Ever wish some Regency rules of etiquette still applied today? Me, too!
Please join me on the Austen Authors blog to talk about manners and rude people (in the nicest way possible, of course). 🙂
Ever wish some Regency rules of etiquette still applied today? Me, too!
Please join me on the Austen Authors blog to talk about manners and rude people (in the nicest way possible, of course). 🙂
It’s National Puzzle Day. If you’re like me and enjoy solving puzzles of all kinds, here’s one of the jigsaw variety.
This puzzle will reveal a scene that might be in the beginning chapter of a Regency or Austen-inspired romance.
Ready to solve the puzzle? Just click on the puzzle pieces to solve the jigsaw puzzle online.
If you need help, click on the image below to see what the entire finished puzzle will look like.
Once you’re done, I hope you’ll comment and tell me how you liked solving the puzzle.
In England October 18 is St. Luke’s Day, a day to commemorate Luke, the patron saint of artists, physicians, bachelors, surgeons, students and butchers.
October 18 is also Whip Dog Day, an old ritual in which local boys ganged together to round up and literally whip any unfortunate dog they happen to find on the streets.
It was an ancient custom, established in a church in York, when a priest, celebrating mass, dropped one of the consecrated wafers. A stray dog that had wandered into the church snatched it up and promptly ate it. The poor animal was instantly captured and killed, and on the anniversary of his crime all stray dogs are forced to pay the price for the wafer-eater’s sin.
I’ve read some accounts that say the practice of whipping dogs on October 18 was confined to York, but further reading tells me that the custom was more wide-spread.
In A History of Derbyshire author John Pendleton writes this about the village of Baslow:
I’m okay with the idea of gently nudging sleeping congregants to keep them awake during Sunday church services; but that whole business about whipping dogs makes me shudder.
Dog whipping remained part of St. Luke’s Day traditions for hundreds of years. It was still in practice during the Regency era in some parts of the country.
I’ve never read a novel set during the Regency in which Whip Dog Day was mentioned, although there is a scene in chapter nine of Georgette Heyer’s Arabella in which the heroine saves a dog from a group of boys bent on tormenting it.
Thankfully, the practice of celebrating Whip Dog Day died out in the late 1800s when we humans made the turn and began viewing animals in a more humane light. It’s an observance that is no longer practiced today and for that I—as a lifelong dog lover—am truly grateful.
Today is Bike to Work Day in Colorado. In honor of the day, I’m re-reading Frederica by Georgette Heyer.
Why re-read Frederica?
Reason Number One: It’s a darn good book. I love to read stories in which one or more of the lead characters is redeemed. In Frederica the Marquis of Alverstoke is a reluctant hero. But despite his reluctance, the selfish, entitled nobleman is slowly but surely transformed by of his blossoming love for Frederica and his growing affection for her younger brothers and sister.
Reason Number Two: Frederica—like all of Heyer’s novels—is packed with historical tid-bits about life in the Regency era. It was while reading Frederica many years ago that I first learned that an early form of our modern bicycle made its debut during the Regency.
In Regency England it was called a Pedestrian Curricle or Pedestrian Hobbyhorse; and in the novel, Jessamy (one of Frederica’s younger brothers) learns to ride “the ingenious machine” that was all the crack.
Here’s how Georgette Heyer described the Pedestrian Curricle in Frederica:
Of simple construction, it consisted of two wheels, with a saddle hung between them, the foremost of which could be made to turn by means of a bar. It was propelled by the rider’s feet on the road, and experts could achieve quite astonishing speeds, when, admirably balancing themselves, they would lift their feet from the ground and coast along at a great rate, and to the amazement of beholders.
Frederica’s younger brother Jessamy was one of those amazed beholders. Seeing the Pedestrian Curricle in motion for the first time, Jessamy made it his purpose in life to gain the mastery of the new machine and impress his family with his prowess. So he rented a machine, took lessons, and spent several hours practicing his new skill.
In Chapter 14 Jessamy sets off on one last solo ride before revealing his secret skill to Frederica and the rest of his siblings.
Unfortunately, things don’t go as well as planned, and Jessamy finds himself mired in a nightmare situation from which only the Marquis of Alverstoke can save him. What follows is a very sweet scene between Jessamy and the marquis that is one of my favorites in all of Heyer’s novels, because it shows just how much the marquis has changed for the better, without altering his true personality.
I won’t give away any more of the story, except to say that by the end of the novel, I was a little bit in love with the Marquis of Alverstoke myself. So if you haven’t yet read Frederica, I hope you’ll find a copy and read it right away.
And if you have read Frederica before, today might be a good day to re-read it—especially Chapter 14—in honor of Bike to Work Day in Colorado.
If you’d like to learn more about Regency-era bicycles, check out these links:
Captain Robert Grose published his Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue in 1798, and Regency-era aficionados have been using it to bring life and a little sass to their stories and articles ever since.
The next time you settle down for a cozy read with Georgette Heyer (or any number of present-day Regency romance authors), you can thank Captain Grose when you come across these terms:
Banbury Tale or Banbury Story – A round-about, nonsensical story
Bear-garden Jaw – Rude, vulgar language, such as was used at the bear gardens
Quiz – An odd-looking fellow; a strange dog
Gudgeon – One easily imposed on. One who swallows the bait or falls into a trap
Pudding-headed Fellow – A stupid fellow, one whose brains are all in confusion
There have been similar dictionaries published since Grose’s original, but it wasn’t until 2011 when a thorough and worthy update to Grose’s dictionary appeared on the scene.
Compiled by Jonathon Green, Green’s Dictionary of Slang is a hefty, three-volume dictionary of the most vile, unrepeatable language to come out of Britains’ mouths over the last 500 years. Green’s Dictionary builds on Grose’s Vulgar Tongue, as well as The Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant and Vulgar Words published in 1859 by John Camden Hotten.
What makes Jonathon Green’s Dictionary so remarkable is the sheer size. Covering 500 years of cant, it weighs in at over 6,000 pages; there are over twelve thousand entries for the letter S alone.
If Jonathon Green’s Dictionary sounds like something you’d like to explore, you’re in luck. This month he launched Green’s Dictionary of Slang Online. Now, at the click of your mouse or a tap of your finger, you can immerse yourself in the definitions and etymology of the gutter-talk we blushingly can’t get enough of.
At Green’s Dictionary of Slang Online you can listen to the author’s recent podcast on terms for drink and drunkenness, or just browse the dictionary (arranged alphabetically) to your heart’s content (just make sure the kiddos aren’t looking over your shoulder).
If you ever wanted to expand your knowledge of Regency-era cant (or the slang of other English eras), Jonathan Green’s website should be your first stop.
You can click on the links below for more info:
Visit Green’s Dictionary of Slang Online
Read Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue by Captain Robert Grose
Read The Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant and Vulgar Words by John Camden Hotten
When it comes to traditional Regency romances, there are some plots elements that are popular staples of the genre.
There’s the elopement to Gretna Green plot. Or the plot about the rich relative’s will that dictates a man and woman must marry in order to inherit the relative’s wealth.
And then there’s the actress plot, where a woman of sterling character makes her living on the stage (by choice or necessity) and wins the heart of the hero.
It’s an interesting premise, because actresses in the eighteenth century were considered women of questionable character—promiscuous demi-mondaines—until Sarah Siddons burst upon the scene.
Sarah Siddons (born July 5, 1755) joined an acting company when she was 18 years old and quickly gained favor with touring companies and audiences alike. Ultimately, she earned the reputation for being one of England’s great tragic actresses, and she did much to legitimize the profession of acting for women. In fact, she was so beloved by the theatre-going public, she became the muse for an Irish inventor and educator named Gilbert Austin.
Gilbert Austin wrote a book titled, Chironomia, or a Treatise on Rhetorical Delivery, which was published in 1806. The book presented a system of elocution and gestures to use when expressing emotions. Mr. Austin modeled many of the instructions on Sarah Siddons’ movements and speech patterns on the stage.
Mr. Austin admired Mrs. Siddons greatly, saying she was “all that is beautiful in grace and dignity.”
He also idolized Sarah’s brother, John Philip Kemble, who was also an actor. Austin described Kemble as “the perfection and the glory of art, so finished, that every look is a commentary, every tone an illustration, every gesture a model for the statuary, and a study for the painter.”
It was little wonder, then, that he used Kemble and Siddons as the ideals on which to formulate this theories of graceful movement and correct speech.
Mr. Austin wrote the book to instruct private individuals who wanted to improve themselves in grace and oration. He advocated that certain gestures were the mark of a cultivated society; and that proper pronunciation and articulation were sufficient to identify the manners of a true gentleman and man of letters from the common people.
He provided instructions on the proper way to stand, point, and clasp one’s hands.
Some of the illustrations even featured Sarah Siddons’s poses from some of her more notable stage performances.
Austin’s book was a great success. It became a staple in classrooms throughout Britain and America; and he earned an international reputation as an authority on gestures and oratory delivery.
Would you like to read the book? Click here to read Gilbert Austin’s Chironomia, or a Treatise of Rhetorical Delivery.
I have a friend whose daughter will turn 21 in about a month. They’re busily planning multiple parties: one for said daughter and her friends, and a second party for the family to celebrate the event together. With all the talk about pub crawls, trips to Las Vegas, and what kind of cake goes well with Champagne, I started to wonder how people during the Regency period celebrated birthdays.
To a large extent, turning 21 was just as much of a landmark event during the Regency as it is today. It was a milestone that marked an age when a person became truly independent and was old enough to make life-altering decisions. That was true, for the most part, for the Prince of Wales.
The future King George IV was born on August 12, 1762. To an American like me, the particulars of his birth are interesting because of the number of people involved. In those days, Queens of England gave birth to a room full of witnesses. From accounts at the time, the following people were either in Queen Charlotte’s bedchamber or in the room adjoining it with the door open between:
The only doctor present did not attend the queen. Instead, he remained in the adjoining room so he could attend to any of the witnesses who felt queasy. The future king was delivered by a midwife named Mrs. Stephen.
When the prince turned 21 in 1783, he had no official celebration. As it happened, the Prince’s mother, Queen Charlotte, had recently given birth to her fifteenth child; so while the King and the rest of the family congratulated the Prince in private (very heartily, I’m sure), there wasn’t a public commemoration.
So the Prince of Wales turned to his friends to help him celebrate, and they didn’t disappoint him. They joined together at the White Hart Tavern in Windsor. “A large turtle, of the enormous size of four hundred weight, was killed on the occasion, being a present sent to the Prince from the East Indies.” (Yes, you read that right. He killed his present and ate it. I wonder if that’s what the people of East Indies had in mind when they gave it to him?)
One account of the party hints that not all the guests had the Prince’s best interests in mind. In his book The Private Life of a King, John Banvard wrote:
Deeply did every real friend of the Prince lament that of a pernicious class some had obtained an entire ascendancy over his ingenuous mind; and that, whilst they hailed his independence with hollow congratulations, they dreaded nothing so much as for his spirit to become as independent as his circumstances, and his opinions to disdain the restraint which his person had shaken off.
In other words, John Banvard believed the Prince hung out that night with a bad crowd. There were people at his party that would have a negative influence over the prince in months and years to come; but for one night, at least, the Prince of Wales drank wine, ate turtle and partied like he just turned twenty-one.
I’d like to share with you one of my favorite blogs: Spitalfields Life. The author posts info about living in Spitalfields in the heart of London; but what makes this blog special is the way the author mixes the history of the area with modern times.
One of this week’s posts is a good example of that past-and-present mix. It features a marvelous map of historic coffee houses by artist Adam Dant, which, combined with text and accompanying photos, provides a thorough history and entertaining tour of London coffee houses.
Click on the map above to visit the site; and be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom of the page to see some of Adam Dant’s other maps. I particularly love the maps of Clerkenwall, as seen in Tudor, Georgian, Victorian, and modern times.
If you visit the Spitalfields Life home page, you’ll see that the author posts a new entry every day. I read each one for their charm, the history they impart, and the extraordinary stories they tell. I’ve read every one and have high hopes of feeling just like a Spitalfields native before too much longer.
If you love London history and you’re fascinated by the modern London lifestyle, you’ll find something to enjoy at Spitalfields Life.
Once again, The Gentle Author offers an extraordinary post on his Spitalfields Life blog. The Gentle Author posts every day (earning my admiration) and each post is filled with stories and artwork that inspire. Some of his posts have made me cry, while others have made me laugh; but always, they cause me to slow down and take time to dwell on the beauty of the images he shares.
His May 3 post is no exception. The topic is old trade cards of London. I’ve spent the last twenty minutes studying and admiring the art, language and lettering of the old trade cards he shared. You can view the full post here.
While you’re there, be sure to subscribe to The Gentle Author’s blog, Spitalfields Life so you don’t miss any of his wonderful posts. You won’t be disappointed.
Although the Prince of Wales claimed that gaming had never been one of his favorite vices, he rarely declined to indulge in the pastime when it was put before him. In his young days, he and his circle of noble intimates visited the most popular and most exclusive gaming establishments of the land: the gaming tables set up in the homes of some of London’s titled ladies.
In the 1790s, a handful of noble women with an eye to repairing their shattered fortunes, set up their own faro banks. Mrs. Strutt, Mrs. Hobart, and Lady Elizabeth Luttrell (the sister of the notorious Duchess of Cumberland) all set up gambling tables.
The most celebrated proprietress, however, and the one who most often enjoyed the Prince’s patronage, was Lady Sarah Archer. Lady Archer’s gaming establishment (which she euphemistically called a “garden party”) hosted the most glittering members of the nobility, and she knew how to attract gentlemen of fortune. She was a keen businesswoman who shrewdly turned criticism to her advantage despite the fact that moralists of the time charged that the ladies who frequented her tables served a more iniquitous purpose (which, no doubt, increased her business considerably!). In The Private Life of a King, John Banvard charged that Lady Archer’s Cyprians were “training up to that character under the auspices of the patroness of the night.”
“In all the arts and mysteries of love,” Mr. Banvard declared, “she was acknowledged to be the paragon of the day.”
One of the most prominent men who fell under the spell of Lady Archer’s charms was the Duke of York, who it was said introduced the Prince of Wales to Lady Archer’s faro table.
It’s difficult to estimate the frequency of the Prince’s visits to Lady Archer’s establishment; but her acquaintance with the Prince blossomed to the point where she felt comfortably secure enough to invoke his name whenever she thought it might do her some good.
When authorities began fining and bringing charges against illegal gaming establishments, Lady Archer and Lady Buckinghamshire (another noble woman who gave “garden-parties”) were two proprietresses of the trade too conspicuous for the law to ignore. Lady Archer, determined to keep her establishment open, applied to the magistrates for a license under the name of Mr. Martindale (one of her more frequent customers) and not-so-subtly hinted that the license had better be forthcoming because her gaming rooms were patronized by the Prince of Wales.
The magistrates were not fooled by the name on the license application and immediately whisked the case up to Lord Kenyon (at the time, Lord Chief Justice of England) to rule on the matter. Lord Kenyon had already made known his disapproval of lady gamesters. “If any ladies of rank were convicted of [gaming without a license] before him, they should stand in the pillory!” he declared. In this case, however, with the name of the Prince of Wales looming over his decision, he did not stand quite so firm. Instead, he referred the matter back to the magistrates, trusting that “they would do their duty fearlessly and refuse the license.”
But the magistrates, it seems, weren’t any more willing than Lord Kenyon to take a stand against the Prince, and before they could rule one way or another in respect to issuing a gaming license to “Mr. Martindale,” Lord Kenyon received a rather spirited letter from the Prince himself.
The Prince wrote: “As I am thoroughly persuaded that in the administration of justice the very last thing that could enter your lordship’s thoughts would be any remark that would fall from your lips to unwarrantably prejudice the public mind against an individual of any description whatever, I am confident that your lordship could never have used the expression which in the notion of every one so decidedly alludes to me . . . It is true that, from applications from many respected quarters, I have been induced to assent to my name being placed among others as a member of a new Club, to be instituted under the management of Mr. Martindale, merely for the purpose of social intercourse, of which I never can object to be a promoter, and especially as it was represented to me, that the object of this institution was to enable his trustees to render justice to various honorable and fair claimants. But if these were really your lordship’s words (which I cannot for a moment suppose) give me leave to tell you that you have totally mistaken my character and turn, for of all men universally known to have the least predilection to play, I am perhaps the very man in the world who stands the strongest and most proverbially so upon that point. I shall not trouble your lordship further upon this strange circumstance . . .”
Lord Kenyon’s response to the Prince was swift and apologetic: “I am confident that I meant nothing offensive to you . . . May I presume to hope that your Royal Highness will pardon this trouble.”
Of course, the Prince did pardon him; and Lady Archer did, indeed, receive her license. Her “garden-parties” continued but private homes were not the only place a gentlemen of title and wealth could gamble. Gentlemen’s clubs offered a comfortable atmosphere where men could gather and talk a bit of politics, do a lot of drinking and engage in high-stakes gambling.
White’s was the quintessential London club. It was difficult for a gentleman to gain entry and it was famous for its notorious betting book where outrageous bets were recorded.
Horace Walpole wrote in 1744 about a recorded wager of £1,500 that a human being could live under water for twelve hours.
Lord Alvanley wagered £3,000 (estimated at over $100,000 in today’s economy) that one raindrop would beat another raindrop to the bottom of the club’s famous bow window.
Lord Alvanley (again!) wagered Mr. Talbot one hundred guineas to ten guineas that “a certain person understood between them does not marry a certain lady understood between them in eighteen months from this day, January 5, 1811.” The betting book indicates Lord Alvanley won the wager.
High stakes wagering went on at the tables, too. In Days of the Dandies Captain Gronow tells the story of General Scott, father-in-law of George Canning and the Duke of Portland, who won £200,000 in one night at whist. George Harley Drummond, of the famous banking-house, Charing Cross, lost £20,000 at whist to Beau Brummell. As a result, Mr. Drummond was forced to retire from the banking-house of which he was a partner.
At Brooks’s club the gambling stakes were stratospheric. Charles James Fox, the great Whig politician was bankrupted multiple times at Brooks’s tables. Lord Robert Spencer, brother of the Duke of Marlborough, lost his entire fortune, down to the last shilling, then won it back at faro. Lord Chalmondeley kept a faro bank at Brooks’s that was said to have ruined half the town. A Mr. Paul, who returned home from India with a fortune, lost £90,000 to the faro bank in one night. He immediately returned to India to make another fortune.
Of course, no women were ever allowed inside the hallowed portals of a Regency era gentleman’s club, so all accounts I’ve read are from the man’s perspective. I used my imagination to fill in some blanks when I wrote the gambling scenes in my book A Scandalous Season. The hero is the kind of high-stakes gambler who probably would have graced Lady Archer’s faro table. Under the influence of a bruised ego and a bottle of wine, he makes a foolish wager for a ridiculous amount, much like Lord Alvanley’s wager with Mr. Talbot. Luckily, my hero is wealthy enough to cover his bet and charming enough to win the heroine’s heart. Click here to read more about A Scandalous Season.
Brenda S. Cox
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