What in the Regency World is a Round Gown?

Susan Karsten here.  I love historic costumes, but am by no means an expert, even though I took the subject in college.  If you are at all like me (Regency fiction reader/fanatic), you’ve come across the archaic and forgotten term “round gown”. Again, if you are like me, you will take a mental guess what that might be, and move on, flipping pages as fast as you can read them.

Image result for round gowns are defined as

 

To the best of my research,  the round gown appears to be a pre-Regency style that hung on, or was used for day-wear even as fashion moved to a different silhouette. Marie Antoinette is said to have inspired the round gown, then a dress and robe joined together and tied in the front  Later came Josephine Bonaparte who ushered in the slim, high-waisted, gossamer thin chemise dress of the early 19th Century, that we think of first when we think of Regency dresses.

Back to the round gown, the Empire gown’s precursor. The round gown had a soft, round skirt silhouette, with full gatherings at a slightly raised waist, a train, and straight, elbow-length sleeves.  The round gown’s train, which was common for a short time for day wear and lasted until 1805-06 for the evening, would be pinned up for the dance, as mentioned in Austen’s Northanger Abbey. One shudders at the impracticality of these long white muslin dresses in England, a country renowned for wet weather and muddy roads.

So, when you encounter the term “round gown” in your favorite Regency fiction, think of probably a day dress, kept for wearing at home, and more modest than their evening counterparts. An earlier silhouette, and not in the first stare of fashion.

I so hope some of you will add to this description with more yummy details about the mysterious round gown.

What’s the Deal with Almack’s? by Susan Karsten

An exclusive venue, in the true meaning of the word “exclusive” (as in exclude!), Almack’s required membership fees (called subscriptions) and had a powerful doorkeeper.

Lady Jersey, a famous Almack's Patroness, via Wikimedia Commons
Lady Jersey, a famous Almack’s Patroness, via Wikimedia Commons

A committee of high-born ladies, known as patronesses, further added to the exclusivity factor. They controlled access to tickets and, therefore, who could enter the prized environs.

Though it cost money to get in, money alone didn’t guarantee entry, nor did birth status. Other factors considered were: wit, beauty, careful dressing, being a good dancer, or simply having good taste might tip the scales in your favor.

The despotic patronesses held weekly meetings to select attendees. Once “in”, there were still strict rules which had to be followed, or you risked being turned away. You must arrive on time, properly dressed.

Interior of Almack's via Wikimedia Commons
Interior of Almack’s via Wikimedia Commons

Six or seven patronesses ran Almack’s. Lady Jersey, daughter and wife of earls, was a chatterbox heiress, strictly maintained the cachet of the club. Lady Sefton, married to an earl, considered more amiable, was a renowned society hostess in her own right. Lady Cowper, know for her with, tact and affability, was known to smooth over quarrels. Formidable Lady Castlereagh, Icy Mrs. Drummond-Burrell, ruthless Countess Lieven, and spiteful Princess Esterhazy round out the committee.

It almost makes one not want to even try to gain entrance. Do you think you’d have made the cut? (fantasy here!)

London Lights, by Susan Karsten

How do you picture your Regency characters flitting about London by night? Until 1807, London went about by the feeble flicker of oil lamps.


Special interest groups fought against gaslight, fearing the loss of the whale-oil trade. The inflammatory Bill of 1816 (supportive of gas lighting) would also ruin the navy, the ropemakers, sailmakers, etc. etc. according to its opponents.

Yet gaslight did more for prevention of crime “than the days of Alfred the Great”. Lighting at night brought safety, but also enhanced the reputation of London as the City of Sin. “London Lights” was a slang term referring to the regency age’s gilded immorality.
Nightlife entertainments in London were hideously vulgar, and respectable citizens did not take their families out after dark to public venues. My source says the “flaring gaslight” was appropriate to the rough and tumble array of available diversions.

Information is from: Life in Regency England, by R. J. White, publ. 1963

What do you picture for lighting when you are reading or writing regency fiction? Please leave a comment.

Men’s Regency Hair Styles, by Susan Karsten

Hi, Susan Karsten here!

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

Windswept:

 

Brutus: As popularized by Beau Brummel

Titus:

 

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

Cherubin:

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

What on Earth is Calf’s Foot Jelly? by Susan Karsten

Calf's foot jelly

If you’ve done a significant amount of reading of regency fiction, you’ve come across a female character taking calf’s foot jelly to an invalid, usually someone poor. It was thought to be exceeding nutritious, but that is not necessarily true, according to my research. It was a thrifty, economizing concoction, made from a leftover part of a beef.

Calf’s foot jelly has two forms: sweet, common in 19th-century Britain and America, and savoury–called petcha, a standard of Ashkenazi Jewish cooking. Both dishes start with a long braise of split cow’s feet. The latter (for a sickroom concoction) adds garlic, onion, salt and pepper, and usually retains the meat that falls from the feet; the former (for a dessert) adds sugar, Madeira wine, brandy, cinnamon and citrus, and discards the meat. In both cases the stock is chilled until it sets, and the fat that rises to the top is skimmed.

The key component of both is collagen–a protein found mainly in connective tissue, in which feet abound. Collagen makes meat tough, but it also makes the same cut, after stewing, silky and rich. Smart cooks have long begged chicken feet from the butcher: they give chicken soup extra body. Hot, collagen imparts richness; chilled, it turns to gelatin.

To boil it down/summarize: Stock made by boiling a calf’s foot in water; which sets to a stiff jelly on cooling. It consists largely of water and gelatin, so is of little nutritional value.

Note: The New Female Instructor strongly advises against the addition of wine when the jelly is to be used for an ill person. Lemonade was often given to an ill-person along with barley water and tea.

To the readers, have you come across this, and wondered? To the fellow-Regency writers, have you ever included a character delivering this to a poor sick person?

104_2304Susan Karsten, regency blogger, author

A Proper Prodigal, Regency Short Story (part 1) ~ by Susan Karsten

 

 “Miss Virginia!” The dubious butler called – nay bellowed – her name.

Virginia Mortimer jumped at the stentorian tones. She’d asked for the summons, but it hadn’t been necessary. It seemed she’d hardly slept at all. She’d been up and dressed for the last hour.

She took a last glance around the plush bedroom. How elegant it had seemed the night she arrived. In the light of what had transpired over the last few weeks, it looked tawdry now – faded and dusty in the dawn light now shafting through the windows.

The hackney must be here to take her to the posting inn. To ride a public stagecoach home to Primrose Hall would serve as only the latest indignity of her headlong fall from grace

On the floor, half under the bedside table, the corner of a book caught her eye. She reached for it, not wanting to leave a trace of herself behind. It was a slim leather-bound book, given to her by her parents. Stamped in gold letters on the front was the word ‘Psalter’. She jammed it into her capacious reticule.

Only then did she turn to the door, square her shoulders and respond to the odious butler. “I’m coming!”

The cad who’d brought her to this nadir was nowhere to be seen. She didn’t care to say ‘good bye’ and her departure wouldn’t matter to him when he stumbled in from another night of carousing.

The butler eyed her valise, but made no move to assist, but simply opened the door. No pretense of respect, he closed the door as she humped her own valise down the scrubbed white steps. She rummaged in her reticule, and handed a note to the driver before hiking her skirts and launching herself awkwardly into the hackney. The hackney gave a lurch, and she was on her way home. Back to the small village of Beckston to face her parents’ recriminations and her future as a ruined maiden.

Though the day was sunny, a high wind blew swirls of gray smoke down into the dusty inn yard where she waited, clutching her cloak about her and hoping her large bonnet hid her face. She wondered what the chances were that someone of her village would be making this same journey.

When the coach arrived, she was the first passenger to board. One by one, others entered the coach. She held her breath as each passenger mounted, letting it out when she recognized no familiar face. What would the grim-faced soldier, the plain lady in the depressing bonnet, or the elderly clergyman think of her if they knew what she really was, and that she was slinking home in shame?

Only two months ago, when she slipped out during the night, she’d left her childhood behind, naively thinking she knew better than her parents. She’d believed Lord Beckwith’s son Randall loved her and would do right by her, no matter what her mother and father said to the contrary.

Virginia had noticed Randall for the first time at the Beckwith’s annual picnic at their country estate outside Beckston.  He must have been down from Cambridge. The local gentry were invited for the day, which began with competitive games on the lawn for entire community, followed by a picnic. The gentry then joined houseguests and the noble lords of the manor for an evening dinner and ball inside, while the common folk reveled on outdoors.

Invited with her family to the dinner and ball, she enjoyed the lavish surroundings, and never expected to draw Randall’s attention. From the moment he’d lofted a crumpled note at her she’d been hooked. A note which landed down the front of her bodice. She fished it out, read the words ‘You’re beautiful’ and looked up in surprise to lock eyes with the impossibly handsome young man.

His wavy blond hair, chiseled straight nose, teal-blue eyes and muscular physique caught all the young girls’ fancy, and when he kept paying her, a mere barrister’s daughter,  particular attention, she was sunk.

As the coach rumbled out of the London inn yard, Virginia’s mind shied away from continuing this inward litany of her fall, and instead thought ahead to her arrival home. Her parents’ quick response of ‘yes’ to her note requesting them to allow her to come home came as a relief since she had only a few coins and nowhere else to go. Beyond that, she didn’t know what to expect of her homecoming.

***

Hours later, her mother sailed toward her with open arms. “Darling, you’re home!” Hugs, pats on the back, and murmurs of welcome caused the tears to flow. Virginia vowed right then and there never to disregard her parents’ wishes again. They had tried to tell her what was best, but she had defied them for Randall and his false promises.

She drew away from her mother’s embrace and girded herself to look her parents in the eye. “Mother – Father, how can I thank you? I am so sorry. How could I have been so blind, so foolish?” Fresh gales of tears followed.

“We forgive you, Virginia.”  Her father’s gentle tone only served to make her feel more quilty. “Here, you must be chilled to the bone. Put this on.” Her father moved around behind her and laid a fur-lined robe across her shoulders. “A little homecoming gift.”

How forgiving they were. In fact, they acted as if nothing had changed and Virginia’s flight of passion hadn’t ever occurred.  Mother led her to her old room upstairs, and Father trailed behind with her valise.

A dreamlike state swept over Virginia – how unreal to be back in her frilly, maidenly girlhood bedroom with its narrow bed, after the shameful deeds she’d done. Defying, sneaking away, rebelling outright and allowing herself to be deceived by a seducer.

“Put your things away, dear, and then come down for supper. We have a surprise for you.”

Virginia used the pretty china pitcher and bowl on the washstand to freshen up after the dusty travel. She’d left in London the lavish wardrobe Randall gave her. But here were all the dresses she left behind, hanging in the white-painted wooden wardrobe. How soft, simple, and demure the pale-colored muslin dresses appeared. Do I even have the right to dress as a maiden?

She had no one to hold responsible but herself. Taught from childhood to be pure, Virginia threw that teaching to the wind on the basis of a few kisses and compelling whispered words, and then allowed young love’s passion to take control. Yes, Randall was the instigator, but she alone chose sin, her own conscience told her that.

She picked a pink and white dress with a silk ribbon sash, and shimmied it over her head. Her parents must have dismissed her maid when she left, and she had to shift for herself, for now at least. She stood in front of the mirror, tying the sash into a bow, then turning it to the back. The high-waisted dress was almost too flattering to her young figure. She didn’t deserve to look so young and pretty anymore.

She sat down at the dressing table and picked up her silver-backed brush, scraping her long, glossy brown hair back into a tight chignon, wishing she could bind her sinful past as easily. But the relentless door to the future stood open, and she had to walk through.

***

“You look charming, my dear girl.” Virginia’s father pulled a chair out for her to sit at the intimate family table.

“Yes, not a day older than when you left.” Mrs. Mortimer beamed upon her daughter.

“Dear, don’t talk about that yet, let Virgie have her favorite dinner first.” He lifted the cover off a roast of beef, surrounded by potatoes and vegetables and a ring of parsley clusters.

“You’re too good to me. I don’t deserve this.” Virginia lifted her index finger to wipe away a tear.

“Remember, God’s love never fails. And we want to be like Him. Love covers a multitude of sins. His love and ours.” Mr. Mortimer laid his hand on her shoulder.

“Now let’s pray.” He bowed his head. “Dear Father in Heaven, thank you for bringing our daughter home. Thank you for this food, In Jesus Name, Amen. There, now we can eat.”

***

“But Father, we can’t have a party. A celebration for my return? How will I face the neighborhood?” They’d moved across the hall after dinner to the drawing room, where a fire crackled in the hearth.

“As far as anyone here knows, you’ve been visiting an elderly relative in the north. I felt the Lord would forgive a bit of dissembling to protect your name, unsullied, as it were.”

“Yes, we are just so grateful you are back, and none’s the wiser. We’ll just go on as before.” Mrs. Mortimer’s smile became tremulous.

“And, before you ask, we heard Beckwith’s son was given an ultimatum to join the army, else be shipped off to the West Indies to manage a plantation. He got into a duel in London and won’t be back here.  He’s probably landed on the continent by now. As a younger son, he won’t be needed, either. The eldest two all have well-established nurseries. But enough about that family.”

“Now let’s have a song, Virgie.”

She took her Psalter over to the piano and started riffling through the pages. Settling on one, she began to sing and accompany herself to Psalm 68. “This one reminds me of me.”

“God frees the captive and He sends

The blessedness of home and friends,

And only those in darkness stay

Who will not trust Him and obey.”

She hung her head a moment, then straightened her spine, and turned toward her parents. “Mother, Father, I want to make very clear that I am repentant and have submitted my life to Christ now. I know it’s belated, and you always wanted me to have the Faith. Now I do. It took my fall into the miry pit to bring me to my senses and to throw myself on God’s mercy.”

“We forgive you, don’t we Tansy?” Overjoyed, with tears spilling, Mr. Mortimer looked to his wife.

Mrs. Mortimer’s face lit up, wet with tears of joy, and she responded likewise. “Yes, Harold, we both forgive. Now let it go, dear Virginia. God forgives you too, and you need to move on with your life.”

“I was such a fool to believe Randall. He told me we’d be married, so it didn’t matter because we were in love, and that God knew we were sincere. He never intended to wed me. In fact, he ended laughing in my face, and told me to find my own way home.”

“Such a base seducer will always say anything to achieve his wicked will. Most rakes at least keep hands off well-born maidens. So sorry you had to learn such a hard lesson.” Mrs. Mortimer rose and put her arm around Virginia’s shoulders. “Now come over to the sofa, and let’s plan the party. All our friends will want to celebrate your homecoming with us.

***

Long, quiet days of healing commenced. Virginia helped around the house, doing little chores like peeling apples, mending linens, knitting socks, and helping plan the party her parents insisted on.

Dread flickered in her mid-section every time she thought ahead to the celebration, but she steeled her nerves, not wishing to disappoint her parents. They seemed so hopeful everything could return to how it had been before her disgrace.

Even though her parents thought nobody knew of her shameful fall from grace, Virginia braced herself each time someone came to the house or she ran into someone in the village. What if . . . someone knew something, and spread gossip? She’d hate that, but worse, hate the taint that would fall on her family.

The day of the party arrived. She could put off her preparations no longer. Up she went, to her boudoir, where her maid fussed around, waiting to work her magic.

“Lizzy, I’m so glad you were able to come back to work. I wasn’t gone long, but you could have easily been hired on somewhere else.”

“Miss, glad I am to be back here,” her young tidy maid said with a grin. “The only job on offer whilst ye were gone was at the fishmongers, cleaning fish.”

“Well then, let’s do my hair, and get me dressed. I’ve picked out that ivory taffeta, trimmed in coral.”

Lizzy’s deft hands created a stylish psyche knot.  Virginia approved, tilting her head this way, and that. “I love this style. I should have tried it sooner.” Maybe this party wouldn’t be a disaster. Her heart began to hope.

She stepped into the dress, and the maid fastened it. High waisted, it flattered her figure and whispered when she walked. A filmy fichu of ivory silk filled in the too-low neckline. Styles of the day tended toward the immodest, but Virginia was done with that. The coral cameo necklace her mother brought in earlier that evening complemented her coloring.

 *

“There you are!” Her mother scurried over and grasped Virginia’s elbow as she entered the drawing room where the guests had begun to gather. “You must meet the Ashleighs, from rural Beckston. They are twins, just your age.” Mrs. Mortimer towed her across the room.

Dread of facing the guests took the form of a rock in Virginia’s stomach. But she had no choice, the party had commenced whether she was ready or not.

“Mr. Quentin Ashleigh, Miss Annabelle Ashleigh, this is my daughter Virginia. She has just returned from a lengthy trip visiting relatives.” Mrs. Mortimer performed the introductions then turned and flitted off to greet more new arrivals. Virginia caught a glimpse of her mother’s crossed fingers.

Virginia made small talk with the Ashleigh twins. He had intelligent brown eyes and curly russet hair, and his sister though not identical, had similar coloring. Virginia relaxed and the rock of dread melted away under the bright beam of the twins’ sparkling personalities.

“Miss Mortimer, your mother is a darling, she invited us for tonight when she heard we were newly settled in Beckston.” Annabelle’s curls jiggled along with her words.

“She is a sweet lady, if a daughter’s opinion counts.” Virginia replied, smiling. “Where in rural Beckston do you reside?”

“We just moved to Fairbrook Manor – just a mile or so east of here – my family’s owned it for decades. My sister and I had our fill of London for the time.”

“Yes, I’m somewhat familiar with Fairbrook. One mile out isn’t too inconvenient. For shopping and church and so forth.”

“Not inconvenient at all. I hear there’s to be dancing later, Miss Mortimer, may I have the first dance? Nothing like being first in line.” Quentin’s twinkly dark-blue eyes danced between teasing and sincere, producing a pleasing swirl of enticement affecting Virginia’s equanimity. Was he flirting?

“Certainly. By all means, let me find my dance card. I wasn’t prepared.”

As she walked off to locate the card, Virginia wanted to kick herself for sounding like such a dull pattern card of propriety. She needed balance. Balance between being a frivolous fool and a staunch starchbucket.

She didn’t get back to Quentin with her dance card prior to the time dinner was announced, because she was greeted by old friends every step of the way. For the promenade of precedence into the dining room, she was paired with her elderly vicar Mr. Cranston, a widower in his seventies. As they proceeded, he said, “So glad you’re back from your sojourn. A short visit away can do wonders for the appreciation of home, no?”

Caught by the vicar’s words, she was busy deciphering them, searching for hidden meaning, and didn’t realize until the last moment that she’d been seated next to Quentin. She quashed the spurt of interest that rose up in her, and applied her attention to the vicar on her left. Why then, did her right side feel so aware, so alive?

“Miss Mortimer?” A voice intruded on the one-sided conversation she was having, rather listening to, with the vicar. Mr. Cranston’s avocation involved everything to do with bees, and it appeared he planned to tell her all he knew – tonight, at the table.

So it was with relief that she excused herself from the apiarist, and turned toward Quentin Ashleigh. “If you’d like to ask me anything about bees, I can now answer.”

He chuckled, and laid his index finger against his temple. “Nothing at the moment, but I shall remember to ask, should I need your new-gained knowledge.”

Virginia enjoyed the low-key facetious humor with which he answered, and felt quite amicable toward the young man.

“I wonder, did you bring your dance card to the dining room? You never brought it back for me to sign. Am I too late for the first dance?”

“Oh, no. I promised it. I have the card right here.” She lifted the evening reticule, a small bead-embellished pouch that hung on her wrist. She extracted the card and handed it with its attached pencil, to Quentin.

He took it from her, stroked his chin, and said, “Perhaps you’ll allow me two dances? If that’s not too greedy?” The candlelight gleamed off his hair.

Boggled at the pleasant sensations flooding her at the fellow’s kind, friendly, flirtatiousness, she answered without overthinking. “Yes, and no.”

Confusion played across his face before it gave way to wry humor.

He gave a bark of laughter. “You are quite concise, Miss Mortimer. I like that.”

And she liked him. More and more the weeks in London felt like nothing but a bad dream. Back in the loving climate of Mortimer House, the broken spirit she’d brought home had been replaced by a new heart, ready to live again.

No one had even hinted at a breath of scandal about her. She’d dodged the broad-reaching brush of the gossips and society was none the wiser regarding her fall from moral purity. She let out a grateful relieved breath upon this thought, only to have her attentive tablemate inquire as to her state of mind.

“That was a prodigious breath – almost a sigh. Do tell.”

“Nothing, just breathing, if that’s quite all right.” She quirked a smile his way to soften the string of her abrupt rejoinder.

The lengthy meal ended, and the women departed for the drawing room, the men remaining in the dining room for brandy. When the time came for dancing, Quentin bowed in front of her and they sailed off to join a set of country dances The figures of the dances took them apart, and only allowed moments to converse.

“You are a lovely dancer, Miss Mortimer.” Spoken before he sailed down the line, away from her.

The next time their orbits collided, she answered. “And you are a fine dancer, as well, Mr. Ashleigh.”  They both chuckled at the gap between their brief interchanges, before being swept apart again.

***

 Greetings, dear readers! Any guesses on the outcome here? Will he turn out to be a cad, as well? Leave a comment, please 🙂 Susan Karsten

The Parasol, a Necessary Regency Accessory, by Susan Karsten

Parasols were introduced to England from China. The earliest ones were silk and often shaped like a pagoda.

pagoda parasol

This elegant accessory was mainly to shade a lady’s delicate, fair complexion.  Jaunts through warehouses for accessories would have included buying parasols to match particular outfits.

matchy matchy

The frames were bamboo, cane, or steel. Funny for us 20th-21st century ladies to realize that suntans were extremely unfashionable until the 1920s, when Coco Chanel helped to popularize the suntan. Prior to that, only women who had to labor outdoors were tan. After the 20s, chic, wealthy women were outdoors because they alone had the leisure time for outdoor games like tennis and golf.

Bam!

Wear your sunscreen, ladies!

William Wilberforce: Abolitionist and Friend, Politician and Evangelical

“If this be madness, I hope that it will bite us all!” said one of William Wilberforce’s friends after the young politician became an evangelical Christian. His other friends thought his newfound beliefs and life changes madness, and they still counted him friend and so much more.

Photo and link to William Wilberforce article on Christianity Today
William Wilberforce

Born in 1759, William was a sickly young man with poor eyesight, slight stature, and a quick mind. He sang and conversed in ways that pleased his interlocutors to the point the writer and socialite Madame de Staël described him as the “wittiest man in England”. And the Prince of Wales said he would go anywhere to hear Wilberforce sing.

Wilberforce was born to a wealthy merchant family. After his father died when the lad was young, he went to live with an uncle. But other relatives thought that evangelical Christian branch of his family was not a good influence, so brought William back to Hull, where he’d been born. He attended Cambridge and, though became quite a college partier (not a term that would have been used during the Georgian era of course), he managed to pass the exams and receive undergraduate and graduate degrees from that august institution.

Still interested in gaming and other less savory pursuits, William became a politician, using his great voice to persuade listeners. Never did he choose a party. He voted his conscience. It, or perhaps his poor eyesight and health, cost Wilberforce a post in William Pitt’s ministry. When Mr. Pitt became prime minister, whatever the reason, they remained friends.

Especially after his conversion, Wilberforce took up the subject of slavery. By the late 1780s, he was working toward the abolition of the trade. Opposition was fierce. Many Englishmen were getting rich taking trade goods from England to Africa to purchase slaves. These men and women were transported to the West Indies under horrendous conditions. From the West Indies, the English ships brought back sugar and rum.

Hannah More, link to her poetry
Hannah More, poet and abolitionist

In 1802, Wilberforce engaged in other important issues of the day such as the Society for the Suppression of Vice, working with Hannah More and the Association for the Better Observance of Sunday, and also Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. He also married and became the father of six children, to whom he was devoted. The abolition of slavery, however, was his life’s most important goal.

1833 Abolitionist Act photo and link to U.K. educational site.
1833 Abolitionist Act succeeds in Britain

In 1807, the slave trade ended in England greatly because of Wilberforce’s work. Slavery, however, continued for those already enslaved in British colonies. All through the Regency, Wilberforce fought for the complete freedom of those enslaved.

In the early 1820s, he retired from politics due to poor health. He did not stop fighting for the abolition of slavery. Three days before he died in 1833, Parliament passed the act to abolition slavery in British colonies.

Flirtations, Fitness, and Fun: The Benefits of Walking in Regency England

Kristi here. Have you ever visited a big, historic estate? I love to see the old houses, castles, and palaces and have been privileged enough to visit several in my life. Two things I’ve learned you should always bring with you: a camera and good walking shoes.

Before the age of the car, people walked everywhere. Horses were expensive to maintain and even if you had them, they weren’t always a practical option for exercise or travel.

Stile
Stiles were built into countryside fences to keep walkers from having to stop and open gates. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Walking was essential for the working class. They had no other option unless they were traveling a distance long enough to make buying a ticket on the post or renting a hack worthwhile. This made living near work a requirement and visiting family a luxury.

For the upper class walking was a way to kill time and exercise. Walking was especially encouraged for young ladies in 1811’s The Mirror of Graces a long, vigorous walk every morning was recommended. Elite families ate very rich, fattening foods and often participated in dormant activities such as reading, needlepoint, and drawing room visits.

Blickling Hall Grounds
Blickling Hall in England. Photo by georgaph.org.uk.

This inclination for walking led to the extensive glorious grounds surrounding most grand homes. In the late 1700s and early 1800s the most famous of grounds designers charged exorbitant rates, traveling around England and transforming acres of land to suit their owners.

While there were differing opinions when it came to trees and expanses of lawn, one thing all designers incorporated were gravel pathways. These pathways wound their way through shrubs and trees, around statues and the occasional water feature. Gravel paths were essential as they wouldn’t turn muddy after a rain, thereby ruining the hems of the expensive, fashionable gowns.

Painting of couple walking arm in arm away from church.
“A Wet Sunday Morning” by Edmund Blair Leighton Photo: Wikimedia Commons

England is no stranger to wet, rainy days. Those long galleries that often ran along one side of the large houses served a greater purpose than an open area to display artwork. When outside strolls were out of the question, people – women especially – would make laps in the gallery to stay active.

Another great benefit to walking was the social acceptance of a man and woman walking together. Proper etiquette required the male stay with his female companion for the duration of the walk. It was also expected that he would lend her an arm if she got tired. One can only wonder how many ladies “got tired” when walking with a man they were particularly interested in.

Do you enjoy walking? Where is the prettiest place you’ve ever strolled?

 

The Romany (Gypsies) in Regency England

Laurie Alice here: Today, I invited Josie Riviera to present the Monday history post, for gypsies, “travelers” as they are called today, have played rolls in many Regency romances over the decades of the genre.

Josie has also offered to give away a copy of her e-book, Seeking Patience. Leave your comment, and let’s talk about your impression of gypsies.

SeekingPatience_CoverNote: Only comments on this post are eligible to win. I will announce the winner when I next post on Regency Reflections on March 15, 2013.

Gadje Gadjensa, Rom Romensa.” This is a Romany (Gypsy) saying that means Gadje with Gadje, Rom with Rom.”
or
“Mashkar le gajende leski shib si le Romenski zor.”
“Surrounded by the gadje, the Rom’s tongue is his only defense.”

So what is a gadje? A gadje in the Romany language means “not one of us.” Many Rom prefer to not allow outsiders (us) into their lives. It’s no coincidence that in my hours, days, and months of researching the Romany for my novels, little information was available. Odd, because the Rom have lived in many places throughout the world for centuries. They’re a widely-traveled people. Yet there is little written history regarding their origins, although recent evidence points to an emigration from India 1500 years ago.

Some believed that The Rom originated in Romania, but they didn’t. “Rom” means “man” in the Romany language.

I believe the reason there is little information available is because the Rom simply prefer it that way. They are a proud people who keep to themselves. And they are nomads, forever on the move, traveling by horse and wagon in caravans. In one of my novels, a bender is described in detail. It is a tent, easily constructed using bendable twigs and any available materials on the side of the road.

The first recorded mention of a Romany in England was 1514.

In England and Wales in the year 1530, King Henry VIII forbid Gypsies from entering the country, and the death penalty was imposed if they didn’t leave within the month. In 1822, the Turnpike Act was introduced, fining any Gypsies camping along the road.

It is no secret that the Rom have suffered persecution, prejudice, exclusion, and discrimination for centuries. The “Gypsy” stereotype includes a criminal, fortune-teller, blacksmith, thief, and musician, a dark-complexioned, shadowy figure. But why do so many of us harbor this unfair prejudice? Perhaps because of the Rom’s nomadic existence, lack of a solid religious belief, and exotic clothes and lifestyle. Their dialect is distinct and related to Sanskrit. Their tradition is oral, for they didn’t have the luxury of building libraries.

I explore many of their beliefs in my novels. One shared by all Rom is cleanliness. Mahrime means unclean or polluted. To avoid mahrime, clothes covering the top half of their body are washed separately from clothes on the bottom. Certain parts of the female body are considered unclean, and doctors are sometimes avoided because they deal with illness. And, a Rom can become polluted by being too close to a gadje.

Beng is a Rom word meaning devil. This evil force continually seeks to dominate a Rom’s life. The dreaded mulo are spirits, always watching, ready to mete out curses and punishments for wrong-doing.

My latest release on Amazon.com, Seeking Patience, is a Regency inspirational romance featuring a half-Romany, half English hero named Luca.

Do people prove their self-worth by strength, or by character?

Luca’s father is an English nobleman, although Luca was raised as a Gypsy. He struggles with his heritage throughout the novel, seeking hope, seeking forgiveness, and yes, Seeking Patience. He is forced to depend on Lady Patience Blakwell, a woman who represents all he loathes. She struggles with her faith, trying to understand why God is not following the plan she had for her life—to be loved and cherished by her husband. After her husband’s unexpected death, her grown stepson charges her with her late husband’s murder.

And Luca must decide whether he should turn away when she needs him, or risk his most vulnerable, forgiving self to keep her safe. By denying his English heritage, has he denied a part of himself?

Seeking Patience: http://tinyurl.com/a9nnbwy