Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Who Doesn't Love a Library?

During the Regency era, circulating libraries in England were popular, both for the lending of books, and the safe sociability of their venues.
Lackington's Circulating Library, London
 Construction of a new library was noteworthy as these clips from the book "Local Records; or Historical register of remarkable events....Northumberland and Durham" indicate:

For a subscription fee, the client could borrow books for a designated period. They could also browse the additional items which the shop offered, everything from stationery to perfumes and patent medicines.
Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser - Thursday 09 February 1815

Gloucester Journal - Monday 21 July 1800
Hull Advertiser and Exchange Gazette - Saturday 10 January 1807
Nottingham Review and General Advertiser for the Midland Counties - Friday 17 April 1818
In this last item, it can be seen that return of library books was a concern two hundred years ago, as it is today.

La Belle Assemblee, the popular ladies' journal, carried advertisements for circulating libraries:
The Gentleman's Magazine of 1808 carried criticism of such libraries:
Specialty circulating libraries were likewise popular. This one in Bath must have been of great service to many people:
Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette - Thursday 11 April 1816
Scotland was not behind in its establishment of lending libraries, in fact that library established by Allan Ramsey in 1725 was one of the earliest of all libraries:
The Scotsman - Saturday 11 November 1820
Circulating libraries have appeared in many Regency novels, including my own. They were an important adjunct to the social life of the Beau Monde and a delightful place for an assignation or a chance meeting.

Having to pay a fee for library services seems odd to many of us, though we do pay for our lending privileges with our taxes. It is interesting to reflect that we share the tradition of borrowing books with our Regency ancestors.

'Til next time,

Monday, October 9, 2017

Magdalen Hospital for the Reception of Penitent Prostitutes

The Magdalen Hospital from The Picture of London for 1829 
I find this a difficult blog to write, as the mere creation and existence of the Magdalene Asylums upsets me. The double standard of the Regency and Victorian eras is illustrated so plainly by the Magdalene hospitals. Women were viewed as weak, aberrant and sinful. They needed warehousing and punishment. Men were just doing what men do, without consequences or reproach; they had no part in the 'downfall' of these women.

Nevertheless the Magdalen asylums were an important aspect of Regency life, and so were the attitudes and hypocrisy that supported them. The 'good people' of the Regency era believed they were doing 'good work'. It is an important thing for those reading and writing about the Regency in England to remember.

Perthshire Courier - Monday 20 November 1809
The first Magdalen institution had been opened in London in 1758.
London Courier and Evening Gazette - Monday 15 September 1817

By the time of the Regency, the Magdalen was well-established in society's charitable planning.
Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser - Thursday 20 July 1809
London Courier and Evening Gazette - Monday 18 April 1814
The one saving grace of the Magdalen hospitals is that they did provide re-training for young women, and a certain amount of protection from the streets for a period of time. This led at least one young woman (under what is surely an assumed name) to publication and sermonising on her fate and future.

Globe - Friday 22 April 1808
From the beginning the Chapel of the Magdalen Hospital provided a platform for preaching and moralizing by notable church figures.
Evening Mail - Wednesday 26 March 1806
Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser - Monday 17 May 1819

Salisbury and Winchester Journal - Monday 01 August 1803
None of the newspaper articles that I have found have mentioned that tours of the facility were given as a means of raising money from the more privileged classes. Apparently this was a popular pastime among the upper classes. But one notable visitor was mentioned in the press.
London Courier and Evening Gazette - Thursday 14 April 1814
Unfortunately for the virtuous and righteous gentlemen of the Magdalen Hospital Committee, human nature kept asserting itself. But of course it was the women who were blamed:
Morning Advertiser - Saturday 06 March 1819
One wonders why there is the discrepancy between the date of the letter and its publication. And I wonder if the problem was ever resolved.

In later Victorian times, the some of the Magdalen hospitals apparently devolved into harsh penitentiary-like establishments. Certainly they did not solve the issue of prostitution. And we have not solved it to this day. Food for thought indeed....

'Til next time,


P. S. I am including the following long newspaper article for those who are interested in pursuing the Magdalen Hospital information further. It is from the Morning Post of Thursday, 16 May 1811.


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Four Horse Club~~aka The Four-In-Hand

The Four-in-Hand Club has featured in many Regency novels, including several of Georgette Heyer's books. But I discovered to my surprise that the official name of the group was the "Four Horse Club", and it was also known at the Whip Club or the Barouche Club.

 It was a short-lived group; most sources indicate it existed from 1808 to about 1826. It was started by Charles Buxton and some of his friends in a low-key rivalry with the B.D.C. -- the Bensington Driving Club -- founded in 1807.
A barouche and four, painting by Horace Vernet

The York Herald newspaper on Saturday,  06 May 1809 describes the Four-in-Hand Club in detail. It must have been a quiet news day.
The following had to be pieced from three newspaper columns; please excuse the variable quality of the scans:
Presumably a good time was had by all! As its tour-de-force, the York Herald added a poem. The author wisely retained his anonymity:
On June 24, 1809 the York Herald once again reported on the Club:

The illustration below shows the 'Fashionable Barouche with Ackermann's Patent Moveable Axles'. Those axles wouldn't have been available in the early years of the club.
Ackermann's Repository of Arts January 1820
A lovely report from the London Morning Post in 1810 includes mention of the Four-in-Hand Club:
Morning Post - Monday 30 April 1810
And the club continued to make news, not all of it good:
London Courier and Evening Gazette - Friday 15 June 1810
This barouche is in the collection of the Museum of Applied Arts and Science in Australia.

A newspaper in 1811 indicated that the club was still operating in its accustomed manner, but after that year it appears the club became less newsworthy.
Sussex Advertiser - Monday 29 April 1811
The Four-in-Hand Club embodies the idleness of the rich, the Corinthian values, and the privileged world of Regency gentlemen. We are indebted to the newspapers for recording its activities, its idiosyncrasies, and its style.

'Til next time,


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Elopement - The Ultimate Romance?

The Elopement - Thomas Rowlandson
A clandestine marriage, a runaway romance, a bolt to Gretna Green -- these all have formed the plots of many Regency novels. But what did the press of the day report about these secret liaisons in the first twenty years of the nineteenth century? A great deal:

Morning Post - Wednesday 27 February 1805

Evening Mail - Monday 21 October 1805
 The two flights above might be attributed to young love, and impatience, but the event in the article below has a more sinister tone...
The Globe - London Monday 14 October 1805
The following account appears to document a case of true love, but shows that there could be unpleasant consequences, especially for the gentleman involved.
The Globe - Monday 14 October 1805
 And sometimes the courts were involved with dire consequences:
London Courier and Evening Gazette - Friday 19 July 1816

The following story seems to have a rather odd ending:
Morning Post - Saturday 30 September 1809
Elopements were not always successful.
Chester Chronicle - Friday 14 August 1818

Morning Post - Saturday 14 December 1811
Flights of journalistic hyperbole sometimes accompanied accounts of romantic flight:
Lancaster Gazette - Saturday 03 June 1815
It appears that opinion in the Regency era was divided over the propriety, legality, morality and necessity of elopement. Whatever the truth of the events told in the newspapers, elopements have provided the basis for many a good Regency novel in the twenty-first century. It all does seem rather romantic...

'Til next time,



Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Antiquarians and Antiquities of the Regency

As a student of history, I must confess to an overwhelming interest in archaeology. The British TV show 'Time Team' (available on YouTube) is among my favourite viewing, and I follow archeological websites, Twitterfeeds and Tumblr pages with something approaching fascination.

People of the Regency era were no less interested in antiquities. The term 'archaeologist' was not often used. The people interested in relics of the past were called 'antiquarians'. During the Regency era, as now, one could seldom stick a shovel in the ground in the British isles without turning up something interesting.

Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette - Wednesday 07 January 1807
Chester Courant - Tuesday 06 August 1811
Morning Post - Tuesday 04 January 1814
Sussex Advertiser - Monday 09 March 1812
The Society of Antiquaries, later I believe known as The Antiquarian Society, as conceived as early as 1707. Open to gentlemen with an interest in antiquities, the society was eventually chartered and began to collect objects in its own right.

The Antiquarian Society by George Cruickshank 1812  © The Trustees of the British Museum
 The great interest in antiquities led to the publication of numerous books and periodicals. The work in the advertisement below indicates it will be published monthly, and contain eight etchings in each issue.
Hull Advertiser and Exchange Gazette - Saturday 24 February 1810
The antiquarians were delighted and intrigued by every fresh discovery, and the newspapers covered the finds extensively.
Cumberland Pacquet, and Ware's Whitehaven Advertiser - Tuesday 29 October 1816
Globe - Monday 03 August 1818
Globe - Monday 21 October 1811

Morning Post - Wednesday 27 October 1819
I do wish that all these finds could have benefited from modern recording and scholarship, but the delight the finders experienced was no doubt equal to the thrill experienced by the archaeologists of 'Time Team'. I am excited to read about any discoveries in any era. Though excavation is destructive, artifacts from the past bring ancient peoples to life and enhance our understanding of them.

'Til next time,