen soliciting prostitutes in a tavern. From Google Image Search.

snapshot of the life of a prostitute. The audience had to read between the lines and piece the story together on their own a bit. Without spoon-feeding listeners, the Hamiltons told us a story about the work 18th-century prostitutes performed, the women who pursued that particular career, and the way men perceived and objectified them. It raised several points to ponder; for example, why did Madame want her daughter to be educated and stay away from prostitution despite her own apparent success? After all, she defended the honor of the work at the beginning of the act and bragged a bit about her financial situation. How would a woman climb the ladder in the world of brothels? Through her “special talents,” through the number of men she entertained?

At first I didn’t fully appreciate the storytelling experience. I thought some introductory information on the source material and the improvisation would have been helpful. It definitely had its funny moments and it was interesting to hear the readings from the Impartial List. However, wasn’t until several of my classmates, at this morning’s class discussion, pointed out the subtleties I mentioned that I began to better realize the value in this unusual, theatrical type of storytelling.

Free Day: (will add pictures later when the wifi cooperates)

Free Day:


I chose to spend my free day with the group as we attempted the hike to the top of Arthur’s Seat. 823 feet later, the panoramic views of Edinburgh were magnificent with the water and surrounding areas. According to Wikipedia, the hill was named after King Arthur although it is unsure as to why. However, many other hills have been name similar things.


Arthur’s Seat is actually an extinct volcano. The rock is dated back to the Carboniferous Age which is roughly 350 million years ago. The rock was then eroded away by a glacier later on in time.


1836 – James Hutton studied rock formations on Arthur’s Seat for many years. It was here that he discovered that the deposition of sedimentary rock and the formation of igneous rocks were different ages and were made in different ways than what previous people had thought.

1836 – It is said that when a couple of boys were hunting, they came across 16 coffins in a cave on Arthur’s Seat containing wooden figures. The purpose for these coffins has never been pinpointed however, one theory suggests that the deaths are related to the murders by Burke and Hare dating back to 1828.

1840 – Arthur’s Seat hosted the dedication of Scotland to preach the gospel throughout the country.

After the hike, the group had lunch at the oldest pub in Scotland. The coolest part for me was seeing the bowling alley that was over 200 years old! It was pretty cheap to rent out for a party too so if I was to ever come back to Scotland that is what I would do with friends.

Then I ventured out alone and went to the Royal Mile Market. It is the cutest place I have ever been. Local vendors sell handmade items and food. I went back there today to buy more of the handmade chocolate I had bought earlier this week. It was so good that I had to get more to share with my family and friends. These chocolates have also won awards for best chocolate in Scotland. Okay… can you tell I love chocolate yet? Other vendors sell cheap cashmere scarves and handmade jewelry and clothing.

After that, I went shopping in New Town. I went to Urban Outfitters and H&M first because I was curious of the comparison between Scotland’s version and those back home. The prices and styles seemed to compare to those at home. I also wandered around Primark, which is the UK’s version of Forever 21. For those of you who know me, the walls of scarves fed my addiction, but I only bought one surprisingly! The clothes here were ridiculously cheap however, looked cheap as well.

I finished the night off on the terrace at the bar in our hostile, working on homework and chatting about everyone’s adventures for the day.