Friday, September 29, 2006

Living the Regency Life

OK, not really, but who doesn't like a bit of fantasy in their lives.

In England we never dressed up for halloween, however the few years I lived in the Outer Hebrides in Scotland, although the distance between the houses was a long long tramp in wellies (rubber boots, I loved dressing up as a witch. There, the idea was that unless they guess who you were, you never took off your mask. As a stranger to most of them, they must still be talking about the witch who never said a word and who won all the sweeties because they could not guess.

Anyway, I have been living a bit of a fantasy life this past year. A book out and another one sold. But I have also been dressing up. Did heaps of dressing up at RT and those pictures were posted on the Title Wave Blog, but here is the Regency me at
the Beaumonde Conference.

The Beaumonde soiree was great fun. We had tea of course and cakes and other absolutely delicious food and we also had dancing. Yes, the ladies of the Beaumonde not only write about life in the Regency, but we experience it. We learned several new country dances that would have been danced by our heroines. Not the wicked Waltz, of course, but dancing in sets of eight or ten or twelve. Believe me it is not as easy as it looks.

I rented my costume and if any of you are experts you will recognize this as not Regency, but Rose's dress from the Titanic. But with its empire line, it was close enough for me. But I must say I have a huge hankering to make my own for next year.

By the way, did you get your RWR yet this month? A prize for the first person to post that they found my picture!!

As the evening progressed it got more interesting. I met a pirate. Needless to say, he? was very intent on having his wicked way with all the ladies present.

I might actually have agreed to shiver my timbers and run off with this guy, but unfortunatly he didn't show up.

Next week, back to the gentlemen's clubs.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Gentlemen’s Clubs – Part II.


I promised this on Monday, but the excitement of getting the contract for my next book quite took over the rest of my life.

Boodle. Now there is a name to conjure up an image. Portly. Large red-veined nose and definitely bald. And jolly.

Let’s us see what history says about it. But first, here is a picture of how the club looks today. Far more elegant than White’s don’t you think?

Named after its first manager, Boodle’s began in 1762 and is of course located in St. James, number 28 to be precise. It started as a political club, like many of the others, but that didn’t last long. While the Beau and Wellington and Wilberforce held memberships, it was mostly frequented by country gentlemen who came for the excellent menu and for gambling. The last very nearly goes without saying. As you can see quite clearly from the picture, it also had a famous front bow window.

Men dropped unbelievable sums of money wagering on games--- cards and dice.
Hazard was a dice game.
E.O a wheel game E.O. stood for even-odd. It was made illegal in 1745
but that did not stop the clubs.
Faro- also illegal
Whist was the forerunner of modern bridge.

These are only some of the games the gentlemen played. I will have longer article on them another time.


Brooks’s rose phoenix like upon the ruins of Almack’s Club, and hoisted the Whig colors at number 60 St James Street. No bow window and to me it seems a much more solomn looking building than the other two we've looked at. Don't you just itch to peek inside. I would love to dress up as a man and slip through the hallowed portals as Caro's nemisis did in No Regrets. Now that is not very kind of me, because you will have to wait until November 2007 to find out what I mean.

It was here that Chales James Fox and other great Whigs, won and lost hundreds of thousands, frequently remaining at the table for hours.

Brooks’s, too, boasted of the name of the Prince of Wales on its roll of members, but his Royal Highness withdrew when his friends Tarleton and Payne were blackballed, and founded for himself and his friends a new club, to which his house-steward Weltzie, gave his name. Sheridan, in spite of the opposition of George Selwyn, became a member of Brooks’s, and wrote a rhymed epitaph on the founder:

“Alas! That Brooks, returned to dust,
Should pay at length the debt that we,
Averse to parchment, mortgage, trust,
Shall pay when forced—as well as he.
And die so poor, too! He whose trade
Such profit cleared by draught and deed.
Though pigeons called him murmuring Brooks,
And dipped their bills in him at need,
At length his last conveyance see,
Each witness mournful as a brother,
To think that this world’s mortgagee
Must suffer judgment in another!
Where no appeals to Courts can rest,
Reversing a supreme decree;
But each decision stands confessed
A final precedent in re.”

There are many tales of gambling by the most famous men of the day here at this club, fortunes won and lost, and debts owed to the fashionable moneylenders Howard and Gibbs, sometimes known as cent percenters. When one remembers that ordinary folk could go to debtors prison, the risk for these men was very great indeed.

With your indulgence, I will continue with my tour of the Gentlemen’s clubs, cover some of the famous ones and some of the less known.
Until next time, happy rambles.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The London Club Scene

When you say it that way it sounds rather modern, doesn’t it. But I am talking about the 1800’s.

On a recent visit to England, DH and I traveled up to London from one of the villages in Kent on the train. I must say I was pleasantly surprised at how clean modern and efficient it all was. It was certainly a far cry from the day when I used to travel to the City to work every day. Mind you, we did take advantage of the cheap day ticket, traveling up at back to Victoria in between the rush hours.

We planned our route through the St. James area, the area most frequented by men in the Regency era using “Georgette Heyer’s Regency England” by Teresa Chris, a wonderfully vivid description with references to all Ms. Heyer’s beloved characters and a walking tour of London. I highly recommend this reference work if you can find it. As you can see, it was an overcast day, and we felt the occasional rain drop. This sky is so typical of England in the Spring.

Since no regency novel is complete without a visit to one of the Gentlemen’s Clubs in St James, we started at White’s— for it is there that Simon St. John, the hero of my book “Pistols at Dawn”, first showed that a good and loyal friend lay beneath his hard façade. Finding a very inebriated Lethbridge at White’s one evening Simon helped his friend home and defended him when they were attacked by some very nasty footpads in one of London’s back alleys.

White's began in 1693. It is at 37 St James Street and this is what it looked like the day we visited. I must say I was disappointed to find it wrapped in polythene, like someone’s left over dinner. But look. There is the bow window, where Mr. Brummell, the Beau himself, and Lord Alvenley, founding members of he famous bow window set would pass judgment on lesser mortals passing by in the Street. It gave me chills, I must say. By the way, that bow window was not added until 1811.

White’s was only one of the gentlemen’s clubs in the Regency, but a very important one. Well it had to be if Beau Brummell belonged to it. The picture to the right is a portrait of the Beau. In order to be a member, one had to be nominated “put up for membership” by someone who already belonged. Then the leaders of the club voted. Woe betide you if you were “blackballed” by someone like Brummell.

There were strict rules of conduct in the clubs.
Number one. No women. I wonder if it stemmed back to the English public school system, where boys developed such strong friendships that were separate and apart from any kind of social interaction with women and therefore they felt most comfortable in an all male environment. Of course they also indulged in too much drinking and gambling, although the worst of that went on in the less salubrious hells where pugilists rubbed elbows with the nobs. I think if you read the excerpt from “Pistols at Dawn” on my website, you will see that Simon certainly regretted his visit to one of those hells.

Each club had its own betting book. When a gentleman proposed a wager, it was duly written in the book. When the day of reckoning came, the loser had to pay his debts at once, or consider himself dishonored. He would never be able to show his face in polite society again.

Here are a few of the bets taken from White's betting book:
Mr. Greville bets Lord Clanwilliam ten guineas, that Lord Stewart will be married to Lady F. Vane in six months.—June 18, 1818 [Clanwilliam paid].
Sir Georrge Warrender bets Lord Alvanley five pounds that Colonel Stanhope and Mr. Lucy will be found by a committee of the House of Commons not duly elected.-June 28, 1818. [Alvanley paid.]
Mr. Mills bets Lieutenant General Mackenzie a pony, that Lord Stewart goes to Vienna before he marries Lady Frances Vane. [Mills paid].
Lientenant-General Mackenzie bets Lord Yarmouth sixty guineas to fifty, that the Duke of Cambridge has a child before the Duke of Clarence.
Lord Sefton bets Sir Joseph Copley fifty guineas, that Lisbon and Cadiz will be in Buonaparte’s possession on or before the first of April next.—Jan. 17, 1809 [Copley paid.]

Did you see the reference to a "pony" Not it is not a horse. Send me an e-mail telling me what that means and I will put you in my draw for a free copy of Pistols at Dawn.

Well that’s enough information for one night. Next day — let’s pay a visit to Boodles.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Contest For Regency Readers

Do you love the Regency era. Would you like a copy of my novel "Pistols at Dawn"?

Enter my contest. I have 8 books waiting for eight lucky winners

It's easy and it's fun and you will be bringing a Regency novel to other readers in your area.
Best of all, it's free.

Here is how it works:
  • Drop into your local library request a copy for their shelves and then send me email with your mailing address to —- —- when it arrives on the stacks. Provide me with the name of the library, so I can check it out on line
  • Each month I will draw one copy of my book from those who have successfully ordered a copy of my book for their local library.
  • Everyone eligible for the draw will be reentered each month, for the next six months.
  • Of course, some libraries already have copies on their shelves. For those of you who check and discover my novel already on the stacks, I will hold two draws, one in December and another in March.

Not only will you introduce a new author to your friends and neighbors and the people in your town, and let me tell you, the reviews are great, check out my website to see a sample, but you will have a chance to own your very own copy.

Needless to say I am looking forward to hearing from you very soon. I you have questions, feel free to post a comment or send an e-mail.

I will post the contest reminder once a month, will acknowledge your entries as they come in, and announce the winners of the draw on the blog and on my website.

Good luck.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Flora and Fauna of Regency Britain

Around the beginning of each monthI will give you A naturalists Diary on what the countryside of England might have looked like.


Wheat is ripe in the fields and waves in the breeze on rolling hills. I can remember vacations as a child and the wonder of those golden fields often scattered with scarlet poppies. Above is a picture of farm laborers at the threshing. Anyone think that looks like fun?

The common blue passion-flower flowers from June to October. The Harvest-Bug (Acarus ricinus), proves a very troublesome and disagreeable insect, during this month particularly in some of the southern counties of England. According to my sources, the best cure for the bite was spirit of hartshorn.

“August and September constitute the English villeggiatura, and most persons who possess a sufficient portion of the ‘glittering ore,’ the passé-par tout of this chequered scene,--seek health and pleasure in exploring the beauties of our picturesque and fertile
country;--and whether they stroll over its ever-green and flower-enamelled meads, or ramble among its oak-crowned forests,--or linger on the borders of the magnificent ocean which surrounds this happy island.”

In September the nightingale leaves for warmer shores and most of the song birds are silent. I have memories of my mother waking me at night to listen to a nightingale. What a sweet liquid sound it was.

Nightingales are a secretive bird with a wonderful song which likes nothing better than hiding in the middle of an impenetrable bush or thicket. In the UK nightingales breed mostly south of the Severn-Wash line and east from Dorset to Kent. The highest densities are found in the south east: Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Kent and Sussex.

In the calm mornings of September the woodlark carols in the air, chiefly in the neighbourhood of thickets and copses, (don't you just love those words, they roll off the tongue) with a soft quietness perfectly in unison with the sober, almost melancholy stillness of the hour. The sweet simple note of the robin is again heard, and the skylark delights us with his melody. But too often, however, in our autumnal rambles, in the neighborhood of great towns we encounter the nets of the bird-catcher, which deprive us of great numbers of our favorite bird.

In bloom in September: heart’s-ease, nasturtia, marigolds, sweet peas, mignionette, golden rod, stocks, tangier pea, holly-hock, michaelmas daisy,saffron, and ivy. All Saints Cherry is covered with fruit.

The Phalaena russula and the saffron butterfly appear in this month. The sulphur butterfly also will frequently be seen in the bright mornings of September.

Herrings, (pictured below) sometimes called the silver fish, pay their annual visit to England in September, and afford a rich harvest to the inhabitants of its eastern and western coasts. There are many photographs of herring fishing, but so far I have not found a picture from the Regency.

I hope you enjoyed this view of natural England. I will have information about October when we get to that month.

Next Tuesday I will be announcing a contest.

Until then, dear blogfans, Happy Rambling.

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Duels Part III - The Sword

Not to many duels were held with the sword by the time of the Regency but it was a choice that the challenged man could make, if he thought he would have an advantage.I think the best swordfight I ever read, the one in which I as a reader felt I had the most stakes, was the fight between Vidal and Mr. Comyn in Georgette Heyer’s Devil’s Cub. How sexy Vidal was in that scene and so tortured by the thought that Mary had married another. Loved that book. Now I have to go read it again.

Anyway, a sword fight is heroic and even watching fencing today can be fascinating. We had a fencer on the Canadian team attend one of the TRW chapter meetings. What a lovely girl. Here is a photos from that day. I don't expect you will find it possible to recognize anyone you know.

But to get back to the fencing popular in the Regency, we must pay a visit to Angelo’s Fencing Academy, located in the Haymarket. It was here that the men of the ton would hone their skills with a blade. Every gentleman would know how to fence, even if he never challenged anyone to a duel.

Angelo's Fencing Academy

In 1770, Angelo's salle d'armes was at Carlisle House, overlooking Soho-square; then was moved to Opera House-buildings in Haymarket, next to Old Bond-street.

Angelo sent his son Henry Angelo the elder (1760-1839), to Paris for his final polish at the hands of Motet at the Académie d'Armes de Paris. He became head of the fencing academy around 1785. Henry helped to establish his friend the boxer, Gentleman Jackson, in his famous boxing club next door to the Fencing Academy on Bond Street. He turned the running of the business over to his son his son Henry in 1817. Henry the elder authored Reminiscences (1830) and Angelo's Pic-nic (1834).

The Prince of Wales enjoyed a good bout of fencing and is know to have watched a famous bout between two most famous fencers of their time, the enigmatic transvestite Chevaliere D'Eon (1728-1810) and the part West Indian Chevalier de Saint George (1745-1799) at Carleton House (Mrs. Fitzherbert in attendance) and at the Royal Pavillion, Brighton between the master Joseph Roland and the Chevalier de St. George. Afterwards the Prince asked for a set of foils, masks and gloves, for which Roland was handsomely rewarded.

The French were always great duelists and many chose the sword as their weapon of choice. In my research for “No Regrets” the novel which finished in the final four of the American Title 2 Contest (which you will be seeing in print next year) revealed that when the English first went to Paris, while Napoleon was exiled to Elba, the Frenchmen tried to draw them into duels at every opportunity.

As always, I have added some links to my website in case you want to browse further.

Some of the more common fencing terms.

Coup de grace - the dagger stroke given to mercifully end the suffering of a wounded duelist (originally used to execute a defeated knight in heavy plate armor)

En guard - to come “on guard” (ready your weapon and self for the fight)

Engagement - contacting or crossing (opposing) the adversary’s blade

First blood - a duel that is fought only to the first sight of drawn blood as opposed to “to the death” or to the opponent “yielding”

Lunge - (Allungo or Distesa) an extension (typically in the course of a thrusting attack) executed by stepping forward with the right foot and leaving the left foot anchored

Disengage - deceptively altering the line of attack by passing the blade under the adversary’s point (said to have been first devised from observing the bobbing motions of fighting cocks)

Parry - to block, defense by the deliberate resistance of an attack by imposing the blade before it.