Friday, December 31, 2010

Ode for the New Year 1801

Bell's Weekly Messenger was a British newspaper that had a one-hundred year run. At the beginning of the year 1801 the journal printed a poem for the New Year by the Poet Laureate of the period, Henry James Pye.

The poem incorporates all the high-flown patriotism and fervent jingoism that we associate with the Victorian era. The language is florid, and the sentiments are lavish, but it nevertheless gives a flavour of the period, and is worth a read at this time of our New Year celebrations. Here is 'Ode for the New Year 1801' by Henry James Pye:

From delug'd earth's usurp'd domain,
   When Ocean sought his native bed,
Emerging from the shrinking main
   Rear'd many a mountain Isle its head;
Encircled with a billowy zone,
Fair freedom mark'd them for her own,
"Let the vast Continent obey
"A ruthless master's iron sway;
"Uncheck'd by aught from Pole to Pole,
"When the swoln Ambition's torrents roll,
"Those seats to tyrants I resign;
"Here be my blest abode, the Island reign be mine."

Hating the fane, where Freedom sat enshrin'd,
Grasping at boundless Empire o'er Mankind;
Behold from Susa's distant Towers
The Eastern despot sends his mighty powers:
   Grecia, thro' all her rocky coast,
   Astonish'd views the giant host:
Not the fam'd Straight, by bleeding heroes barr'd,
Nor Cecrep's Walls, her hallow'd altars guard;
   While each bold inmate of the Isles,
   On inroads baffled effort smiles:
   From every Port, with cheering sound,
   Swells the vindictive Paean round;
And Salamis' proud, from her Sea-girt shore,
Sees o'er the hostile fleet the indignant surges roar.

Fiercer than Persia's scept'red Lord:
More numerous than the emb[att]led train,
Whose thirsty swarms the sea broad rivers drain,
Lo! Gallia's plains disgorge their maddening horde!
   Wide o'er Europa's trembling lands,
   Victorious speed the murderous bands;
   Where'er they spread their powerful sway,
   Fell desolation marks their way:
Unhurt, amid a warring world alone,
Britannia sits secure, firm on her Island Throne.

   When thunders war, when light'nings fly,
   When howling tempests shake the sky,
   Is more endear'd the shelt'ring dome,
   More sweet th' social joys of home;
   Fondly her eye, lo! Albion throws
On the tried partner of her weal and woes:
   Each tie to closer union draws,
   By mingled rights and mingled laws;
Then turns averse from Gallia's guilty field,
And tears, with gen'rous pride, the lilies from her shield.

Albion and Erin's kindred race,
Long as your Sister Isles the Seas embrace,
Long as the circling tides your shores that lave,
Waft your united banners o'er the wave;
Wide thro' the deep, commercial wealth to spread,
Or hurl destruction on the Oppressor's head:
May Heav'n, on each unconquer'd nation, show'r
Eternal concord, and encreasing pow'r.
   And, as in History's awful page,
      Immortal virtue shall proclaim
   To every clime, thro' every age,
      Imperial George's patriot fame;
That parent care shall win her warmest smiles,
Which rear'd, mid Ocean's reign, the Empire of the Isles.
Henry James Pye (20 February 1745 – 11 August 1813) was an English poet. Pye was Poet Laureate from 1790 until his death. He was the first poet laureate to receive a fixed salary of £27 instead of the historic tierce of Canary wine (though it was still a fairly nominal payment; then as now the Poet Laureate had to look to extra sales generated by the prestige of the office to make significant money from the Laureateship). --from Wikipedia
 Happy New Year to you all, dear friends--May 2011 bring you all good things!

'Til next time,


Friday, December 24, 2010

Some Feasts of Christmas

On this day of Christmas Eve, I thought you might enjoy some writings on Christmas feasts of the Georgian era.

Mr. Thomas North, on a Christmas meal in London at the home of a friend in 1731:
"'Tis impossible for me to give you half our bill of fare, so you must be content to know that we had turkies, geese, capons, puddings of a dozen sorts more than I had ever seen in my life, besides brawn, roast beef, and many things of which I know not the name, minc'd pyes in abundance, and a thing they call plumb pottage, which may be good for ought I know, though it seems to me to have 50 different tastes. ...our company was polite and every way agreeable; nothing but mirth and loyal healths went round."

 In 1795, Parson Woodforde of Norfolk wrote in his diary:

"This being Christmas-Day, the following poor People dined at my House & had each one Shilling apiece given to them by me. Old Tom Atterton, Ned Howes, Robin Downing, old Mrs. Case, old Cutty Dunnell, and my Clerk Tom Thurston. They had each a Glass of strong Beer after they had dined. ...It turned out a very fine Day indeed, no frost. Dinner to day, a Surloin of Beef rosted, a fine Fowl boiled & Bacon, & plumb Puddings."

 In "The Book of Christmas" author Thomas Hervey describes the London markets before Christmas:

"The abundant displays of every kind of edible, in the London markets, on Christmas-eve, with a view to the twelve day's festival, of which it is the overture--the blaze of lights amid which they are exhibited, and the evergreen decorations by which they are embowered--together with the crowds of idlers or of purchasers that wander through these well-stored magazines--present a picture of abundance,...Norfolk turkeys and Dorking fowls...Brawn is another dish of the season...
"The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction" in 1823 mourned the passing of the old customs while at the same time gently mocking them as antiquated. Nevertheless it published this little verse:

"Few presents now to friends are sent,
Few hours in merry-making spent;
Old-fashioned folks there are, indeed,
Whose hogs and pigs at Christmas bleed,
Whose honest hearts no modes refine,
They send their pudding and their chine,
Nor Norfolk turkeys load the waggon,
Which once the horse scarce could drag on;
And, to increase the weight with these,
Came their attendant sausages,
Should we not then, as men of taste,
Revive our customs gone and past?
And (fie, for shame!) without reproach,
Stuff, as we ought the Bury coach?
With strange old kindess, send up presents,
Of partridges and dainty pheasants."

Next week Tara Manderino, published author of three Regency romances, will join us. Please come back for a New Year's visit! In the meantime, I hope you enjoy a happy Christmas with family, friends, love and joy surrounding you.

 'Til next time,

Friday, December 17, 2010

Regency Domestics IV -
The Servants' Register Office

Westminster and Central Mart,
Universal Register Office,
at the corner of Southampton-street, Strand
Opened on New Year's Day, 1814
An Original Establishment, on an entire New Plan, for the Accommodation of the Public in general,
And for the Benefit of Persons Wanting Servants, and Servants in Particular who Want Places.
 I had heard of Register Offices--young ladies often head, in fiction, to an agency to find a position as governess or companion. Authentic details of such offices have been difficult to find, but I recently discovered an advertisement in the February 1, 1814 issue of La Belle Assemblee.

The header above is delightfully fulsome and thoroughly self-explanatory. The office seems well-organized, the advertisement certainly is. In addition to providing a register of employers and available employees, the business also encompasses "The Statute Rooms". These appear to be a suite of meeting rooms of some sort where the interested parties might meet and complete employment interviews and transactions.

In addition, The Statute Rooms held open house, or a kind of employment fair, as follows:

Masters and Mistresses, and Servants in general, being registered in this Office, if not satisfactorily suited before, will have the privilege of attending The Statute Rooms, without any additional Expence; viz. for Females on Tuesdays--for Men on Thursdays, until they are suited.

The Register Office was definitely a money-making proposition. For three pounds per annum, "Families, wishing to avoid the Trouble of frequent Registers, may be supplied with any number of Servants, when wanted, according to their own description of them." Or for one pound one shilling "Families may be supplied with One or Two Servants by the year when wanted." 

For more ordinary arrangements, fees for registration with the regency were charged both to the employer and the prospective employee. Generally such fees were from two to seven shillings, with most about five shillings.

Among the first class of servants were Companions, Governesses or Teachers, Bailiffs and House Stewards. To register in search of such an employee cost one pound. "Qualified Persons wanting such superior Situations, to pay ten shillings", or even a little more.

The second class of female servants were those called 'Women of Business'--Milliners, Dress-makers, or for Shops'. The third class were Housekeepers, 'professed' Cooks, Ladies' and Upper Nursery Maids. Fourth class included Cooks, Laundresses, House-Maids and Servants-of-all-Work. I was a little surprised by these rankings and I'm wondering how widely these classifications of servants were accepted and used. And what, I wonder, was a 'professed Cook'?

Male servants were not, it seems, included in these class rankings. There are separate groupings (without class designation) for menservants as follows:

- Tutors, Ushers, Clerks and experience young Men of Business
- Servants Out Of Livery, Valets, Butlers, Gamekeepers, Grooms and Gardeners
- Coachmen, Footmen, and other creditable Men Servants and Lads

The final entry on the list is for 'Waiters and Bar-Maids, wanted or wanting Situations'. The charge for them is also five shillings.

In the Regency, as now, you had to have money to make money. I'm sure the registration fee was, for many members of the servant class, an impossible expense. They had to rely on newspaper advertisements, such as this one from the Daily Advertiser, January 1, 1796:
Coachman, Wanted a sober careful Man, who is very steady, and has lived some Time in his last Place, and can have a good Character, for a small Family who live retired a few Miles from London.
The prospective servant could not be sure of the character of the household, or whether wages would be regular and accomodation adequate. I don't suppose use of the agency eased those worries.

The employer could pay for a newspaper advertisement, or pay the registration fee. I expect the agency fee was more substantial than advertising, but of course, one had--supposedly--more reliability with agency staff. And with house servants, it was probably all about reliability. When inviting staff into your home, surely security of person and property was a concern. 

Hiring good workers--or finding a good job--has ever been a challenge. Some things never change.

'Til next time,


Friday, December 10, 2010

Thomas Moore - National Bard of Ireland

I blush to confess that I had never, until the past month, heard of Thomas Moore. I had heard of a poem 'Lalla Rookh' which was popular during the Regency, but I knew nothing of its creator. Then at a book sale last month, I picked up a lovely old (1880s) edition of the Poetical Works of Thomas Moore, because it contained the poem 'Lalla Rookh'. What a discovery!

Thomas Moore stands to Ireland as Robert Burns does to Scotland: a poet, a lyricist, a satirist, patriotic thinker and dreamer, a symbol for his nation. He was born in May of 1779, and died after a long life and a prolific career, in 1852. In 1803 he obtained an Admiralty position in Bermuda, and from there he visited Canada and the United States, writing all the while. He earned a good living from his writing but, nevertheless, through expensive tastes and the embezzlement of funds by his deputy in Bermuda, he fell into debt. In 1819 he had to leave England for several years. He was a friend of Lord John Russell, and of Lord Byron, whose memoirs he destroyed, along with publisher John Murray, on instructions from Byron's family. He has been much criticized for that action.

Moore's poetry is typical of the time. I found, in browsing my volume of his works, that I much preferred his spontaneous and often charming 'juvenile' works to the stately phrasing and considered classical terminology of his later epistles and odes.

From an early work - To Rosa:

"And are you then a thing of art,
Seducing all, and loving none;
And have I strove to gain a heart
Which every coxcomb thinks his own?"

His work in later years with the ancient music of Ireland, writing lyrics and composing songs, is remembered today with works like "Believe me if all those endearing young charms" and "'Tis the last rose of summer." He is still called Ireland's National Bard.

"Lalla Rookh"--an 'oriental romance'--I find difficult to appreciate but certainly, on its publication in 1817, the Regency world did not. I found a lovely website devoted to the poem here. I think the poem would reward closer study. This illustration, which I have not been able to identify, but to me, looks Regency in origin, is borrowed from the website. It is 'Lalla Rookh':

One of Moore's pieces of satirical writing particularly appealed to me. It is titled "Reinforcements for Lord Wellington" and was written in 1813. Things were not going well on the continent, and Moore offered these suggestions:

"As recruits in these times are not easily got,
And the Marshal must have them--pray, why should we not,
As the last and, I grant it, the worst of our loans to him,
Ship off the Ministry, body and bones to him."

I cannot reprint the entire piece, but here is another excerpt:

"Nay, I do not see why the great R-g--t himself
Should, in times such as these, stay at home on the shelf;--
Though through narrow defiles he's not fitted to pass,
Yet who could resist, if he bore down en masse?"
I giggle every time I read this!

I am grateful to have discovered Thomas Moore, and I regret my ignorance of one so important to Irish history. I have learned that he is remembered today even in the T-shirt industry. From his poem "The Meeting of Ships", the last lines
"And soon, too soon, we part with pain,
To sail o'er silent seas again."
have been paraphrased for a slogan!

And so his works live on--what more can a writer ask?

'Til next time,


Friday, December 3, 2010

The Lord Mayor's Show --
a story waiting to happen!

I've recently discovered a pageant which was made, if ever one was, for inclusion in a Regency-era story. This is The Lord Mayor's Show. The Lord Mayor in question is that of the City of London, duly elected every year (although earlier known as the Mayor of London) since about 1200 AD.

The City of London is the historic centre of the larger London, just about a square mile, a gleaming core of history, finance and government. The City of London Corporation governs it, and the Lord Mayor is the head of that Corporation.
 above The Lord Mayor in his Coronation Robes 1821

The Lord Mayor is elected every year at Michaelmas (September 29) by 'Common Hall'--the representatives of the City's Guilds or Livery Companies. He takes office on the Friday before the second Saturday in November. Then, on that Saturday, the Lord Mayor's Show is held.

 above Canaletto's view of the Lord Mayor's barges
on the river in about 1747
The Show itself is a procession--once undertaken on the river--from the Guildhall, to Mansion House (the Lord Mayor's Residence), past St. Paul's Cathedral to the Royal Courts of Justice in Westminster. The state coaches are accompanied by ranks of marchers, from members of The Great Twelve Livery Companies to privileged regiments like the Honourable Artillery Company and The Royal Fusiliers. A favourite component of the parade is the two wickerwork giants, Gog and Magog, who reflect the pre-Roman past of the City.

Imagine the excitement for Regency folk. I can see young people from the august streets of Mayfair, making their way with or without permission to see the spectacle; young ladies slipping away to meet beaus, or soldiers, in the parade; Members of Parliament entertaining parties of procession watchers, and hosting grand dinners in its wake.

In 1806 Benjamin Silliman from the United States was present. "Every spectator, however mean, seemed to feel some interest in the ceremony," he said, "and although I did not expect to be like Whittington, Lord Mayor of London, I felt a strong curiosity to see the King of the City on this his day of pomp and glory."

left Lord Mayor of London 1796 Brook Watson. He lost his leg in a shark attack as a boy!

In 1815 there were "small parties of horse soldiers arrayed as 'curriassiers' [sic] in the spoils so bravely won on the preceding 18th of June at the ever memorable Battle of Waterloo."

The wonderful Washington Irving apparently saw the Show in 1817 and wrote: "The Lord Mayor is looked up to by the inhabitants of Little Britain as the greatest potentate upon earth; his gilt coach with six horses as the summit of human splendour; and his procession with all the Sheriffs and Aldermen in his train, as the grandest of earthly pageants."

What could be a more fitting setting for a Regency day out or a Regency romance than a grand pageant? I think I feel a story coming on…

'Til next time,


My sources:
"My Lord Mayor and The City of London" by William Kent 1947 Herbert Jenkins Limited

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Irish Act of Union 1800
by Laurel McKee/Amanda McCabe

Thanks so much for inviting me to the blog today!  I’m so excited to see the release of Duchess of Sin, the story of Lady Anna Blacknall and Conlan McTeer, her wild Irish duke.  I loved meeting Anna in Countess of Scandal and was very nervous to see everything work out for her in her own HEA.  It’s been quite an adventure keeping up with the Blacknall sisters of the Daughters of Erin series!

Anna’s story takes place against the background of a very tumultuous moment of change in Irish history.  The hotly contested Act of Union was actually two acts, the first passed as an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain on July 2, 1800 and the second an Act of the Parliament of Ireland on August 1, 1800.  The two acts officially united the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, which came into effect on January 1, 1801 (the time of Duchess of Sin).  In the Republic of Ireland, the first Act was not repealed until the passing of the Republic’s Statute Law Revision Act in 1983.

Before these Acts, Ireland was already in personal union with England since 1541, when the Irish Parliament passed the Crown of Ireland Act proclaiming Henry VIII as King of Ireland.  (England and Scotland were united into a single kingdom in 1603 with the accession of King James I).  The Parliament in Dublin had gained a measure of precious independence by the Constitution of 1782, and its members guarded this hard-won freedom fiercely (one of the most notable being Henry Grattan, the hero of the anti-Unionists—he makes a brief appearance in this story at the debates!).  They rejected a motion for Union in 1790 after the upheaval of the Rebellion by 109 votes versus 104.  (Not that the Irish Parliament was a truly democratic body, open to all Irishmen—only Anglican landowners of a certain class could become Members of Parliament and the biggest landowners often controlled the boroughs and thus the vote).  But Britain was scared—the Revolution in France and the Irish Rebellion made them fearful and determined to make the wild Irish settle down once and for all.  The final passage of the Act in the Irish Parliament was achieved in large part by determined bribery, such as awarding peerages, estates, and money to get the needed votes.  The measure passed 158 to 115 amid riots and protests.

A few good sources on the Act of Union and this period in history are: Alan J. Ward’s The Irish Constitutional Tradition: Responsible Government and Modern Ireland, 1782—1992; WJ McCormack’s The Pamphlet Debate on the Union of Great Britain and Ireland; Edward Brynn’s Crown and Castle: British Rule in Ireland, 1800-1830; Patrick Geoghan’s The Irish Act of Union: A Study in High Politics, 1798-1801.

Duchess of Sin, book 2 in the Daughters of Erin series, will be published in December 2010 by Grand Central Publishing. For excerpts, more historical background, and a great Christmas contest, please visit my website at

Friday, November 19, 2010

'Necessary Articles for Seafaring Persons'

A month ago I wrote about a new cookery book I had found on Google Books 'The London Art of Cookery' by John Farley published in a Twelfth Edition in 1811.

Near the end of the book there is an intriguing section titled, as above, 'Necessary Articles for Seafaring Persons'. As Britain was, and is, a seafaring nation and as many families would be closely connected with those at sea, I expect that recipes for food that could be taken aboard ship were eagerly sought.

The captain of a large naval vessel probably had little to do with his galley's food preparations, but like the mistress of a large country house, he had a need to understand every aspect of his establishment. If he could provide a suggestion or two to the cook, he improved the diet of the entire crew.

On the other hand, the owner of a small ship likely had intimate acquaintance with the sustenance he and his crew would need for their journey, however long. He probably chose the supplies and if his wife could suggest methods of preparation to keep the food edible, it was all to the good.

The article begins "As pickled mushrooms are very handy for captains of ships to take with them to sea, we shall here give directions for that particular purpose." Two methods of preservation are included:

Pickling involves boiling the mushrooms, then bottling with vinegar spiced with pepper, ginger, bay, mace and cloves. The vinegar is topped with 'mutton fat fried'. Then 'Cork them, tie a bladder, then a leather over them, and keep them down close, in as cool a place as possible.'

Drying the mushrooms is less labour-intensive but more time consuming. They are washed then put in a cool oven until completely dry (no time estimate is given). Then, 'put them into a clean stone jar, tie them down tight, and keep them in a dry place. They will keep a great while, and eat and look as well as truffles.'

A section entitled 'Ketchup to keep twenty years' intrigued me. The receipt begins with a gallon of strong stale beer: 'The stronger and staler the beer, the better will be the ketchup.' To the beer you add anchovies, shalots, mace, cloves, pepper, ginger and mushroom pieces. These ingredients are simmered, strained, cooled and finally bottled. "This may be carried to any part of the world; and a spoonful of it to a pound of fresh butter melted with make a fine fish sauce, or will supply the place of gravy sauce." One question occurs--how often do you obtain fresh butter at sea?

"Dripping will be very useful at sea, to fry fish or meat, and for this purpose it must be...potted." 'Good beef dripping' was spiced and sieved, let stand til cold, and covered. "The best way to keep any sort of dripping, is to turn the pot upside down, and then no rats can get at it." Oh, dear...

'Directions for steeping dried Fish' complete this section of the cookery book. "Every kind of fish, except stock-fish, are salted, or either dried in the sun, as the most common way, or in preparing kilns, and sometimes by the smoke of wood fires in chimney-corners..."

Fish were often steeped in milk and water, as much as twelve hours, though whiting, herrings and salmon took less time. Herrings were steeping in small beer rather than milk and water. After steeping, broiling while basting with sweet oil, was the preferred cooking method. "A clear charcoal fire is much the best, and the fish kept at a good distance, to broil gradually." Larger fish were usually simmered in milk and water. 'Some people broil both sorts after simmering, and some pick them to pieces and then toss them up in a pan with fried onions and apples. They are either way very good, and the choice depends on the weak or strong stomach of the eaters.'

I think a strong stomach was required indeed for Regency food at sea. But all of the above sounds better than the weevil-infested biscuits common in tales of the British Navy.

Next week, award-winning author Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee will be here discussing the Irish Act of Union 1800. Amanda/Laurel wrote her first romance at the age of sixteen--a vast historical epic starring all her friends as the characters, written secretly during algebra class (and her parents wondered why math was not her strongest subject...)

She's never since used algebra, but her books have been nominated for many awards, including the RITA Award, the Romantic Times BOOKReviews Reviewers' Choice Award, the Booksellers Best, the National Readers Choice Award, and the Holt Medallion. Her new release, Duchess of Sin, under her Laurel McKee name, will be released by Grand Central Publishing in December. Please visit Laurel at

'Til next time,


Friday, November 12, 2010

A Nation at War

It is easy enough to forget that the Great Britain of the Regency era was a nation at war. Jane Austen's books rarely mention the war though two of her brothers were actively involved in naval service. Many Regency romances do not speak of war--most of mine do not. War was something soldiers made, something that happened to other families and, except when invasion threatened, it was something that happened 'over there'.

Yet the newspapers, throughout the Regency period, were full of war news. The British were fighting on many fronts. The Derby Mercury of May 2, 1805 reports on conflict in India:

"We drove the whole of the enemy under the Fort of Deeg, when the people in the fort opened a very heavy fire on us. The number of guns is not yet ascertained, nor that of the killed and wounded, but our loss has been severe."

In that same year, the British fought their greatest sea battle, after several years of war at sea. The Times of November 7, 1805 carried a report of the fighting:

"The commander-in-chief immediately made a signal to the fleet to bear up in two columns. The enemy's line consisted of 33 ships, of which 18 were French and 15 Spanish, commanded in chief by Admiral Villeneuve. As the mode of attack was unusual, so the structure of the enemy's line was new."

As the same time, the British were fighting in North America--the War of 1812-14. That war was fought on the sea as this report from August 1812 shows:

"The privateer schooner, Active, of 2 guns and 22 men, from Salem, has been taken and burnt by the British frigate Spartan."

On land, from April to December 1814, the British sent a cavalry regiment, 33 infantry battalions and 10 artillery companies. Newspapers in the United States reported:

"General Wilkinson has left Grenadier-Island with his army, and gone down the St. Lawrence in boats. They...were attacked by the enemy from the shore. On returning the fire, the enemy dispersed, and the army advanced without molestation."

Hostilities on the continent culminated in Belgium in June 1815. Newspapers around the country reported--

Hampshire Telegraph, June 26, 1815
"Fleurus, June 16--The battle of yesterday lasted till ten o'clock in the evening. We are still in pursuit of the enemy, who has experienced a terrible overthrow. We have hitherto 3000 prisoners, 20 pieces of cannon and several standards, many officers of rank, among others Count Lutzow."

Liverpool Mercury, June 30, 1815
"The armies were so intermingled, that the Duke of Wellington encountered Marshal Grouchy. The enemy, who would not believe that it was possible to be defeated under Napoleon's command, long fought with the greatest ardour."

London Gazette Extraordinary, Thursday, June 22, 1815
A despatch from Lord Wellington reporting on the Battle at Waterloo ended:
"I have not yet got the returns of killed and wounded, but I inclose a list of Officers killed and wounded on the two days, as far as the same can be made out without the returns...
Colonel De Lancey is not dead, and strong hopes of his recovery are entertained...
Major General Sir William Ponsonby is killed, and, ...I have to add the expression of my grief for the fate of an officer, who had already rendered very brilliant and important services, and was an ornament to his profession."

Our newspapers are still full of war information--Afghanistan, terrorists, and until recently Iraq. Threats abound, countries still tear themselves and others apart. Soldiers, sailors, and airmen and women die. As I write this blog, Remembrance Day services are taking place here in Canada. Britain also is commemorating November 11 with ceremony, and in the United States Veterans Day honours military service. 

As we remember those who gave their lives--across the centuries--for their country's greater good, surely it is also time to contemplate peace, and direct all our energies toward that greatest good of all.

'Til next time,


Friday, November 5, 2010

The Sound of Bells

I live in a noisy world: cars, trucks, planes, trains, machines of all kinds--indoors and out--and the ever-present electronic hum that is, it seems, our very being. But something I seldom hear is bells. Even church bells are very rare where I live in western Canada.

This was not so in the Regency era in England. A predominant sound on the air of Regency London was that of the bell.

If one was in a house, the ring of church bells still penetrated. If one considers how many church bells existed in the confines of the City and its districts like Mayfair, the din must have been continuous. In addition the servants heard, near incessantly, the call of the mechanical bell system, first advertised in 1744. There might also be a silver tea bell in the drawing room, or an invalid's bell beside a bed above stairs.

Within doors, one could still hear the other bells from the street. When a person stepped outside, the cacophony of bells must have been overwhelming. The muffin-man alone made such a racket that eventually his bells were silenced by law. Other street vendors--the scissors grinder, the rag picker and the peddler--might, in addition to their cries, carry a bell to attract custom.

There were also harness bells, like the 'beautiful sets of four or five that were put on the leading horse of a team, and were known as team bells'. There were warning bells on fire engines, and bells on the animals who trailed through the city to the markets. And there was the bellman or town crier, who plied his trade from the earliest days through to the Georgian era. He marked the hours with his bell and heralded his reading of proclamations, warnings, and news bulletins with it.

On the street the church bells could be deafening, depending on the size of bell. Their sound routinely carried three miles, and in good weather large bells could be heard for nine miles. They marked the hours, pealed for a wedding, beat out a death knell. There were Passing Bells, Sanctus Bells, and Alarm Bells and peals of bells to announce the new year..

The church bells rang in the country towns as well, with even more regularity. There were Harvest Bells and Market Bells, Fire Bells and even, in a few places, a Pancake Bell rung on Shrove Tuesday. The bells rang out across the fields, reminding those without watches or clocks of the hour, and perhaps the half, calling them to church, sending them news of their community and in many cases ringing out the curfew, or 'cover fire'--the time for all folk to be within doors.

In the countryside, the air was often a-quiver with the sound of animal bells. Sheep, cows, and even geese were belled, to keep track of their flocks and herds. Dogs as well wore bells to identify their whereabouts.

The materials used in bells' manufacture varied. Iron and bronze predominated but silver was not unknown and even wood might be used for animal bells.

The shapes as well were variable. Harness bells were often 'crotal' bells, technically not a bell at all, but a rattle. We call them 'jingle bells' nowadays, their rounded shape enclosing a loose clapper. They were used as well for hawk bells and morris dancers' bells.

From an old sampler comes a rhyme about bell messages:
"When we lament a departed soul, WE TOLL.
When joy and mirth are on the wing, WE SING.
To call the fold to church in time, WE CHIME.
When threatened harm, WE ALARM."

It could be a noisy place, the Regency world. But it was easier, I think, to find quiet there than it is in our current age. Seek out the quiet, if you will, but also enjoy whatever bells you can hear.

'Til next time,


Friday, October 29, 2010

Grand Duchess Catherine of Oldenburg
by Maggie MacKeever

Katharina Pawlowa von Russland

In the course of doing historical research, one encounters intriguing characters. One of my current favorites is the Grand Duchess Catherine of Oldenburg.

In June of 1814, the allied sovereigns of Russia and Prussia arrived in London on a visit to the Prince Regent. With them came the two sons of the King of Prussia and a large number of victorious field-marshals, generals, princes, dukes, barons and the like.

They were a colorful cast of characters. Among them was the Grand Duchess of Oldenburg, favorite sister of Czar Alexander of Russia. She had actually been in London since March. On her arrival, the wife of the Russian ambassador, Countess Lieven, immediately foresaw trouble. ‘The Grand Duchess has an immoderate thirst for authority and a very high, and possibly excessive, opinion of herself. I never saw a woman so possessed of the need to stir, act, put herself forward and eclipse others’.

In other words, the Grand Duchess was a pill.

She was also politically influential and during 1812-15 formed and paid to outfit a special regiment of chasseurs. She dominated a reactionary political group. In 1812 a group of conspirators unsuccessfully planned to depose Alexander and put her on the throne as Czarina Catherine III Pavlovna.

She was ‘seductive in glance and manner’, had ‘a dazzling brilliance and freshness of complexion, a bright eye, and the most beautiful hair in the world... She expressed herself directly, with eloquence and grace, but she never abandoned the tone of command. Her mind was cultivated, brilliant and daring; her character firm and imperious’.

Catherine had a fondness for personal adornment. ‘She was dressed in the most magnificent pearls I ever saw – scattered all over her head in large bunches and drops. She wore a necklace of egg-shaped pearls of enormous size.’

At the time of Catherine’s arrival in London, the Regent was anxious for a match between his daughter Charlotte and the Prince of Orange. Such an alliance was regarded with alarm in St. Petersburg. Some believe that the Grand Duchess had been sent to London on a secret diplomatic mission, and that she was instrumental in the match being called off.

Another theory is that she came to England to cement the Anglo-Russian alliance by a second marriage. However, though impressed by Britain’s material achievements (particularly the steam-engine) she was less enamored of its reigning house. The Dukes of Clarence and Sussex struck her as uncultivated boors. She and Prinny took each other in immediate dislike.

Her brother agreed. Alexander called the Regent ‘a poor sort of prince’.

The Grand Duchess derived great pleasure from putting Prinny in positions of acute embarrassment. She stirred up trouble with regularity and created countless scenes; for example, leaving the room immediately the Prince’s orchestra struck up. She was also subject to fainting fits. Her nerves had allegedly been ruined during the burning of Moscow, during which she was confined in a palace along with her youngest child.

The Grand Duchess outdid herself during a banquet held by the City of London at the Guildhall on June 18th. The occasion was supposed to have been exclusively masculine, but Catherine insisted on attending. When the musicians struck up a tune, she threatened to pitch one of her fits. Prinny was forced to beg that she allow the national anthem to be sung. At length she conceded, causing Lord Liverpool to remark that if people didn’t know how to properly behave, they should stay at home.

No one was unhappy when the Grand Duchess departed English shores.

Catherine Pavlovna of Russia was the fourth daughter of Czar Paul I of Russia and Princess Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg. In 1809, she married Duke George of Oldenham, who died of typhoid in 1812. While in England she met Crown Prince William of Württemberg, who was married to Princess Charlotte of Bavaria. He divorced his wife and married Catherine in 1816, thereby making her the Queen of Württemberg.

She had two sons with her first husband and two daughters with her second.

Catherine died in January 1819 of a bacterial skin infection complicated by pneumonia. She was forty years old.

Maggie MacKeever is, under various pseudonyms, the author of forty-three novels, most of them set in Regency England. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two very spoiled housecats, and takes great pleasure in the fact that they share their back yard with a family of feral felines, a pug-nosed possum, and several raccoons.

Her newest book, THE TYBURN WALTZ, will be published by Vintage Ink Press in November.

Julie expects she will end up dangling on Tyburn gallows, hanged as a thief.

Ned expects he will die on the battlefields of the Peninsula, hanged as a spy.

But then Julie takes on the trappings of a lady, and Ned unexpectedly becomes an earl, both players in a deadly game that will take them from the heights of London society to the depths of the Regency underworld — a game in which not only necks are risked, but hearts as well.

According to Romantic Times Book Reviews: ‘MacKeever expertly combines romance, humor, passion and mystery to create a gripping and entertaining novel. The primary and secondary characters are well developed and will elicit multiple emotional responses from readers throughout the novel. This book is a keeper you’ll want to re-read often.’

Friday, October 22, 2010

Mr. Chawleigh, Mr. Driffield and Mr. Luckcock:
the new middle class

Mr. Jonathan Chawleigh and Mr. Josiah Driffield are fictional characters; Mr. Luckcock is an historical figure. They were all of the new middle-class that arose in the Regency era. They were all manufacturers; men born in modest circumstances who rose to business and community prominence through their own efforts and skills.

Mr. Chawleigh is a creation of Georgette Heyer--a caricature of a man: bluff, raw, and uncouth. He is a model for all the middle-class manufacturing men in the Regency fiction that followed Heyer's book "A Civil Contract". The middle-class became a class without elegance, without delicacy and without understanding.

When I began to formulate my book "Daughter of Trade", I was thinking about this unforunate characterization. I did not believe that all of the new middle-class were crass bumpkins, and started to create a family of charming, educated, thoughtful people, happy with their lot in life, caring of their dependents, and proud of their origins and their accomplishments. The Driffield family was born, with Josiah Driffield the patriarch of seven children, ably partnered by his lady.
The above drawing by Jean-Auguste Ingres illustrates the sort of middle-class family the Chawleighs, the Driffields, and the Luckcocks embody.

The other day I began to read a book that has been in my research library for a year or two. "Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class, 1780-1850" is an in-depth study of the role of gender in creating the middle class of the industrial age. In the prologue, I discovered Mr. James Luckcock of Birmingham, a manufacturer of jewellery, who was born in 1761 and died in 1835. He might have been the prototype for my Josiah Driffield.

James Luckcock was born in humble circumstances, apprenticed at a young age, rose to manager, and finally to owner of his own manufactory. Like Josiah Driffield, he was a Dissenter in religion, a radical in politics, and a beneficent employer who ran Sunday Schools and Brotherly Societies for his workers. He was a respected member of the community, wrote poetry, and desired nothing more than security for his family, and a pleasant old age. Josiah Driffield was, like James Luckcock, "committed to anti-slavery and to defense of the weak and of animals, and to representation of the people."

These middle-class gentlemen were as worthy of respect as the aristocracy so beloved of Regency fiction authors. In a genre over-loaded with dukes and rakes, I think it can be a good thing for authors to look beyond the cliches and the obvious to take on the realities of the new classes of society that the Regency saw develop. Readers appreciate the change, and I know my fellow authors have risen to the challenge with great books like The Weaver Takes a Wife by Sheri Cobb South. I'd like to hear about your favourite middle-class Regency characters!

~~Next week, Regency author Maggie MacKeever will join us to discuss the Grand Duchess of Oldenburg, favorite sister of Czar Alexander of Russia. Maggie MacKeever is, under various pseudonyms, the author of forty-three novels, most of them set in Regency England. Her new release, The Tyburn Waltz, will be published in November by Vintage Ink Press.~~

'Til next time,

Reference: Davidoff, Leonore and Catherine Hall. Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class, 1780-1850. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The London Art of Cookery

I found another wonderful cookery book of the Regency period at Google Books recently. It has a number of unique and fascinating features; here's the title:

The London Art of Cookery
Domestic Housekeepers' Complete Assistant,
The Principles of
Elegance, Taste, and Economy;
and adapted
to the Use of Servants,
 Families of Every Description.
John Farley
Formerly Principal Cook at the London Tavern

The Twelfth Edition

I love the title pages on these old books, and couldn't resist trying to reproduce it. But back to content!

I have a feeling there will be at least one more post on this book, but for today, one of the first features in the book caught my eye. There is a bill of fare laid out for each month of the year. It is an illustration of a table-top with the dishes marked for a first and a second course. Here is the Bill of Fare for October:

Many of the dishes require no explanation: custards, ham, broccoli, even turkey and oysters is not far from our everyday cooking. But some items are unusual to say the least.

Scotch Collops are a cut of veal "the size and thickness of a crown piece", done up in a mushroom, anchovy and lemon sauce. Beef Olives are rolled rump-steaks cooked with fat bacon and served with a gravy containing port wine, cayenne and ketchup.

Tongue and Udder caused me to shudder, but they were parboiled and then roasted with cloves. Almond Soup contained veal and mutton as well as almonds and cream.

What, I wondered, were the Chardoons on the top left corner of the the second course? Well, I think they are the edible 'flower' of a large thistle-type plant. I went to the index and found the following:
Cut them about six inches long, string them, and stew them till tender. Then take them out, flour them, and fry them in butter till they are brown, Serve, with melted butter. Or you may tie them up in bundles, and boil them like asparagus. Put a toast under them, and pour a little melted butter over them.
And the biggest mystery of all was one of the two central dishes of the second course--Silver Web. I went to the Index with anticipation. There was no entry for Silver Web. I went to the Internet and did a search--nothing came up for Silver Web. I thought it must either be a fish or a sweet. Feeling stymied, I considered my options, and I recalled a great blog I often read--The Old Foodie. I emailed Janet and asked for her help. She was most generous with her information, and here it is:

"'Silver Web' was a spun sugar decoration for sweet dishes and puddings. It was considered very elegant indeed.

There are recipes from the mid-eighteenth century, but here is one from 1846 - the method did not change, and this cookery book is available on Google Books, in case you want to look it up. The Gold Web sounds gorgeous too.

From: The Complete Cook, J.M. Sanderson, 1846
To make a Silver Web.

Boil clarified syrup to the crack, using the same precautions as before observed, giving it a few boils after the acid is added; dip the bottom of the pan in water and let the sugar cool a little; then take the handle of a spoon, or two forks tied together, dip it into the sugar, and form it either on the inside or outside of a mould, with very fine strings, by passing the hand quickly backwards and forwards taking care that it does not fall in drops, which would spoil the appearance of the work. With this may be represented the hair of a helmet, the water of a fountain, &c. Take a fork or an iron skewer, and hold it in your left hand as high as you ca,n dip the spoon in the sugar, and with the right hand throw it over the skewer, when it will hang from it in very fine threads of considerable length.

To make a Gold Web.

Boil syrup to caramel height, colouring it with saffron, and form it as directed for the last. It can be folded up to form bands or rings &c. Fasten it to the other decorations with caramel. If any of the strings or threads of sugar should pass over those parts where they are not required so as to spoil the other decorations in the making of baskets or other ornaments, it may be removed with a hot knife without breaking or injuring the piece."
So now I have--perhaps--several new recipes for October meals! But I won't be making Tongue and Udder. And those who know my cooking skills won't be expecting Silver Web either.

'Til next time,


Friday, October 8, 2010

The Highwayman Came Riding, riding, riding...

The stuff of poetry and music, romanticized by fiction authors from Georgette Heyer to Jo Beverley, the highwayman has loomed large in Georgian and Regency mythology. The legendary Dick Turpin from the early 1700s was the most notorious in that century which was rife with thieves scouring the roads. Despite the glamour and the romance, however, the reality was that the highwaymen were desperate characters, driven by destitution and disillusionment with society, to steal and sometimes to kill.

Actual accounts from the period tell the real story. Highwaymen were thieves; they made travel hazardous, they were feared and despised, and there is no sign of the gentleman robber so beloved of fiction writers.

From The Year 1800, a volume of 'historical' newspaper extracts published in 1861, come these news items:

"A gentleman and a lady were robbed yesterday forenoon, on their way to town from Clapham, by two highwaymen."

"Tuesday, as Mr. Levien, of the City, was returning to town from Slough in a post-chaise, he was stopped in Butcher's Grove, on Hounslow Heath, about two o'clock, by two highwaymen, who robbed him of his watch, six guineas, and some loose money."

The Edinburgh Review of 1813 details several instances of robbery and retribution:

 "Yesterday, Joseph Gibson, convicted of highway-robbery, was executed at the ordinary place of execution in this city."

"Between seven and eight o'clock as Mr. Samuel Bayley, cotton-merchant, was riding towards home, on the Rusholme road, he was suddenly entangled by a rope stretched across the road for the purpose of robbery....They proceeded to rifle him of his property, and told him to proceed and make no alarm, or his life should pay for it."

"A gang of highwaymen, five in number, supposed to be the same who lately infested the neighbourhood of Wigton and Carlisle, made their appearance at the Candlemas fair of Dumfries, on Wednesday week; and betwixt seven and eight o'clock that evening, no less than nine different persons were attacked, seven of whom were unhorsed, and robbed of their pocket-books, watches, etc. betwixt the one and three mile-stones on the Galloway road. The villains were well armed with bludgeons, pistols, etc. and all escaped. Several of the people who were attacked are much hurt, and the cash taken amounts to upwards of 1000l. besides bills, etc."

Not romantic at all, I think. The decline of the trade of the highwayman was brought about by several causes. Improvements to roads, policing, and banking systems, led the way, aided by--surprisingly--land clearances, which offered fewer hiding places for thieves.

Despite the realities of the highwayman's profession, the aura of romance surrounding the villains will no doubt continue. Highwaymen, pirates, and outlaws--I must confess to a sneaking affection for the rogues, and I will read their fictional stories with enjoyment, ignoring the actual facts of their existence.

'Til next time,


Friday, October 1, 2010

An Unscheduled Absence

I do apologize for the lack of a new blog this week. A death in my immediate family has made it impossible for me to keep up with my usual commitments. I do hope to return next week with new Regency information!

In the meantime, here is a blog from my friends at Prairie Chicks Write Romance that you might find of interest -- The Naughty Ton Exposed--The Regency

If you have not had the opportunity to read Nicola Cornick's guest post from last week, I hope you will take the time now. It is an informative and entertaining column.

Thanks for your patience--I'll be in touch soon.


Friday, September 24, 2010

The Cult Of Celebrity In The Late Eighteenth And Early Nineteenth Century --
Guest Blogger Nicola Cornick

There is a tendency to see celebrity as a modern phenomenon, a product of the age of mass media but the concept of being lionised or celebrated was widely understood as far back as Greek or Roman times when gladiators, for example, were the heroes of the sporting arena. In the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries fame’s spotlight was provided via portraits and paintings, newspapers and scandal sheets, word of mouth and public appearances rather than by the electronic media, but its fundamental effect was the same as today.

The Written Word

The Reverend Henry Bate took the editor’s chair at the Morning Post in 1772 and from the start he concentrated the newspaper’s coverage on personalities. He joined the Beefsteak Club, where he met and cultivated Sheridan, Garrick and other contemporary wits and he had an entrée to the Prince of Wales’s circle of friends from whom he gained many items of scurrilous gossip. Throughout the eighteenth century the public appetite for scandal and secret history, as it was called, was given blanket coverage in the press, often fuelled by the salacious details of evidence from adultery cases heard in the House of Lords.

It was in keeping with this tradition of muckraking that scandal sheets were handed out in the London streets in Georgian and Regency times. Thus it was that the crowds who hailed Horatio Nelson as a hero were equally well acquainted with his personal relationships. Details of his ménage a trois with Sir William and Lady Hamilton were common knowledge. This appeared to make little impact on Nelson’s popularity and could arguably be said to have been an essential aspect of his celebrity persona.

Nelson also took an active part in the “spinning” of his own legend, starting with his own account of the events of the Battle of St Vincent in 1797. He consciously used the press to create the hero image that drew him to public attention and acclaim.

Public Appearances

Just as the film stars of the modern day turn out to wave to the crowds at premieres and parties, so the celebrities of the Regency age were feted in streets.

On his return to England in the summer of 1797 Nelson was greeted with public acclaim wherever he went. Each of his victories was celebrated by huge popular demonstrations. Nor was Nelson the only Regency celebrity to receive such popular acclaim. During the state visit of Czar Alexander of Russia and King Frederick of Prussia in 1814 celebrity-watchers went to ridiculous lengths to catch a glimpse of their heroes, some people renting windows along the route of the Grand Procession, others holding parties in kitchens and basements so that they could peer through the area grating to see the famous visitors pass by.

Sporting heroes of the day also used their popularity to generate public celebrity. George Wilson, famed for his achievements in the sport of pedestrianism, understood the value of publicity and used to advertise his events in advance, selling engravings of himself in action to onlookers. By 1815 he was so famous that when he turned up for a pedestrian event in Blackheath there was such a huge crowd that he had to employ men with whips and ten foot staves to cut his way through the throng, the equivalent of the modern day bodyguard.


Portraiture was another way in which celebrities could use the visual arts to project an image. There was a growing demand for glamorous and humorous pictures. Sporting heroes such as boxers Jem Belcher and Tom Cribb had their reputations enhanced through the production of tinted drawings like modern day sporting posters. Opera singers and actresses were celebrated in a similar way. The cartoons of Gillray, Cruikshank and Rowlandson lampooned celebrities and were reproduced by the thousand. The victims of the caricaturists prized their celebrity then just as their contemporaries do now and the Prince Regent paid vast sums to collect the originals of Gillray’s cartoons of himself.

Benjamin Haydon’s portrait of the poet Wordsworth was painted against a backdrop of the mountain Helvellyn – a hero in the setting of his deeds. The artists who painted Nelson were colluding with the subject to present him in heroic guise and burnish his celebrity. Lord Byron accompanied the publication of his poem The Corsair in 1814 with a self-portrait complete with exotic headscarf and cutlass, thus identifying himself explicitly with the smouldering piratical hero.

The fame of most Regency celebrities was based on accomplishment, whether military, sporting or other. It that respect it could be said to have a greater intrinsic worth than some modern day celebrity, though it could also be argued that the fame of Beau Brummell, for example, based on his skill as an arbiter of fashion, was no different from that of a top model today. As for the beautiful Misses Gunning, a comparison with reality television might be drawn when a crowd turned out at an inn one night simply to watch them eat!

Nicola Cornick is the author of 35 books for Harlequin Historicals and HQN. A double RITA and UK RNA Award nominee, Nicola also works as a historian in the 17th century hunting lodge Ashdown House. She has an MA in Public History and studied hero and hero legends for her dissertation.

WHISPER of SCANDAL by Nicola Cornick
- October 2010 Release!

Lady Joanna Ware is the darling of the Ton, a society hostess who has put behind her the misery of her unhappy marriage to a philanderer. Until her late husband bequeaths to her joint care of his illegitimate child…

Alexander, Lord Grant, is an explorer lauded as a hero and adventurer. He scorns the Ton and wants no family ties. Until his best friend bequeaths to him joint care of his illegitimate child…

Joanna and Alex disagree from the moment they first meet, so how are they ever to stay civil long enough to join forces and rescue the orphaned baby girl? Saving Nina takes them from the celebrity salons and balls of Regency London to the frozen wastes of the North Pole and tests both of them - and their emotions - to the very limit. For what will happen when their bitter hostility turns to an equally passionate desire?

Friday, September 17, 2010

William Kilburn-A Practical Artist

William Kilburn was a Georgian--strictly speaking much of his work was done before the Regency era. But his beautiful floral renderings shaped the look of Regency world, through the fabrics and furnishings that decorated it.

I first became aware of Kilburn some fifteen years ago with a small pocket diary from British company, Past Times. It bore illustrations of Kilburn's work from a Victoria and Albert Museum treasure trove called the 'Kilburn Album'.

William Kilburn was born in Ireland in 1745 and lived to 1818. He began his working life as apprentice to a calico-printer, and showed great talent in design and drawing. His skill at botanical drawing led him to England to work on the famed Flora Londinensis published by William Curtis in 1777. After 1777 however there is no evidence of further botanical illustration, and Kilburn seems to have concentrated on floral design particularly for fabrics. He was the manager of a calico-printing works, and in 1787 he was one of the prime movers in the passing of a copyright law protecting the artists and printers of patterns from theft of their designs.

I find his floral illustrations utterly delightful. This design with an intense blue background shows a distinct flavour of chinoiserie in the angular branches that unite the flowers.

In this cream-grounded design, the pattern is concentrated in sprays of flowers; this would have a delightful impact if used in wallpaper or silk hangings.

William Kilburn was a financial success in the calico-printing industry. To me, however, his success lies in leaving a legacy of beauty for future generations to enjoy. His designs have the power still to give pleasure and satisfy the design esthetic of anyone who loves flowers. Thank you, Mr. Kilburn.

Next week, notable Regency author Nicola Cornick will be guest blogging here on The Cult of Celebrity in Regency England. Be sure to come back then and enjoy Nicola's informative post.

'Til next time,


P.S. The Kilburn family is still involved in artistic pursuits. You can visit Alistair Kilburn, William's great-great-great-grandson, and view the delightful work of the current generation.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Gold and Gems, Paste and Pinchbeck--
The Beauty of Regency Jewelry

I love jewelry--my family will attest to the fact. Rings, earrings, pins, and necklaces of all sorts--I could deck myself like a Christmas tree every day and be perfectly happy. In my life, unlike my Regency heroines, I have to show restraint and so I like to look at Regency jewels and relish their beauty.

As fashions turned to classical simplicity in the early 1800s so too did the jewelry worn with them. The heavy silks and brocades of the 18th century were suited to massive jewels, stomachers, brooches and parures. The light muslins and softly draped silks of the Regency lent themselves to delicate necklaces, chains, lockets, and pendant earrings. Bracelets suited the new fashions, armlets were worn above gloves on the bare upper arm revealed by evening gowns, and tiaras transformed into classical diadems.

While goldsmiths and gem dealers made objects of great beauty and individuality (charming sapphires and diamonds above), the industrial revolution was encouraging machine made jewelry and materials like pinchbeck (a form of brass) and delicate Berlin ironwork were becoming popular. Semiprecious stones rivalled diamonds in popularity, and paste (glass) jewels and jet were often chosen to ornament the neoclassical designs.

Pearls were always fashionable and particularly suitable for very young ladies, the white variety symbolizing innocence and purity. Pearls were also a popular daytime jewel, when sparkling stones were not appropriate. 

Descriptions of fashions in the Repository of the Arts from Rudolph Ackermann have a fund of information to offer about Regency jewelry. Pearls and jet often appear in the illustrations. An evening dress from 1818 is accompanied by "Earrings, armlets, necklace and cross composed of jet."  Another describes, "Necklace, earrings and bracelets of emerald and dead gold." I have not yet discovered the appearance of gold in this form but presumably it was not highly burnished. Earrings of the late Regency are variously described as "large, and of the Chinese bell-shape", "a la Flamande" (a long narrow pendant), and "pagoda".

  Medallion necklaces were particularly popular. The medallions might be pendant or integrated within the chain base, and could be cameos, stones, finely painted plaques, or pierced metalwork.

Likewise, beads were highly fashionable. Many materials lent themselves to beading--coral, jet, and hardstones such as agate and jade. Strings of beads might be interspersed with pearls, or precious metal beads as in the highly decorative strand below.      
I have seen some beautiful pieces of Regency jewelry on the BBC Antiques Roadshow, and the Sotheby's auction rooms website. I only wish I owned some along with my more modest pieces!

'Til next time,


For more information on Regency jewelry, please visit the websites below:

November's Autumn Blog

Suite 101

The Three Graces Fine Jewelry

Friday, September 3, 2010

Location, Location, Location!

Newspapers of the Regency era were full of property advertisements. Much like today, real estate was changing ownership constantly. The advertisements are as full of hyperbole in 1800 as they are today. Desirable, substantial, and spacious are words that appeared as frequently then as now.
"A Spacious, elegant, Leasehold Mansion, with Stabling for Six Horses, double Coach House, and every necessary attached and detached Office, suited to a large Family, late the Residence of a Lady of Fashion: The Premises are desirably situate No. 12, on the South Side of Hereford-Street, Grosvenor-Square, with Command of View over Hyde-Park from both Fronts, and contain a splendid suit of Apartments on each Floor, and have been recently put in the most elegant and compleat Repair."
To be sold by Auction by Mr. Christie, At his Great Room, in Pall-Mall (from the Daily Advertiser, January 1, 1796

In the same paper on the same day, Mr. Christie also offered the property of Sir John Lade for sale. Sir John and his wife Letty cut a swath through Regency society, being neither particularly cultured nor polite, but possessed it seems of a fine home.
"A spacious and singularly elegant Leasehold House, capital Stabling for eight Horses, Harness-Room, four Coach-Houses, Loft, Granary, and Servants Room, and suitable domestick Offices, suited to a large Family, having an additional Story, the Residence and Property of Sir John Lade, Bart. The Premises are elegantly situate the upper End of Piccadilly with beautiful Command of View over the Green Park, Surry Hills, etc. and the Locality to Hyde-Park renders them particularly eligible; and contain a Suit of three elegant Apartments on each Floor, principal and back Staircase, In the most elegant and compleat Repair, and fit for the immediate Reception of a large genteel Family. At the same Time will be sold, all the elegant Houshold Furniture, large French Plate Pier-Glasses, large Stock of excellent Wines, and other vaulable Effects."
One could only wish that prices were attached to these advertisments. How much did such a property cost? Further research is required!

If one removed from London, a garden villa was an option. One was sold by private contract by Mr. Scott of Ludgate-hill who advertised in the Courier and Evening Gazette in 1800.
"Champion Hill, near Camberwell, Surry - The Lease of a Genteel Modern Villa with Coach-house and Stables and a large Garden, delightful situate on the Summit of the Hill within four Miles of London, containing an elegant Drawing-room, Dining-room, and Study, eight Chambers, etc. with LAND ...with the Advantage of purchasing the valuable modern furniture at a fair valuation, and the Option of the genteel Drawing-room furniture."
There were also more modest, and business-like properties for sale. In the Morning Chronicle of March 1814, Mr. Lloyd in Nelson-Square offered:

"To be sold a Bargain, the Lease of a capital, substantial, new built House with two good parlours with folding doors, a large drawing-room, three good bedrooms, two attics, two good kitchens, cellars, and a counting house detached. Pleasantly situated having a commanding view of Blackfriars-road."
The possibilities were endless, but none of them mention bathrooms, or water-closets, gas lighting, or heating options. One can only assume all such amenities were for the future. The advertisments make the most interesting reading however, and bring us that little bit closer to the real people of the Regency and their fascinating world.

'Til next time,


Friday, August 27, 2010

Pitfalls and Witty Rejoinders: Regency Etiquette
by Maureen Mackey

In today’s world, where no phrase is too offensive for a bumper sticker or movie dialogue, and restaurant owners have to post signs requiring their patrons to wear shoes and shirts, the etiquette rules of early 19th century England may seem rather quaint.

But while it's true that some of the rules seem archaic, others clearly illustrate that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

I base my opinion on a thin book, published in London in 1834 by Charles William Day, titled Hints on Etiquette and the Usages of Society with a Glance at Bad Habits.

This guide covers many topic in etiquette, including the subject of polite address in conversation:

“Do not repeat the name of the person to whom you are speaking, as --'Indeed, Mr. Stubbs, you don't say so, Sir,' or "Really, Mrs. Fidkins, I quite agree with you, Mrs. Fidkins.' It is a sufficiently bad habit in an equal, but in one of lower rank it becomes an impertinence.”

Also, “Do not strain after great people — for, although they like the homage, inasmuch as it flatters their vanity, yet they despise the dispenser of it.”

Alas, Jean Harlow, 1930s film actress, evidently didn't have a copy of Hints. A story has it that the famous platinum blonde met Margot Asquith, fawning over her and repeatedly addressing the older woman as “Lady Margott.” Finally, an irritated Lady Margot explained, “My dear, the 't' in my name is silent, as in Harlow.”

Ouch. But besides straining after great people, you apparently should be careful how you describe them, as well.

“Do not say a person is 'affable' unless he or she be of very high rank, as it implies condescension. ROYAL personages are 'gracious'.”

Oscar Wilde was a master of these and other subtle distinctions. Once, at a dinner party, he bet he could provide a witticism about any subject that was offered.

“Queen Victoria,” suggested another guest.

“Ah,” said Wilde, “but she is not a subject.”

Etiquette surrounding meals also takes up a large part of the book. Rules abound about when to use, or not use, a knife, and also about gloves.

Ladies apparently never wore gloves at dinner unless their hands were unsightly, while waiters were instructed to swathe their fingers at all times in clean white gloves, taking care to mind their thumbs.

“There are few things more disagreeable than the thumb of a clumsy waiter in your plate,” seems to be overstating the case, since most of us can probably imagine many things more disagreeable than a gloved thumb on a Spode platter.

However, some things were permitted in moderation, such as picking your teeth.

“Do not pick your teeth much at table, as, however satisfactory a practice to yourself, to witness is not a pleasant thing,” the guidebook allows, with admirable understatement.

Smoking, especially in mixed company, was deeply frowned upon.

“If you are so unfortunate as to have contracted the low habit of smoking, be careful to practise it under certain restrictions; at least, so long as you are desirous of being considered fit for civilised society . . . The tobacco smoker, in public, is the most selfish animal imaginable; he perseveres in contaminating the pure and fragrant air, careless of whom he annoys, and is but the fitting inmate of a tavern.”

And it was in a tavern, actually London’s Traveller’s Club, where legend has it that Charles Maurice Talleyrand-Périgord, a French politician and diplomat during the Napoleonic years, used his sense of humor to extricate himself from the clutches of a man who was clearly etiquette-challenged.

According to the story, Talleyrand was cornered by a rude man who wouldn’t stop talking. Then the French diplomat noticed another man yawning on the other side of the room. Clutching the boorish man’s elbow, he whispered “Hush! you are overheard.”

Talleyrand’s interlocutor could have spared himself embarrassment if he’d read Hints and taken it to heart. As Day puts it:

“If these 'hints' save the blush but upon one cheek, or smooth the path into 'society' of only one honest family, the object of the author will be attained.”


Note: In addition to the fore-mentioned Hints of Good Society with A Glance at Bad Habits (Turnstile Press Ltd.), other sources for this article include Wit, The Best Things Ever Said, compiled and edited by John Train, Edward Burlingame Books (a division of HarperCollins), 1991.

Maureen Mackey is a prolific author of Regency romance and romantic suspense. It was while studying English literature and history that she fell in love not only with her future husband but also with 18th century and Regency England. Maureen’s lifelong love of mysteries prompted her passion for writing in that genre as well. When she’s not writing she likes to read, prowl through used book stores, walk her rambunctious Sheltie and spend time with Tom and their two sons. She’s currently working on a time-travel mystery and a Regency novella.

Her latest release is A Rake's Redemption:

Can anything induce an unrepentant rake to abandon his indulgences and reform himself? Prudence Culpepper doubts her childhood playmate, Lord Harry, is capable of changing his irresponsible ways. But a fire, and a desperate chase through the countryside bring out the best and worst in both of them.