A Gentleman’s Sporting Life

In a Regency era story I’ve been working on, my hero is a sporting man. Whatever the sport, he loves it: Fencing, boxing, fishing, shooting—they’re all on my hero’s list of favorite things to do.

Fencing at O’Saunessy’s Rooms in St James Street in 1820, by Cruickshank.

While researching different sports that were popular at the time, I came across a reference to the sport of hare-coursing.

A portion of a 17th Century painting on silk of a hunter and his dog hare-coursing.

Hare-coursing is a violent sport in which dogs are turned loose to hunt down hares by sight.

That’s all the description I’ll provide, because I find the concept of the sport too upsetting. I’m an animal lover through and through, so I’m glad to know the sport is banned in most places today.

Still, it was a normal gentleman’s pastime during the Regency, and while I’d never write about it in a story (except to condemn the practice), I was intrigued to discover there was a specific style of dress men wore for the sport.

I did a previous post (which you can read here) that featured gentlemen dressed for shooting pheasant or other game birds.

Likewise, when I stumbled upon a description of hare-coursing, I also found this image of a coat a gentleman would have worn that was specially designed for the “sport.”

From the John Bright Collection

The coat itself is made of wool, trimmed with velvet, which leads me to think hare-coursing was a popular pastime during the colder months of the year.

The coat has two deep pockets on either side of the back skirt. The size of the pockets indicates they may have been used to carry the dead hares.

But what I found most interesting was the buttons on the coat. They were cast with images of a running hare, which makes me think the garment belonged to a wealthy man who could indulge in a custom coat to wear just for engaging in hare-coursing.

I’d never glorify hare-coursing by including it in a story, but this image does inspire me to rethink my hero’s wealth. Is he the kind of man possessed of such an extensive wardrobe that he’d naturally have a custom coat made up to wear only one or two times a year?

Or would that be too vain of him?

Maybe I’ll have my hero be a little more altruistic—the kind of man who would rather put his wealth to better use.

Hmmm, the possibilities are endless!

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

For the past few weeks we’ve been in a deep-freeze in Colorado. Before going outside I have to bundle up in multiple layers of clothing, before I don my warmest coat, gloves, and hat.

I may not look very stylish; but under the circumstances, I’m much more interested in being warm than fashionable.

Not so for the gentlemen pictured in this post. They’re dressed to meet the winter elements while still maintaining a strong sense of Regency style.

Their coats appear to be made of different types of wools, while their coat collars are fashioned from velvets and furs.

In our modern times people don’t wear fur. We have the technology to create fabrics and garments that insulate us from cold, so we don’t need to rely on animal hides for warmth; that wasn’t the case for people who lived through in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

William Willoughby Cole (1807-1886), 3rd Earl of Enniskillen; by william Robinson

What I like about these images is that I can sense the weight of the garments these gentlemen are wearing. They look pretty substantial—like they might have some weight to them.

I also think the luxurious fabrics and furs serve as a visual reminder of each gentleman’s wealth and stature; not everyone could afford to wear fine furs.

John Arthur Douglas Bloomfield, 2nd Baron Bloomfield, 1819.

These images are part of my collection of men’s wear illustrations; I refer to them when I want to generally describe a gentleman dressed for a cold winter’s day in England . . . . which, I’m beginning to suspect, feel very similar to a cold day in Colorado!