Friday, June 26, 2009

I wish I could do a drum roll because...

The Fashions of Regency England Colouring Book is now available!
It feels so great to be able to announce that. I'm delighted and thrilled and proud. If you would like to view further details and purchase a copy, please visit my CafePress store--Regency Fancies.

The colouring book has a long history. As some of you may know, artist Shakoriel has been doing my covers from the earliest days. When I wanted some extra Regency pictures for promotion, I went to her. Then I realized that people might enjoy colouring her black and white illustrations of Regency people. I, even as an adult, love colouring--Dover colouring books are one of my favourite things.

I asked Shakoriel what she thought, and she was enthusiastic. So we started putting colouring pictures on my website one at a time. Her skill progressed, her style evolved, and we realized--at some point--that we could do a bunch of illustrations and publish a colouring book.

We took five of the illustrations from the on line colouring book, but the other seven drawings in the printed colouring book are brand-new, never before seen. She drew, and I wrote costume descriptions and then, because her illustrations have so much personality, we decided to name each character. There was a lot of laughter over that. Below is Miss Phoebe Churcham.
Then Shakoriel learned how to format the pages for CafePress publication, and I designed the back cover and wrote the text, together we structured the copyright page and we sent the file off. We were scared to open the package that contained the proof, but it was fine--better than fine--it was awesome. And it was real; we were holding our Regency colouring book in our hands.

And now we're presenting it to the Regency world. You're the first to know. It will be announced on my webpage on June 30--next Tuesday.
All the work was worth it. My Regency World has shape and form and some fascinating people. I wonder if they know the characters that populate my books?
I can hardly wait to start colouring my copy!
Til next time,

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Regency Artists

Ah, the great Regency artists--the wonderful landscapes of Turner and Constable, the portraits of Sir Thomas Lawrence. You are probably familiar with them. You might know William Blake too for his fantastical, philosophical, illustrated writings.

Gillray, Cruickshank, and Rowlandson are famous for their savage, satirical drawings beloved by Regency print shops, excoriating the monarchy, the politicans, the rich and the famous of the time.

But there were so many other artists.

The portraits of Thomas Phillips put a face to many a famous Regency name, though not so much of the titled aristocracy as Lawrence. Left, for example, is Mary Russell Mitford, a well-known writer of the period.

Phillips' style is documentary, crisp and to the point, quite unlike the poetic romanticism of Lawrence and, earlier, Reynolds.

More popular in their day than Turner and Constable were landscape artists Sir Augustus Wall Callcott and William Collins. Collins is mostly forgotten, and Callcott nearly so.
Above is Callcott's 'Smugglers Alarmed'. The sky is reminiscent of Turner but the details more controlled.

Better remembered is John Sell Cotman, perhaps because his angular, often bleak style has a contemporary feel, more appealing perhaps to the 21st century.

Regency sculptors are seldom mentioned outside of art history texts, yet their work was renowned in its time. John Flaxman and Sir Francis Chantrey and, a little earlier, Joseph Nollekens, were experts in their field, highly respected and affluent. University College London does have a Flaxman Gallery, well worth the attention of any Regency scholar.

As always it is the small picture, the homely detail, that appeals to me most. The amateur watercolours of lady artists such as Diana Sperling, and the genre works of Bonington, Thomas Shotter Boys, and Sir David Wilkie ignite my imagination, and fire my interest in the Regency period.

Sir David Wilkie's 'The Penny Wedding'
Do you have a favourite Regency artist? Please let me know!

Till next time,

Friday, June 12, 2009

British Manly Exercises -- oh my!

I have to share a great Google book I am looking at, even though it is dated slightly outside of the Regency period. It is titled "British Manly Exercises". The one I am studying is the 1837 edition although I have discovered there was a 3rd edition in 1835. This could mean that the first edition was possibly 1830 which, in a stretch, could be considered Regency! The full title is "British Manly Exercises containing Rowing and Sailing, Riding and Driving etc. etc." and it is written by Donald Walker. (The etc. etc. includes skating, wrestling, boxing, leaping, vaulting and balancing, walking and running, and climbing.)

The illustrations have a Regency feel about them--tailcoats and pantaloons--and a naïve charm that is delightful. The text is formal, pedantic and seems to me a foretaste of the Victorian era to come. Following are some sample illustrations and text:

On Ice Skating:
"Skating is the art of balancing the body, while, by the impulse of each foot alternately, it moves rapidly upon the ice.
… In the general inclination of the foot in skating, no edge can have greater power than that of rectangular shape; the tendency of its action is downwards, cutting through rather than sliding on the surface; and great hold that this is unnecessary…
The irons of skates must be kept well and sharply ground."

On Boxing:

"Self-defence, indeed, is essential to the safety of man as a social being; nor is it less requisite to him as an individual.
… If self-defence be at all requisite, if it tend to the protection of life or property, then it is worth acquiring in its natural form,…
…A man's bare arm is his natural weapon, at all times by his side ready for his protection, and where art is united to muscular strength, it is extremely power and efficacious."

On Upright Swimming:

"In this method, the motions of both arms and legs differ from those we have so carefully described, only in so far as they are modified by a more upright position. …
According to this system…a swimmer ought at every stroke to urge himself forward a distance equal to the length of his body. … A good day's journey may thus be achieved, if the strength be used with due discretion, and the swimmer be familiar with the various means by which it may be recruited."

The picture above is titled 'Swimming--Action of the Feet' (note the Regency-style chair)

On Driving

"In modern times, notwithstanding the sneers directed against the gentlemen-coachmen and driving-clubs, it is to them chiefly that this country is indebted for the present excellent state of the roads, and for safe and expeditious travelling.

The taste for driving produced, between men of property and those connected with the road, an intercourse which has been productive of the best results.

Road-makers, and those who have the care of roads, … have been greatly benefited by their advice…"

I recommend you seek out this utterly charming book whether you use it for research or just spend an idle half hour on it. It is books like this that bring the past firmly before us, and breathe life into the people who lived in past times.

Let me know what you think…


Friday, June 5, 2009

Regency Dining according to Elizabeth Hammond

I am doing research from the most fascinating book--Modern Domestic Cookery by Elizabeth Hammond, published in 1819. Its full title is "Modern Domestic Cookery, and Useful Receipt Book, containing the most approved directions for purchasing, preserving and cooking meat, fish, poultry, game, etc. in all their varieties; trussing and carving; preparing soups, gravies, sauces, made dishes, potting, pickling, etc. with all the branches of Pasty and Confectionary; a complete Family Physician; instruction to servants, for the best methods of performing their various duties; the art of making British Wines, brewing, baking, etc." This is comprehensive beyond belief.

The book is available from Google Books, free for the download, and I'm going to share from it over the next few months. One of the first things that caught my attention was the discussion of meal courses, for this is quite different from our current style of dining, not least in the quantity of dishes available.

Elizabeth Hammond offers the following observations on presenting the dishes for a course:

"Soup, broth, or fish, should always be set at the head of the table; if none of these, a boiled dish goes to the head; where there is both boiled and roasted.

If but one principal dish, it goes to the head of the table.

If three, the principal one to the head, and the two smallest to stand opposite each other, near the foot.

If four, the biggest to the head, and the next biggest to the foot, and the two smallest dishes on the sides…

If ten dishes, put four down the centre, one at each corner, and one on each side, opposite to the vacancy between the two central dishes; or four down the middle, and three on each side; each opposite to the vacancy of the middle dishes….

Deserts are placed in the same manner;--if you have an ornamental frame for deserts, or a bouquet, or any other ornament, for your dinner-table, invariably place them in the middle of the table."

The book has few illustrations but it does illustrate the best way of laying the table with ten dishes in each course. This of course is completely different from the Victorian service of dish presentation by a servant. In Regency times, the table was laid with all the dishes for the course, then they were 'removed' and the next course was laid out.

In writing further of courses, Mrs. Hammond has a chapter entitled "Articles proper for family dinners in every month". Every dinner has two substantial courses and for each month and course there are several alternatives using food that is in season.

For example:
First Course for January

"Turkey and chine. A brisket of beef stewed and served up in soup, Scotch collops, a brace of carp stewed, savoys, carrots, potatoes, and mince pies."

Second Course for January

"A fillet of veal stuffed and roasted, stewed hare, partridges four in a dish, pig roasted, and apple-pie."

First Course for May

"Neck of veal boiled, mackerel and goose-berry sauce, roasted fowls, and neat's tongue, and a boiled pudding."

Second Course for May

"Roasted leveret, and gravy sauce, turkey poults roasted and bread sauce, young ducks roasted, with gravy sauce; asparagus, tarts, and custards."

First Course for September

"Haunch of venison, with proper sauce; pigeon pie; turbot, with shrimp, lobster, and anchovy sauce; knuckle of veal, with bacon and vegetables, and a marrow pudding."

Second Course for September

"Roasted ducks, with gravy and onion sauce; hot apple pie, roasted partridges, with gravy sauce, garnished with lemon; fried soles, with anchovy and shrimp sauce; lobsters, tarts, etc."

Truly a diet so different from ours as to confirm that the Regency is a far-away place. It's another world, near yet remote, and well-suited to story-telling.

Till next time,