Friday, July 29, 2011

Walking Through Mayfair
by guest blogger Diane Farr

I began writing Regencies long before the advent of Google Earth. It seems almost quaint, now, to think of relying on paper maps to get a sense of setting, but that’s what we used to do. I was thrilled to discover Darton's New Plan Of The Cities Of London, & Westminster, & Borough Of Southwark, 1817 online when I began writing my first book, The Nobody, and spent countless hours poring over it. The Nobody was set in the spring of 1818 so this, of all maps, was pure gold.

Of course, one of the reasons why it took countless hours to study the map was that I had a dial-up connection to the internet. Each view of took between six and ten minutes to load. But it was well worth it, and I waited patiently as each fragment of street slowly materialized on my screen, spellbound as Regency London spread itself before my fascinated gaze.

Based on the meticulous drawings I perused, I set my country-bred heroine’s aunt in Half Moon Street (easy walk to Green Park!); sent her, while visiting said aunt, to a party in Audley Square; tempted her to ignore the conventions, bolt out of the party and walk home down Curzon Street; and taught her a lesson by having her rudely accosted somewhere near the corner of Curzon and Queen Streets.
Curzon Street
I visited Mayfair in my imagination so frequently that I knew it by heart—or thought I did. But I was unprepared for the emotions that hit me in London, after The Nobody was published, when I sought out Curzon Street and viewed the, er, scene of the crime. I imagine I felt very much like C.S. Lewis would have felt, strolling through Cair Paravel. Or L. Frank Baum, vacationing in Oz. Here I stood, in a place I had invented – a place inhabited by my own fictional characters – and its pavement was just as firm beneath my feet as the sidewalks of Sacramento. With stars in my eyes and a camera in my hand, I dragged my unfortunate family (on foot) all over Mayfair. The sensation was indescribable. I was exploring a place every bit as fictional, to me, as Narnia or Neverland. And every bit as beloved.
Which turned out to be a good thing, because nothing was labeled. I eagerly sought out the gentlemen’s clubs I had visited in so many books, and was astonished—and then delighted—when they proved difficult to pin down. My American eyes expected to see signs above the doors or hanging from posts saying, for example, WHITE’S or BOODLE’S. But apparently, if you are White’s or Boodle’s, you feel that signage would be superfluous. The haughty attitude was obvious, and really quite perfect: “If you are a member, you know where we are. If you aren’t a member, our location is not your concern.”
I feel very fortunate to have had a chance to tramp through Mayfair. Much has changed, naturally, but the bones of the Regency are still visible beneath its 21st century skin.

Diane Farr is an award-winning author of traditional Regency romances and Regency-set historicals. Her latest venture is something different: Wicked Cool, a fast, fun read suitable for teens--and everyone else, she hopes. You can join her on Facebook at or follow her on Twitter at @DianeFarr.


Anonymous said...

Hi Lesley-Anne ~ Great blog!

Hi Dianne! Oh, that sounds like so much fun! I'm glad you enjoyed it! Great post! :)


Nancy said...

Dianne, I had such fun walking through Mayfair in your blog and via your pix. I adore the Regency period and Regency writers! Thank you for being one of them!

Nancy Haddock

Unknown said...

Hi Diane and Lesley-Anne!
Thank you so much for this wonderful post!
Having spent so much time in the world of Lord Byron with the research for my Blog, it is really nice to see the fabulous photographs of the places that are mentioned in his journals and letters.
Thank you!

Anonymous said...

This brought back such fond memories of my own trip to London in 2000--good grief! Has it really been 11 years? I hope I have the chance to go back someday.

Sheri Cobb South