Category: entertainment

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.

Fête or Famine: The Everyday Holiday

Holiday 2

One cannot have too large a party. A large party secures its own amusement. 

                                               ~ Jane Austen, Emma (1816)

I’m sitting in an Italian restaurant in downtown Indianapolis on a perfect Sunday afternoon, with my hands wrapped around the warm mug of an after-dinner cappuccino. As I look around the table at my friends (authors with whom I share a particular passion for reading and writing Christian fiction), I see familiar smiles. There’s laughter. Good food being passed around family-style. Talk of husbands and children. We engage in chat about the publishing industry and brainstorm storyline this and character that… And although none of us had to drive all that far to reach our small Sunday feast, this quiet afternoon in June became something of an unexpected getaway.

It made a holiday out of the everyday.

Our topic of focus this month is vacationing. And while many of us immediately think of vacationing as going away on a retreat (perhaps to the seashore or to an English cottage in the countryside), there are many definitions of a holiday that can remain quite close to home. Though the outdoor balls, picnicking and formal parties of the Regency defined the summer holidays in many ways, we may find that our modern celebrations are not all that different…

So in homage to the feast, festival, backyard barbecue and the good old county fair, here’s a little fun for finding a holiday in the commonplace, everyday gathering – the party!

Holiday 3

Village Fête (La Fête villageoise), Claude Lorrain (1639)

 To Fête or Not to Fête  

n. a feast or festival, a celebration, party; v. to celebrate or throw a party

The first use of the term fête is debatable. My mighty authors’ Thesaurus Rex App cites its first use in England by art historian and writer Horace Walpole (1717-97), followed by the first use of verb form in 1819. However, numerous historical resources cite the term to have been widely used in 17th Century Europe, as in the famous The Village Fête painting by Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens (1635) Village Fête by French painter Claude Lorrain (1639), and in the 18th Century, to describe painter Jean Antoine Watteau’s work as fête galante (a French term used to describe the lofty yet idle recreation of the aristocracy under the reign of Louis the XIV).

The English term fête comes from the French for the same word, and could also refer to the formal party or social gathering that was frequented in the Regency.

“Formal visits, balls and other social occasions feature largely in Jane Austen’s letters… those who could afford it, and who had time and the space, gave parties. Such social gatherings were the recognized means of meeting people…”    

            Dominique Enright, The Wicked Wit of Jane Austen

 

In Great Britain, the fête was a village fair, or carnival of sorts, that would include any number of amusements. They showcased games, outdoor activities, crafts, livestock and produce, and homemade baked goods and canning. (This would be comparable to the modern street fair or country festival in the States.) Though not all specific to the Regency alone, an interesting list of village fête attractions included raffles, coconut shies (late 1800s), bat-a-rat, tug of war, fashion shows, and music and dancing.

 One Mighty Famous Fête

As parties were frequently held by the Regency Era’s elite, there are several notable events that stand out through history. One such famous party was the Prince Regent’s Fete, held on June 19, 1811 at Charlton House. This was a marvelously sumptuous party thrown to celebrate the King’s birthday (though history argues that the true reasoning was to celebrate the lavishness of the Prince’s Regency). Invitations went out, though not everyone made an appearance. The Queen and her daughters (including Princess Charlotte) would not attend out of protest for such a party being held while the king was taken with illness.

[Wish to read more? Click HERE. Wondering what the impacts were for the Prince Regent after the famous event? Click HERE.]

Another famous fête occurred at the Tower of London in 1840. It’s a bit after the Regency Era, but still worth noting because of the guest list: a young Charles Dickens, artist George Cruikshank and host, novelist William Harrison Ainsworth. [Wish to read more? Click HERE.]

Holiday 1
From left: Kristy Cambron, Sarah Ladd, Dawn Crandall, Liz C. and Joanna Politano

Fêtes in Fiction

The ball, formal party, or fête, is a common setting for many Regency romances – just as are the notable guests that may make an appearance at them. I happen to adore Jane Austen’s ball at Netherfield Park, as a major setting in the iconic Pride and Prejudice.  That may be the one that gets the most press, but there are so many others! So while I finish off the last of my sweet Italian cappuccino and say a final fare-thee-well to my dear author friends, we’d like to hear from you, our readers. You’re here because you adore the Regency. So tell us –

What’s your favorite Regency fête in fiction, and why?

Share your favorite fête scenes with us here – we look forward to adding them to our recommended reading list with those deliciously lavish parties as setting number one!

[And for a little extra fun, here’s a link to the Regency Ball at Bath, 2010. Click HERE.]

In His Love,

Kristy

Similarities Found Between Modern-day Vacations & Regency Vacations ~ by Susan Karsten

In researching what Regency folk did on their trips to vacation towns, I was surprised how well I could relate to what they did. Some of it reminded me of trips to places like Minocqua, Wisconsin.

downtown Minocqua, a popular tourist town in WI

Because when you’re there, staying in a rustic cabin or resort on a nearby lake, you do a lot of the same things that Regency vacationers did. Bored, or having a cloudy day, we go into town and visit: the library, the coffee shop, perhaps a theater’s open somewhere. One might buy clothes (t-shirts nowadays), or hats (caps, visors), or a newspaper.

Sydney Gardens of Bath held a grotto, a falls, a ruined castle, an echo and a labyrinth.

Active people took walks, made rendezvous, picnics, tours, visited waterfalls, paid to enter local attractions, went to dances and concerts, and out to breakfast. I’ve done all those activities on vacation.

It would seem our vacations aren’t as completely different as we may have thought.

What’s your favorite vacation activity? Do you go to resort/vacation communities?

What to do with all that grass ~ Lawn Games in Regency England

Kristi here. The vast lawns of many English country estates lent themselves well to a variety of games. This is a very good thing, as I’m sure many a guest was thankful for the room to move in the outdoors during a crowded country house party.

Battledore and Shuttlecock

One such game that was popular during Regency England was Battledore and Shuttlecock. A combination of modern day badminton and hacky-sack, two or more players would attempt to keep the feathered shuttlecock in the air by hitting it with small rackets, called battledores.

Three young girls play Battledore and Shuttlecock
Three young girls play Battledore and Shuttlecock, via Wikimedia Commons

As near as anyone can tell, this game originated in Greece around 1BC. Although it appears to have initially spread east from there so he likely never played it, the fact that people played this game while Jesus walked the earth is a little mind-boggling.

The game remained largely unchanged until the mid-1800s when the English added a net to the game and it became badminton.

It isn’t surprising, really, that such a simple game remained popular for so long, when you consider people’s natural tendency to play “keep it up” with just about anything. The hack-sack craze in the 1990s, a beach ball in a stadium full of people, or a balloon in the midst of more than one toddler. We love to see how long we can defy gravity.

Bowls

Similar to modern day Bocce, Bowls, or lawn bowling, is not nearly as old at Battledore and Shuttlecock, but it was certainly not new to the Regency game player. Definitively traced back to the 13th century, Bowls was played with a series of balls, specially formed with a bias so they would roll on a curve.

men playing bowls 1945
This picture of men playing bowls in 1945 will give you an idea of how the game looked. Picture via wikimedia commons

In simple terms, Bowls is played by seeing who can get their ball the closest to the “jack” a smaller white ball thrown out at the beginning of the game as a target. This game could be played alone or in teams, making it ideal for either a leisurely family afternoon or a house party event.

The game became so popular, that Henry VIII feared the practice of archery – then a crucial element of battle –  would suffer. He made it illegal for all but the wealthy to partake of the game, leaving those who made bows, arrows, and arrowheads plenty of time to work on their craft. Even the well-to-do were limited, with the rule that they could only play on their own lands and must pay a fee of 100 pounds to maintain their own bowling green.

This ban was lifted shortly after the Regency ended and today it remains one of the main lawn games played in English-cultured nations around the world.

Did you play lawn games growing up? What is your favorite? What

Prize Fighting in the Regency

If you have read more than two or three Regency romances, you have encountered at least one male character involved in a fancy form of fisticuffs called boxing. No doubt the hero has gone a few rounds with Gentleman Jackson in his “Boxing saloon (salon)” at 13 Bond Street, London, and, for the truly heroic hero, even bested the great man of prize fighting.

Two other names seem to lend their name in prominence to the Regency era, as well—Cribb and Belcher. They were also champion fighters in the sport. Cribb ended up a rather successful businessman. Sadly, Belcher liked to gamble and ended up In prison and dying young in 1811. He, however, stands out in my mind as having lent his casual style of dress in wearing a large kerchief around his neck instead of a cravat—the belcher kerchief. In the second Regency I ever read, Georgina by Clare Darcy, the hero was disdained by many for wearing one of these.

But back to boxing…

The sport has been around since at least ancient Greece. Throughout the medieval period, it seems to have disappeared, but began making a comeback in England in the sixteenth century. By the early 1700s, rules were beginning to form, and popularity of the sport grew amongst all classes of males.

At first, it was a bloody sport with few regulations. The most hand protection a fighter wore were leather strips around their knuckles. Mostly they fought with bare fists and could hit anywhere. By the Regency, no hitting below the belt existed, but pretty much anything else prevailed.

Men from errand boys, to gentlemen in fine rigs drove out to heaths and commons, to observe the fight, cheer on their favorites, and, of course, wager on the outcome of the fight. The sporting magazines of the time reported on these fights. One account seems to have been quite a day of sport.

“By way of ushering in the New Year, the amateurs of the fist had a full day s sport cut out on the 1st inst. No less than three fights having been fixed to take place. These matches were decided on Highgate Common, in the presence of a very numerous field. The first match for forty guineas, was between an Irishman, of the name of Christie, who never fought a pitched battle before, and a second rater of the name of Byrne. This battle afforded but very little diversion. Christie could neither give nor stop, and his adversary, although he possessed some science, had no gift at hitting, and but suspicious bottom. After a hugging battle of forty minutes, Byrne was declared the victor. Richman, the black, and Blake, were the seconds.

Simon Burn photo
Possibly depicting Simon Byrne

“The second battle was between two well-known boxers in miniature, one of whom was Ballard, a Westminster lad, and the pupil of the veteran Caleb Baldwin, and the other Charles Brannam, who has combated with Dixon and others…”
(The Sporting Magazine, January 1812 PP 192-193.)

Also, according  to this same publication, English men at the turn of the nineteenth century, were so prize fighting crazed pitch—spontaneous–battles took place. These. “A pitched battle was lately fought at Thorpe, between two champions of the names of Cannell and Fox. The former was victorious, but the fight afforded little satisfaction to the amateurs. At its conclusion, Pegg, a known bruiser, jumped into the ring, and challenged any one present to fight for a guinea, which was accepted by his former antagonist Chapman, who, after a short contest, beat Pegg completely…”

This sport, with its ever-changing rules, could prove deadly. “On Saturday, the 20th instant, a pitched battle was fought at Wanash, near Guildford, between one Mansell, of that place, and a paper-maker, named Wokins; when the latter, having nearly beat his antagonist, received a blow under the ear, which killed him on the spot. A Coroners Jury sat on the body and returned a verdict of manslaughter.”

Thirty seconds was how long an opponent needed to stay down for his adversary to declare victory. Any fighter feeling he needed a break, could drop to one knee for 30 seconds to give himself time to recover; however, this was considered unmanly.

For myself, I’ve never considered having a hero step into the ring (which is really a square now), thinking it a little on the lowbrow side of sports. I am, however, wrong in this thinking. Even Lord Byron learned the art from Gentleman Jackson.

Related post on author Clare Darcy.

 

How Regency Ladies Bought Jane Austen

Kristi here. At Regency Reflections we celebrate books containing inspirational stories set in Regency England and this year we have a lot to celebrate. This month alone, two of our own authors saw their debut novels hit the shelves. (Yea, Sarah and Vanessa!)

BooksTablet
Image courtesy of Maggie Smith, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today, we have a variety of options when purchasing our reading material. We can get the book electronically, printed and bound with a stunning cover, or even read to us via audiobook in some cases. We can make our purchases online or in a physical bookstore.

Aside from the very obvious lack of internet purchasing and electronic book readers, people wishing to purchase books in Regency England faced other obstacles on the road to filling their personal libraries.

For one thing, books were considerably more expensive in the 19th century. An ordinary servant would have to pay half a month’s salary to purchase even the cheapest of novels. No wonder a full and robust library was such a clear sign of wealth!

Let’s assume that you did have the money to fill your shelves with volumes of written words. How would you purchase them?

Lackington Allen Co Bookstore, 1809 Ackermann print
Lackington Allen Co Bookstore, 1809 Ackermann print

Bookstores were becoming quite prevalent by the time the Regency rolled around. Though considerably smaller than your local Barnes and Noble, the were considered large stores at the time. Many served as printers and circulating libraries as well – more on that in a bit. Books could also be purchased on subscription, if you wished to support a particular author or project.

One very large difference in the book buying experience of today and that of two hundred years ago is the cover. Can you imagine getting to choose what the cover of your book looked like? Do you want the picture of the couple or one of a meadow? Maybe you don’t want a picture at all, just the title and author in large letters. It’s pretty hard to fathom.

Back then you weren’t choosing a picture, but choosing the material. And it was more than just hardback or paperback kind of choices. Books were sold unbound and uncut. People would then take the book to a bookbinder. The wealthy had them bound in leather, which varied considerably in quality and types, while the more frugal had theirs sewn into stiff cardboard with a flexible connecting piece. The outside edges were then cut with a sharp knife and the book was ready to read.

If you couldn’t afford to purchase a book you might could afford a subscription to a circulating library. This was a combination of a current day library and coffee shop. The size of the libraries varied greatly. At the turn of the century (1801) the largest could be found in Liverpool with more than 8000 books available. For the same cost as purchasing 2-3 books a year, a person had access to an entire library.

The sheer expense of being an avid reader made being well read a sign of gentility and wealth. It also explains why so many stories were printed as serials in newspapers and magazines to make them more accessible to more people.

Have you had a unique experience buying a book or going to the library? Share it in the comments!

Like this article? Tweet it! 

How Regency Ladies Bought Jane Austen Books Tweet this!

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Hats off to the Races: Derby Fashion (and Giveaway Winner!)

Finish of the Epsom Derby, 1822. (Painting by James Pollard. Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Finish of the Epsom Derby, 1822. (Painting by James Pollard. Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The past weekend marked the opening ceremonies of the annual Kentucky Derby Festival in our fair city. It’s two weeks of celebration from the inaugural event (Thunder Over Louisville, the largest annual fireworks show in the country), including the Pegasus Parade, Great Balloon Race and the many parties leading up to the main event that draw celebrities from across the globe. The festival culminates in the Kentucky Derby (also known as the Run for the Roses), which has long been a traditional celebration of elegance and grandeur for horse racing’s elite.

This year will usher in a new tradition for me personally, as I will attend my first official Derby event at historic Churchill Downs, complete with a British-inspired ensemble and the all important Derby hat. (The Derby outfit, ladies, is quite an important part of the experience!) And though the world now recognizes the Derby hat as a tradition associated with Kentucky’s first Saturday in May, the upscale fashion at the race actually finds its roots in – you guessed it – Regency England.

In the Regency, horse racing was known as the sport of kings – and for good reason. Like the meets at Ascot, Doncaster, Heath, and Newmarket, the Epsom Derby became an affair that in many ways, was restricted to England’s elite. The Regency woman, always fashionable, would plan her ensemble months in advance of a yearly race. Dresses were specifically tailored and could be imported from Paris, Milan and Rome, just for the event. The extravagance of the hats too, were an important aspect of the overall attire. [For a complete look-book of spring Regency attire, including bonnets and hats, click here.]

Regency Hats. (Photo: public domain)
Regency Hats. (Photo: public domain)

In the late nineteenth century, businessman Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. (founding father of the Kentucky Derby and the grandson of William Clark, of Lewis and Clark fame) sought to raise the standard of horse racing in the United States. Upon traveling to London to attend the famed Epsom Derby (with local roots dating as far back as 1618, but its first Oaks Stakes race in 1779), Clark determined that a similar event could be christened along the banks of the Ohio River. He envisioned for the Louisville Jockey Club “…a racing environment that would feel comfortable and luxurious, an event that would remind people of European horse racing.” [Read more at Derbymuseum.org and in Never Say Die: A Kentucky Colt, the Epsom Derby, and the Rise of the Modern Thoroughbred Industry on Google Books. The historical ties to England are fascinating!]

At the time of the first Kentucky Derby on May 17, 1875, horse racing needed a serious image boost. Drinking and gambling were practices that worked to keep women and children away from the track in droves. Without the family atmosphere, Clark knew the business venture was sure to fail. He sought an avenue to make racing something of an elegant event like he’d witnessed at Epsom Downs. What would be key in the pursuit for families to attend the races? Get women to the track. And how to do it? Easy – do it with fashion. He solicited help from the women of Louisville’s elite to go door-to-door and promote the Derby picnic as a fashionable affair.

“Women coordinated their hats, dresses, bags, their shoes and their parasols,” said Ellen Goldstein, a professor at the Fashion Institute of New York. “To go to a horse racing event was really a regal affair. It was just as important as going to a cocktail party, or a ball.”

[Read more in A Brief History of the Derby Hatlink]

Today, the modern Derby fashionista can spend an average $100 to more than $2000 dollars on her Derby hat. (I can assure you the Derby attire of this mother of three will be on one end of the scale. Just for fun, I’ll let you guess which one!) But when each woman steps through the gates to show off her headpiece at the races, she’ll inevitably display a tradition that is decidedly Regency in tone. For if it not for the strong tradition of fashion established once upon a time at Epsom, would we have “the greatest two minutes in sports” as we know it today?

For a little instruction on the “how-to” of hats, here’s how the Royals do a smashing job at Epsom [click here]. And for those of us heading to the Kentucky Derby, some competition you might encounter in the hat department [click here].

Have you been to the races? Which Derby fashion was your favorite?

___________________________________________________________

HW~ GIVEAWAY WINNER ~

Thanks to all for catching up with author Sarah Ladd and celebrating the launch of her book with us – The Heiress of Winterwood. We are pleased to announce that the winner of last week’s giveaway (the signed book from Sarah) is:

Angela Holland

Congratulations Angela! To claim your amazing book, please send an email to:  cambron_k@yahoo.com

In His Love,

~ Kristy

The Joke’s on Them ~ Caricatures in Regency England

Cruickshank's View of the Regent's Backside
A view of the Regent’s backside by George Cruikshank.

Kristi here. Today is April Fool’s Day in the US. An annoying day where you can’t trust anything you read, hear, say, see, or smell. Basically, your five normal senses are useless and you have to keep a tight grip on your sense of humor to survive. Particularly if you have a jokester in your house.

A sense of humor is a beautiful thing. Often we forget that humor isn’t a modern invention. Because of the long time spent posing for portraits, people always look somber and serious in their paintings. But people in the Regency liked to laugh as much as anyone else.

A Kick from Yarmouth to Wales
A cartoon from 1811 telling the tale of the Prince Regent receiving a sound thrashing for insulting Lord Yarmouth’s wife.

Caricatures, the precursor to today’s editorial cartoons, not only provided social commentary and news, but provided humor as well. Many of them featured prominent figures of the day with certain features exaggerated to provide entertainment as well as make a point.

Much like tabloids and entertainment magazines of today, these drawings were popular because they kept people informed of what was happening in the world in a fun way. Regency England had it’s own celebrities and the caricature artists were the era’s paparazzi.

Caricatures were such a key part of England during the era that the Royal Pavilion and Museums Foundation of Brighton spent nearly £60,000 to obtain 235 original prints. Studying caricatures can tell us a lot about the way culture worked, how various people were thought of, and the general feeling of the time.

IndiaCartoon
A Rowlandson cartoon about the control and status of India, a British holding at the time.

Some of the most famous caricature artists, such as Thomas Rowlandson, worked mostly for Robert Ackermann. Known today for his prints of changing fashions and furniture, the Repository actually featured many social caricatures. Ackermann also printed other periodicals that covered travel, literature, and London in general. Rowlandson was not only a caricaturist but a skilled artist as well. Hand colored prints of his etchings could be purchased as well.

If you decide to go looking for more caricatures online, do be careful. Like today, sex, scandal, and politics were popular topics and some of the caricature artists weren’t shy about using nudity or lewdness to make their points. Many caricaturists were quite vulgar.