Wednesday, August 29, 2007

This Week

Dearest reader,

Of you are wondering where to find me this week, I am over at Titlewave chatting about a few of my writing experiences with my friends from the American Title Contest.

Of course, I am hoping you have missed me and can't wait for my next piece of nonsense so Regency Ramble will return to normal programming next week.

Until then, happy rambles.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Colors in the Regency Part II

I guess one reason I decided to research colors was when I took a course on architecture in the Regency. As is often the case, things are just plain lucky. There

I was with one of my characters in No Regrets running his cane along a wrought iron fence. Now why? Well characters have to be something more than talking heads and they nod and they smile and they walk. But if that is all that they do they become pretty boring. Hmm, pretty much like me.

But of course people do more than that. They have nervous ticks, they peel labels off beer bottles, scratch things they should not scratch (ugh baseball players) and so on. So I happily wrote about the sight and sound of this character walking along running his cane along the iron fence. The black iron fence. Wrong. Wrought iron fences in the Regency were not painted black, they were painted green or blue.

Why is that, you may ask? If you are a history geek like me, you will ask it. Otherwise you may be bored out of your tree by now. They were painted green or blue because they liked the patina of old copper and copper turns green when it is old. The picture above is Apsley House and the fence is painted green. And this would have been a common sight in the Regency. Needless to say, my character now runs his cane along a green fence.

They also used some very odd names for colors. Here are a couple.

Coquelicot is the French name for the regular corn or field poppies (Papaver rhoeas) so poppy red it is. In Regency times, Paris was the fashion capital of the civilized world and French fashions the epitome of chic, so French names abounded in all matters of apparel. Coquelicot was at the height of fashion in 1794-99 but was used continuously throughout the Regency. It was such a bold color that for well brought up young ladies it was only permissible for trimmings or accessories

Primrose and Evening Primrose. Yes there are two colors of primrose. The soft, pale yellow of the common primrose, Primula vulgaris suitable for daywear and the biennial Evening Primrose (Cenothera biennis)pictured above, a much deeper and brighter yellow color. When gloves and boots are described to be of primrose color it is this darker, deeper yellow the writer had in mind. Both the primrose colors were popular during the whole Regency period, and the height of fashion 1807-1817.

It wouldn't be a Regency Article without adding puce. Puce is the French word for flea. The color is a brownish-purple or a purplish-pink, the color coagulated blood and was one of the most popular colors in 1805. My readings have always found that the villain, or a less well liked character wears puce. I have continued this tradition in my writings. There are of course many other colors, pomona green which we might described as apple green, and Paris green, made with the poisoness copper arsenic and was a bright emerald green. But that is all from me until next time.

Happy Rambles through your world of color. Aren't you glad you aren't a dog? They see only in black and white, so I'm told. No wonder they need those sensitive noses!!!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Colors in the Regency Part I

More color became available during the period 1704 to 1856, chemical compounds Prussian blue and mauveine were discovered .

Gowns such as those shown here may well have been died with cochineal.

Dyes were extracted from such living organisms =as cochineal and and plants such as madder and brazilwood.

By the late Middle Ages, imported cochineal began to take precedence as the most sought after dye. Combined with a tin salt, cochineal produced a spectacular red on wool and silk, luxury fabrics, by the early fifteen century it was very expensive and thus was reserved for the wealthy it even replaced the clothes of the traditionally blue-clad Virgin in Renaissance paintings.

Until 1704, blue dyes were primarily extracted from woad and indigo plants. Woad grew in Europe and Indigo in the southern part of North America, in Mexico and in Central America.

A Berlin color-maker named Diesbach accidentally stumbled upon Prussian blue while trying to make red for painters.

It became fashionable throughout Europe and was used from at least 1723 as a dye for silk and cotton as well for house paint within the United States.

1805 Walking Dress

Bonnet of Blue Velvet, with White Ostrich Feather. Spencer of Blue Velvet, trimmed with Swansdown. Round Dress of Cambric Muslin, with a Lace Flounce. Boots Blue. Buff Gloves; and Swansdown Muff.

Next time we will take a look at yellow. Until then, Happy Rambles.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Regency Dogs Part II

As a respite from our topic of work, I've had a bit too much of the real thing this past week, I thought we might focus on a couple more of the dogs found in our era. I thought I would start with the Newfoundland, primarily because Lord Byron had one called Boatswain. Byron wrote a poem in the dog's honor when it died.

Looking at the picture of Lord Byron’s “Boatswain,” there appears to be some Husky ancestry in the breed. One of the websites I’ve looked at states that Boatswain was not a purebred, but had Husky blood in him. However, people at the time didn’t have the same concept of keeping a breed pure that we do today, and often mixed the breeds but kept thename.

Whatever their ancestry, Newfoundlands became known for the waterproof nature of their coats, their webbed feet and strong swimming skills, and their equally strong water rescue instincts. Before other retriever breeds were developed, they were used as water retrievers. They were also used in helping fishermen with their nets, carrying lines between ships, and also, in their native country, as carting or pack dogs.

Newfoundlands were imported into England probably by late in the 17th century, where their breed qualities and appearance were further developed. They were popular, no doubt helped along by their romantic image as heroes of countless rescues, of sailors, children, and passengers on shipwrecks.

Here is Byron's tribute etched on the monument he raised to his dog.
Near this spot
Are deposited the Remains
Of one
Who possessed Beauty
Without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferocity,
And all the Virtues of Man
Without his Vices.

The Price, which would be unmeaning flattery
If inscribed over Human Ashes,
Is but a just tribute to the Memory of
“Boatswain,” a Dog
Who was born at Newfoundland,
May, 1803,
And died in Newstead Abbey,
Nov. 18, 1808.

When some proud son of man returns to earth,
Unknown by glory, but upheld by birth,
The sculptor’s art exhausts the pomp of woe,
And stories urns record that rests below.
When all is done, upon the tomb is seen,
Not what he was, but what he should have been.
But the poor dog, in life the firmest friend,
The first to welcome, foremost to defend,
Whose honest heart is still his master’s own,
Who labors, fights, lives, breathes for him alone,
Unhonored falls, unnoticed all his worth,
Denied in heaven the soul he held on earth –
While man, vain insect! hopes to be forgiven,
And claims himself a sole exclusive heaven.

Oh man! thou feeble tenant of an hour,
Debased by slavery, or corrupt by power –
Who knows thee well must quit thee with disgust,
Degraded mass of animated dust!
Thy love is lust, thy friendship all a cheat,
Thy smiles hypocrisy, thy words deceit!
By nature vile, ennoble but by name,
Each kindred brute might bid thee blush for shame.
Ye, who perchance behold this simple urn,
Pass on – it honors none you wish to mourn.
To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise;
I never knew but one – and here he lies.

And because he is such an interesting man, here is the poet, Lord Byron.

Well looking at that is better than talking about work, though no doubt we'll come back to it in the future. Next week I thought I might take a look at some of the colors that were popular in the Regency and not well known today.

By the way, my 2nd newsletter came out this week, with some news about my forthcoming novels, and a short story. So if you want to sign up, use the form on the sidebar and I will send you a copy.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Regency Work Part III

I found too much stuff today and spent too long finding it. But I am going to post a couple of pictures on the topic of work. I was looking for stuff out of the ordinary, but also I was looking for information on street sweepers or crossing sweepers, since the book I am working on right now has a crossing sweeper.

He really is a rather sad looking individual, but these jobs were not really jobs. They were a bit like buskers, if he could get you to tip him for clearing a path through the horse manure, then he would make some money. Here is another rather naughty one. The main feature of the picture is the gentleman being lured into a brothel, but look at the street sweeper in this one. He is not getting paid.

While we are on the topic of street sweepers, I thought we ought to do that other rather well known employee, the chimney sweep. Often these were children. I should note that during the nineteenth century the population of those under twenty was huge, I am not going to quote an actual percentage, because that means going and looking it up, but it was probably close to half, and those that were working were doing very menial jobs, or were apprentices. Any way here are a couple of chimney sweeps.

And now for one job that we maybe don't think of all the time, this is a seller of bandboxes. Now the job is interesting, but more interesting are the boxes themselves. Here is something every heroine is going to need at some point or the other, and here is a picture of them, as well as the man who sells them.

Until next time, Happy Rambles

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Regency Fashions - August

How about some August fashions, just to make sure we don't forget?

These are labeled Afternoon Dress for 1799. Note the very full skirts of the pre-regency, but don't forget our Prinny was 37 at this point, so he is already heading for middle age. It seems to me that the only nod at summer made by these dresses, apart from the light fabrics, is the fan. August is one of the warmest month in England too.

These are taken from the 1805 Lady’s Monthly Museum.Cabinet of Fashion.
The first is a Walking Dress --Straw Hat, turned up in Front with a Lilac Feather. A Morning Dress of Cambric Muslin, with full long Sleeves. Habit Shirt. Spanish Cloak. With a fashionable Paratout.
The second Full Dress is described -- The Hair fashionably Dressed, with a Lace Veil tied to form a Cap with White Flowers. A Short Dress of clear Muslin, richly Embroidered, over a Sarsenet Dress of Lilac. White Gloves.

I just love the sound of "clear muslin richly embroidered over a Sarsanet dress of lilac". These people who did descriptions were almost poetic.

This is an evening gown from 1810 from La Belle Assemblee

Evening Visiting Dress.

A complete lemon-coloured sarsnet dress, trimmed with an embroidery of roses; a white lace drapery with train, fastened down the front with topaz snaps; a rich embroidered scarf is thrown carelessly across the shoulders. Topaz necklace, and earrings. The hair in loose ringlet curls, divided by an ornamental comb. Gloves and shoes of white or lemon-coloured kid. A bouquet of natural flowers.

One last one and then I must stop, though I always have more, but the post gets too long. No month would be complete without its riding dress, at least if I have one to show you.

Lady’s Riding Costume from August 1812 La Belle Assemblee

Made of ladies habit cloth or Moria Louisa Blue, trimmed down each side of the front with Spanish buttons, the waist rather long with three small buttons on the hips; a short jacket full behind, the front habit fashion with small buttons up the neck and a row of small buttons on each side of the breast; a lapel thrown back from the shoulders and trimmed with Spanish buttons, has a most elegant effect and gives a graceful finish to the dress. The collar is made about a quarter inch in depth and fashioned negligently at the throat with a large cord and tassel; it opens sufficiently to display the shirt which is of lace in general but this article admits of considerable variations; some of our elegants wear a collar of lace to fall over, others have a shirt edged round the neck with a rich lace frill and not a few, in despite of the heat of the weather, envelope their necks in a large cravat of India muslin.
A small woodland hat, whose colour corresponds with the dress with two white ostrich feathers fastened behind and falling carelessly over the left side. A cord and tassel is brought round the hat and fastened near the top of the crown on the right side.
Buff gloves and half boots either of buff jean or leather.

Not the comment about the large cravats in spite of the heat. And yes, Prinny is Regent indeed.

Until next time. Happy Rambles.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Regency Flora and Fauna - August

Since the is the first day for blogging after August 1, it is time for our monthly article on the plants and animals one might have noticed in the Regency during this month.

The Naturlists Diary says:

"August has its fields of waving corn, its groups of nut-brown reapers". From this we can gather that the weather is warm and sunny enough to ripen grain (not sweet corn as we discussed before). And you will remember the picture of last time of the people threshing so we won't do that again.
"Young broods of goldfinches are now seen."
Interestingly enough we have been watching a young brood of goldfinches here in our garden in Canada. They are quite bold, sitting on the railing of our deck, even when we are out there. But look how different they are. The first picture is the English Goldfinch, and the second is the one we are seeing in our garden, the North American Goldfinch.

"The Jessamine shows its pretty little flowers, and diffuses its fragrant scent." And what in the world is a Jessamine, I ask myself. Well that of course is no good at all. I have to find out. Mutter, mutter, why haven't I heard of a Jessamine before this. Aha. After some digging, I am now sure that this is Jasmine, not the state flower of Carolina, which is apparently something altogether different. Just like my finches above they have only the same name.

"Broom flowers in this month." I often get gorse and broom confused. They both sport yellow flowers, but gorse if very prickly and flowers earlier in the spring. Broom is a much more gentle plant. It was used in the old days as an emblem or a cockade, worn on a lapel or a hat.

I seem to be running into a yellow theme here. Not intentional at all. And it is not surprising that I get confused by broom and gorse, because apparently they are related.

It seems that during the Regency, wasps were as much a pest then as they are now. Here is a remedy provided by our friendly Naturelist to deal with the sting, should you be so unlucky.

"The following antidote for the sting of wasps and other noxious insects, has also been recommended:--Take a leaf or two of the broad-leaved plantain (Plantago major), and bruise it, and rub it on the affected part for about ten minutes, and all pain and inflammation will cease" The first image is of the broad-leaved plantain. I think the name is much fancier than the plant.

I have never heard of this for wasp stings, though we always used dock leaves for stinging nettles. They always seemed to grow next to each other. Apparently they have alkine which neutralizes the acid in the nettle sting. Not so with the plantain it contains a different ingredient becasue wasp stings are alkaline. Enough with the science already. Here is a picture of a dock leaf. It is quite amazing though, that all those years ago these remedies worked just as well as our fancy chemicals do today.

Well that is it from me tonight. Until next time Happy Rambles.