Category: History

A Hot Furniture of the Regency by Susan Karsten

If you’ve read any significant amount in the Regency genre, you’ve come across references to the décor fashion trend involving Egyptian-style furniture. Ever wondered or imagined what it was like?

It’s clear to me why this particular style is not remembered with fondness and it hasn’t swept back around in nostalgic, retro reoccurrences. Regency culture became fascinated with ancient articles upon the publication of Henry Holland’s book “Etchings of Ancient Ornamental Architecture”. This ushered in a period of interest in the producing of copies of ancient objects coming from Greece, Rome, and Egypt.

comfy?

When the book, “Reproductions of Classical Furniture” by designer Thomas Hope came out in 1807, the Egyptian reproductions using mainly mahogany, but also rosewood and zebrawood, became wildly popular in high echelons of society. The pieces had straight lines, and used symbols as decoration.

In my home, we enjoy a pretty heirloom chair that once belonged to my husband’s grandmother, who was born in 1903. The chair is old, but not Egyptian. It’s been featured in many humble portraits taken in the Karsten home.

 

It has a problem, however, in that the green velvet-covered, thick-looking seat’s stuffing is completely shot. It’s:

Lovely to look at,

Delightful to touch,

But if you sit,

You’ll find it’s not much.

I happened upon a recent guest stroking this chair’s highly-polished carved wooden back. The reverent  look on her face (she didn’t know the seat is corrupt) reminded me of a caution in Matthew 6:19, which says “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.” The Egyptian furniture trend which is long gone and my own pretty chair prove the Truth of the verse all too well.

Originally posted 2012-10-31 10:00:00.

The Hunt

The Lucky Man Fox Hunting by Lionel Edwards
The Kill by Thomas Blinks

Hunting season is just gearing up here in Maine. Already a few families have caught their moose, which will fill their freezers for the winter. During the Regency era in England, hunting had become the sport of gentlemen, although it wasn’t limited to the aristocratic class. But if you didn’t own land where game could thrive, you depended on permission of the landowner. Poaching was illegal and with punishment if caught of transportation to the penal colonies (i.e. Australia) for seven years (according to the Game Laws of 1816) or injury if you were caught in a “man-trap”. Prior to 1816, penalties were doubtless more severe. But we won’t dwell on that unpleasant topic today.

Red Grouse on Alert by Archibald Thorburn

Back to hunting as a sport for the idle rich. Pheasant, partridge, hare and rabbit were all “fair game”—pun intended. The official start of hunting season was August 12th “Glorious Twelfth” for red grouse in the north. It coincided with the recess of Parliament for the year, when the gentry flocked north—another pun—out of hot, dirty London for their country estates or those of their friends. The red grouse is a fowl native to Scotland and northern England so those lucky enough to have estates there could probably expect company during the month of August.

Fox hunting was  probably the most popular hunting sport of the regency buck (young, all around sporting man of the ton participating in all the debaucheries available to him). Fox hunting gained popularity as the Enclosure Laws of the 1700s shut off more and more open land with stone walls and hedgerows, giving the landless class less space to grow food and the propertied class more area to protect the wild life for their own pleasure. What had begun a few centuries earlier as a defense of farmers against fox damaging their crops evolved into a very structured sport centered in the “Shire” of England, Leicestershire, in the heart of England, an area of rich, flat pastureland ideal for “riding to the hounds.” The town of Melton Mowbray became the center of fox hunting. Three major hunts, the Quorn, the Belvoir (pronounced “beaver”), and the Cottesmore were held here.

Fox hunting went from the beginning of November through March, after the fields had been harvested and would not be damaged by the horses and hounds running over them and ended before the first spring plantings.

If the hunting was good, men were reluctant to return to town, so women, arriving in London in March would complain over the dearth of men in the early part of the season.

The Hunting Party Meal by by Nicolas Lancret
Portrait of Favorite Foxhounds by Thomas Woodward

Dog and horse breeds were gradually selected and improved for hunting: the foxhound breed perfected in the 17th and 18th centuries in England for foxhunting, and the Irish hunter becoming the preferred horse for its endurance. Dogs were first used in packs for hunting in the mid-17th century.

Equestrian portrait of the Grand Duchess Yekaterina Alexeyevna

Fox hunting was a man’s sport until the 1830s when the jumping pommel was invented for female side saddles. Before this, if you read about a heroine being just as intrepid a rider alongside the hero in a hunt, she would risk falling off her horse and breaking her neck if she tried such a stunt—unless she rode astride—difficult before the invention of the split skirt in the later Victorian era. A few renown women like Catherine the Great did ride astride but wearing male attire  (she also rode side saddle as you can see in the portrait). But being royalty she could get away with this unladylike behavior.

jumping pommel sidesaddle - wikipedia

The jumping pommel sidesaddle had an extra pommel as can be seen in the photograph for the left leg to secured against, in addition to the original pommel for the right leg. Women’s riding habits had long hems on the left side so their ankles would be well covered when they sat atop their horses. This is why they had to drape these long skirts over their left arm when walking. With this new sidesaddle women could gallop and jump fences for the first time.

So until this invention, women had to be content to ride along the roads in carriages, ride sidesaddle on gentle mounts to the meet and then ride home again, or enjoy the sometimes elaborate picnics planned around a hunt.

 

From:

Wikipedia and blogs: A Web of English History: The Age of George III; Jane Austen’s World; The Jane Austen Centre; Rakehell: Where Regency Lives!; The Word Wenches: Fox Hunting; Shannon Donnelly’s Fresh Ink: The Regency World Horse

 

Originally posted 2012-10-29 10:00:00.

God in the Regency ~ Part 1 ~ Guest Post by Regan Walker

Regency Reflections is excited to welcome Regan Walker. Over the next three days we will be sharing a paper Regan wrote entitled “God in the Regency”. This three part series will give you a terrific overview of the religious environment and shifts in the Regency period. 

My initial purpose in writing this article was to dive beneath the form and ritual we often read about in the religious activities of Regency England, and get to the hearts of the men and women living at that time to explore their beliefs and the meaning of their faith to their lives. I found it a daunting task in the short time I had and finally decided that the only evidence I could provide of what was in their hearts was to look at the actions that resulted from their faith (or lack of it). I approach this issue as a person of faith myself, hence I am not looking to discredit, but rather to shed light on what was happening to the church that influenced the people of England, both rich and poor, in matters of faith during the Regency. To do so, however, I felt it necessary to review the century before this period and the time following the slim slice of history that was the Regency in order to understand the sweeping changes that occurred in the 18th and 19th centuries that bracket the Regency.

It is not my intention in this effort to duplicate the wonderful contributions of others who have looked into this subject. I merely want to provide interesting background for authors of Regency historical novels who may want to know more. At the end of the article I’ve listed some of my sources and other books, articles and websites that might be of interest to you. My thanks to fellow Beau Monde member Nancy Mayer who gave me helpful suggestions that improved the article.

The 18th Century:

The early 18th century in England was an age of reason, and the churches, such as they were, lacked vitality, in part due to the action of the government. I speak in general terms, of course, as there have always been exceptions. However, from what I’ve read, there was little enthusiasm for spiritual matters, perhaps as a reaction to the excesses of the 17th century. People were content with things as they were and those few who attended church often did so out of habit or social custom. The aristocracy was expected to show a good example by attending church and some did, but perhaps only a few times a year on major church holidays. There were parishes where the poor had no church in which to worship and wanted for spiritual leadership.

John Wesley, 1703 - 1791

In the middle of the century, a change swept England. It began, as such revivals always do, with a few who desired to grow closer to God. In 1729, a small group of men at Oxford began gathering under the direction of John Wesley to observe the fasts and festivals of the church, take Communion, and visit the sick and prisoners. Wesley had made the love of God the central principle in his life. His efforts, and those of others, led to what is called The Great Awakening, a Christian movement that also swept Europe and the American colonies. It was to have great consequence.

The “Awakening” produced powerful preachers who gave listeners a sense of their need for a personal faith in God for salvation from sin. Pulling away from the ritual and ceremony that brought people to church out of habit or social custom, the Great Awakening made Christianity intensely personal to the average person by fostering a deep sense of spiritual conviction and redemption, and by encouraging introspection and a commitment to a new standard of personal morality.

John and his brother, Charles and George Whitefield, all ordained in the Anglican Church of England, had been missionaries in the new colony of Georgia, but returned home in 1738 after an unsuccessful mission, disillusioned and discouraged with their faith. They began attending prayer meetings on Aldersgate Street in London, searching for answers. During that time, all three had conversion experiences. (As John Wesley wrote, “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins.” –Journal of John Wesley, May 24, 1738.) With this newfound excitement and energy in spiritual matters, the brothers began to develop guidelines, or methods, in seeking spiritual renewal.

John Wesley Preaching
John Wesley Preaching

In 1739, John Wesley and George Whitefield began preaching the gospel outdoors to large gatherings. Wesley took the whole of England as his parish, preaching to as many as 20,000 at one time in London. Thousands, who had previously thought little of religion, were converted. Although not his intention, Wesley’s message led to a new movement that would ultimately separate from the Church of England called the Methodists. From the very start, the Methodists were concerned with personal holiness and emphasized the need for an experience of salvation and forgiveness of sin. Those who criticized the Methodists, such as the Duchess of Buckingham, complained of being held accountable for sin “as the common wretches.” John Wesley’s mission was to England’s poor, unlearned and neglected people. He had little time for the aristocratic rich, finding them idle, trivial, extravagant and lacking in social responsibility.

Selina, Countess of Huntingdon
Selina, Countess of Huntingdon

Despite the focus of the Methodists on the poor and working classes, one of the converts at this time was the Countess of Huntingdon, who for 40 years was deeply involved with the leaders of the Methodist movement. The countess was born into aristocracy as Selina Shirley, both sides of her family being descended from royalty. Selina married Theophilus Hastings, the Earl of Huntingdon, in 1728. Notwithstanding her wealth and position, she found the typical social life of the aristocracy empty. Everything changed in 1739 when she was converted to the Christian faith and determined to use her energies, organizational skills and wealth for the cause of the gospel. Within a short time she was identifying herself with the Wesley brothers and other early Methodist preachers in the Church of England. This reflected great courage on her part, because these itinerant preachers were despised by most of the aristocracy.

To reach the aristocracy, the countess brought the leading preachers of the day into her home and invited her friends and acquaintances to hear them. A number of noble and influential people came to faith in this way. All of them were likely members of the Church of England even before their conversion. In 1746, the countess’s husband died, and at 39, she threw herself into her work with even greater zeal. When she was in London, she held services in her home inviting the evangelical preachers of her day to speak to her friends. She also leased properties in several strategic centres throughout the country and regularly held preaching services there. She built chapels, too, for “her preachers” including one in Bath. By her death in 1791, she had been largely responsible for the construction of 64 chapels all over Britain. In 1778, she once said that she was responsible for 116 “preaching places.”

It is interesting to note that in 1748, John Newton, slave trade ship captain and later the author of the hymn Amazing Grace, was converted during a storm at sea. After he left his career as a ship’s captain, he became an enthusiastic disciple of George Whitefield and then an evangelical lay preacher. In 1757, he applied to be an ordained priest in the Church of England, though it was seven years before that happened, owing to his lack of credentials. Meanwhile, in his frustration, he also applied to the Methodists, Presbyterians and Independents, which suggests he could have found a spiritual home with any of them. Newton’s newfound faith in God made a distinct difference in his life and the hymn for which he is famous testifies to his heart change (“I once was lost but now am found, was blind, but now I see”).

Four years after John Wesley’s death in 1791, the Methodists broke with the Church of England, though it was never Wesley’s desire and he argued vehemently against it. Still, he is credited with the revival of personal religion in England and the Methodist movement.

William Wilberforce
William Wilberforce

At the end of the 18th century, a group of wealthy Anglican Evangelicals came together, most of them living in the village of Clapham southwest of London, to campaign for an end to slavery and cruel sports, prison reform and foreign missions. Dubbed “the saints,” a name which likely amused them (since the Bible calls all believers “saints”), they included: Henry Venn, rector and founder of the group; John Venn, rector and the founder’s son; William Wilberforce, friend of both John Newton and Prime Minister William Pitt, and the statesman who successfully fought against slavery; Henry Thornton, the financier; Charles Simeon, rector at Cambridge; Granville Sharp, a lawyer and founder of the St. George’s Bay Company, a forerunner of the Sierra Leone Company; Zachary Macaulay, estate manager and Governor of Sierra Leone (established as a homeland for emancipated slaves); John Shore, Lord Teignmouth, formerly Governor-General of India; James Stephen, lawyer, Wilberforce’s brother-in-law and author of the Slave Trade Act of 1807; Charles Grant, Chairman of the East India Company; and Hannah More, poet and playwright, who produced tracts for the group.

What motivated them? William Wilberforce’s views here are helpful. In his book, “A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians, in the Higher and Middle Classes in This Country Contrasted with Real Christianity,” which was published in 1798, and by 1826 had gone through 15 editions in England alone, he speaks of a “true Christian” as one discharging a debt of gratitude to God for the grace he has received. Likely his views mirrored those of his fellow Clapham group members when he said,

They are not their own: their bodily and mental faculties, their natural and acquired endowments, their substance, their authority, their time, their influence, all these they consider. . .to be consecrated to the honor of God and employed in His service.

The Clapham group certainly put their faith into action. One of their primary concerns was foreign missions, taking seriously Christ’s command to “go and make disciples of all nations.” Among their achievements, were the Religious Tract Society in 1799, the Society for Missions to Africa and the East (now the Church Missionary Society) in 1799, and the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1804. The latter circulated the Bible in England and abroad. With funding from the Clapham group, Hannah More established twelve schools by 1800 where reading, the Bible and the catechism were taught to local children. She also wrote ethical books, some of them during the Regency.

The influence of the Clapham group continued during the Regency period. By the mid 19th century they were known as the Clapham Sect.

Sunday schools arose in the 1780s teaching Bible stories to children. It was the idea of Robert Raikes, the curate of Mary le Crypt Church in Gloucester. His purpose was to teach local children to read and write. The idea spread rapidly; by 1797, there were 1,086 schools in England teaching 69,000 children.

God in the Regency will continue with part 2 tomorrow.

After years of practicing law in both the private sector and government, and traveling to over 40 countries, Regan has returned to her love of telling stories. She writes mainlineRegency romances, her first is Racing With The Wind, set in London and Paris in1816, and features spies and intrigue as well as a smart, independent heroine and a handsome British lord–lots of adventure as well as love! It’s the first in her Agents of the Crown trilogy. For more, see her website:  http://www.reganwalkerauthor.com.

Originally posted 2012-10-24 10:00:00.

Tea and Tulips

Photo: Glam Lamb

Entering my ninth month of pregnancy has had me thinking on the Regency pastimes spent largely indoors – especially those that do not require much by way of physical activity on the part of a typically exhausted, soon-to-be mother of three.

My current pastimes don’t venture far beyond the nearest comfortable chair and as such, stay in the realm of reading, writing novels, blogging and time spent on the occasional bout of Facebook posting. This is why a cozy living room or den (aka, a twenty-first century parlor) is such a grand place to kick-back with a cup of hot tea and a delightful Regency Era book. It’s during these relaxing times that a tea-tray and small vase of cheery flowers are particularly welcome companions!

Care for tea and tulips, perhaps?

Though the Regency Era would have seen a servant delivering a tray for tea time, it wouldn’t have been quite as easy as simply warming a mug of water in the microwave and dropping in a tea bag like we do today. For Regency Era tea times, there was much more to consider:

–   Cost – The practice of drinking tea had been popular in England for well over a century before the Regency Era, but that did not mean that tea was altogether inexpensive.   By the late 1700s, both Thomas and Richard Twining had a great impact on the practice of tea drinking, making it more popular with the opening of a tea shop in 1717 and in the effective lobbying of the government to reduce the high import tax on tea in 1784, which made it somewhat more affordable to the masses (namely, the middle class).  The cost remained steady however, due largely to the British East India Trading Company’s monopoly on tea imports up until 1834.

Photo: Kristy, smiling (and happy!) at Great Britain's Twinings Tea Shop at the Epcot World Showcase (Walt Disney World, Orlando)

–  Time of Day/Menu – The definition of “tea time” varied according to the time of day and type of menu items that accompanied the tea itself.  Usually served between the hours of 5 and 7pm, the High Tea (also known as the “meat tea”) was identified with the early evening meal. It would have been accompanied by a more substantial hot dish such as shepherd’s pie, baked fish or fish and chips, or other savory dish with baked or broiled root vegetables. While Afternoon Tea (or, “low tea”) did not become the fashion until the early 1840s, it’s still worth mentioning in comparison as the foundation for this tea time was laid during the preceding years.

As a lighter version of the traditional High Tea, the Afternoon Tea would have been served to carry one through to the High Tea or later (and more formal) dinner. It would have been accompanied by lighter fare – a snack of finger foods such as seasonal fruit, scones, crumpets, tea sandwiches (cucumber or smoked salmon, for example), biscuits and an assortment of honey, butters, jams, and lemon curds or custard spreads.

Photo: The Foodie Gift Hunter, UK

–  Etiquette – Distinctions between High and Low Tea are commonly referenced to the height of the table used for tea service (though this is not the only distinction noted from multiple sources).  Light Afternoon Tea would have been served outdoors in hospitable weather, either in a garden or at picnic. Indoor tea times would have been served in a less formal setting such as a parlor, study, or salon, and on the low coffee tables often found in these rooms.

– Tea Tidbits – It’s interesting to note that “taking tea” was actually a rather ill-mannered expression at the time. One would have opted for referring to High Tea time rather than the more uncultured phrase. Here’s another tidbit just to make you smile… Though our post is titled to Tea and Tulips, we’re of course referring to the lovely blooms that appear in our window boxes each spring. But in the Regency Era, the word Tulip actually referred to a “fine fellow who dressed quite well”.

There are numerous resources you can turn to for a complete history of tea, though here are a couple of fun links to get you started:

Photo: 18th Century teacup, Wiki Commons

Tea in the Regency

Tea at the Regency Tea Room, The Jane Austen Centre at Bath

Tea with Bea, Bea’s of Bloomsbury (Tea Room and Treats)

The Foodie Gift Hunter, UK (Making Time for Tea)

Twinings Tea, a Twinings History

Association of Tea Bloggers

DIY Tea Wreath (Kojo Designs Craft Project)

With all the tea talk we’ve had, I’m feeling more relaxed than ever. Between the writing and blogging, tea time that is High or Low, and the service in our parlors or salons, I’m ready for a honey-sweetened cup of Twinings best on my own tea-tray. So what’s my Tea and Tulips moment? It’s in the smiles of my children and the care bestowed by my husband that has this soon-to-be mom of three rejoicing. After all, no matter what flavor of tea or time of day, God’s blessings are always on the menu.

What tea flavors your day?

Share your favorite Tea and Tulips moment with us below…

 

In His Love ~

Kristy

 

Originally posted 2012-10-22 10:00:00.

Taking to the Sky

To celebrate A Flight of Fancy, we’re running a special week-long contest. Starting October 5, 2012, through next Friday, October 12, 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 Regency Food and Frolic gift basket. 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, October 13 at midnight.

Photo on Scenic Reflections

A Flight of Fancy has a heroine who would be considered a nerd nowadays. For fun, she reads Greek and Hebrew, translates ancient documents into English, and executes mathematics. She regrets not being able to go to university, but since she cannot, she determines to make her mark on the world through creating a balloon one can steer.

Balloons could not be steered except per the caprices of the wind currents. These change at various heights of the atmosphere, so a balloonist had to raise and lower the gas—hydrogen—level in the balloon to affect their direction. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it did not. Usually it did not. Sails and paddles were employed in an attempt to create steerage to greater or lesser success—mostly lesser.

Considering one had to go aloft with live fire to create the hydrogen, and the car or basket was not all that large, limiting the quantity of fuel, long journeys in a balloon without touching down were simply not possible. Decades later, Jules Verne’s book, Around the World in 80 Days, was considered fantasy. It was the science fiction of its day. (He is, of course, the founder of steam punk, a steam punk author told me.) But I digress.

How grand getting from London to Lisbon, sailing over the heads of the French enemy, sailing high enough to be out of range of their guns, would be! Much safer from the enemy than taking a ship.

Unfortunately, steering was the first problem with long-range travel, and having enough fuel to keep gas in the balloon was another problem.

It doesn’t mean people did not attempt, and come close, to sailing long distances. Sophie Blanchard, a famous French balloonist, sailed across the Alps. No problem. Balloons could go extremely high; therefore, getting over the mountains was not a problem for her. She was also not sailing over enemy territory, being French.

During the Regency, Mr. Sattler decided to fly from Ireland, across the Irish Sea, and to England. He did so with great success. Several times, he had to raise and lower his level to catch favorable currents, but the coast of Cumberland drew into his sites.

So he decided to go down to Liverpool, and that’s when he ran into trouble. He caught a strong current. The waxed canvas tubing that carried the hydrogen from the beaker of acid and iron shavings, to the balloon, began to tear away from the balloon, causing him to lose altitude at an alarming rate.

Mind you, he reports that he was around three miles in the sky. Plunging from that height would have been rather frightening, not to say deadly.

With great risk to life and limb, he managed to affect repairs while poised above a live fire and that beaker of acid and iron shavings to make the hydrogen. I won’t say how because I use this incident for the basis of an important scene in A Flight of Fancy.

Mr. Sattler ended up in the sea near Liverpool. A flock of sea birds attacked him for the food he had carried with him, and several ships sailed past him. Eventually, as night fell, a naval vessel stopped and picked him up.

That Lord Whittaker is against Cassandra going aloft in a balloon makes a great deal of sense. Men and women, including Sophie Blanchard, died because of their fascination with taking to the sky in a balloon. Cassandra, however, is like thousands of men and women throughout history, who risked their fortunes and their lives to bring us new inventions and scientific discoveries—she will not let the danger stop her from trying to improve balloon flight and make it a practical form of transportation.

For more details on how balloonists made hydrogen and why they went aloft with a live fire, read my article at: http://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.com/

Today’s questions:

1: How did aeronauts steer a balloon?

A: They used sails.

B: They used paddles.

C: They used wind currents.

D: They used the balloon itself.

 2: Which of the following was not used to make hydrogen for the balloon.

A: Fire

B: Acid

C: Wax

D: Iron

This contest is now closed. Please see the final post for answers to the trivia questions. 

Originally posted 2012-10-08 06:00:00.

Deal Me In ~ Taking a Seat at a Regency Card Table

Kristi here.

No matter the job or social class, people have always found ways to entertain themselves and have fun. Some people have more time to pursue these endeavors than others, but everyone must find the time to enjoy themselves or suffer potential emotional burnout.

It was no different in 19th century England. One pastime that crossed all class and social lines was cards. Men and women, elite and servant, shopkeeper and soldier – all were known to deal in a hand from time to time.

Peasants playing cards on a barrel
Norbert van Bloemen , wikimedia commons

Most of the games involved an element of gambling, using poker chip-like markers to place and collect bets. These were called fish, though by this time they didn’t always look like fish. (You can see pictures and learn more about gaming fish here.)

Were you to sit down at a table with your favorite Regency heroine, the cards would be similar enough to modern decks that you would have little trouble figuring out what was in your hand. You would have to do a bit more counting though, as the corner indexes didn’t appear until later in the 19th century. During the Regency cards simply had the needed number of emblems, requiring frequent counting to ensure the card’s number.

Venetian deck of cards
Venetian playing cards (from Wikimedia commons).In the suit of Coins. English decks contained the four modern day suits.

You might even recognize one or two of the games being played at the Regency card table.

Vingt-et-un is still played in every casino around the country, though in America it is commonly referred to as Twenty-one or Blackjack.

Cribbage was well established by this time. Rules have shifted and adjusted over the years, but the game was largely the same, including the peg board.

Whist is a game found frequently in Regency-based novels. A precursor to today’s game of Bridge, Whist is played by two pairs of partners and was more of a gentleman’s game, though the ladies were known to play it as well.

Two well-heeled ladies play a game of cards
via Wikimedia Commons

Cards were such a ubiquitous enjoyment that parties and social gatherings were formed around the versatile game apparatus. When many people wished to play together, they played “round” games. These could, theoretically, be played by any number of people, so were excellent for parties and generally allowed for more camaraderie among the participants than the more serious and structured games, such as Whist.

Many of the “round” games seemed to derive from the French game Loo. Players had to pay into the pool in order to participate. Everyone would then be dealt a hand of cards (either three or five cards each, depending on the version.) Each person that won a trick would get a proportionate share of the pool.

Cards during the early 19th century did not yet bear the intricate patterned backs we are used to today, instead they were plain white, lending themselves to card marking and cheating, even inadvertently, with slight smudges and markings.

The wealthy would provide packs of brand new, government sealed playing cards when they had guests over. The less affluent made do with the cleanest deck they had available.

While today’s card backs bear everything from red and blue swirls to pictures of sports teams or even our own families, one thing remains the same. Even the barest of game cabinets is likely to contain a deck of cards.

So break open a pack and take yourself back to Regency England. Don’t worry if you don’t have anyone to play with. Deal out a regular game of solitaire and tell yourself you’re playing Patience.

 

Originally posted 2012-10-01 10:00:00.

Good Stewardship by Ruth Axtell

I often think about how privileged I am to have been born in this country, received a good education, always had enough food to eat, clothes to wear, comfortable houses to live in, cars to drive, opportunities to travel—and do the work I enjoy doing. As a Christian, I feel very much that this privilege includes responsibility in the form of “stewardship.” To me stewardship means acknowledging that I’ve been given more than others, not squandering those things (be they talents or material things), and then using those benefits to help someone else.

Portrait of Robert Raikes by George Romney, National Portrait Gallery, London

A person who embodies this spirit of good stewardship in the Georgian era, but whose impact was felt way into the Regency and beyond, was Robert Raikes (1736-1811). He was born into privilege in Gloucester, England, the son of a printer and newspaper publisher. When he lost his father at the age of twenty-one, he had enough wealth to live the idle life of a typical man of his class.

Instead, he felt that sense of stewardship and used his talents and wealth to help the men locked in the workhouse and county jail in his city. He began to teach many to read, since they had little to do in jail. He also began to see how ignorance and illiteracy often led to a life of crime.

His “aha” moment came when he went to see about hiring a gardener. While there, he noticed how noisy a group of boys in the street was. The gardener’s wife told him how much worse they were on Sunday. It gave him the idea of teaching them to read, since working children only had Sunday off. He immediately inquired if there were any women in the neighborhood willing to teach them, and hired four, paying them a shilling each, to teach these boys the Bible and catechism.

At first only boys were taught. The first lessons were given in the early 1780s (accounts vary whether it was in 1780 or 81) in a woman’s private home. Soon there were more “schools” opened in the city. In 1783 Raikes published an article about these Sunday schools in his paper. One of the reasons he gave for teaching children of working class families on Sunday was the following: “Farmers and other inhabitants of the towns and villages complain that they receive more injury in their property on the Sabbath than all the week besides; this in a great measure proceeds from the lawless state of the younger class, who are allowed to run wild on that day, free from every restraint.”*

The story was picked up by the London periodicals and generated a lot of response from other cities. From these initial Sunday schools, the Sunday School Movement took off. For those who opposed what he was doing, his schools became known as Raikes’ Ragged Schools. The children spent most of the day in the school, attending church in the afternoon, and going home by five o’clock. The movement caught on and spread to other cities and then to the United States. The parents willingly brought their children to Sunday school because it meant a chance for them to receive a free education.  By 1831, 1.25 million British children were being taught weekly in these Sunday schools. That constituted approximately one-quarter of the population.Free, compulsory education was not passed into law in England until 1880.

Think of the impact a Sunday school movement had on a nation and on the world.

 

From The Rise and Progress of Sunday Schools, A Biography of Robert Raikes and William Fox by John Carroll Power, Sheldon & Co., New York, 1863

Originally posted 2012-09-21 10:00:00.

Beautiful Days

I noticed the tree from more than fifty yards away.

In fact, I’m sure I couldn’t have ignored it had I tried.

Its branches stretched a canopy out over the road. Its leaves had already begun to fall, creating a fiery blanket of orange and yellow on the surrounding grass. And though I hadn’t thought this would happen on a simple drive to the office, I was suddenly enchanted. It was as if the earth had whispered on a last August breeze and I was convinced to pause and appreciate its song. With it, I began to think about the shift from summer to autumn. It reminded me that on mild mornings such as that one, change is right around the corner.

It reminded me of the gift of beautiful days.

As the weather becomes cooler and the days grow short, we’ll soon be drawn indoors for much of our memory making. There will be new smells, tastes, sights and sounds to enjoy – all gifts of the senses that remind us of our blessings and God’s provision through the seasons of the year. As crisp nights and foggy mornings make their first appearance on the landscape, we will pass from the relaxing sanctuary of summer to the lively colors of autumn.  And after all of the fun and frolic we’ve had in our August days here at Regency Reflections, we’re ready to move on and welcome the new season…

In the Regency years, autumn would usher in the enjoyment of tastes such as hartshorn, cranberry, and orange jellies (find tasty Jane Austen Centre at Bath recipes here), Barmbrack (a traditional Irish fruit bread), an array of harvest fruits (apples, pears, currants, apricots and grapes), mulled wines and spiced ciders, nuts, puddings, decadent trifles and warm, sweet confections. (Jam tartlets anyone?)

Can you smell the cinnamon? Perhaps taste the earthy nutmeg as it melts on your tongue? It would have been these new flavors that crossed-over into the harvest season to come.

The changing of seasons would also bring the last thrills of summer before the celebration of fall. Country dances would still be held outside (as long as the weather would hold) and many a Regency family would remain at their country homes through much of the hunting and holiday season, enjoying the great outdoors while the weather was still hospitable enough to entertain.  Young men might be sent off back to school and young girls, usually engaged in a less formal education, would be enriched in their own knowledge with lessons in music, drawing, dancing and language studies at home.

Leaves would still fall and the harvest was still celebrated.

There were still beautiful days.

Other than the fox hunting and hartshorn jelly of course, autumn in the Regency Era isn’t all that different from what we experience today. We’ve probably seen the children heading back to school. Vacations are likely over. It’s back to work through the week and relishing in the leisure on the weekends. Summer has passed and the harvest is here. And in the months to come, the authors of Regency Reflections will explore this beautiful season with you.

As seasons change, remember that memories of the fun and frolic in our summer days will warm the frosty nights to come. Remember that the God worshipped in the Regency Era is the same Father that orchestrates the transition of our seasons today. He creates the color of fallen leaves on our way to work. He generates the wind-whispers and the beauty in our changing days. And yes, His blessings are thoughtfully remembered as the harvest is brought in.

What will you remember most about the fun and frolic of your August summer days? What are you looking forward to celebrating in the new season ahead?

Welcome September, and may we find nothing but the gift of His beautiful days ahead.

~ Kristy

Originally posted 2012-08-31 10:00:00.

A Regency Holiday in Paris–Or Not

Hi Everyone, Naomi here today. Since we’re discussing holidays and travels this month, I thought I’d do a little excerpt on traveling to France.

The early nineteenth century didn’t afford much opportunity for the British to France, seeing how the two countries were at war. But the Treaty of Amiens was a one year break in a 22 year long war between France and England that lasted from 1793 to 1815.

During the Peace of Amiens, which started in March of 1802, English aristocrats flooded to Paris en masse. This delectable country with it’s fine chocolates and lace and silk had been off-limits in both travel and trade for a decade. When the Treaty of Amiens was signed and peace declared, British aristocrats wasted no time making Paris a holiday destination.

Paris offered several major attractions, and Napoleon was more than happy to show off his country’s charms, one of which was the Observatoire de Paris, the most prestigious astronomical observatory in France.

British visitors could now also tour The Louvre, which first opened in 1793 after France and England had already declared war. During this time, Napoleon was busy acquiring (or forcibly taking) pieces from all over Europe to put on display.

Plus Paris’s famed Salon held one of the most impressive collections of paintings on the continent (and just a warning, not all models in such paintings were fully clothed).

Visitors to Paris during the Peace of Amiens included the Whig Statesman, Charles James Fox, the painter JMW Turner, and astronomer and composer William Hershel, and even some female writers such as Maria Edgeworth and Francis Burney.

Unfortunately, neither Napoleon nor the British Parliament were truly interested in honoring the Treaty of Amiens, which called for both countries to remove troops from certain occupied locations.

Britain, for the most part, didn’t remove any of troops delineated in the treaty, but it did stop it’s blockade of French ships from ports around the world. Napoleon removed troops from several areas but reinstated most of them in the fall.

Britain was the first to declare war, in May of 1803 and then promptly captured two French ships. Napoleon, in no mood to be nice with his own countrymen captured, then ordered the imprisonment of all British males, ages 18 to 60 who were in France.

Since France had been such a popular holiday destination, that meant a good number of Brits spent the next twelve years in French prisons. In fact, one author, Francis Burney, who had traveled to France during the peace to visit her French husband, found herself stuck there until 1815 as well.

My writer’s imagination just can’t stop thinking of a couple British aristocrats who happen to be stuck in France when the Peace of Amiens fails. Hmmm. Sounds like there might be a story there. What do you think?

Note: All photographs in this blogpost came from Wiki Commons

Originally posted 2012-07-30 10:00:00.

Home for the (Summer) Holidays

Image: Flower GardenStaycations.

The word has entered our vocabulary in recent years as an attractive and affordable option to the once popular family road trip. Whether it be a jaunt to the beach or that all important theme park visit to stack up some childhood memories, going on holiday has been an important part of our American heritage. But in recent years, this ideal has changed. Due to the American financial crisis in 2007-2010 and the weakening of the British pound in 2009, families have begun to look for alternative and less expensive ways to celebrate their summer holidays a bit closer to home.

Holidays in the Regency Era were somewhat similar in this respect. They could be of the traveling kind of course, with a long carriage ride to a choice location like Jane Austen’s Bath, fashionable Brighton or for a trip into London’s posh Mayfair district to stake out the latest fashions of the day. But there were some holiday options that were quite similar to our modern staycations: trips to the lake for swimming, charming strolls through the gardens, outdoor picnics and even the all-important country ball.

Holidays may have been spent at locations that were closer to home but as you’ll see for a few Regency staycation ideas here, they were anything but second-rate celebrations.

Image: Traving.com 

Country Strolls

Stepping into a staycation was often as easy as popping outside and walking through the garden gates of a Regency Era country home to the generous hills beyond. Often manicured to the level of a grand home in the city, the country garden and estate grounds offered sights and sounds void to the eye during the harsh months of winter. Time spent out of doors would have been prized during the summer holiday months, both for the relaxation of the atmosphere and for the rejuvenating act of walking.

Royal Navy officer John Byng’s 1792 journals boast a lively description of the glories of the simple stroll through the countryside, saying, “to view old castles, old manors and old religious houses, before they be quite gone;  and that I may compare their ancient structures… with the fashions of the day.”

Similar to Pride and Prejudice’s Elizabeth Bennett’s country pilgrimage with her aunt and uncle, the Gardiners, a well noted tourist route took them past the grounds of Darcy’s Pemberly in the pursuit of appreciating nature. Remember the line, “Oh, what are men compared to rocks and mountains?”  To the Regency mind, it’s almost true. (Almost.) Their pursuit was often more to see the grounds along a tourist route than to spend time inside the grand house. (Mrs. Gardiner even states, “If it were merely a fine house richly furnished,’ said she, ‘I should not care about it myself, but the grounds are delightful.”)

Picnicking  –

At the turn of the nineteenth century, the flourish of blossoming ideals about nature fed the popularity of more than taking the occasional stroll in the garden. It popularized the idea of eating outdoors where one could have a closer communion with God’s creation. In the beginning, picnics were less organized, quiet affairs. But as the popularity of an alfresco lunch became a more sought after invitation to receive, these quiet country lunches evolved into quite elaborate and well-planned out social affairs.

A famous scene in which picnicking takes center stage is the picnic on Box Hill in Jane Austen’s classic novel, Emma. Film adaptations have given this scene a comparably beautiful landscape, as picnickers revel on a sunny hillside and enjoy an afternoon tea time with remarkable views of the English countryside  all around. Like our modern day holiday cookouts, these Regency Era picnics would have boasted attendees  that included family and friends, and would have involved the dining experience alongside amiable outdoor  activities of the day (such as the strawberry picking or archery described in Emma). Even more like our modern idea of the potluck dinner, Regency picnickers would have toted wicker baskets with a dish to share with others (possibly deviled eggs, cold roast, or fruit sandwiches). As these picnic affairs grew more elaborate however, a host would usually organize the dishes to be brought (to eliminate duplication) or would have supplied a carefully selected menu of food altogether.

Click here for a nice anthology of links around Regency Era picnicking {LINK}.

The Country Ball

A spectacular setting. Amiable company. The pleasures of food and fun in the sun – this could easily describe picnicking  just as it could describe the more eloquent evening affair of the country ball.

Country balls could be just as lavish as their city sisters – fine gowns, pristine manners, sumptuous meals and plenty of dancing would have permeated the country ball atmosphere as well as for balls in the city.  Stringed quartets would have played the same upbeat music, though the violin might have been termed the “fiddle” for the playing of country tunes. Dancing was still on the top of the agenda. The jovial camaraderie of friends and family engaging in lively dancing, eating and generally making merry, made the event prized among the staycations of the day.

Click here for more information on Regency Era country balls, as in the ball at Netherfield, in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. {LINK}

It’s interesting to note that through all of the country or staycation activities, Regency Era holidays were as much about family, love, and communion with God as ours may be today. We see the value in a quiet country stroll. We have church picnics and family reunions under the great blanket of God’s sky. We even step out ourselves, sometimes all alone, to find private solace in quiet prayer walks with Him.

Whether you’re traveling miles away from home or taking a nap in your backyard hammock, remember how we all value our holidays at home, for we can stay in God’s presence. Wherever we walk, our journey is with Him.

~ Kristy

 

Originally posted 2012-07-16 10:00:00.