Bike to Work, Regency Style

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:

BicycleHistory.net

Beware the Draisine! by author Sharon Lathan

The Modern Bicycle and its Accessories; a Complete Reference Book

The Art of the Fan

Ladies of fashion have been using fans for generations as an essential fashion accessory. As Joseph Addison said in The Spectator, “Women are armed with Fans as Men with Swords, and sometimes do more Execution with them.”

At the Opera by Robert Schumann

At the Opera by Robert Schumann

Mr. Addison described the following encounter with an attractive lady and her fan at a Sunday church service:

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She displayed the most beautiful Bosom imaginable, which heaved and fell with some Fervour, while a delicate well-shaped Arm held a Fan over her Face. It was not in Nature to command ones Eyes from this Object; I could not avoid taking notice also of her Fan, which had on it various Figures, very improper to behold on that Occasion. There lay in the Body of the Piece a Venus, under a Purple Canopy furled with curious Wreaths of Drapery, half naked, attended with a Train of Cupids, who were busied in Fanning her as she slept. Behind her was drawn a Satyr peeping over the silken Fence, and threatening to break through it.

Artist: Frederico Andreotti

Artist: Frederico Andreotti

It’s possible Mr. Addison may have drawn on his own experience when he wrote:

There is an infinite Variety of Motions to be made use of in the Flutter of a Fan. There is the angry Flutter, the modest Flutter, the timorous Flutter, the confused Flutter, the merry Flutter, and the amorous Flutter. Not to be tedious, there is scarce any Emotion in the Mind does not produce a suitable Agitation in the Fan.

Artist: Thomas Benjamin Kennington

Artist: Thomas Benjamin Kennington

In Georgette Heyer’s The Masqueraders, Robin Tremaine disguises himself as a woman and makes great comic use of a fan to flirt with Sir Anthony Fanshawe.

Artist: Gaetano Bellei

Artist: Gaetano Bellei

You can read more about the history of the lady’s fan here at Victoriana.