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getty images (shelley) / istock (heart and jar)
getty images (shelley) / istock (heart and jar)

Mary Shelley's Favorite Keepsake: Her Dead Husband's Heart

getty images (shelley) / istock (heart and jar)
getty images (shelley) / istock (heart and jar)

People grieve in different ways. Back in the 1600s, it wasn’t uncommon to make jewelry out of the hair of deceased loved ones. In some parts of Madagascar, people dig up their dead relatives every few years to dance with them. And even now, we consider it fairly normal to incinerate people, then save them in decorative urns on our mantels. Taking all that into account, maybe what Mary Shelley did when her husband died wasn't that weird.

Percy Bysshe Shelley was just 29 when he drowned after his boat, Don Juan, was caught in a storm on July 8, 1822. Shelley's body and those of his two sailing companions were found 10 days later, identifiable only by their clothing. Shelley had stashed a book of John Keats poems in his pocket.

The poet was cremated, but for some reason, his heart refused to burn. Modern-day physicians believe it may have calcified due to an earlier bout with tuberculosis. Though Percy’s friend, Leigh Hunt, originally claimed the heart—he was there for the funeral pyre-style cremation and felt he had a right to keep the unscathed organ—it was eventually turned over to Mary.

Instead of burying it with the rest of his remains in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome, Mary kept the heart in a silken shroud, and is said to have carried it with her nearly everywhere for years. In 1852, a year after she died, Percy’s heart was found in her desk. It was wrapped in the pages of one of his last poems, Adonais. The heart was eventually buried in the family vault with their son, Percy Florence Shelley, when he died in 1889.

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Nom & Malc, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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Food
Cheese Wheel Wedding Cakes Are a Funky Twist on an Old Tradition
Nom & Malc, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Nom & Malc, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If there’s ever a time you have permission to be cheesy, it’s on your wedding day. What better way to do so than with a pungent wedding cake made of actual wheels of cheese? According to Elite Daily, cheese wedding cakes are a real option for couples who share an affinity for dairy products.

One of the trailblazers behind the sharp trend is Bath, England-based cheese supplier The Fine Cheese Co. The company offers clients a choice of one of dozens of wedding cake designs. There are bold show-stoppers like the Beatrice cake, which features five tiers of cheese and is priced at $400. For customers looking for something more delicate, there’s the Clara centerpiece, which replaces miniature wedding cakes with mounds of goat cheese. Whether your loved one likes funky Stilton or mellow brie, there’s a cheese cake to satisfy every palate. Flowers are incorporated into each display to make them just as pretty as conventional wedding cakes.

Since The Fine Cheese Co. arranged their first wedding cake in 2002, other cheese suppliers have entered the game. The Cheese Shed in Newton Abbot, England; I.J. Ellis Cheesemongers in Scotland; and Murray’s Cheese in New York will provide cheese wheel towers for weddings or any other special occasion. Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from clearing out the local fromagerie and assembling a cheese cake at home.

[h/t Elite Daily]

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Screenshot via Mount Vernon/Vimeo
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History
The Funky History of George Washington's Fake Teeth
Screenshot via Mount Vernon/Vimeo
Screenshot via Mount Vernon/Vimeo

George Washington may have the most famous teeth—or lack thereof—in American history. But counter to what you may have heard about the Founding Father's ill-fitting dentures, they weren't made of wood. In fact, he had several sets of dentures throughout his life, none of which were originally trees. And some of them are still around. The historic Mount Vernon estate holds the only complete set of dentures that has survived the centuries, and the museum features a video that walks through old George's dental history.

Likely due to genetics, poor diet, and dental disease, Washington began losing his original teeth when he was still a young man. By the time he became president in 1789, he only had one left in his mouth. The dentures he purchased to replace his teeth were the most scientifically advanced of the time, but in the late 18th century, that didn't mean much.

They didn't fit well, which caused him pain, and made it difficult to eat and talk. The dentures also changed the way Washington looked. They disfigured his face, causing his lips to noticeably stick out. But that doesn't mean Washington wasn't grateful for them. When he finally lost his last surviving tooth, he sent it to his dentist, John Greenwood, who had made him dentures of hippo ivory, gold, and brass that accommodated the remaining tooth while it still lived. (The lower denture of that particular pair is now held at the New York Academy of Medicine.)

A set of historic dentures
George Washington's Mount Vernon

These days, no one would want to wear dentures like the ones currently held at Mount Vernon (above). They're made of materials that would definitely leave a bad taste in your mouth. The base that fit the fake teeth into the jaw was made of lead. The top teeth were sourced from horses or donkeys, and the bottom were from cows and—wait for it—people.

These teeth actually deteriorated themselves, revealing the wire that held them together. The dentures open and shut thanks to metal springs, but because they were controlled by springs, if he wanted to keep his mouth shut, Washington had to permanently clench his jaw. You can get a better idea of how the contraption worked in the video from Mount Vernon below.

Washington's Dentures from Mount Vernon on Vimeo.

There are plenty of lessons we can learn from the life of George Washington, but perhaps the most salient is this: You should definitely, definitely floss.

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