The Speckled Monster in Regency Society ~ Guest Post by Shirley Raye Redmond

While enjoying Regency romances with their witty dialogue and ton parties,
one seldom considers the dark and often fatal shadow which loomed over
those that lived during that time period—small pox, often referred to as
“the speckled monster.” The disease killed hundreds of millions of
people—more than the Black Death and the wars of the 20th century put
together!
A woman who was considered a great beauty during this time period was
usually one who had not been seriously disfigured by smallpox. It was
understood by portrait artists of the day that they were not to paint in
the disfigurements and pockmarks of their subjects. Edward Jenner was the
British physician responsible for the first smallpox vaccine. His wife was
a Sunday School teacher who held classes in their home.
AP PruJane Austen’s dearest friend Martha Lloyd was scarred by smallpox for the
remainder of her life. Several members of the Lloyd household died from
the disease. A character in Austen’s novel Northanger Abbey is disfigured
and crippled by the dreaded disease.
But most writers of Regency novels do not mention small pox even though
one in four people died from the disease during this time period. I
decided to make the subject a key factor in the plot of my new
inspirational, PRUDENCE PURSUED and addressed the issue right away on the
first page.

Excerpt from Prudence Pursued: 

“You should not wear that to the pox party,” Prudence Pentyre said, indicating her younger cousin’s dress of light green Italian silk. “I recommend something with short sleeves which allows you to expose your forearm to the lancet.”

 

Margaret shuddered. Her plain face, pale and lightly freckled, appeared downcast. “Oh, Pru, I wish I didn’t have to go.” She stood, slender shoulders drooping, in front of her open wardrobe.

 

“Truly, Meg, there’s nothing to worry about,” Prudence assured her, slipping a comforting arm around her cousin’s slim waist. “Papa had all of us vaccinated with the cow pox when we were still in the school room—and the servants too. I’m quite surprised my Uncle Giles didn’t do the same,”
Prudence replied.

To find out what pretty milkmaids had to do with Edward Jenner
successfully finding a way to prevent small pox, you’ll have to read the
rest of my novel. For more information about the horrors of the disease, I
recommend The Speckled Monster by Jennifer Lee Carrell (Penguin)

Prudence Pursued
By Shirley Raye Redmond

At the advanced age of twenty-seven, Prudence Pentyre is on the shelf.
Content to occupy her time by attending meetings of Mr. Wilberforce’s
Abolition Society, Prudence is resolved to see that her younger cousin
Margaret, shy and plain, does not share her own unmarried fate.
Despite her best efforts, all of Prudence’s matchmaking attempts fail.
Margaret proves reluctant to accept Sir James Brownell’s marriage
proposal, and fears being “bovinised” if she undergoes the controversial
cowpox vaccination he recommends. And the dashing baronet—with his
sunburned skin, eye patch, and unfashionable attire—seems more concerned
about the plight of headhunters in Borneo than Margaret’s stubborn refusal
of his offer.
Prudence, on the other hand, finds herself unexpectedly smitten with the
man. Can she trust that God’s plan for her life is richer and more
rewarding than the one she had planned for herself?
Available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, and iTunes.

Fainting in the Regency, by Susan Karsten

Of great benefit to women during the Regency was the great relative comfort of the clothing of the day. Compared to the preceding Georgian period, the Regency provided a measure of relief from physical constraints. Gone were the painfully heavy panniers and voluminous skirts, but most ladies still wore stays. We don’t experience many swoons these days, but the wearing of stays and corsets assured the occurrence of many a fainting spell.

            Fainting was a likely event in the lives of Regency ladies. The sensitive Regency lady would carry her own smelling-salts. These were usually an infusion of ammonium carbonate and alcohol, scented with lavender or lemon oil. The container in which the salts were carried was called a vinaigrette; a small box or bottle with a perforated top.  Sal volatile is another term for this mixture, and both it and spirit of hartshorn (water and ammonia) could be drunk as well as sniffed. Hungary water was another popular perfumed herbal restorative and could be dabbed on the temples or wiped on the hands and face of someone suffering from nerves or headache.

The preparations mentioned were kept handy for fainting, attacks of nerves, and whenever an unpleasant odor came one’s way.  Today, we throw a wallet, comb, sunscreen, and lipstick into our purses and head out to face the world. The reticules (purses) of Regency ladies carried a bit of money, a handkerchief, and their vinaigrette of smelling salts.What about you? Do you prefer a large or small purse? Floppy or stiff? Long or short strap?