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.