Just what you’ve always wanted, I’m sure. This caught my attention, the existence of silver-handled flyswatters, particularly as it was included in the generous array of gifts taken by a Hungarian Countess heading to Russia to visit family and disburse fine things available in Vienna but, as she believes, sadly lacking in backward St. Petersburg. I wonder at the facial expression of the proud recipient of this particular gift.

It reminded me of an aristocratically wielded pair of tongs in Woolf’s Orlando.

Personally, I would prefer the mahogany backscratcher.

From an excellent century-spanning Hungarian novel which takes you from the Congress of Vienna in 1815 to the eve of the First World War in 1914, following the lives and travails of twin aristocratic brothers. It creates a splendid ambiance of an era even if, of course, not qualifying as a history book.

Dali is the most interesting of the protagonists and the younger of the twins.

‘Dali and his mother and Tonchi left Vienna for St. Petersburg by mailcoach. Countess Jadi’s baggage was bulging with gifts for Rolly and Olga. Paris hats, Milan dresses, sandals and kid slippers for the carriage, ribbed Tyrol stockings for outdoors, Pagoda parasols, small fans of carved ivory, Venetian glasses, depilatory creams, curved pedicure scissors, mahogany backscratchers, silver-handled flyswatters and, of course, Viennese cosmetics. None of these items, she had been told, was available in St. Petersburg.’


Source: Lajos Zilahy, Century in Scarlet (London: Prion, 2001), p. 91

Image credit: OpenClipart-Vectors at pixabay


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