Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What I did last weekend

I know it sounds a bit like school. As I mentioned last Friday, I attended the New Jersey Romance Writers conference this past week end and after that we went to visit relatives who live north of New York City, on the way home as it were.

I had a great conference, catching up with old friends and acquaintances. Here I am with two other Casablanca authors (me on the left), Marie Force and Robin Kay at the signing.
As you can see we are having a pretty good time.

Quite a few people came by for a copy of my book, which is always a good feeling.
I attended some really interesting and helpful workshops. I moderated one for Winnie Griggs whose talk had me taking notes non-stop. I bought several books, which I am looking forward to reading.

I met some aspiring writers and new writers and amazing best selling writers all of whom were wonderfully friendly. We were lucky to find booksellers in attendance, including Sue Grimshaw from Borders, who is both glamorous, friendly and very knowledgeable, as is Stacey Agdern who works for an independent bookseller in Grand Central Station. Along with Stacey, I spent an entertaining evening talking writing with Leanna Renee Hieber, a gothic Victorian writer newly acquired by Dorchester, and my good friends Maureen and Sinead.

I was very happy to learn that publishers are interested in historicals, including regencies.

After a hectic couple of days it was family time. Now you may think this is odd, but during the visit to my relatives, we went skeet shooting. This is genuine research. Did you know that trap shooting (which is very like skeet shooting) started in 1805? Nor did I. But I do now. And, in the interests of research, I shot 25 rounds at little clay targets. I doubt that women would have gone shooting during the Regency, though I don't see why one could not. I feel a story coming on.

Anyway was a lovely day, sunny, the fall colors outstanding, so we had a really nice family gathering, even if it was a bit noisy. And today it snowed here in Ontario. Go figure.

Back to normal programming next week. Until then, Happy Rambles.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Regency Beauty - Part II

First I should let you know that next Monday I will be driving back from the New Jersey conference, so I will not be here. Expect to see me back on Thursday.

Joanna commented on last day's blog and sent along this picture and comment view of a 1788 Chippendale Shaving Stand. What the drawing doesn't show is that there's a plug in the bottom of the porcelain wash bowl. The water drains into a bucket or chamber pot in the cabinet below. Everything folds down to create an innocuous-looking table. Thank you Joanna, it is indeed a lovely piece of furniture and just the kind of think a mechanically minded male might take a fancy too, don't you think.

More about cosmetics this for both genders.

PEARS TRANSPARENT SOAP.Personal beauty depends so much on the appearance and texture of the skin, that whatever contributes to protect it from injury, or to improve it, must be considered an object of importance to all who are solicitous to possess the advantage, which Lord Chesterfield denominates “a letter of recommendation on all occasions; and certainly the present and future ages must feel themselves indebted to the Inventor of the curious Chemical Process by which Soap is separated from all the impure and noxious substances with which, in its crude state, it is invariably united; this refinement is manifested by its Transparency and Fragrance.Prepared and sold by A. Pears, at his Manufactory, No. 55, Wells-street, Oxford-street, London, price 1s and 1s 6d. per square; and in large squares which are perfumed with the Otto of Roses, for 2s 6d. Also Gentlemen’s Shaving Cakes at 2s 6d—But observe that wheresoever or by whomsoever sold, it never can be genuine without the Inventor’s signature, A. Pears, in his hand-writing. For the accommodation of the nobility and gentry residing in the country, it is likewise sold by Mr. Smith, Perfumer, Dry Bridge, Newark; Mr. Hill, Cheltenham; Mr. Buttler, Perfumer, Oxford; and by most respectable Perfumers in Town and Country.

Note, I am unable to date the picture, but obviously it was well-known during the regency.

English Lavender Water. This light, refreshing potion is perhaps the oldest known and most frequently used lavender product. It was mentioned by Jane Austen in her letters and in her books.

* Use as a facial splash morning and night
* Bathing the forehead and temples with Lavender water will help to overcome fatigue and exhaustion.
* a soothing compress for a tension headache. Sprinkle a few drops on your pillow, just see how it helps you sleep. Fleas, flies, and midges, they hate it, making lavender water a natural insect repellent!

This is a home recipe from the Regency era.

Put two pounds of lavender pips into two quarts of water, put them into a cold still, and make a slow fire under it; distil it off very slowly, and put it into a pot till you have distilled all your water; then clean your still well out, put your lavender water into it, and distil it off slowly again; put it into bottles and cork it well.

Do let me know how it turns out.

Until next Thursday, Happy Rambles.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Regency Beauty

Women today spend a great deal on cosmetics and skin preparations and toiletries, what did they do in the Regency.

One thing we often read is that people did not wash in those days. In the 1806 Belle Assemblee the following was said

The toilette without cleanliness fails of obtaining its object. A careful attention to the person, frequent ablutions, linen always white, which never betrays the inevitable effect of perspiration and of dust; a skin always smooth and brilliant, garments not soiled by any stain, and which might be taken for the garments of a nymph; a shoe which seems never to have touched the ground; this it is that constitutes cleanliness

Ablutions is of course washing. this picture is of an early watercloset. During the Regency period, indoor plumbing was making an appearance particularly for personal hygiene. There were baths being installed and even showers.

The writer of the article also makes a pitch for rouge. It seems that painted faces were the norm rather than not since he says if paint was proscribed, or done away with, he would vote for keeping rouge.

If ever paint were to be proscribed, I should plead for an exception in favour of rouge, which may be rendered extremely innocent, and may be applied with such art as sometimes to give an expression to the figure which it would never have without that auxiliary. The colour of modesty has many charms; and in an age when women blush so little, ought we not to value this innocent artifice, which is capable at least of exhibiting to us the picture of modesty?

A recipe for a "red lip pomade" from the year 1805 listed the following ingredients: half a pound of fresh unsalted butter and two ounces of pure wax, plus currants and one to three grams of alkanna tictoria. To give it a pleasant fragrance a spoon full of strong orange blossom water was also added.

Something else we often wonder about. Hair. It is quite often said that there was no hair removal in this period. But we read in La Belle Assemblee, the following:

Superfluous Hairs are one of the greatest drawbacks from the delicacies and loveliness of the Female Face, Arms &c. TRENTS Depilatory removes them in a few minutes, and leaves the Skin softer and fairer than it was before the application; it is used by the First Circles of Fashion and Rank, and now stands unequalled in the World. It is sold by every respectable Perfumer, Medicine Vender &c. in London.

Now how effective it would be I cannot say. But clearly they were as concerned with at least some superfluous hair as we are today.

And something for the gentlemen? A home remedy.

To increase the Growth of Hair. Hartshorn beat small and mixed with oil, being rubbed on the head of persons who have lost their hair will cause it to grow again as at first.

Lots more cosmetics to come. Join me again for another Regency Ramble.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Regency People

The Prince of Wales, Continued

Last time I talked a little about the up bringing of the Prince. It should be noted that even for this time period, he had a limited education. He spoke French without an accent, and had studied a little latin, but he had no education in mathematical sciences or philosophy. We know that his father thought he should learn gardening and bread making, but it seems he neglected a higher level of education.

A friend of George Washington says in 1789
"nor has the society he has kept been such as to supply the void of education. It has been that of the lowest, the most illiterate and profligate persons of the kingdom, without choice of rank or mind, and with whom the subjects of conversation are only horses, drinking matches, bawdy houses and in terms the most vulgar."

We will meet some of these people later.

A portrait of Maria Anne Fitzherbert

The same friend says:

In the article of women, nevertheless he is become more correct, since his connection with Mrs. Fitzherbert, who is an honest and worthy woman; he is even less crapulous than he was.

You might guess that the whole reason for the quote is the capulous word meaning effects of drunkeness. I learned a new words today. It seems to be been in use for a short period of time, but it certainly seems to fit.

My last quote is as follows:

"He possesses good native common sense; is affable, polite and very good humoured."

He loved fine art, much of the royal collections of art were started by him. And architecture. The Brighton Pavilion might be a bit odd, but is it any odder than Hurst Castle?

Wellington said George was "a magnificent patron of the arts...the most extraordinary compound of talent, wit, buffoonery, obstinacy, and good feeling — in short a medley of the most opposite qualities, with a great preponderence of good — that I ever saw in any character in my life."

Bu our standards today he was highly immoral or amoral. There were certainly better men than he, in his own time, and there were many who were worse. Some of them his friends, but still I feel just a tad sorry for him.

That's it for my walk in the Regency today. Until next time, Happy rambles.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Regency People

First, if you are wondering where to buy The Lady Flees Her Lord, I have to tell you that the book should be in stores any day now. Sometimes it takes a while to get them into the stores, so it will be there by the end of the month. As soon as I get word it is out there, I will send out the newsletter. I have a Prinny story all ready to go, and can't wait to get it to you.

I thought it might be fun to start a new regular feature on some of the wonderful real characters who people the Regency. People my characters might run into during the course of a book.

These will only be little snippets, not detailed research, after all there are hundreds of books in the library which can do a far better job than I. I will not restrict myself to the Regency of 1811 - 1820, because that is an event rather than an era or a sense of life and style.

I wanted to start with George Prince of Wales, because it is he who gives us our Regency era, however.

I think I am a bit of an odd duck, because I have a lot of sympathy for the George, as anyone who has read my newsletters will know. He really was a product of the Georgian era, a lusty, self indulgent time with some of the remnants of the Stuarts well entrenched in society.

This picture of him is by Gainsborough in 1782. He is twenty in this picture. He desperately wanted to join the army as did his favorite brother Frederick, the Duke of York. His father would not let him leave the country, or actually do anything at all in government. He had no responsibilities. Is it any wonder that later on he was indecisive, and self indulgent.

He was not as arrogant as he is painted, he said of his appearance around this time that he is inclined to be fat, although he thought his eyes were fine. One of his gentlemen, Lake, is very aware that because he was so sheltered growing up, he is far too eager to please and to make friends, which means he is easily imposed upon and encouraged to do outrageous things.

He is also constantly criticized by his father, who's favorite son is Frederick. Not an easy thing for a young man to endure. Therefore, he rebels. He becomes friends with a wild bunch, Chesterfield, St. Leger, and Windham ~ the latter are two rakes "whom all good men despise".

Meanwhile, his father refuses him permission to go to balls, and let us face it there is very little else to do at this time, as well as gives him long list of things he is not allowed to do, and to make matters worse gives him nothing worthwhile to do.

Can you imagine us treating our children like that?

In 1782, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire says he is striking to look at, but not perfect, inclined to be fat, of pleasing height, reasonably intelligent, but because he has been kept in too strict confinement, ogling women have given him the impression his is much sought after by the opposite sex. So this is the teenage young adulthood of this prince. It is completely unlike the experience of anyone else, even his brothers. And I for one feel sorry for him. Although I do not excuse his antics.

Well, that is all for today, and I think we will visit Prinny again before we move on to some of the other characters of his time.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Entertainment in the Regency

OOps. Where did Thursday go? Busy day to day. But late is better than never, hopefully.

I did a piece not so long ago about ladies activities, needlework, drawings etc, and we did something on outdoor activities. But with no television, what other sorts of entertainments were available.

Reading, of course. The novel was a fair newcomer at this time, primarily because printing was really in its infancy. But printing did provide greater numbers of copies much more quickly. One thing people loved to read were caricatures. Political cartoons, comments on people and events of the day.

James Gillray (1757-1815) was a popular cartoonist of the era, at the picture above is one of his. In the background is Miss Humphrey's shop in St. James's Street, his publisher. In the shop window a number of Gillray's previously published prints. Seeing the crowd standing around the window kind of reminds you of a sporting event being shown on a tv in a shop window doesn't it.

There were many other print shops on St. James's Street and surrounding streets, next to "fashionable hatters, gilders, vintners.

Although sometimes the higher classes bought prints on impulse and in person, they usually sent servants out to purchase the latest or had standing orders with print shops for regular deliveries. The Duke of Norfolk had the print seller Holland send him political prints 'as they came out''; his portfolios were 'filled with graphic satires and scurrilities, private as well as public, of which the press was then so prolific

As you can see from the above quote, these items were collected avidly and were certainly a form of entertainment, the kind of satire we now enjoy on tv. This one is by Rowlandson.

And here is one of a sports hero. Bill Richmond the famous black boxer, innkeeper and promoter. Born in New York in 1763, he came to England in the service of a British officer, Earl Percy.

Richmond taught himself to fight and rose through the ranks to become one of the most feted boxers of his day. In 1810 he retired from the ring and opened boxing rooms, which attracted the likes of Lord Byron and William Hazlitt, and ran the fashionable Horse and Dolphin public house near Leicester Square.

Of course there were lots more of these, some of them addressing some very serious subjects, and some of them exceedingly risque, but these prints were bought up as avidly as we watch television today.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Flora and Fauna of Regency Britain - October

We had frost on our roof this morning, yet the sky is bright and clear and it reminded me of growing up in England, crunching through frosty grass on the way to school. Though October is probably a bit early for frost over there, it was a happy little memory.

Now here is a pretty little bird. A linnet. What has it to do with October?

Small birds now begin to congregate, and the common linnet is the first to lead the way.

They are congregating ready for migration, like so many of Britain's summer birds. It is a bird often referred to through various eras, although it is now endangered it was once prolific throughout England and it has a pretty song.

Amid the floral gaieties of autumn, may be reckoned the Guernsey lily, which is so conspicuous an object in October, in the windows and green-houses of florists in London and its vicinity.

I thought this interesting because it talks about the windows and green-houses of florists in London and vicinity. Without intention, our naturist has given us a glimpse into London life, the image of florists etc.

The lily itself has a whole history around it. Thought to have arrived in Guernsey in the late 1600's a whole wonderful tale of shipwrecks and Japanese or Chinese sailors has grown up around it. The lily actually comes from South Africa, but the tale is interesting.

Hips and haws now ornament the hedges. This is a part of a flower print by Louisa Anne Twamley circa 1836 and shows a variety of hips and haws (as well as blackberries which are probably not quite right for October). But the print shows the variety of these red seeds and they last through the winter to April time, which is great for birds, but October is when they start to make their appearance.

Hips are rose hips. You may have heard of rose hip syrup supposed to keep you healthy in winter. There is a lot of vitamin C in rose hips and now they are talking about it as an aid to rheumatism. Anyway, I digress. Hips are from roses. They are left once the flower is gone, if you don't prune.

Haws are similar, they come from white thorn bushes and other bushes. They are the smaller red seeds in the picture.

And so, while there is much more to be seen in October, you will have to wait until next year. Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Regency Fashion for October

Well if you dropped by over to for the launch you would have danced and partied all day. But now back to our regular programming. But before I do let me remind you that my newsletter will go out this week, so if you haven't signed up and would like to do so, you will find the button in the sidebar.

Well we are moving into Autumn, so let us see what fashions we have for cooler blustery days.

I really like this first one from 1814.

This is from La Belle Assemblee.

Jaconet muslin high dress, with a triple flounce of muslin embroidery round the edge, and slightly scalloped; a row of worked points surmounts the top flounce. The body is composed of jaconet muslin and letting-in lace; the former cut to broad strips and sewed full to the latter, which is about an inch in breadth; this body is made up to the throat, but has no collar. Long sleeve of muslin and lace to correspond with the body.

Spenceret of rose coloured velvet of a form the most elegantly simple and tasteful that we have seen; it is very short in the waist, and tight to the shape; it is ornamented at the top by a lcse frill, and is cut so as to cover the bosom but to leave the neck bare.

I love that they call it a spenceret. And I must say rose coloured velvet has a particularly cosey sound. Because she is wearing the spenceret, we don't see much of the body, so we imagine panels of lace let into the muslin. Or I do anyway. What I really liked about this was the length. So clearly cut short for ease of walking.

Because we had a walking dress, I thought we should go for one evening outfit. This one is from 1812.

This is also from Belle Assemblee

Round dress of cambric muslin, cut low in the neck, demi train and long sleeves; waist something shorter than they have been worn; very low in the neck, and trimmed round the bosom with a scolloped lace, which falls over and is put on broad at the bosom and narrower at the shoulders.

Hat of Pomona green satin, turned up in front, and low on each side of the face. A Spanish button and loop in front, and a long white ostrich feather, which falls to the right side. Shawl of the same material as the hat, thrown over the shoulders carelessly, and its effect left to the taste of the wearer, the two ends, which fall in front, are finished with amber silk tassels, and trimmed to correspond.

Hair dressed very full at the sides, and parted in front. Pomona slippers. White spangled fan; and white kid gloves.

For me the mention of the white spangled fan does it. I want a white spangled fan! I must have been a magpie in an earlier incarnation. I love all that glitters.

Well next week we have our usual flora and fauna article. And lots of excitement towards the end of the month when I will be signing books with Eloisa James. Last week I signed with Jo Beverly. Such a nice nice lady.

Until Monday, Happy Rambles.