Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Christmas Celebrations 1820

We commonly say that the Victorians, and particularly Charles Dickens, created our Christmas celebrations. However, the more Christmases I research, and recount to you, through the newspapers of the pre-Victorian days the more I find them greatly similar to our own. And in 1820, as in 1805, 1806 and 1817, common threads appear. 

Morning Post - Wednesday 05 January 1820

Sun (London) - Thursday 13 January 1820

Celebrations of families and friends abounded, and if holidays were not as common then as now, the enjoyment of the festivities was certainly whole-hearted. There are not many period illustrations of the jollifications but this picture has wonderful details and evokes the spirit of the season and the era:

Christmas Eve by William Allan 1782-1850 Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums

 The nobility, the aristocrats, and the gentry, certainly entertained themselves well.

Star (London) - Wednesday 27 December 1820
Bagpipers Playing During Christmas Time, c.1820 - Michela De Vito, an Italian scene

Morning Post - Wednesday 05 January 1820

And of course, there were gifts, as many then as now. This advertisement details wonderful things I would like to see.

Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser - Saturday 30 December 1820

It appeared that Christmas in 1820 held to the truths written by Walter Scott in his1808 poem Marmion.   

"England was merry England, when / Old Christmas brought his sports again.
 'Twas Christmas broach'd the mightiest ale; / 'Twas Christmas told the merriest tale;
 A Christmas gambol oft could cheer / The poor man's heart through half the year."

In his illustration Mummers, published in 1836 in Thomas Hervey's The Book of Christmas, the artist Robert Seymour (1798-1836) displays the delights of a Christmas evening:

I hope that your Christmas and holiday season holds some such pleasures with family and friends despite our pandemic woes. Best Wishes...

'Til next time,


Sunday, October 24, 2021

Paying for Prosecution - Justice in the Regency

 I discovered an interesting fact last week, one that I should probably have known about before now.

In Regency England, if you were assaulted, robbed, or otherwise the victim of a criminal act, you had to pursue prosecution yourself and pay for all the fees and costs of such prosecution. There were no public police to bring charges, and so the responsibility lay with the injured.

To deal with the costs incurred with such prosecution, there were set up voluntary societies or clubs, where an annual or monthly fee payment ensured reimbursement of expenses. Such a group was the Society for Prosecuting Felons:

The above advertisement was published in the Commercial Directory for 1818-20. But the Society had been around for quite some time. Below is another advertisement for the Society from the Reading Mercury - Monday 27 April 1801:

Often the societies paid rewards for information and assistance as well as covering legal and other expenses as the advertisement below from the Morning Advertiser - Monday 29 June 1807 indicates:
And this notice below from the Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser - Wednesday 08 January 1817

Monthly meetings were held to discuss the various business aspects, noted below from the Oracle and the Daily Advertiser - Tuesday 18 February 1806 :

As these groups had grown out of parish council support for prosecution fees, it was logical that they continued to have parish connections.
Rastrick Society © Calderdale MBC
Any worthwhile society had of course to have its annual dinners and annual meetings:
from Sun (London) - Monday 06 June 1803
from Sussex Advertiser - Monday 01 February 1819 

The Regency era was over before full responsibility for prosecution of criminals--and proper defense of the accused--lay with the government and employees hired for the job, including police forces.

Until then the societies for prosecution were useful tools for those who had been injured and/or wronged.

'Til next time,


Saturday, September 25, 2021

How the Regency got its News

The Regency era was a period when news was neither timely or easy to come by. Word of mouth offered the most immediate source of new information, but whether it was correct or judicious was another matter entirely.

Newspapers and journals or magazines offered the best possible sources of news. Their offerings were, in the case of newspapers, anywhere from one day to weeks and months old, depending on the location of the news story. In the case of journals, news items were always at least a month old.

Given the cost and availability of journals and newspapers, the news did not get to citizens easily.

Presumably because of these challenges, many of the popular journals, bound yearly into a hardback compilation of their monthly editions, began to print a yearly 'round-up' of top news stories. Often called a "Chronological Table" these calendric lists were generally printed in the January or February issue of the year following the stories' first appearance. Some of the 'tables' were quite detailed with more than six items recounted; some were less comprehensive with three or four news articles noted.

For example, The Lady's Magazine of 1804 published a 'supplement' (presumably in early 1805) which included a "Chronological Table of the most remarkable Occurrences of the Year one Thousand eight Hundred and four". In the September section of the 'Table', eight items were retold. Below are excerpts:

    5th. Francis the IInd assumed the title of emperor of Austria.
    16. The Vienna court gazetter, for the first time designates Bonaparte by
    the title of Emperor.
    17th. Restoration of the order of Jesuits in Naples and Sicily.
    28th. Journey of the French emperor and empress, and the servile adulation
    of the people of France.
          Dreadful plague at Malaga.

The Scots Magazine of 1800 (published February 1801) contained a list titled "Remarkable Events of the year 1800". The September 1800 events included:

6. The Emperor of Germany left Vienna, for the purpose of taking
the command of his armies.
14. Riots in different parts of the metropolis, which, however, by the
exertions of the Magistrates, and the activity of the different Volunteer
corps, were happily suppressed. The ostensible cause the dearth of provisions.
25. Intelligence was received of the further prolongation of the
armistice on the Continent.

The National Register was a short-lived newspaper in England, begun in 1808. The following is their first "Chronological Table of the Most Remarkable Occurrences of the Year". The September 1808 listing included:

6. Bonaparte issued a decree, prohibiting the importation of
colonial produce into any part of his dominions till further orders.
20. The Spaniards recaptured Bilboa, and proclaimed Ferdinand VII.
20. Covent-Garden Theatre was destroyed by fire, when upwards
of 20 people lost their lives.

La Belle Assemblee, that necessity of life for fashionable ladies, included its own list titled "Chronological Sketch of the Most Remarkable Events of the Year 1809". This was published in the January 1810 issue. Even this fashionable journal included mainly items of political and military significance. England was after all a nation at war. Some of the September items noted were:

4. Eruption of Mount Vesuvius.
17. Treaty of Peace between Sweden and Russia concluded.
18. The new Theatre of Covent-Garden opened for the reception
of the public.
21. Duel fought between Lord Castlereagh and Mr. Canning, in
which our Minister for Foreign Affairs is wounded by our
Minister of War.
24. Received intelligence of the conclusion of the war in

The European Magazine and London Review had its "Chronological Table of remarkable and Interesting Events, for the year 1812". They leaned heavily on military and political events though it was a general interest magazine. In September, for example:

8. Arrival of the 13th and 14th Vulleins of the French Grand
Army, dated August 21 and 23, from Smolensko, which city
was entered by the French on the 18th of August, after a
sanguinary battle.
23. Despatches from Major-general Cooke, announce the taking
of the city of Seville, on the 27th of August. by the corps under
General Cruz and Colonel Skerritt.

The Monthly Magazine or British Register had extensive monthly lists in its "Chronological View of the Remarkable Events of the Year 1814". And it was a remarkable year. The Frost Fair on the Thames in London, the capture of Napoleon, and the peace celebrations of the summer months occupied the first seven months of the year. By September the war in America was claiming the "Chronological View":

1. Fort Custine, in the Penobscott, taken, and the sloop Adams destroyed.
9. Defeat of the British squadron on Lake Champlain, by the
American squadron.
12. American troops repulsed before Baltimore. Gen. Ross killed.

And there was assembling the Congress of Vienna:

25. The solemn entry of the Emperor of Russia and King of Prussia into Vienna.
Prince Talleyrand arrived at Vienna.
26. Arrival different Sovereigns at Vienna, to form a Congress.

 So all the news was available in the Regency era, just not immediately to its happening, unlike our world.

But what is the value of immediacy? Like the people of the first years of the nineteenth century, we can do little to affect our world's events. Knowing about their occurrence instantly makes little difference to our own little worlds.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Two Hundred and Twenty-Five Years Ago

I was browsing through a 1796 issue of Bell's Weekly Messenger this past week. Suddenly I realized that it was virtually the same week as I was currently experiencing -- July 17 to July 24. But this newspaper was two hundred and twenty-five years old.

Jane Austen was twenty that summer and may have perused this copy of Bell's journal. So I thought you might be interested to learn what she was reading and what was happening in the summer of 1796 in England.

Fashions were classical, softly draped, often white, and sometimes trained.

Gallery of Fashion

Journal für Fabrik, Manufaktur, Handlung und Mode

           Journal für Fabrik, Manufaktur, Handlung und Mode 1796

These styles were worn by the 'Fashionables' whose activities were of interest in Bell's.

Princess Elizabeth's Drawings - As they are now before the public, it is but common justice to notice them with praise. They are delicate and tasteful.

The Bishop of Rochester is now enjoying the fine air and charming prospects of Bromley in Kent.

The picture of the  Duke of Wurtemberg, who is to marry the Princess Royal, is arrived. The original is very shortly expected.

The Westminster regiment still remains without a Colonel, no successor having appointed to the disgraced Col. Cawthorn.

There was always news from the Court:

The King has appointed the period of eight weeks to be the term of the Royal residence at Weymouth for the approaching bathing season.

Lord Gwider was at Court, and received the appointment of Master of the Horse to his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.

The country seemed always at war, so there was considerable army news in the paper but of course with the speed, or lack thereof, of communication it was all 'old news' and so does not really pertain to our week. The Naval Intelligence was likewise lacking in immediacy but the paper listed:

Ships Take by the French
  - The Hope, Colburn, from Bristol to Newfoundland, is taken by the French.
  - The Vine, Cutton, from Cork to the West Indies, was taken...and is carried to Gaudalope.

Entertainment was of much more interest to the general public it seemed for Bell's was full of diverting details from London and the counties:

On Monday the Annual Cup given by the Proprietors of Vauxhall Gardens, was sailed for by the pleasure-boats, which started from a boat moored off Blackfriars Bridge, went round another near Putney Bridge, and returned to a barge moored off Vauxhall.


At the late Poney Races, at Messing Maypole, there was very sharp racing, and a number of bye-races. Mr. Middleton's poney the silver cup and Mrs. Barnes's, of Heybridge, the silver punch ladle.

Dorsetshire, Shaftesbury, July 11

A few nights since, as Shatford's Company of Comedians were playing to a crowded house, about the end of the second act, the whole of the gallery (escept for the beam) gave way, with every soul in it, and fell upon the audience in the pit; and wonderfully not a single person was killed, or limb broken, although there were scarce two planks left together.

Brighton it seemed was boring:

Sussex, Brighton, July 11
The late heavy rains have rendered this place more insipid than ever. There is a vast concourse of visitors here for this time of the year; but they unfortunately have not vivacity or spirit. There were seven people present at the opening of the first Ball.

And the news from Monmouthshire was pedestrian, at best:

Chepstow Bridge is at length complete repaired, and passable, etc.

Theatricals were as always a rich source of news:

The Hay Market Theatre has hitherto experienced very flattering success, and it has hitherto deserved it.

Ranelagh has not had altogether a very successful season, owing to the rapid changes of the weather.

The Fireworks of Nature on Friday evening spoiled the Fireworks of Ranelagh --the company, however, was numerous, although the lightning drove most of the ladies home. 

The summer of 1796 was a golden time, it seemed, and Bell's Weekly Messenger waxed poetic:

Never in the memoirs of man, was there a year in which plenty reared her fair front, or diffused her golden blessings with a more unsparing hand that the present; grain of every species, herbage, kitchen vegetables, and every article of food, both for man and beast, are in a state of great forwardness, and give indications of any early and superabundant harvest.

The auguries were good for comfortable winter. I hope it worked out well.

'Til next time,


Friday, March 5, 2021

 Illness in the family has dominated my time in the last two months, but I am beginning to regain some working intervals as the patient recovers here.

In light of the fact that spring is waxing, here in the northern hemisphere, and Covid-19 seems to be waning, I thought you might enjoy some beautiful spring dresses from the Regency.

Above are "London's Spring Fashions" from La Belle Assemblee of 1806. In 1807, below, gowns were very similar.
La Belle Assemblee April 1807 Evening dress and Walking dress
La Belle Assemblee June 1806 Kensington Garden Promenade Dresses

The dress on the right above shows the changes coming in fashion. The length is shorter, and the band of decoration at the hem shows the trimming that would eventually be the norm at hemlines.

In April of 1811, below, the straight lines of the gown are still evident, the length is considerably shorter than five years earlier.

April 1811 Repository of Arts Ball Dress  

In another five years, below, the skirt had achieved a flare at the bottom and the trimming was most decorative.

April 1817 Repository of Arts Walking Dress

 I must say, all these dresses seem a better and more joyous uniform in which to greet the spring than our customary jeans and T-shirts.

Though clothes don't really matter, I do find it enjoyable to look back at the fashions of the Regency.

'Til next time,