Tag: Regency England

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

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

downtown Minocqua, a popular tourist town in WI

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

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

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

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

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

Originally posted 2013-06-07 10:00:00.

The Grand Estate Tour ~ Visiting Regency Homes

In the last few decades of the 18th century, roads improved greatly. Turnpikes were created and the increased speed of the mail coaches gave rise to a new industry: tourism.

Chatsworth House
Chatsworth House

As evidenced in multiple Austen novels, people in the Regency era were as enthralled with the grand houses and estates as we are today. The biggest difference is that then the homes were still occupied, with the majority of rooms still being used by the family.

One must wonder who first had the courage to knock on the door and pay a housekeeper to take them on a tour of someone else’s house. There is little doubt that payment of some form was involved. Servants were used to garnering tips from invited house guests. How much more would they expect from an uninvited stranger?

Blenheim Palace
Blenheim Palace

Journals and letters from the time period do bring into question how often people were actually admitted into various houses, but the practice of requesting a tour is brought up enough to assume there was a certain level of success. Some houses were visited so frequently that they actually designated certain days for public tours.

Some of these houses are still open to the public today. Many have maintained their styling and furniture from the 19th century, giving you a fair idea of what they would have looked like during the Regency period.

Cliveden
Cliveden
Main Hallway at Chatsworth House
Main Hallway at Chatsworth House

Once such house is Chatsworth. Immensely popular as a tourist attraction during the Regency, the house is maintained for visitors today. Many think Jane Austen’s Pemberly was modeled after Chatsworth. Indeed it was even used for filming the Pemberly scenes in the 2005 film.

Wilton House
Wilton House

Other popular homes that are still open for visits today include Blenheim Palace, Cliveden (which you can actually spend the night at for a hefty sum), Stowe, and Wilton House. For some houses, guidebooks were printed – often by the owner themselves. These books could be purchases in the village and brought along with you when you toured the house.

Have you toured any of the grand Regency estates in England? Which was your favorite?

House and Grounds at Stowe
House and Grounds at Stowe

Sources:

All pictures from Wikimedia Commons
All Things Austen: An Encyclopedia of Austen’s World – Travel article
A fine house richly furnished: pemberley and the visiting of country houses. (Conference Papers).
Various homes’ visitation pages, linked within the article.

Originally posted 2013-06-05 10:00:00.

How Regency Ladies Bought Jane Austen

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

BooksTablet
Image courtesy of Maggie Smith, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like this article? Tweet it! 

How Regency Ladies Bought Jane Austen Books Tweet this!

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Originally posted 2013-04-24 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.

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.

New Inspirational Regency ~ Mystery of the Heart ~ Win the book!

Author Jillian KentWe are so pleased to once more welcome Jillian Kent to Regency Reflections. Her latest release, Mystery of the Heart, is the last of the Ravensmoore Chronicles books. The love story of these two strong-willed individuals is wrapped in adventure involving a foreign religion, an expensive artifact, and Jillian’s vast knowledge and love of the historic practice of medicine.

Be sure to leave a comment after reading the interview for a chance of winning a copy of Mystery of the Heart. And now give a warm Regency Reflections welcome to Jillian Kent!

Last time you were here, you told us about Chameleon. When is this book set and how is it linked to your previous one? 

I’m thrilled to be back here with the lovely ladies from Regency Reflections. Thanks for inviting me back. Mystery of the Heart begins in Northumberland, England in 1819 and primarily takes place in London. It’s the third book in my Ravensmoore Chronicle series and also the last book. This is Devlin’s youngest sister’s story and it will take you on an adventure similar to what you might experience in an Indiana Jones movie but more romantic.

Was there any fun fact about the Regency period that you stumbled upon while researching this book? Any tidbit that sparked your imagination and inspired a plot point of cool character moment? 

Yes. I discovered that the Royal College of Physicians had burnt down prior to the one that was rebuilt and present in my story. Via Wikipedia, “The College was based at Amen Corner near St Paul’s Cathedral, until it was burnt down in the Great Fire of London of 1666. The first Harveian Librarian was Christopher Merret.

Mystery Of The HeartBoth Mystery of the Heart and your previous book Chameleon contain a great deal about period medicine. What sort of struggles did you face writing about two hundred year medical practices in such a way that modern day readers would be able to accept them?

The most difficult thing is making sure the research is accurate and then tell it in an interesting way that makes readers wonder how people in that day and age survived, if in fact they did. I also have thirty-three years of social work experience in psychiatric hospitals, medical hospitals and out-patient facilities. I’ve worked as a counselor for nursing students for the past 17 years in a hospital based college so I’m around medical stuff all the time. I hope I have a knack for pulling readers into the medical practices of the day that keeps them coming back for more. I think it’s fascinating. Maybe that’s why readers accept the telling of those medical practices.

What is your favorite thing about your hero, Lord Eden?

I love his adventurous spirit. He’s not a man to stay in any one place long. He wants to be on the go, but after his journey to Austria he’s tired. And when he returns to England it’s one adventure after another and that includes falling in love with Mercy and dealing with her over protective family.

What drew you to your heroine, Lady Mercy Grayson?

Mercy is the most independent of the women in my three stories. She’s seen and experienced a lot including caring for her sister, Victoria as she was growing up. Then when her brother refused to give up his desire to be a physician when he inherited his estate she desperately wanted to find a way to contribute to society that made use of her talents.

Without giving away some of the key plot points of the book, can you share a little about the vodun that play such a large part in the book?

Interesting that you asked. I never had any desire to write about vodun until I was going through the typical brainstorming phase of getting ready to write the novel. And of course it wasn’t until I sat down and wrote that the men on the ship with Eden took on an entirely different role than what I’d planned and it just kind of bloomed from there. I really think I must have been influenced by all the zombie books and stories I’d been hearing that others were writing. Most probably because my mentor, James Scott Bell, was writing zombie legal thrillers. What a hoot! Zombies and voodoo always seemed to go together. Just goes to show how we writers can come up with strange ideas and make them work to our stories advantage.

What can we look forward to next from you? 

I have an idea for a new book and possibly another series that I am running past my agent. I can tell you that it is set during the regency. I’d also like to write some short stories as an addition to The Ravensmoore Chronicles and sell them as e-shorts. I’m thinking of a Christmas story set at Ravensmoore and a short about how Lazarus was found.

Where else on the web can our readers find you? 

www.JillianKent.com
JillianKent.blogspot.com
JustTheWriteCharisma.blogspot.com
Twitter @JillKentAuthor
www.facebook.com/JillianKent
www.ChristianFictionOnlineMagazine.com

Thank you for being here, Jillian! I would also like to thank Charisma for an advance copy of the book.

Want to win your own copy of Mystery of the Heart? Leave a comment below letting us know what you find fascinating about the medical practice 200 years ago or how much you’re looking forward to reading Jillian’s book. You must live within the United States to win. Entries will be accepted through Saturday, February 2, 2013.

The contest is now closed, but you can still purchase Jillian’s book and enjoy her story!

Originally posted 2013-01-30 10:00:00.

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.

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 Chimney Sweep ~ Guest Post by Louise M. Gouge

Louise M. GougeRegency Reflection is happy to welcome Louise M. Gouge to the blog today. Be sure to check out Louise’s new book, A Suitable Wife after reading the article below. 

Thanks for stopping by, Louise!

Christmas Tree and Fireplace

Nothing can cheer up a wintery night more than a fire in an old-fashioned fireplace, especially at Christmas time. Although today most of us have other methods of heating our homes, we enjoy the nostalgia generated by a cozy blaze so much that we put up with all the work that goes into maintaining our hearth.

In Regency times, of course, people had no choice but to warm their homes with a wood or coal fire. Wealthy people had the advantage of having servants to keep the home fires burning. But when it came time to clean the chimney, a specialist was called in: the chimney sweep.

Chimney Sweep Boy With Tools

 

Armed with their circular brushes and metal scrapers, these men removed all of the caked on soot and ash that could cause a larger fire and perhaps even burn down the entire house. In order to remove the flammable matter from the smaller upper reaches of the chimney, the master sweeps would buy small boys (from desperately impoverished parents) and force them up inside the cold flue to scrape away the dangerous substances. No child labor laws protected these little “climbing boys,” and countless numbers of them suffered stunted growth, lung disease, sterility as adults, and early death from breathing in the soot.

A Chimney Sweep and his climbing boyToday we are shocked and saddened to hear of any form of child abuse, and efforts are made to save children in similar dangers. Even during the Regency era, many godly reformers sought to make changes in social inequities. But it was not until 1864 that Lord Shaftesbury succeeded in eliminating the use of “climbing-boys” through the Act for the Regulation of Chimney Sweepers, which established a penalty of £10.00 for offenders. That was a hefty sum in those days.

When I learn such an interesting historical fact, I like to incorporate it into my stories so that my readers can get a realistic picture of the past along with the romance. Although I didn’t plan this particular scenario to link the first two books in my Ladies in Waiting series, it turned out that in the first book, A Proper Companion, my hero’s titled brother had a severe bout of pneumonia and almost died. Then Lord Greystone became the hero of A Suitable Wife, so it was natural for him to have great empathy for anyone with breathing problems. When he encounters two little brothers. . .but that would give away too much of the story. Let’s just say that Lord Greystone’s efforts would have made Lord Shaftsbury proud.

A Suitable Wife Book CoverHere’s the story: It’s an impossible attraction. Lady Beatrice Gregory has beauty, brains—and a wastrel brother. With her family fortune squandered, her only chance of a Season is as a lowly companion. London’s glittering balls and parties are bittersweet when Beatrice has no hope of a match. Still, helping Lord Greystone with his charitable work brings her genuine pleasure…perhaps more that she dares to admit. Even when every marriageable miss in London is paraded before him, the only woman to capture Lord Greystone’s attention is the one he shouldn’t pursue. Attaching himself to a ruined family would jeopardize his ambitions. Yet Lady Beatrice may be the only wife to suit his lord’s heart.

Originally posted 2012-12-14 10:00:00.

Botany in the Georgian and Regency Eras

In researching my current WIP (Work-in-Progress) I needed to find a botanical garden for my hero and heroine to tour. I had the Chelsea PhysicGarden all lined up.

paeonia moutan

Chelsea at the time of the regency was an outlying suburb of London, very close to Mayfair. In fact all the land around Chelsea and Brompton as you were leaving London was dedicated to commercial nurseries since the soil was quite fertile. Many of these were walled gardens. Chelsea Physic (meaning healing) Garden was a renowned herbal garden right by the Thames.

However, I found out that the garden was off limits to women until later in the 19th century!

I had one other choice, although it was farther from London: Kew Botanical Gardens, which is about ten miles southwest of the center of London.

The late Georgian period (last half of the 18th century) was a great age for botany in England and other parts of Europe. England was ahead of much of Europe because of its great colonizing efforts and intrepid navy and merchant ships sailing the seas. Often these ships carried botanists aboard who collected all kinds of seeds and plants to bring back home. (Remember the ship’s surgeon, Stephen Maturin, in the movie Master and Commander?)

Sir Joseph Banks, 1812

One of the greatest botanists of the time, Sir Joseph Banks traveled with Captain Cook on his first voyage and brought back many specimens from the South Seas from this trip. In the 1790s, King George III (before going mad) was very interested in agriculture (hence his nickname “Farmer George”). It wasn’t just an idle hobby. He hoped to use the new plant discoveries in the different parts of the British empire to improve the agriculture economy of the British empire. One successful example of this was the importation of the recently discovered breadfruit from the Pacific to the West Indies (Jamaica) as a cheap, starchy foodstuff to feed slaves.

Strelitzia - Bird of Paradise

From the  early 1780s, Banks became an adviser to the king for Kew Gardens. Banks was responsible for making it into a world class botanical garden. He sent collectors on various ships going overseas specifically to bring back seeds or plants from every continent on the globe. He is credited with bringing back himself or through these collectors the peony, hydrangea, mimosa, acacia, eucalyptus, lotus flower, tiger lily, and bird of paradise.

Lilium lancifolium - Tiger Lily

In 1789, a seminal work of botany Hortus Kewensis was published by one of the curators of Kew Gardens. It listed all the plants cultivated in the Kew Botanical Gardens up to that point, which was more than 5,000! Another important thing about both the catalog and the garden was that they used the relatively new plant classification system called the Linnaean System developed by Swedish botanist and zoologist Carl Linnaeus, the father of taxonomy, the naming of species. It is the system we’re familiar with today of giving plants a Latin name and grouping them in descending orders of family, genus, species, etc.

This just scratches the surface of the field of botany during the time of the regency. For more reading on the history of Kew Gardens or the science of botany, here are a few sources:

 

http://Hortus Kewensis, or a Catalogue of the Plants Cultivated in the Royal Botanic Garden at Kew by William Aiton

http://The Royal Botanic Gardens Kew: The Historical and Descriptive

 

 

 

Originally posted 2012-12-05 10:00:00.