Reminiscing about the traditional Regency novel

Hi, readers! Susan here with another blast from the past — 1987 to be exact. I expect many of you inspirational Regency-lovers are like me…you loved the older, clean Regencies that were so readily available a few decades ago, published by Signet (my faves), Zebra and the like.

In fact, my efforts toward a fiction-writing career began with a desire to try my hand at writing one of these thrilling, yet clean, romances…with a dash or more of the Christian faith included as a character developing element…sometimes even as a plot twist or a conflict-causing, stake-raising factor.

So today, I am bringing you a review of an old favorite, Mary Jo Putney’s “The Diabolical Baron.”

Book Cover
Book Cover

Don’t let the title throw you, the book is a charming tale of true love, the twists and turns and the happily ever after. With two attractive suitors trying to lay claim to her heart and a father insisting she marry for a fortune, she has deep waters to navigate all the while trying to protect her beloved sister.

If you can find this title, I believe it might be one of your favorites too — though it is not a true inspirational romance. My hopes are that the Regency genre will grow in popularity again, with Christian writers bringing it to the fore.

 

Shell Pattern Manchettes

Camy here, and I’m knitting Regency knitting patterns again! This time, it’s “Shell Pattern Manchettes” from The Ladies’ Knitting and Netting Book by Miss Watts, originally published in 1837. You can download the .pdf of the Fifth Edition, with additions, which was published in 1840.

Shell Pattern Manchettes Watts-Ladies' Knitting and Netting Book 1st series 5th edition 1840 1

Shell Pattern Manchettes Watts-Ladies' Knitting and Netting Book 1st series 5th edition 1840 2

Shell Pattern Manchettes Watts-Ladies' Knitting and Netting Book 1st series 5th edition 1840 3

I had to Google what “manchettes” were. 🙂 In the 1838 version of this same book, the pattern calls them “cuffs” instead of “manchettes,” but they seem to be longer than what we would consider cuffs, so they could have been perhaps wrist-warmers or arm-warmers.

(And autocorrect keeps trying to turn “manchettes” into “machetes,” so I apologize in advance if the blog mentions long blades instead of long gloves.)

The pattern mentions adding lace to the top and bottom, so I think they were meant to be worn over the dress sleeve, like the “muffatees” (fingerless gloves) patterns in the same book.

Even though this pattern was first published in 1837, I’m almost positive these patterns were in use during the Regency era. Most knitting patterns were passed down from one woman to another by word of mouth or copied instructions, hence they were called “receipts” since they were received from someone else.

The intricacy and complexity of British knitted artifacts dated from before 1800 (in the Georgian, not Regency era) point to knitting skills already fully developed beyond just knit and purl patterns. Knitting was mostly done by wealthy women for themselves, or for poor women who knit fine articles to sell to the rich.

Spinsters Christmas, The web 388I originally picked this pattern because I wanted my heroine to be knitting a gift for her friend in my next Regency novel. 🙂 So I think I’ll knit these manchettes and then hold a contest to give them away when my Regency releases, like how I did with Gerard’s Red and Black Scarf from The Spinster’s Christmas.

Since most of us don’t have a maid to tie the ribbons of our manchettes for us (le sigh), I think I’ll knit these with ribbing to fit the manchettes to the wrist instead of the ribbon holes. But since these will be a giveaway, I’ll keep the arm part loose (no ribbing) so they’ll fit more people.

If you’re on Ravelry, here’s my project page for these manchettes.

Here’s the start of my machetes!

Peony Manchettes 1

Dark, Lovely, and Loved: The Diverse Regency

Vanessa here,

I’ve been away for a bit as I immersed myself in my latest writing projects. As you all know, I love the Regency, the mannerism, the wit, and the fashions. I am intrigued by the challenges the people of the times faced: the complexity and aftermath of war, the stark differences in the rights of women versus men, and the growing social consciousness.

But there is more, much more.

Did you know London was very diverse with large Jewish and African populations? Yet, it is very rare to see these aspects in Regency fiction. Except for my dear friend Ruth Axtell’s book, The Winter is Past, you do not typically see a racially diverse cast of characters.

I, an African American writer, am guilty of this, too. In my debut book, Madeline’s Protector, Justain’s conscience figure, Mason, was originally a free black, but I edited it out, thinking that such a close relationship between an earl and his black man-of-all-work wouldn’t pass the sniff test or even would upset some because he’s killed early in the book. I didn’t trust my audience as much as I should’ve, nor did I trust my ability to tell the tale. And if I had such worries, I can imagine how others feel when they lift pen to paper trying to write a historically accurate, compelling, and marketable tale. Those three components differ based on the eye or pocketbook of the beholder: Traditional Presses versus Indie Pubs, niche marketing versus mainstream pitches, Christian Bookseller Association versus American Bookseller Association, etc.

I applaud everyone brave enough to write their story in the way that they feel is right. I just know that for me and my pen, my laptop and smart phone, we shall tell the story and the whole story from now on, so help me God.

But London was diverse. And doesn’t love always win?

Let me show you some images. At first glance they may offend, but that is not my intent. With the sweetness of the Regency, one must also accept the bitter dregs, the things that have been swept away, because it is ugly.

Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University
Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University – Drawn by William Austin 1773

This is William Austin’s 1773 caricature: ‘The Duchess of (Queensbury) playing at Foils with her favorite lap dog Mungo’. This cartoon was meant to shame the duchess for spending 10,000 pounds (1 Million pounds in 2015 dollars) to teach one of her loyal servants, Soubise, how to fence. Soubise was treated like a son to the duchess.  Think of the trust the duchess must’ve had in this black man to invest that sum in his education and to trust him to wield a sword. But was he so unusual in the Duchess’s world?

By Regency times, historians, Kirstin Olsen and Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina, estimate that Black London (the black neighborhood of London) had over 10,000 residents. While England led the world in granting rights to the enslaved and ending legal slavery thirty years before the American Civil War, it still had many citizens who were against change.  Here is another image from an anti-abolitionist.

The_New_Union_Club_Being_a_Representation_of_what_took_place_at_a_celebrated_Dinner_given_by_a_celebrated_society
The New Union Club Being a Representation of what took place at a celebrated Dinner given by a celebrated society – includes in picture abolitionists, Billy Waters, Zachariah Macauley, William Wilberforce. – published 19 July 1819. Source: Wiki Commons

This image is from 1819, a cartoon by George Cruikshank. It is supposed to depict an abolitionist’s dinner party, but it just shows fear of the races intermingling. It serves as a reminder of how many thought of blacks and how it was ingrained in the times. Notice the half-black half-white baby, the promiscuous woman sitting on the gentleman’s lap, the black-face additions to the artwork, the violence and chaos, even the blood shed amongst the party goers.

How many laughs did it draw in the parlors and drawings rooms of polite society? Moreover, how did the enslaved and free servants or the black men who owned shops feel fetching this paper to their masters, their employers, or watching it enfolded in the hands of their patrons?

Cruikshank drew fear, and he wouldn’t have, if Regency society didn’t possess it. For Cruikshank, a rising black middle class, intermingling in society, gaining in social power and wealth, was something to dread. Is this ugliness, this truth, the reason the fictional landscape of Regency exhibits stories abscent diversity and color? Does showing black or brown or yellow historical faces mean that the ugliness must also show?

Perhaps, or perhaps not. But to pretend it did not exist is to dishonor every person who received a racial slur and turned the other cheek, the unknown man lynched for the fault of his birth, or every fallen soldier felled on the road to equality.

My goal is to show through the stories pressing upon my spirit that truth and love can coexist on a diverse canvas. When love arrives, the picture changes and even the bad can be borne and overcome.

Here’s a picture showing love winning.

Lady Elizabeth Murray and Dido Belle, once attributed to Zoffany
Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay (1761-1804) and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray (1760-1825) painted in 1778. Source: Wiki Commons

Look at these two cousins, Dido and Elizabeth. Their great uncle, Lord Mansfield, loved them both and had them arrayed in fashionable apparel and pearls for this portrait. Both ladies are trapped by their circumstances, Dido by her race and Elizabeth by her lack of an inheritance. Johan Zoffany paints them, particularly Dido with no grotesques features, no overt subservient positioning, no hint of promiscuity or evil, just two lovely women.

It would be great if the date of these images showed progress, the growing changes in London society. They don’t. No, they just show truth. The landscape of Regency London was diverse and enlightened hearts embraced the diversity with love.

My second full length novel, Unmasked Heart releases on June 15, 2015. Gaia Telfair is a different kind of heroine. She’s a mulatto, with both black and white blood coursing within her veins, only she didn’t know it until she reached for love.

unmasked heart cover3cvNew72

 

Stephen King has never read Jane Austen

Horror author Stephen King admits he’s never read Jane Austen. I don’t have much interest in “relationship” novels or romance. I’ve never read Jane Austen. I do not say this with either pride or shame (or prejudice, for that matter). It’s just a fact. We are moved to quote the film Miss Austen Regrets: If…

Regency Wards and Guardians – the care of a well-to-do orphan

Kristi here. As long as people have been having children, there has been the question of what to do with them if the parents die before the child can care for themselves. In Regency England that care depended greatly on who your parents had been.

Orphanages were frequently reserved for the poor or poorly connected. Those with higher connections and particularly those with money and property became wards, but the assignment of the guardian was not always simple.

Early 19th Century painting of the Court of Chancery, via wikimedia commons
Early 19th Century painting of the Court of Chancery, via wikimedia commons

The father was the only person able to assign a guardian for his children should he die too early. If his will didn’t state who it was to be, the choice fell to the Court of Chancery. The court could also in extreme cases overrule the father’s choice of guardian.

If the child had property and money the court cared a great deal more than if the child didn’t. If there was no material wealth, then the court didn’t get very involved unless someone made a ruckus. If no one sued over the child, then the court was likely to leave them with whoever wanted to care for the child, such as a stepfather who had no legal right to his deceased wife’s children from a previous marriage.

The appointed guardian was usually the most closely related person that could not inherit from the child. The court was very concerned about the child being coerced out of his inheritance by a guardian or through marriage. If the child was a minor and the court did not approve of the marriage, it was considered non-existent, particularly if the child were male.

Adoption as we know it today did not exist during the Regency time period, though it was not unheard of for a ward to be treated as a son or daughter and even inherit certain things from their guardian, unless of course there was a title involved. Titles had to move along bloodlines.

After the age of 14 the child could have a say in who their guardian was,  but many children didn’t know this and felt they had to go along with whoever the court appointed. There were also instances where someone might have been appointed the guardian but someone else actually cared for the child (such as a brother or sister). This wasn’t an issue unless legal things such as permission to marry were involved.

Since the Court of Chancery was exceptionally bogged down and notoriously slow about things, they tended to ignore whatever didn’t involve titles, property, or angry people. As long as nothing untoward was happening and no one objected, guardianship of well-to-do but penniless people could be decided by society.

A working or middle class family might take in a neighbor’s child out of love or a wish for another pair of hands. There was no legal ramifications for this unless someone sued.

This lack of oversight comes into play my novella coming out in July. A Lady of Esteem is a complete story – no cliffhangers! – offered free as a preview to the upcoming Hawthorne House series. If you’re on Goodreads, hop over here and add the book to your to-read shelf. If 250 people add it, I’ll do an early release of Chapter One on my webpage.

*The assignment of wards and guardians and trustees could get very complicated. This is a very high level look at how guardianship was handled. For more information on the Court of Chancery, there are several books available through Google books that go into the formation and responsibilities of this particular court. Here are some other websites that go into greater detail about the types of guardians: Regency Researcher and Word Wenches