Friday, December 30, 2011

“There is Not so Gay a Town...”
Florida in the Regency Era
by Guest Blogger Darlene Marshall

In 1812 a plucky band of men of diverse races, nationalities and backgrounds came together to defend their homes from foreign invaders intent on seizing their land and destroying their way of life.

The invaders were the Americans, and the defenders were the men of East Florida.

St. Augustine City Gates b.1808

A little known and embarrassing piece of US history is the “Patriots War”, a foray by the United States to seize Spanish East Florida, a land of British and Spanish settlers, free blacks, runaway slaves, European adventurers and Indians. Florida was under British control from 1763-1784, a haven for British Loyalists fleeing south during the American Revolution. The British Governor of Florida, James Grant, described St. Augustine during this period: “There is not so gay a Town in America as this is at present…Major Small with the band of the 21st has turned all their Heads. His Colonel has not escaped the infection, he is as young as any of them, danced till twelve last night at the Weekly assembly, then carried the ladys [sic] home to sup at his house and after they went away…got drunk with their partners till six in the morning.”1 Tory refugees swelled East Florida’s population from 6,000 to over 17,000 persons by the end of the war, and the British continued to play a strong role in St. Augustine society when control returned to Spain in 1784, as Spain could not put a great deal of effort into maintaining its colony in Florida while it fought wars in Europe and the Caribbean.

The American government wanted control of Florida for a number of reasons: to protect New Orleans and Mississippi traffic in the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase, to keep Great Britain from having a southern foothold on the continent where it could affect American shipping and to stop slaves from running to freedom in Spanish Florida. The status of blacks, free or slave, was different in Spanish areas than in America. In St. Augustine free blacks served in the militia and owned land. Slaves could purchase their freedom and that of family members, and the Church supported educating blacks and ran a free school. It was not a paradise, but to the slaves in the United States it was a far better life with greater opportunities than what they had, plus some runaways hid amongst the Indians in Florida giving rise to the Black Seminoles. The armed blacks in the St. Augustine militia worried southern Americans so much that they pressured the US federal government to do something about Florida.

Historian James G. Cusick says, “If you want a three-sentence summary of a very complicated story, it runs like this: In March 1812 an agent for the U.S. government used American forces to seize a border town in Florida, an action that severely embarrassed the administration of President James Madison. However, when war broke out with Great Britain a few months later, the Madison administration decided to leave American troops in Florida, and the state of Georgia used its militia to reinforce them. As a result, for the next two years, angry American citizens in Georgia and angry Spanish subjects in Florida slugged it out in a kind of no man’s land at the edge of a bigger conflict.”2
St. Augustine Light b.1824

The defenders of St. Augustine fought fiercely because they knew their freedom was at risk, but it was ultimately a losing cause. When America legally acquired Florida from Spain in 1819 the territorial government began rolling back the rights of free blacks and imposing harsher US standards of slavery. Many of the free blacks who could fled to Havana. Wealthy landowner Anna Kingsley went so far as to make her daughters marry white men who could uphold their property rights. 3 By the end of the 1820s St. Augustine was transitioning from a cosmopolitan British and European city of frivolity and fiestas to a staid American small town, its glory days of pirates, adventurers and invaders mostly behind it.

1 The Oldest City—St. Augustine Saga of Survival, Jean Parker Waterbury, Ed.
The Other War of 1812—The Patriot War and the American Invasion of Spanish East Florida, James G. Cusick
 3 Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley—African Princess, Florida Slave, Plantation Slaveowner, Daniel L. Schafer

Darlene Marshall is an award-winning author of Regency-era romance set in Florida and the Caribbean. Her latest novel, Sea Change, is available in print and digital editions. For more information:

Sea Change blurb: “Before the day is done, Charley Alcott must survive an attack by privateers, perform surgery at sea, and ensure that Captain Davy Fletcher never discovers his prisoner is actually Charlotte Alcott. Her adventure is just beginning.”

Friday, December 16, 2011

Before the Victorian Christmas

The Christmas we celebrate is a Victorian invention, a result of the nostalgia of such 19th century writers as Walter Scott, Leigh Hunt and Washington Irving, for a tradition that may have never existed.

In 1807, Robert Southey wrote:
All persons say how differently this season was observed in their fathers' days, and speak of old ceremonies and old festivities as things which are obsolete.

'Merrie Old England' was a creation of Walter Scott who said in Marmion, his epic poem of 1808:
England was merry England, when Old Christmas brought his sports again.

But the Examiner newspaper reported in 1817:
Merry Old England died in the country a great while ago; and the sports, the pastimes, the holidays, the Christmas greens and gambols...

The truth is that before the Victorians 'invented' Christmas trees, and Christmas dinners, and revived the Yule log, and Wassailing, many of the traditions of Christmas were regional, fostered by small closed societies created by difficulties of transportation and communication.

Some of the old traditions are the most interesting--many of them lost to use, but some revived for the 21st century. A few are familiar all over Britain, most are decidedly regional.

Trial of Old Father Christmas
Father Christmas - was a character evolved from the Saxon King Frost (also sometimes called Father Time or Father Winter), the Viking god Odin and his winter character Jul, and of course the Norman St. Nicholas. There are indications that he was occasionally know as Old Father Christmas, Sir Christmas and Lord Christmas. From the 15th century a carol offers: "Welcome, my lord, Sire Chistemas! Welcome to us all, both more and less!"Suffice it to say that every era had its traditional, benevolent, gift-giving figure.

Thomasing or 'gooding' - St. Thomas's Day, December 21, was a day for the poor to collect money (doles) for Christmas use.

Barring Out - usually occurred on St. Nicholas's Day, December 6 when the students of a school would lock out the staff, and keep them out until certain demands were met.

Boar's Head - was an ancient ceremony which did not actually occur at Christmas but somewhat earlier in the month--around December 16. The boar's head was a luxury dish, and the ceremony is mentioned in writings of 1603 and, it is said, has been performed at Queen's College Oxford since the 14th century.

Ashen Faggot - a Christmas Eve custom similar to the Yule log but limited to the west counties. A bundle of ash branches is burned to the accompaniment of cider drinking and singing while the bands holding the bundle burst.
A stern St. Nicholas 1810
Mumming - a house visitation practice which takes, in different areas, many different forms. The Hooden Horse in Kent, the Old Horse in Derbyshire, geese-dancing in Cornwall (derived from the word 'guise' meaning disguised), are only a few. In all cases the house visitors either performed set plays, or "engaged in licensed misbehaviour".

Sante-Claus 1821
predating Clement C. Moore's poem
Then there was Cattle Kneeling, Holy Thorn, Vessel Cups, and events such as 'Ringing the Devil's Knell' on Christmas Eve. All these practices and more are discussed in the excellent book "The English Year" by Steve Roud from Penguin Ltd.

Who knows which of the traditions each Regency family may have observed, but Christmas was then, as it is now, a time for family and charity, a time of love and a hope for peace. I hope that you enjoy all the delights and blessings of Christmas-tide, however you celebrate.

I will be taking a break from my blog next week, and on December 30, guest blogger Darlene Marshall will be here discussing Regency-era Florida.

Join me January 6, 2012 for a New Year of Regency research!

'Til then, all the best,


Friday, December 9, 2011

The Bequests of Queen Charlotte,
Consort of George III

Portrait by Stroehling 1807
On November 17, 1818, her Most Excellent Majesty Queen Charlotte, wife and consort of King George III for fifty-seven years, died aged seventy-four. She was buried at the Royal Chapel of St. George, Windsor, on the 2nd of December.

The previous day her Will was proved in Doctors' Commons. Lord Arden and General Taylor were the executors and also Trustees for property left to Princesses Elizabeth and Mary. General Taylor had written the will for the Queen on November 16; the witnesses were Sir Francis Millman and Sir Henry Halford--both attending physicians.

The Queen's will directs that her debts and legacies be paid from her personal property, said to be under £140,000.
Her Majesty states her property to consist of a real estate in New Windsor, called the Lower Lodge, and of personals of various description; those of the greatest value being her jewels,...
The unmarried Princess Augusta Sophia was given "the house and ground at Frogmore, and the Shawe establishment", and all its household appurtenances. The Princess Sophia, her youngest daughter, was given the property in New Windsor.

Her books, plate, house linen, china, pictures, drawings, prints, all articles of ornamental furniture, and all other valuables and personals, she directs to be divided in equal shares, according to a valuation to be made, amongst her four younger daughters.
In the end all this material, even her clothes and her snuff, was sold by Chrisitie's auction house, from May to August 1819. It is to be hoped that her daughters did indeed receive the money from the sale, at least.

Certain personal property that Charlotte had brought with her to England from Mecklenburg-Strelitz was directed to be sent back to the senior branch of that House. She also directed that the jewels which the King presented to her should be given to the House of Hanover "as an heir-loom" should George not recover or long survive her.

Her jewels comprised three categories:
1. Those which the King purchased for £50,000 and presented to her

2. Those presented to her by the Nawab [nabob] of Arcot.

3. Those purchased by herself or being presents made on birthdays or other occasions.
Queen Charlotte directed that the Arcot diamonds were to be sold and the proceeds divided amongst the four youngest daughters. The rest of the jewels were to be apportioned equally to the four princesses.
Two of the Arcot diamonds

There was, however, a problem in implementing the will with regard to the jewels--the Prince Regent appropriated them all.

The Arcot diamonds ended up in a crown made especially for him as George IV. They were not recovered and sold, along with the other jewelry, until 1837. It was only then that the terms of Queen Charlotte's will were fully executed, in the year of the accession of her granddaughter Victoria.  

The King of Hanover had eventually to sue for the jewels that Queen Charlotte had intended for his House. They were not handed over until the reign of Queen Victoria. Some of Charlotte's possessions may be viewed at the Royal Collection

Charlotte's opal ring
My main source of information for this post comes from the Annual Register of 1818--Chronicle section, for December. In that article, at least, no mention is made of any bequests to her seven surviving sons. Only the six daughters of Charlotte and George are recipients of legacies. Interesting....

'Til next time,


Source: The Annual Register for 1818 is available free for download from Google Books.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Breach of Promise of Marriage

You can no longer pursue an action in the courts for 'Breach of Promise of Marriage' in Great Britain or in North America. Changing times and social mores have precluded the necessity for such legal action.

But in Regency times, such actions were brought against gentlemen who had slipped a little in honour--a word that held men to a very high standard.

I have come across two cases of Breach of Promise of Marriage reported in contemporary Regency journals. The first--Fitzgerald v. Hawkesworth--appeared in the Derby Mercury (a publication that commenced in 1732 and continued for more than 200 years) on the 31st of May, 1804:

The second court case--Hardenn v. Causton--comes from 1818 and was reported in the Annual Register of that year. The proceedings are rather lengthy so I have selected a few interesting portions to reproduce:

The plaintiff, who was represented to be a young lady of great personal attractions, singular amiability of disposition and possessing an accomplished and well-cultivated mind, is the daughter of a respectable tradesman residing at Hatfield, in this county; and the defendant is a gentleman of independent fortune, lately retired from the business of a printer, which he carried on in Finch-lane, Cornhill.

From 1809 to 1817, these two carried on a 'voluminous correspondence'. In one letter the defendant said "I will marry you as soon as circumstances will permit".

This intimacy continued down till May 1817, when the defendant wrote to the plaintiff, announcing that the best mode of terminating the anxious suspense which she had always expressed, was to break off the connexion, and think no more of matrimony;...declaring his own intention of breaking off the match.

The defendant was asked to 'consider again of his rash determination', but he did not respond to this suggestion and so action was taken by the lady. The court case, complete with jury, followed.

The Jury retired for about an hour, and on their return, found a verdict for the plaintiff. Damages, Four Thousand Pounds.

A substantial sum in penalty--but the defendant had inherited 10,000 pounds during the course of the legal case, and so was well able to pay for his freedom from the Promise of Marriage.

A woman's reputation was her pride, her joy, and her protection, in those fiercely patriarchal days. A broken engagement could damage that reputation beyond repair. It was necessary therefore that the legal system protect her from the consequences of a gentleman's dishonour, and obviously the system worked.

It's a romantic notion--Breach of Promise of Marriage--and many novelists have put it to good use. But it came down to brass--money--and saved many a woman from a penniless and harrowing future.

'Til next time,


Friday, November 25, 2011

The World's Most Famous Cow
by Guest Blogger Laurie Alice Eakes

Since we are discussing the Regency era, the long one often employed for the purposes of novels, you know I do not refer to the infamous cow who allegedly kicked over the lantern and started the Great Chicago fire of 1871. I refer to Blossom, a dairy cow and her dairymaid Sarah Nelmes.

The story began a century before the Regency. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu brought the practice of variolazation from the Ottoman Empire, to England. Variolazation is the practice of taking live smallpox infection from a sick person and introducing  the infection to a healthy person in a small dose. Usually the person suffered a light case of smallpox that protected him from contracting the disease in its too often lethal form (between 20 and 33% of adults died from smallpox, as much as 80% of babies, and those who survived were usually scarred and/or blinded).

The practice continued throughout the eighteenth century with enough success that people risked their health and potentially their looks, to having the variegation performed upon them. But folklore claimed that dairymaids did not contract smallpox, as a rule even when exposed to it. Physicians ignored this as country folk nonsense.

Then Edward Jenner came along.

He was a vicar’s son from Berkeley, Gloucestershire, who began his apprenticeship to be a surgeon at the age of thirteen—1772. His studies carried him to the home of someone with smallpox. He had gone through variolazation, so did not fear the disease. And neither did a dairymaid, who offered to nurse the sick person because she had had the cowpox. Despite the master surgeon’s scoffing of the notion, Jenner’s interest was piqued.

In 1796, Jenner took pus from sores on the hands of Sarah Nelmes, who had contracted cowpox from Blossom, and scratched the infected matter into the skin of an eight-year-old boy. Jenner later deliberately infected the boy with smallpox. He did not contract the disease. Jenner tried again. Again, the boy did not contract the disease.

Gentle reader, let me say that we are a bit horrified that he would do this to an eight-year-old child who had likely given no say in whether or not he was used as an experiment. But we owe this child a great deal, as smallpox, according to the World Health Organization, has been eradicated for nearly forty years.

But back to our tale.

Jenner tried to get the Royal Society to sponsor him. He failed. Most surgeons and physicians thought him a little mad. It did not discourage him. He continued his research and experiments—yes, with real human subjects. I am hopeful that these were adults who consented.
The Cow Pock by Gillray--Vaccination causing cows to happen!

By the Regency, Jenner’s ideas were growing in acceptance. Medical societies were formed around immunization research, and by 1840, Great Britain outlawed the use of variolazation to immunize against smallpox. To this day, we refer to those nasty shots against disease as vaccinations from the Latin vaca, which means cow.

You can find more about Edward Jenner and Blossom, including pictures of her horns, at

Award-winning author Laurie Alice Eakes wanted to be a writer since knowing what one was. Her first book won the National Readers Choice Award in 2007, and her third book was a Carol Award finalist in 2010. Having her first book with Baker/Revell, Lady in the Mist, picked up by Crossings Book Club, and six of her books; have been chosen for large print editions by Thorndike Press. She has been a public speaker for as long as she can remember; thus, only suffers enough stage fright to keep her sharp. In 2002, while in graduate school for writing fiction, she began to teach fiction in person and online. She lives in Virginia with her husband, two dogs, and probably too many cats.

Visit Laurie at her website

Friday, November 18, 2011

Princess Mary, 'the family beauty'

Princess Mary, aged 6
Princess Mary, eleventh of the fifteen children of George III and Queen Charlotte, and the fourth daughter, was born in 1776. The children of George III lived restricted lives, and his daughters' lives were particularly proscribed. Marriage was discouraged, and the younger ones had to wait until their elder sisters were wed, which was problematic for Augusta, 1768-1840, never did marry.

Mary, accredited as the family beauty, made her debut in 1792. She fell in love with a Dutch prince, Frederik, sometime around 1796 but was not permitted to marry him, as Augusta and Elizabeth were still spinsters. He died in 1799, and Mary's life took on the bleak aspect that she was to share with sisters Augusta and Elizabeth, until she married in 1816.

Mary was twenty when her niece Charlotte was born to George Prince of Wales and his detested wife Caroline. George III was delighted by the grandchild. Mary commented in a letter "Papa...loves little girls best." Mary's life was of necessity closely entwined with that of her niece. Mary, Augusta, Elizabeth and later Sophia and Amelia lived in their mother's thrall in a household they secretly called the 'Nunnery'. Charlotte spent a great deal of time with them during her childhood.

Princess Mary about 1815
Princess Amelia died in 1810 and George III slipped into insanity, and George Prince of Wales slipped into the Regency. Princess Charlotte, his daughter, feted by the public as heir to the throne, with the fickleness of youth, alternately loved and hated her aunts. In 1813, to Charlotte's great annoyance, Mary opened the dancing at a ball specifically given for Charlotte.

Oddly enough, Princess Mary and her niece (who shared a marked family resemblance) became mild rivals over two of the few eligible gentlemen permitted their acquaintance.

At thirty-seven, Mary was quite enamoured of Leopold of Saxe-Coburg despite that he was thirteen years her junior. At the time, Charlotte was contemplating marriage with the Prince of Orange--Slender Billy--whom she later jilted  In her boredom and resentment, she began to flirt with her second cousin William Frederick, Duke of Gloucester. He was thirty-eight! In the end, Charlotte wed Leopold, and Mary was married to Gloucester.

It was Mary's wedding dress that first piqued my interest in her. A description of the dress appeared in the Repository of Arts in the August 1816 issue:

The dress is composed of silver tissue, superbly trimmed with two flounces of scolloped lama, worked in pineapple pattern, each flounce headed with three weltings of lama-work. The body and sleeves, which are worked to correspond, are trimmed, in a style perfectly novel, with beautiful Brussels point lace. The robe of silver tissue is lined with white satin, and trimmed round with a most superb border of lama-work, which corresponds with the dress; it fastens at the waist by a superb diamond clasp. Her Royal Highness's diamonds were peculiarly fine; her head-dress in particular, which consisted of a superb wreath of diamonds, was much admired; and the general effects of her dress was strikingly beautiful.
The strategies which Mary used to effect her marriage are not now known. Her father was incapable of objection; her mother was within two years of her death. The Prince Regent was inclined to permit his sisters more freedom. All of these things may have combined to allow Mary to escape the stifling world of the 'Nunnery'. She was not marrying for love. Apparently the Duke of Gloucester was without personal charm. He was nicknamed "The Cheese, a stolid, unimaginative soul, but much taken with his Princess. She appeared unenthusiastic on their wedding day, but was prepared to do what she must to gain the freedom of marriage. Later, Charlotte wrote: "I cannot say she looks the picture of happiness or as if she was much delighted with him."

Princess Charlotte of Wales died in November, 1817, a year before her aunt Elizabeth married and her grandmother Queen Charlotte died. The Princess Victoria, Charlotte's cousin was born in 1819 and, with her, a new world quivered into being.

Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester had no children, but became the future queen's favourite aunt. The Duke of Gloucester died in 1834, but Mary lived another twenty-two more years. She died in April 1857, aged 81. She was the only one of George III's fifteen children to have been photographed.
Princess Mary far right 1856 aged 80

Her companions are Queen Victoria, the future Edward VII, and little Princess Alice. I find that link from Regency times to Victorian fascinating.

Next week, Regency author Laurie Alice Eakes will be visiting. More details to come!

'Til next time,


Friday, November 11, 2011

The Sea and the Sky--Artist Robert Salmon

I know little of the ocean. I am a prairie person born and bred. Though I have seen both the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans, I have not lived near either. I cannot know the profound effect that the sea, and the nautical life it engenders, can have on a society or on an individual. It is a great drawback for a writer of books set in England, where the ocean has informed all the country's history.

East Indiaman 'Warley' by Robert Salmon 1804
I am aided in my understanding of the sea by marine artists. And I just discovered Robert Salmon 1775-1845. He was born in Whitehaven, Cumberland in 1775 of Scottish descent. His name originally was Salomon; he changed the spelling around 1800. He is an enigmatic figure--nothing is known of his artistic training, little is documented of his personal life. Even his date of death is uncertain.
View of Liverpool from Cheshire

Salmon displayed occasionally at the Royal Academy in London from 1802 on. He settled in Liverpool in 1806 and lived there until 1811. A body of work from that period survives and is in the National Maritime Museum, London.
The first Mail Packet from Liverpool to Glasgow 1805

Old Bidston Lighthouse near Liverpool
In 1812 Salmon removed to Scotland and lived in Greenock until 1822. A great number of paintings survive from those years. I am particularly drawn to the skies in his work--I think they show him influenced by Turner, though his style is thought to be guided by 17th century Dutch marine painters. Look at the skies in these paintings:
Curious Rocks on the Coast of Scotland
Moonlight Coastal Scene
View of Greenock 1816
Salmon returned to Liverpool in 1822 where he worked until 1825.
An armed merchant vessel passing the Custom House, Greenock on the Clyde
Neward Castle with a distant View of Port Glasgow
In 1828, Robert Salmon emigrated to America.
Land's End, Cornwall
He became one of the greatest marine artists in that country. Salmon influenced a whole new generation of artists in America, and produced an immense body of work. I have not ventured to even sample it here. He is considered 'the father of American luminism' and painted 300-400 paintings of Boston Harbour alone, working in a studio--some called it a hut--right on the wharves.

Robert Salmon left America in 1842 for Europe. A few works of Italian scenes have been discovered, but it is unknown if he returned to England. The date of his last known work is 1845. His death is thought to have occurred shortly after, but where and when is not clear. He was a solitary man to the end, but he left a great legacy. And I am grateful to have his work to educate me about the sea and its ways.

'Til next time,


Friday, November 4, 2011

The Adult Orphan Institution

In my reading recently, I came across mention of the Adult Orphan Institution, also known as the Adult Orphan Asylum. I could not imagine what was meant by this title, and so, research was called for!

The Adult Orphan Institution was established in 1818 in Someries House, a building designed free of charge by John Nash in association with his redevelopment of the area surrounding Regent's Park. It was located on the north of St. Andrew's Place, near Park Square.

A map of 1833 with the location of the Adult Orphan Asylum in red.
The location was salubrious with the greenery of the Park, and opportunities for fresh air and exercise close by. The entire area was one large building site but, it must have been interesting for the inmates of the Asylum, though no doubt noisy and somewhat dirty. Nash's great terraces were rising to the north, Cambridge, Chester and Cumberland, in all their neoclassical glory.

The Adult Orphan Asylum was
"founded for the relief and education of the friendless and orphan daughters of clergymen of the established church, and of military and naval officers..."
It accepted young women aged 14 to 17 to be educated as governesses, "the instructions being of a superior description". The institution was entirely privately funded by donation. Early information is sketchy but in 1831, it was under the patronage of the King and the Princess Augusta. By 1842, the patron was Queen Victoria.

I have recounted the world of the Regency governess in another post. It was not an easy life. The Adult Orphan Institution educated governesses throughout the Victorian era, some 330 by 1861. A writer of the 1860's remarks on the life of the governess:
" is usually one of much monotony,--of wearisome exertion, but rarely violent affliction,--with many mortifications..."
This painting of 1844 by Richard Redgrave illustrates the dreary life with the governess sitting in shadow and solitude while the young ladies of the household celebrate the joys of summer together.

Graduates of the Asylum were assured, at least in public literature, of being "provided with situations as governesses in families of the highest respectability". It is to be hoped that the Adult Orphan Institution held to its advertised tenets. The market for governesses, in the mid-19th century, was dominated by 'governess agencies' who were neither as honest nor as reliable as they might have been. One publication says
"...these spurious agencies abound in the central and fashionable parts of London; they are mostly kept by women...mostly governesses who have themselves failed in their profession...but that fact cannot be accepted as an excuse for their dishonesty and greed. Their poverty does not give them a right to take money on false pretences from struggling creatures, who equally poor, or perhaps poorer than themselves, are yet striving to be honest."

A governess, circa 1845 by De Mersseman

I hope that the young women educated by the Adult Orphan Institution found comfortable, safe employment.

Institutions are always open to misuse and venality. Looking back from a great distance at an establishment we know little of, we can only hope that the girls who were forced by circumstance to seek out the Asylum were well-treated, and benefited from the promises of the charity.

'Til next time,


Friday, October 28, 2011

There’s Graphite in Them Thar Hills:
The Rise and Fall of Graphite Mining during the Regency by Guest Blogger Regina Scott

I belong to the mountains, having been born and raised in the Cascades of Washington State. So towering peaks and water-carved caverns are no mystery to me. When I chose to set my November 2011 and February 2012 novels among the fells of the Lake District in England, however, I was surprised to learn the mountains held something far more valuable than the view: graphite.

It turns out that the soft, greasy black mineral, which the residents of the Lake District called wad or plumbago, was used to line the inside of molds for creating cannon and musket balls. The mold had to be relined frequently. As you can imagine, between the various wars and typical shooting habits, England during the Georgian and Regency periods used a lot of lead balls. The wad from the Lake District was of particularly high quality, which also made it perfect for artists’ pencils. Given all this, the prices for wad soared.

Luckily, it was relatively easy to mine. Unlike in other places around the world, where graphite is often in the form of flakes or shales, England’s Lake District boasts a very pure form of graphite that comes in chunks ranging from an ounce or so up to 50 pounds. The most difficult part of wad mining was finding a new vein. Because of the geology of the region, wad deposits lay in short-lived veins or slumps and pockets, and the location was difficult to predict. Once a vein was located, however, basic mining techniques could open it, and the miners merely had to walk up and grab the mineral by the handfuls. Some boasted that they could get as much as a thousand pounds (as in money, not weight) in a half hour.

Just as when anything becomes precious, wad soon required additional protection to ensure it was properly mined and sold. Miners were watched by security guards and overseers who regularly forced them to empty their pockets or even strip down to their skins at the end of a shift to make sure they weren’t carrying away the profits. Guards watched the stocks at the mine and escorted the shipments to the pencil factories or lead works. Still, thieves snuck in at night and sometimes were bold enough to threaten a mine in broad daylight. A whole army of smugglers worked at ferrying the material overland. One of the most famous was a woman called Black Sal, who was allegedly hunted to death with hounds for her transgressions. To put a stop to such theft, in 1752, Parliament made a law that stealing or receiving stolen wad was punishable by whipping and a year’s hard labor or being transported for seven years.

The other danger in mining wad was the fluctuations in the market. Each time one of the mines found a lucrative pocket, the wad was rushed to buyers, and the market quickly flooded. So, mine owners entered into agreements to take turns working their mines and selling their wares to ensure everyone received a chance for a fortune.

Meanwhile, France struggled to get enough of the material for its industrial and military uses. Napoleon ended up commissioning an expert to discover a way to make wad without getting it from England (bit hard to do with a war on). The expert invented a process to water down wad with clay. The approach spread and so severely undercut the need for pure graphite that the mines in the Lake District all shut down before 1900. Spoils from the mining can still be found dotting the landscape.

But the view is still magnificent.

Regina Scott spends a great deal of time in the Regency period.  Her twentieth book set in that period, An Honorable Gentleman, is a November 2011 release from Love Inspired Historicals.  The hero, Sir Trevor Fitzwilliam, is awarded an estate when he’s made a baronet, an estate that holds a defunct wad mine, a mysterious moving statue, and a very determined young lady intent on reclaiming the estate’s future glory, and wedging her way into Sir Trevor’s heart.  You can find Regina online at,, and

Friday, October 21, 2011

The High Points of London
...Geographically Speaking!

London is situated along the banks of the River Thames in a broad valley. It stands to reason therefore that the land rises on either side. And there are some impressive hills. Some are well-known to Regency readers and writers--Hampstead Heath is a substantial height of land at 440 ft., and Bushey Heath at 502 ft.--both sheltered highwaymen and thieves like Dick Turpin through the early 1800s.

Horatia Nelson Ward, 1822
One of the tallest hills, at 499 feet, is Stanmore, eleven miles from the City to the north and west. It was the sight of a meeting between the Prince Regent and Louis XVIII in 1814, at the Abercorn Arms. Nearby Pinner Hill, 413 feet, was the home of Mrs. Horatia Ward--daughter of Emma Hamilton and Lord Nelson--in her old age. The borough of Harrow is home to several of the highest of the London's hills, including Harrow at 408 feet.

Triangular Tower,
Shooter's Hill
Shooter's Hill, south east of the City of London, on the main road to Dover was also remote, and very steep. With a gallows at the bottom, in use until 1805, and thieves abounding, it must have been a dreaded part of the journey to the coast. Because of its height, it was long the site of a warning beacon, and its summit at 433 ft. boasted a shutter telegraph in Regency times, and the long-standing, well-known Bull Inn.

Muswell Hill (344 ft.) and Highgate (North Hill--430 ft.) are closer to the City of London--Muswell is only six miles north of Charing Cross. Both are prized areas now, and were burgeoning suburbs during the Regency comprised of villas and cottages ornes in leafy seclusion.

To the south-east of the City, Havering-atte-Bower, a ridge of some 344 feet rose. Situated on it was Havering Palace, built as a hunting lodge by Edward the Confessor and used by royalty for the next six hundred years. It was pulled down in the 1600s, and Havering subsided into relative obscurity.

All the heights of land surrounding London now offer wonderful views of the great city and its environs. In the Regency era, they would have been much more rural, and the city that could been seen from them was very different.Geography is so important in understanding a city, and its people. As writers, and readers, we need our maps close to hand!
London from Hampstead Heath, by John Constable
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Thank you to everyone who left comments on my blog post last week. I'm glad you enjoyed my little contest and the winner is Tracey D (booklover0226). I will be contacting you shortly about sending your ebooks on CD-ROM. Congratulations!

I hope you will all enter to win the Kindle at the Uncial Press Birthday Party; that draw takes place October 28. And there are free ebook draws every day!

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Next week, Regina Scott will be visiting to discuss graphite mining in England during the Regency. Graphite, or plumbago, was a vital mineral in the British military industries. Learn more next Friday! Regina spends a great deal of time in the Regency period. Her twentieth book set in that period, An Honorable Gentleman, is a November 2011 release from Love Inspired Historicals. You can find Regina online at,, and

Friday, October 14, 2011

Hanover-square Rooms -- The place for concerts

In 1774 were built the concert rooms that were to dominate the Georgian musical scene, and continue to attract music lovers until nearly the end of the nineteenth century.
Hanover-square Rooms shown in blue
At the corner of Hanover Square and Hanover Street, was a piece of freehold property belonging to the Earl of Plymouth. He sold the freehold on June 28, 1774 and it was conveyed to Giovanni Gallini and his partners, among whom was John Christian Bach. On the site, they built a structure consisting of a principal room 95 ft by 35 ft on the first floor, with an arched ceiling decorated by Cipriani. It could house up to 500 people. There was also on this level a smaller room known for a time as the Queen's Tea Room. There was a large ground floor room as well.

The principal room originally had an orchestra 'stage' on a raised dais at the east end and an organ. In 1804, when the Concert of Ancient Music leased space for concerts the principal room was altered: the orchestra moved to the west end, and the east end held three boxes for the royal family and other notables. There was also a 'splendid refurbishment' to the thirty year old chambers.
The principal room in 1844
The Hanover-square Rooms, from their very earliest days, attracted the greatest performers of the time. John Christian Bach was among the first concert-givers. Haydn performed regularly in the 1790s and his Messiah was performed as a benefit for the Royal Society of Musicians for several decades. In 1798, Miss Linwood's celebrated needlework pictures were exhibited, perhaps in that ground floor room, and other events such as lectures, readings and meetings were held in the rooms.

In June 1808, the Cambrian Musical Prodigy, Miss Randles, age 8, under the patronage of the Prince of Wales, performed with Catalani and Naldi.

Samuel Wesley played violin sonatas in the Hanover-square Rooms and in May of 1810, he hosted a Musical Morning-Party which, according to The Monthly Mirror, begins
at one o'clock, terminates about four, and in the present state of fashionable morning society, (rides, walks, calls, ennui, and idleness), we think it a very laudable institution.
According to one version of the story, Beau Brummell's break with the Prince Regent--when Brummell is reported to have said "Alvanley, who's your fat friend?"--took place at the Hanover-square Rooms.

One hundred years after they opened, the last concerts were held at the Rooms. In 1900 the building was demolished. We often hear of the Argyll Rooms, Almack's of course, Vauxhall and all the gentlemen's clubs; we need to add the Hanover-square Rooms to our list of locations for Regency social events.

This week I am celebrating the Fifth Birthday of my publisher Uncial Press! I am giving away to one lucky winner two CD-ROM's of my Uncial Press Regency Romance releases--one of "The Education of Portia", and one of "Love's Liberty". Please comment here on this blog post answering the question "What is your all-time favourite Regency or Jane Austen romance?". Enter from 10:00 AM CST Friday October 14 (today!) to 10:00 PM CST Thursday October 20, 2011 for a chance to win both e-books. I will do a random drawing and announce the winner in next Friday's blog post.

Do visit Uncial Press this month--they are giving away an ebook every day and having two draws--one for a Kobo and one for a Kindle.

Good Luck!

'Til next time,

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Muslin Pelisse -
A Charming Variation of a Necessary Garment

The pelisse was basically a coat and it was ubiquitous from about 1800 through to the 1840's. It appeared in every lady's wardrobe in almost every season of the year in Great Britain. It was sometimes called a redingote--although that was a heavier, more tailored fore-runner of the pelisse. The pelisse did have military origins as did many fashions in the early 1800s.

left November 1807     right February 1811

In the early years of the century the pelisse was loosely structured. By 1810 La Belle Assemblee was writing:

[Pelisses] are still made to fit tight to the shape, to button down the front with small raised silk buttons, left broad over the bosom and shoulders, but sloped in something narrower to the fall of the back behind...We have seen several elegant women in fine black cloth pelisses, ornamented with the narrowest gold braiding.
Journal des Dames 1819

The Mirror of Fashion in August 1817 assured its readers that "pelisses are still considered as elegant for the promenade costume..." and they discuss "...a pelisse of blue and white shot sarsnet, lined with white sarsnet, and trimmed with white satin."

By October 1817, pelisses had become more fitted and the Ladies Monthly Museum stated that "Silk pelisses begin to be generally adopted for walking dresses."

As I read contemporary fashion magazines however, it is the muslin pelisse that really captures my imagination. The delicacy and the sheer prettiness of the garment must have been charming.

In 1803 The Duke of Bedford wed Lady Georgiana Gordon. The Gentleman's Magazine reported the lady wore "a muslin dress of the finest fabric" for the ceremony, and 'previous to her departure for Woburn, she wore an elegant fringed muslin pelisse, lined with sarsenet, and trimmed with lace of great value."

The lovely illustrations (and patterns) for muslin pelisses in the book Period Costume for Stage and Screen: Patterns for Women's Dress, 1800-1909 by Jean Hunnisett and Janette Haslam display the delicacy of the muslin pelisse.

Worthing Museum and Art Gallery
Muslin pelisse of 1810 from Period Costume for Stage and Screen

Ackerman's Repository as quoted in the Edinburgh Annual Register of August 1810 mentions "A plain muslin short pelisse, trimmed with [vandyke lace]."

La Belle Assemblee, in the same year, writes:

...we have nothing more approved to offer than the fine sprigged India muslin pelisse, lined with pale pink, straw, blue, or lavender, and trimmed entirely around with a narrow lace edging...

In September of 1816 however, the Repository of Arts was advising:
Muslin pelisses, so elegant and so appropriate to the season, have, from the coolness and humidity of the weather, been entirely laid aside.

A particularly pretty muslin pelisse of the early 1800s
from Period Costume for Stage and Screen

In 1818 the Lady's Monthly Museum reported that "muslin pelisses have disappeared". But they had it wrong, for as late as 1840, the young Princess Victoria was reported as wearing "a white muslin pelisse lined with primrose coloured silk".

For more details about pelisses, I recommend the following:

Pelisse coat said to have been worn by Jane Austen

A very complete history from Fashion Era

A pelisse/spencer pattern for purchase from the Jane Austen Gift Shop

A very good article from Your Wardrobe UnLock'd

Next week, I will be blogging as usual but I will also be celebrating Uncial Press's Fifth Birthday with a giveaway of two CD-ROM's of a pair of my Uncial Press Regency Romance releases. You can leave a comment on next week's blog from 12 noon Friday October 7 to 12 midnight Thursday October 14 for a chance to win both e-books. More details next week, but do visit Uncial Press this month--they are giving away an ebook every day and having two draws--one for a Kobo and one for a Kindle.

'Til next time,


Period Costume for Stage & Screen: Patterns for Women's Dress, 1800-1909
by Jean Hunnisett and Janette Haslam
Hardcover: 191 pages Publisher: Players Pr (June 1991)
ISBN-10: 088734609X  ISBN-13: 978-0887346095

Period Costume for Stage & Screen: Patterns for Outer Garments: Cloaks, Capes, Stoles and Wadded Mantles by Jean Hunnisett (Author), Jill Spanner (Illustrator), Fiona Ffoulkes (Illustrator),
Kathryn Turner (Illustrator)
Hardcover Publisher: Players Pr (September 2001)
ISBN-10: 0887346650    ISBN-13: 978-0887346651

Friday, September 30, 2011

Fanny Burney-Jane Austen's Favourite Author
by Guest Blogger Farida Mestek

Fanny Burney by relative
Edward Francis Burney

I confess that when I fixed on the subject of my guest post – Fanny Burney – I hadn’t been acquainted with any of her books and I was more interested in her life and person rather than her literary achievements, especially after I'd discovered that we share a common enemy.

But first and foremost, for me she was the favourite author of my favourite author – Jane Austen – which was quite enough to make me love her. But, of course, I had vague plans to read her books at some point, because I knew that they are a must read for any Regency heroine who loves reading novels.

I learnt that she left behind many volumes of letters and diaries and, because reading memoirs is my favourite way of researching the time of yore, I started with those. It was a delight to read her diary, because she appeared wonderfully emotional and all fluttery. She danced a jig without any music or explanation when she learnt of Dr. Johnson's approbation of “Evelina” and referred to herself as Francesca Scriblerus and Fannikin by her Daddy Crisp.
Evelina portrayed by
John Hoppner

Her diary starts just after the publication of “Evelina” and she writes about the overwhelming success and popularity of her first novel, her reaction to praise and favourable reviews pouring from all sides, her fears that she should never write anything to match it again as well as her struggle to keep her identity as the authoress a secret.

“I often think it too much — nay, almost wish it would happen to some other person, who had more ambition, whose hopes were more sanguine, and who could less have borne to be buried in the oblivion which I even sought. But though it might have been better bestowed, it could by no one be more gratefully received.

“Well, I cannot but rejoice that I published the book, little as I ever imagined how it would fare; for hitherto it has occasioned me no small diversion, and nothing of the disagreeable sort. But I often think a change will happen, for I am by no means so sanguine as to suppose such success will be uninterrupted. Indeed, in the midst of the greatest satisfaction that I feel, an inward something which I cannot account for, prepares me to expect a reverse; for the more the book is drawn into notice, the more exposed it becomes to criticism and remark.

“I am now at the summit of a high hill; my prospects on one side are bright, glowing, and invitingly beautiful; but when I turn round, I perceive, on the other side, sundry caverns, gulfs, pits, and precipices, that, to look at, make my head giddy and my heart sick. I see about me, indeed, many hills of far greater height and sublimity; but I have not the strength to attempt climbing them; if I move, it must be downwards. I have already, I fear, reached the pinnacle of my abilities, and therefore to stand still will be my best policy."

By now I’ve read “Evelina” and I’m currently reading “Cecilia” and though Fanny Burney will never be my favourite author, because I’m no big fan of her writing style and especially her way of portraying characters, she is very dear to me, because we were both diagnosed with breast cancer and both had to have mastectomy, though under entirely different circumstances — circumstances I couldn't help comparing.

I read her account of the surgery — so unlike my own — and my admiration for her courage and determination to go through with it despite the terrible pain that she must have felt during it all (Nay! I cannot imagine it!) is beyond anything I can express. It took place on September 30, 1811. This is how she felt when it was over:

“When all was done, they lifted me up that I might be put to bed, my strength was so totally annihilated, that I was obliged to be carried, could not even sustain my hands, arms, which hung as if I had been lifeless; while my face, as the Nurse has told me, was utterly colourless. This removal made me open my Eyes - I then saw my good Dr Larry, pale nearly as myself, his face streaked with blood, its expression depicting grief, apprehension, almost horror.”

I’m convinced that her story would make for a very interesting biopic and in my most daring moments I hope to write a novel based on her diaries and letters where I’d like to explore her writing side and find answers to some of my questions concerning her writing methods and what served to be her inspiration. But at first I have to read all of her diaries, novels and plays and I'm quite looking forward to the experience.

Farida Mestek lives in Ukraine, but she adores Regency England, where she spends a great deal of her time. She fell in love with it the moment she saw one of the film productions on TV when she was a child, and her love and fascination grew and solidified with every Jane Austen book that she read and reread time and time again. Visit her blog - "Regency Sketches"

Having been writing all of her life, Farida decided to write Regency-set stories herself. At present she has a long queue of characters who wait most impatiently to have their stories told. Her dream is to build a Regency village, the aim of which would be to provide Regency-lovers from around the world with a veritable Regency lifestyle experience.

Apart from traditional (and slightly less so) Regency-set stories, Farida likes writing fairy-tales and fantasy. Her long fairy-tale “Almendra”, published by Girlebooks, is setting the beginning of an epic three-book fantasy series that she has been working on and off for more than ten years.

Farida's Regency romance "Margaret's Rematch" can be purchased at Girlebooks, Smashwords and