Saturday, January 26, 2008

Flora and Fauna of Regency Britain - January

I have to admit, the winter months are always a challenge with respect to this series. After all, winter is a time when animals hibernate, birds fly south, flowers disappear and trees are bare. As usual I have persevered.

Rosemary is one of the few shrubs that does flower in January. It is a poignant bush, named for rememberance by lovers and appears so in Shakespeare's Hamlet as spoken by Ophelia. "There's Rosemary for remembrance." Indeed interestingly enough there are also some studies that indicate that Rosemary can actually aid the memory.

The Naturlists diary notes that; "the titmouse pulls straw out of the thatch, in search of insects; and linnets congregate."

Who can resist the word titmouse, I just had to look him up and get a picture of him. I discover that it is generice for a variety of forms of tit (meaning bird in old English), combined with a German word meaning small which was changed to mouse along the way. Since there are several varieties, I give you my favorite resident of England, the blue tit. Something that caught my eye when perusing White's Natural History of Selborne which I might add is not organized by month, is that in winter, buntings about in the bushes on the downs near Andover. I did not see any buntings, this past month, but nor was I looking. But wouldn't you know it, it turns out that bunting is also a generic term for a type of sparrow and includes the yellowhammer pictured here. It occurs to me that in writing about the flora and fauna of this era, we must be careful not to use names that were not common in their time, even if they are less specific.

The other thing I noticed when reading both the diary and White's, they were very concerned about turnips. They seemed to worry about the birds and insects eating their tops when their was no snow and whether they would survive thecold weather, which means they must have been left in the ground during the winter. Exciting stuff!

In January, leaves start to appear on the honeysuckle according to Mr. Stillingfleet’s tracts.

In Gibert White’s The Natural History of Selbourne, he writes that one could anticipate a winter thaw from the sudden activity of mole’s heaving up mole hills. I can certainly confirm this having just come back from England in mild weather and saw the work of moles anywhere there was green grass. And here is my own picture of molehills - note, this picture is from June, but molehills are molehills.

There is more, but I think this will do for this year! Until Next time, Happy Rambles.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Regency Fashion For January and News

You can't believe how happy I am to be back on line. It has been a difficult four weeks for me and my family. My mother passed away on Christmas Eve, and it has been a very sad holiday season. It is hard to believe that a little over a month ago, she and I were touring Bath. She enjoyed herself enormously, was vibrant and interested and ready to point out all kinds of interesting things. And that is the way I will always remember her.

I arrived back from England to some interesting news. It is strange how life feels like a roller coaster. My unpublished historical novel, "Gus Landen, the Price of Justice", is a quarter finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest. Oh my. You can find the excerpt at Amazon. You can write a review if you wish, or simply click yes for the reviews that are there to show you found them helpful (or no if you did not).

No Regrets seems to be doing well, listed at number 25 on Amazon in Regencies. Not sure what that means exactly, but I am feeling pretty good about it.

The Anthology Brides of the West from Highland Press is now in proof form from the publisher and we hope to see it ready for purchase around Valentines Day. So I will be running a contest nearer that date. However, this is not a Regency, it is a Western and Victorian. A departure for me, but a fun one.

Well that is all of my writing news for now, but here is the promised fashion for January.

Isn't this just so sweet and to me so very Regency in style. But look how slender this model is. Is it any wonder my heroine in "No Regrets" had self-image problems because she wasn't as thin as a pin!

This plate is from Ackermann's Repository. Don't you love that name. So formal and flowing. The Magazine description goes something like this. "A round robe of Cambric muslin, with long full sleeves, and simple short collar, confined in the center of the throat with a stud or broach; the same fastening at the wrist. A robe pelisse of bright morone velvet formed quite plain, simply meeting in the front, with rounded collar; trimmed entirely round with spotted ermine, and confined at the bottom of the waist with a ribband of corresponding shades, tied in front. A Flora cap, ornamented with ribband and small flower on the left side. A village hat of morone velvet, with open edge of black chenille; a flower similar to that which ornaments the cap, placed on the opposite side, and tied under the chin with the same ribband. Half-boots of morone velvet, or kid. Gloves of pale tan or amber kid. Ridicule of morone velvet, embroidered with gold."

Morone is a peony red, rather than a type of velvet and I find it interesting that her boots are of the same fabric as well as the village hat. One really must wonder how good velvet boots would be in rain and the odd snow fall, 'though they also mention kid as an alternative. I love this ensemble although I suppose the ermine trim is probably not feasible today and the thought of wearing both a cap and a hat makes my scalp itch. lol

My next plate is evening wear from earlier, 1806. The classical influence is very obvious in these two gowns. And I mention, just for interest though I expect most of you know this, that dresses were often plain white because they thought the ancient romans wore white robes based on the statues, when in fact it was simply that in many cases, the color had worn off over time. The description from the Cabinet of Fashion is as follows: The Walking Dress. A Scarlet Kerseymere Cloak. A Bonnet of the same, trimmed round with White Swansdown and dress of White Cambric, richly worked round the Bottom. Buff Gloves. Not much detail, but enough. By the way Kerseymere is a fine woolen cloth with a fancy twill weave.

The full dress or evening dress is marvellously simple and effective. It is described as a: White Sarsnet Dress, ornamented with embroidery. A clear Leno Apron, trimmed with a plain Gold Cord. Hair fashionably dressed, with a Wreath. White Kid Gloves and Shoes. The term Leno refers to an open weave fabric, which of course would allow the dress to show through, and I assume it is termed an apron because it looks as if the sides are open,or maybe it refers to the bib front. A lovely fashion for a young slip of a thing.

I know I am late, but I do wish you all a Healthy and Happy New Year and look forward to sharing more Regency rambles with you over the coming months.

Michele Ann Young