Saturday, December 26, 2009
We all know Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, Byron, Coleridge, etc. etc. Why, I wondered, had I not heard of any of these authors? Because of the paternalistic, dismissive attitudes to women in the arts in the 19th century came immediately to mind. Also my own lack of intellectual curiosity is obviously at fault. How happy I am to now be enlightened!
The excellent introduction in this book holds a great deal of information about the female poets working at the turn of the 18th/19th century. The author holds that the women fall into one of two categories. Either the poet was a 'woman of letters'--mostly well-educated, mostly well-financed, and devoted to her art, or she was a working-class woman hoping to earn a living with her work.
I was familiar with some of the women of letters: Dorothy Wordsworth, Hannah More, Mary Lamb. Most, however, I had never heard of, and I certainly was unprepared for the beauty of their work.
Helen Maria Williams was born in England but spent much of her life in France, an unconventional, intellectual novelist, poet and translator. I tweeted one stanza of her poem 'A Song' a few weeks ago, here is that verse and a little more:
"No riches from his scanty store
My lover could impart;
He gave a boon I valued more--
He gave me all his heart!
While he the dangerous ocean braves,
My tears but vainly flow:
Is pity in the faithless waves
To which I pour my woe?
The night is dark, the waters deep,
Yet soft the billows roll;
Alas! at every breeze I weep--
The storm is in my soul."
Laetitia Elizabeth Landon was a brilliant child and, fascinated by poetry, was first published at age eighteen. She published her first book soon after and was one of the most popular contributors to the 'Literary Gazette' where she was also a reviewer. Her personal life was troubled however and eventually she committed suicide. Here are some verses from her poem "New Year's Eve":
There is no change upon the air,
No record in the sky;
No pall-like storm comes forth to shroud
The year about to die.
Ah, not in heaven, but upon earth,
Are signs of change expressed;
The closing year has left its mark
On human brow and breast.
But Hope's sweet words can never be
What they have been of yore:
I am grown wiser, and believe
In fairy tales no more.
Carolina Oliphant, later Baroness Nairne, was a Scot named in memory of Prince Charles Edward Stuart--nicknamed the 'Flower of Strathearn'. Rather more conventional than the preceding poets, she undertook the collection of Scottish songs, and was herself a songwriter, using dialect for much of her work. She wrote, in fact, the famous song about the Bonnie Prince--
'Charlie is my Darling':
’TWAS on a Monday morning,
Right early in the year,
When Charlie came to our town,
The young Chevalier.
(refrain) O Charlie is my darling,
My darling, my darling—
O Charlie is my darling,
The young Chevalier!
There are many more wonderful poems by 'women of letters' in this little book. Next time we'll look at the working-class female poets of the Regency.
Friday, December 18, 2009
Nevertheless some of the ladies of fashion produced work of skill and merit, and were recognized for their ability.
Lady Gordon (nee Julia Isabella Levina Bennet) was one of J. M. W. Turner's pupil, and also studied with Thomas Girtin. Her picture, Cottage at Wigmore, Kent was painted 1803 and displays a confident hand. It can be viewed at the Tate Gallery website.
Lady Wharncliffe ( nee Lady Caroline Mary Elizabeth Creighton) was likewise a more-than-competent 'amateur'. I can find no other information on her life, but the Tate Gallery does hold some pieces of her work. Her untitled picture held at the Tate Gallery shows a typical Regency emphasis on trees and sky, probably due to the influence of Constable and Turner.
All that I can discover about Lady Susan Elizabeth Percy are the dates of her life: 1782-1847. The Tate Gallery has several examples of her drawing however, sketched in both Britain and on the continent. They are here.
The Duchess of Sutherland, Elizabeth Leveson-Gower, who succeeded by Scottish law to her father's titles, was known for her involvement in the Highland Clearances. She was also however a splendid artist. The Tate Gallery has only one of her watercolours, Mountain Landscape.
The works of Amelia Long, Lady Farnborough, are available for viewing online at several places: Courtauld Institute of Art, Tate Gallery, The Huntington Library, and Victoria and Albert Museum . She was competent and prolific, the daughter of an amateur artist and, like Lady Gordon, a pupil of Thomas Girtin and also of Henry Edridge.
It frustrates me no end that so little information is available online about these artists. I am sure there are brief mentions in some books, but I think they deserve their own study. Would that I had the time and the resources to write that book!
We must not forget, before we leave the female artists of the Regency, those women who--in the absence of photography--recorded their day to day life in sketches. They have left an invaluable, and charming, record of Regency life. One such was Diana Sperling, and thankfully, there is a book devoted to her Regency world "Mrs. Hurst Dancing and other scenes from Regency Life" from Gollancz Publishers. If you haven't seen this book, I strongly urge you to look it up.
I am still looking for books on female artists of the late 18th and early 19th century. Please let me know if you are aware of any!
'Til next time,
Friday, December 11, 2009
Since my epiphany, I have been reflecting on the lack of publicity and honour given to the female artists of the Regency period. Such was the paternalistic society of the time that women's efforts in the field of art were largely discounted and regarded as of lesser value than their male peers. Thus, we all know the names of Turner, Constable, Lawrence and Rowlandson, but few of us have ever heard of Maria Cosway, Clara Wheatley Pope or Mary Moser or the host of well-educated ladies of rank and fashion who produced a great deal of memorable and vaulable art. I must admit with some shame that my own Regency World Art page contains no female artists. I will do what I can to change that, but there are only a few 'out of copyright' versions of their artwork available to me.
The issue of female artists is complicated in that, during the Regency, sketching, watercolour painting, and drawing were considered necessary accomplishments for ladies to acquire. This fact alone led to any talent they might have had being discounted by the masculine dominated art world. Oil painting was frowned upon for 'ladies' but nevertheless those serious artists among women undertook that discipline as well.
Some facts make plain the difficulties that female artists faced:
- women were not admitted in the Academies of Art or their schools that dominated the art world in European countries
- women were not permitted to study in 'life' classes, that is study the human form via nude models
- therefore, they could not undertake the historical paintings which were in vogue and consisted of classical subjects ie nudes
The Gadfly article noted above calls the female artists that challenged these rules 'heroes' and I must agree. Despite the difficulties they faced, Angelica Kauffmann and Mary Moser began the Royal Academy of Arts in 1768. Maria Cosway gained recognition as a painter of mythological scenes, Clara Wheatley Pope exhibited miniatures at the Royal Academy and eventually was renowned as a portraitist. She is particularly remembered today for her botanical art, especially the plates for a monograph on camellias.
On the left below: Young Woman Drawing by Marie-Denise Villers and on the Right: Self-Portrait by Elisabeth Vigee-LeBrun
The number of professional female artists in Britain was small during the early 1800s, and in discussing the subject, we cannot ignore the continent--German Anna-Marie Ellenrider, Frenchwomen Marie-Denise Villers and Elisabeth-Louise Vigee-LeBrun. The portrait work of these women illustrates the Regency world with precision and beauty. I offer what reproductions I can of their work, and urge you to search on their names in Google to visit gallery sites to see more of their art. We have done their work a disservice and I, for one, will campaign for their visibility in the future!
'Til next time,
Friday, December 4, 2009
I used good authority for the location--George 'Beau' Brummell reportedly never liked to be seen east of Charing Cross. At a chance encounter at Charing Cross with playwright Sheridan he apparently said, "Sherry, my dear boy, don't mention that you saw me in this filthy part of town, though perhaps, I am rather severe, for his Grace of Northumberland resides somewhere about this spot. if I don't mistake. The fact is, my dear boy, I have been in the d--d City, to the Bank. I wish they would remove it to the West End, for re-all-y it is quite a bore to go to such a place; more particularly as one cannot be seen in one's own equipage beyond Somerset House,..."
Mr. Brummell was being rather severe, as he said, for there was much of interest and importance of course east of Charing Cross. But there was no doubt that during the Regency, the West End and Mayfair was the fashionable area of town.
Charing was originally a nondescript hamlet, but an Eleanor Cross erected there in 1291-94. The cross was one of twelve memorial crosses constructed by Edward I in memory of his Queen. The word Charing may come from the French 'chere reine' but there are many possibilities for the word's origin. The cross was replaced in the 1600s by a statue of Charles I. The statue was joined in the 1600s by a major pillory, and the open space around it was often used for public entertainment.
Charing Cross is truly the heart of the city at the junction of the Strand, Whitehall, and Cockspur Street. Although its reputation was less than sterling during the Regency shortly thereafter it began to be used as a central point to define the geographical scope of the City of London. In 1829 it was used to set up police districts; parishes within twelve miles were part of the Metropolitan Police Act. In 1831 the London Hackney Carriage Act used Charing Cross to 'set the radius within which cab drivers were obliged to take a fare'. But in 1832 Charing Cross changed as there was mass demolition to accommodate the construction of Trafalgar Square.
Charing Cross has become quite a favourite place of mine since doing this research--my heroine knew it well. Do you have a favourite place in London, or its environs?
'Til next time,
Friday, November 27, 2009
The best description of a rout comes from a manuscript titled the "Receipt Book of Mary Whiting Sewell". It is published in the Georgian and Regency Lady's Fashion Plates CD-ROM from Prints George and is reprinted here with permission.
"Receipt for a Rout
Take all the ladies and gentlemen you can get, place them in a room with low fire--stir them well--have ready a Piano Forte or Harp--a handful of Books and Prints, with a few packs of cards--put them in from time to time--When the mixture begins to settle, sweeten it with briteness of wit if you have it--if not, flattery will do as well and is very cheap. When all is stewed well together for two or three hours,--put in one or two fowls, some tongues, sliced beef or ham, seed cakes, sweetmeats and wine. The more you put the bettter, and the more substantial your rout will be---
N.B. Fill your room quite full and let scum rise off of itself."
This tongue in cheek 'receipt' tells us a great deal about the usual rout. Music, conversation about books and art, occasionally cards and certainly a good supper were the key ingredients of an enjoyable evening party. The last sentence offers a wonderful rebuke of the society.
Jane Austen does not much speak of 'routs' but in Emma, Mrs. Elton does bore everyone with talk of rout-cakes. And indeed, a noted cookbook writer of the time, Maria Rundell includes a recipe for 'Rout Drop Cakes' in her 1806 book and its many subsequent editions.
"Rout Drop Cakes
Mix two pounds of flour, one ditto butter, one ditto sugar, one ditto currants, clean and dry; then wet into a stiff paste, with 2 eggs, a large spoonful of orange-flower water, ditto rose-water, ditto sweet wine, ditto brandy, drop on a tin-plate floured; a very short time bakes them."
These sound the perfect compliment to lobster patties, buttered prawns, ratafia cakes and orgeat.
Evening dresses would be the requirement for attendance at a rout, perhaps knee breeches for the gentlemen. James Gillray offers a sly look at such a gathering in this carton "Lady Godina's Rout"--plumes appear, in some ladies' minds, to have been mandatory.
A rout-party had the advantage of being able to be hosted in an average town house. A formal ball required a ballroom and few but the greatest homes had those. But anyone in fact could hold a rout. A hostess could place conversation and music in the drawing room, cards in the morning room or small parlour, and supper in the dining room. The perfect Christmas party, perhaps?
Thursday, November 19, 2009
I find those beautiful words remarkably powerful.
"When the moon is on the wave,
And the glow-worm in the grass,
And the meteor on the grave,
And the wisp on the morass;
When the falling stars are shooting,
And the answer'd owls are hooting,
And the silent leaves are still
In the shadow of the hill,
Shall my soul be upon thine,
With a power and with a sign."
Lord Byron's life is the stuff of fiction. Biographies and collected works abound; my public library has thirty books on its shelves at the moment, Amazon.com lists twenty on the man and his writings. He is the sort of historical personage who crops up everywhere as soon as you look at the period.
I knew many details of his life without ever having read a biography or his work. Indeed I always accepted that his work was good, perhaps a little dated, I thought, but worthy of reading some day.Then, quite by chance, I read "She Walks in Beauty Like the Night" and it has become my favourite Regency poem:
Byron was by all accounts a difficult man, a man of many conflicting parts. Two hundred years ago, in 1809, he was just approaching the height of his powers. By 1824 he was dead. He captured the imagination of his time, and still appears regularly in Regency fiction written today.
"She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies."
I have never been a great lover of poetry. But I am learning, and growing. I read Robert Burns, Sarah Teesdale, John Keats, Helen Maria Williams and William Wordsworth. And now I read Byron.
Listen as you read "So We'll Go No More A-Roving":
So we'll go no more a-roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,
And the moon be still as bright.
For the sword outwears its sheath,
And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And Love itself have rest.
Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,
Yet we'll go no more a-roving
By the light of the moon."
Beautiful words indeed...
'Til next time,
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Her Majesty in this case is Queen Charlotte of England, Queen Consort of George III for fifty-seven years. On this birthday in 1809 she was sixty-five years of age. Her birthday was May 19; she was born in 1744. The portrait, right, by Beechy shows her in a lovely gown in 1796.
Although the circumstances and the location of the birth-day event are not described in this article, the gowns worn by the ladies in attendance are, and they are wonderful. There was a great deal of velvet worn, especially by the royal princesses. Head-dresses seems mostly composed of diamonds and feathers, although pearls are mentioned once, and even a 'bonnet a l'Espagnol'.
I've chosen a selection of the descriptions though it was a difficult choice. The Queen herelf wore scarlet and gold velvet with black lace, and the Princess of Wales (the later disgraced Caroline of Brunswick) was gowned in gold tissue with white and royal purple details. Other ladies included:
Countess Effingham--Body and train of moss-velvet, trimmed with point and gold; petticoat of purple crape, intermixed with draperies of orange, fastened up with bands of gold chain at the bottom, a border of the same to correspond.
Lady Macclesfield--Wore a rich chestnut brown satin robe and petticoat, richly embroidered in gold, snake pattern, in angles most tastefully dispersed across the petticoat, and elegantly enriched with massy embossed border, and ornamented with fine gold balls. Head-dress, diamonds and white feathers.
Lady Mary Parkes--A puce-colored velvet robe and petticoat with drapery embroidered with gold, in a most magnificent style, elegantly trimmed to correspond and tastefully looped with superb tassels. Head-dress, white feather and diamonds.
Lady Radstock--Brown Merino cloth petticoat and drapery; the border of the petticoat and drapery of scarlet and black velvet, with coral beads, and tied up with scarlet cords; the body and train to correspond. Head-dress, scarlet velvet and feathers.
Lady Bruce--A white satin petticoat, trimmed with swansdown and matted gold beads; crape drapery, intermixed with satin, richly embroidered in bright and matted gold, tastefully ornamented with gold beads; white satin train, trimmed with swansdown; body and sleeves, ebroidered to correspond. A white satin cap, embroidered in gold and plume of ostrich feathers.
Hon. Lady Hood--A violet velvet, splendidly embroidered with wreaths of gold oak, and festooned with robes of the richest gold, supported with gold doves. Head-dress, feathers and diamonds.
Countess of Carlisle--A most superb dress of ruby velvet and white satin; the draperies in every part trimmed with a rich imperial gold border, and a profusion of splendid gold tassels, rope, etc.; robe trimmed with point-lace. Head-dress, ruby turban, jewels, and feathers.
While there is a great deal of white satin and white crepe detailed, there are likewise many extremely colourful and heavy fabrics used as well. The article is a fascinating microcosm of high-end fashion in 1809. If you would like to read the descriptions in their entirety, go to Google Books and search for 'The Lady's Magazine' 1809.
I would love to wear a gown like one of these. I wonder if I am old enough for a turban--or shall I just stick to diamonds and feathers? Which would you prefer?
Friday, November 6, 2009
And from then until she retires at probably nine or ten o’clock in the evening, she will accomplish a prodigious amount of work. Reading contemporary accounts of her duties is absolutely mind-boggling.
“Her principal business is to keep the furniture clean, under the direction of the housekeeper; great industry and natural cleanliness is requisite in this department.”2 But her work involves much more than this. She starts the day in the main floor apartments—the morning room, dining room, library, etc. with cleaning stoves and fireplaces, brushing carpets and sweeping floors, shaking curtains, dusting ornaments and mirrors as well as picture frames, and finally polishing furniture, unless there is a footman to do so. She does the same in the first floor public rooms—the drawing room and its like.
Then she prepares the dressingrooms so that her master and mistress may rise and find hot water and the like awaiting them, and after that she may finally go for her breakfast! Following her meal, the bedrooms will be waiting her attention. She opens the beds for airing, and while they do, she cleans the fireplaces, sweeps, dusts, rubs up the furniture and empties the slops. Then she puts on a clean apron and makes up the beds. And moves on to cleaning the passages, staircases, and landings—again brushing, sweeping and dusting.
“If the house maid rise in good time, and employ herself busily, she will get everything done above stairs in time to clean and make herself comfortable for dinner, about one o’clock,...”1
She then is permitted to sit down for a few hours while she does needlework, mending, hemming, all by hand and often in poor light no doubt. At four o’clock she lights fires and prepares dressingrooms for use. While the family is at dinner she cleans those same dressingrooms yet again, and turns down beds. Only then does she have her own supper, and if she can stay awake, enjoy a little free time.
For this she is paid twelve to sixteen guineas per year. If she is fortunate she has an under-housemaid to assist her.
The era of formal uniforms for housemaids was yet to come; in most cases maids wore print dresses and possessed several changes of aprons, as well as caps. Fabric for the frocks was usually supplied by the employer. In 1799 Susanna Whatman wrote from London to her steward: “I enclose a bit of callico. I should like to know the opinion the maids have of it. It is a finer one than I should have given them, but it is so pretty that if they fell in love with it as I did, I should be tempted to take it.”4 Some households were beginning to wear uniform garments. The photo is of a replica of a housemaid’s uniform of about 1820. This reproduction gown is modeled after an original garment in the collection of a British stately home, and is made by The Sutlers Stores in Poole, England and sold on their website.
As noted in my first column on Regency Domestics, household service was not for the faint-hearted. “The principal qualification in all servants (but especially in females) is a good disposition,...”2 Given the length of their days and the nature of their work, I can only imagine that a ‘good disposition’ must have been akin to sainthood.
“The household work of a family will be found to afford almost constant employment for the Housemaid;”3 This must be, I think, the understatement of the last two centuries. I can think of no one today who would be willing to work sixteen hours a day for the equivalent of perhaps fifty to one hundred dollars per year. Still, in the uncertain Regency world (with no safety nets), domestic service provided a home and a wage--not to be sneered at in any age.
Until next time,
1The Complete Servant: Regency Life Below Stairs by Samuel and Sarah Adams, Southover Press, 1989
2Modern Domestic Cookery by Elizabeth Hammond, 1819, Google Books
3The Servants’ Guide and Family Manual, 1831, Google Books
4 The Housekeeping Book of Susanna Whatman, Century Publishing, 1987
Friday, October 30, 2009
A New Contest for the Holiday Season
The winner of the September/October contest for the Regency Fancies' tote bag with artwork by Shakoriel from "Lost in Almack's" is Vanessa from the U. S. A. Congratulations, Vanessa! Thank you to everyone for signing the guestbook during the autumn.
The prize in the November/December contest is an out-of-print book "Panoramas of England". I found another copy of this great book, and thought you might enjoy a chance again to win it. And because it is the holiday season, and Christmas will soon be upon us, I will be including in the prize a delightful reproduction fan, in its own silk case. Visit my contest page to see larger pictures of both the book and the fan.
I hope you will sign the guestbook by December 30, 2009 to be entered for the new draw.
Perfect Christmas gifts for all lovers of the Regency World are available at Regency Fancies the store at CafePress.com that artist Shakoriel and I have established. You can buy the Fashions of Regency England Colouring Book and a variety of other products there all embellished with Shakoriel's Regency art. Christmas Gifts from Regency Fancies -- at CafePress.com
Now Available! - "Lost in Almack's"
I am delighted to announce that my new 'Novel Byte' short Regency fiction piece "Lost in Almack's" is now available from Uncial Press.
When Lady Genevra Haven becomes lost in the back corridors and staircases of Almack's she needs courage and ingenuity, as well as charm and confidence, to avoid social ruin and salvage her successful debut.
Romance Reviews Today says "a delightfully fun and lively foray".
Click here to purchase "Lost in Almack's"
And don't forget you can find me all over the Internet:
Follow me at Twitter for all-Regency tweets and my latest news!
My Book Videos at YouTube
and of course,
My Artist - Shakoriel
Thursday, October 22, 2009
The itinerant sellers displayed their wares in the street with ‘cries’ that became the stuff of legends and subject of books. The building owners painted their warehouses with messages in letters several feet tall. The prosperous manufacturers posted their advertisements on buildings and hoardings and hired men to carry signs in the streets touting their products. The merchants hung the exteriors of their shops with their wares, and posted ‘window bills’ to illustrate particular goods within the shop.
And merchants and manufacturers advertised their merchandise and commodities in magazines and journals. Ackermann’s Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, etc. of 1815 has—I was delighted to discover—advertisements in the back of each issue. They give a wonderful picture of the merchandising practices of the Regency period, and the products available to my Regency characters.
“BROWN and CO. Wholesale and Retail Silk-Manufacturers have the honour to announce to the Public, that they have commenced the Silk Trade, in all its Branches, at No. 15, Henrietta-Street, Covent Garden, where their Ware-Rooms will be found to contain a splendid assortment of Silk Goods of the most novel design—rich Satins, Washing Silks, Figured Sarsnets, and Satin Brocade Gauzes, from French Models, Lustres, Tabbinets, Satin Cloths, Gossamere Italian Nets, Scarfs, etc. etc...”
A Wonderful Saving in Silk Stockings
“The Nobility and Gentry are most respectfully informed, by purchasing at the original and old-established Nottingham Stocking Warehouse, No. 81, Charlotte-street, Fitzroy-Square, they will realize a saving of near 20 per cent in that fashionable and elegant part of dress, silk stockings.”
There is much more than fashions advertised...
“Malabar’s Dentifrice, or Indian Tooth-Powder, decidedly the best preparation in the university, for cleansing, preserving and beautifying the teeth and gums. This tooth-powder is astringent, cleansing, antiputrescent, a fine aromatic, a most excellent stomachic, extremely grateful to the palate and pleasant to use, and is so perfectly innocent that the contents may be eaten by an infant. 9d per box.”
“Pears’ Liquid Bloom of Roses gives a most delightful tinge to the female countenance, and to such a degree of perfection, that it may with propriety be said, that art was never so successfully employed in improving the charms of nature. 3s. 6d per bottle.”
“Stephenson’s Patent Filtering Machines are portable, never out of repair, and are the best invention ever produced for purifying water, at the unexampled rate of 200 gallons per day, rendering the water beautifully transparent.”
“Morgan and Sanders have, at a very considerable expence, established a large manufactory, and also built extensive warerooms, for the purpose of exhibiting for sale a great variety of Upholstery ad Cabinet Furniture, for the furnishing of houses; a great part of which are articles perfectly new in principle, extremely fashionable, and universally approved of.”
“Bayley’s True Essential Salt of Lemons, for taking Ink-spots and stains out of Lace and Linen. The genuine is signed ‘W. Bayley’ on the Box and Wrapper. Also his Scouring Drops, for taking Grease out of Silk, Stuff, Woollen Cloth, price 1s. Each”
More was advertised than simply Goods for Sale:
“Denis Jacob begs leave to inform the Public, he gives the full value, in ready money, for Diamonds and Pearls, at No. 57, Margaret-street, Cavendish-square.”
I find these advertisements fascinating! Do you?
If you would like to investigate advertising and trade cards a little further, visit the John Johnson Collection at the Bodleian Library, or download the Ackermann’s Repository from Google Books and read all the adverts yourself!
Until next time,
Friday, October 16, 2009
The reviewers have been kind:
From Romance Reviews Today: "In only twenty pages, Lost In Almack's is a delightfully fun and lively foray...It's only one of the short and long Regency romances by Ms. McLeod, a talented and highly original author"
From Romance Junkies: "...a lighthearted humorous venture through the blurred vision of a young woman's introduction to the creme de la creme of the ton."
From Coffeetime Romance: "...a very well written short story...amusing...adventures for its main character."
From Mistress Bella Reviews: "...it's a great short story, a great regency theme story."
From Dear Author: "This is a delight of a short story."
Here is an excerpt to whet your curiosity:
Halfway through the assembly, Genevra had regained her happy insouciance. The lack of clarity to her evening seemed less important as her confidence grew. Several of the young ladies she knew were in attendance, and their nervousness eased her own. She had the satisfaction of being solicited to dance every set, and her mama nodded approvingly from her seat with the other mothers and chaperones. Finally she banded together with her friends and, after asking permission, they made their way to the withdrawing room opposite the ballroom. Their whispers were all about the young gentlemen they had met and the ensembles they had seen.
They entered the chamber on gales of laughter, and much primping and pinning took place in front of the half dozen looking glasses. They had all become good friends and mild rivals during their first season, and their conversation reflected their ease with each other. Genevra in her turn refreshed herself in a screened corner. As she splashed a little water on her hot cheeks, a sudden silence fell in the room. She rounded the japanned screen to find her companions had abandoned her. The chamber was quite empty.
A panicky anxiety clawed her stomach. She would have to make her way back to the ballroom alone. It sounded simple, but all of her unease about her abysmal vision was in an instant revived. Standing alone in the middle of the room, she revolved slowly. No more than an impression of gilding, nile green walls, and white plaster could she gain, even by squinting. And there were three doors. She had no notion by which she had entered the room; she had been chattering with her friends on her entry.
And don't forget--if you like the cover art for "Lost in Almack's" you still have time to enter the contest on my website for a Regency Fancies totebag with "Lost in Almack's" artwork.
"Lost in Almack's" was great fun to write--I hope you enjoy reading it!
Until next time,
Thursday, October 8, 2009
There are no major libraries near where I live holding such a periodical. To purchase an edition of the journal could cost anywhere from five hundred and five thousand dollars. For years, I was stymied—always hearing of The Repository, never able to see it.
“Mr. Singer will commence a course of Lectures on Electricity and
Electro-Chemistry, at the Russell Institution, on Monday, January 16, 1815 at eight o’clock in the evening. These lectures will include all the recent electro-chemical discoveries, and are to be illustrated by Mr. Singer’s powerful and exgtensive apparatus, which includes a series of electric columns, containing 50,000 zinc and silver plates.”
There is a Medical Report:
“As usual at this season, coughs and various affections of the lungs are prevalent. Some severe cases of small-pox have occurred, and the prejudice against inoculation with either vaccine or variolous matter, has proved fatal to many poor children.”
“Evening Dress (illustrated) – Light pink satin gown, trimmed round the bottom with a lace flounce, laid on richly, worked and beaded with tufts of the same; short full sleeve, trimmed with lace. A shell lace tippet. White kid gloves, drawn over the elbow. An Indian fan of carved ivory. Slippers of white kid, Full crop head-dress, ornamented with flowers.”
as with this 'French cottage bed'.
And Musical Reviews are extensive. One article on the piano-forte discusses the great advances made in forty years of piano-forte development and suggests that more and more amateurs will become proficient with the instrument in the following years.
It is two hundred years since Mr. Ackermann’s journal first rolled off the presses. Have you seen a copy of The Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions, and Politics? Or are you like me, only now able to experience what Regency folk knew two hundred years ago?
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Richard Parkes Bonington was born in 1802 and he lived only twenty-six years. In those years his accomplishments and his output were astonishing. He required very little formal instruction; he was one of those born artists who simply know.
His family moved to Calais in 1816 and his career commenced there. He early mastered a luminous landscape style and excelled in both watercolours and oil. He was very interested in historical subjects, and many of his pencil sketches show an historical bent.
By 1827, Bonington was famous, and he was sick. His hectic work schedule and his extensive travels had worn him out, and he contracted tuberculosis. Throughout the following year he fought increasing weakness and continued his prodigious output. By September 1828 he was dead.
Thomas Shotter Boys was a friend and fellow artist of Bonington, a contemporary born in 1803. But unlike Bonington, he lived a long life, well into the Victorian era, dying in 1874.
Their careers intertwined when in 1823 or 24 Boys moved to Paris. Boys’ early instruction in art was not academic but gained during an apprenticeship to an engraver. That early training gave his work an attention to detail and draftsmanship that never disappeared. He worked mainly in watercolours, unlike Bonington, and in later years he became one of the chief developers of the process of lithography.
Bonington and Boys, along with Callow, Cooke and others, ranged Paris in the 1820s painting the same scenes and occasionally buying each other’s work. Boys, in about 1826, drew a pen and ink of the interior of Bonington’s studio in the Rue des Martyrs, Paris.
Despite his long life, Boys never achieved the fame and fortune that Bonington did in his few years. Boys died in poverty, but left a legacy of achievement in watercolour and lithography.
Neither artist is well known now; of the two Bonington is more widely recognized. I like Boys’ work a little better—something in his architectural approach to street scenes and his attention to detail appeal greatly to me.
I hope you will have the opportunity to explore their work—so alike, yet different. And I hope you will let me know which you prefer...
'Til next time,
Friday, September 25, 2009
"Laws Respecting Servants"
from The Servants' Guide and Family Manual, 2nd edition, 1831
I have just turned up, quite by chance, some very interesting laws--"abstracts of Acts of Parliament respecting servants"--in the above-mentioned item found on Google Books. It is interested to note that the abstracts lean heavily towards charges and punishments for offenses committed by servants, and barely mention crimes against servants.
Here are some extracts:
"A servant setting fire carelessly to a house, is liable to pay, on the oath of one witness, 100₤ to the sufferer, or be committed to prison and hard labour for 18 months.
If a servant refuse to serve his term, he may be committed till he give security to service the time; or he may be sent to the House of Correction, and punished there as a disorderly person.
Should a woman with child hire herself for a term, and the master she hires with know not of her being with child, he may discharge her, but before a magistrate.
If a servant, after warning is given, is insolent, or refuses to do his duty, a magistrate, on complaint, will commit him to prison for the time he has to serve; but the master will be order to pay him his wages whilst there.
No agreement a servant shall make with his master to his disadvantage whilst he is under the age of 21, shall operate against him.
If any servant shall purloin, or make away with his master's goods to the amount of 40s. it is felony.
A servant may stand up in his master or mistress's defence, and assault any one that assaults them, without being liable to any punishment by law.
Whatever trespasses a servant commits, by order of his master, the master is answerable for it, not the servant.
Masters are justifiable in insisting on their servants going to church.
Servants gaming at a public-house with cards, dice,…etc. are liable to be apprehended, and forfeit from 5s. to 20s., one-fourth to the informer, or be committed to hard labour for a month, or till the penalty is paid.
If any servant shall curse or swear, and be convicted on the oath of one witness, before one justice, within eight days of the offence, he shall forfeit 1s. for the first offence, 2s if convicted a second time, and 3s. the third time; or be committed to hard labour for ten days.
Every person convicted of having been drunk, within six months of the complaint made, before one justice, on the oath of one witness, shall forfeit 5s. for the first offence, or be set in the stocks for six hours.
Servants pawning their master's goods without orders, shall forfeit 20s. and the value of the goods so pawned, or be sent to the House of Correction for three months, and publicly whipped."
Punishments are harsh--one would expect fines and gaol terms, but hard labour, stocks and even public whipping seem extreme to a modern sensibility. But these were times when you could be hanged for public theft. Perhaps the punishments visited on wayward servants were considered lenient. What do you think?
'Til next time,
Friday, September 18, 2009
From the formalities of the minuet and the quadrille through the occasional intricacies of the contre or country dance to the romping jigs and reels, people danced. At the height of the Revolution in France, dancing clubs were popular.
At dancing parties, and dancing schools, with dancing masters and dancing manuals, Regency society danced. And they talked about dancing:
"As dancing is the accomplishment most calculated to display a fine form, elegant taste, and graceful carriage to advantage; so towards it, our regards must be particularly turned; and we shall find that when Beauty, in all her power, is to be set forth, she cannot chuse a more effective exhibition.
"The characteristic of an English country-dance is that of gay simplicity. The steps should be few and easy; and the corresponding motion of the arms and body unaffected, modest, and graceful.
"But with regard to the lately-introduced German waltz, I cannot speak so favourably….There is something in the close approximation of persons, in the attitudes, and n the motion, which ill aggress with the delicacy of woman,…"
So says "Regency Etiquette: The Mirror of Graces (1811) a reprint from R. L. Shep Publications ISBN 0-914046-24-1
Edward Austen-Leigh, Jane Austen's nephew, commented on dancing: "The stately minuet reigned supreme; and every regular ball commenced with it….Gloves immaculately clean wee considered requisite for its due performance, while gloves a little soiled were thought good enough for a country dance; and accordingly some prudent ladies provided themselves with two pairs for their several purposes."
Even poetry inclined to the dance in the book (available for download from Google Books), "The Ball, or A Glance at Almack's in 1829" by G. Yates:
"'Tis Dancing only heightens every charm,
And gives each feature double power to warm;
Like goddesses, it shows us how to move,
And adds a Juno to the Queen of Love."
Mr. Yates further offered:
"To dance as if a person had passed all his life in the study of it, a man of sense should be ashamed of: yet to be totally ignorant of it, and the grace and comportment which, by learning it, is acquired, shows a man of learning either an ill-natured stoic, or ill-bred pedant."
And Jane Austen, as always, may have the final word:
"...To be fond of dancing is a certain step towards falling in Love... "- Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey
Do you enjoy dancing? Do you square dance? It is a direct relative of the 'contre-danse'. Have you tried Regency dancing? Some cities have Regency dance clubs--I wish mine did!
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Guidebooks for domestic servants were available. Elizabeth Hammond’s Modern Domestic Cookery of 1819 contained a section headed “Directions to Servants”. In its introduction, Mrs. Hammond advises “The principal qualification in all servants (but especially in females) is a good disposition, which naturally urges them to anxiously endeavour to give universal satisfaction;...”
For a further three pages, she admonishes and counsels upon the following suggestions:
“Be particularly careful what acquaintance you form;...”
"Invariably speak the truth...”
“Be humble and modest...”
“Never speak lightly of your master and mistress...”
“Carefully avoid quarrels with your companions...”
“Endeavour to acquire the habit...of being contented with their homes.”
Good advice no doubt, but also fostering and reinforcing a certain sort of subservience.
In 1825 after a lifetime of service Samuel Adams, a butler, in cooperation with his wife Sarah, a housekeeper, produced “The Complete Servant”. It was their opinion that such a handbook had never before existed-- “The want of such a manual of duty and practice having often been noticed in servants’ halls,...”. As both Sarah and Samuel had started in service at a young age and ‘risen through the ranks’ as it were, they knew whereof they spoke, and offered all their experience to newcomers.
The Adamses’ in their Dedication “Respectfully Addressed to the Heads of Families in the United Kingdom” go so far as to make suggestions to the master of the house regarding costs and economies of the household, and to the mistress of the house regarding handling of servants.
Nevertheless they too, in their “Advice to Servants in General” lapse into a sort of moral admonishment that sounds patronizing to modern ears. It is sometimes difficult to remember that the Regency was a different time, with a unique world view and ideas now foreign to us. That an employer or a contemporary could advise another with such arrogance is a strange idea to us. Yet the education level and the naivety—the innocence and the ignorance--of many of the servant class must have made these instructions seem necessary and right to their ‘superiors’. As with Elizabeth Hammond, the Adamses' heap advice upon counsel:
“Your wages are the yearly pay for your honesty, and your time;...”
“Dress as becomes your station, if you desire to please your employers,...”
“Be very careful of your reputation for virtue and discretion in regard of the other sex;...”
“Intemperance or excess is a pleasurable evil,--it...enchants and destroys.”
“The virtue of silence is highly commendable,...”
The role of the domestic servant in the English home had a long, long history. During the Regency, no one could have foreseen that in one hundred years the institution of ‘service’ would be threatened, and that in one hundred and fifty years it would all but have disappeared.
Another time we will discuss the individual duties of the various servants. The amount of work they were assigned was as staggering as the moral precepts heaped upon them. The Adamses’ lists of servants’ duties and their instructions on careful and proper fulfilment of the tasks are thorough and complete. In the end analysis, with so much advice, how could a servant ever go wrong?
Til next time,
Friday, September 4, 2009
Emily was instructed in drawing, sketching and watercolours as was every proper Regency lady, and her work has echoes of Canova, Bewick and Flaxman. She drew these fairies in her twenties in the 1820s before the Victorian vogue for fairies began. There was an interest in fairies during the Regency fostered by Scott’s ‘Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border’ and the 1815 Brothers Grimm stories, but certainly Emily was in the vanguard of the fashion for fairies.
Do you believe in fairies? I do...
Thursday, August 27, 2009
For most people in most situations, the best health care was to be had in the home. And every recipe book, whether purchased or compiled generation after generation, contained cures and nostrums for every ailment.
The book ‘Modern Domestic Cookery’ published in a third edition in 1819, and written by Elizabeth Hammond, was a receipt book that covered every possible household need. From cookery to wine-making, carving to cleaning, it is full of recipes of all kinds.
Medications, remedies, therapies and treatments are found in the section titled Family Medical Receipts ; they are sobering and really make me appreciate the advances of the past two hundred years.
The first receipt in the list is for camphorated oil—a liniment—and the second recipe is for a wound ointment:
Take of bees-wax, white rosin, and frankincense, four ounces each, melt them well together over a slow fire, then add the same weight of fresh lard, and strain it into your jar while warm; this ointment is of great use in cleansing and healing wounds and ulcers.
Chapped lips were apparently as common in Regency times as in our present day, and so there is a receipt for:
Put in a jar four ounces of white wax, one ounce of spermaceti, and half a pint of oil of sweet almonds, cover it close, and put it in a saucepan with as much water as will nearly reach the top of the jar, let it boil till the wax is melted (but observe, none of the water must boil over the jar,) then put in a small quantity of alkanet root tied up in a bag; close the jar again, and boil it till it becomes red; remove the alkanet root, and add a little essence of lemon, or bergamot; run it into your pots, and keep it for use.
For headaches, the following recommendation:
This unpleasant pain may be prevented by wearing the hair short, and by washing the head daily with cold water; then rub the hair dry, and expose it to the air.
Inflamed eyes have their own disagreeable remedies:
Leeches should be applied to the temples, and when the bleeding has ceased, a small blister may be applied, and a little opening medicine taken. Shaving the head, and bathing the feet in warm water, will in some cases, be found very beneficial.
A ‘fever drink’ might sound helpful with a rise in body temperature, but the efficacy of a simple fruit beverage seems questionable to contemporary eyes:
Boil three ounces of currants, two of raisins carefully stoned, and an ounce and a half of tamarinds, in three pints of water, till it is reduced to a quart, strain it, throw in a bit of lemon-peel, and let it stand an hour.
Refreshing yes, therapeutic—well, I don’t know.
Barley water, that staple of Regency novels, is I believe still in occasional use, but I was not familiar with its preparation. Here is the 1819 receipt:
Boil a quarter of a pound of pearl-barley in a gallen of water, till it is quite soft and white, then strain off the water, and add to it a little currant jelly, lemon or milk.
Wash a little common barley, and let it simmer in three or four pints of water with a little lemon-peel. This is prefereable to pearl-barley.
And so it continues--a hopeful panacea for every ailment. After reading the remedies in this two hundred year old book, I am more than content to rely on 21st century science. For once, I don’t at all wish to live during the Regency era.