Friday, April 29, 2011

The Legendary 95th Rifles
by Ginny McBlain

Every army has its legendary units and Wellington’s was no exception. Among them were the 95th Regiment of Foot (Rifles), nicknamed the Green Jackets by the British and Grasshoppers by the French.

I was first introduced to the 95th in a made for TV movie, Sharpe’s Waterloo, based on the novels by Bernard Cornwell. Later I viewed Sharpe’s Rifles, the first of the film series. I was intrigued.

As I began thinking about writing a story set during the Regency, I realized much of my success has been in writing contemporary stories with a military background. Why not translate that “expertise” into a story with the backdrop of the Peninsular War?

I began studying the history of the Peninsular campaign and reading various novels set during the war. The more web sites I looked at, the more often I found reference to the Sharpe series for their accurate detail, especially in the uniforms. My husband bought the entire Sharpe series, all fifteen episodes. I’ve seen them at least four times each and noticed something new each time. As my study went on, I realized my hero had to be a rifleman.

Why, you ask? Because he is a duke’s second son, raised in that rarified atmosphere of wealth and deference to the nobility. I needed a scenario that would make him a tad less arrogant, more accessible and compassionate without making him less noble. The Rifles were so different from other units that being a rifleman would change his character enough to make him the kind of hero I envisioned.

The 95th were the sharpshooters, organized by Colonel Coote Manningham in 1800. They were unique in many ways from the rest of the army. Most visible was their uniform, a dark green and with black accessories, rather than the bright red and white of other regiments. The colors were an early version of camouflage. Instead of standard issue Brown Bess muskets, the 95th used the Baker rifle, a far more accurate weapon.

The rifles came into their own when Sir Arthur Wellesley reorganized his forces in 1809. Among his innovations, he attached at least one company of riflemen to each brigade.

(photo credit: by Jakednb Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free documentation License )

The men of the 95th were the first on the field of battle and last out. Their tactics, adapted from lessons learned fighting in North America, called for taking cover behind rocks, trees or whatever was available and catching the enemy unaware. They picked off the officers and sergeants to create confusion in the ranks of the enemy. The men were trained to think for themselves, to work in groups of twos, threes or even alone. The officers mingled with the enlisted troops more than was tradition. This not only built esprit de corps, but allowed the officers to know each man’s strengths and weaknesses and use him to best advantage.

During the Peninsular War the 95th served as part of the Light Division. This force saw action in many of the important battles during the entire six years of the campaign.

As victory was declared and Napoleon exiled to Elba, many of the battle hardened veterans were assigned posts in North America during the War of 1812. Some of those veterans were still in the army in 1815. The Green Jackets participated in the final defeat of Bonaparte at Waterloo. The 2/95th led Wellington’s Army in their triumphant march into Paris on the seventh of July 1815.

The 95th became legend, due, in part, to the memoirs of soldiers who served in the regiment. Among those were Harry Smith, later to distinguish himself as a Lieutenant General in the Victorian army, John Kincade, Jonathan Leach and Ned Costello.

Recommended for further study:
Mark Urban, Wellington’s Rifles
Georgette Heyer, The Spanish Bride (based on the true story of Harry Smith and his 14 year-old-bride, Juana)
Sir John Kincade, Random Shots from a Rifleman
Sir John Kincade, Adventures in the Rifle Brigade
Lt. Colonel Jonathan Leach, Rough Sketches of an Old Soldier
Edward Costello, The True Story of a Peninsular Rifleman
Lt. General Sir Harry Smith, Autobiography, available free online
Bernard Cornwell, the Sharpe novels
Sharpe series DVDs
The Royal Green Jacket Museum, Winchester, England
The Sharpe Compendium

Ginny McBlain is an author of contemporary romance. At present she is meeting a new challenge—writing a historical set in the wonderful world of the Regency. Her work-in-progress, Honor Bound, is set against the backdrop of the Peninsular War.

Ginny is a pioneer in the field of electronic publishing. Her first e-book, Heart Broken, Heart Whole, was released in 1996. Both Bear Hugs and Faith, Hope and Charity were finalists in the EPPIE contest. She has served in writing organizations in many capacities, including first President of EPIC, the Electronically Published Internet Connection and the first EPIC conference chair.

Ginny’s books are available from Awe-Struck Publishing, and Uncial Press,  in a variety of electronic formats. Visit her web site,

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Soho Bazaar 1815-1885

When John Trotter, who had made a fortune supplying the Army during the recent war, opened The Soho Bazaar in 1815, he could not have known that he was creating a whole new shopping experience. He had merely an unused warehouse to fill with some sort of business, and he had a praiseworthy desire to assist the widows and daughters of Army officers killed in the Napoleonic War.

His warehouse, a substantial 300 by 150 feet, stood at the north-west corner of Soho Square. In it, he rented counter space--standings--to about 150 vendors at 3 pence per foot per day. Below is Soho Square in 1816 from Papworth's Views of London:

The Soho Bazaar was a benevolent exercise offering respectable women an opportunity to sell whatever fancy goods they could make in their homes. There was a certain stigma attached to public selling, and the righteous were quick to see opportunity for moral turpitude in the retail trade. In fact a ballad was published by printer James Calnach, deriding the leisured classes who frequented the Bazaar.

The Soho Bazaar

Ladies in furs and gemmen in spurs,
Who lollop and lounge about all day:
The Bazaar in Soho is completely the go--
Walk into the shop of Grimaldi!
Come from afar, here's the Bazaar!--
But if you won't deal with us, stay where you are."

But the majority of the public were supportive of the venture, and the popularity of the Bazaar was evidenced by the carriages that thronged the Square. Supporters like Joseph Nightingale "envisioned bazaars as the perfect mixture of capitalism and charity..." and one William Jerdan wrote a letter to the New Monthly Magazine. He declared the bazaar to help "a multitude of persons who have heretofore been condemned to penury and hopelessness by the insuperable difficulties and equally insuperable delicacies of their situation". The lady retailers were required to wear plain and modest clothes, there was a matron overseeing the whole, and unusually for the time, prices were fixed and marked on the product. The Gentlemen's Magazine remarked that the premises were "large, dry, commodious, well lighted, warmed, ventilated, and properly watched".

Goods sold in the early years included hats, reticules, lace, shawls, and toys; later the Bazaar included bookshops and bakeries and more. La Belle Assemblee, the famed ladies' periodical, published a news item regarding the Bazaar in 1826:

The Soho Bazaar

Possibly it may be information to some of the readers of La Belle Assemblee to state that, in consequence of the increased attendance of company, and of the increased demand for standings, at this place of fashionable resort, an additional suite of rooms has been opened up-stairs. This bazaar is well entitled to the patronage it enjoys, were it only for the support which it affords to young and respectable women.

An interesting sidelight to the Soho Bazaar is that famed artist, J.M.W. Turner, was attending school at the Soho Academy also in the Square. He was a frequenter of the Bazaar, and was quoted thus:
"As a boy, I used to lie for hours on my back watching the skies, and then go home and paint them; and there was a stall in Soho Bazaar where they sold drawing materials, and they used to buy my skies. They gave me 1s6d for the small ones and 3s6d for the larger ones."
The Soho Bazaar spawned a great fashion for bazaars (the name came from the Turkish with Italian intervention) and by 1830 there were many throughout London. One of the most famous was the Pantheon Bazaar, below as the building appeared in 1816 when it was still in use as an assembly room.

Then in the 1830's it was transformed and below is its appearance in 1845:

There is no drawing extant of the Soho Bazaar but I like to think it must have been somewhat similar, at least, to the Pantheon, with the great pillars of the warehouse rising above the selling floor. In June 1816 George Cruickshank issued a caricature entitled 'A Bazaar'--it was rife with references to the supposed negative and injurious aspects of such establishments.

Nevertheless charity bazaars proliferated throughout the 19th century, but excepting only that of the "Ladies Royal Benevolent Society" who began their charity fancy sales in 1813, the Soho Bazaar was the first. And it continued until 1885--a good run by any standards.

 Join us next week when multi-published author Ginny McBlain joins us to discuss "The Legendary 95th Rifles". Ginny is an author of contemporary romance. At present she is meeting a new challenge—writing a historical set in the wonderful world of the Regency. Her work-in-progress, Honor Bound, is set against the backdrop of the Peninsular War.

Ginny is a pioneer in the field of electronic publishing. Her first e-book, Heart Broken, Heart Whole, was released in 1996. Both Bear Hugs and Faith, Hope and Charity were finalists in the EPPIE contest. She has served in writing organizations in many capacities, including first President of EPIC, the Electronically Published Internet Connection and the first EPIC conference chair.

Ginny’s books are available from Awe-Struck Publishing, and Uncial Press,  in a variety of electronic formats. Visit her web site,

I hope you can join us. 'Til next time,


  • Dyer, Gary R. "The Vanity Fair of Nineteenth Century England." Nineteenth Century Literature, vol. 46 no. 2 (Sept. 1991): 196-222.
  • Prochaska, F. K. "Charity Bazaars in Nineteenth-Century England." Journal of British Studies, vol. 16 no. 2 (Spring, 1977): 62-84.
  • Hindley, Charles. Life and Times of James Calnach. 1878.
  • Knight, Charles. London. 1851.
  • Whitlock, Tammy C. Crime, Gender and Consumer Culture in 19th Century England. Ashgate, 2005.
  • "The Soho Bazaar." BBC h2g2 Entry.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Oh, I love a book sale!

I've been to a book sale! Used books, I must admit--no author royalties paid unfortunately--the only down-side to an otherwise sublime experience. What is better than three or four hours spent trawling among shelves and shelves of books? And if the money didn't go to the authors, at least it went to a good charity--our local symphony society.

I started the afternoon by finding a biography of George IV--our own Prinny--by Joanna Richardson. I had not come across this bio before; it is titled 'George the Magnificent' with a copyright of 1966. It should prove interesting in relation to the other biographies of the Prince Regent in my collection.

I moved on to discover a Penguin book--'The Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier'. This is a memoir by a German conscript Jakob Walter, and looks very interesting. So little first person information is available about the common soldier of the era; it was satisfying find.

Then I found several nice little hardcovers of Jane Austen's work which will probably end up as prizes in my website contest. Likewise a good fresh used copy of the 1995 out of print book 'Landscapes of Britain'.

A real treat was a lovely hardcover titled 'Beningfield's English Villages'. Gordon Beningfield's luminous paintings are an inspiration and a joy.

"Great British Families' by Debrett's has some excellent illustrations, and with chapter titles like 'New Men' and 'Whig Magnates' promises good reading. 'Victorian and Edwardian London'  by A. R. Hope Moncrieff, although not Regency-related, looks packed with information. I paid $3 for it; I think that was a good deal! Nearly everything was only $1-$2, only a little more for extra special finds.

Loosely related to the Regency were my purchases of "Disraeli" by Stanley Weintraub; a massive tome of some 700 pages that looks terrific, and a 1953 edition of Washington Irving's 'The Sketch Book'. To round out my historical reading, I found--illustrative of the other periods of history that interest me--'A Medieval Family: The Pastons of 15th century England' by Frances and Joseph Gies and, 'In a Gilded Cage: From Heiress to Duchess' by Marian Fowler about the American heiresses who married British aristocrats in the late 19th century.

I've only recently discovered Canadian author Marian Fowler. I highly recommend her biographies, all written in the 1980's and 90's. I don't know if she is still writing, but her work is delightful--impeccably researched and sparkling prose. I just finished 'Below the Peacock Fan' about the ladies of the British Raj, and discovered that I have her biography of 'Blenheim'--yes, the house--on my shelves.

My purchasing was rounded off with a couple of novels by some favourite contemporary authors of mine, Erica James and Katie Fforde. I bought a book called "Cross-Stitch Florals" though I don't have time to undertake another project. If I do though, these ones are great! I got a book of Edward Thomas' poetry and discovered a series called the 'Small Oxford Books' which is delightful. I bought their 'Hotels and Inns', 'The Country House', and 'The Pleasures of the Table'. Each book is a compilation of quotes, from all eras of history, about the title topic. Great bed-time reading!

'The Faber Book of Epigrams and Epitaphs' from 1977 completed my purchases. This is a very funny book and does relate to the Regency or at least the Georgian era with this offering from Walter Savage Landor:

The Georges
George the First was always reckoned
Vile, but viler George the Second;
And what mortal ever heard
Any good of George the Third?
When from earth the Fourth descended
(God be praised!) the Georges ended.

It was a great day at the book sale. My purse is empty and my book shelves are full so it's fortunate that it comes only once a year. But I have reading material now until it comes around again. Oh, wait, there is the University Women's Book Sale in the autumn...hmmmmm.....

'Til next time,


Friday, April 8, 2011

The Ladies' Fashionable Repository

One of the less well-known and seldom-mentioned Regency magazines for ladies was The Ladies' Fashionable Repository published from 1809-1829. Yet, I find it to be one of the most entertaining and, indeed, one of the most useful of the popular journals of the day. I cannot discover much information about it; its founder calls it a 'pocket-book' and it seems to have appeared bi-monthly in its first years rather than weekly or monthly.

In the end analysis, The Ladies' Fashionable Repository turned out to be one of the longest lived of the ladies' magazines, but it underwent several changes. From 1829-1834, the founder and publisher J. Raw added his name to the title. Then, from 1837, the magazine became Pawsey's Ladies' Fashionable Repository and continued in publication for the next sixty-eight years.

Its contents were varied. It particularly emphasized puzzles, charades, conundrums, rebuses and riddles--the activities much enjoyed by a pre-TV, pre-computer game society. I think I will devote another post to those items of recreation!

The magazine accepted new poetry by both known and unknown authors. Walter Scott contributed "The Violet" in about 1814:
"The violet, in her green-wood bower,
Where birchen boughs with hazles mingle,
May boast itself the fairest flower
In glen or copse or forest dingle."
Not his greatest work perhaps--it continues for two more stanzas--but charming.

Intermingled with such poetic gems were solidly useful items.
Here is an excerpt from the tables of the new window tax:

Likewise, below is a excerpt from an entry on the house duty and taxes on servants:

The charges levied by hackney chairmen took two pages, here is a portion of it::
One issue, circa 1814, included an absolutely delightful 'song' titled "Hyde Park on a Sunday". It has an immediacy that brings the world of the Regency to life, and makes it understandable and very close to contemporary with our own world.

It continues for two pages, politically incorrect for our times, but otherwise remarkably timely.

In another issue, a poem disguised as a letter purporting to be true fact, about Bath and its assemblies includes these lines:

"In Bath, dear Eliza, what pleasures abound!
Where we skip all the night to the violin's sound;
Where beauties unnumber'd hold absolute sway,
Whose charms shed a lustre that rivals the day."
 Every issue of the journal held a plate of a stately home and a description of the property and its owner. These were not always the huge palaces of the nobility but the smaller houses of the lesser aristocracy, many of which no longer exist. Here is Helmingham Hall, Suffolk, seat of Lord Dysart, from 1809:

In the introductory issue, J. Raw used a technique that is still often employed to draw in customers and reward faithful readers. He held a contest, and the prize was future issues of The Ladies' Fashionable Repository. And he sees fit to thank his patrons for their purchase of his product:

We can only thank him for publishing a magazine that has survived these two hundred years and brings us a view of Regency life that is at once different yet very familiar to us.

'Til next time,


Friday, April 1, 2011

Charles Molloy Westmacott
- "virulent scribbler"

If you are born a man of modest, or even straightened, means in a time when wealth, nobility and society are all important, what can you do? You can either strive with all your resources to join said society--claw your way up the social ladder--or you can denigrate that society in order to indicate that you have no admiration for it, and that you believe it to be valueless.

Charles Molloy Westmacott chose the latter alternative. He was born in 1788, the illegitimate son (he claimed) of the artist Richard Westmacott and Susannah Molloy, an inn-keeper. Though enemies claimed he was the son of a chimney sweep, he was well educated, and he spent many of his early years in the art and theatre worlds.

In the early 1820's he entered the publishing world. For some years he had been collecting documents 'relating to the aristocracy' and he realized he could profit from the information he had gathered. He began writing, and what he wrote was always controversial, often actionable, and usually scandalous.

In 1825, he achieved a pinnacle of notoriety with the publication of "The English Spy" using a pseudonym 'Bernard Blackmantle'.

The "Spy" covered many aspects of life within the world of the beau monde, particularly commenting upon the worlds of Eton and Oxford. But the society of Brighton and of Mayfair were also derided and The "Spy" begins with a 'poem':
But society did not view his pages with good humour for even the frontispiece illustration and the accompanying text poked fun at them, based on the Five Orders of Architecture:

His connections in the art world ensured that his book was illustrated by top rank artists, Robert Cruickshank and the then elderly Thomas Rowlandson. The material Westmacott included in his book was carefully designed to portray society in its worst light:

"The swaggering broad-shouldered blade who follows near him, with a frontispiece like the red lion, is the well know radical, Jack S____h, now agent to the French consul for this place, and the unsuccessful candidate for the independent borough of Shoreham."
Women were not immune from his acid tongue:
The plump looking dame on the right, is Aug--ta C--ri, (otherwise lady H-----e); so called after the P--n--ss A-------a, her godmamma.
In 1825 Westmacott also published under the same pseudonym, a roman a clef titled "Fitzalleyne of Berkeley; a Romance of the Present Times". It recounted a hot gossip story thinly disguised, and excited much distress among the actual participants in the events.

His path now determined, Westmacott became editor of a Sunday weekly paper "The Age" in 1827. "The Age", which first appeared in 1825, was all about gossip and scandal, heresay and irregularity. His mildest writings were still tongue in cheek:

"Through a slight return of the gout, His Majesty [George IV, formerly the Prince Regent] has most prudently postponed the Drawing Room which was to have been held on Thursday--but we are assured it will delight our readers to know that His Majesty's health is so far renovated as to preclude the chance of any further disappointment."

His Majesty was, of course, extremely unpopular, and there was probably no delight felt in any reader about the health of the King.

Charles Westmacott died in 1868 having spent a lifetime disparaging the beau monde. He was described at one point in his career as "the principal blackmailing editor of his day". He said of himself in the introduction to "The English Spy":
...he has no tongue for scandal--no pen for malice--no revenge to gratify, but is only desirous of attempting a true portraiture of men and manners, in the higher and more polished scenes of life.
It was, of course, all untrue. He was seeking revenge, on a society that rejected him. And he seemed satisfied with the results of his labour. The National Portrait Gallery has a wonderful drawing of Westmacott by artist Daniel Maclise. You can view it here--he looks to me to be a self-satisfied man. Tabloid journalism of today has its origins with writers such as Charles Molloy Westmacott--to my mind, a doubtful legacy.

'Til next time,


Sources: Charles Molloy Westmacott and the Spirit of the Age by David E. Latane. Victorian Periodicals Review, Volume 40, Number 1, Spring 2007 pp. 44-72