More about Flowers

I really enjoyed Laurie Alice’s post on flowers in regency England in springtime. It dovetails well with the post I’ve been thinking about, which is on the meanings and legends of common flowers during both the regency and Victorian eras in Britain.

May Flowers in a Teacup
Forget-me-nots and white lilacs in spring

The forget-me-not, a common flower in regency gardens was called by Coleridge “blue and bright-eyed flower of the brook.” It’s official name “myosotis” actually means the not-so-romantic “mouse ear,” so named because of the shape of its leaves.

A German legend has it that a knight fell into a swift stream while picking the forget-me-not for his lady. He had only time to toss it to her and cry, “Forget-me-not!” before he was swept away. British king Henry IV chose it as one of his emblems, and it was often embroidered on the king’s robes.

It was not until the regency that it became a garden flower.

2012plants 031
Foxglove in a Maine garden

Ever wonder why foxgloves are called by that name? Digitalis, the official name, is not nearly as descriptive. The old English name of foxes-glofa means foxes’ gloves. The fable is that foxes were hunted for their tails, which were considered amulets against the snares of the devil. In order to hang onto their furry brushes, they appealed to the gods for help, who gave them bells to hide in the fields. The bells would sound a warning when hunters were about and become silent when the coast was clear.

All that ducking and dodging the hunters had given the foxes rough paws, so that when they went hunting in the chicken coops, the chickens would squawk when seized by them. This time the fairies gave the foxes gloves to cover their paws with, and these became known as fox gloves.

Digitalis, which the leaves yield, is a recognized heart stimulant, which was used by American Indians before it became known in Europe. It is also a poison, so it was only used externally by Europeans until the 18th century. It then began to be used in the treatment of fevers, insanity and heart disease.

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Red roses in a park in Brooklyn in June

Roses cultivated in Europe before 1800 are usually referred to as “old roses.” Not until 1792 when a rose from China was introduced into Europe did any of them bloom more than once a year. (The only occasional exception was the Damascus). Rose water was used for cooking. Vanilla supplanted it as a flavoring extract in the 17th century. Rose oil, rose water and rose petals continued in British pharmacopoeias but more and more for use in cosmetics. Attar of roses, the essential oil, took 60,000 roses to make one ounce!

One of the earlier spring flowers, the pansy, goes by many names including “Kiss-Me-Quick” and “Johnny-Jump-Up.” The word pansy is derived from the French penser, to think, which is why Ophelia said “Pansies, that’s for thoughts.” Legend had it that to pick one with the dew upon it would cause the death of a loved one. If picked on a fair day, it would rain before night. Pansy juice squeezed on the lids of a sleeper would cause her to fall in love with the first person she saw on awaking, as Titania discovered in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Axtell_final
A Heart’s Rebellion, London Encounters #2

The hero of my upcoming regency, A Heart’s Rebellion, is an amateur botanist, so he will usually refer to a flower by its official name. The system of classifying plants into genus and species was still a new science in the regency era. The heroine’s name, Jessamine, is a form of jasmine, which the hero is fond of calling by its official name, Gelsemium sempervirens.

Bibliography: Flower Fables by Geraldine E. Nicholson, Mid-America Publishing Corp., Kansas City, Missouri

 

A Walk Through a Botanical Garden in A Heart’s Rebellion

Since most of us in cold climates are thinking spring, I thought I’d take you on a tour of a botanical garden near London, just as my heroine, Jessamine Barry, does about two-thirds of the way through the story.
The hero, Lancelot Marfleet is an avid botanist and he wants nothing better than to invite the woman of his dreams, Jessamine, to view the exotic specimens in the botanical gardens. He knows her father is an amateur botanist, so he hopes Jessamine shares a love of plants and flowers.

paeonia moutan
The botanical gardens in London during the regency period were the largest in the world at the time. Plants had been brought back from all corners of the globe by renowned explorers and botanists such as Sir Joseph Banks on his exploration with Captain Cook. One of the plants introduced to Europe by Banks was the peony, a native bush of China. Lancelot shows Jessamine a specimen, because he knows her father is an avid peony enthusiast.

 

Hydrangea
Woodblock print, ‘Hydrangeas’ by Sakai Ōho (1808-1841)
Victoria and Albert Museum
strelitzia
Strelitzia reginae from the Botanists Repository by Henry Charles Andrews

 

Next, Lancelot leads her to an ornamental bush brought over from Japan by Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in the late 1780s, the common bush we know as the hydrangea, or in Lancelot’s terminology, Hydrangea hortensis.

 

 

 

He then shows her an exotic flower brought back by Banks’ trip to the Pacific with Captain Cook. It looks like a waterbird ready to take flight, Jessamine tells him. Appropriately names Bird of Paradise, or Strelitzia reginae, she is properly impressed.

 

 

 

571-3014
Jasminum, William Farquhar Collection (1819-1823)

But it’s when they walk through the hothouses that things heat up (pun intended). Lancelot leads Jessamine toward a very special flower to him, the jasmine, for which her father named her. It’s a vine with a small, white star-like flower with a heady scent. Being so near it causes him to lose his head.

But you’ll have to read the book to find out what he does and how she reacts!

To celebrate the release of A Heart’s Rebellion, I’m giving away two copies of my book. The second giveaway will end Monday, March 31 at midnight. To enter this week’s giveaway, answer this question in the comments below:

What is a famous botanical garden in London, which existed in regency times (which is where Lancelot takes Jessamine)?

Thanks for stopping by Regency Reflections for our Spring Release Extravaganza! Make sure to visit throughout the month of April to read about the other regency books coming out and have a chance at some great prizes.

Ruth Axtell

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

Kristi here. Has your winter been insane? Mine certainly has. In a single week in February, we had an ice/snow storm, a sunny 70 degree afternoon, and even felt the minor tremors of an earthquake. The ice and snow has definitely been the biggest surprise of this winter. Multiple crippling freezes have crossed this country, two reaching deep into the south.

Sail Tents on the ice during the frost fairThe ramifications of cold weather were l to the people of Regency England. 1816 is even famously known as the year without a summer. However, it was 200 years ago in February 1814 that the last of the great Frost Fairs occurred on the great Thames River.

It wasn’t the first time the Thames River froze over. Indeed it happened more than twenty times since 1309. This was, however, the last time. The replacement of London Bridge in 1831 and Victorian addition of the Embankment improved the water flow to the extent that a solid freeze hasn’t happened again and is highly unlikely to do so.

With the city pulled to a halt by the bitter cold and drifting snow, people were drawn to the novelty of solid ice, allowing them to walk and play where boats usually reigned. A thoroughfare of sailing vessels, to the tune of 1500 a day, brought to a halt by Mother Nature.

Among the frivolities included in the 1814 Frost Fair were:

–          An elephant crossing the river, demonstrating the thickness and security of the ice near Blackfriars Bridge.

–          A printing press set up on the ice, churning out commemorative books about the fair

–          Food and drink vendors galore and impromptu bars created with ship sails

–          Fires built right on the ice, with large oxen roasting over them

–          Ice skating, bowling, and every other game or sport imaginable

Everything was not all light and smiles, though.

Frost Fair on the Thames with London Bridge in the background.
Frost Fair on the Thames with London Bridge in the background.

With no way to earn their keep on the river, dock workers and ferrymen took to guarding the stairs and ladders that led to the icy surface, charging people a toll to attend the fair and then collecting a penny again when they wanted to leave. Pickpockets took advantage of all the slipping and sliding and drunken frivolity.

The party lasted four days. When the ice began to crack, it proved fatal for some of the final revelers. It also sent huge chunks of ice floating down the river, crashing into barges and doing thousands of pounds in damage.

Four short days, but they were legendary ones. There’s even a reference in Doctor Who, when The Doctor and River visit it for an ice skating outing (A Good Man Goes to War).  In some ways the fair marked the coming end of an era. As the Regency ended and the Victorian age began, life in England would alter considerably. Transportation, engineering, social habits, and opportunities would all change.

Never again would everything align perfectly to create such a unique experience as the Thames Frost Fair.

Have you had unique experiences with snow and ice this year? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Regency Research

I have been editing and proofreading a manuscript I published some years ago, to which I have recently received the publisher’s rights back. I am going over the story in order to self-publish it as an e-book on Amazon. What strikes me about rereading a story written a while ago is how much research goes into writing a regency—or any historical, for that matter. When one is in the process of writing it, one takes this for granted. But when you read it long afterward, it’s enough to make you shake your head. Did I really know all that stuff?

In this story, which takes place in London ballrooms, a country estate, and on the U.S. frontier of Maine, I had to research both the social mores of regency society, the low-class pastimes of regency rakes (cockfighting, gambling, etc.), the sports that the athletic sorts– aka Corinthians–indulged in, before turning to the fledgling settlements of “the Maine Territory,” and the wealth being generated from its pine forests.

So, you can see that a whole range of information was needed in order to build the framework for the love story between my hero and heroine.

Take the gambling game of faro, for example. I’d read enough Georgette Heyer regencies to be somewhat familiar with the game, but I never knew until I researched it that it was played on a board, upon which the cards were laid out like so:

Farolayout
Layout of a Faro Board. Source: Wikipedia

I was fortunate to be able to take a trip to England during the researching of this book. Not only did I visit the London Museum, which has a wealth of information and artifacts on everyday life in the city over the centuries, but I also discovered a wonderful mansion not too far outside of London. This estate served as a model for the setting of a house party in my story. I was able to tour the rooms and grounds and get the layout for my hero and heroine’s stay at a fictionalized version of Osterley Park. As I walked the area, my plot grew.

Osterley_Park_House,_London-25June2009-rc
Osterley Park House, London. Source: Wikipedia

Lastly I needed to research the city of Bangor, Maine and the logging industry of 1815, before Maine had its statehood. It was still a part of Massachusetts and known as the Maine Territory. But following the War of 1812, those involved in the lumber industry were making a sizable profit cutting down the majestic pine trees of the Maine forests and selling them for ship masts, lumber, and shingles both to Europe and to the American cities farther south. My plot advanced as I imagined my hero going from the ballrooms of London to the rough lumber camps of the Maine woods in winter, then risking his neck on a river drive in spring as the picture below depicts:

lumbermen
Selections from Picturesque Canada, An Affectionate Look Back, Sketch no. 40, 1882-85, Pandora Publishing Company, Victoria, B.C.

Of course my hero is a former soldier, who survived the Battle of Waterloo, so he is used to danger. But as a Redcoat among Yankees, he must face many challenges before being accepted into the ranks of the lumbermen. All for the sake of winning the girl.

I hope those who read the updated version of A Rogue’s Redemption will enjoy both the historical detail as well as the timeless love story.

 

 

The First Signs of Autumn

Vanessa here,

I stepped out on my porch to a slight breeze. The air kissing my cheek had abandoned all hints of Atlanta’s signature heat. After a summer of mostly Seattle like-weather full of rain or horrid humidity, I looked up to spy rain clouds. Nothing. Only sunshine beamed overhead. I guess summer has passed. It’s autumn’s turn to color my world.

And what colors! Soon reds, yellows, oranges will surround the deep emerald greens of my evergreens.

Fall Leaves Wiki Commons
Fall Leaves Wiki Commons

In Madeline’s Protector, I used the change to warm-coloured, cozy Autumn to contrast the hero and heroine’s chilly relationship.

     If Madeline’s eyes were daggers, she’d be a widow.

“I suppose you won’t show me your hall of Hampshire sculptures.”

Her lovely jade eyes clouded, and she looked away.

He balled up his leather evening gloves. “Pray let’s start over.”

She gazed at her dainty slippers. “Why? Are you afraid to disappoint my father?”

Now that strike hit close to home. “I like to pass tests. That’s what my father impressed upon me.” Justain swallowed a deep breath. “What will it take to restore your opinion?”

She stuck her chin in the air. “To get this visit over as soon as possible.”

He peered through the window. “The leaves are starting to turn. I hope the good folks of this county take the time to admire the colours. The hillside’s striated in three shades of red. This is stunning country, not the moors of Devon, but beautiful.”

“Why are you tormenting me with a place I’ll never see?” She released a heavy sigh. “The tree roots cling to different sections of the steep ridge adding to the variety. Watch the sunset.” She pointed to the clouds. “Sometimes the sky tries to match the hues of autumn.”

Perhaps as the sun came closer to earth, it’d thaw the frost between them. “Magnificent,” he said. It was simply beautiful. “God’s paintbrush, I think you called it.”

I asked my brethren, my fellow Regency writers, what lets them know Autumn has arrived, and they were kind enough to share:

Naomi Rawlings

Trees - Wiki Commons
Trees – Wiki Commons

The first sign of autumn for me is the leaves changing. We almost always have cool
nights and warm days where we live, but it seems as though the leaves start
changing the beginning of September. Right now, half the leaves across the road
are already yellow. School starting is another good indication. In Michigan,
school doesn’t start until after Labor Day . . . right about the time I notice
the first bit of color on the trees.

Personal Note: Why does school start so early? Back in my day….
Susan Karsten

For my family, fall arrives on the heels of an interesting weather phenomenon. Almost every year, there’s a day on which we feel fall arriving. The scenario is this: we’ve had week after week of hot (80s or more) weather, then we’ll have an out of the blue cold/cool day. Sometimes the cool day has come while we are at the lake. On those occasions, we somberly ride around on our boat, feeling summer slip away and remarking on it.

Boating in Autumn Wiki Commons
Boating in Autumn Wiki Commons

For me, individually, fall arrives when I notice crunching leaves underfoot. That takes me back to the days when I walked to and from school, crunching through elm leaves. Other signs around here are the apple orchards opening their salesrooms, the Canada geese assembling at the nearby wetlands, and for my husband’s business, there’s often a flurry of activity in the real estate business around this time.

Apple Orchard - Wiki Commons
Apple Orchard – Wiki Commons

Kristy Cambron

The first sign of fall for me is not Regency
related. I admit that I love a good college football game and when my team takes the field for that first game, autumn is officially here! It’s okay to
break out the sweaters, drink apple cider, and write books where heroines walk through a fiery-skied and leaf-blown twilight! : )

 

 

 

Laurie Alice Eakes

Autumn is one of my favorite times of year. Only one of my books is set over the summer, to autumn time, and they, as I do, look for the way the days cool off sooner and get hot later, especially since I moved to Texas. I love the way the breeze goes from hot, to a hint of coolness. Back in Virginia, the humidity dropped and the smell of the air turned crisp. I haven’t yet noticed a difference in the fragrance to the air here (in Texas).

Kristi Ann Hunter

Happy Birthday Wiki Commons
Happy Birthday Wiki Commons

For me, the first sign of fall is a sense of new beginning. I moved around a lot growing up so when the weather turned cold always changed, but the new start was always there.

Even though I’m out of school there is still a sense of the new year actually starting in September. Could possibly maybe have something to do with my birthday…

 

 

 

Do you love Autumn? Share an Autumn memory with us, then get out and enjoy the colors.

Birds of a Feather

Vanessa here,

When I am reading about a heroine lost or frolicking in the woods, I love when an author surrounds me in the sights and the sounds of the wilderness. Yet, nothing can pull me out of this setting quicker than the majestic description of birds or flora… that wasn’t native to Regency England or worse not possible to be in the landscape because of the time of year.

Excuses

But Vanessa, I’m world-building.  Yes, that’s nice and freaks of nature do occur, but careless research or non-research is not world-building.  Alas, it shouldn’t be.

Nonetheless, Vanessa how would anyone know? A bird’s a bird and the 1800’s was a long time ago. Yes, but there are resources that can help.  The best place to start is the Time’s Telescope, a magazine circulated during the Regency.

 

Time's Telescope, 1817
Time’s Telescope, 1817

From the Time’s Telescope a section called the Naturalist’s Diary details the weather, indigenous plantings, and of course fowls in the air.

September Birds

In Regency England, September begins the transition to autumn and with it a change in vegetation and fowl.

“How sweetly nature strikes the ravished eye Through the fine veil, with which she oft conceals her charms in part, as conscious of decay! September is, generally, accounted the finest and most settled month in the year. The mornings and evenings are cool, but possess a delightful freshness, while the middle of, the day is pleasantly warm and open.” – from the Time’s Telescope

What birds are available during the month of September, well in 1817?

“Partridges (tetrao perdix) are in great plenty at this season of the year: they are chiefly found in temperate climates, but nowhere in such abundance as in England. Partridges pair early in the spring: about the month of May, the female lays from fourteen to eighteen or twenty eggs.”

The Crested Partridge
The Crested Partridge From Wiki-Commons

Partridge are a short-tailed game birds, which are part of the pheasant family. Their feathers are primarily brown in colour.

“The sea- stork’s bill (erodium maritimum), on sandy shores.”

Sea storks are long necked birds, which are part of the crane family. They are typically heavy billed, large weighty birds with long necks and legs.

Sea Storks
Sea Storks  From Wiki-Commons

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The thrush, the blackbird, and the woodlark, are now conspicuous.”

Part of the Turdidae family, thrush are plump birds that often feed on the ground.  The blackbird is a black thrush and if you have five and twenty you can make a pie.  The woodlark is a short-tailed bird known for its melodious songs. It frolics in open grounds such as meadows rimmed with trees.

The Woodlark
The Woodlark Wiki-Commons
The Thrush
The Thrush Wiki-Commons
The Blackbird
The Blackbird Wiki-Commons

“The chimney or common swallow (hirundo rustica) disappears about the end of September.  The congregating flocks of swallows and martins on house tops, but principally upon the towers of churches on our coast, are very beautiful and amusing in this and the succeeding month.”

Swallows and martins are also part of the passerine family. Swallows have fork-tailed feathers and martins have squarer tails.

Swallow
The Swallow Wiki-Commons
Martins
Martins Wiki-Commons

“Many of the small billed birds that feed on insects disappear when the cold weather commences. The throstle, the red-wing, and the fieldfare, which migrated in March, now return; and the ring-ouzel.”

Throstle are part of the Turdidae family. The males are known for their airy melodic songs. Fieldfares are also Turdidaes. They often nest in colonies to protect themselves from predators. The male and female both feed the babies. The babies nest for a fortnight then are turned out. Can you see an author’s metaphor on this bird?

The Throstle
The Throstle Wiki-Commons
The Fieldfare
The Fieldfare  Wiki-Commons

Red-wing’s are blackbirds. The males are glossy black with bright red and yellow bands on their wings. The females are brown and often mistaken for sparrows. More metaphor ideas.

The Redwing Blackbird
The Red-wing Blackbird Wiki-Commons

Closing Thoughts

This is a little primer on the birds of September.  Nature was a big part of the Regency World, so I know I want to get it right. The Time’s Telescope is a great firsthand account of much more than birds. It’s also a good text on the natural surroundings of England. Many issues of the magazine are available in Google Books. When you read them, just be prepared for its folksy advice.

“All these birds feed upon berries, of which there is a plentiful supply, in our woods, during a great part of their stay. The throstle and the red-wing are delicate eating. ”

Nothing like good eats. I wonder if the author tried them in a pie?

Resources

  • All bird images are from Wiki-Commons.
  • Time’s Telescope