Lighting Up the Night By Regina Scott

reginascott11-07smallSo glad to be back at Regency Reflections. Is that the bang of fireworks I hear in celebration? Sometimes it seems as if our neighborhood has returned to the Revolutionary War right before the Fourth of July there are so many sizzles, pops, and whistles!

Regency lords and ladies were no strangers to fireworks. The fire masters (the equivalent of today’s pyrotechnical engineers) performed their duties for public events like coronations and military victories as well as private events like balls and routs.

Plersch_Night_illumination_of_KaniówA fire-master was originally a commissioned officer in the artillery who ordered the instructions and directions for making fireworks, whether for military purposes such as rockets or for celebration. Each firework consisted of one or more tubes of paper of various diameters filled with different types of flammable powder and connected to a quick match or a slower burning fuse. Rockets might have a stick at the end to help steady the flight. How hot the fire burned, the direction in which it burned, and the diameter of the opening through which it shot all affected the size, shape, duration, and color of the firework.

vauxhall fireworksPeople didn’t seem to tire of fireworks, no matter how many times they saw the bright lights. Talented fire masters were in great demand. Of course, the displays had their down sides as well. In large crowds, there was the apparent danger of pieces of the rockets in particular falling back to the ground and striking people on the head or shoulder. Sparks could also burn as they fell. Perhaps to help prevent such calamities, some events were held near a body of water like a river or ornamental pond. The Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens had some amazing displays along the Thames.

White_bright_fireworks-freeEmboldened by their acclaim, however, the fire masters became more and more creative over the years. Until the middle of the nineteenth century, most of the fireworks were orange or white. In the 1830s, fire masters discovered that burning metallic salts with potassium chlorate would give them many more colors to play with. Fireworks were affixed to wooden frames to spell out words or illuminate scenes. Others burst in the sky like stars, hissed and wove about like serpents in the air, or showered sparks down on amazed onlookers like hot rain. Musicians composed odes that could accompany the displays. Architects and engineers built revolving machines that could light up or shoot out fireworks at various angles. Even one of the Prince Regent’s favorite architects, John Nash, built a machine to house such displays.

Today, fireworks light up the night sky at sporting events, fairs and concerts, and civic events. But we owe much of our delight to the creativity and ingenuity those early fire masters.

Regina

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Though she hasn’t found a way to make her hero a fire master yet, Regina Scott has penned 27 stories set in Regency England. Her most recent novel, The Husband Campaign, was released in April 2014 from Love Inspired Historical. You can learn more about her at her website at www.reginascott.com or catch up with her online at www.facebook.com/authorreginascott.

Camy here: Thanks so much, Regina, for our guest post today!

Review of The Babe and the Baron by Carola Dunn, Traditional Regency

Laurie Alice here,

Since I discovered traditional Regencies, I have counted Carola Dunn as one of my favorite authors in this genre. So imagine my thrill when I ended up on a Regency fan list with Ms. Dunn.Babe&Baron When I decided to review another traditional Regency as a Throw-back Thursday post, I contacted Ms. Dunn and asked her which one of her wonderful books she would like me to review. She suggested The Babe and The Baron which, to my delight, had slipped below my radar.

I say to my delight because finding a Carola Dunn book I hadn’t read is like finding a forgotten box of chocolates in the cupboard. In addition, she told me an amusing story about this book.

Soon after she began to write it, her publisher, Walker Publishing, canceled their traditional Regency line. Two years passed before this book finally saw the light of day under the Kensington Zebra imprint. Poor Laura remained pregnant for two years. “She did not,” MS. Dunn assured me, “give birth to an elephant.”babe pb

Laura’s scapegrace husband dies while celebrating the fact that she is expecting their first child, leaving her penniless. Gareth, Lord Wyckham, a distant cousin of Laura’s husband, learns that she is now penniless and offers her a home along with a host of other relatives living under his roof. Gareth is a wonderful hero—kind, responsible, enjoying a bit of fun, so not stodgy. He is also a wee bit overprotective of Laura and her condition.

Laura, however, has been used to being independent since her scandalous marriage to her late spouse, and chafes at the hovering, all the while she is falling in love with her relative by marriage. With tact and dignity, she slips into the household routine, taking children and elderly relations in hand and wanting to discover why Gareth is so overly protective of her, a near stranger.

As typical of one of Ms. Dunn’s books, this traditional Regency is written with detail to character and interplay with the hero and heroine, as well as the cast of others important in their lives. Each individual has a unique role to play in the development of the characters, the romance, and the story itself.

If you haven’t read this delightful tale yet, it is available in electronic formats, along with other Regency romances by Carola Dunn. She now writes wonderful mysteries also worth reading.

Ring Bell For Service ~ The Prevalency of the Regency Bell Pull

Kristi here.

How many times have you read of the hero or heroine of a Regency novel ringing the bell for the servant? Did they really do that? Were bell pulls as common as we think they were?

The answer is a somewhat complicated yes and no.

Bells have long been used to summon servants, though during the Regency the idea of summoning them from anywhere in the house was still fairly new.

Staff Call Bells in a line
Staff Call Bells via Wikimedia Commons

From the time the small handbell was invented, people have used them to summon servants waiting in the hall or across the room. Simple systems that connected a room to a nearby antechamber were documented during the first decade of the eighteenth century. The idea of a house-wide network of bells wasn’t introduced for another 35 years.

Though the actual creation of the full house servant bell system is debated, the first known advertisement for such a system was in 1744. It worked via a series of copper wires, springs, and pulleys to pass the vibration caused by pulling the cord to the bell in the servants’ area.

With more than 60 years from the introduction of the bell pull to the onset of the Regency, modern thinking would assume the system would be nearly ubiquitous. In places such as Mayfair, where most houses were built after 1750, the bell systems probably were very prevalent.

Jane Austen mentions ringing for servants in Pride and Prejudice when she tells Kitty to ring for Hill. Though we don’t know if this referred to the simpler “pulley bell” of the early 1700s or the household bells of the mid-1700s, it does show that bell systems were not confined to only the fashionable and trendy areas of England.

Bigger houses required more bells. Click the picture for an article on indicator boxes and bells after the introduction of electric systems.

But what about the old country houses? Some of the sprawling estates our aristocratic heroes and heroines call home were built centuries before the introduction of a bell system. Since many of these families also maintained residences in town, it’s hard to imagine them forgoing the luxury and privacy of the bells when they adjourned to the country.

The answer was pipes and tubes.

Older homes could be fitted with a network of pipes and tubes that acted as conduits for all the bell mechanisms. Plumbers (who were also busy retrofitting homes with the newfangled indoor plumbing) and chimney sweeps often began second careers and bell-hangers.

This wasn’t done everywhere, however, because some houses that installed and external bell (the first doorbells) sometimes places a sign above the pull telling visitors what to do.

Another issue with these spring-based bell systems was maintenance. Getting to a disconnected wire or pulley within the network of refitted tubes could be extremely difficult.

As the bell systems became more and more prevalent in the country homes, the indicator boards advanced. Some would utilize different sizes and tones of bells to allow servants to better hear which room was summoning them. Others created elaborate sets of flaps and labels to let servants see which person had rung.

In the 1840s, electric bell systems began to appear. This limited the amount of cumbersome maintenance and allowed for much more elaborate indicator boards. People of the Regency, however, wouldn’t have seen these as electricity was still little more than a novelty.

The bells were likely a bittersweet invention for servants. While the installation of a bell system meant that a footman didn’t have to stand in the hall for hours awaiting instruction, it also meant that whenever a bell was rung, the servant had to run up the stairs to get the instruction and then back down to see to the request. Over time the addition of speaking tubes and in-house telephones provided more direct communication, but those weren’t to grace English homes until well after the Regency period.

 

Men’s Regency Hair Styles, by Susan Karsten

Hi, Susan Karsten here!

Grecian influence held sway over the men’s hairstyles (as it did for women as well). Short hair prevailed for men during the Regency. Many wore their hair natural, parts were not popular. But the fashionable set wore one of the following hairstyles.

Windswept:

 

Brutus: As popularized by Beau Brummel

Titus:

 

Coup au Vent: This modern hairdresser is doing a style that is very close to what my research describes!

Cherubin:

Which one’s your favorite? Are they what you’d imagined?

Heat? What heat? ~ How RR Authors Handle the Summer Swelter

It’s summer. Maybe not officially for another couple of weeks, but you wouldn’t know that from where I’m sitting – sweltering in the deep south of the US.

So I asked the Regency Reflections authors what they did to beat the heat.

Ruth Axtell:
Heat? What heat? I live in downeast Maine. We’re lucky if it ever hits 80 in the summer.

Before you grumble, just think about how much snow she has to dig through in the winter… 

Thermometer on the wall
via Wikimedia Commons

Camy Tang:
Iced tea! I make Muscat or Momo tea (extra strong) from Lupiciausa.com and then chill in the fridge or pour over ice, and I make a sugar syrup rather than just using dry sugar, because it seems to make it taste better. Then a squirt of a lime wedge and I’m set!

Laurie Alice Eakes:
I stay inside as much as possible and drink lots of lemon water. Standard water with lots of ice and a wedge of lemon or lime.

Susan Karsten:
I enjoy jumping off our boat (clad in swimsuit) — we usually boat on the deepest, coldest lake in our state, and the water is super-refreshing.

Kristi Ann Hunter:
Air conditioning. If the kids want to play outside, they’d better do it before 11AM because I’m not stepping outside without a darn good reason after that. Ironically my desk sits against an AC vent so I’m usually working with a blanket over my legs, but I’m not about to turn it off.

What about you? Is it hot where you are? What do you do to stay comfy and cool in the summer?

Summer Fun: Children’s Games in Regency England

Kristi here. With school out for the summer, my house is once again full of kids all day. Some of the games they come up with are interesting to say the least. Its the nature of children to find ways to entertain themselves and it was no different during the Regency.

Like all kids, children during the Regency had loads of energy. Games involving jumping across, over, and on things were popular, particularly with boys. Although they went by different names, children played many of the games we enjoy today such as tug o’ war (called English and French), tag (known as Touch during the 19th century), and good old foot-racing (often reffered to as a Steeplechase since the steeple or church was frequently the finish line).

Girl with a Hoop via wikimedia commons
Girl with a Hoop via wikimedia commons

Other games have retained their names over the years. Leap-frog, Follow the Leader, and Hop-skotch haven’t changed much over the years, and were played in pretty much the same way they are today.

While not quite as prevalent as they used to be, kids still play with marbles, tops, kites, and balls, toys that have been around for centuries and relived the boredom of many youngsters of the regency era.

If you’ve ever seen a group of kids playing with a hula hoop, you eventually saw one of them rolling the hoop across the ground. Rolling hoops was a prevalent game during the early 19th century as well. Many travelers documented seeing children using sticks to keep a metal or wooden hoop rolling across the ground.

Golf has been around for centuries, but did you know that an early version of lawn hockey also existed? It was played with a ball and cudgels or bats, so the curved hockey stick we now know wasn’t part of it.

Other games bore a startling resemblance to games we know today. A game called Bounders was played very much like baseball except there were five bases and one could get runners out by hitting them with the ball. I think parents everywhere will agree that we’re glad those rules changed. A combination of baseball and dodgeball is a scary prospect.

Despite the advancement in technology and the changes in culture, kids are still kids and there’s something comforting in that. The similarities in people’s nature is one of the things that makes reading historical novels interesting. Seeing those natures in a different era can sometimes help us understand ourselves even more.

What are other areas that you see a similarity in human natures across eras?

Blow Wind Blow

Vanessa here,

When reading Regencies, I love getting into the environment, learning about the land, flowers, etc. I even love being immersed in the weather.

Weather Vanessa? Really?

Now some might look at weather as just a scenery element, purring at the way the moonlight beams in the hero’s eyes or the soft bounce of sun reflecting in the heroine’s hair. Yet, weather can be a force to reckon, a third character changing the course of events.Elizabeth-Bennet-and-Mr-Darcy-played-by-Elizabeth-Garvie-and-David-Rintoul-in-Pride-and-Prejudice-1980

Haven’t you read about the snows of the yuletide keeping the family in the country as opposed to rushing back to London or the occasional rainstorm trapping the hero and heroine. You may have even read about 1816, the year with no summer.

Yet, England like most places, experienced much more. For an upcoming novella project, I began looking for windstorms that savaged my Regency World.

After much research, I came across two events: March 4, 1818 and April 26, 1818. The gale of March 4 raged all over England but it also knocked over several buildings in London. The tornado of April 26 focused on the southern coast.

The Gale of March 4

The gale raged on the 4th, 7th and the 8th. The gale was more likely an offshoot of a coastal hurricane, but its reach was massive. Moreover, the respite in between the 4th and the 7th fooled people into thinking the worst was over.

Here are some quotes on the event:

“Storm across southern Britain caused considerable damage around Nottingham, uprooting trees, blowing slates off roofs etc. At Leicester and Mansfield … the storm was very violent, and attended with similar effects to those experienced in this town”.

A Douglas paper of March 5th, that year, says : — “We have not for many years witnessed so tremendous a storm as last night struck terror into every bosom and, carried havoc and devastation in its train.”

“It had been thundering ; and lightning and blowing strong for several days previously, and consequently the harbour at Douglas was crowded with shipping of all sizes. On Wednesday, the 4th, the wind stood at sou’-west, but at night it suddenly veered to sou’-east, and then blew a hurricane. Scarcely a vessel in the port escaped.”

“Neither cable nor post resisted the storm the very posts in the quay were dragged cut.”

“A brig, Samuel, of Whitehaven, entered the harbour, and, driven by the gale, crashed into the other vessels. Then ensued crashing and smashing and fearful confusion — masts and bowsprits snapped, bows and sterns stove in, bulwarks smashed. Two boats were actually sunk; no lives lost, but many persons were injured. The quays were crowded with people, and everyone who had a lantern brought it to the quayside.”

 

Hurricane of 1824

The Devon and Dorset coasts endured a savaging hurricane November 22 through the 23rd. Floodwaters were over 2 meters (6.5 feet).

http://www.southampton.ac.uk/~imw/chestorm.htm
http://www.southampton.ac.uk/~imw/chestorm.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Hertfordshire, a tornado (offshoot from the hurricane) was described as “a white whirling cone uprooted many trees and unroofed houses.”

A naval officer at Sidmouth at the time said, “The wind was stronger than the West Indian hurricanes. The noise of the wind was like incessant Thunder, but there was something in it still more aweful and supernatural. It seemed to rage so perfectly without control – so wild and free that nothing I ever heard before could be at all compared to it.”

Others reported, “The noise of the wind was remarkable and that it howled or roared in the great gusts. Chimneys were blown down and stone church buildings were damaged. Roofs of shops were carried away. The unusual force of the rain and hail broke a huge number of windows.”

http://www.southampton.ac.uk/~imw/chestorm.htm
http://www.southampton.ac.uk/~imw/chestorm.htm

“At 6 am on Tuesday 23rd, the time of the overwash at Chiswell, a heavy stack of chimneys was blown down, killing the Reverend H.J. Richman and his wife.”

Some other accounts of damage are:

  • 19 boats destroyed
  • 200,000 tons of stone moved by the storm
  • Ships washed onto farmland
  • Over 80 houses smashed
  • Coastal town after town flooded
  • Over 50 people died

After this research, I think 1818 should be nicknamed, “The Year With Wind.”

References:

http://www.phenomena.org.uk/page29/page46/page46.html

http://www.southampton.ac.uk/~imw/jpg-Chesil/5CH-1824-Hurricane-map.jpg

http://www.isle-of-man.com/manxnotebook/fulltext/mxa1901/ch09.htm

Other Weather Related Posts:

The Regency Weather Forecaster

The Year Without a Summer

Home for the (Summer) Holidays

The Final Frost Fair: What Do You Do When the Thames Freezes Over?

The First Signs of Autumn

 

Knitting a Victorian shawl

Hi guys, Camy here!

IMG_1162

My mom taught me basic knitting when I was young, but then I forgot it all as an adult. I wanted to knit again, so I learned from online videos (so awesome! I can hit repeat over and over).

IMG_1153One thing that has fascinated me since I started knitting has been historical knitting patterns. One book I love is Victorian Lace Today by Jane Sowerby. There are tons of lacy shawl patterns to knit and they’re all gorgeous. They range from easy to difficult.

I love knitting these patterns because they make me feel like a woman in those times, knitting delicate shawls for an evening by the fire or for a day out in London.

IMG_1150This shawl is called “Large Rectangle with Center Diamond Pattern” in the book. It’s actually a combination of two knitting patterns:

“Close Diamond, Surrounded by Open Stitch” from The Lady’s Assistant by Jane Gaugain, volume 1, edition published in 1847

And

“Vandyke Border” from My Knitting Book by Frances Lambert, first edition published in 1843.

IMG_1165I’ve included links above to the digitized versions of these books, which you can download for free! The books themselves are fascinating, because the patterns and the items women could make represented the industrious needlework of women in the early 1800s. In addition to shawls, women could make mittens, caps, purses, stockings, ruffs, counterpanes, even garters!

For you crocheters, Jane Gaugin’s book also includes crochet patterns, although they’re not very detailed. The book also includes netting patterns.

The shawl I made looks like a complicated pattern, but it’s actually very easy. The center portion repeats the same diamond motif over and over again, and the edging is knitted on, also in a repeating pattern that’s easy to memorize.

IMG_1163I used a lace weight yarn, which is a wool yarn that is very thin, almost like crochet cotton, but it’s very light and lofty. I also used a pretty large needle size for the yarn, so the holes are larger and the lace pattern shows up better.

After knitting, I blocked it, which is basically just dampening it and then pinning it out on my bed to dry, stretching it a little so the lace pattern opens up. Once dry, it stays opened up.

IMG_1168Can you imagine a young Victorian lady throwing this shawl about her shoulders as she heads out for a carriage ride at the park? Or perhaps tucking it about her bodice for modesty as she receives morning callers?

In Victorian Lace Today, Sowerby writes: “Not only did a shawl provide warmth, it was a modest cover-up for décolleté dresses. Mrs. Gaugain (the author of the first knitting pattern I linked to above) suggested that a shawl should be ‘for throwing over the shoulders indoors, or for very young ladies wearing out-of-doors.’”

If any of you are knitters and you haven’t tried lace knitting yet, I encourage you to try it! The first several patterns in this book are super easy, and you can feel you’re a Victorian lady knitting a shawl for an evening out. 🙂 If you’re on Ravelry, here’s the link to my knitting notes.

PreludeForALord lowresTo celebrate the release of my first Regency romance in August, I’m busy knitting away so that I can offer some Victorian lace shawls in a few giveaways I’ve planned! I’ll be giving away several gift baskets with shawls, a violin ornament, and some Jane Austen tea. 🙂 I hope you all will preorder Prelude for a Lord!

A Jane Austen Devotional

My husband and I were in a bookstore one day, where he was looking for a devotional. We were eyeing the shelves full of them in the Christian section when he spied a gem, A Jane Austen Devotional. “That’s the one,” he said. That’s why I love him, he’s an Austen devotee like me! Jane Austen devotional
This devotional compiled and written by Steffany Woolsey and published by Thomas Nelson is not divided by days but by subject matter. A listing includes: Being Generous, Christ’s Unconditional Love, Vanity’s Folly, Faithfulness, Unhealthy Friendships, etc..
Under each section, an excerpt from one of Jane Austen’s novels is included and then a commentary on the spiritual theme gleaned from her writing, since Jane Austen lived in a time when the Bible was the standard of moral authority in Great Britain. Any educated person such as Jane would be well-versed in Scripture, especially as the daughter of a rector in the Anglican church. Her writing reflects her Christian beliefs, even when she pokes fun at certain clergy (remember Mr. Collins?)
In A Jane Austen Devotional under the heading “Being Generous” for example, a segment from Sense and Sensibility is used in which Mr. Dashwood discusses with his wife how much he should give to his bereaved stepmother in order to fulfill his deathbed promise to his father to take care of her. Throughout their conversation he allows his wife to talk him out of giving her anything he originally had decided upon. The author uses this illustration of mean-spiritedness to contrast with Biblical teaching, citing Matthew 15:18 where Jesus talks about the things that defile a person—those that proceed from the heart. The teaching of Jesus regarding generosity is then shown using Mark 12:42-44 in which Jesus compares the poor widow who leaves two small copper coins in the offering box in the temple to a richer person who gives out of his abundance.

Jesus calls us to imitate the widow, who gave so generously out of her poverty. As Woolsey sums up in this segment, “When we choose this route, He [Christ] can begin to develop in us qualities such as generosity, kindness, and compassion.”

For anyone who appreciates Jane Austen’s irony and wit, this devotional is full of snippets of her scenes with a parallel from Scripture on each facing page. My husband and I have enjoyed every entry we’ve read.

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Ruth Axtell hasRuth Axtell (2) written several Regency romances. Her latest series is called London Encounters. Book 2, A Heart’s Rebellion, came out in March. The Rogue’s Redemption, set in both Regency London and frontier Maine, came out in December. She also writes novels set in Victorian England and late 19th century Maine.