Calling Cards: The Voicemail of Regency England

In the days before mobile phones, text messaging, and emails, people had to rely on face to face encounters and letters for communication. A pivotal part of this communication was the calling card. In many books, calling cards are presented to identify themselves when they go visiting, but calling cards were so much more than that.

Woman's calling card case.
Woman’s calling card case.

Change of Address

Many aristocracy lived in multiple places. When they arrived in town, particularly returning to London or another large city, they would go around and leave calling cards to let friends and acquaintances know they had arrived.

Cards were also dispersed when one was leaving town, with a handwritten indication of their departure.

Sign of Popularity

Sometimes these calling cards would be left out in the hall or drawing room, on display so other people could see what influential and important friends someone had. A large pile of calling cards could be akin to a large friend list on Facebook or an enormous Twitter following

The Polite Snub

Once a calling card had been delivered, it was customary to return to the favor, assuming you wished to further the acquaintance of course. If the person were a friend or someone you wanted a close connection with, a visit was in order. A mere returning of your own card meant you acknowledged the relationship. On the other hand, no reciprocation was a quiet indicator of where you stood on the social ladder.

Leaving a Message

Calling cards contained very little information, many bearing only a name while some included the address of the person. This left plenty of room to write a personal message if appropriate. Just as texting has common abbreviations today, calling cards had a similar shorthand. Turning down particular corners would let the card recipient know certain things, for instance letting them know the card had been delivered in person, indicating a more intimate contact.

Corner turning came to mean more and more as time passed. By the mid-19th century some cards were even being printed with words in the corners indicating common messages (such as visit, felicitations, or adieu). That way the message being left could not be misinterpreted.

Caller ID

The most well-known use of calling cards was in requesting admittance to the house. When visiting someone, a calling card would be presented to the servant at the door. The card would then be delivered to the desired recipient who could then decide if they were at home or not. If the person were not inclined or able to accept visitors at the time, but wanted to maintain the relationship, the denial could be accompanied by one of the mistresses own calling cards. The visit would then be returned within a week.

Image from social calls article on JaneAusten.co.uk. Click to see article.

 

 

The practice of calling cards could be very complicated. As in many matters of etiquette it seems like it would be easy to cause an unintended slight to someone. It isn’t all that surprising that many of the aspects of the calling card are glossed over in historical novels.

What do you think? Should the calling card play a more prominent part in novels or would it be horribly distracting?

 

What on Earth is Calf’s Foot Jelly? by Susan Karsten

Calf's foot jelly

If you’ve done a significant amount of reading of regency fiction, you’ve come across a female character taking calf’s foot jelly to an invalid, usually someone poor. It was thought to be exceeding nutritious, but that is not necessarily true, according to my research. It was a thrifty, economizing concoction, made from a leftover part of a beef.

Calf’s foot jelly has two forms: sweet, common in 19th-century Britain and America, and savoury–called petcha, a standard of Ashkenazi Jewish cooking. Both dishes start with a long braise of split cow’s feet. The latter (for a sickroom concoction) adds garlic, onion, salt and pepper, and usually retains the meat that falls from the feet; the former (for a dessert) adds sugar, Madeira wine, brandy, cinnamon and citrus, and discards the meat. In both cases the stock is chilled until it sets, and the fat that rises to the top is skimmed.

The key component of both is collagen–a protein found mainly in connective tissue, in which feet abound. Collagen makes meat tough, but it also makes the same cut, after stewing, silky and rich. Smart cooks have long begged chicken feet from the butcher: they give chicken soup extra body. Hot, collagen imparts richness; chilled, it turns to gelatin.

To boil it down/summarize: Stock made by boiling a calf’s foot in water; which sets to a stiff jelly on cooling. It consists largely of water and gelatin, so is of little nutritional value.

Note: The New Female Instructor strongly advises against the addition of wine when the jelly is to be used for an ill person. Lemonade was often given to an ill-person along with barley water and tea.

To the readers, have you come across this, and wondered? To the fellow-Regency writers, have you ever included a character delivering this to a poor sick person?

104_2304Susan Karsten, regency blogger, author

Reading Challenge

Hey guys, Camy here! I absolutely love Goodreads.com. It’s a website for readers and I could literally spend hours surfing the site, looking up books and authors, reading reviews. I belong to several reading groups including Christian Fiction Devourers, and I joined an A-Z Reading Challenge for 2014. Basically, you read authors or titles from A-Z.

I chose authors. This isn’t a requirement of the challenge, but I set myself a personal goal to read Regency romance and historical romance authors for the challenge!

So far, I’ve read:

6600275Miss Mouse by Mira Stables

 

 

 

 

3313519The Torpid Duke by Pauline York

 

 

 

 

 

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North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

 

 

 

 

1729712A Debt of Honour by Diana Brown

I’m a bit stuck for an author with a last name that starts with X. I just found a historical author with a last name that starts with Z, so I’m glad about that! I just ordered the book through Paperbackswap.com. It’s set in Medieval times, which isn’t my favorite time period, but the storyline and heroine sounds interesting!

So if any of you have recommendations for a Regency or historical author with a last name that starts with X, I’m all ears!

What reading challenges have you entered for this year? I’d love to hear about them and your progress! I know I need to step it up if I’m going to make my challenge this year …

On the writing front, I got my ARCs for my upcoming Regency romance, Prelude for a Lord! Here’s a copy with my reluctant Vanna White:

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A Pressing Engagement: Part 2

If you missed part 1, click here.

Insufferable man. Already planning her future. All of Mama’s wonderful training about reserve fled Sara Hargrove and a groan welled inside. “I’d don’t think I’ll be able to finish this painting. I’m too flustered.”

He took the paintbrush from her tight fingers and slipped it onto the easel’s ledge. “Miss Hargrove, your prospects are endless. Both of the earl’s sons are smitten.”

“The obsessive heir or the humorous flirt, for me?” She shook her head. Maybe Jeremiah Wilton didn’t know her soul. How could the man suggest such poor matches? Providence surely misled her. Her heart sunk even lower.

“I see how they’ve taken notice of you.” His sea blue eyes swept over her as if he hunted for agreement. “My dull nature will stifle you. You must concur.”

Dull? She counted upon his steadfast manner, so like, Papa. For a brilliant man, Jeremiah could be dense. “This must be a courtroom, barrister. You’ve declared your judgment. My feelings are not material.”

He hovered so close she could feel his soft breath on her crown. Pushing away from him, she knocked her easel. Jeremiah thrust his arms about her catching the canvas, but imprisoned her within his embrace. The warm smell of his sandalwood surrounded her, shrouding her in hopeless dreams.

Unwanted tears pregnant in her lashes fell. “Have you come to torture me?”

He eased the canvas back upon the easel, but kept his arms about her. “I didn’t know the strength of your feelings, not until this moment. You do love me?”

“You came to gloat?” She balled her fist and punched at his gut. Her knuckles stung against the iron muscles of his stomach as if she’d hit a metal washbasin. Undaunted, she struck him again.

He grunted and released her.

“Good day.” She picked up her paints and headed toward the house.

“Miss Hargrove. Please don’t go.” The hitch in his voice stopped her.

She wiped her face, then glanced over her shoulder.

Jeremiah, so tall and handsome in his crimson tailcoat and cream breeches, wrenched his arms behind his back. “Miss Hargrove, lovely Sara, I love you. With all my heart, but I cannot hold you to a long engagement. I don’t know how long the war will burn.”

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath of the fresh air. The sweet scent of apple wood met her. His confession didn’t salve her heart. Maybe, if she ran to thickest part of the orchards, her composure would return among the hearty trees, her safe haven.

Something yanked on her hem.

Jeremiah’s head covered in thick ebony hair hung near her hip. On bended knee, he gripped the muslin fabric of her paint smock. The proud giant humbled himself at her feet.

“I’m desperate for you. This is against my reason. I shouldn’t propose, but I can’t find a way not to. Accept me?”

“Get up, Mr. Wilton.” With another quick tug on her skirts, she’d be free.

Jeremiah held fast. “I’ll give you the power to dictate our course, but for your sake say no to my proposal.”

“This is a proposal?”

“It is Miss Hargrove, but it’s not rational. It’s inappropriate to obligate you. Say no.”

Did he think mere words could free them from this bond? She licked her lips. “No.”

He swallowed hard then stood to his full height. Head drooping, he kicked a rock with his boot. “Tell…. Tell your father and mother I called.”

Her heart beat hard at his stutter. He’d gotten his way, but maybe his spirit, his proud spirit, was breaking too.

He soldiered away, his shoulders hunched as he marched to his dapple-grey mount.

Could she let him go, forget him? No, he was for her. Since the day she climbed Papa’s tree and witnessed Jeremiah besting the town beaus to save his friend, Jeremiah Wilton owned her heart. “Is this how you wish to leave things, sir?”

“No.” He scooped up his gloves, but hadn’t turned.

“What type of husband will you make, if you can’t admit to be being wrong? And what would it say about me, if I waited for such a man?”

“Perhaps, you’re just as foolish as I?” He trudged back to her, took her hand, and placed it over his heart. “I need to trust that our thoughts are the same, shared of one spirit. I’ll not doubt us again. But, if you find you can’t withstand a long engagement—”

Putting a shaking palm to his mouth, she stopped the voicing of his misgivings. Her gaze lowered from his searching eyes to the gold braiding of his epaulet. Only time would prove her commitment.

Yet, how could he be so uncertain of her character? Perhaps each passing day would lessen the sting.

He moved her fingers, bent his head, and slowly covered her lips. His arms tightened about her as she let his affection deepen. In spite of his words, Jeremiah’s actions seemed clear. He had to love her as much as she loved him.

Tossing her paints, she wrapped her arms about his neck and reveled in his possessive grip of her waist, the heavy coursing of his pulse.

He tugged her closer, snuggling her against the smooth floss of his waist sash. “Come, we must go convince Mr. Hargrove. I know Mrs. Hargrove won’t be happy. They may not give their permission.”

“Mama, may be more difficult to persuade, but who can withstand my Mr. Wilton.” The clouds in Sara’s spirit receded as she slipped her palm into his. They soon trudged the path to the great portico of the main house. “If the war can end by spring, we should take our wedding breakfast on the lawn or even set a table on the entry.”

Jeremiah looked off into the distance. An unreadable expression set upon his thinned lips. “If we can convince your parent, then I’ll make this war as short as possible, even capture Napoleon to return to you.”

 

A Pressing Engagement: Part1

Hampshire, England March 1810

It must be easier to face Napoleon’s cannons than witness the anguish in Sara’s dark eyes. Jeremiah Wilton’s heart clenched at her tears. A woman’s cries always gnawed at him, and these were his fault.

“Good day, Mr. Wilton.” She swiped at her chin and pivoted to her easel. The thick meadow grass lapped her pale skirts. “Must I count the seconds ’til you depart?”

“Miss Hargrove.” He searched in vain for a handkerchief. His regimental held no pockets like his comfortable tailcoat. “Will you allow me to explain?”

“Two. Three.” She fussed with her paint jars. “I understand that certain gentlemen make a sport of pursuing ladies. You should’ve saved this game for Miss Helena Smithers. She’d be a very willing mark.”

“She’s Smithers’s little sister with a child’s infatuation. My intentions to you were honourable.”

“Yes, Mr. Wilton. Your letters describing a future, a home, …arm loads of children are full of honour. You pursued me, made me hope for a future that will not be. Oh, leave.”

Unable pivot and ride away, he stood there like a dunderhead staring at her rare display of emotion. Had she been this partial to him all along? No. It was only his heart breaking.

A slight breeze rustled the leaves of the bordering apple trees. He’d met her in these orchards and lost his reason shortly after.

“Nine, ten. Mr. Wilton, can’t you let this parting be done.”

His boots were rooted in place. Why did she have this power to make him question everything, even when he was in the right? The ambitions Providence called him to do, couldn’t be achieved love-struck.

Another gust of wind mussed the curls peeking from her mobcap. His best friend, Gerald Smithers, called the lock’s colour, cinnamon, more apt to describe the silk than brown. The night of the harvest dance, she’d lost a pearl comb, and her chignon spilled into Jeremiah’s fingers. A luscious accident, a memory to fortify him on the battlefield.

“Twelve, thirteen.” She tapped her paintbrush against her easel. “Go to Hargrove Manor and say farewell to my parents.” With a flip of her dainty wrist, she swirled some blue and grey, and another grey, probably green onto the center of her palette.

Should he comment on her art to regain her attention, maybe win one last smile? Tightness gripped his stomach. He must tread carefully and not expose his difficulty distinguishing colours, or she’d think him forward and a fool. Maybe if he were vague…. He coughed. “Your painting is beautiful.”

Her strokes made a mirror image of the sky, every fluffy cloud, even the streaks of light beaming down. The texture of the bark matched the roughness of the boughs as if she’d inked the trunk and pressed the canvas against it. How could such a dainty woman, barely up to his armpit, possess such great talent?

“Papa’s favorite Pippin. It will bud in the spring with shimmering cream blossoms, pretty enough for wedding flowers.” Her tone soured. “Leave.”

She waved at him to go, shooing as one would do to scatter chickens.

No more horrid indecision. He marched the short distance to Sara. A hint of her lilac fragrance touched his nose, and he gulped a deeper portion of the scented air. “If there was another way—”

“You’ve made it clear that these decisions, yours and your grandfather’s, are made.”

He reached for her but dropped his hand to his side. “I should never have imposed upon you.”

“Well, Mr. Wilton, you did.” She stroked her jaw with her cuff. Droplets stained the lace trimming. “If you’re not going to see my parents, please run and catch your regiment.”

“Don’t dismiss me.”

With her chin jutted, she spun around, her eyes wide with fire. “This is not my fault. I’m not the one who sought this meeting. I’m not the one breaking a promise.”

“Technically, I never made a promise.” He shouldn’t have said that. Now was not the time for precision.

Her lips pursed. She gripped her paintbrush as if she sought to throw it at him. “No, you haven’t made an offer.”

Would an oil paint stain sponge from his uniform? “I have family obligations. With my brother’s early death, someone must fight in his stead.”

She lowered her weapon to a rag and cleaned its bristles, and he caught her balled fingers. “There are many things that weighed on my mind. Miss Hargrove, I must know you forgive me.”

“Why care now what I think?” She bit her lip, then caught his gaze.

“I planned to propose, but, I must distinguish myself in military service. Perhaps regain some of the respectability my father wasted.”

She shook her head. “His scandals never mattered to me. You excelled at the law. There is honour in that.”

“You paid attention to my prospects?”

Her expression softened as her tender lips released a sigh. “There is nothing about you which escapes me. Why else would I avoid wearing rose trims or anything emerald?”

Red and green, baneful hues. He rocked back on his heels. She knew of his difficulties? How ironic for a man with vision challenges to love a vibrant artist. “You never said anything.”

“You don’t seem to be comfortable with colour, and it pleased me to know you worked hard to admire my art even sending a friend to spy”

“Smithers’s my constant ally, but he’s not terribly discreet.” Jeremiah tugged off his gloves and dropped them away, then tucked a loose tendril behind her ear. “He’s to look after you while I’m gone, that is until you marry.”

Catch Part 2 on Thursday

 

From Ackerman’s to Almack’s ~ Dressmaking in Regency England

Much is made of the fashion trends and inspirations of the early 19th century, but have you ever considered what it took to turn those gorgeous Ackerman’s drawings into actual gowns?

With no sewing machine, no electricity for decent lighting, and no ready-to-wear size guide, creating clothing for the masses was no small feat.

1817 fashion plateThose of lesser means had to find time to make their own clothing, which meant they often had limited wardrobes and much plainer pieces. Those who could afford to purchase their clothes couldn’t just stroll down to Bond Street and come home with a new look. Purchasing a dress took time.

Selecting the Materials

Fabrics, trimmings, and matching accessories were not all to be found under one roof. While a dressmaker might have a selection of ribbons and beads to add to the piece, the cloth itself came from the linen-draper.

Since fabric making was one of the first industrialized products, inventory at these large establishments could be massive indeed. If a person were particularly indecisive, they could spend hours, if not days perusing the options.

Buttons, ribbons, and other embellishments could be had from the haberdasher.

Linen DraperSelecting the Design

Once at the dressmaker’s, it was time to scour the Ackerman’s drawings and determine the dress you wanted. Some dressmaker’s were also designers and could create unique pieces, but most were altering the drawn designs to best compliment their customer’s figures. Because all pieces were custom made, flattering a person’s individual figure was crucial.

Adorning from Head to Toe

Once the outfit was done, there was still the matter of accessories. Hats were purchased from the milliner. Stockings could be had from the hosiers. For the affluent, even their shoes were custom made. Custom boots were particularly valued amongst men, as they would hold up considerably longer than a lady’s fragile dancing slipper.

Some stores, particularly in less populated areas, would carry a variety of accessories from muffs and bonnets to slippers and reticules, possibly even fabric and ribbons. In the large city, shops could afford to be more specialized.

 

With all these stops and shops, it’s no surprise that a woman could spend an entire day or possibly even a week selecting a new look. Imagine the time and effort it took to select a new wardrobe, particularly for the upper classes that could wear upwards of four outfits in a single day.

What do you think? Would you like to go through all those steps instead of driving to your local Kohl’s?

 

 

Concluding our Spring Release Extravaganza

We have winners! We enjoyed hearing from everyone who stopped by during our promotion for A Lady’s Honor by our very own Laurie Alice Eakes. Thank you to those who participated in answering a variety of fun questions, encompassing everything from whether you’d rather read a story set in London opposed to the countryside, to what novel setting you’d like to visit in real life.

The winner of the Celtic knot necklace and $15.00 gift card is Janet Estridge.

Celtic Knot Necklace

 

The winner of the hand blown glass ring dish and $15.00 gift card is KayM.

Ring Holder

Today officially concludes our Spring Release Extravaganza, and our blog will be back to normal and posting about Regency history on Thursday. We wanted to take a quick moment and thank everyone who stopped by over the past month in a half. We enjoyed sharing our enthusiasm about new books by three authors here on Regency Reflections.

A Heart’s Rebellion by Ruth Axtell

A Heart's Rebellion

 

The Soldier’s Secrets by Naomi Rawlings

Naomi Rawlings The Soldier's Secret

 

A Lady’s Honor by Laurie Alice Eakes

LadysHonor_FINAL

A Lady’s Honor …Finding True Love

A Lady’s Honor by Laurie Alice Eakes deals with a person’s inability to receive love because they have never really known love. From growing up with her grandparents who love her but demand a certain standard of behavior to having parents who are living off in London society, Elizabeth Trelawny has come to feel she is only as good as the size of her dowry.

220px-Trebarwithstrand01
Trebarwith Strand on north Cornish coast- Wikipedia

 

The story opens with her fleeing from an unwanted suitor–a much older man who wants her for her money, but whose suit has been sanctioned by her parents. She escapes to her ancestral home in Cornwall, hoping for the protection of her grandparents. They give it, but no sooner is she safely behind the walls of the Cornish estate on a cliff than they are foisting another older man on her.

When the hero Rowan Curnow begins to show his attraction, she doesn’t trust his love. Her grandparents try to point her toward the Savior, but she feels their love is conditional–if she behaves properly, they will love her and give her their blessing. If she acts the way she wants to act, which is an unconventional way for a gently-bred young lady of the regency period, they will be shocked, displeased, or, worse, disappointed.

It’s not until her life and those of the ones she loves are threatened by an outside danger that Elizabeth begins to understand why she has been running from God’s love all these years and why she has put her trust and love in her ancestral home.

220px-Land's_End,_Cornwall,_England
Land’s End, Cornwall

A Lady’s Honor takes the heroine on a spiritual journey without which she is not able to give and receive the kind of love the hero both demands and deserves.

This was a wonderful story, reminiscent of the gothic novels of Victoria Holt and Daphne Du Marier. I could just imagine being in Cornwall, smelling the sea spray, hearing the tide come up, tasting the pasties at the fair, and shivering at the mysterious threats around every corner.

First the Cliffs of Cornwall series, Lady's Honor by Laurie Alice Eakes.
Cliffs of Cornwall series, Book 1, A Lady’s Honor by Laurie Alice Eakes.