Friday, January 27, 2012

The Regency Army Officer
by Guest Blogger Diane Gaston

Thank you for having me as a guest, Lesley-Anne!

Part of what I love about the Regency period is the drama of the Napoleonic War and its culmination, the Battle of Waterloo. I'm the daughter of a U.S. Army colonel, so it seems logical to me that my favorite kind of hero in a Regency romance is a military one, especially a hero who has been “wounded” by the war in some kind of way.

My last three books indulged this military passion of mine. My Three Soldiers series (Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady; Chivalrous Captain, Rebel Mistress; Valiant Soldier, Beautiful Enemy) tells the stories of three British officers who all share a horrific event after the siege of Badajoz, when the British army ran amok plundering and pillaging for three days. The experience the men share affects their whole lives.

During the Regency, a career in the military was a sought after life course for younger sons of the aristocracy, sons of the gentry and the upwardly mobile middle class. It was not a way to make one’s fortune, but was considered a respectable occupation.

The attraction of the military for young men probably had more to do with a desire for adventure and glory. The pay officers received, especially at the lower ranks, often did not cover their expenses, which included paying for his horse, uniforms, and other supplies. Some officers even brought their own servants with them, and most depended upon allowances from their families to fund their needs.

Not only did the officer have to subsidize his army career with his own funds, he had to pay to become an officer in the first place. Officers purchased their commissions and paid for their promotions. Typically the family purchased for their 16 to 19 year old son the rank of ensign or lieutenant for the infantry (coronet for the cavalry). No military training was expected, nor was it provided. The ensign learned on the job, often taught what to do by his sergeant whose path in the army was an entirely different one.

Advancement to the higher ranks – Lieutenant, Captain, etc. – required more money. In order to advance, a commission had to become available, usually because a higher ranked officer had an opportunity to purchase his own promotion. An one time a young man could advance as high as his parents could afford to pay, but in 1795 the Duke of York instituted some reforms so that a specified period of time in rank was required before a man could purchase a promotion.

There were other ways for officers to advance, especially in wartime. An officer could earn a field promotion if the higher ranked officer was killed and a replacement was immediately needed. He might also be promoted because of an act of extraordinary valor. Called a “Forlorn Hope,” those men who volunteered to be the first to storm the walls of a fortress, were promised promotions. It was called a “Forlorn Hope” because their chances of survival were minimal.

Other valorous acts could earn a man a promotion. If you have ever read the Sharpe books or watched the old TV series, Sharpe earned his promotions by valorous acts. In fact, Sharpe was promoted from the enlisted ranks because he saved Wellington’s life.

Officers, even in wartime, could virtually come and go as they pleased. They could request leaves of absence whenever they liked and they could leave the army whenever they chose by selling their commissions and returning to civilian life.

If an officer was not needed for active service they could be placed on half pay, which sounds just like what it was. The officer could be called back into service at any time and his commission was not open for purchase.

After Waterloo, when peace returned to Europe, the army needed to downsize and entire regiments were disbanded, their officers put on half pay. Available slots in active regiments became few and far between, so the men who wanted to be officers had dramatically fewer opportunities. This is the situation my hero finds himself in the third of the books, Valiant Soldier, Beautiful Enemy.

I’m not an expert about the British Army in the Napoleonic Wars but if you have any questions, I’d be glad to try to answer them.

I’ll give away one signed copy of the first in my series, Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady, to one lucky commenter chosen at random.

Diane Gaston is the award-winning author of Regency Historical Romance whose latest books feature soldier heroes. Diane’s awards include a RITA for Best Regency Romance, a National Readers Choice Award, the Golden Quill, the Orange Rose (now called Booksellers Best), and most recently, a Holt Medallion Award of Merit. Diane’s books are released by Mills & Boon Historical, Harlequin Historical, and other Harlequin branches world-wide. The last book in Diane’s Three Soldiers series, Valiant Soldier, Beautiful Enemy, was released in September, 2011, in North America, and December, 2011, in the UK. You can visit Diane at her website, and at her blog.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Love's Vocabulary

Valentine's Day is coming, and so it seems appropriate to discuss 'Love's Vocabulary'. It is a common phrase; a Google search will bring up hundreds of results. But one writer in the early 19th century had an interesting take on the idea, and wrote elegant, scathing definitions of the words that describe the participants, the emotions, and the activities involved in the romantic state we call 'love'.
Sun -- All comparisons of one's mistress to the sun, the stars, etc. are out of date. They are all so hackneyed, that even poetry rejects them. One modern poet, indeed, has ventured to compare his mistress to the sun, because, like him, she was a common benefit, and shone on all alike."

We don't know the name of the writer of this brief, clever glossary. It was first published, I believe, in the April and May issues of the Lady's Monthly Museum for 1801. Portions appeared a year later in The Lady's Magazine and Musical Repository, without any attribution. Then in 1811, selections from the same essay were published in an American magazine, The Lady's Miscellany and Weekly Visitor.

Women are not always cast in a good light:
Coquette - One who wants to engage the men without engaging herself, whose chief aim is to be thought agreeable, handsome, amiable; though a composition of levity and vanity.

But neither are men:
Danglers - An insipid tribe of triflers, with whom the women divert themselves, in perfect innocence, when they have nothing better to do. They are in a class of beings beneath their monkeys, parrots, and lap-dogs.
The entries speak of manipulation:
Absence - "How dear is my absence from you going to cost me! How tedious will the hours seem!" This signifies precisely, "If I was always with you, my stock of fine speeches would be soon exhausted. I should have nothing new to say to you: when I see  you again, you will like me better."
And of pain:
Cruelty - This expression does no so much signify the insensibility of a mistress, as the impatience of a lover.
And the writer seems to have a particular point to make about:
Matrimony - A term, which is the stale topic of ridicule to witlings, libertines, and coxcombs; and a term of the utmost respect among the virtuous and sensible. It is, like patriotism, the most noble motive, and the most infamous pretext. It is the paradise of the wise, and the hell of fools. At present, the fashion is, properly speaking, to commit matrimony; since on the footing that things are, it is rather a crime than a virtue; since, often, no nobler a view determines to it, than sends a highwayman to Hounslow heath; to wit, ---the taking of a purse. Sordid interest is now the great master of ceremonies to Hymen, of which it pollutes the sanctuary, and dishonours the worship. Parents who sacrifice their children to it are worse than the Ammonites, who burned theirs in honour to Moloch; at least the pain of those wretched victims was momentary; whilst the pain of those sold for interest is a lingering one, and often as sure as death.

I hope you have enjoyed these excerpts from the 'Vocabulary' of this astute, insightful writer; I wish we knew his/her name. I wonder if it is one we would recognize.

Next week, Diane Gaston, award-winning author of Regency Historical Romance, will visit to talk about 'Regency Army Officers'. She will also be giving away an autographed copy of  the first in her series, Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady, to a randomly chosen commenter. Please join us then!

'Til next time,


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Address of the City of Edinburgh
to the Prince Regent, November 1813

I am little late with my blog this week as I have been devoting all my time to the completion of my work-in-progress "The Earl's Peculiar Burden" which will be released in June of this year by Uncial Press.

I just sent the manuscript off to my editor. With apologies for a lack of opinion and discussion in this week's post, I offer the following Address to the Prince Regent from the columns of the Edinburgh Annual Register for 1813 for your delectation. It is particularly interesting in light of the recent discussions in Britain on Scottish independence:

'Til next time,


Friday, January 6, 2012

The Fantoccini Man

"This was an exhibition called the Fantoccini, and far superior to any of the street performances which I have yet seen." W. Wells Brown, Three Years in Europe
We are all familiar with the Punch and Judy show, that staple of the Victorian seaside, long presented in the streets of the cities of Britain. But there was another street performer who eclipsed Punch's popularity briefly and was the delight of crowds of children and adults.
The Fantoccini man was well-known in the Regency era. Fantoccini is the Italian word for puppets, particularly puppets operated by strings. We know them as 'marionettes' a name which overtook 'fantocinni' in popularity in the middle years of the nineteenth century.

The Fantoccini had a long history. They were brought from Italy, as was Punch, and their popularity soared in the eighteenth century. They were exhibited, with performances, in small theatres all over Britiain. An exhibition is reported at Hickford's Room, James Street in the Haymarket, in 1770. And in 1780 there was another presentation, at No. 22 Piccadilly.

But it was a Scotsman named Gray who is credited with taking the Fantoccini into the streets of London.
"He was a very clever fellow--very good, and there was nothing but what was good that belonged to it--scenery, dresses, theatre and all."
It appears that he operated in the first decades of the nineteenth century. His stage was about the size of a Punch and Judy theatre, and his figures were about nine inches high. He made, by all accounts, a very good living performing in the streets as well as in theatres, and eventually presented a show for George IV.

Typical street show of puppets
The quotes in this post (but for the first and last) are taken from the reminiscences of a Fantoccini man (never actually named) published in the book, London Labour and the London Poor by Henry Mayhew in 1851. This man, aged about fifty-five years, had worked in street performance nearly all his life. At one time, he was employed with a Mr. Seawood who used the 'dancing figures' and he learned the trade from Seawood. He realized the possibilities of the craft and he began to make his own frame (stage) and figures.

"Now my figures are two feet high, though they don't look it; but my theatre is ten feet high by six foot wide, and the opening is four feet high."
No small feat, to transport this apparatus around London--"..cornerpitching, as we call it; that is, at the corner of a street where there is a lot of people passing." The Fantoccini man must have employed a porter to assist him. Certainly he did employ a musician--pandean pipes--"I didn't like to make my first appearance in London without music". He carved his own fantoccini, and took pride in costuming them in fine dress.

He made a fine career of the Fantoccini and made excellent money from his creations, "Where Punch took a shilling we've taken a pound". He operated in direct competition to Gray and, it seems, soon eclipsed the other.

He described for Mayhew his programme, thus:
"We begins with a female hornpipe dancer; then there is a set of quadrilles...After this we introduces a representation of Mr. Grimaldi the clown, who does tumbling and posturing, and a comic dance. Then comes the enchanted Turk. ... The next performance is the old lady...then there's the tight-rope dancer, and next the Indian juggler...the Polander, who balances a pole and two chairs...then comes the frightens the children... The performance, to go through the whole of it, takes an hour and a half..."
 Certainly an extensive show--and this Fantoccini man undertook, as well as his street work, evening parties,  Christmas parties, and even performed for Princess Victoria, and the Duke of Wellington! It must have been delightful.

W. Wells Brown, whose quote opened this post, also said,
"Many who would turn away in disgust from Mr. Punch, will stand for hours and look at the performances of the Fantoccini...they can hardly fail to have a hearty laugh..There may be degrees of absurdity in the manner of wasting our time, but there is an evident affectation in decrying these humble and innocent exhibitions,..."

Would that we could experience such a charming performance on our chill and crowded streets...

'Til next time,