Category: History

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.

Originally posted 2013-04-01 10:00:00.

Napoleonic Wars

To celebrate Moonlight Masquerade, we’re running a special week-long contest. Starting today through next Friday, March 22, we’ll feature Regency quiz questions at the end of each post. To enter the contest, you’ll need to correctly answer the questions in the comment section below. For every correct answer, your name will be added into the drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card . There will be five questions in all, which means your name can be entered up to five times (if you get all five questions right). The deadline to answer ALL CONTEST QUESTIONS will be Saturday, March 23 at midnight.

 

What is so fascinating about the Napoleonic Wars?

I think I’ve been fascinated since my junior high school days when I watched the 1972 War MV5BMTI0MzI3NzMyMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzA5OTQ1MQ@@._V1_SY317_CR7,0,214,317_and Peace series on Masterpiece Theatre, with Anthony Hopkins as Pierre Bezukhov. I fell in love with the bumbling, pudgy anti-hero wearing oval shaped glasses. Of course, I also fell in love with the dashing Prince Andrey Bolkonsky in his white uniform (or the actor playing him). I was caught up in the story although it wasn’t until the 10th grade that I tackled Tolstoy’s original work. I was fascinated with that period of history and didn’t realize then that I was getting the Russian perspective of this war that lasted over two decades.

In school, I studied the War of 1812, which was only a brief slice of the Napoleonic Wars. The other day I was talking to a young college student who didn’t realize the War of 1812 and the Napoleonic Wars were connected!

From the perspective of U.S. history, Napoleon wasn’t such a bad guy; he was our ally, for one thing.napoleon

Soon after reading War and Peace, I read The Scarlet Pimpernel, which became a favorite. That and Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities gave me an understanding of the French Revolution, which preceded the Napoleonic Wars and contributed to the rise of Napoleon.

Then I discovered the English regency period and gained more of the British perspective of the war, albeit from the London drawing room or country house. The battle-hardened captains or majors returned from “the Peninsula” recovering from a wound but still splendid attired in their red uniforms. These stories depicted Napoleon as a monster, the enemy, an insult added to the injury of the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror.

220px-Bem_postcard_7
Natasha Rostova

But it wasn’t until writing Moonlight Masquerade that I began reading some in depth works on this period of history. From them I got a deeper understanding of Napoleon, how he rose to power, his genius as a military commander, but his failure as a political leader. I came to the conclusion that he did more harm than good, destroying much of a continent, a generation of young men, and ultimately slowing down France’s development about a hundred years. While Britain forged ahead with the industrial revolution, France went backwards, remaining largely agrarian for much of the rest of the 19th century.

In the end, war is a terribly destructive force.

 Today’s Question: Which allied armies fought the French in the battle of Waterloo?

a) British, German, Russian

b) British, Austrian, Prussian

c) British, Russian, Prussian

d) British, Dutch, Prussian

 

 

 

 

Originally posted 2013-03-18 10:00:00.

Silk in the Regency and Its Connection to Computing

Inspired by Kristi’s post on wool last week, I set out to choose another fabric popular during the Regency—silk. While researching this topic, however, I ended up down several fascinating rabbit holes. For example, did you know that a silk loom influenced computing? Neither did I, but it’s true.  So while I am going to talk about various forms of silk in this article, I will also take you a few yards—or should I say ells?—down this particular rabbit hole—and maybe one or two more.

Silk Cocoons
Empty silk cocoons. (Wikimedia)

I expect entire books have been written about the history of silk. Many legends exist as to how someone in China discovered that unwinding the cocoon of the silk worm created a soft and lustrous cloth. The Chinese held a monopoly on the product for hundreds, perhaps even thousands of years. Then the Japanese, Koreans,  and Indians learned the secret, and caravans carried it west to the Persian empire, the Greeks, the Romans. . .  The Italians were the first Europeans to produce silk in quantity, but Louis XI of France changed that.

By the Regency, France, Lyon in particular, was a leading manufacturer in silk. A couple centuries before this, however, the Huguenots fleeing persecution in France, took their skills to England, and Spitalfield became a center for silk production.

Raw Silk
Strands of raw silk (Wikimedia)

England’s climate is not conducive to silk manufacturing, so it has never become an important center of the fabric manufacture. Likewise, the industry never made inroads in North America either. (One rabbit hole: The wife of a governor of Virginia thought to start a silk industry in the colony, but imported the wrong kind of mulberry tree to support the worms. Now the MidAtlantic region is covered in trees that drop useless and rather nasty-smelling berries every year.)

february 1813 plateMy fashion plates of numerous years during the Regency show that silk was popular for those flowing, filmy gowns so fashionable at the time. This takes us to another rabbit hole—if England and France were at war most of this time, and England didn’t produce much silk, then where did all that fine, Lyon silk come from? I expect many a dressmaker claimed she had stock-piled the stuff before the war, as she would never confess that she had purchased it from the “gentlemen” AKA smugglers.

Now to the different types of silk.

Shot silk suit - 1790 (Wikimedia)
Shot silk suit – 1790 (Wikimedia – click for larger resolution)

Shot silk: This is where the face is one color and the warp is another, so the color shifts with the light.

Chine: This has the pattern printed on the warp before weaving, so the design comes out blurred.

Satin and Taffeta: These are familiar fabrics to us. They were heavier silk weaves, with satin lustrous on one side, so not as popular in most of the Regency.

Lustestring: A ribbed and lightweight silk that would have rustled a lot and been quite lustrous.

Sarsnet: A fine weave silk, light and airy. Sometimes twilled-looking.

Silk gauze: a little heavier than chiffon.

Watered silk dress
Watered silk dress (Wikimedia – click for larger image)

Moiré or watered silk: This is an example of ingenuity of the time. They ran wet silk through rollers with a pattern that impressed that pattern into the fabric.

Brocade and Damask: These are textured silks where the pattern is raised. Sometimes these appeared in linen or wool, but generally brocade and damask meant silk. Brocade only has the pattern on one side; damask is reversible. The patterns are formed using a jacquard loom, which brings us to computing.

Joseph Marie Jacquard
Joseph Marie Jacquard (Wikimedia)

Joseph Marie Jacquard improved on the ideas of Basile Bouchon  and Jean-Baptiste Falcon, who used holes punched in tape and a series of needles to make the pattern. Inn Jacquard’s looms, cards were punched with holes then strung together. Threads were fed through these holes so that hooks on the loom knew ehen to grab a thread to create the pattern. Thousands of threads were often involved, and stringing a loom took days. Creating the punch cards took some serious skill as well.

Charles Babbage used similar punch cards to store information in his mechanical analytical machine in the late 19th century, and Herman Hollerith used punch cards for storing data from the 1890 census. If anyone knows something about computers from before the 1970s, they have seen the old-fashioned punch cards still being used for programming.

This is not the entire list. Each area of the world that produced silk produced its own sorts. These are just some of the ones most common in clothing fabrics of the time.

Originally posted 2013-03-13 10:00:00.

A Dandy in Sheep’s Clothing – Wool in the Regency

Kristi here. Let’s take a moment and play a word association game. I’ll give you a word and you describe the first mental image that word brings forth. Ready?

Wool.

For me, I think of nubby socks and thick sweaters. I think bulky and occasionally itchy. Some of you may be envisioning the white fluffy stuff still clinging to Dolly’s hide. But unless you know a lot more about wool’s potential than I did, you probably didn’t envision anything like this coat from Italy circa 1800.

(All photos in this article are from Wikimedia Commons.)

WoolCoat_1800Italy

Yes. That coat is made of wool!

Wool is an extremely versatile fabric. There are well over two dozen types of wool fabric according to fabric.net. Wool can be turned into anything from felt to tweed to broadcloth to jersey.

The way we usually envision wool: Yarn used for knits and bulky weaves.

While normally wool is associated with thick, warm sweaters and heavy outer coats, lighter weaves of wool are actually great in warmer weather as well. I had the opportunity to handle some woolen fabrics similar to those used in the Regency time period. The fine patterns and delicate weaves astonished me.

Wool is for so much more than knitting an afghan or a pair of boot socks.

So the next time you read that your favorite aristocratic heroine donned a wool dress or the dashing hero shrugged into his wool jacket, don’t think of the rough wool their servants wore. Regency men and women didn’t have to give up any elegance or frippery to enjoy the many benefits of wool.

It isn’t a surprise that they used a lot of wool given the abundance of sheep grazing the English countryside.

What is surprising is that something that starts out like this (Recently Shorn Wool):

Royal_Winter_Fair_Wool2 copy

 

Can turn into all of these different things:

Fine blend wool fabric

Wool YarnWool Embroidery Thread

And then be used to make all of this:

Wool carpet from 1640

Man's_tailcoat_1825-1830 copy Robe_a_la_Française_with_wool_embroidery_LACMA_M.90

Woolen Tailcoat, circa 1825        Linen Dress With Wool Embroidery

Originally posted 2013-03-08 10:00:00.

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

Originally posted 2013-03-04 10:00:00.

The Regency Red Carpet

Welcome to March – our month dedicated to what else? Spring fashion!

Here in the States, the fashion world is still abuzz over one of the top events of the year – the 85th annual Academy Awards ceremony this past Sunday.  Arguably second only to Paris Fashion Week in its world-wide influence on the art of dressing well, the Oscars red carpet is rolled out each year and the world tunes in to see which star will win the title of… Best Dressed!

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Whether it’s a celebrity rocking a wicked-long train or donning a small fortune in Harry Winston jewels, the world’s fashionistas take to the internet to find the most sought-after trends as showcased by their favorite stars on this one night. What colors are in for the season? What fabric is a must-have for the fashion world’s elite? Is there a new cut making waves in dress design? When you think on our world of social media and instant Twitter feeds from the red carpet, it isn’t a wonder that we all have an opinion on what’s fabulous for the new season. But in the Regency Era – without our social media and the endless stream of celebrities to guide the rest of us down the spring runway – what would have been seen on their “red carpet” of the day?

A commentary on the complete Regency woman’s ensemble would certainly take more than one post (or perhaps a hundred posts), but we’ll give you enough here to get you started on your own Regency fashion journey through the month of March…

A good foray into the art of Regency dress might begin with the always popular element of color. You may be surprised to learn that in the Regency Era, the influence of color was just as fierce as it is today. While soft pastels and bold jewel tones reigned on the Hollywood red carpet this year, the Regency Era had some similar shades (with lesser known names) that ranked quite high on the list of desirables. A Regency lady might wish to be found in varying hues of:

– Canary (a bright sunshine yellow),

– Coquelicot (a brilliant poppy red),

– Jonquil (a rich golden-yellow),

– Pomona (a light gray-green, one of many popular shades new as of 1812),

– Primrose (a sweet butter-yellow), or

– Puce (a deep brownish-purple).

 

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

And alas – there were also the more lackluster colors of straw (an unimpressive corn yellow) and the ever-popular Drab (a dull -) that a Regency lady may find mixed somewhere in her wardrobe. (Color Links: Regency color swatches, The Jane Austen Centre, Bath – 2011) And though not an actual color (but a value), the elegance of white was exceedingly popular if your red carpet rolled out all the way to such a stylish affair as the ball at Netherfield Park.Despite the color choice for your gown, if you’d walked the red carpet during the Regency Era there would have been no doubt about the style of dress. An Empire waist was the preferred silhouette – with a typically square or wide-rounded neckline and bodice that ended just below the bust (giving the illusion of a high waist). The skirts were gathered and tapered (rather than being heavily draped with petticoats and layers of bustled fabric, as was popular until the turn of the 19th century). And though you may have had the proper cut and color selection down, that’s not where the fashion story ends. Depending upon the day and hour of your walk down the red carpet, there was likely a proper dress to accompany the occasion. (Here’s a stunning commentary on half-dress, court dress, and every little thing in-between: Click here.)

Let’s not forget some of our favorite red carpet delicacies – the accessories! Hollywood starlets of today still fancy high heels, though the sky-high styles of today aren’t nearly as towering as the heights that Regency Era women rose to while wearing pattens.  (Click here to read our own Mary Moore’s  January, 2013 post about pattens. It is a must read!) And though a selection of well-placed jewels around the neck and in the earlobes are still in fashion, you likely won’t find a single Hollywood star sporting the ever-popular Regency fan, reticule (small, drawstring handbag),  parasol or feather plumes of ostrich, goose, peacock or emu to complete her ensemble.  (Though artfully placed hair extensions, evening gloves, shawls and capes still make the occasional appearance.)

The one thing that is decidedly missing from our modern-day red carpet is the endless stream of bonnet-clad ladies that we’d have had waltzing past two hundred years ago. These Regency head pieces were must-have items often made of straw or sturdy fabric (such as velvet or muslin) with lace, fabric, and satin ribbon trimmings in popular colors. Bonnets might also sport an artful array of artificial decoration, including: birds, fruit, flowers, feathers, jewelry (such as a brooch or pin) and beads. And despite the fact that our current culture prizes the bronzed look, no Regency Era woman would have fancied venturing out in the sun without her bonnet, lest she tan or freckle unnecessarily! (For a complete tutorial on the art of the Regency head-piece, click here.)

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

If you were playing the part of the Regency Era personal assistant, you’d probably have considered all of these items for the perfect Regency red carpet look. So now that you’ve got it all together, it’s time to take a stroll past the long line of paparazzi (uh, we mean artists with paint and easels ready) and have your fashion plate captured for that next edition of the popular Regency magazines. (For some great fashion plate images, click here to visit Linore Rose Burkard’s post from April, 2012.)

So… With all of this red carpet talk, who was on my best dressed list for this year? My vote for Best Dressed at the Oscars goes to… Click here. Who won your vote?

Welcome fashion, welcome spring, and welcome to all of you readers who have a heart for the same God that reigns today as He did more than two hundred years ago.

In His Love,

~ Kristy

Originally posted 2013-03-01 10:00:11.

Curing the Cough and Soothing the Sniffles

Kristi here. If your home is anything like mine, there have been plenty of sniffs and snuffles passing through this winter. The headaches, congestion, and overall achiness can range everywhere from the annoyance of the common cold to the seriousness of pneumonia.

Today, we know the difference between the flu and a cold, bronchitis and a sinus infection,  and a tension migraine and a sinus headache. Or at least, our doctor knows the difference and can help us with the right concoction of pills and vitamins to get us through the discomfort.

The suffering Regency inhabitant was not so fortunate.

Treatment Page from Cookbook
Beginning of the treatment section of a cookbook

The scientific study of medicine was just coming into existence as the Regency rolled around. Knowledge of germs and nutrition and the importance of cleanliness were mere inklings of ideas in the heads of the most advanced medical minds of the time. And these men (for they were almost exclusively men) were often scoffed at for their new ideas and practices.

Because medicine was still working to organize and legitimize itself, healthcare fell on the shoulders of the people, or more specifically the women. Cookbooks of the day would contain recipes for home remedies that could be mixed or cooked to aid the ailing.Mothers would also pass down time-honored practices for various diseases, leaving people at the time with a mix of rudimentary science, folk remedy, and medieval traditions. Physicians were so rare and costly that one had to be very rich or near death to call upon one.

So how did they handle the fevers and the sniffles?

Woman sick in bed reading
Michael Ancher, via Wikimedia Commons

Without decongestants and pain relievers, they were forced to take to their beds for however long it took the body to overcome the bacteria or virus. Because many congestion related disorders were thought to be brought on by cold or damp conditions, sick rooms were often kept warm and dry, with little to no air circulation.

The old axiom “Feed a cold, starve a fever” was also prescribed to, with some ailing patients being restricted to diets of bread and water in the hopes of purging the bodies of the disease.

Some households would have knowledge of herbs and be able to ease the pain with concoctions of willow bark tea while others preferred to drink themselves into oblivion until the worst of the illness had passed.

Other interesting treatments of the time included inducing copious amounts of sweating, stuffing orange rinds up the nose, and colonic irrigation, or cleansing of the bowels.

The second half of the 1800s showed the beginnings of the cold remedies that resemble what we see today. While medicines involving heroin and chloroform have been eradicated, the Vicks Vapour Rub introduced in 1890 is still pretty much the same.

Want to learn more about the history of medicine in England? Check out the online museum from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. You can link directly to the paper on the common cold here.

Be sure to come back Wednesday, when Jillian Kent will be here at Regency Reflections sharing about her latest book, Mystery of the Heart, which incorporates the quickly changing field of medicine during the Regency time period. Stop by and enter to win a copy of her book.

Other sources used for this article include All Things Austen: An Encyclopedia of Austen’s World, The House-keeper’s Pocketbook, and Compleat Family CookLiveStrong.com, and DukeHealth.org.

Originally posted 2013-01-28 10:00:00.

How Else to Entertain a Houseguest

Laurie Alice here: While working on my next Regency, (Zondervan Books, 2014), I ran into a problem—I needed to entertain a houseguest who is in mourning and who is also. . . We’ll be kind and call her distraught rather than whiny. Since I didn’t want them to play card games commonly associated with gambling, such as silver loo or whist, and this lady is not bright enough to play chess, I went to the well of information that is The Beau Monde ladies, the Regency special interest chapter of Romance Writers of America. As usual, they gave me enough information to keep my guest entertained for weeks; therefore, I thought I would share a few of them with you all.

Let’s start with Spillikins.

From Wikipedia (Jeu de mikado photo)

This is a game that is still played today. Sticks of varying shapes and sizes are held upright, then allowed to fall into a random pile. The object of the game is to collect as many sticks as you can without disturbing any of the other sticks. I remember playing something similar to this as a child called “Ker plunk”—or something like that.

Another game that reminds me a little of a favorite childhood game was, A Journey Through Europe, or The Play of Geography. The idea was a race through Europe, reaching the goal first. Players moved their game pieces along a map of Europe according to the toss of a dice. Sound a little like The Game of Life?

Other games included first having to put together what we would now call a jigsaw puzzle which resulted in a board game of some kind. These games—and others—were stored in slip cases for easy storage or taking on long road trips.

So now I need to figure out how I can get the heroine and hero playing one of these games. Or maybe that will wait for another book in this series. All I know is that knowing more about the games of the time makes for far more interesting evenings in the country houses in which I like to place my characters, than the standards of playing cards, chess, or music.

Originally posted 2013-01-21 05:00:00.

Interesting Apparel? How the Women of the Regency Rose Above it All

For the most part, Great Britain is a soggy place. Surrounded by water, rain is almost a way of life there. But what about snow; now that is an entirely different matter! Snow is much more unlikely even though many of my favorite Regencies are set in a country house at Christmas smothered in snow, giving the hero and heroine plenty of time to flirt, argue, ignore and fall in love with each other.

I am hoping that one of my next stories might be a Christmas Regency, so I decided to research winter apparel. I specifically remember that in these lovely stories, when they ventured out in the snow to get the Yule log, invariably we are told that the ladies rushed to get their pattens. I never really thought much about pattens, assuming it was a sort of a rubber overshoe that would fit over a sturdy walking boot to protect it from ruination, much like our mothers used to wear. Wow, was I wrong!

Picture #1

These my friends are pattens; and they weren’t for snow at all!

This pair is made of flat metal rings which made contact with the ground and the ring was attached to a metal plate nailed into the wooden sole. Can you imagine trying to keep your balance while wearing such things?

And when worn on stone floors they made such loud clatter that churches made ladies remove them when they entered. Many churches banned them altogether!

Jane Austen herself wrote of the “ceaseless clink of pattens” when referring to life in Bath; as we know being a perpetually rainy and damp part of England.

Picture #2They were clumsy platforms that raised the shoe a few inches from the ground to protect the hem of a gown and they were used by men as well as women, in the country on muddy, rutted lanes and in London when walking on horse infested pavement.

 

 

Picture #3Pattens date back to the 14th century. Only the rich would have been able to afford these porcelain china pattens worn to protect their long and ornate robes.

 

 

Picture #4These are huge pattens worn by Turkish women in 1738.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picture #5

 

In the 17th century when ladies shoes were commonly made with an upper of figured silk or brocade that almost any venture out necessitated the use of this patten to protect the shoe as well as the hem of the gown. This is how the shoes fit into them and the metal ring would have been attached to the wooden platform under the shoe.

 

Picture #6By the 18th and 19th centuries, men’s shoes had thicker soles, hemlines rose, and as roadways and transportation improved pattens were abandoned by the ladies as well and were worn only by the working class men and women as they went about their duties.

In “A Memoir of Jane Austen,” James Edward Austen Leigh wrote about his aunts Cassandra and Jane:

The other peculiarity was that when the roads were dirty the sisters took long walks in pattens. This defense against wet and dirt is now seldom seen. The few that remain are banished from good society and employed only in menial work…

So, the next time you read about the ladies donning their pattens to venture out of doors, I dare you not to smile as you picture it!

The Woodlanders

Arrived at the entrance to a long flat lane, which had taken the spirit out of many a pedestrian in times when, with the majority, to travel meant to walk, he saw before him the trim figure of a young woman in pattens, journeying with that steadfast concentration which means purpose and not pleasure. He was soon near enough to see that she was Marty South. Click, click, click went the pattens; and she did not turn her head.

She had, however, become aware before this that the driver of the approaching gig was Giles. She had shrunk from being overtaken by him thus; but as it was inevitable, she had braced herself up for his inspection by closing her lips so as to make her mouth quite unemotional, and by throwing an additional firmness into her tread.

“Why do you wear pattens, Marty? The turnpike is clean enough, although the lanes are muddy.”

“They save my boots.”

“But twelve miles in pattens–’twill twist your feet off. Come, get up and ride with me.”

She hesitated, removed her pattens, knocked the gravel out of them against the wheel, and mounted in front of the nodding specimen apple-tree….

Thomas Hardy

She lost her pattens in the muck
& Roger in his mind
Considered her misfortune luck
To show her he was kind
He over hitops fetched it out
& cleaned it for her foot…

From the Middle Period Poems of John Clare (1820s)

Originally posted 2013-01-14 10:00:00.

The Mysterious Ms. Darcy

My first Regency was Charity Girl by Georgette Heyer and got me interested in the Regency time period. The book that really hooked me on the Regency romance, however, was Georgina by Clare Darcy.

Georgina has all the wonderful elements of a romance that absolutely delight me—delight me to the point that I think I have followed a little in her footsteps in my own romances—books that is, not life—a heroine being courted by just the right sort of gentleman when her heart demands she go after the exactly wrong gentleman. Ah, be still my beating heart for Shannon, a disreputable landowner with mystery and rumors swirling around him. Though I knew I would regret doing so in the morning, I stayed up late to finish this story and was delighted and saddened at the end—delighted with the outcome and saddened that the book was over.

Over the next several years, I read every Clare Darcy book I could find. These were what we now call traditional Regencies. Traditional Regencies are those in the true spirit of Georgette Heyer—comedies of manners with no sensuality other than a few subtle comments and maybe a kiss or two, no foul language, and generally appropriate for young women all the way up to old ladies.

All of Ms. Darcy’s books were named for the heroine, except for one named for two females, one I just learned of today, as I did some research on this post. They ranged from countryside frolics, to country house romps, to balls and adventures. The heroines usually had minds of their own without being anachronistic or too much alike, as far as I remember, and the heroes varied in temperament and social position, though all were at least gentry class.

When I started looking at writing Regencies myself, I asked a few people about Ms. Darcy. Who, exactly, was she and why didn’t she gain more acclaim in the genre? I discovered that Ms. Darcy was highly respected amongst true Regency devotees, but her person was  pretty much unknown. Some even hinted she might be a he.

According to Wikipedia now, ten years later, Ms. Darcy was an author from Ohio named Mary Deasy (1914-1978). Her papers are in the Boston University research library. This is the most information I’ve been able to find out about this author who, like Ms. Heyer, died before ever I read one of her books. Also like Ms. Heyer, Ms. Darcy was a powerful influence on me becoming a Regency writer.

If you haven’t yet picked up Georgina, Eugenia, Lydia, Cressida, Lady Pamela, or any of the other delightful books by Ms. Darcy, you are in for a treat when you do.

Originally posted 2013-01-11 05:00:00.