My husband and I did not get to go on vacation this year. We have a 14 year old lab that literally doesn’t get around much anymore. We used to take her with us, but she cannot travel anymore, so our “vacations” are one-day adventures that don’t take more than six hours. One of our favorite “mini” vacations is to take chicken salad sandwiches, lots of chips and snacks, some fruit and whatever dessert I have on hand and drive up on the Blue Ridge Parkway for a picnic nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.
My friend and colleague, Kristy Cambron, did a marvelous post on many of the fêtes London was famous for during the Regency period. But I have always been fascinated by the al fresco luncheons popular during the Season. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines al fresco as “taking place or located in the open air.” Somehow al fresco sounds more…Regency….than an ordinary picnic.
And our simple chicken salad would never have done for an al fresco outing. No, no, there could have been as many courses as with a sit down dinner. One could have expected chicken pudding, a joint of cold roast beef (along with the tongue!) and/or pigeon or onion pie.
Cheese and fruit would certainly have been in the “basket.” Who could forget the scenes from Emma as they picked strawberries, eating some as they went, then feasting on them as they played the unfortunate game that created hurt feelings with both Miss Bates and Mr. Knightley?
But fresh fruit along with pastry biscuits with orange marmalade would have been the least of sweets for the palate. A nearby stream or creek would be keeping clotted cream chilled. There might be a plum cake, a whypt syllabub or several sponge cakes to round out desserts.
And libations of ale, lemonade, sherry, cider and claret would have flowed freely.
I confess that I often wondered at those attending these al fresco affairs. I believe the very young ladies and gentleman thought of the opportunities to outdo chaperones and snatch a few minutes alone. However, I picture the mature ladies and gentlemen more concerned with the neck cloths they spent so much time tying, wilting in the afternoon sun and the ladies worried their gowns might become creased. But perhaps most were not so fastidious as I imagine and enjoyed a picnic as much as my husband and I do, our only worry which backdrop to choose and . . . ants.
Oh my, do you suppose they had to worry about ants as well?
Sources Pictures from Miramax Film, Emma 1996 Picture from Jane Austen World.com
“For all races of Teutonic origin the claim is made that they are essentially home-loving people. Yet the Englishman of the sixteenth and seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, especially of the latter, is seen to have exercised considerable zeal in creating substitutes for that home which, as a Teuton, he ought to have loved above all else,” writes Henry C. Shelley in the preface to his 1909 book Inns and Taverns of Old London.
During the Regency, anyone who could afford to do so took to the miserable roads and toured everything from natural beauties, to mills and jails, to stately country houses. They kept journals. They took notes. They drew pictures all in the hope of getting their observations published one day.
And for these travelers and would-be authors existed a host of guidebooks full of advice. In an 1812 tour guide, Daniel Carless Webb advises, “The carriage of baggage may be justly considered an inconvenience; it is therefore proper to take as few things as possible; these carried in a light green bag (I would on no account recommend a blue one, as that might occasion you to be mistaken for a lawyer).”
One might think that a visit to a gorgeous home full of antiquities and ancient tapestries might yield the kind of glowing praise Wordsworth heaped upon the Lake District. On the contrary, many of these published guides and memoirs of travels gave advice on how nature could be improved upon and details about what was wrong with the country houses visited.
A delightful satire on this is The Tour of Dr. Syntax, an 1812 spoof on the Search for thePicturesque wherein Dr. Syntax declares to his faithful wife, “You well know what my pen can do, and I’ll employ my pencil too: I’ll ride and write, and sketch and print and thus create a real mint: I’ll prose it here, I’ll verse it there and picturesque it everywhere. I’ll do what all have done before; I think I shall and somewhat more.” And so he went off to the Lake District.”
For a good portion of the Regency Era (and for the last decade of the 18th Century), England and France found themselves at war.
War was hardly a new thing for either country. With past wars between England and France, greed, land acquisition, and strengthening the monarchy were the usual catalysts and goals. But with the advent of the French Revolution (and the American Revolution preceding it), a new mentality regarding war arose among the common people.
Before the American and French Revolutions, commoners fought in wars that served to benefit the aristocracy or monarchy. With these new revolutions, regular citizens and common people had a better reason to fight: themselves. Each man standing in France’s army believed he would have a better life if he was allowed to choose who governed his country, rather than be subject to a hereditary monarch.
One thing that the British initially failed to understand about the French and Americans was WHY they wanted to fight. If you study the French Revolution, American Revolution, Napoleonic War and then the War of 1812, you’ll find this misunderstanding for every single war. With the changes in the French and American governments came a type of energy and belief that the mass of the population could fight for freedom, or for a government they wanted rather than one handed to them by a monarch. And Britain failed to grasp these ideals.
If you were to ask a Frenchman in 1793 and 1803 why he fought, he would have given an answer that involved something about freedom and thwarting tyranny. Even if you were to ask this question a decade later in 1813, after twenty years of war, the answer may well have been the same. “We want freedom. We don’t want another Bourbon king.”
Interestingly enough, if you were to ask a British subject in 1793 why he fought, he likely would have answered “because the king wants us to fight.” If you were to ask the same British soldier that question in 1803, his answer might well be the same, or he might say something to the effect of “because I don’t trust that French Consulate and Napoleon.” If you were to ask the same question again in 1813, the answer would likely be, “Because that Corsican Monster Napoleon is trying to take over Europe, and he’ll take England if we don’t stop him.”
For the first decade of war between France and England, the average British sailor and soldier didn’t have a reason to fight beyond “the government wants us to.” The average Englishman had nothing to gain by fighting with France until the English populace began to believe Napoleon Bonaparte a threat to England (part of which was came about as a result of printing intentionally untrue propaganda against Napoleon). And only then did Britain truly begin to best France in battle.
Now I’m curious about your views. Do you think Britain misunderstood the motivation of both the French and American people when they went to war? Do you think some of that misunderstanding is what led to two decades of war between Britain and France, and the United States defeating Britain two different times? When you look at the French Revolution and Napoleonic War, do you believe the French people had a reason to fight? Do you believe the British people had a reason to fight?
It’s the first official day of summer! As we all know, summer is a time of freedom and fun, which occasionally leads to forgetting something.
Which we did.
We forgot to schedule a post today.
So we’ve decided to let you write the post! We always want to get more acquainted with our readers so that we can provide the kind of blog you want. Take a few moments and answer the questions below so that we can make Regency Reflections the best blog it can be.
In Regency England holidays weren’t special annual occasions – they were vacations. People went on holiday or holidayed by the sea.
We asked our Reflections authors what some of their favorite holidays were and where they are most wanting to go.
Laurie Alice Eakes
Nine days in Portugal. It’s such a beautiful country, and the people are warm and friendly. I stayed in a little fishing village 35 kilometers south of Lisbon where I ate fish caught just that morning, and soaked up a great deal of sunshine when home was getting an ice storm. I also too forays to historic landmarks like a fountain that has been drawing water from a mountain stream for nearly a thousand years.
Where would I like to go? Lots of places still on my “to visit” list. And I’d like to get back to a few others. You know, I’d rather like to go to the site of the Battle of Waterloo for the 200th anniversary.
My favorite adult vacation was to Hawaii. My favorite childhood vacation was to Breezy Point resort in the region of Brainerd, MN. My current dream vacation would be to get back to Hawaii. It’s such a world apart.
Kristi Ann Hunter
I had the opportunity to spend nearly two weeks in Europe touring the Alps and Italy. The mountains are something I will never forget. Standing on top of some of those viewpoints you can see nature for miles, with no manmade obstructions or anything. Just mountains and snow and sky. It’s beautiful. Things there are so much older than they are in America. In the States something that is 200 years old is an amazing relic. There, it’s practically new. Okay not really, but it feels like it when you look buildings that are nearly a thousand years old.
I would really like to get back to England for a research trip. Tour more of the old homes and museums, take pictures of the countryside. I would also really like to see Australia someday. Closer to home, I eventually want to visit all fifty states. I’m about half way there now.
I rented a condo for a week with all my brothers and their families on an island off Savannah. It was a blast. Bike riding, cooking fresh seafood, watching movies until late. No takers on P&P though.
Kristy L. Cambron
My favorite vacation has been to the quiet beaches of the Outer Banks, North Carolina. My sister and I had a weekend getaway a few years ago and I’ve never forgotten it. Ocracoke Island’s thriving artists’ colony and lazy bike rides we took to the beach I will always remember. Maybe it was the special company I loved the most? 🙂
As for where I want to go? Paris. It’s always been Paris – c’est bon!
My favorite vacation was to Finland before my junior year of high school. We have some family friends over there, and it’s a really beautiful country. Did you know they have church buildings that are 400 years older than the United States? We saw one built in the 1300s. I’ve never seen a more beautiful church in my life.
As for a favorite place I would like to go, I’m a little weird so I’d go for something in Central or South America that would allow me to see some ancient Indian ruins. I’ve wanted to visit Angkor Wat since I was in high school. But actually those ruins have been restored and turned into a bit of a tourist destination. So I’d rather go to some less visited area and see ruins with grass and trees and the like growing out of it.
What about you? What was your favorite holiday? Where would you like to see? Have you been to any of our favorite places? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below.
To go on holiday, or even to market from farm or country house, the Regency traveler needed to make that journey on what were called roads, yet usually resembled nothing more than rutted tracks. In other words, the roads in Regency England barely managed to qualify for that nomenclature.
Roads were made of stones roughly broken into the size of bricks and laid in a bed of earth. They weren’t crowned (higher in the middle). Imagine the disaster that caused in a wet country like England, especially in the winter. Rain fell. Mud oozed between those stones, and the stones shifted, creating ruts and an unstable surfaces over which horses stumbled and coaches bounced. In many counties such as Cornwall, the roads simply did not exist beyond mere tracks. Around Bristol, the roads became impassible in the winter.
As a result of these bad roads, coaches often turned over, causing injury and even death to the passengers. Bridges collapsed under the weight of coaches, plunging the occupants and their luggage into the rivers below. And no passenger could count on actually riding the entire journey. Often they had to exit the coach and walk so the horses could haul the vehicle up a muddy or rutted incline. In winter, passengers sometimes froze to death in unheated coaches, as the conveyance slogged through frozen ruts of mud or over ice-slick stone.
Then Thomas Telford came along. From 1815, to 1829, he improved the road between London and Holyhead at the cost of 1,000.00 pounds per mile. His road was grated with a slope from crown to edge to ensure drainage. Stones about ten inches deep were laid upon this surface. He laid stone chippings atop this layer. Finally, a steam or horse-drawn roller compressed the top layer. The chippings compressed thus locked into a smooth mass.
John Macadam improved on this technique even further. Macadam used hand-broken stones around six ounces apiece to form a thin layer. Traffic itself compressed these angular stones into a smooth surface. Or, if one still did not wish to travel on the uncertainty of the roads, one could take a canal boat to many locations.
My thanks to the wonderful traditional Regency author Emily Hendrickson (www.emilyhendrickson.net) for allowing me to use much of her research on road conditions and improvements in the Regency.
Most of us who have read a regency romance or two have heard of the Peninsular Wars.
The hero of the romance is usually back from the Peninsula, recovering from an almost fatal wound—but alive and whole, thank goodness, and still dashing in his red coat, though perhaps a bit wan and lean in the cheek.
Which peninsula was this? It was the Iberian Peninsula, encompassing both Spain and Portugal. England and France fought over this peninsula between 1807 and 1814. The peninsula catapulted then Lt. General Arthur Wellesley—later the 1st duke of Wellington—to fame.
The armies depended on couriers conveying messages from troop to troop and commander to commander over the vast Spanish plain. Partisan fighters intercepted many of these French messengers and passed along their dispatches to the British.
A key but little known player in the British army was George Scovell, a deputy assistant quartermaster general, who had a knack for languages, organization and detail. The hero of my current regency, Moonlight Masquerade, is a little like this soldier. He is able to see patterns where others see only random numbers.
If you’d like to try out your abilities at some simple code, try to decipher the names of my hero and heroine in Moonlight Masquerade using the key below.
One cannot have too large a party. A large party secures its own amusement.
~ Jane Austen, Emma (1816)
I’m sitting in an Italian restaurant in downtown Indianapolis on a perfect Sunday afternoon, with my hands wrapped around the warm mug of an after-dinner cappuccino. As I look around the table at my friends (authors with whom I share a particular passion for reading and writing Christian fiction), I see familiar smiles. There’s laughter. Good food being passed around family-style. Talk of husbands and children. We engage in chat about the publishing industry and brainstorm storyline this and character that… And although none of us had to drive all that far to reach our small Sunday feast, this quiet afternoon in June became something of an unexpected getaway.
It made a holiday out of the everyday.
Our topic of focus this month is vacationing. And while many of us immediately think of vacationing as going away on a retreat (perhaps to the seashore or to an English cottage in the countryside), there are many definitions of a holiday that can remain quite close to home. Though the outdoor balls, picnicking and formal parties of the Regency defined the summer holidays in many ways, we may find that our modern celebrations are not all that different…
So in homage to the feast, festival, backyard barbecue and the good old county fair, here’s a little fun for finding a holiday in the commonplace, everyday gathering – the party!
Village Fête (La Fête villageoise), Claude Lorrain (1639)
To Fête or Not to Fête
n. a feast or festival, a celebration, party; v. to celebrate or throw a party
The first use of the term fête is debatable. My mighty authors’ Thesaurus Rex App cites its first use in England by art historian and writer Horace Walpole (1717-97), followed by the first use of verb form in 1819. However, numerous historical resources cite the term to have been widely used in 17th Century Europe, as in the famous The Village Fête painting by Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens (1635) Village Fête by French painter Claude Lorrain (1639), and in the 18th Century, to describe painter Jean Antoine Watteau’s work as fête galante (a French term used to describe the lofty yet idle recreation of the aristocracy under the reign of Louis the XIV).
The English term fête comes from the French for the same word, and could also refer to the formal party or social gathering that was frequented in the Regency.
“Formal visits, balls and other social occasions feature largely in Jane Austen’s letters… those who could afford it, and who had time and the space, gave parties. Such social gatherings were the recognized means of meeting people…”
Dominique Enright, The Wicked Wit of Jane Austen
In Great Britain, the fête was a village fair, or carnival of sorts, that would include any number of amusements. They showcased games, outdoor activities, crafts, livestock and produce, and homemade baked goods and canning. (This would be comparable to the modern street fair or country festival in the States.) Though not all specific to the Regency alone, an interesting list of village fête attractions included raffles, coconut shies (late 1800s), bat-a-rat, tug of war, fashion shows, and music and dancing.
One Mighty Famous Fête
As parties were frequently held by the Regency Era’s elite, there are several notable events that stand out through history. One such famous party was the Prince Regent’s Fete, held on June 19, 1811 at Charlton House. This was a marvelously sumptuous party thrown to celebrate the King’s birthday (though history argues that the true reasoning was to celebrate the lavishness of the Prince’s Regency). Invitations went out, though not everyone made an appearance. The Queen and her daughters (including Princess Charlotte) would not attend out of protest for such a party being held while the king was taken with illness.
[Wish to read more? Click HERE. Wondering what the impacts were for the Prince Regent after the famous event? Click HERE.]
Another famous fête occurred at the Tower of London in 1840. It’s a bit after the Regency Era, but still worth noting because of the guest list: a young Charles Dickens, artist George Cruikshank and host, novelist William Harrison Ainsworth. [Wish to read more? Click HERE.]
Fêtes in Fiction
The ball, formal party, or fête, is a common setting for many Regency romances – just as are the notable guests that may make an appearance at them. I happen to adore Jane Austen’s ball at Netherfield Park, as a major setting in the iconic Pride and Prejudice. That may be the one that gets the most press, but there are so many others! So while I finish off the last of my sweet Italian cappuccino and say a final fare-thee-well to my dear author friends, we’d like to hear from you, our readers. You’re here because you adore the Regency. So tell us –
What’s your favorite Regency fête in fiction, and why?
Share your favorite fête scenes with us here – we look forward to adding them to our recommended reading list with those deliciously lavish parties as setting number one!
[And for a little extra fun, here’s a link to the Regency Ball at Bath, 2010. Click HERE.]
In researching what Regency folk did on their trips to vacation towns, I was surprised how well I could relate to what they did. Some of it reminded me of trips to places like Minocqua, Wisconsin.
Because when you’re there, staying in a rustic cabin or resort on a nearby lake, you do a lot of the same things that Regency vacationers did. Bored, or having a cloudy day, we go into town and visit: the library, the coffee shop, perhaps a theater’s open somewhere. One might buy clothes (t-shirts nowadays), or hats (caps, visors), or a newspaper.
Active people took walks, made rendezvous, picnics, tours, visited waterfalls, paid to enter local attractions, went to dances and concerts, and out to breakfast. I’ve done all those activities on vacation.
It would seem our vacations aren’t as completely different as we may have thought.
What’s your favorite vacation activity? Do you go to resort/vacation communities?
In the last few decades of the 18th century, roads improved greatly. Turnpikes were created and the increased speed of the mail coaches gave rise to a new industry: tourism.
As evidenced in multiple Austen novels, people in the Regency era were as enthralled with the grand houses and estates as we are today. The biggest difference is that then the homes were still occupied, with the majority of rooms still being used by the family.
One must wonder who first had the courage to knock on the door and pay a housekeeper to take them on a tour of someone else’s house. There is little doubt that payment of some form was involved. Servants were used to garnering tips from invited house guests. How much more would they expect from an uninvited stranger?
Journals and letters from the time period do bring into question how often people were actually admitted into various houses, but the practice of requesting a tour is brought up enough to assume there was a certain level of success. Some houses were visited so frequently that they actually designated certain days for public tours.
Some of these houses are still open to the public today. Many have maintained their styling and furniture from the 19th century, giving you a fair idea of what they would have looked like during the Regency period.
Once such house is Chatsworth. Immensely popular as a tourist attraction during the Regency, the house is maintained for visitors today. Many think Jane Austen’s Pemberly was modeled after Chatsworth. Indeed it was even used for filming the Pemberly scenes in the 2005 film.
Other popular homes that are still open for visits today include Blenheim Palace, Cliveden (which you can actually spend the night at for a hefty sum), Stowe, and Wilton House. For some houses, guidebooks were printed – often by the owner themselves. These books could be purchases in the village and brought along with you when you toured the house.
Have you toured any of the grand Regency estates in England? Which was your favorite?