Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Newsworthy Duel

I have never used a duel in my Regency stories, but I have read many books which include a plot line that contains a duel. At least one non-fiction book about dueling sits on my TBR shelves, waiting. I have sometimes regarded duels as exotic, rare,  and very clandestine events.
French, cased duelling pistols, Boutet,Versailles,1794-1797 Royal Ontario Museum
In the last day or two of research, I have learned how wrong are my preconceptions. Though dueling was frowned upon by authorities, and any death resulting from a duel was considered a murder, often a blind eye was turned to the event by officialdom.
from The English Spy by Bernard Blackmantle, 1825

The newspapers, however, reported every duel. They seem to have been commonplace events in the first decade of the 1800's, and are noted along with fires, burglaries and murders. Nothing special indeed:
Carlisle Journal - Saturday 04 September 1802

Chester Courant - Tuesday 22 March 1803

Duel au pistolet au XIXème siècle
Source     La Lecture - Le Journal de Romans
Author     Bauce et Rouget
Wikimedia Commons

Friday 20 May 1803, Morning Post, London, England
Wednesday 01 March 1809, Morning Post, London, England

Wednesday 13 August 1806, Evening Mail, London, England

Saturday 17 March 1804, Lancaster Gazette, Lancashire, England

London Courier and Evening Gazette - Monday 27 April 1801

The newspaper articles went on and on. And so, apparently, did the duels. The 'honour' which required such extreme satisfaction is largely a mystery to western society today. And the duel does seem, as I first thought, dramatic and romantic. Perhaps I will include one in a story some day.

'Til next time,


Sunday, July 3, 2016


The danger was always present. With lamps, candles, fireplaces, kitchen ranges and new-fangled gas in constant use, the opportunities for fire to take hold and damage property and take lives were myriad.

from Morning Post, London, Thursday 18 Jan 1810
So prevalent was the danger that 'fire assurance' companies advertised in every newspaper. They offered protection with their 'fire engines' and varieties of insurance against loss.
from Cumberland Pacquet and Ware's Whitehaven Advertiser - Tuesday 29 December 1812
But the fees could not always be found, and the fires kept happening:
from Northampton Mercury Saturday 11 March 1809
Fire engines were in the early phases of their design. The technology was basic though the intentions were good. This illustration from an American publication shows the early engines.
Guides to cities and towns listed the measures they took to control the losses. The following is from the "Picture of London" published in 1807.
But still the fires kept happening:
 from Cambridge Chronicle and Journal 27 December 1816
from Morning Post Thurs 18 January 1810
from Kentish Weekly Post or Canterbury Journal Friday 3 May 1816
 This coloured illustration from Ackermann's Microcosm of London published in 1810 was drawn by Rowlandson and shows the fire engines in the bottom left corner.
Even the great and good were not exempt from the flames. The following account is from the Taunton Courier.
Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser 11 April 1816
Today, house fires and business fires are infrequent and noteworthy occurrences and are fought with all manner of excellent equipment. During the Regency era, fires were commonplace, fought with difficulty, and the cause of much loss of life and property.
Progress has much to recommend it....

'Til next time,

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A Review of the State of (London) Society in 1807

In 1808, James Peller Malcolm published a substantial--490 pages--tome about London.
Mr. Malcolm, born in America, was more artist than author. He lived for many years in England, and produced several books of topographical studies. As a writer he was thorough, didactic, and more than a little boring. The engravings in this book about London, however, more than make up for the deficiencies of his prose. And the last section of the book titled "Sketch of the Present State of Society in London" is worth a closer look.

Malcolm opens the section with a harsh indictment of the labouring classes. His words are needlessly unkind, and sneering. Rather than reproduce his tirade, I offer you his jaundiced view of the city:
After four pages of description of the flaws of the lowest classes, Malcolm proceeds to the class he considers one step above, the journeyman:

In Goswell Street--Antient inconvenience contrasted with modern convenience
Mr. Malcolm continues up the social ladder, as he sees it:

The ladies are not quite neglected. Fashion is of course mentioned in the same breath as the female sex.
The aristocracy and nobility occupy the last of Malcolm's treatise. They are excoriated for their excesses, but in all receive kinder treatment than the labourers.

And finally he bids London adieu:
 Though long, this post is only an excerpting of Malcolm's "Sketch". To view and/or download his entire book go here. The 'Sketch' is at page 481.

'Til next time,


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

'Great Advantages in Wines'

"Please drink responsibly" -- It wasn't a phrase heard in Regency England. Wine, in all its variations, was the beverage of choice of the upper classes. Ale and beer were the drinks of the working classes, gin the preferred tipple of the struggling classes. The use of spirits was becoming more prevalent in all ranks of society throughout the 1820's.

Alcohol and wine use and abuse was commonplace, and excess was condemned, but tolerated. It wasn't until the very last year of the 1820's that the temperance movement became organized, and groups began to form against the excessive use of intoxicating beverages.

Before 1820 however, there were few voices campaigning against the 'demon drink', and newspaper advertising enticingly displayed the range of products available.

In 1800, the Reading Mercury printed the following, from a London merchant:
Both advertisements below are from the Edinburgh newspaper the Caledonian Mercury  of June 17, 1805
Worth noting in the top ad is the comment "A small quantity of real Highland Whisky in bottles". Whisky had not yet become a popular drink across the British Isles and was not produced in large quantities.

On December 19, 1808 the Hampshire Telegraph out of Portsmouth published a discreet advertisement with a note "For ready Money only". Probably a wise precaution.
London retailers advertised in the London Courier and Evening Gazette on the 6th of  August 1816:

The Hereford Journal on November 18, 1818 published a detailed advertisement in two columns from the Commercial Hall Wine Company, based in London and operating through its Hereford agent, Mr. J. Havard.

The pineapple, symbol of hospitality, is a charming addition to the advertisement for 'Pineappled Spirits'. They must have been an interesting novelty.

The following advertisement from the Cheltenham Chronicle of April 13, 1815, lists the sorts of beer every family apparently required!

And a new owner took over an existing business in Carlisle in 1818. Mr. Johnson placed his advertisement in the Carlisle Patriot on the 17th of October.

In the Regency, as in the current day, alcohol manufacture and sales employed a great many people, and occupied a busy portion of the economy. I wonder--have our attitudes toward intoxicating drink changed very much in two hundred years?

'Til next time,


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Crime and Punishment in Regency newspapers

Our newspapers are full of accounts of disasters, crises, and crime. Newspapers of the Regency era were not very different. Their knowledge of global disasters was limited, and word of international crises took months to reach English newspapers, but there was plenty of local crime and accident to write about.

The Westminster Penitentiary from Repository of Arts March 1817

Here are some of the events and cases that excited British readers:

Trewman's Exeter Flying Post December 24 1818
Trewman's Exeter Flying Post December 24 1818
Evening Mail London February 3 1800
Ipswich Journal July 15 1805

Bell's Weekly Messenger September 24 1815

Aberdeen Journal - Wednesday 30 December 1812
While there can be some comfort in knowing that the goodness of human nature has not changed over the centuries, it is sobering to realize that the darker side of humanity has shown little improvement.

Something more cheerful next time,
'Til then, all the best,