Monday, December 3, 2018

Compliments of the Season -- Christmas 1815

1815 was a very good year. It heralded the end of the Napoleonic Wars that had troubled Europe for too many years. Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled to Saint Helena, British soldiers and sailors had returned home; life surely would now improve.

Christmas of 1815 was celebrated as it had been for many years though, without the old traditions, with little fanfare, but quiet pleasures and substantial feasting. An excerpt from The Shepherd's Calendar by John Clare sets the scene:


GLAD Christmas comes, and every hearth
   Makes room to give him welcome now,
E’en want will dry its tears in mirth,
   And crown him with a holly bough;
Though tramping ’neath a winter sky,
   O’er snowy paths and rimy stiles,
The housewife sets her spinning by
   To bid him welcome with her smiles.

The Comic New Year's Budget of Song 1815 offered a seasonal illustration celebrating the year's successes:
The newspapers, as always, advertised gifts:
Bristol Mirror - Saturday 16 December 1815

Morning Post Sat 30 December 1815
Cookery books offered December table layouts that could very well be used for Christmas dinner service:
from The Universal Cook
 Such festivities were recorded in the Morning Post:
The costumes of the ladies for these festivities reflected the best trends from a Europe newly open to England:
English and French Fashions 1815 (Wikimedia Commons)
Fashion Plate 1815 - Austrian Hat and Pelisse (Wikimedia Commons)

The fashionable witzschoura, lavishly trimmed with squirrel, 1815 (Wikimedia Commons)
Royalty enjoyed themselves:
Morning Post, 30 December 1815
 And the season was summed up in a poem very typical of the era, pedantic and extravagant but determinedly rhyming.
Chester Chronicle - Friday 22 December 1815
I wish you and all your loved ones a Happy Christmas, a happy holiday season, and every good thing in the New Year!

'Til next time,


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Victorians consider the Regency: Magazines and Newspapers

This past August I wrote a blog about 1865 in the Regency. My new book, due out in February 2019, is titled The Governess's Peculiar Journey. (It just received an excellent review; I am so excited.) The governess in question time-travels from 1865 to 1815.

This is problematic for her as the mid-and late-Victorians found nothing to admire in the world of their fathers and grandfathers. Indeed they seem to have despised it, and regarded it as an embarrassment.

Victorian books on the recently past eras of George III, the Prince Regent (George IV) and his successor William IV abounded. And they weren't complimentary.

The book "When William IV was King" by John Ashton, published in 1896, began with the death of George IV in 1830. After reproducing articles on the sale of his Majesty's effects, he goes on to say that there was not much interest in the items and very little respect for either the late king or his possessions.
 "The Dawn of the XIXth Century in England: A Social Sketch of the Times" also by John Ashton, took on a more blatant note of disrespect, poking fun at ladies' fashions.

 And at the educational system of the earlier time:

"Follies & Fashions of our Grandfathers" by Andrew W. Tuer is designed in imitation of the journals popular at the beginning of the century. By taking unusual items from original magazines the author makes a new journal dated 1807 (some eighty years before the publication date). It pokes fun at the early days of the century whenever it can and the introduction contains some telling criticisms.

"The Year 1800 or The Sayings and Doings of our Fathers and Mothers: 60 Years Ago" by F. Perigal exposes the early part of the century in a different way. The author uses original newspaper and magazine items to illustrate different topics such as 'Amusements' and 'Science'. The items are carefully chosen to show the 'ignorance' of the earlier age.
Every era looks back at those before it with a certain degree of pity, and something of nostalgia. That Victorian era looked back to its Regency roots with disdain and distaste shows the Victorians in a unattractive light. 

My heroine revises her opinions about both eras! See more about the book at my website -

Next month, we'll look at Christmas...

'Til then, all the best,


N.B. All books cited above should be available at Google Books for download.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Taylor's Architectural Library

I love buildings and architecture, but particularly I love houses. So when I am searching through Google Books, I am always attracted to early books about them. As I was looking through several of these books the other day, I noticed that many of them were published by J. Taylor, The Architectural Library.

In about 1770 Isaac Taylor, an engraver, took over a printing, publishing and bookselling business which specialized in architectural publications. By 1797 he had handed over The Architectural Library to his son Josiah. The publishing firm printed hundreds of different volumes; an advertisement in one of the books lists thirteen pages of titles for sale.

Some of the volumes were reprints of early titles. Grotesque Architecture had first been published in 1767.
 It included plans for hermitages, greenhouses and rustic seats, as well as grottoes and cascades.

Other publications were more modern and original.
These cottages are very austere, to my eyes, but they do have interesting floor plans. I must admit though to preferring the 'cottage ornee' style.

The Architectural Library also printed extremely usable handbooks such as: The Builder's Price Book, New Principles of Linear Perspective, The Carpenter's Pocket Directory et al.
And the following useful, and thorough, guide...

It has all kinds of plans:
Plan for a Farmyard
Plan for a Brewhouse, Washhouse & Bakehouse
Farmhouse and offices
I'll be looking through Google Books for more from The Architectural Library. I think we can be sure that readers, for nearly a century from the mid 1700s to mid 1800s, watched for their publications also.

'Til next time,


Source: All titles from Google Books

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Peacock's Polite Repository

While researching other things recently I came across, quite by chance, "Peacock's Polite Repository or Pocket Companion".

I thought it was a charming and very handy book. It was also a very long-lived publication. Appearing yearly, from about 1788 to at least 1830, it was a small book (115 mm x 74 mm), often in a slip-case. It contained diary space and an almanac of all sorts of useful information. It was exactly the sort of thing that anyone new to the country, or desirous of exhaustive information about the country, would have owned. In my new book, the hero buys the heroine a copy; she is definitely in need of the information.

From 1790 to 1811 Humphrey Repton supplied the illustrations for the books, generally a frontispiece and headings for the diary pages. The copy I am using is from 1812, and I have not yet discovered the illustrator but the pictures are charming.

St. Bernad's Well near Edinburgh
The information that filled the pages--about 125 of them--was wide-ranging.

With the number of dukes appearing in Regency fiction these days, it is interesting to have the actual list of those peers. There weren't very many.
 Below is the type of calendar that appears for each month before the diary blanks.
Each month has an illustration in the diary.
The universities figure large in the plethora of information:
Holidays which seem to have been organized by major organizations or business were not neglected. A little more explanation of them would not come amiss. There are more than I would have expected.
It was not a completely insular book. Below is part of the list of foreign rulers:
Even the esoteric was covered by the Repository:
I wonder what were the duties of heralds in 1812? I can feel more research coming on!

'Til next time,


Sources: a Google search on Peacock's Polite Repository will bring myriad results. I used several of them, but cannot list one definitive source.

Monday, August 6, 2018

1865 in the Regency era

The title of this post sounds odd, doesn't it? But I am working on a new book--to be released February 15, 2019--and 1865 plays an important part in my Regency-set romantic tale.

Victorian England in 1865 was very different from Regency England in 1815. Here are a few glimpses of that Victorian world.

Chester Chronicle - Saturday 17 June 1865
Lancaster Gazette - Saturday 30 September 1865
Liverpool Mercury - Saturday 17 June 1865
Wrexham Advertiser - Saturday 22 July 1865
My heroine is very familiar with 1865 and its Victorian sensibilities. She is accustomed to its comforts, and its burgeoning excesses. Without giving too much away, it is her world.

In 1815 there were no railways, no photographs, and there were few town clerks and public works. The parish was the local government and the landowners had the main voice in local improvements. There was little gas lighting, no steam travel, highwaymen were still to be feared and a great war had just ended. But the world was manageable, the pace of life was slower and expectations were more humane.

Human nature did not change as the Petty Sessions from 1815 and 1865 below prove. And human nature is what stories are built upon.

Derby Mercury - Wednesday 17 May 1865

Tyne Mercury; Northumberland and Durham and Cumberland Gazette - Tuesday 04 July 1815

You will be hearing further about my new book in the coming months. Please stay tuned to discover more about the connection of 1865 with 1815.

'Til next time,