Most Regency gentlemen and ladies were members of the Church of England, so most of them would – in some form, at least – have celebrated Lent, the forty days of fasting and repentance that are traditionally observed before Easter.
I love Lent. I rarely enjoy Lent. But I do love it. It is such a good tool in God’s hands. I always learn, I always grow. But I often learn more from the places where I fail than the places where I succeed.
I sometimes think the purpose of fasting is to make it clear to us what sinners we really are. Not in a defeating, accusing way (the way the Enemy would), but more the way tiredness reveals the two-year-old-ness of two-year-olds. In Lent, the voice you hear isn’t the diabolical, “well what did you think you were, you scum?” but the Fatherly, “you really are tired, aren’t you, small one? Come and rest.”
As C. S. Lewis once pointed out, our good moods often aren’t, as we’d like to suppose, evidence of our virtue, but evidence of our full bellies and our good health. Take away food or health or rest and you can see how weak you really are. But fasting, in its orderliness, reveals our weakness to us in a way we can stand. It doesn’t destroy us because it is intrinsically linked to prayer, and so as soon as our weakness is revealed, there we are in the presence of our Father. And there our weakness isn’t despair, it’s joy, because He is ever ready to supply our lack. Praise God!
To write an historical romance, it sometimes is necessary to feed your characters (can’t let them starve now, can we?), which means researching food from the time period is just as important as other aspects of research.
While researching for my regency Christmas ebook, I discovered that transposing period recipes from Georgian or Regency cookbooks is a challenge. For one thing, cooks of the day didn’t usually measure their ingredients in the traditional sense. Recipes called for “a large haunch of venison,” or, “one fowl, good for a supper.” Then, ingredients might be listed as, “one good spoon of mace,” or “a quick handful of oats,” and so on.
Also, they had no thermostats for their ovens which were often merely described as “a hot fire,” or “a moderate oven.” As adventurous as I am at times in my kitchen, I hesitate to spend time trying something that might not work. I like the tried and true when it comes to recipes. (When things go wrong–as as they occasionally do in my cooking, at least I know I’m the one to blame!)
Thankfully, there are cookbooks out there today with modernized recipes from the past. I still enjoy looking through the older ones with their “hot fires” and “handfuls” of flour, however. They did things, despite the lack of modern conveniences, on a surprisingly grander scale. They arranged dinners in courses (if the family could afford to) and used meats that we would consider exotic today.
A typical meal would easily find four or five sources of protein on the menu, served in courses, sometimes with multiple meats in one course. Rabbit, venison, pheasant, grouse, and even partridge were not unusual entrees. Duck, goose, quail and wild turkey were also game (couldn’t resist). Dishes were arranged on the table according to how important they were. “Middles” were the main dishes, while “sides” were, well, you know. We still call them sides.
I usually make two, sometimes three sides for my family. During the regency, the well-to-do dinner table would have a few with each course! No wonder they needed to employ a kitchen staff.
I confess I’ve had grand plans to join the ranks of the kitchen experimenters who try and cook up the old-fashioned recipes. “Plans” is the operative word. I can enjoy a good day in the kitchen, really, especially for baking, but with a family to feed, I have little time to spend just “experimenting.” In the spirit of modern-day ease, therefore, I offer here a recipe for “fowl” anyone can do. You can squirrel it away (hmmm, I wonder if they ate squirrel back then, too?) for your next lavish holiday table. It has the atmosphere of olde England about it, as it’s traditional for Christmas, but works for today’s ovens–and measuring spoons!
Wild Goose Chase
1 cup dried apricots, halved
2 cups dried prunes, halved
1/2 cup Madeira wine
1 Goose (12 pounds)
Juice of 1 orange
2 tart apples, such as Granny Smith
Grated zest of 1 orange
salt and pepper to taste
8 slices bacon
1 1/4 cups Wild Goose Sauce (recipe below)
Place apricots and prunes in a mixing bowl. Add Madeira. Mix and set aside. Preheat oven to 325 F. Rinse goose and pat dry. Prick all over with a fork. Rub inside and out with the orange juice. Add apples and orange zest to apricots and prunes. Sprinkle goose inside and out with salt, pepper and paprika. Stuff cavity with fruit. Skewer opening closed. Lay bacon slices across breast. Place goose, breast side up, in a shallow roasting pan. Roast for 1 1/2 hours, removing accumulated fat every 30 minutes (there will be a lot). Remove bacon and roast for 1 hour more, removing fat after 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Let stand 20 minutes before carving.
Wild Goose Sauce
2 green onions, chopped
3/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup Madeira wine
1 tablespoon peppercorns, slightly crushed
1 teaspoon cornstarch
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Scrape brown pan drippings from roast into saucepan. Add green onions, 1/2 cup of the chicken stock (saving 1/4 cup), Madeira and peppercorns. Simmer 5 minutes. Mix cornstarch with remaining 1/4 cup stock until smooth. Slowly drizzle into sauce, stirring rapidly. Add salt and pepper. Stir, simmer 5 minutes. Serve over goose.
Have you ever made goose for your family? How did it turn out? I tried it once and there really is a TON of fat that must be removed during cooking. We enjoyed the roast, however. What about you? If not goose, did you try some other meat or other old-fashioned recipe that is unusual? Tell us about it; we’d love to know about your experience!
Linore. Recipe from Regency House Christmas: The Definitive Guide to a Remarkably Regency Yuletide by Linore Rose Burkard
It’s 1813 and all Phoebe Lee wants out of life is to practice midwifery in Loudon County, Virginia. When Belinda, her pregnant sister-in-law, presses Phoebe to accompany her onto a British privateer in order to cross the Atlantic and save her husband from an English prison, Phoebe tries to refuse, then finds herself kidnapped.
Captain Rafe Docherty is a man in search of revenge. His ship is no place for women, but he needs Belinda in order to obtain information about the man who destroyed his family and his life. Between Belinda’s whining and Phoebe’s hostility, Rafe can’t help but wonder if he made the right choice. When it becomes apparent there is an enemy among them on the ship, the stakes are raised. Will they reach the English shore in time? Can love and forgiveness overcome vengeance?
It seems like every time I’ve turned around over the past year, I’ve been hearing bits and pieces about this book. Before reading it, I knew several things: the hero was a bad boy on a dangerous mission, the heroine was a headstrong midwife, and they went to sea.
Well, the story proved to be much more than a bad boy meets a good girl and they live happily ever after. “Sweeping” is the best word I can think of to describe it. It starts off in Virginia, where the heroine heads to sea against her will and due to the scheming of a cruel sister-in-law. From Virginia, Phoebe’s whisked away to Bermuda, then England, and even France. Despite the wide scope of geography covered in the novel, Eakes does a masterful job creating mood and setting. I felt like I was personally visiting every country she described and living through the War of 1812. Eakes understanding of the American, British, and Scottish mindsets is nothing short of amazing.
Furthermore, the characters of Rafe and Phoebe are richly drawn. Neither is perfect, both make mistakes, and both struggle along the path to forgiveness and redemption. They have so much to overcome both physically and emotionally, that at times I wondered if they would ever make it. But they DID make it, and it’s a wonderful story readers won’t soon forget.
So while the book doesn’t qualify as a Regency in the strict sense, Regency fans will likely enjoy this wide-range historical novel. I recommend picking up a copy soon.
The only thing more enjoyable than having a good hobby is having two good hobbies – and being able to indulge them both at the same time. That’s why I was so excited when I first got a glimpse of Interweave Knits’ special issue “Jane Austen Knits”. Regency history and needlecraft? The combination was as enticing as chocolate and coffee. (Some things are just made to go together.) But does “Jane Austen Knits” live up to its promise?
If you’re more a history buff than a knitter, this is where you’ll find the meat of the publication. The magazine includes 8 articles and essays, ranging from the scholarly (“The Mighty Muslin” and “Regency Fashion in Color”) to the journalistic (like the profile of a woman who sells sewing patterns for Regency-era clothing).
My favorite of the articles is the essay that graces the last page of the publication: “Jane Austen, Multitasker” by Rebecca Dickson. It’s a loving profile of Austen herself, highlighting her work ethic both in her writing and in her needlecraft. Austen’s example is an encouragement to any woman trying to pursue a dream while also handling the mundane details of life.
This magazine contains a generous 36 patterns, and they’re all beautifully photographed. Instead of trying to reproduce period-accurate clothing, the patterns are instead simply inspired by Austen’s work, taking Regency details and translating them into wearable modern clothing.
Despite this modernization, I can certainly see Georgiana Darcy wearing her namesake shawlette, a gorgeous lace affair, or Elizabeth Bennet carrying the Diamond and Cross Reticule to a ball a Netherfield. More modern patterns include the sleek Elinor Tunic, and the exquisitely detailed Lambton Top and Fiori Pullover. Most of the rest of the patterns fall somewhere between the sensibilities of the 1800s and those of today.
On my own to-knit list? The simple Short Stays vest, the Woodhouse Spencer and, someday, when my knitting skills improve, the jaw-droppingly gorgeous Meryton Coat, a beautifully stranded jacket inspired by the military uniforms of the era.
So, did “Jane Austen Knits” fulfill my hopes for a publication that promised to combine two of my favorite hobbies? Emphatically, yes. And, if you share my love of knitting and of Regency history, I’m happy to point out that it’s now on sale over at Interweave. I should also note: I bought my own copy of this magazine and haven’t been compensated for this review in any way. All opinions in this post are my own.
Ah, Spring. When a young American man’s fancy turns to brackets and basketballs and he is likely to put more consideration into picking which college to root for than he did selecting which college to attend. There’s a reason it’s called March Madness.
Kristi here, and the fascination with sports is not a new one. The Regency era saw a culture on the cusp of the organized sporting events. While many games remained unofficial skirmishes, there were several championship challenges emerging by the beginning of the Victorian era. And of course, all of them got gambled on.
Royal Ascot – Horse Racing
In 1711, Queen Anne acquired land near Ascot in which to hold horse races. The first race had a purse of 100 guineas. By 1813, races at Ascot were such a part of the fabric of England that Parliament stepped in, passing an act to ensure the racing grounds remained a public racecourse.
Prinny, the future King George IV, made Ascot one of the most fashionable social occasions of the year. After ascending to the throne, he had a new stand built for the exclusive use of guests of the royal family. The Royal Enclosure still exists today and admittance to it is very difficult to obtain.
The Royal Ascot was, and still is, a four day event. It was the only racing event held at the racecourse during the 19th century. England’s elite would gather to watch horses above the age of six barrel through the course in pursuit of the Gold Cup.
The grandeur of the original races continues today in the strict dress code requiring formal day dresses and those infamous hats for the attending ladies. Men must still wear the morning suits and top hats as a nod to the Regency era.
During the early 1800s, fashion was always important to the upper class and the Royal Ascot was certainly no exception. The importance of dressing right for the races even lent its name to the traditional wide morning tie, now known as an Ascot Tie.
The Royal Ascot takes place in June, one of the last hurrahs of Spring Season.
Players Vs Gentlemen – Cricket
This amateur against professional game of cricket actually skipped over the true Regency. It began in 1806, disappeared for a while, and then re-established as a yearly tradition in 1819. It remained in place until 1962 where is phased out again only to be revived in recent years, with matches in 2010 and 2011.
At the time of conception the Gentlemen, or amateurs, were largely aristocratic men who had played during their school years. The Players were professionals, paid to play by various county cricket clubs.
Unlike professional athletes of today, the professionals weren’t hired to play each other but rather to play the gentlemen that were members of the cricket clubs. Rather like a tennis pro or golf pro at a modern day country club.
The game lasted for three days and usually took place at Lord’s. Not including the most recent matches, the Players had 125 wins to the Gentlemen’s 68. Today the Players are professional athletes from England’s competitive cricket circuit and the Gentlemen tend to be pulled from the University cricket teams.
Intercollegiate Sports – The Boat Race
Colleges had always prized physical skill in addition to mental learning, but it wasn’t until the early Victorian era that they began to officially meet each other on the playing field. Prior to this point, most collegiate athletic competitions were between houses within the college.
Cricket and Rowing competitions between Oxford and Cambridge both started in the 1820s.
The Boat Race, as it is still referred to today, began in 1829 and has had a tumultuous history ever since. It would be another twenty-five years before the race settled into being an annual event, but the spirit and drive that propels people from different schools to meet on the field, or river in this case, of athletic competition was alive and well during the Regency. Currently Cambridge is on top, with 80 wins to Oxford’s 76. This year’s race will be held in April.
What sports competitions do you get excited over? What was the last major sporting event you went to see?
Isn’t it wonderful that God gives us spring to follow cold, dreary winter? We are accustomed to spring coming. It happens every year at the same time. We don’t doubt it. We accept it. God promised as long as the earth remains we would have seed time, and harvest, summer, and winter.
We accept it because He has proven it for thousands of years. We know that we know. What would happen if we treated every problem in our lives with the same faith? It will come to pass because God says it will. Nothing happens to us that does not go through God’s hands first. If we are chosen to walk through a difficult place. We should realize that God knows our strengths and weaknesses and trusts that we will come through said place stronger. He will never put us in a place we cannot come out of victorious.
I once saw a mama dog take her litter of six puppies into a patch of tall grass and leave them. The mama dog came out of the tall grass and sat on our lawn watching the place she left them. The puppies cried and whined wanting her to come get them. She sat there waiting until they used the senses God gave them to pick up her scent and follow it back to safety. I am happy to say all the puppies made it out, AFTER they quit crying and whining.
God stretches and grows us to mold us in His image because He knows if we look, sound and act like Him, nothing can defeat us. When we go through the winters in our lives we have the promise that spring will come. Everything is cleaner and greener and bluer in spring. It is filled with new life and joy. One must realize that as wonderful as spring is, if we didn’t have the winter to keep the insect population down and the rains to replenish the earth we wouldn’t have the beautiful colors of spring to enjoy. If we look at our daily lives in the same way we will understand if it never rains we’ll never grow. Next time your life seems like winter will never end and the rains will never cease, remember Gods promise in Genesis 8:22. Winter will die and spring will be birthed without fail.
Every glass that is half empty is also half full. What matters is the way we see it. It is cold and rainy in the winter but the tiny seeds underneath the ground need it to grow. How many times have we unconsciously prayed on a rainy day, “Lord please let the rain stop.”? If we controlled the weather, would we ever let it rain? Unless we are having hot flashes, would we ever let an ice storm develop? I think I am very glad God hasn’t asked me to be in charge of the seasons. I am afraid my selfish love for spring would end up destroying the world He made.
For those of us immersed in the Regency time period, the year 1812 holds numerous significant incidents–incidents that set history on a course from the old world and into the new. Power changed hands in government and wars, the Industrial Revolution dug in its heels, and Great Britain, for all it became the most far-flung empire in history, began to receive its first glimpse of a shocking truth—they would not always rule the waves.
By 1811, few people denied that the king was permanently mad and could no longer be head of state. The Regency bill passed making his eldest son, also a George, the Prince Regent, or the head of the government. The king, however, still showed enough glimpses of restoration to health that “Prinney” didn’t assume full powers of his role until 1812.
A gamester and profligate spender, the Prince Regent was forever petitioning Parliament for money. This placed him in the power of Parliament and the role of royalty in actually running the government of the kingdom began to diminish.
While Prinney assumed his role as head of Great Britain, a man known as Captain Ludd assumed a different kind of leadership role mostly in the north. The Luddite Rebellion fills books it is such a complex subject, a small war that ultimately took soldiers into Nottingham and York and Lancashire to put it down. Many men died.
The simplest way to explain the Luddite Rebellion is that the weavers, mostly those making stockings, couldn’t make a living. They usually had to rent their looms, the prices for their products were controlled, and they couldn’t change a thing. The Industrial Revolution was bringing in steam looms, machines that were too much competition. So the Luddites started smashing up looms and not letting people work. They sabotaged the industrial looms and spinning machines. Violence reigned powerfully for several months and took about a year to put down in full.
A way of life was coming to an end. The cottage industry of weaving with one or maybe three looms at home was no longer viable in a world quickly becoming mechanized through steam power.
May 11, 1812 saw a horrendous incident when a man stormed into Parliament and shot the prime minister in front of witnesses. Many thought this a French plot, but it was a disturbed individual who thought he hadn’t been served justly by the government. Although the consequences of this assassination weren’t to be known for many years, it brought in a different government that delayed necessary reforms in laws and taxation that would have happened sooner had Perceval lived.
On a brighter note, the war with France, that had been dragging on for nearly twenty years and not going all that well for Great Britain, finally took a turn for the better. Arthur Welsley, AKA Wellington, won the Battle of Salamanca in Spain and the tide was turning against the French at last. Of course, Napoleon didn’t help himself by invading Russia. Tremendously weakened his forces and, I think had a damaging psychological effect on the French people. The emperor was no longer invincible.
Finally for the purposes of this article, is the War of 1812, as we know it here in the United States. In England, it’s a blip on the radar, not even taught in advanced history classes. I once laid out some facts about it to a British friend who said I had to be mistaken. In no way could this fledgling country with about eighteen naval vessels, none great, have beaten down the most powerful maritime power the world had known.
But it happened. Great Britain was impressing our men because the war with France had so decimated their supply. On the smallest pretext, they boarded our ships and took away anyone they could pretend was really English and didn’t’ care about the rest. They also tried to tell us where and with whom we could trade. We said, Uh, no way, you don’t rule us any more, and did as we pleased. We declared war in June, which was kind of stupid of us rather like a domestic tabby taking on a Siberian tiger.
But we had our privateers. We built the best small, fast, and maneuverable vessels in the world. We armed them and ripped apart the British merchant fleet, taking hundreds of merchantmen until the merchants put pressure on Parliament and the United States signed the Treaty of Ghent on Christmas Eve 1814 and got everything we wanted, including the Northwest Territory. Interestingly, we didn’t win a single land battle, most of them in Michigan and Canada. Not to mention the British burned our national capital.
Britain faced the fact that she could be defeated on the high seas. Although we had a long way to go to be as powerful as England in the maritime realm, we showed our claws and made this powerful nation back down. To be fair to Great Britain, they were a bit preoccupied with France.
The Regency is a fascinating turning point in history. 1812 may have the most collective number of those turns of any year of this short but significant time period.
I can wax on about the lovely aspects of the Regency era and the fiction it has spawned, but to reign in my thoughts, I’ll limit my reflections to four elements, each beginning with a letter of LOVE.
L … The Language is delightful. Where else can you read such bits of “slang” as charming as the cant of the Regency? Aren’t there a few celebrities today about whom it could be said “She has more hair than wit”? Referring to someone as “attics to let” wouldn’t be kind, but it is a rather smile-provoking turn-of-phrase. I’ll leave this topic with one more of my favorites: “Stepping into parson’s mousetrap”, which reflects some gentlemen’s views on marriage.
O … Society had Order and structure which is lacking today. When’s the last time most of us had an “at-home day” upon which your friends knew you’d be at home and expecting visits. Have you gone to a tea, musicale, ball, or garden party of late? The fascinating protocol of hosting, attending, making guest lists, sending invitations, and subtle gradations of how deep one shall bow or curtsey; these bygone rules are distinct and keep our interest.
V … Feminine Virtue was the order of the day. The unmarried maiden’s virtue was carefully guarded, so as to bring a pure virgin to the marriage altar. This virtue is sadly absent today, and reading about a day in which purity was guarded can be an inspiration. Reading Christian Regency fiction allows one to recapture the thrill of a first kiss, perhaps at the altar, without the seamy pages that follow in secular romances.
E … If you read for Escape, Regency England is a delightful place to visit. Most of us will never make it over to intriguing Bath, Brighton, or Tunbridge Wells. We won’t tread the ground of Northumberland, Sussex, or the like. But, ahh, flip open the typical Regency, and you’re transported to a lovely place and time, all bound within the pages of the book in your hands.
We are all familiar with Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Northanger Abbey – but did you know that Ms. Austen also wrote three prayers? Jane likely penned her three prayers as “evening prayers,” intending them to be read aloud. Let’s take a look:
JANE AUSTEN’S FIRST PRAYER (Abridged version. The full text can be read here.)
Give us grace almighty father, so to pray, as to deserve to be heard, to address thee with our hearts, as with our lips. Thou art everywhere present, from thee no secret can be hid. May the knowledge of this, teach us to fix our thoughts on thee, with reverence and devotion that we pray not in vain.
May we now, and on each return of night, consider how the past day has been spent by us, what have been our prevailing thoughts, words and actions during it, and how far we can acquit ourselves of evil.
Have we thought irreverently of thee, have we disobeyed thy commandments, have we neglected any known duty, or willingly given pain to any human being? Incline us to ask our hearts these questions oh! God, to save us from deceiving ourselves by pride or vanity.
Give us a thankful sense of the blessings in which we live, of the many comforts of our lot; that we may not deserve to lose them by discontent or indifference. Hear us almighty God, for his sake who has redeemed us, and taught us thus to pray. Amen.
Isn’t that beautiful? This prayer holds true to Austen’s moving and articulate style and offers wonderful insight to the types of prayers spoken during the Regency. It is important, however, to remember that while the words themselves are indeed lovely, it is not the eloquence of the words that is pleasing to God – it is the attitude with which the prayer is spoken.
You see, prayer is an outpouring of faith, and we pray to strengthen our relationship with God. And how do you strengthen relationships? By sharing your dreams, fears, and desires. God is faithful to hear our prayers, and even if we do not always have the perfect words, God knows our hearts. So I challenge you: Find somewhere quiet where you can be alone with God and have a conversation. Share your heart with Him, and listen for what He has to say.
What is real romance? Is it roses and chocolates, Diamonds and furs? Does the more money he spends on you measure how much he loves you?
I remember back in the beginning of my marriage I just wanted my husband to give me thoughtful gifts. He hated buying for me because he didn’t think he could please me. He couldn’t understand I only wanted him to put some thought in the selection. I love to give gifts. Buying just the right gift for my family and friends is a joy for me. For others like my husband it is a hated chore.
I told my husband more than once Roses are nice but it would mean more to me if you picked me wild flowers. I spent a lot of frustrated years trying to get him to understand it’s not the gift, it’s the thought behind it.
In the early days of our marriage Western clothes and accessories were in. (Dating myself here). We had just left a western store filled with beautiful clothes and jewelry. He was complaining about not knowing what to get me for Christmas. I told him, “Anything you pick out for me in this store I will love.” Can you see my mistake? I couldn’t wait for Christmas. Imagine my surprise when I opened the box with the western store’s logo and found, not a long flowing white skirt to wear with my boots or a set of silver earrings with a bracelet to match, but a belt buckle with my initial on it. I tried not to let him see my disappointment because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. I am sure you all have similar stories.
I am happy to say it only took twenty years to finally make him understand. For years I got roses for Valentine’s Day or my Birthday. They were nice, but where’s the thought in that? Then one year in October on my birthday I came home from work to find Black Eyed Susan petals (my very own special birthday flowers from God every year) scattered in a path from my front door to the kitchen table leading to a mason jar filled with a bouquet of the yellow flowers. It didn’t matter I had to clean up the twigs and leaves scattered over the floor. It was the best birthday ever and he was so proud of himself.
For Christmas that year he stayed on a roll. He bought me a sleeping bag. Don’t laugh. It was neon green, my favorite color. So far that is the best Christmas gift I’ve received from him. He has bought me diamonds and roses and many other expensive gifts over the years and I do love them but the most romantic memories will always be of scattered petals and a bright green sleeping bag, because he finally stepped out of his comfort zone and thought to himself, I think she’ll like this.
Images courtesy of morguefile.com. No attribution required.