As we settle in to enjoy Labor Day, I began to think of what the Regency times would think of such a holiday, a day off to celebrate the working man. In fact, they did have a day to celebrate not working. In fact, they did so every week, on the Sabbath.
Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day (Deuteronomy 5:12-15).
For Anglican Regency England, the Sabbath was Sunday. Typically, the only work allowed in keeping with the Sabbath would be the preparation of the food and dressing. If one considered writing letters, “creating.” The correspondence would have to wait. Cultivating your land (if you were lucky enough to inherit or purchase) would have to be delayed. Housework? Well, hopefully your home was clean the day before and would be sustained until Monday. Remember, you should only minimally use your servants (if you could afford the help) and servants needed time for church and Sabbath observation too.
Outings other than to the parish? If one could walk to a neighbors as opposed to engaging a coachman and carriage, it could be permitted, but don’t get too merry socializing. The Bow Street Runners or local magistrates might apprehend you, like they did many drinkers and gamblers placing them in stocks on the public ‘green’. Nothing like a little public humiliation to get you to uphold the Sabbath.
So on this day, like I did Sunday, I’ll take a moment to reflect then sneak back to my quill.
Happy Labor to All the hard workers out there.
Holidays are Holy Days by Jessica Snell
The Dangerous World of Regency England By Audrey Moorhouse
R. E. Swift. ‘Crime, Law and Order in Two English Towns during the Early Nineteenth Century: the experience of Exeter and Wolverhampton, 1815-56’