Friday, March 25, 2011

The Joys of Brighton
by Guest Blogger Janet Mullany

I get up every morning at half past six and goes out on the beach looking at the boys catching crabs and eels and lookeing at the people batheing. There are numbers of old wimin have little wooden houses on wheeles, and into these houses people goe that want to bathe, and then the house is pushed into the water and when the person has undressed they get into the water and then get into the wooden house again and dress themselves, the house is drawn on shore again. (Diary of William Tayler, footman, 1837)
Even for a servant Brighton was a holiday resort, and William’s diary is full of sea bathing, rowing, an account of an election and a visit to Brighton Races. There was plenty to do in the town even if you were only a (privileged) servant. And if you were wealthy … chances are you’d spend a lot of time undergoing a rigorous sea bathing (and drinking) regime, as well as indulging in other fashionable but more pleasant pursuits.

I used Brighton as one of the settings in my most recent book, Mr Bishop and the Actress, since I’d visited the town in 2009. Of course I went to the Royal Pavilion but my main objective was to visit the Regency Town House, a house undergoing meticulous restoration in Brunswick Square, with a basement annexe/servants’ quarters a few doors down which has barely been touched for almost two centuries.

First, I have to share what I learned about the appearance of the town since so many writers get it wrong (and I would have, too). It was not always white and gleaming. In fact, the early developers, with an eye to those who visited for health as much as fashion, left the natural stone, the same as that of the sidewalks, its soft gray-brown color. Railings were dark green, not black. The whole effect was one of softness and harmony with nature.

The architect of Brunswick Square, Charles Augustin Busby (who visited the USA in 1817 and may have been inspired by Boston architecture), designed not only vacation houses for the rich and powerful visiting the town, but also more modest housing—and a church (above left)—nearby to support the huge support staff needed for their luxurious accommodation. The square, built in the 1820s, had running water, gas lights, and the latest in elegant, well proportioned rooms.

The Regency Town House, number 22, is the only house in Brighton that still boasts the complete set of original storm shutters, seen here from the first floor salon (or second floor in American).

Its kitchen is highly sophisticated, matching the technological advances of that of the Pavilion, where superchef Antonin Careme spent an unhappy, homesick year in 1817. You can see here the reconstructed skylight that brings ventilation and light into the basement kitchen.

I finished my visit with a nice of tea and a toasted teacake at a beach cafe. And, yes, the entire beach consists of pebbles. No sand in sight, but it’s part of Brighton’s charm.

Janet Mullany is an award-winning, multi-published author who writes books set mainly in Regency England. Janet is originally from England but now lives near Washington, DC. Visit her at her website here

Janet's most recent book is "Mr. Bishop and the Actress", available now from Little Black Dress :
I had a great title. I had a great scenario, a woman being dropped by her protector, and a great first line:

Sorry, darling, it’s either you or the horses.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Mourning in "The Ladies' Monthly Museum"
The Death of Princess Charlotte

I have been reading about Princess Charlotte of Wales, daughter of our Prince Regent and his unloved wife Caroline of Brunswick, lately. The book I just finished was 'Becoming Queen Victoria' (by Kate Williams) which had a useful, if somewhat dramatic, take on the life of the erstwhile Princess.

Then I found, in The Ladies' Monthly Museum of November and December 1817, coverage of her death, and the outpouring of national grief that followed it. The reaction was similar to that which occurred on the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, but there was much more reason for the public reaction.

Charlotte was the last hope of a nation depressed by the illness of its king, and tired, disgusted and disheartened by the behaviour of the Prince Regent. There was a belief that she would be the monarch they had been waiting for, a queen who would right all the wrongs perpetrated by her forebears, exclude her dissolute uncles from the throne, and make her people--burdened by economic hardship--happy. And then it was all cut short on November 6, 1817 and The Ladies' Monthly Museum lamented:

The sudden, unexpected, and melancholy death of the only presumptive Heiress to the Crown of England in direct succession (after being delivered of a still-born son,) in the bloom of youth and beauty, in the height of her happiness, in the midst of conjugal endearments, beloved and respected, with the prospect of attaining the pinnacle of human greatness, has excited a general sentiment of sympathy and sorrow throughout the country; absorbed every other consideration; and for a time exclusively fixed our attention upon the character of illustrious victim, and the future consequences of her loss.

The Museum took an idealized engraving of the princess and turned it into a keepsake that no doubt was framed by many, and enshrined:
Following this portrait was a twelve page "Memoir of the Life, Death, and Funeral, of her Royal Highness the Princess Charlotte Augusta." In the same issue, in the column titled Epitome of Public Affairs, was a five page article on the funeral of the Princess. It includes information on the body's preparation for burial (!), minute details of the coffin ('massive handles with enriched chased borders'), and the activities of each half hour of Wednesday, November 19, the day of the funeral.

There were regular articles in this issue of the Monthly Museum (A New System of Mythology, Comic Use of a Retentive Memory) but they were interspersed with further outpourings of grief:

Even the Fashion Notes for which The Ladies' Monthly Museum was notable were all about mourning clothes. " is soothing to our feelings to perceive the general respect paid to her memory by all classes of people, no person of decent appearance being seen out of mourning."

The walking dress is black bombazeen with black crape trim. Worn over it is a pelisse of black Levantine. The French bonnet is of black Leghorn. The evening dress is black crape over black sarsnet. trimmed with jet beads. All the jewelry is of jet.

The Museum always included a 'Costume Parisiennes' column. This month it begins:
"The latest accounts from Paris announce that the French court have gone into mourning for our Princess, for eleven days, and all the English of distinction have paid her memory a similar mark of respect:..."

'The more things change, the more they stay the same' -- we may not wear mourning clothes any more, but the reaction to tragedy has not altered in the last two hundred years.

But on to more cheerful matters--next week, award-winning, multi-published Regency author Janet Mullany will visit to blog about Brighton. Please join us then!

'Til next time,


Friday, March 11, 2011

Button and Whitaker, St. Paul's Churchyard, London

In The Ladies' Fashionable Repository for 1811, I found a few weeks ago a page titled "Button and Whitaker's New Country Dances, for 1811". It included some twenty-four dances, listing titles and brief instructions on the new movements. Here is a sample from the page:
The Spanish Cloak--Turn your partner round with the right hand, the second couple do the same, lead down the middle, up again, turn round.
Cheltenham Waltz--Turn three with the first lady, the same with the first gentleman, lead down the middle, four couple up again, and swing corners.
The dances and their names were charming but who, I wondered, were Button and Whitaker? Research was required--I never find it a hardship!
Button and Whitaker, I discovered, were among the premier music publishers and musical instrument sellers of Regency England. They were located in St. Paul's Churchyard, according to Frank Kidson, author of the article Handel's Publisher from Oxford University Press:
"At the North West corner, ...was in 1731 located Peter Thompson at the "Violin and Hautboy." The Thompson family with their successors, Button and Whitaker, held the business here until about 1830."
St. Paul's Churchyard had been throughout the 1700's and into the mid 1800's a center of musical retailing, along with its bookshops and book publishing. The reason for this, according to Sir John Hawkins (in his book The History of Music) was that "the service at the Cathedral drew together, twice a day, all the lovers of music in London.."

Button and Whitaker frequently published such collections of new dances. They also published booklets such as New Instructions for the German Flute, containing the easiest & most modern methods for learning to play, etc.; Pocket Collection of Favourite Marches; and Dr. Clarke's Arrangement of HandelOther of their titles included: 1816 Companion to the Ballroom"Selection of dances, reels, and waltzes for the Pfte., Harpsichord, Violin, or German Flute", No. 8,; and Opera of THE LORD OF THE MANOR, Written by C. Dibdin, Jun. It seems to have been a sizable operation, with a wide and voluminous production of sheet music.

Button and Whitaker also published a version of Thomas Moore's Celebrated Irish Melodies, arranged for the Harp or Pianoforte; with introductionry, intermediate, and concluding Symphonies, composed by John Whitaker. 

It appears Mr. Whitaker did a considerable amount of composing; one advertisment mentioned: "Paddy Carey; a celebrated Air; composed by Whitaker. Arranged as a Rondo for the Piano-forte..."

They also sold instruments. One mention of a boxwood clarinet by Button and Whitaker is still current on the internet. I've not been able to discover more information about their instrument sales as yet.

An interesting sidelight showed up in my research. In the Proceedings of the Old Bailey, dated January 11, 1815 the following appears:
HENRY BOND KERRIDGE . I am collecting clerk to Messrs Button and Whitaker ; they are in the musical line. This happened to me on Wednesday, the 7th of December, a quarter before seven o'clock in the evening. I was opposite of Mr. Ross's Fish-warehouse in Lombard-street. I was surrounded by five men; some of them pulled me violently by the collar of my coat, and struck me a violent blow on the head; while the prisoner snatched my watch from my fob.
Mr. Kerridge had a very bad experience apparently, but eventually the prisoner was found 'not guilty'! What was a 'collecting clerk', I wonder, and how many did Messrs. Button and Whitaker employ?

I hope that I can discover more information about Button and Whitaker. I wonder if Jane Austen purchased any of her sheet music from them....

'Til next time,


Friday, March 4, 2011

Susanna Strickland Moodie
--Unexpectedly a Regency Lady

Susanna Strickland was born in Bungay, Suffolk, in 1803. Her childhood and all her formative years were spent in the environment of the Regency of George, Prince of Wales. She published children's stories in the early 1820's after the Regency had ended and George IV sat on the throne of England. In the late 1820's, she began submitting poetry to the women's magazines and annuals of the day. The Edinburgh Literary Journal of 1830 called her "a very great creature, who writes, we observe, in all the Annuals". Tongue-in-cheek?

I encountered Susanna in La Belle Assemblee 1828 with a pretty poem titled "There's Joy When the Rosy Morning":
There's joy when the rosy morning floods
The purple East with light;
When the zephyr sweeps from a thousand buds
The pearly tears of night:
There's joy when the lark exulting springs
To pour his matin lay;
From the blossomed thorn when the blackbird sings,
And the merry month is May.
Something about her name nagged at me; it sounded familiar. After worrying at the problem for days, I finally had it--Susanna Strickland MOODIE. As a Canadian I knew of Susanna Strickland Moodie, and her sister Catherine Parr Strickland Traill. Their writings on pioneer life in Canada in the 1830's and 1840's are among our national treasures. I had read both Susanna's Roughing It in the Bush and Catherine's The Backwoods of Canada when I was in my teens. Susanna's book I recall for its miserable, angry tone; Catherine's was more accepting but, perhaps because of that, a little less interesting.

So was the Susanna Strickland of 1820's England one and the same with Susanna Moodie of 1830's Canada? It took only a little research and a couple of mouse clicks to confirm it.

The Strickland sisters whose writings I read were two of five sisters, four of whom were writers. Agnes Strickland became renowned for her historical biographies of England's royalty.

Catherine wrote a very popular children's book, Little Downy, in 1822 and became well-known for her children's writing before marrying and emigrating.

Both she and Susanna were friends and correspondents of famed British author Mary Russell Mitford (about whom I have not blogged, but have several times mentioned in my blogs). With Agnes' help they became well-connected in the literary world of 19th century London.

There's joy abroad when the wintry snow
Melts as it ne'er had been;
When cowslips bud, and violets blow,
And leaves are fresh and green:
There's joy in the swallow's airy flight;
In the cuckoo's blithesome cry;
When the floating clouds reflect the light
Of evening's glowing sky.
In her later years, Susanna wrote novels as well as her 'emigrants' guide' to pre-Confederation Canada. Catherine continued her non-fiction work after The Backwoods of Canada, with books on Canadian wild flowers and Canadian housekeeping!

Like any Regency lady, Susanna was an accomplished amateur artist, producing pictures later in life of Canadian flowers. I will need to do more research to discover if her art was used in Catherine's nature books.

I was surprised to discover two Canadian legends had their origins in Regency England. But then that's the joy of research...

'Til next time,


Sisters in Two Worlds: A Visual Biography of Susanna Moodie and Catharine Parr Traill by Michael Peterman and Charlotte Gray

Roughing it in the Bush by Susanna Moodie (numerous editions)

The Journals of Susanna Moodie edited by Margaret Atwood and Charles Pachter

The Backwoods of Canada: Being Letters from the Wife of an Emigrant Officer by Catherine Parr Traill (numerous editions)

Pearls and Pebbles; Or, Notes of an Old Naturalist by Catherine Parr Strickland Traill

Lives of the Queens of England from the Norman Conquest by Agnes Strickland and Elizabeth Strickland