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