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

Originally posted 2013-04-22 10:00:00.

Beau Brummel – Just Dandy!

Mary here. When considering my post for April, I wanted to follow our theme of fashion. We ladies do like to buy a new frock, new shoes, and to those of the most brave among us, a hat, each Easter Season. My colleague, Susan Karsten, just did an excellent post on the use of shawls in Regency fashion, but when I tried to narrow down a single item of women’s fashion in the ton, it left my head spinning. But then a thought came to me; what of men’s fashion? It was no contest – it could be about none other than Beau Brummel!

Beau Brummel-Portrait

I learned so much about Mr. Brummel in my search that I might have to make a Part II on my next blog to discuss much more on his life, but today, we will stick to his fashion sense.

George Bryan Brummel (1778-1840), though not related personally to the aristocracy, was the son of the private secretary to Lord North, the Prime Minister under King George III. His exposure to that part of Society may have allowed his rise to more elevated circles later in life.

He was fastidious even as a young boy at Eton, and he was nicknamed Buck Brummel, a similar title as prestigious as Beau.

At 16 years of age, he met, and impressed, the Prince Regent with his style and wit. Brummel left Oxford and the Regent gave him a commission into his own personal regiment. Four years later he inherited £30,000, resigned his commission and set himself up in a bachelor establishment in Mayfair. Now, a close friend of George IV, he christened him the arbiter elegante, his Prime Minister of Fashion!

Brummel sought to create a new definition for his understated, but elegant, mode of style. The fop wore bright colors, ill-fitting jackets, knee breeches and high heels. The Beau with his new distinction created the . . . dandy!

Watch the below excerpt from Beau Brummel – This Charming Man:

(If the video does not load for you, please click here to watch it on YouTube.)

Trousers, perfectly cut coats, made in black or dark blue against a white shirt and exquisitely tied cravat became the trademark of the beau and were quickly copied by men in the highest social circles of London, and men of superior rank sought his professional opinion on their dress. His fastidiousness in bathing, clean teeth and shaving every day was a pleasing addition adopted in the upper echelons of polite Society.

beau_brummell graph

He is almost as famous today as he was in his own time and his name still represents the epitome of fashion. Should you look up dandy in the dictionary, Beau Brummel’s name is linked to the definition. There is a high-end European men’s store in Soho, NY that bears his name. And he has been immortalized by a LeCoultre watch designed with no numbers and a small modern face.

A dandy by any other name . . . Beau Brummel!

Originally posted 2013-04-19 10:00:00.

When Did You Fall In Love With Reading?

Most authors have a love affair with reading. The written word, compelling story, and fictional characters are the constant companions that light the fire to create our own stories and characters on paper.

So this month we asked our authors when they knew they loved reading. Was it a particular book? A series? A person?

BookStack

Susan Karsten

I have loved reading since early childhood. One of the strengths of my family of origin was reading. So I was blessed in that way. One of main family activities was trips to the library where we’d all go our separate way. The James J. Hill Library in St. Paul, MN has a splendid children’s room – lots of marble, built-in puppet theatre. Visit it if you’re ever in that city. I can picture myself in one corner with small Beatrix Potter books at age 6 or so.

Naomi Rawlings

I’ve loved reading since I was a kid, but I did go through a spell when I stopped reading for fun. I was an English Education major in college, which gave me a lot of literary fiction to read and didn’t leave time for any fun reading. After college, I never really picked the reading habit from my younger years back up until I visited my grandma one summer. She had a Lori Wick novel sitting on her table. I picked it up, started reading, and was immediately sucked in. It was a giant Aha! moment for me. I suddenly remember how much I loved reading romance novels and other fun books. And I’ve been thoroughly addicted to romance novels ever since!

BookCornersLaurie Alice Eakes

I knew I loved reading as soon as I realized that those stories I  loved was the act of reading.

Kristy Cambron

Classic literature is a funny thing. I find that either you love it, or it’s an assigned chore in high school. And unfortunately, I’d always viewed it as the latter. But something clicked when I entered college and began doing research for Art History. I remember sitting on the edge of my armchair at home, trying to fit in any extra moments in the day to read just one more line of ‘Jane Eyre’. An as they say, I was gone… hook, line, and sinker. It’s not just the classics now – I always have a book in my hands. (Right now I am reading ‘The Heiress of Winterwood’, by Sarah E. Ladd.)

Kristi Ann Hunter

I don’t remember the name of the book but I remember that it was about a Native American boy and the cover was blue with a picture of the boy riding a galloping horse with a spear in his hand. What I remember about this book is that it was the first “real” book I checked out from my elementary school library. It had chapters and no pictures in it. When I finished it in less than a week and took it back, I realized I loved reading. From there I remember moving to the Boxcar Children series and the rest, as they say, is history.

What about you?

Are you a reader? When did you realize that you loved books?

Like the article? Tweet it! 

When did you fall in love with reading? Click to Tweet

Check out when Regency Reflections authors fell in love with stories. Click to Tweet

 

Originally posted 2013-04-17 10:00:00.

The Shawl: A Regency Fashion Essential, by Susan Karsten

Either utilitarian or elegant, the shawl joins the pelisse and spencer as a main regency outerwear option. Over an evening dress, draped artistically, the shawl appeared as an ornament. At home or when not on display, however, they would be used to cover the shoulders and upper body to provide warmth.

Shawl worn with an evening dress

The shawls came either rectangular or square and some were over six feet long.
Cashmere shawls imported from Kashmir in the Himalayas were warm, beautiful and popular. Also popular was the English Norwich silk shawl which cost 60 pounds and was one yard square. It’s clear the shawl was a fashion essential during the regency, particularly as the dresses tended to be scanty.

A wide array of shawls

Originally posted 2013-04-15 10:00:00.

Coffee Talk with Author Sarah E. Ladd – Part Two

HWWelcome back to Part Two of our coffee talk with debut author Sarah E. Ladd.

I am delighted to host Regency Reflections’ newest author, friend Sarah E. Ladd, in a virtual coffee chat. She’s monitoring the comments to our post today, so please stop by and join the conversation.

Without further delay – grab a fresh cup of tea and your breakfast scone. We’re jumping back in to our chat about our main characters, Amelia and Graham, and their amazing love journey…

 

K: Welcome back! So Sarah, we’ve talked the growth your main characters had to take to in order to be ready to love. How important was it to set Amelia and Graham’s love story against the foundation of faith in Christ?

Oh very important. Both Amelia and Graham had deep-seeded issues that they needed to deal with before their hearts were really free to love one another. The first step to finding that peace and freedom was accepting God’s love and forgiveness.   They both needed to accept God’s plans for their lives before they could really grasp the gifts that God was giving them.

K: Let’s talk about Graham. He’s quite a noble character. What is your favorite “Graham moment” in the book?

Without giving too much away, there is one scene in the book where Graham finally says goodbye to his wife, who passed away in the opening scene of the book.  When I was writing the first draft of the book, this was the scene where I really understood Graham’s struggle. The act of saying goodbye and mourning his loss was a major step in his journey to being able to love someone else.

K: Your publication journey began with a big contest win. Care to tell us more about the experience?

I think that writing contests are a great way for writers to not only grow in the craft, but to learn more about the industry as well.  In 2011, The Heiress of Winterwood won the Historical Romance category of the Genesis contest, which is a contest for unpublished authors held by American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). It gave me the opportunity to share my story with others!

K: So with the win for Historical Romance, our readers are probably wondering, “How difficult is it really, to write a historical novel?” What are the challenges? The joys?

For a writer, I think the answer to this question probably ties back to the idea of “you write what you enjoy reading”.  This is definitely the case for me!  I have read inspirational historical romances for as long as I can remember, and I can’t imagine writing a novel in anything but a historical setting.

I would have to say that one of the challenges of writing a historical romance is making sure that the details of your novel are historically accurate.  When transporting yourself to another time and culture, you really have to do your homework to understand the environment you are entering.  But therein also lies the joy. The more you learn about another period of time, the more you want to know. And that what makes it exciting … there is always something new to learn and a fresh ideas from which to draw inspiration.

K: I simply must ask the following two questions of each author I interview. Ready? What is your go-to verse – that Bible verse that has been the foundation of your journey as a wife, mother, and now, an author of Christian fiction?

Philippians 4:6-7: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

And second… Authors are more often than not prolific readers themselves. What books are currently stacked on your nightstand?

Right now I am rereading The Tennant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë. (As Sarah’s interviewer hurriedly looks for a pencil and paper so she can write the title on her “To Read” list…)

Indy
From left: Authors Sarah E. Ladd, Kristy L. Cambron, Dawn Crandall. Authors’ lunch, summer 2012.

Absolutely!

Favorite Regency food:  Wassail.  In my family, we drink this every holiday season, and  it is one of my favorites! (You can find the recipe here. Trust me … you’ll enjoy it!)

Favorite color: Probably pink : )

Favorite Regency movie:  ‘Sense and Sensibility’ (1995 version).  I love the soundtrack of this movie!

Your signature quote:  This is my favorite Jane Austen quote:

There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart. (Emma)

Where you write: My office

Coffee or tea?  Coffee

Scone or biscuit?  Scone

Graham or Mr. Darcy? (I’m sorry, Sarah! I couldn’t help myself with this question…)Totally Graham! : )

Favorite travel destination – London or the English countryside? English countryside

Favorite moment of the book (Please leave us wanting more…): The “Happy Ever After” scene, which is what I call the l

K: Where can we find you out on social media?
Please join me! Facebook  | Twitter  |  Goodreads   |  Website

 

Sarah~ GIVEAWAY ~

Okay, Regency readers. Now it’s your turn.

Sarah’s giving away a signed copy of her book for one lucky reader. Click the GIVEAWAY link below and follow the instructions to enter.

GIVEAWAY entry link:   http://bit.ly/V90WSh

Stay tuned to find out who wins a book signed by our debut author!  We’ll announce the winner next week.

Our coffee cups may be empty, but our hearts have been happy for this opportunity to chat with you. It’s been a delight to spend time with you today, Sarah. And after all of this wonderful Regency conversation we now, more than ever, eagerly await the release of The Heiress of Winterwood!

In His Love,

Kristy

 

 

Originally posted 2013-04-12 10:00:50.

Author Sarah E. Ladd: Coffee Talk and Giveaway!

HW 2
Watercolor painting, Alphonse Mucha. (Photo: Wiki Commons, public domain)

Due to schedules of busy authors that also happen to be moms, author friend Sarah E. Ladd and I scheduled a virtual coffee date to chat about the exciting release of her debut novel, The Heiress of Winterwood. You’ll find out quickly, just as I did, that this author has a great love for all things Regency, as well as a true heart for the Lord. (Not to mention a sincere and mutual affection we both have for coffee!)

Sarah has her vanilla latte and I have my coconut mocha coffee in hand… We’re ready to start this virtual chat! So grab your favorite mug of coffee too (or English Breakfast tea), and join us as we celebrate the debut release for author Sarah E. Ladd:

Kristy: Hi Sarah – We’re delighted that you’ve stopped by Regency Reflections today to talk about your Genesis Award-winning and debut novel, The Heiress of Winterwood. I’ve prepared for the occasion with a cup of coffee and an edge-of-my-seat anxiousness to talk about this amazing book!

Thank you for having me!

K: Let’s jump right in. We’ve just met you in the elevator at a writing conference, and we’re in love with the fact that your first book is a Regency. Can you give us a quick summary of the story before the elevator reaches our floor?

Sure!  When Amelia Barrett vows to raise her dying friend’s infant daughter, she will risk everything to keep her word, even if it means proposing to the child’s father … a sea captain she’s never met.

K: The thought of proposing marriage is a bit terrifying. (Now I understand what the guys go through when they’re about to bend a knee.) But to have a woman propose marriage to a man, in the year 1814 – what kind of cultural significance does that hold?

I think that in order to answer this question properly I need to step back a bit. When I first started planning to  write this book, I knew I wanted to set the novel in the Regency period.  My goal was to write a strong heroine that really challenged the societal expectations of the time. So before I put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) I asked myself the following question:  What is the one thing that a woman in the Regency period would never, ever do?  And the first answer that came to mind:  Propose marriage to a man.  And that is how the idea for ‘The Heiress of Winterwood’ was born!

So jumping back to the question … proposing marriage to a man would have damaged a lady’s reputationbeyond repair – and during the Regency, a woman’s reputation was her most prized possession.Keep in mind that Amelia had to be married by the time she turned 24 otherwise she would lose her inheritance, so not only was she risking social ridicule, but she was also risking her fortune and security.HW

K: In The Heiress of Winterwood, your heroine finds herself in quite a life-changing moment right from the first scene of the book. (I actually had a breathless moment when I read the first line!) How attached did you feel to Amelia as she walked through this heart-wrenching journey?

Oh my goodness!  I felt like I was in the room with Amelia, watching the tragedy unfold.  And as I wrote the rest of the book, I kept coming back to this opening scene, tweaking it and making sure it was true to her character.   Amelia’s reaction in this room really spoke a lot about the type of person she was, and that moment was truly a defining point in her life … it was the moment she decided that she would put someone else’s needs before her own and dedicate her life to making someone else’s life better.

K: You’ve written characters that give the readers a very intimate look at the inner struggles they face – Amelia with her heart for a young child and the fierce protection she feels as a new mother, and Graham, with his unwavering strength as he begins to understand what it means to be a father. Can you tell us more about the inner struggles your characters go through on their journey and how  they bridged those challenges to find love?

Amelia’s parents died when she was young, and as a result, she faced loneliness and was always searching for the true acceptance that a family could offer.  Because of this, Amelia feels an immediate connection with Lucy, the baby, for she wants to prevent this innocent child from growing up as she did …without love.  This leads us to Amelia’s struggle. You see, Amelia believes that she knows what is best for herself and for Lucy.  She believes that by careful planning, courage, and hard work she can create the perfect life for them both. But in the end, Amelia realizes that her own strength and determination will only take her so far, and it is only when she relies on God’s strength and seeks His will does she find peace and contentment.

Graham, on the other hand, struggles with the guilt of his past.  There are many things that the wishes he would have done differently.  Throughout the course of the story, he learns that in order to find true freedom from the stronghold of his guilt he must forgive himself and, more importantly, accept God’s forgiveness.  His journey is about breaking down the walls that he built around himself.

In essence, both Amelia and Graham dealt with the issue of pride, only in different forms.  When I wrote their stories, this Bible verse kept coming to me.  I think it fits both of their journeys:

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.  ~ Proverbs 11:2

               _____________________________________________

Keep your coffee cups on the warmer, friends… We’ll continue Sarah’s interview in our Friday post. But until then, drop her a line here with a comment and find her on social media to keep the conversation going. She’s so looking forward to talking with each of you!

SarahYou can find Sarah on:

Facebook  | Twitter  |  Goodreads   |  Website

GIVEAWAY: You’re in luck, Regency readers. Sarah is giving away a *signed* copy of her debut book,The Heiress of Winterwood, to one lucky reader of Friday’s post. In the meantime, Sarah will be monitoring the comments and would love to connect with you. So…

Now that you’ve met Amelia and Graham, what has you completely breathless to read their story?

Come back on Friday for the second installment of our Coffee Talk interview with debut author Sarah E. Ladd. (Hint: Make sure to join us. We’ve got a couple of surprises in store!) And don’t forget our GIVEAWAY – details to follow in the next post!

In His Love,

Kristy

 

Originally posted 2013-04-10 05:00:39.

Tansy Pudding ~ Recipe for a Dangerous Tradition

Wednesday, I shared some history of traditional Easter and spring cooking. Today, I am sharing a couple of old recipes for tansy pudding, as well as links to contemporary recipes for tansy pudding.

Again, tansy is a purifying herb. Used sparingly, it can be healthful. But always do your research on the effects of an herb before using.

Tansy Pudding

Beat twelve eggs, keeping out four whites, a quart of cream, the crumbs of an halfpenny roll grated, a little orange flower or rose water, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, a spoonful of tansy juice, half a pint of spinage juice, half a pound of sugar.

Butter your dish, and bake it.

The Lady’s, housewife’s and cookmaid’s assistant  by E. Taylor, 1769

 

To make a Tansie the best way.

Take twenty eggs, and take away five whites, strain them with a quart of good thick sweet cream, and put to it grated nutmeg, a race of ginger grated, as much cinamon beaten fine, and a penny white loaf grated also, mix them all together with a little salt, then stamp some green wheat with some tansie herbs, strain it into the cream and eggs, and stir all together; then take a clean frying-pan, and a quarter of a pound of butter, melt it, and put in the tansie, and stir it continually over the fire with a slice, ladle, or saucer, chop it, and break it as it thickens, and being well incorporated put it out of the pan into a dish, and chop it very fine; then make the frying pan very clean, and put in some more butter, melt it, and fry it whole or in spoonfuls; being finely fried on both sides, dish it up, and sprinkle it with rose-vinegar, grape-verjuyce, elder-vinegar, couslip-vinegar, or the juyce of three or four oranges, and strew on good store of fine sugar.

The Accomplished Cook by Robert May 1660

 

Tansy Pudding.

Beat sixteen eggs very well in a wooden bowl, leaving out six whites, with a little orange-flower water and brandy; then add to them by degrees half a pound of fine sifted sugar; grate in a nutmeg, and a quarter of a pound of Naples biscuit; add a pint of the juice of spinach, and four spoonfuls of the juice of tansy; then put to it a pint of cream. Stir it all well together, and put it in a skillet, with a piece of butter melted; keep it stirring till it becomes pretty thick; then put it in a dish, and bake it half an hour. When it comes out of the oven, stick it with blanched almonds cut very thin, and mix in some citron cut in the same manner. Serve it with sack and sugar, and squeeze a Seville orange over it. Turn it out in the dish in which you serve it bottom upwards.

Original Receipt from ‘The Lady’s Own Cookery Book, And New Dinner-Table Directory’ of 1844 

*The full text of the two recipes reproduced here are available for free on Google Books, as they are in the public domain.

 

Here are some links to contemporary tansy puddings. As you will notice, contemporary cooks add other flavorings and even sugar to counter the bitterness of the herb.

http://www.allfoodsnatural.com/recipe/tansy-pudding.html

http://www.elephantrestaurant.co.uk/tansy-pudding

Originally posted 2013-04-05 10:00:56.

Purification or Poison?

“Mince-pie..is as essential to Christmas, as..tansy to Easter.”

(Quoted from The Connoisseur’” Magazine in 1767, by http://www.foodsofengland.co.uk/tansy,ortansypudding.htm)*

Besides the deep spiritual significance of Easter lies the cultural traditions that arise from every holiday and holyday possible in every culture. Most of these traditions center around specific foods. Yet why these foods?

HamOne common Easter tradition is to serve ham. Yes, it makes a great deal of sense in that it’s easy to prepare for a large crowd; however, the reason why ham became a traditional Easter meal is that, after a long winter past harvest and slaughter, ham was one of the few meats still edible in the larder.

Likewise we have the lamb. The lamb being slaughtered and consumed holds numerous spiritual aspects with Jesus being the Lamb of God, who was slain for our sins. It is also a Passover food. And spring lambs would have been abundant in a country like England awash in sheep.

I won’t get into the coloring and consuming of eggs at Easter. Eggs do symbolize life, which is the entire meaning of Easter—eternal life through the Resurrection; however, the coloring of eggs in spring holds its roots firmly in pagan culture.

tansiesOne Easter tradition that seems to have died out—and with rather good reason—is the consumption of tansy.

Tansy is an herb with yellow flowers and lobed leaves that closely resemble ferns. Tansy holds some disputed medical benefits. And tansy is also a poison.

At first, tansy was eaten during lent to symbolize the bitter herbs. Later, it was baked into a pudding. I have found numerous recipes for tansy pudding from ancient housekeeping books, and included a couple in Friday’s upcoming post. These look rather like baked omelets.

Why tansy? For one thing, it was usually in leaf by Easter. More importantly, though, tansy is a purgative, a purifying agent. In small doses, it cleanses the system of parasites and other unwanted guests like bacteria. After a winter of eating salt-preserved and smoked meats, dried apples and root vegetables, people probably had collected a worm or two in their systems. (I know—ee-ew.) A slab of tansy pudding, and a body would feel far better. Two slices of tansy pudding, and a body would quite possibly be dead.

Be sure to come back Friday and see what it actually took to make the Tansy puddings.

Photos from Wikimedia Commons

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

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.

The Year Without a Summer

I can’t wait for spring!  It is still pretty chilly in the Midwest, but I know the sunny, warm days will be here very soon.

Can you imagine what it would be like if spring never came? That is what happened one year during the Regency period. In fact, 1816 is often referred to as the “Year Without a Summer,” and during this time extreme weather dramatically effected England’s cultural and economic landscape. Let’s take a quick look:

In April 1815, the volcano Mount Tambora erupted on the island of Sumbara in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia).  The force of the blast launched ash, dust and debris into the atmosphere. The impact was so significant that temperatures lowered globally and the sun’s rays were blocked, making the days appear darker. The altered atmosphereic conditions affected weather and agriculture worldwide, especially in Canada, northeastern United States, and northern Europe.

As a result, 1816 ranks as one of England’s coldest winters on record.  The snow fell as late as May in London, and in the Lake District, snow was still on the highest peaks at the end of July. The excessive precipitation and unseasonably cold temperatures devastated crops. Consequently, food shortages were rampant. To make matters worse, farm laborers were not working, and with thousands of soldiers returning from foreign wars, unemployment was a major problem. Rioting looting broke out all over the country.   Malnutrition and cold, wet conditions led to a rise in disease.

Chichester Canal by J. M. W. Turner
Chichester Canal by J. M. W. Turner

But even during this time of darkness, the artists and poets of the day found beauty in the midst of the shadows. The gloomy, bitter weather inspired Byron’s haunting poem Darkness. Byron said he “wrote it… at Geneva, when there was a celebrated dark day, on which the fowls went to roost at noon, and the candles were lighted as at midnight.”  And in the world of art, J. M. W. Turner is said to have been inspired by the spectacular sunsets that resulted from the high levels of debris and ash in the atmosphere.

Curious about what else was going on in England at this time? To give you a frame of reference, here is a quick snapshot of England’s literary scene during the cold, raw months of 1816:

— Jane Austen’s Emma published. (actually published in December 1815, but the title page says 1816)
–Lord Byron’s poem Darkness, The Siege of Corinth, and Prometheyus are published.
–Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Kubla Kahn is published.
–Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Alastor: Or, The Spirit of Solitude is published.
–John Keat’s O Solitude and On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer are published .
Charlotte Bronte is born on April 21st.

Thanks for stopping by Regency Reflections.  Enjoy the spring and summer months ahead!

Originally posted 2013-03-29 10:00:00.