What to do with all that grass ~ Lawn Games in Regency England

Kristi here. The vast lawns of many English country estates lent themselves well to a variety of games. This is a very good thing, as I’m sure many a guest was thankful for the room to move in the outdoors during a crowded country house party.

Battledore and Shuttlecock

One such game that was popular during Regency England was Battledore and Shuttlecock. A combination of modern day badminton and hacky-sack, two or more players would attempt to keep the feathered shuttlecock in the air by hitting it with small rackets, called battledores.

Three young girls play Battledore and Shuttlecock
Three young girls play Battledore and Shuttlecock, via Wikimedia Commons

As near as anyone can tell, this game originated in Greece around 1BC. Although it appears to have initially spread east from there so he likely never played it, the fact that people played this game while Jesus walked the earth is a little mind-boggling.

The game remained largely unchanged until the mid-1800s when the English added a net to the game and it became badminton.

It isn’t surprising, really, that such a simple game remained popular for so long, when you consider people’s natural tendency to play “keep it up” with just about anything. The hack-sack craze in the 1990s, a beach ball in a stadium full of people, or a balloon in the midst of more than one toddler. We love to see how long we can defy gravity.

Bowls

Similar to modern day Bocce, Bowls, or lawn bowling, is not nearly as old at Battledore and Shuttlecock, but it was certainly not new to the Regency game player. Definitively traced back to the 13th century, Bowls was played with a series of balls, specially formed with a bias so they would roll on a curve.

men playing bowls 1945
This picture of men playing bowls in 1945 will give you an idea of how the game looked. Picture via wikimedia commons

In simple terms, Bowls is played by seeing who can get their ball the closest to the “jack” a smaller white ball thrown out at the beginning of the game as a target. This game could be played alone or in teams, making it ideal for either a leisurely family afternoon or a house party event.

The game became so popular, that Henry VIII feared the practice of archery – then a crucial element of battle –  would suffer. He made it illegal for all but the wealthy to partake of the game, leaving those who made bows, arrows, and arrowheads plenty of time to work on their craft. Even the well-to-do were limited, with the rule that they could only play on their own lands and must pay a fee of 100 pounds to maintain their own bowling green.

This ban was lifted shortly after the Regency ended and today it remains one of the main lawn games played in English-cultured nations around the world.

Did you play lawn games growing up? What is your favorite? What

Prize Fighting in the Regency

If you have read more than two or three Regency romances, you have encountered at least one male character involved in a fancy form of fisticuffs called boxing. No doubt the hero has gone a few rounds with Gentleman Jackson in his “Boxing saloon (salon)” at 13 Bond Street, London, and, for the truly heroic hero, even bested the great man of prize fighting.

Two other names seem to lend their name in prominence to the Regency era, as well—Cribb and Belcher. They were also champion fighters in the sport. Cribb ended up a rather successful businessman. Sadly, Belcher liked to gamble and ended up In prison and dying young in 1811. He, however, stands out in my mind as having lent his casual style of dress in wearing a large kerchief around his neck instead of a cravat—the belcher kerchief. In the second Regency I ever read, Georgina by Clare Darcy, the hero was disdained by many for wearing one of these.

But back to boxing…

The sport has been around since at least ancient Greece. Throughout the medieval period, it seems to have disappeared, but began making a comeback in England in the sixteenth century. By the early 1700s, rules were beginning to form, and popularity of the sport grew amongst all classes of males.

At first, it was a bloody sport with few regulations. The most hand protection a fighter wore were leather strips around their knuckles. Mostly they fought with bare fists and could hit anywhere. By the Regency, no hitting below the belt existed, but pretty much anything else prevailed.

Men from errand boys, to gentlemen in fine rigs drove out to heaths and commons, to observe the fight, cheer on their favorites, and, of course, wager on the outcome of the fight. The sporting magazines of the time reported on these fights. One account seems to have been quite a day of sport.

“By way of ushering in the New Year, the amateurs of the fist had a full day s sport cut out on the 1st inst. No less than three fights having been fixed to take place. These matches were decided on Highgate Common, in the presence of a very numerous field. The first match for forty guineas, was between an Irishman, of the name of Christie, who never fought a pitched battle before, and a second rater of the name of Byrne. This battle afforded but very little diversion. Christie could neither give nor stop, and his adversary, although he possessed some science, had no gift at hitting, and but suspicious bottom. After a hugging battle of forty minutes, Byrne was declared the victor. Richman, the black, and Blake, were the seconds.

Simon Burn photo
Possibly depicting Simon Byrne

“The second battle was between two well-known boxers in miniature, one of whom was Ballard, a Westminster lad, and the pupil of the veteran Caleb Baldwin, and the other Charles Brannam, who has combated with Dixon and others…”
(The Sporting Magazine, January 1812 PP 192-193.)

Also, according  to this same publication, English men at the turn of the nineteenth century, were so prize fighting crazed pitch—spontaneous–battles took place. These. “A pitched battle was lately fought at Thorpe, between two champions of the names of Cannell and Fox. The former was victorious, but the fight afforded little satisfaction to the amateurs. At its conclusion, Pegg, a known bruiser, jumped into the ring, and challenged any one present to fight for a guinea, which was accepted by his former antagonist Chapman, who, after a short contest, beat Pegg completely…”

This sport, with its ever-changing rules, could prove deadly. “On Saturday, the 20th instant, a pitched battle was fought at Wanash, near Guildford, between one Mansell, of that place, and a paper-maker, named Wokins; when the latter, having nearly beat his antagonist, received a blow under the ear, which killed him on the spot. A Coroners Jury sat on the body and returned a verdict of manslaughter.”

Thirty seconds was how long an opponent needed to stay down for his adversary to declare victory. Any fighter feeling he needed a break, could drop to one knee for 30 seconds to give himself time to recover; however, this was considered unmanly.

For myself, I’ve never considered having a hero step into the ring (which is really a square now), thinking it a little on the lowbrow side of sports. I am, however, wrong in this thinking. Even Lord Byron learned the art from Gentleman Jackson.

Related post on author Clare Darcy.

 

How Regency Ladies Bought Jane Austen

Kristi here. At Regency Reflections we celebrate books containing inspirational stories set in Regency England and this year we have a lot to celebrate. This month alone, two of our own authors saw their debut novels hit the shelves. (Yea, Sarah and Vanessa!)

BooksTablet
Image courtesy of Maggie Smith, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today, we have a variety of options when purchasing our reading material. We can get the book electronically, printed and bound with a stunning cover, or even read to us via audiobook in some cases. We can make our purchases online or in a physical bookstore.

Aside from the very obvious lack of internet purchasing and electronic book readers, people wishing to purchase books in Regency England faced other obstacles on the road to filling their personal libraries.

For one thing, books were considerably more expensive in the 19th century. An ordinary servant would have to pay half a month’s salary to purchase even the cheapest of novels. No wonder a full and robust library was such a clear sign of wealth!

Let’s assume that you did have the money to fill your shelves with volumes of written words. How would you purchase them?

Lackington Allen Co Bookstore, 1809 Ackermann print
Lackington Allen Co Bookstore, 1809 Ackermann print

Bookstores were becoming quite prevalent by the time the Regency rolled around. Though considerably smaller than your local Barnes and Noble, the were considered large stores at the time. Many served as printers and circulating libraries as well – more on that in a bit. Books could also be purchased on subscription, if you wished to support a particular author or project.

One very large difference in the book buying experience of today and that of two hundred years ago is the cover. Can you imagine getting to choose what the cover of your book looked like? Do you want the picture of the couple or one of a meadow? Maybe you don’t want a picture at all, just the title and author in large letters. It’s pretty hard to fathom.

Back then you weren’t choosing a picture, but choosing the material. And it was more than just hardback or paperback kind of choices. Books were sold unbound and uncut. People would then take the book to a bookbinder. The wealthy had them bound in leather, which varied considerably in quality and types, while the more frugal had theirs sewn into stiff cardboard with a flexible connecting piece. The outside edges were then cut with a sharp knife and the book was ready to read.

If you couldn’t afford to purchase a book you might could afford a subscription to a circulating library. This was a combination of a current day library and coffee shop. The size of the libraries varied greatly. At the turn of the century (1801) the largest could be found in Liverpool with more than 8000 books available. For the same cost as purchasing 2-3 books a year, a person had access to an entire library.

The sheer expense of being an avid reader made being well read a sign of gentility and wealth. It also explains why so many stories were printed as serials in newspapers and magazines to make them more accessible to more people.

Have you had a unique experience buying a book or going to the library? Share it in the comments!

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Hats off to the Races: Derby Fashion (and Giveaway Winner!)

Finish of the Epsom Derby, 1822. (Painting by James Pollard. Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Finish of the Epsom Derby, 1822. (Painting by James Pollard. Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The past weekend marked the opening ceremonies of the annual Kentucky Derby Festival in our fair city. It’s two weeks of celebration from the inaugural event (Thunder Over Louisville, the largest annual fireworks show in the country), including the Pegasus Parade, Great Balloon Race and the many parties leading up to the main event that draw celebrities from across the globe. The festival culminates in the Kentucky Derby (also known as the Run for the Roses), which has long been a traditional celebration of elegance and grandeur for horse racing’s elite.

This year will usher in a new tradition for me personally, as I will attend my first official Derby event at historic Churchill Downs, complete with a British-inspired ensemble and the all important Derby hat. (The Derby outfit, ladies, is quite an important part of the experience!) And though the world now recognizes the Derby hat as a tradition associated with Kentucky’s first Saturday in May, the upscale fashion at the race actually finds its roots in – you guessed it – Regency England.

In the Regency, horse racing was known as the sport of kings – and for good reason. Like the meets at Ascot, Doncaster, Heath, and Newmarket, the Epsom Derby became an affair that in many ways, was restricted to England’s elite. The Regency woman, always fashionable, would plan her ensemble months in advance of a yearly race. Dresses were specifically tailored and could be imported from Paris, Milan and Rome, just for the event. The extravagance of the hats too, were an important aspect of the overall attire. [For a complete look-book of spring Regency attire, including bonnets and hats, click here.]

Regency Hats. (Photo: public domain)
Regency Hats. (Photo: public domain)

In the late nineteenth century, businessman Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. (founding father of the Kentucky Derby and the grandson of William Clark, of Lewis and Clark fame) sought to raise the standard of horse racing in the United States. Upon traveling to London to attend the famed Epsom Derby (with local roots dating as far back as 1618, but its first Oaks Stakes race in 1779), Clark determined that a similar event could be christened along the banks of the Ohio River. He envisioned for the Louisville Jockey Club “…a racing environment that would feel comfortable and luxurious, an event that would remind people of European horse racing.” [Read more at Derbymuseum.org and in Never Say Die: A Kentucky Colt, the Epsom Derby, and the Rise of the Modern Thoroughbred Industry on Google Books. The historical ties to England are fascinating!]

At the time of the first Kentucky Derby on May 17, 1875, horse racing needed a serious image boost. Drinking and gambling were practices that worked to keep women and children away from the track in droves. Without the family atmosphere, Clark knew the business venture was sure to fail. He sought an avenue to make racing something of an elegant event like he’d witnessed at Epsom Downs. What would be key in the pursuit for families to attend the races? Get women to the track. And how to do it? Easy – do it with fashion. He solicited help from the women of Louisville’s elite to go door-to-door and promote the Derby picnic as a fashionable affair.

“Women coordinated their hats, dresses, bags, their shoes and their parasols,” said Ellen Goldstein, a professor at the Fashion Institute of New York. “To go to a horse racing event was really a regal affair. It was just as important as going to a cocktail party, or a ball.”

[Read more in A Brief History of the Derby Hatlink]

Today, the modern Derby fashionista can spend an average $100 to more than $2000 dollars on her Derby hat. (I can assure you the Derby attire of this mother of three will be on one end of the scale. Just for fun, I’ll let you guess which one!) But when each woman steps through the gates to show off her headpiece at the races, she’ll inevitably display a tradition that is decidedly Regency in tone. For if it not for the strong tradition of fashion established once upon a time at Epsom, would we have “the greatest two minutes in sports” as we know it today?

For a little instruction on the “how-to” of hats, here’s how the Royals do a smashing job at Epsom [click here]. And for those of us heading to the Kentucky Derby, some competition you might encounter in the hat department [click here].

Have you been to the races? Which Derby fashion was your favorite?

___________________________________________________________

HW~ GIVEAWAY WINNER ~

Thanks to all for catching up with author Sarah Ladd and celebrating the launch of her book with us – The Heiress of Winterwood. We are pleased to announce that the winner of last week’s giveaway (the signed book from Sarah) is:

Angela Holland

Congratulations Angela! To claim your amazing book, please send an email to:  cambron_k@yahoo.com

In His Love,

~ Kristy

The Joke’s on Them ~ Caricatures in Regency England

Cruickshank's View of the Regent's Backside
A view of the Regent’s backside by George Cruikshank.

Kristi here. Today is April Fool’s Day in the US. An annoying day where you can’t trust anything you read, hear, say, see, or smell. Basically, your five normal senses are useless and you have to keep a tight grip on your sense of humor to survive. Particularly if you have a jokester in your house.

A sense of humor is a beautiful thing. Often we forget that humor isn’t a modern invention. Because of the long time spent posing for portraits, people always look somber and serious in their paintings. But people in the Regency liked to laugh as much as anyone else.

A Kick from Yarmouth to Wales
A cartoon from 1811 telling the tale of the Prince Regent receiving a sound thrashing for insulting Lord Yarmouth’s wife.

Caricatures, the precursor to today’s editorial cartoons, not only provided social commentary and news, but provided humor as well. Many of them featured prominent figures of the day with certain features exaggerated to provide entertainment as well as make a point.

Much like tabloids and entertainment magazines of today, these drawings were popular because they kept people informed of what was happening in the world in a fun way. Regency England had it’s own celebrities and the caricature artists were the era’s paparazzi.

Caricatures were such a key part of England during the era that the Royal Pavilion and Museums Foundation of Brighton spent nearly £60,000 to obtain 235 original prints. Studying caricatures can tell us a lot about the way culture worked, how various people were thought of, and the general feeling of the time.

IndiaCartoon
A Rowlandson cartoon about the control and status of India, a British holding at the time.

Some of the most famous caricature artists, such as Thomas Rowlandson, worked mostly for Robert Ackermann. Known today for his prints of changing fashions and furniture, the Repository actually featured many social caricatures. Ackermann also printed other periodicals that covered travel, literature, and London in general. Rowlandson was not only a caricaturist but a skilled artist as well. Hand colored prints of his etchings could be purchased as well.

If you decide to go looking for more caricatures online, do be careful. Like today, sex, scandal, and politics were popular topics and some of the caricature artists weren’t shy about using nudity or lewdness to make their points. Many caricaturists were quite vulgar.

How Else to Entertain a Houseguest

Laurie Alice here: While working on my next Regency, (Zondervan Books, 2014), I ran into a problem—I needed to entertain a houseguest who is in mourning and who is also. . . We’ll be kind and call her distraught rather than whiny. Since I didn’t want them to play card games commonly associated with gambling, such as silver loo or whist, and this lady is not bright enough to play chess, I went to the well of information that is The Beau Monde ladies, the Regency special interest chapter of Romance Writers of America. As usual, they gave me enough information to keep my guest entertained for weeks; therefore, I thought I would share a few of them with you all.

Let’s start with Spillikins.

From Wikipedia (Jeu de mikado photo)

This is a game that is still played today. Sticks of varying shapes and sizes are held upright, then allowed to fall into a random pile. The object of the game is to collect as many sticks as you can without disturbing any of the other sticks. I remember playing something similar to this as a child called “Ker plunk”—or something like that.

Another game that reminds me a little of a favorite childhood game was, A Journey Through Europe, or The Play of Geography. The idea was a race through Europe, reaching the goal first. Players moved their game pieces along a map of Europe according to the toss of a dice. Sound a little like The Game of Life?

Other games included first having to put together what we would now call a jigsaw puzzle which resulted in a board game of some kind. These games—and others—were stored in slip cases for easy storage or taking on long road trips.

So now I need to figure out how I can get the heroine and hero playing one of these games. Or maybe that will wait for another book in this series. All I know is that knowing more about the games of the time makes for far more interesting evenings in the country houses in which I like to place my characters, than the standards of playing cards, chess, or music.

The Art of the Silhouette

This silhouette of Jane Austen is attributed to a silhouette-maker, Mrs. Collins, who worked in Bath around 1800.

It’s hard to imagine not having photography to capture the moments of our everyday lives. Weddings, important events, vacations – these are all moments that we capture digitally or on film to enjoy for years to come.

Even though photography had not yet been invented, it was common practice during the Regency to have a likeness or portrait made of a loved one.  But oil paintings were expensive and took many sittings to complete.  Even watercolor paintings and high quality sketches took skill, time, and money.  For those who did not have the extra funds to spend on such luxuries, a silhouette was a viable alternative to capture a person’s likeness.

 

In simplest terms, a silhouette is the art of casting a shadow of one’s profile onto a sheet of paper and either cutting out or blackening the image.  Originally, this art form was known as creating a profile miniature or shade. The term “silhouette” is credited to the Frenchman Eteinne de Silhouette (1709-1797).   Silhouette, a finance minister to Louis XV, did not invent the art form, but his skill for cutting profiles earned him notoriety.  Additionally, his frugal tendencies made the term “silhouette” synonymous with this inexpensive hobby.

Many people are most familiar with silhouettes that have been cut from black paper, but there were actually several different techniques one could use to create a silhouette.  The most popular technique was to place a candle near a person’s profile and cast a shadow on paper. Then the shadow was traced and then either cut out with sharp, tiny scissors or and darkened with charcoal or lampblack.  Yet another technique was the “hollow cut silhouette”, in which the profiled image was cut from the paper and black material (silk, paper, etc.) was placed behind the empty space to reveal the image. Another more detailed technique was the painted silhouette, in which the artist would either trace or create the profile with oil paint or watercolours.

This silhouette of Robert Burns was created by John Wiers in 1787.

Because it was an inexpensive, easy, and relatively quick process, creating silhouettes became a popular party activity.   In fact, George III was fond of making silhouettes and threw elaborate “shade” parties.  Most cities – especially larger resort towns – had silhouette artists for hire.  One of the most-well known silhouette artists during the Regency was John Miers (1756-1821).  The majority of his career took place in London where, in his early years, he charged a guinea per silhouette. He was noted for his incredible speed and his infamous “three-minute sittings.” He, along with other professional silhouette artists, expanded the art form and created silhouettes on plaster, ivory, wax and glass. The most desirable silhouettes were drawn by hand (not traced) and often found their way onto jewelry and other valuable items.

If you would like to read more on this topic, be sure to check out this article by Linore Burkhard, a Regency Reflections blog contributor:  Rise of the Silhouette

Deal Me In ~ Taking a Seat at a Regency Card Table

Kristi here.

No matter the job or social class, people have always found ways to entertain themselves and have fun. Some people have more time to pursue these endeavors than others, but everyone must find the time to enjoy themselves or suffer potential emotional burnout.

It was no different in 19th century England. One pastime that crossed all class and social lines was cards. Men and women, elite and servant, shopkeeper and soldier – all were known to deal in a hand from time to time.

Peasants playing cards on a barrel
Norbert van Bloemen , wikimedia commons

Most of the games involved an element of gambling, using poker chip-like markers to place and collect bets. These were called fish, though by this time they didn’t always look like fish. (You can see pictures and learn more about gaming fish here.)

Were you to sit down at a table with your favorite Regency heroine, the cards would be similar enough to modern decks that you would have little trouble figuring out what was in your hand. You would have to do a bit more counting though, as the corner indexes didn’t appear until later in the 19th century. During the Regency cards simply had the needed number of emblems, requiring frequent counting to ensure the card’s number.

Venetian deck of cards
Venetian playing cards (from Wikimedia commons).In the suit of Coins. English decks contained the four modern day suits.

You might even recognize one or two of the games being played at the Regency card table.

Vingt-et-un is still played in every casino around the country, though in America it is commonly referred to as Twenty-one or Blackjack.

Cribbage was well established by this time. Rules have shifted and adjusted over the years, but the game was largely the same, including the peg board.

Whist is a game found frequently in Regency-based novels. A precursor to today’s game of Bridge, Whist is played by two pairs of partners and was more of a gentleman’s game, though the ladies were known to play it as well.

Two well-heeled ladies play a game of cards
via Wikimedia Commons

Cards were such a ubiquitous enjoyment that parties and social gatherings were formed around the versatile game apparatus. When many people wished to play together, they played “round” games. These could, theoretically, be played by any number of people, so were excellent for parties and generally allowed for more camaraderie among the participants than the more serious and structured games, such as Whist.

Many of the “round” games seemed to derive from the French game Loo. Players had to pay into the pool in order to participate. Everyone would then be dealt a hand of cards (either three or five cards each, depending on the version.) Each person that won a trick would get a proportionate share of the pool.

Cards during the early 19th century did not yet bear the intricate patterned backs we are used to today, instead they were plain white, lending themselves to card marking and cheating, even inadvertently, with slight smudges and markings.

The wealthy would provide packs of brand new, government sealed playing cards when they had guests over. The less affluent made do with the cleanest deck they had available.

While today’s card backs bear everything from red and blue swirls to pictures of sports teams or even our own families, one thing remains the same. Even the barest of game cabinets is likely to contain a deck of cards.

So break open a pack and take yourself back to Regency England. Don’t worry if you don’t have anyone to play with. Deal out a regular game of solitaire and tell yourself you’re playing Patience.