Sunday, December 20, 2020

Monday, November 30, 2020

Christmas 1817

 This year we are celebrating a very different sort of Christmas. It has happened before because of wars, and other pandemics and plagues. In 1817, it was a different Christmas in England because the much-loved heiress to the throne had recently died. Nevertheless, Christmas went ahead and was celebrated in some old and some new ways.

Richard Rush, a visitor to London as the new ambassador from the United States of America, recorded Christmas Eve 1817 in his diary and recounted it in his book "A Residence At The Court Of London".

December 24 [1817].--Go through several parts of the town: Bond Street, Albemarle Street, Berkeley Square, Piccadilly, St. James's Street and Park, Pall Mall, St. James's Square, the Strand, and a few others. Well-dressed persons, men and women, throng them. In the dresses of both, black predominates. It is nearly universal. This proceeds from the general mourning for the Princess Charlotte, late heiress apparent to the throne, who died in November. The roll of chariots, and carriages of all kinds, from two until past four, was incessant. In all directions they were in motion. It was like a show--the horses, the coachmen with triangular hats and tassels, the footmen with cockades and canes--it seemed as if nothing could exceed it all.  ....
Being the day before Christmas, there was more display in the shops than usual. I did not get back until candle-light. The whole scene began to be illuminated. Altogether, what a scene it was! The shops in the Strand and elsewhere, where every conceivable article lay before you; and all made in England..

The Ladies' Monthly Museum posted fashion notes of the aforesaid black clothes. They were certainly a  visible, notable difference in the season that year.

The Liverpool Mercury posted one of the typical offerings of amateur poetry that filled newspapers and journals of the time.

And the Suffolk Chronicle; or Weekly General Advertiser & County Express recorded the usual school treat:

The Bury and Norwich Post offered two happenings that illustrated that human nature does not alter, despite the changes that might occur in circumstances from year to year.

Wherever you are this year, whoever you are with, I hope that you can celebrate Christmas and the holiday season in a way that is meaningful to you. Change is not always bad and hardship engenders gratitude for that which we do year will be better.

Stay safe, and have a Happy Christmas,

'Til next time,


Friday, September 25, 2020

The Complete Weather Guide

My apologies for not providing a monthly blog in the past three months. Certainly the challenges of Covid-19 have thrown me off my stride, and also I am working on a couple of large projects which are distracting me, and keeping me busy. Please bear with me as we continue through these difficult days of 2020. In the new year, I should have more information about my projects. In the meantime, I offer this blog on a very interesting book. Stay safe and well...


 In the Regency era, as now, everyone wanted to know what the future held in terms of the weather.

"The Complete Weather Guide" published in 1813 by Joseph Taylor, offered numerous ways of predicting the day's weather and forecasting conditions for the days and weeks to come. Mr. Taylor discusses in detail making predictions from appearances of nature, and appearances of atmosphere, and using barometers, hygrometers, and thermometers.

And then there is this:

The Shepherd's Rules are based in observation, and are probably as valid as any forecast our modern weather people offer. They are sometimes expressed in wonderful, ancient couplets.

If red the sun begins his race, be sure the rain will fall apace.

The evening red, and the morning grey, is a sign of a fair day.

In the decay of the moon, a cloudy morning bodes a fair afternoon.

Interspersed with the weather details, are useful facts and fanciful fictions.

Even more interesting than the text, I think, are the handwritten notes and newspaper clippings that generations of the book's owners have added in the back of the book.

There are no dates on the information, or sources for the author's research, but the notes are interesting and possibly very useful!

The Complete Weather Guide may be found on Google Books by a simple search, and is available for free download. 

'Til next time,




Sunday, June 21, 2020

A Sporting Tour 1804

 In 1804, Colonel Thomas Thornton published an accounting of his extensive tour of northern England and the Highlands of Scotland.

 The tour, it appears, took place in about 1786 the year in which the portrait below of Thornton may have been painted. A brief but comprehensive entry on Colonel Thornton may be found on Wikipedia. He was a most unusual man who lived a varied and uncommon life.

But it is his book that is my topic here. As interesting in its way as the diaries of Parson Woodforde and even Samuel Pepys, the journal is detailed and exhaustive, and very entertaining. It contains countless descriptions of 'sport'--that is, fishing, shooting, hunting and hawking. He would shoot, it seemed, anything that moved, and fished endlessly. One can only hope that the spoils of this orgy of killing were distributed to the needy of the areas through which the Colonel's party passed. Certainly there was too much foodstuff caught to be eaten by his fellows alone.

The sporting tour was planned with the precision of a military campaign, though I don't believe Thornton ever saw active service.

 There was a plethora of supplies ordered.
Ordered in two large chests of biscuits, several Cheshire and Gloucester
Besides the accounts of 'sport', which can become a little tedious unless you are as devoted to them as Thornton was, the Colonel had a fine, poetical turn of phrase in describing the countryside through which his party passed.  
 In order to record his epic tour, Thornton hired an artist, George Garrard (31 May 1760 – 8 October 1826), who was just coming into prominence with talented landscape and animal studies. Garrard produced numerous drawings and paintings during the tour and sixteen were engraved for inclusion in the book.
 Thornton waxed poetic on the many lochs of the Highlands and Garrard painted them.

 In addition Colonel Thornton commented on the social activities and social conditions he encountered on his trip,
and some unusual local pursuits. He encountered Golf at Glasgow on July 21.

And Mr. Garrard continued to draw and paint:

So, nearly twenty years after the trip, Thornton (in common with many British travellers in the 1800s) published a record of his excursion. His work is entertaining and as he says in his conclusion
I cannot better repay my obligations to that romantic country, for the amusement it has afforded me, than by recommending its highly-varied charms to the notice of future travellers...
The Sporting Tour by Colonel Thomas Thornton may be downloaded from Google Books. Enjoy!

'Til next time,


Friday, May 15, 2020

"A melancholy accident"

Please be warned--this is not a cheerful topic today! But it is, I think, quite fascinating. I have been looking at carriage accidents.

We might tend to think longingly of the quieter life of Regency England; the slower pace of everything, including horses and carriages. But as these newspaper clippings show, carriage, cart and coach traffic was as dangerous as your local freeway and accidents could be deadly.

Inattentive drivers, equipment failure, speed and impairment all caused accidents, then as now. And there was the additional wild card of the horse--a temperamental, easily startled, sensitive creature entrusted with lives.

These clips require no explanation; they offer an interesting perspective on day to day life in Regency England.

Leicester Chronicle - Saturday 15 November 1817
Cambridge Intelligencer - Saturday 15 November 1800

Gloucester Journal - Monday 23 November 1801

Morning Advertiser - Monday 20 March 1809

Norfolk Chronicle - Saturday 10 June 1809

Oxford University and City Herald - Saturday 17 January 1807

Stamford Mercury - Friday 21 October 1814

Star (London) - Saturday 06 October 1804

Windsor and Eton Express - Sunday 04 February 1816
The facts speak for themselves--transportation traffic is dangerous and always has been. Although one hesitates to benefit from the tribulations of the people involved in these accidents, there is much material for story-telling in these newspaper clippings.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The "other" people - England 1812

Regency authors tend to write about the upper classes of British society--at least the gentry, if not the lesser nobility, and far too often, dukes. But there were many more people inhabiting the Regency world.

In October and November 1812, Ackermann's "Repository of Arts, Literature, Fashions, Manufactures, etc.", itself a journal for the middle and upper classes, published a quantity of drawings for the following purpose:

As stated, these drawings were 'etched from the life', and so provide us with a fairly accurate portrait of the appearance of country people during the Regency period.

The following were described as 'cottagers':

Then there was a section of 'gleaners':

And finally a selection of 'shepherds':

This commoditization of the rural poor, treating them as no more than 'picturesque' adornments for the landscape drawings of the upper classes, is a shocking depersonalization.

The situations of these country folk are romanticized--their feet are shod and their clothing is not ragged. They were likely not so well off. They were suffering through the job losses caused by industrialization and the repercussions of the Peninsular War and the War of 1812. Work was hard, food was expensive.

 Nevertheless these representations give us a hint of the day-to-day life of many in the Regency era. Despite the somewhat cold-hearted reason for their creation, they are of benefit to us, two hundred years later, in understanding their time.

'Til next time,


Sunday, March 15, 2020

The World of "The Charming Devil"

My latest book "The Charming Devil" was published on February 15, and it has been a busy month since then.

The book is set in 1807, and at the beginning of each chapter I have included a newspaper clipping giving the flavour of the time. Most of the clips are from Wiltshire or Bath newspapers or journals.

I thought in this blog to give you a wider view of 1807 in England from books of the period as well as newspapers.

I hope you enjoy this look into the past.

Fashions, below, from Anecdotes of the Manners and Customs of London during the Eighteenth Century...with a Review of the State of Society in 1807 by James Peller Malcolm 
Off to the races, below, from Trewman's Exeter Flying Post July 2 1807

Frontispiece, below, from Trivia: or, The Art of Walking the Streets of London: a Descriptive Poem, by Gay
Royals in the news, below, from Kentish Weekly Post or Canterbury Journal Friday 5 June 1807
The news then, as now, was often bad:

below, from The Lady's Magazine February 1807
and below, from Oxford University and City Herald Saturday 5 December 1807
But business went on. Below from Trewman's Exeter Flying Post July 2 1807
Below, more finery, from La Belle Assemblee January 1807
And below, an advertisement later in the year from La Belle Assemblee May 1807

Charities were universal. Below a leaflet Members of a friendly society compensating one of its members for ill-health. Pen and ink and watercolour, c. 1807
from Wellcome Images
The theatres were ubiquitous. Below, from La Belle Assemblee January 1807
It was a busy world in 1807. The hero of "The Charming Devil" living in the isolated countryside of Wiltshire appreciated his newspapers. We appreciate his newspapers also, looking at them two hundred years later.

'Til next time,


Images, except where noted, from Google Books and British Newspaper Archive