The Love of Reading in the Young

The beauty of books is that they can transport you anywhere and anytime. During the Regency (and indeed many, many years before and after) reading was a past time enjoyed by the whole family.

Before television and radio became the focus of family entertainment, books had the ability to share stories and start conversations. We’ve talked before on this blog about books, including how they were bought or borrowed during the Regency and how we fell in love with reading in the first place.

This past week, I’ve been privileged to see a love of reading blooming in younger generations. My eldest daughter is starting to enjoy the story complexity of longer, chapter-style books while my youngest son had begun carrying picture books around in case a lap becomes available. A teenager I work with recently asked me for a list of author suggestions as she transitions from YA books. As a book lover myself, I get excited to see children and teens finding the same love.

Books are the perfect place for young, creative minds to grow. They realized this even in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. This is when the children’s book as we know it began to exist.

Illustrated books with two to six lines of writing on each page appeared in the late 1700s. John Newbury, who is honored annually in America with the Newbury Medal, began publishing these happy books to fill a growing need in children’s literature.

By the Regency, children’s books became more involved, more targeted. Some even had movable parts, such as an illustrated dolls head or arms moving.

Perhaps it was this surge in the idea of children’s literature that propelled the success of the Grimm Brothers. Late in the Regency, the Grimm Brothers began publishing their collections of German folklore. They were very popular in England as children fell in love with Snow White and Rumpelstiltskin.

In August we celebrated Jane Austen and the role she played in the modern romance. It is interesting to know how much modern children’s literature was influenced by authors from the time as well.

What was your favorite children’s book? Were you a lover of fairy tales?

 

Mop Fairs and Michaelmas Day

Mop Fairs and Michaelmas Day
by Laurie Alice Eakes

 Michaelmas Day was one of the four quarter days in the British system, a day in which rents and wages were due. Michaelmas Day, or the Feast of St. Michael, the Archangel, is now the 29th of September. Under the old calendar, it was celebrated on 10th or 11th of October (sources are inconsistent on which day), which coincided with the annual hiring of laborers and household servants.

These fairs were called mop fairs for the fact that those needing work gathered with the tools of their trade in hand. A shepherd carried a crook, a cook carried a ladle and wore a red ribbon, and a maid wore a blue ribbon and carried a mop. Those with no particular skill also carried mops.

Black and white historic mop fair photo
Historic turn of the century mop fair from this site:http://www.nfa.dept.shef.ac.uk/images/strat8.jpg

Those needing to hire someone interviewed potential employees (during the Regency, the word was employé, as employee wasn’t used until the 1850s) as to their skills and experienced. When the employer chose someone, money exchanged hands, and the hiree donned a ribbon to signify she or he had been hired. They were then free to spend their token of employment at the local taverns or other establishments set up with games and goods.

Michaelmas Day was appropriate for this practice because the harvest was usually finished or nearing completion; thus farmers could either acquire more laborers or, having rid himself of these extras, left them needing employment elsewhere. The day being a quarter day, wages were settled up.

Michaelmas Day was also celebrated with some other traditions such as eating a goose for dinner. The goose tradition probably stemmed from tenants bringing a goose to the landlord to soften him up, geese being at their prime at this time from dining on the stubble from the fields. In 1709, the following verse appeared in The British Apollo:

Yet my wife would persuade me (as I am a sinner)
To have a fat goose on St. Michael for dinner:
And then all the year round, I pray you would mind it,
I shall not want money—oh, grant I may find it!

Many mop fairs continued well into the nineteenth century and on to the twentieth. Some of them were discontinued due to the drunken debauchery that became associated with the fairs; however, in the past couple of decades, these fairs have been revived with carnival rides and other festive entertainments. The fair at Marlborough, celebrated in October on the old Michaelmas Day,  has talked of moving the fair from the High Street to the commons; however, because of their charter for the fair, moving it would take an act of Parliament. This symbolizes how important these fairs are to British history.

 

Introducing Camy/Camille

camywebcopyHi everyone! My name is Camy Tang and I’m so excited to join this Regency Reflections blog! I have been reading Regency romances since I was a Freshman in high school–my first one was Regency Miss by Alix Melbourne, and I absolutely loved it. I recently re-read it a few months ago and it’s still as exciting as when I first read it.

My first Regency romance comes out next year from Zondervan/Thomas Nelson. I don’t have a title yet, but I’ll be writing under a pseudonym, Camille Elliot. I’m very excited and a little nervous about my first Regency romance. Although I’ve been reading them for years and I even bought Regency research books to read just for fun, I never attempted to write one until this year.

It’s about Alethea Sutherton, an earl’s daughter who has been neglected by her father, betrayed by her brother, and evicted from her home by her cousin, and so she doesn’t trust men in general. However, while living with her aunt in Bath, she suddenly finds that there is someone trying to steal her violin, which was a bequest from a neighboring widow who was like a mother to her.

Alethea is very gifted on the violin, which was considered unladylike and unfeminine to play for women in the early 19th century, and so for an Englishwomen to play it was considered almost scandalous. However, to discover who is after her violin and why, she must enlist the help of a nobleman considered an expert on the violin, Lord Dommick, who is in Bath to repair his reputation for the sake of his sister and mother. For him to associate with a violin-playing scandal on two legs is not his idea of how to go about doing that.

I always knew I wanted to write about a musician heroine and hero, but didn’t choose the violin until my research revealed how Regency society considered it so distasteful for women to play it, whereas men were not so constrained. There were a handful of professional violin playing women on the continent, but they were the exception to the rule, and there were no Englishwomen who played the violin.

Things changed in the late 19th century with the rise of the middle class. At that point, despite the fact Victorians in general were a slightly more prudish bunch, the objections to women playing the violin had been dropped and so more women learned the violin in England.

My heroine, of course, is bucking the system like any good heroine would do. 🙂 The hero is not quite sure what to make of her, but by the end he will be properly schooled in the art of love and music.

I’m looking forward to blogging about my favorite subjects, Regency romances and Regency readers!

Camy
http://www.camytang.com/

Happy Birthday, Regency Style

Kristi here. Yesterday I had the blessing of being invited to the most epic children’s birthday party I have ever scene. I also celebrated my own birthday yesterday, eating an overindulgence of cake and ice cream.

In the Regency era, birthdays were a very different thing. Unless you were considered a very important personage, such as royalty, your birthday passed with minimum fuss, if at all.

Queen Charotte's BallRoyal birthday parties were often elaborate celebrations. They were often used as excuses for other political or social purposes. Queen Charlotte’s birthday celebrations were held annually in January or February, signalling a start to the Season. They were also an opportunity for people to be officially presented at court.

The Queen’s birthday, however, was actually in May, closer to the end of the Season than the beginning.

The Prince Regent held a grand fete at Carlton House that was officially to honor the King’s birthday. In reality it was a celebration of his rise to power as the Regent.

Wealthy families would sometimes mark and celebrate birthdays, particular milestone birthdays and those of the heir. Possibly no celebration was as large for these families as the one held on the occasion of the first son’s birth. Large parties and dances would be held to celebrate the heir’s birth.

As you traveled down the social ladder, birthdays became less and less recognized. Perhaps you got a small gift or the honor of eating with your parents instead of in the nursery. If you were very poor, a small piece of candy might be the only thing to mark the occasion.

As time moved into the Victorian era, birthday celebrations slowly shifted into the annual events we know today.

What is your favorite birthday memory?

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.

A New Regency

What does it feel like to be on the brink of having a new regency published?

For a writer, it’s a mix of emotions when she gets back the galleys from an editor. Likely the author hasn’t looked at this manuscript in at least six months if not longer, and by this time, she is deep into another story. Chances are she’s written or edited more than one story since writing that manuscript.

So, the emotional link to that story is gone. It will hopefully be revived as she puts aside whatever other works in progress she has, and dives back into the story that is on a publisher’s schedule.

At this stage, the author must be able to accept an editor’s changes or suggestions–not always easy, since she has turned in a polished work. Now, the author reads an outsider’s opinion of her work. Didn’t they get it? Why don’t they like my hero/heroine/plot device/fill in the blank?

One must realize one’s editor is not one’s enemy, but a friend who wants to see the best possible story before it goes public.

So, bite the bullet and analyze one’s characters as dispassionately as one is able to at this point, and then try to make any changes necessary.

I’m down to the final twenty pages of this process before the manuscript gets emailed back to the editor. The next time I see my story, it will be only for a final proofreading. Then a few months later, it will be the real thing, available to readers.

It’s a long process from initial idea to final product, whether one self-publishes a book or has it published through a publisher. Lots of birth pains in the process. But what a relief to read a story that flows, where the characters are believable and the plot escalates, keeping the reader reading.

I hope my next regency, A Heart’s Rebellion, will prove such a story.Axtell_final

Flashback Friday ~ Organized Sports During the Regency

We’re pulling out some of our favorite posts from our first few months of blogging. Many of our loyal readers hadn’t found us yet when these were posted, so we’re giving them a new life. 

As football season begins in America, the thrill of sports teams and competitions takes over a good bit of society. Today we pull an article from March of 2012 that looks at the organized sports men and women of the Regency would have gotten excited about. 

Flashback Friday ~ Originally published March 5, 2012.

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?

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

 

The Steward ~Guardian of the Noble Estate (farm), by Susan Karsten

Do we. as regency readers, fully understand how, and from where, the wealth of the average wealthy nobleman arose? Mostly, from farming. Yes, there were those who had ships, investments, mines, you name it, but farming the family land was the most common way to wealth that I am aware of. Some lords were good managers of their estates, but even the good managers needed stewards, especially when they owned multiple agricultural estates and spent much time in London.

Picture an estate of as large as 11,000 acres. For the owners to have any leisure-time, they needed to employ a ‘right-hand man’ to look after the management of the estate. The man in question was the agent or land steward.

 Duties: The estate had a number of heads of departments, such as the head gardener, head gamekeeper, etc. The agent was responsible for all of these departments, paying the wages of the workmen and keeping regular logs and accounts of work done. He kept a detailed set of books recording repairs to buildings, fences or roads, as well as information regarding game, livestock and crops. He was also in charge of collecting the rent from the estate’s tenants, and for this reason he could be an unpopular figure.

The agent  spent a lot of his time touring the estate on horseback, dealing with tenants and estate workers face to face. He was required to keep a terrier, a book recording the boundaries and tenancies of the land, which included the rent roll. A good agent needed a head for figures, meticulous record-keeping skills, an all-round knowledge of farm work and land maintenance, and an aptitude for dealing with people. That the job could be dangerous is clear from records of assaults on agents by tenants, and at least one steward murdered on an estate.

A steward’s house near the main gate of an estate.

The most important position on an estate was the steward, who was the chief administrator and, in earlier times, the lord of the manor’s deputy. The steward wielded considerable executive authority.  He transacted all the legal and other business of the manor estate, kept the court rolls, etc.

The steward was usually resident on the Estate.  The steward was responsible for finding tenants for farms, negotiating leases, recommending and supervising improvements, and collecting and disbursing estate revenues His influence certainly also extended into the domestic realm of the estate.

Those of us who write, or read regencies, can easily see how the dishonest steward often crops up as a plot element in our fiction.  They can be made into a convenient villain.

For the most part, however, they were honest men, working for a living, surely taking pride in the nurturing of the property.

Have you ever read a regency with a lordly hero disguised as a steward? Any regencies with wicked stewards? Please respond in the comments. Thanks, Susan

Famous Quotes of Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon is often criticized and ridiculed for some of his harsh views on life and Napoleon2war. Sometimes he had rather insightful things to say, while other times his comments are quite offensive. Here’s a look at several of his more memorable statements:

“Impossible is a word to be found only in the dictionary of fools.”

“Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”

“Never tell your enemy he is doing the wrong thing.”

“Courage isn’t having the strength to go on – it is going on when you don’t have strength.”

“Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet. Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.”

Napoleon“Show me a family of readers, and I will show you the people who move the world.”

“History is written by the winners.”

“You don’t reason with intellectuals. You shoot them.”

“The best way to keep one’s word is not to give it.”

“There are but two powers in the world, the sword and the mind. In the long run the sword is always beaten by the mind”

“Ten people who speak make more noise than ten thousand who are silent.”

“Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded his empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for him. ”

Do you have a favorite quote from this group? If so, please share it in the comments below, or feel free to share your own favorite quote of Napoleon’s.