I was an eager devourer of literature from my earliest years, and used to
read, stretched on the hearthrug, with my book between my elbows, on which I
rested, or at night curled up in a chair, with a candle and the snuffer-tray in
The casual mention of the snuffer-tray, an article never seen by modern readers, brings to my mind a thousand and one changes in things, manners, and customs between the present time and the days of my childhood, forty years ago, which will properly find mention in this chapter. In those days, though there was gas in the streets and shops, and wax-candles for the great ones of the earth, those who could not afford such luxuries were compelled to seek their illumination in tallow-candles, which required snuffing - i.e., the removal of their burnt wicks - about every quarter of an hour. "Require no snuffing," was the boast in the advertisement of the Palmer's composite candles, which were the first improvement, and one variety of which was, I remember, burned in a lamp, forced down on a spring into a socket, and liable to shoot out like a rocket. Mention of Palmer's name reminds me that there were no so-called "night-lights," only a long "farthing rush-light," set up in the middle of a huge tin lighthouse perforated with round holes, the reflection of which on the walls and ceiling was ghostly in the extreme; no lucifers, but a round tinder-box, with a flint, and a bit of steel on which to strike it, and a bundle of long sulphur-tipped slips of wood called matches. The lucifer, or Congreve match as it was called, as originally produced, was ignited by friction on sandpaper, and had a very unpleasant smell.
Edmund Yates, His Recollections and Experiences, 1885
[chapter covering 1836-1847]
DAVIES'S BOTANIC WAX CANDLES, 11d. per lb; Sperm, 2s and 2s 2d; Patent Sperm, 11d; British Wax or Sperm, 1s 4d; German Wax, 1s 2d; fine Wax, 1s 5d; Transparent Wax, 1s 4d and 2s 4d; best Wax, 2s 3d; Composite 6½d., 7½d, 9d and 9½d; Palmers' 6½d; Magnums, 3d; Mid-size, 7½d; Store Candles, 4½d and 5d; Waxed-wick Moulds, 6d; Yellow Soap, 44s, 50s, and 54s per 112lbs; Mottled, 56s; Windsor Soap, 1s 4d; Brown Windsor, 1s 9d; Rose, 2s; Almond, 2s 6d; Sealing Wax 4s 6d per lb; Argand, Vegetable, Carcel or Colza Oil, 4s 6d per gallon; Sperm oil, 7s 6d; Solar, 3s 6d; Seal 4s; for cash at DAVIES'S old established warehouse 83 St Martin's lane, opposite the Westminster County Court.
advertisement from Daily News, 3rd April 1851