Month: February 2022

A Gentlewoman’s Guide to Opium Addiction ~ Guest Post by Michelle Griep

Michelle Griep HeadshotA Gentlewoman’s Guide to Opium Addiction: How to Tell if Your Mr. Right Has Been Tokin’, Smokin’ or Shootin’ the Poppy ~ Guest Post by Michelle Griep

What comes to mind when I say Jane Austen? Hold on. Let me guess…
–          swirling ballroom scenes
–          dinner parties galore
–          the dashing Mr. Darcy

Any of these answers would be right, of course, but you’d also be correct if you’d shouted out opium usage. Austen’s mother used opium to help her sleep, and her father was an agent in the trade. Elizabeth Barrett Browning took opiates every day from the age of fourteen, Sir Walter Scott consumed 6 grams a day, and Samuel Coleridge was a regular user.

Yes, indeed. I hate to burst your bubble of the romantic days of yore, but opium addiction was an issue to be reckoned with.

The first written account of the non-medicinal virtues of this drug is in De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater, published in 1821. He advocates opium usage not as a pharmaceutical pain reliever but as a trip into “an inner world of secret self-consciousness.” Sounds positively hippyish, eh?

Had Mr. Darcy been hanging out in a nearby opium den, these are the symptoms Elizabeth Bennett should’ve looked for:

  • Red or glazed eyes
  • Confusion
  • Slurred or rapid speech
  • Loss of appetite
  • Apathy or depression
  • Frequent headaches
  • Insomnia

While Jane Austen preferred to write of dances and dinners, I dove into the seamier side of things and made the hero in A HEART DECEIVED a recovering opium addict. Why?

Because addiction is a contemporary problem with historical roots.

It’s just as hard for my fictional character Ethan to turn down a bottle of laudanum as it is for a real person today to pass on a hit of meth. With God’s help, it can be done—which is exactly what Ethan discovers.

So take care, gentlewomen, when searching out your Mr. Right. Opiates have been around since the days of Pharaoh, and are likely here to stay.

Interested in Ethan’s story? Check out A HEART DECEIVED…

A Heart DecievedMiri Brayden teeters on a razor’s edge between placating and enraging her brother, whom she depends upon for support. Yet if his anger is unleashed, so is his madness. Miri must keep his descent into lunacy a secret, or he’ll be committed to an asylum—and she’ll be sent to the poorhouse. 

Ethan Goodwin has been on the run all of his life—from family, from the law … from God. After a heart-changing encounter with the gritty Reverend John Newton, Ethan would like nothing more than to become a man of integrity—an impossible feat for an opium addict charged with murder.

When Ethan shows up on Miri’s doorstep, her balancing act falls to pieces. Both Ethan and Miri are caught in a web of lies and deceit—fallacies that land Ethan in prison and Miri in the asylum with her brother. Only the truth will set them free.

A HEART DECEIVED is available by David C. Cook and at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and ChristianBook.

Keep up with the exploits of Michelle Griep at Writer Off the Leash, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Originally posted 2013-07-22 10:00:00.

British Rights: Habeas Corpus and the Bill of Rights

On Wednesday, we started looking at the different rights that Regency Era subjects had in relation to their government. We talked specifically about the Magna Carta and Petition of Right of 1628. Today we’re going to continue that discussion and further analyze what protections, if any, the people of Regency England had from their king and his government.

Habeas Corpus

Habeas Corpus is the next major political document that further helped protect the British. If you recall, the Petition of Right declared that a British subject living in England could not be “detained or imprisoned without cause.” While that in and of itself is an excellent protection, it left the actual aspect of imprisonment free for abuse. Say the government had a cause to imprison you. Great. (Well, not really, but it works for our purposes). So you get thrown into prison because you were suspected of stealing a loaf of bread or some such. How long until you appear before a magistrate or a jury of your peers?

Possibly never. Because while the Petition of Right protected you from being wrongfully imprisoned, it didn’t guarantee you a trial. Habeas Corpus guarantees that a person can be take before a court if they so wish.

So did Habeas Corpus protect the average English man and woman? Definitely! In fact, most countries today have their own form of Habeas Corpus (which is still very much alive in the United Kingdom as well).

Habeas Corpus

Bill of Rights

Our last piece of legislation to look at is the Bill of Rights of 1689 (and yes, this is different from the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution). This bill limited the power of English sovereigns by guaranteeing the king or queen could not:

  • Interfere with the law.
  • Establish a tax by him or herself and without an act of Parliament.
  • Maintain a standing army during peace times.
  • Limit firearms for citizens.
  • Interfere in parliamentary elections.
  • Question the freedom of speech used in parliament.
  • Use excessive bail or cruel and unusual punishment.

King-William-Queen-Mary

So yes, the Bill of Rights did protect your average Regency subject, and furthermore, the Bill of Rights of 1689 has been considered a forerunner of similar documents in France, the United States, Canada, the United Nations, and the European Union.

Evidently the British hit on something very important when they came up with the first ever Bill of Rights. I’m certainly glad that people during the Regency Era were afforded such protections. At the same time, my heart goes out the the French and American people for having to fight so hard to secure similar freedoms for themselves in the century that followed.

Okay, thank you for joining me as we explored British rights for the past two day. I certainly hope you enjoyed the discussion.

Originally posted 2013-07-19 10:00:54.

British Rights: What Protected Regency Subjects from the Government?

Hi Everyone,

It’s July, and with this month every summer comes national celebratory days in several countries. Canada celebrates Canada Day on July 1. The United States celebrates their Independence Day on July 4. And France celebrated its Bastille Day earlier this week on July 14. So all the celebrations of the past few weeks (as well as some research I’ve been doing on the Napoleonic Wars) led me to ask a few questions about our Regency men and women.

The Americans had their Constitution and Bill of Rights by this point, and the French had their Declaration of the Rights of Man as well as Napoleon’s Civil Code to help protect its citizens from the government. But did England have anything? If so, what? The entire social class structure that so dominated the Regency Era has never really struck me as fair or liberating, nor does the concept of a hereditary monarchy and peerage. So I did some homework, and it turns out England did indeed have civil rights protection for it’s subjects during the Regency Era (at least those subjects residing in England itself). In fact, England was really one of the first countries to start implementing these protections. We’re going to spend both today and Friday looking at them.

Magna Carta

The first of these documents  is the Magna Carta, signed by King John of England on June 15, 1215. The Magna Carta established rights of English barons and large land owners–rights that the king could not take away for any reason. In so doing, the Magna Carta also limited the power of the king. It is almost a prophetical document of the constitutional monarchy that was to come in the 1600s, and is known for “bringing the king under the law.”

So did the Magna Carta protect the every day commoner? The short answer is “No, it did not.” It protected the already wealthy and powerful from the more wealthy and more powerful king. But it was a start, a very good start, at recognizing the innate value of each and every human being, not just the king.

Petition of Right of 1628

The next major political act protecting the rights of men and women was the Petition of Right of 1628. This document delineates certain liberties that the king could not infringe upon. It says no person would be:

  • Forced to provide a gift, loan, or tax without an act of Parliament.
  • Detained and imprisoned without cause.
  • Forced to house soldiers or members of the navy.
  • Made subject to martial law unless under circumstances of war or direct rebellion.

This petition was passed by Parliament in 1628 and then again in 1641, though it still had a rather rough road ahead of it and would eventually be one of the causes of the English Civil War. But it was a start in affording the common citizen with liberties. And unlike the Magna Carta, the Petition of Right protected the common Englishman and Englishwoman.

The more I study British history, the more I see how its ruling class took actions to protect the lower classes earlier in history that the rest of the world.  Did England have a ruling class that often took advantage of the lower classes? Certainly. But at the same time, the British peerage didn’t shamelessly use the commoner the way the French aristocracy and monarchy did the peasant. They didn’t even extort the average commoner the way they did the colonists across the Atlantic Ocean.

Do any of the rights mentioned above surprise you? I was a little shocked–not that the rights existed, but that some of them existed so early.  Do you feel one of the rights delineated above stands out above the others and is more important in some way? I’d love to hear which one and why in the comments below.

And don’t forget, I’ll be back on Friday to finish this discussion.

Originally posted 2013-07-17 10:00:59.

Harriette Wilson ~ Bad Girl of the Regency Era, by Susan Karsten

This is the way of the adulteress: she eats and wipes her mouth and says, ‘I have done no wrong.’ (Proverbs 30:20)

If you’ve done any amount of  Regency fiction reading, you’ll have run across references to Harriette Wilson, demi-monde extraordinaire.  From all accounts, a hardened prostitute, she climbed to fame and notoriety during the Regency.  Her memoirs, though chronicling a disreputable life, are considered to be a serious historical document.

Later in life, while writing her memoirs, she expressed no regrets for her ill-spent life. She frankly admitted to being a blackmailer of her former paramours. Her attempt to extort from the Duke of Wellington stands as one of her failures. He famously responded, “Publish and be damned.”

Duke of Wellington

Regency euphemisms for the word prostitute include: the fashionable impure, lightskirt, barque of frailty, lady-bird, of the muslin company, or Cyprian.  They took on specific colorful nicknames such as The Venus Mendicant, The Mocking Bird, The White Doe, or Brazen Bellona.  Harriette Wilson’s nicknames included Queen of Tarts, Harry, or The Little Fellow.

She is said to have been hard as nails, more matey than romantic, frank and familiar.  Not staggeringly beautiful, but with an alluring figure, fine coloring, and abundant vitality.  She took up with a succession of noble lords and was established in a series of elegant apartments at their expense.

We know that this kind of life leads to destruction and is not to be admired in any way. What is interesting is that out of all the regency courtesans that must have existed, only Harriette Wilson is remembered and mentioned.  Do you think her continued notoriety is attributable to her having written a book?

Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death. (Proverbs 7:27)

gates of Hell

 

Originally posted 2013-07-15 10:07:51.

Our Favorite Regency Figures

In our poll a few weeks ago, several of you indicated you’d like to see more profiles of historic Regency figures. That got us talking about various people we could feature. So this month we asked our authors who they thought was one of the most intriguing figures from the Regency era.

Lord byron
Lord Byron. Photo: wikimedia commons

Ruth Axtell

Lord Byron, for me, I think.

Susan Karsten

Neither of my most-intriguing Regency figures is very “cool” noble-character-wise, but I am interested in Hariette Wilson and Beau Brummel. Though I suppose she, with her loose morals and fly-in-the-face of society’s mores attitude, and he, with his obsession with surface and image, would be considered cool in the world of today. I intend to do a blog post on Wilson in a few days — so watch for it.

(We’ve mentioned Beau Brummel on this blog before. Check out Mary Moore’s post about Brummel and his influence on society.)

Jane Austen
Jane Austen

Kristy Cambron

I love Jane Austen – she will always be in my heart as my first introduction to British wit and brooding heroes. : )

Vanessa Riley

That would be Jane Austen.  Her wit and turn of phrase still haunts my dreams, but in a good way.

(Do you love Jane Austen? Keep an eye on this blog! August is Austen month here at Regency Reflections and we’ll be celebrating Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice.)

Laurie Alice Eakes

Mrs. Radcliffe. I want to meet one of the hottest selling authors of the Regency. (Mysteries of Udolpho)

Lady Jersey
Sarah Villiers, Countess of Jersey

Kristi Ann Hunter

I’m going to go with Lady Jersey and the others of her ilk. The whole idea of the Queen Bee fascinates me. I love looking at them and trying to figure out what about them made them the one who got to dictate what was right and proper to everyone else. While we have the rankings to make some sense of certain women’s rise to social power, there are certainly other factors to consider.

 

What about you? Who do you find fascinating from the Regency Era? Anyone in particular you’d like to see us do a post on?

Originally posted 2013-07-10 10:00:00.

Who Was Jane in Love With?

Jane_Austen_coloured_version
Jane Austen – Wikipedia

I recently read an older biography of Jane Austen entitled Presenting Miss Jane Austen. It was written by May Lamberton Becker and published in 1952. It was well-researched and endorsed by the Jane Austen Society.

What intrigued me the most, however, was a short section in Chapter Thirteen about one of the summer journeys Jane and her sister Cassandra took while they were living in Bath. One of the things Jane most looked forward to living in Bath was spending summers at the seashore. This was a new vacation destination for regency society, who had up to then been accustomed to going to the watering holes of Bath and Tunbridge Wells. But with the Prince Regent preferring to spend his time at the seashore in Brighton (which grew up around the original settlement of Brighthelmstone), the Brits took to the sea.

Jane writes about this new mobilization in a satirical way in one of her unfinished novels Sanditon, in which a resort town is being constructed around a traditional fishing village. You can see her humor in the town’s name which sounds suspiciously like “Sand Town.”

It was on one of these summer jaunts that Jane and her sister met a young clergyman at one of their stops. Perhaps it was in Devonshire, the author speculates. This clergyman was visiting his brother, a doctor. Her sister Cassandra is quoted in one of her letters as saying he was “one of the most charming persons she had ever known.” When they continued their journey, this gentleman asked permission to join them farther ahead in another town. According to the author, permission was given, which in these more formal times, meant a tacit agreement of a serious intention. When the sisters arrived at the town, Jane received a letter announcing his death.

Fast forward to more recent times when a literary biographer, Dr. Andrew Norman, has written a book called Jane Austen: An Unrequited Love (2009). He claims the identity of this mysterious gentleman is the clergyman Dr. Samuel Blackall, the brother of Dr. John Blackall, a physician. It seems Jane met him years earlier in 1798, when the two were guests of mutual friends, the Lefroys (one of whom, Tom Lefroy, is depicted as Jane Austen’s love in the movie In Becoming Jane).

Four years later they seem to have met again on the southern coast of England in the town of Totnes in Devon. Norman says she was visiting this town with her parents and met and fell in love with a clergyman who was visiting his physician brother who worked there.

Until then no one knew the name of this mysterious clergyman. But Norman searched the town records until uncovering the name of one physician, a Dr. John Blackall. He put two and two together and concluded that this is the same family Jane had met earlier at the Lefroys.

Very few of Jane’s letters survive from the years directly after this meeting, between 1801-1804.  Norman says that Blackall did not die but married someone else in 1813.

So, who knows what really happened. I prefer the first biographer’s conclusion, that Jane and this young clergyman did meet and fall in love and then he died prematurely. Jane loved him to her dying day, and her feelings are reflected in that famous quote from her novel Persuasion in which she debates who loves longest, men or women: “All the privilege I claim for my own sex (it is not a very enviable one, you need not covet it) is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone.”

What do you think?

Originally posted 2013-07-08 10:00:00.

Disastrous Actor or Brilliant Satirist?

We shall never know whether or not a man name Robert Coates, come to known as Robert Romeo Coates, thought himself a brilliant actor, or if the farcical manner in which he played roles like Romeo were done as parody. What we do know is that he walked out on stage in a flowing cloak and tight pantaloons in blue and red, his garments sprinkled with diamonds, and proceeded to butcher the role of this tragic Shakespearean hero. His garments were so tight he moved stiffly.

“We are not disposed to be severe on Mr. Coates performance,” reports Kirby’s  Wonderful Magazine in 1815, “which afforded singular amusement; but it is necessary, in order to give a just idea of it, to say, that for some time it was not so much below mediocrity, that it appeared likely to pass off in that flat routine which is neither forcible enough to affect the feeling in the pathetic, nor absurd enough to amuse by provoking risible faculties. At length a sudden start, or rather frisk and jump, in one of the love speeches, called forth so universal a burst, and from that moment the laugh was not discontinued, nor the audience composed for one instant to seriousness, for the remainder of the night; and whether Romeo addressed Juliet; or Juliet pronounced the praise of Romeo, laughter convulsed the house, and made it sometimes impossible for the love-sick maid herself (though represented in a very superior manner by a young lady of the name of Watson) to forbear from a smile and a titter, where a sob and a tear would be appropriate, if the tragedy had not been so superlatively commedyized, or rather farcified by her lover.”

Mr. Coates was not a professional. He only took to the stage for charitable events; however, every time he did, the houses were packed with audiences who ended up laughing themselves sick. After a while, actresses refused to play opposite Mr. Coates and theater managers refused to let him take to the stage, even with the bribes he was known to offer them.

You see, gentle reader, Mr. Coates was a wealthy man. The only survivor of a wealthy West Indian planter, he moved to Bath, where he had caused to be built, a curricle. “It was literally covered with brass cocks; the saddle of the horses (weighing fourteen pounds) as well as the buttons and buckles of the harness, and every ornament that could be turned into a cock, wore the resemblance of that biped; even the buttons on his servants coats were stamped with a cock; …”

Is it any wonder that boys crowing “Cock-a-doodle-doo” often followed him through the streets?

Mr. Coates was not all amateur actor, over-dressed dandy and flamboyant whipster. He also held strong principles on matters such as gambling. He didn’t do it. The idea he would do so offended him, as he claimed he had enough (money) and intended to spend it himself.

He did spend it, building a new curricle of whimsical design after the first was wrecked somehow. Eventually, he fell into financial difficulties and retired from his outrageous lifestyle for a while. In this time, he married a well-bred young lady, got financially on his feet again, and lived a quiet, respectable life until he died in a street accident in the 1840s.

Of all the colorful characters the Regency produced, Robert Romeo Coates is one of the most colorful of them all—quite literally. Probably to the relief of Mr. Shakespeare, no one has ever performed the role of tragic Romeo quite like Mr. Coates, nor have audiences laughed until they cried during this tragedy, instead of simply crying.

Originally posted 2013-07-05 10:00:00.