Once upon a time I had much more time on my hands than I do now so I wrote a number of informative blog essays. All of them covered topics I had researched in the course of my writing. Here they are in an orderly manner. Scroll down the very long page, or click the name of a topic that interests you to get to it instantly. Enjoy!
Were Regency wedding gowns necessarily white? The answer is a bit hard to pin down. Jane Austen does not say what Lizzy and Jane wore to their weddings, so we can only surmise based on historical references.
When considering the ‘Regency’ as an era, one must encompass the bulk of the Georgian years from the late 1700s as the French Revolution raged, on through to the time of Queen Victoria. Fashion trends even for weddings followed what was popular at the time. The years between the 1790s to 1820 were unique in that the dresses were freely flowing, unencumbered with heavy corsets or tight gathers; hoops, bustles, and full skirts with voluminous petticoats were unseen. It appears that styles between the upper and middle classes were not as variable as they would be in later years, except for the far more lavish adornments that the wealthy could afford. Practicality and comfort seems to be the key. Whatever the color, we can be fairly certain that the gown’s style would have followed the same principles. The gown to the right is from 1809 and exemplifies the style.
What is clear is that during the Regency years wedding ceremonies themselves were of a private, quiet nature. The massive extravaganza associated with a marriage was not seen until well into the Victorian Era. Guests were limited to the close family and friends with the ensuing celebration consisting of little more than a breakfast or light luncheon with a modest cake. If one was wealthy enough to procure a ‘special license’ then the ceremony could take place past the noon hour with an intimate early evening fete.
The gown worn would naturally follow this tendency for minimalism and simplicity. Additionally, it was expected that the wedding gown, whatever the color, would be a suitable garment for frequent wear. White was a popular color for gowns during these years, probably largely due to the economical factor in purchasing inexpensive muslin or lawn. However, white obviously dirties easier. Often the wearing of white while strolling in the daytime hours was a sign of social status and income. Intense care and cleaning was required to keep those garments pristine! For this practical reason, pure white was relegated to evening wear when soiling was less likely, and pastels or bright colors were worn during the day.
The French are credited to a large degree with introducing the concept of a gown specifically designed just for a wedding as well as popularizing the veil (worn over the hair and trailing behind), and other fancy accoutrements. To the left is a French bride in an example of such from 1813. As the French Revolution ended, the English once again turned to their French cousins for fashion enlightenment. I guess some things never change! However, these inspirations would filter in gradually over the late Regency years, not wholly taking hold until the Victorian influence.
White for wedding gowns as the only acceptable color can clearly be traced to the age of Queen Victoria (1837-1901). She herself wore white upon her marriage to Prince Albert, but she was not the first to do so. Numerous paintings and references can be found to support this fact. Nonetheless, prior to Her Majesty, it was generally believed to be more fashionable for a lady of noble birth to wear silver or some other costly fabric. It seems that wearing one’s best garment, preferable something new, was the greater essential. The wealthier the bride, the more elaborate her gown would be, irregardless of the color.
Still, white has for centuries been associated with purity. The Godey’s Lady Book of 1849 claims: “Custom has decided, from the earliest ages, that white is the most fitting hue, whatever may be the material. It is the emblem of the purity and innocence of girlhood, and the unsullied heart she now yields to the chosen one.” According to Caroline Austen, Jane’s niece, another niece of Jane’s named Anne wore white at her wedding in 1814. The wedding dress to the right, from 1816, proves the possibility.
In summation……well, we just do not know! Considering the Bennets humble means, it is easy to assume that the sensible young ladies would have chosen a gown both lovely and thrifty. To have either Mr. Darcy or Mr. Bingley financially contribute to the trousseau is unfathomable, such an offer a horrid affront to proper rules and highly offense to Mr. Bennet. Therefore, I stuck to this philosophy and historical likelihood by having Elizabeth wear a simple white wedding gown with gold trim.
If you have read my first novel, Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy, then you know that a duel takes place. I will give no details away here, but did want to elaborate on the custom. All part of my deep need to educate you all!
The word ‘duel’ comes from the Old Latin duellum which translates as ‘war’ but is also associated with the Latin duo for two. Evolving etymology shifted the meaning to one-on-one combat. Dueling is a practice steeped in tradition. Probably what first comes to mind, at least to me, are the chivalrous English Knights of olde. Those stalwart men in their shining silver armor who defended the honor of their ladies at the end of a massive broadsword or jousting lance. From this period of time comes the term ‘throwing down the gauntlet’ when the Knight would respond to a perceived slight to his honor by throwing his glove onto the ground before his offender. Over time dueling became an honorable activity with rules and regulations so iron clad that it would take numerous laws to finally halt the practice.
Of course, physical confrontations of all varieties are as old as time. It was in western cultures that these combats would take on an organizational format haling from as far back as the 1300s or perhaps earlier. Dueling during these ancient times was rarely condemned and was actually looked upon as a respectable method of resolving disputes between gentlemen. It was a civilized way of handling a quarrel; the victor’s reputation increased as it was considered a sign from God that the cause was just.
The Italian Code Duello was the first published list of ethics surrounding the practice based on long established Germanic laws. During the Renaissance France had a National code and in 1777 Ireland wrote their own code duello. Italy can rightly be esteemed as the birthplace of the duel, with dozens of Italian sword masters perfecting techniques that to this day are revered among fencers. Remember that great scene in The Princess Bride where the Man in Black and Inigo Montoya are dueling and they spout off all the great Masters and the techniques they are using? All true.
All that being said, not everyone looked upon dueling as respectable, nor did the combatants always follow the rules. Favor for the practice vacillated over the centuries. On a practical level, one must ask how sensible it is to put oneself in the path of maiming or possible death just because one’s honor was offended! The answer lies in those ancient, medieval codes that believed in the justice of God, as I stated above. But even beyond that was the idea that performing bravely in the face of a challenge, defending what was honorable in a manly way, was worth the chance. A Real Man did not back down! Of course, many of those Real Men ended up dead! Many of the laws forbidding dueling came about for the simple purpose of protecting and saving the upper class from extinction.The loss of life due to dueling was significant. At one point in Spanish history less that 25% of noble males lived to see their 20th birthday! During some thirty years of the 17th century it was noted that enough French males of rank had died from dueling to make up an entire army! These statistics may be exaggerated, but it was a serious enough problem to warrant concern. Not surprisingly, it was the Catholic Church that greatly led the charge to ban dueling and punish those involved. Obviously this did not entirely stop the practice, but it did lower the incidence. The power and influence the Church wielded among European monarchs waxed and waned over the decades and centuries with a correlating rise and decline in duels.
Nonetheless, angry men always found a way to circumvent the law! Duelist who could no longer call upon the law to approve of the combat would ‘accidentally’ encounter each other. This necessitated the use of lighter weapons, such as the smallsword and eventually pistols. Duels to the death were not as common, a dead body being much harder to hide from the authorities than a wound was. Hence the origin of fighting to ‘first blood.’
I confess that I found very few definitive references to where the practice of legal dueling was during the early years of the 1800s. Some places seemed to indicate that it was horribly passé while others show the popularity of the practice. Certainly it was quite common in the Americas. Andrew Jackson is said to have fought in 14 duels, including the famous one where he lost his arm. Gun manufacturers apparently did not get the memo as the demand for fancy dueling pistols was ever on the rise. Every gentleman owned a custom designed set as evidence of his prestige and as a visible badge of his honor. The habit of wearing a sword at one’s hip was no longer fashionable with the natural evolution to dueling with pistols taking precedence. Although it is clear from what I read that pistol duels were the norm by the late 1700s that is not to say that swords were never used. It was not until the 1840s, when the military got involved at the urging of Queen Victoria, that duelists were rigorously apprehended and punished. After that time the ritual rapidly lost favor, finally completely disappearing.
So, how does all this fit into my story? Well, primarily I just love watching and reading about sword fights! When I thought of exciting, interesting, dramatic moments to write about, I liked the challenge of writing a sword duel. I did research the practice, but in the end decided that since there was some debate on the subject, I could have Darcy partake in a duel without going too far into left field. The practical side of me agrees that fighting in such tests of honor is utterly moronic, and therefore probably not something a sensible man like Mr. Darcy would do. Nevertheless, it is rather romantic! Come on, we gals all want to believe our man would battle to the death for us, right?! Plus, as a writer, I wanted to test myself. So there is the background for ya!
“Ten thousand a year and he owns half of Derbyshire!” So said Charlotte Lucas to Elizabeth Bennet in the 2005 movie. To be fair, this statement is not in the novel, nor could I find anything that gave any relative size descriptions of Pemberley estate. That it would need to be substantial to generate the vast amount of wealth Mr. Darcy claimed is obvious, but ‘half of Derbyshire’? When I began writing my story I needed to explore this quote. Was Charlotte exaggerating for effect as we all tend to do? Or did she speak the truth? As a US girl born and bred, the concept of any one person owning half of a state or county is unfathomable, so my first assumption was that it was a humorous quip and nothing more. Then, as I really took a serious look at England so many years after my days of forced geography in school (which I confess I was not a fan of), I was struck once again by how small the UK is in comparison to the vastness of the US! Then, you divide it further into some forty counties and I began to wonder if it was possible to own half of one! Especially in the bygone yesteryears that we are talking about here when wealthy land ownership was the norm.
Well, as dramatic and starry-eyed as the notion of our Mr. Darcy being THAT rich, alas there is no way he could own half or even a fourth of Derbyshire! Derbyshire is located in the east Midlands of England. Nestled between five other Shires smack in the middle of the island kingdom, Derbyshire is roughly 1016 sq. miles (2631 sq. km) in area; 52 miles from north to south and 85 miles at the widest east to west point with an average of 20 miles. Perhaps it does not compare to California or Texas, but this is a hefty section of land!
A simple Google search will yield numerous website devoted to this beautiful portion of England. A few of my favorites are:
As many of my long-time readers know, Lizzy and Darcy traveled through the southern districts surrounding Derby and to the eastern environs in a quartet of chapters that explored the history and landscape of this beautiful shire. To accurately do that I needed to research and immerse myself into the past of a land I have never been so blessed as to visit! Trust me, it was not always easy! But it sure was fun! I love history and I think that came through quite clearly in those chapters as the Darcys explored old castles and churches. In Darcy’s time the county would be largely pastoral with immense spaces of emptiness between tiny hamlets. According to Bartholomew’s Gazetteer of the British Isles from 1887:
“DERBYSHIRE, midland county of England…. pop. 461,914. The surface in the south is either flat or undulating, irregular in the middle and NE., and picturesquely mountainous in the NW. or Peak district. The principal rivers are the Trent, Derwent, Dove, and Wye; river communication is supplemented by the Erewash and Grand Trunk Canals….The soil in the Vale of the Trent is alluvial and very productive. In the hilly districts the land is mostly in pasture; much of it is rocky and unproductive. Oats, barley, potatoes, and wheat are cultivated; and there are many excellent dairy-farms. Warm mineral springs are numerous, the most popular being those at Buxton, Matlock, and Bakewell. Coal is abundant; iron ore and lead are worked; among the other mineral products are zinc, manganese, and barytes (barium). There are numerous and extensive quarries of limestone and marble; fluor-spar (fluorite) is found in the caverns, and is manufactured into a great variety of ornamental articles. Silk, cotton, and lace are the chief manufactures, but malting and brewing are also carried on, and there are some extensive iron foundries.”
As Bartholomew’s quote suggests, all but the far north region of the Peaks are fertile and primarily agriculture. The numerous rivers flowing through provided irrigation, teeming quantities of fish, as well as cargo travel routes and energy for a pre-industrial age. Even the moor and heath of the High Peak are excellent for grazing sheep. The vast coal, mineral, and iron mines are located in the Chesterfield area and the extensive cave systems of the Peak.
Let’s talk about the High Peaks! This 555 sq. mile (1438 sq. km) area of land lies mostly in the northern reaches of Derbyshire and was designated in 1951 as the first UK National Park. Contrary to the images the name ‘Peak’ conjures, the geography lacks sharp peaks of any kind, being more rounded with stone escarpments. Geologically formed by limestone, shale, and sandstone, the region is riddled with caverns and caves, while providing a wealth of minerals and ores. Another interesting oddity to this writer sitting literally under the shadows cast by the vaulting reaches of the High Sierras and a stone’s throw away from the 14,000 feet summit of Mt. Whitney is that the highest point in the entire Peak District is Kinder Scout at 2088 feet! Not sure where it was that Lizzy stood as the breeze ruffled her hair in that stunning scenic moment from the movie, but the feel is of a far higher mountain! In fact, the highest mountain in all of England – Scafell Pike in the Lake District – is only 3209 feet! Ha! Sorry all my friends from the UK, but I just had to gloat a wee bit! These three photos are of various points within the High Peaks.
Originally founded by the Romans in the first centuries, Derbyshire later became a part of the medieval Saxon kingdom of Mercia. According to the Domesday Book commissioned by William the Norman Conqueror in 1066, Derbyshire existed by that name as well as a majority of the present day townships. The town Derby, first built as a Roman fort named Derventio, was called Northworthy by the Saxons, but somewhere in the 9th century it was renamed Derby. There is some debate as to the origin of the name, but the general consensus is that it is a derivation of the Dutch and Gaelic name Djura-by, or Deoraby in the Anglo-Saxon, which translated as ‘Village of the Deer.’ For most of its history it was the largest town in the shire and remains so to this day.
The Derbyshire Crest, established in 1937, incorporates many elements of Derbyshire history: The abundant wild red deer from whence the name came; sheep that formed the basis for the economy; stag heads from the Cavendish coat of arms of the Duke of Devonshire; the Tudor rose that was an emblem of the county for centuries; the ram that is to this day the mascot of the regimental army; and the dragon with pick that symbolizes the founding by Danes as well as the shire’s long history in mining.
This map of the county from 1885 – which is what I have used to plot the Darcy’s adventures – is wonderfully detailed with every last village, moor, tor, river, and road clarified. It also delineates the railways, which would not have existed in the early 1800s, as well as the six Parliamentary divisions (High Peak, Western, North Eastern, Chesterfield, Ilkeston, and Southern).
There are over forty manor homes of historic significance located throughout the country, the grandest of which are Chatsworth, Calke Abbey, Bolsover Castle, Renishaw Hall, and Hardwick Hall, names that are very familiar to my long time readers! There are over 200 villages and towns, the vast majority of which have existed for hundreds of years, tracing their heritage to medieval roots. The largest has always been Derby, followed by Chesterfield, Alfreton, Ilkeston, Ashbourne, and Buxton.One of the facts I failed to accurately pin down was the average size of an agricultural estate in the Regency Era. Aside from the reality that I know very little about farming, today or in the days of yore, I could not uncover clear particulars. The Chatsworth Estate is listed as over 12,300 acres just in the immediate area surrounding the manor. Clearly this is one of the exceptionally large estates in the country, but there is no doubt that a man of Mr. Darcy’s means would have been Master of an immense plot of land. I am sure the information is out there somewhere, and if anyone can give a sufficiently factual answer, feel free to share it.So, the conclusion of this little geography/history lesson? A ten thousand a year estate would undoubtedly have been generous, to say the least. However, as you can see from the descriptions of Derbyshire, the distances especially in these horse and buggy decades would have precluded anyone owning and managing too much of it. Still, we can still envy Lizzy her conquest! Supreme handsomeness and a thick bank account? Every girl’s romantic dream.
Ah, the lengths our rigid ancestors went to in preserving modesty! Long before the days of nude beaches, bathing in the ocean was a pastime growing in popularity. Although it was likely far more common in the warmer climates, even the brisk waters surrounded England were prized for the health and pleasure gleaned. But how to enjoy the waves and salty seas in a time when covering from head to toe was the norm?
Enter the Bathing Machine. It is unknown the precise inventor of this remarkable solution to a nagging problem, but the first recording was in 1736. A sketch by John Setterington shows bathers utilizing the device at the beach in Scarborough. In short order they were found everywhere throughout the UK, as well as in France, America, and as far away as Mexico. In 1750 Benjamin Beale is credited with the addition of a ‘tilt’ or large canvas hood that extended off the rear of the machine for increased protection from prying eyes.
This description by Tobias Smollett in his 1771 novel The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker is excellent:
“Image to yourself a small, snug, wooden chamber, fixed upon a wheel-carriage, having a door at each end, and on each side a little window above, a bench below – The bather, ascending into this apartment by wooden steps, shuts himself in, and begins to undress, while the attendant yokes a horse to the end next the sea, and draws the carriage forwards, till the surface of the water is on a level with the floor of the dressing-room, then he moves and fixes the horse to the other end – The person within being stripped, opens the door to the sea-ward, where he finds the guide ready, and plunges headlong into the water – After having bathed, he re-ascends into the apartment, by the steps which had been shifted for that purpose, and puts on his clothes at his leisure, while the carriage is drawn back again upon the dry land; so that he has nothing further to do, but to open the door, and come down as he went up – Should he be so weak or ill as to require a servant to put off and on his clothes, there is room enough in the apartment for half a dozen people.”
Although sometimes utilized by men, the machines were primarily for the safety and modesty of women bathers. For some reason it was not as unseemly for a man to strip down to his underdrawers, or nothing as was most common, and frolic in the surf with other gentlemen. Of course, their bathing was done in secluded areas of the beach at scheduled times, but I think the general attitude is that a proper, demure, naturally innocent female would never think to observe a nude or partially nude man! Yeah right!! Whereas, we all know that men are inherently lecherous and untrustworthy, so the fragile, guileless lady needed to be protected.With this universally understood truth in mind, bathing machines with accompanying ‘dippers’ were essential at seaside resorts. The dippers were same-sex helpers, skilled at swimming, who assisted the uninitiated to the joys of sea bathing. It is a well documented fact that the Prince Regent had a person dipper at Brighton named Old Smoaker.
Since this essay is about bathing machines and not the Georgian and Victorian concept of bathing itself, I will end here and include the following links for further reading of the subject:
I admit that I have stumbled a bit over all the titles of nobility. Royalty is one of those things that I guess Americans have some trouble wrapping our minds around. Or, perhaps it is just me! In many ways reading these various titles, or hearing them uttered in a movie, is kind of like a phrase in some other language. You may be able to decipher the vague idea, but generally you just skim over it without fully comprehending. Is a Lord the same as an Earl? Pretty sure a Prince is above a Knight, but where does a Marquess fall in the rank? And so on.
Peer of the Realm: One who holds one or more of the five possible hereditary titles of nobility and the estate(s) bestowed upon him or his direct ancestor by the monarch. Although other members of his family might be addressed by “Lord This” and “Lady That,” none of them are peers; their titles are courtesy titles, including his wife’s, although she is usually called a “peeress.” The five titles, in descending rank, are: Duke, Marquess, Earl, Viscount, and Baron.
Peerage: – noun 1) a type of title of honor; 2) a collective term for persons, called peers, who possess certain titles of honor; 3) a reference book listing peers and their genealogies. Where (1) is concerned, the reader should bear in mind that not all titles of honor are peerages (for instance baronet and knight, which I will discuss later). Origin: 1175. The term peerage derives from the Latin word par- equal. The sense of “noble” (1382) is from Charlemagne’s Twelve Peers in the old romances, like Knights of the Round Table, originally so called because all were equal. To the extent that all peers with seats in the House of Lords have tended to be summoned to it irrespective of their relative rank, importance, or wealth, the term still has some relevance. But not every holder of a peerage is summoned to the House of Lords. Minors are not, for instance, nor are Irish peers. Between 1707 and 1963 Scottish peers elected representatives from among themselves to sit in the House of Lords.
The number of peers has varied widely over the centuries, although there have always been a smaller number of Dukedoms than any of the other noblemen. Muddying the water even more is trying to define royal from non-royal titles. I will not even begin to clear the murkiness here. If you are deeply intrigued, I found a fabulous couple of websites:
Peerage and titles can get very complicated. These hereditary titles are granted by the ruling monarch and are passed on. It is typical for additional titles to be granted to the same families as the generations pass, resulting frequently in one person who may possess a number of peerage titles and the lands associated. If a family is once ennobled and subsequent title-holders continue to impress the crown with their valor, services, friendship, or sometimes their money, additional titles could be granted to the same family. The higher one’s rank, the more likely he holds other lesser titles. Think of it as an academic who furthers his or her education with higher degrees; the lower degrees are not null and void, but the higher degree takes precedence and is the one primarily referred to.
However, the difference between Dr. Smith with his dozens of degrees and Lord Jones with his six titles, is that Dr. Smith’s name stays the same whereas Lord Jones’ will keep growing and growing with each added title! Furthermore, when formally introducing a peer it would be essential to list each title in proper order from highest to lowest. To not include each name would be a serious breach of protocol! The waters get very murky here as well, but I shall try to do some justice to how the names follow the title. Bear with me.
Duke: From the Latin dux- a military leader or general under the Roman Empire. Originally Dukedoms were granted to powerful military men with the necessity to rule over large regions, especially those along the borders; however, this military distinction would fade with time. Dukes were exclusively close blood relatives of the monarch, and thus royal, until the 16th century. Still, this rank is one of extremely high prestige, the crowning glory of very rich noblemen who controlled several seats in the House of Commons. Always referred to as ‘Your Grace’ or ‘The Duke of ____’ utilizing a place name and never a family surname.
Marquess: Derived from the term ‘march’ as in the border zones, and first created in 1385. Also known as Marquis, which is the French spelling. Almost always associated with a place and referred to as ‘The Marquess of ____’ or ‘Lord _____’ although on rare occasions a surname may be preferred.
Earl: From the Norse jarl via the Anglo-Saxon eorl it is the sole peerage to not have a Latin etymology. Originally designed as a chief administrator to a particular region. Holder of an Earldom, this third highest ranking peer is on par with the continental Count. Like the Marquess, the Earl is usually associated with a place name, but can be a family surname in some instances. Therefore, ‘The Earl of ____’ or ‘Lord ____’
Viscount: Originally denoted as the deputy to an Earl, or vice-comes in the Latin derivation (comes being a Count as in Comte in France). This is the newest peerage, the first conferred in 1430. Very rarely associated with a place name. Typically utilizes the surname with perhaps the place attached, ie- ‘Viscount Smith of ____’ or Viscount Smith.
Baron: The lowest rank, but usually the most numerous. Administrator of smaller portions of a county. Addressed same as a Viscount, that is, ‘Baron Jones of ____’ or ‘Lord Jones.’Now that we have the titles of nobility all figured out….yea, right!…..Lets move on to a few other terms to make it all crystal clear.
Lord: A general term for all dignitaries. It may be a specific, hereditary title, or a courtesy title. Technically anyone in the House of Lords wears this title, although Dukes are never referred as such. It is also a term of honor for judges, magistrates, bishops in the Church, and high ranking political appointees. Remember, not all Lords are Peers, but all Peers are Lords!
Courtesy Title: Any honorific prefix, ie- Honorable, Lady, etc., extended by custom to relatives and wives of a Peer. A Peer of high rank who possesses several titles can actually ‘loan’ one of his titles to a son, but this does not allow the son to be considered a Peer. This can get very confusing and detailed, so I will refer you to one of the links above for illumination.
Orders of Precedence: The incredibly detailed list of all nobility in the precise order of their rank. There are separate lists for males and females.
Baronet: A wholly unique title in the British Isles created in the 17th century by James I. It is a hereditary title of honor, higher than a Knight but below a Baron and not a Peer. However, a Baronet could later become a Peer through attaining a higher rank, and a Peer could attain a Baronetcy. He is not a Lord, referred to as ‘Sir Smith of ____’ although his wife is called ‘Lady Smith’ or ‘my Lady.’
Knight: A title of honor conferred to the individual for his lifetime only; is not hereditary. Originally granted as reward for a special service rendered, primarily in the military field. The lowest of all the ranks. Referred to as ‘Sir John Smith’ or just ‘Sir John’ although the latter is considered more familiar. His wife would be called ‘Lady Smith’ never with a first name attached unless she is the daughter of a Peer. A fascinating aside: There are 3 hereditary Knighthoods of feudal origin in Ireland, the only hereditary knighthoods in existence. They are The Black Knight, The Green Knight, and the White Knight.
Let’s talk about the women! As confounding as the men and their titles go, I think the women are the worse. I will attempt to keep it very simple. Wives first with the same rules of place name vs. surname applying…..
Duke = Duchess ‘The Duchess of ____’ or ‘Her Grace’
Marquess = Marchioness ‘The Marchioness of ____’ or ‘Lady ____’
Earl = Countess ‘The Countess of ____’ or ‘Lady ____’
Viscount = Viscountess ‘The Viscountess ____’ or ‘Lady ____’
Baron = Lady ‘Lady ____’
In general all peerages are passed to the eldest male. In the case of there being no direct heir, the rules are detailed and inclusive as to who inherits the title. I will not go into that here, but would again refer to either of the above noted links. In rare cases peerages are passed to women, or a woman possesses a title ‘in her own right.’ For instance, a Baroness is a woman who has earned a Barony in her own right and not the title to the wife of a Baron. Apparently this is very common among the Scottish peers of the realm as titles are conferred to ‘heirs general’ rather than specifically to a male. Over time there have been Duchesses, Marchionesses, Countesses, and so on, but like all of this stuff the rules are convoluted. Nonetheless, women, even those who held Peerage titles, were excluded from the House of Lords until 1958!
Dowager: The widow of a Peer possessed of a dower, or life interest in part of her husband’s property. Of course, like all of this it is never simple and there are rules! She will continue to retain her courtesy title until the heir marries. She will only be called ‘The Dowager Countess ____’ if the new Lord is married. Or, another way to put it is, if there is a new ‘Lady ____’ If she remarries, then she will assume a new title if her husband is a Peer, or if he is a commoner she will keep her courtesy title of ‘Lady ____’
Believe it or not, all that I have written here is but the tip of the iceberg in how intricate it is. I did not even touch on daughters and sons of peers! It really astounds me how many regulations there are, and how often the rules have been changed over the centuries, or even at a particular time for a given situation. I hope this is fairly coherent and has been interesting.
Anyone who has caught an episode of Dancing With The Stars has an idea of what the waltz looks like. Of course, like most things that have existed over the long tracks of time, there is a history with a wealth of alterations from what was to what is now. I dealt with the waltz as it was considered during the Regency period in my first novel, a partial excerpt of which is currently in the Novel Passage page. I’ll take this opportunity to elaborate a bit further.
‘Waltz’ comes from the German word waltzen> to turn, and is the essence of what sets this ballroom dance apart from all the rest. Precursors were the allemande and minuet, both dances dignified and rigid while performed in two lines with much moving back and forth as the partners circled each other, sometimes going under the arms, and so on. The waltz, however, born from the landler, a peasant dance in ¾ time created in Austria and Bavaria, involved robust movements, lifts into the air, and required lots of space. The pure Viennese Waltz would refine these heavier movements into a more polished, graceful dance that was every bit as lively. As it grew in popularity and moved into the ballrooms of Vienna, the controversy began in earnest. Partners were allowed to touch! Labeled the first forbidden dance well before the tango earned that title, the waltz was universally panned by Austrian officials and Church leaders. But, not surprisingly, this dance of the young thrived and spread nonetheless. Composers wrote music specifically for the waltz. Vincente Martin’s Una Casa Rara, written in 1776, was the first opera to include a waltz piece. In 1787 Mozart wrote three parts in Don Giovanni for the waltz, bringing it to the operatic stage amid overwhelming controversy. The Austrian music scholar, Max Graf, has written:
“If there exists a form of music that is a direct expression of sensuality, it is the Viennese Waltz. It was the dance of the new Romantic Period after the Napoleonic Wars, and the contemporaries of the first waltzes were highly shocked at the eroticism of this dance in which a lady clung to her partner, closed her eyes as in a happy dream, and glided off as if the world had disappeared. The new waltz melodies overflowed with longing, desire, and tenderness.”
Between the 1830s to 1840s, Josef Lanner and Johann Strauss would nearly single handedly reform waltz compositions into the sophisticated music it now is.The French, especially in the post-Revolution frenzy, embraced the waltz with enthusiasm. A German traveler to Paris in 1804 stated:
“This love for the waltz and this adoption of the German dance is quite new and has become one of the vulgar fashions since the war, like smoking.”
The far more reserved English were not as open to the concept. The days of Queen Elizabeth dancing the equally intimate and fast-paced Volta were long passed! In order to appreciate the outrage, consider the typical English line dances of the time. Whether in the country or the Assembly Hall of Almack’s, these social dances of French society were characterized by a refined and stylized elegance, polite distance between the dancers, and reserved and precise movements. They were subdued, much less energetic, characterized by sternness of attitude and slow complex patterns of movement. They were performed at arm’s length. Dancers wore gloves so there would be no fleshly contact even at this distance. You can hardly imagine a more diametrically opposite style of dance than the waltz!
In July of 1816, the waltz was included in a ball given in London by the Prince Regent. A blistering editorial in The Times a few days later stated:
“We remarked with pain that the indecent foreign dance called the Waltz was introduced (we believe for the first time) at the English court on Friday last … it is quite sufficient to cast one’s eyes on the voluptuous intertwining of the limbs and close compressure on the bodies in their dance, to see that it is indeed far removed from the modest reserve which has hitherto been considered distinctive of English females. So long as this obscene display was confined to prostitutes and adulteresses, we did not think it deserving of notice; but now that it is attempted to be forced on the respectable classes of society by the civil examples of their superiors, we feel it a duty to warn every parent against exposing his daughter to so fatal a contagion.”
The humorous part of this statement is the exaggeration. There was no actual ‘intertwining of the limbs’ or ‘close compressure on the bodies’ at this time in history. The gloved hand of the gentleman was placed gently on the waist of the lady at virtually a full arm’s length. Her gloved hand rested lightly on his shoulder while his other arm remained open and acted as a shelf for her other hand. Their bodies would literally be a foot or more apart, the scandal being in that his foot may upon occasion disappear under her skirts as they twirled! Both parties were covered in layers of elegant clothing, yet there is no denying the romantic nature of dancing in such close proximity with the exclusion of all others, especially if the couple were in love.
Whatever the case as far as the indecency factor, the waltz was an extremely vigorous dance. It was a rotary dance with the dancers constantly turning both clockwise and counterclockwise, switching steps and directions rapidly as they progressed around all areas of the dance floor. It was clearly a dance for the youthful and healthy, often exhausting or downright dangerous to those not in their prime. The steps were not nearly as intricate as other dances, but the fast pace made it very difficult to master. In time the music written especially for the waltz would slow the pace somewhat, lending a sweeping, smooth, confidence to the movements. The bottom line is that it was fun! Too much fun to remain widely condemned for very long.
Goethe said, “Never have I moved so lightly. I was no longer a human being. To hold the most adorable creature in one’s arms and fly around with her like the wind, so that everything around us fades away…”
More than any other dance it appeared to represent some of the abstract values of the Romantic era. The ideals of freedom, character, passion, and expressiveness. No amount of opposition could hold back the waltz tide. Strangely, the normally staid and proper Queen Victoria was a keen and expert ballroom dancer with a special love of the waltz! By the mid 1800s it was firmly established as the most popular dance in all of Europe and there was no turning back. Modifications would be made as the decades passed, the pace slowed in half to solve the problem of ‘waltz exhaustion.’ The intimate and tightly clasped embrace would become the standard frame. In time this newer form of waltzing would become a dance all its own, the Modern Waltz in stark contrast to the historical Viennese Waltz that Lizzy and Darcy would have danced at the Cole’s Twelfth Night Masque.
In the course of my researching Christmas traditions from the Regency years, I stumbled across the mention of Twelfth Night. We Americans do not presently celebrate this holiday, at least not that I am aware, and I am not sure how prevalent it is in Europe even. Apparently that famous squelcher of all things sacrilegious and irreverent (ie-fun) Queen Victoria, banned the festival in 1870. However, in centuries past this was a huge part of the holiday season. The celebrations could not be denied and were too fun for me to ignore, which is why I wrote about them, incorporating an annual Derbyshire Masque into the entertainments as excerpted in the current Novel Passage. So, to enlighten any other ignorant folks like me, here is a small essay with links for additional reading.
We are all familiar with the Christmas song The Twelve Days of Christmas. Frankly, this song has always annoyed me as I can never keep the gifts straight and it goes on forever! Oddly, I never really gave any serious contemplation toward what the song was supposed to mean or what the origins were. What I discovered is contrary to modern tradition that applies the gifting days of the song to the twelve days before Christmas, the actual twelve days are referring to the interval between Christmas and the Church’s designated Day of Epiphany. The Christian symbolism of each gift is clear and there is absolutely no debate as to the religious birth of this unique holiday.
The Epiphany as revered by all the Western and Eastern Orthodox churches for some 2000 years is to commemorate the day the Magi appeared to gift the newly born Christ Child. Calendars and traditions have varied and altered, but always the two days have fallen in a roughly twelve day interval. No one seems to know precisely why, although the number 12 does have Biblical significance (12 Apostles, 12 Tribes of Israel, 12 Minor Prophets, etc.).
One thing to understand is the difference between ‘twelfth night’ and ‘twelve days.’ In ancient traditions, it was usually the night preceding or night of a sanctified day that was hailed as the special time. Hence our now common practice to celebrate ‘Eves.’ In the case of Christmas, it was NOT the night before Christmas (the 24th) that was important in the 12 day count, but the night of. Therefore, the evening of the 25th would be ‘First Night’ and January 5th ‘Twelfth Night.’ Feasting and parties throughout this entire period were standard, with festivities cumulating on January 6th, ie- ‘Twelfth Day,’ as the Epiphany and official end to the Christmas season. It also marked the end of the entire winter festival season begun on All Hallow’s Eve in October. It does not appear that New Years was celebrated in any special way in and of itself; however, many of the traditions were steeped in the concept of luck and fortune traveling from one year into the next.
During Tudor England (1485-1603, the reign of the Tudor dynasty) this period of festivities was a time for all normal relationships to be altered and standards relaxed. Masters would wait on their servants, women would dress like men and vice versa, and a Lord of Misrule would reign with the express intent to subvert and reverse the natural order of things. Many of these practices were steeped in pagan traditions and fell out of favor by the end of the Elizabethan Era. William Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night, Or What You Will was written in 1600 as a comedic take on the craziness of the customs.The decades and centuries following Queen Elizabeth’s reign were a bit more subdued and conventional, although the Romantic Period of the Georgian Era did embrace all forms of frivolous fun. As one can imagine with a holiday of such long history, the customs varied widely and had origins not only ancient but from numerous cultures across Europe. Religious observances and charity works were top on the list during the weeks surrounding Christmas. But the bulk of the actual Twelfth Night silliness seems to have foundations in pagan folklore of a highly superstitious nature. I only touched on a few of the most frequent ones as I wrote my chapter.
The concept of having a major ball on the final night of the season was very common. It was a way to go out with a major bang and to welcome the Day of Epiphany. I decided to have it be a Masquerade Ball just because that sounded more exotic and fun. Possibly a recent viewing of The Phantom of the Opera was fresh on my brain! Masque Balls have their own history and are not tied to Twelfth Night or any other particular holiday exclusively, although they probably do have partial roots in the Medieval fashion of ‘masquerading’ as someone else. Maybe I can write an essay on that at a later date.
Served foods were generally spicy, hot, and exotic. Ginger snaps, spiced ales, mulled wine, fruited cakes, mince pies, and hot ciders were customary. Wassail is a concoction that varied from place to place, but was always a hot spiced wine or ale of some kind specifically drank at winter holiday feasts. The name itself derives from Old Norse and Old English salutes that translated, ‘be thou hale’ or ‘be in good health’ and were a sort of blessing for the coming year. Pieces of toasted bread were added to the drink, sopping up the flavor and eaten as an added treat, and it is from this custom to pass the large bowl around the room with yelled declarations of Wes Hal! that we now get our term ‘toasting.’ There are traditions surrounding the custom of wassailing, exclusive of Twelfth Night, all intended to supernaturally and ritualistically usher in good luck and fertility from the dormant land.
The King Cake was an elaborately festooned, enormous, round shaped dessert – usually a dense fruitcake – with a hidden bean, pea, or coin. In some traditions the finder of the token became King or Queen and was then required to choose his or her ruling mate for the evening. In other traditions there are two cakes for each sex (or one cake with the tokens carefully placed on opposite sides) and the finders are declared the Night’s sovereigns. These mock monarchs are clearly the descendants of the Medieval King of Misrule; their task was to ensure frivolity throughout the night with ridiculous demands that everyone had to obey.This poem by 17th century poet Robert Herrick sums it up nicely:
Now, now, the mirth comes
With the cake full of plums,
Where bean is the king of the sport here;
Beside we must know,
The pea also
Must revel as queen in the court here.Begin then to choose
This night as ye use,
Who shall for the present delight here;
Be a king by the lot,
And who shall not
Queen for the night here.Which known, let us make
Joy-sops with the cake;
And let not a man then be seen here,
Who unurg’d will not drink
To the base from the brink
A health to the King and the Queen here.Next crown the bowl full
With gentle lambs-wool;
Add sugar, nutmeg and ginger,
With store of ale too;
And thus ye must do
To make the wassail a swinger.Give then to the King
And Queen wassailing;
And though with ale ye be wet here;
Yet part ye from hence,
As free from offence
As when ye innocent met here.
Mummer’s Plays were performed. What is that, you say? Glad you asked! ‘Mummer’ comes from the Old French word momer> to wear a mask. We do derive our word ‘mum’ for silence as these Mummer Plays – also known as Mummings or Guiser’s Plays – were ofttimes pantomimes, but also included all forms of street-troupe actors in seasonal folk plays. The origins of mummer plays are so ancient that the exact types of performances are unknown. This is a fascinating history all of its own and too involved for me to do justice here. If interested, start on Wikipedia where a great article is listed with numerous external links. Theatrical performances were an essential part of a Twelfth Night celebration and it is generally agreed that Shakespeare wrote his play of that name specifically to be staged on Twelfth Night of 1601 for Queen Elizabeth herself.
As the official end of the season it was also time to take down all Christmas decorations, including holly and mistletoe. This was done on Twelfth Day with much pomp and circumstance, especially in regards to the Yule Log. This ancient, sacred symbol of good luck and protection was kept smoldering throughout the entire twelve day period (How that can be I honestly cannot comprehend!), with the ashes scattered over fields to promote fertility and the remaining fragment of wood saved to start the next year’s log. By the way, the idea of a Yule Log cake can be traced to the French from the early 19th century…. those clever patisseries chefs!
In some parts of England the lighting of massive bonfires was part of the merriment. As you should be figuring out by now, this too had roots in pagan worship to the spirits who protected the crops and fields where the fire was lit. But there was also the tradition to light 12 separate fires initially to symbolize the religious significance of the season. Whatever the case, dancing, feasting, and singing around the fire was another lively entertainment.
Well, there ya go! Here are a few links for your further education:
Kissing under the mistletoe has long been a part of Christmas tradition. But just what is mistletoe and how did its association with Christmas evolve? From a botanical perspective, mistletoe is an interesting plant. It is a parasite, living off trees, but can also survive and propagate all by itself. There are various species, depending on what type of tree they grow on, the Oak variety being the rarest. Many ancient peoples attributed mystical qualities to this plant, especially the Celtic Druids and Scandinavians.
Who really knows why these superstitious folks took a plant and attributed magical qualities to it, but when it came to mistletoe, the Druids especially went all out! Some of the properties they attributed to mistletoe were as a bestower of life and fertility; a protectant against poison; and an aphrodisiac. Mistletoe was long regarded as both a sexual symbol and the “soul” of the oak. It was gathered at both mid-summer and winter solstices with lavish ceremonies attached in order to ensure protection for the months to come. Branches of mistletoe were hung from ceilings to ward off evil spirits, were placed over house and stable doors to prevent the entrance of witches, and it was also believed that the oak mistletoe could extinguish fire. Mistletoe was believed to have the power of giving life and fertility, thus often used in marriage ceremonies. Its power was such that if enemies met under a tree laden with mistletoe, then had to call a truce for one day. It was believed that only happiness could enter a home when mistletoe was hung over the door.
The Scandinavians have a myth of a seemingly invincible god, Balder, who was struck down by a dart made from mistletoe. The tears of Balder’s mother, Frigga, became the white berries and brought Balder back from the dead. The plant was hence decreed to be only a plant of peace. Since Frigga was their goddess of love, it was considered a blessing from her to share a kiss under this sacred plant.Kissing under the mistletoe is also associated with the Greek festival of Saturnalia and later with primitive marriage rites. Mistletoe was believed to have the power of bestowing fertility, and the bird dung from which the mistletoe was thought to arise was also said to have life-giving power. In some parts of England the Christmas mistletoe is burned on the twelfth night lest all the boys and girls who have kissed under it never marry.
Like many of these pagan traditions, the early Christians tried to ban the practice and when that did not work, ended up incorporating it with a spin. Symbolism was given to mistletoe as having healing properties like Christ and, as an evergreen, an example of eternal life dependent on the Savior. But still, in the end, the more popular, and fun, tradition of kissing is what we adhere to the most!
Sweet emblem of returning peace, the heart’s full gush and love’s release,
Spirits in human fondness flow and greet the pearly mistletoe.
Oh! Happy tricksome time of mirth, giv’n to the stars of sky and earth!
May all the best of feeling know, the custom of the mistletoe.
Married and single, proud and free, yield to the season, trim with glee:
Time will not stay … he cheats us so … A kiss? … ’tis gone … the mistletoe.
The above poem was written in 1826 and was part of the kissing bough tradition, that by Victorian times became elaborate affairs with assorted evergreen globes and decorations as the anchor for the berry laden mistletoe itself. A berry was picked each time a kiss was stolen, until all the berries were gone at which time the kissing effect was null.
“… Mary gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the place where travelers lodged.”
Crèche is the popular French title for these scenes of Christ’s birthplace. It comes from the Latin word cripia, the root from where we get manger and crib. Nativity, of course, is a word that simply means birth, from the French root nativite, but in its capitalized phrase ‘Nativity Scene,’ we all understand it to refer to THE greatest birth of all: Jesus.
From the early days of the Church, believers painted scenes of the birth of Christ, beginning in the catacombs. These scenes became a staple of Christian life and carried on through the years. The first nativity scene specifically documented was created in 10th century Rome at the church of Santa Maria Maggiore. The tradition soon became popular in churches in Italy and across Europe; however these mangers would hardly be recognized today with their elaborate gold, silver, jewel, and precious gem decorations.
It was in the early 1200’s that St. Francis of Assisi would change how the world forever viewed the nativity scene. In 1208 St. Francis, the founder of the Franciscan order, shed his considerable wealth to devote his life to the poor and the ostracized lepers, desiring in all ways to walk in the steps of Jesus Christ. St. Francis and his followers, the Friars Minor, wore coarse woolen tunics tied with knotted rope, begged and worked as servants, shared what little they earned and possessed, all while spreading the humble gospel of Jesus. As an aside, there is a fabulous movie titled Brother Sun, Sister Moon which presents the astounding, moving story of this remarkable man.
St. Francis marveled at the grandiose crèche displays, grieved that the people were losing sight of Christ’s humble origins. As Christmas Eve approached in 1223, St. Francis had an ardent desire to remedy the ornate misrepresentations of Jesus’ birth by creating a manger scene that was true to the biblical account as described in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. He wanted to inspire greater religious feelings, and help in the interpretation of the story of the birth of Jesus.
According to St. Francis’ first biographer, Thomas of Celano, St. Francis told his friend: “If you desire that we should celebrate this year’s Christmas together at Greccio, go quickly and prepare what I tell you; for I want to enact the memory of the infant who was born at Bethlehem, and how he was deprived of all the comforts babies enjoy; how he was bedded in a manger on hay, between an ass and an ox.”
On Christmas Eve of 1223, St. Francis introduced a living crib scene for his Mass in the village of Greccio, Italy, a mountainside vineyard town overlooking a beautiful valley. He set up an altar in a little niche of rock near the town square. A live donkey and ox were tied to a rough straw filled feeding trough, which served as the altar for the Mass service. These were the two animals were specifically chosen because he wanted to allude to Isaiah 1:3 which states, “The ox knows its owner, and the ass its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people does not understand.” It was beautiful in its simplicity. From this time forward, even with the addition of Mary and Joseph, shepherds, the Wise Men, and even the Baby Himself, crèche scenes would retain their air of realism and impoverished glory by depicting a stable setting.
St. Bonaventure (d. 1274), in his Life of St. Francis of Assisi, writes of the scene: “The man of God (St. Francis) stood before the manger, full of devotion and piety, bathed in tears and radiant with joy; the Holy Gospel was chanted by Francis, the Levite of Christ. Then he preached to the people around the nativity of the poor King; and being unable to utter His name for the tenderness of his love, he called Him the Babe of Bethlehem.”
News of this live nativity scene spread and people began putting crib figures in their local churches, and then in their homes. From Italy the custom of displaying a Nativity Scene spread. Traditionally, the sets were displayed at the front of medieval churches and temples. Eventually, artists began carving these images into wood or making them out of straw, and when the nativity sets moved to other countries like Italy, other materials were used such as stone and ivory. Many Italians commissioned the work of famous artists to hand carve and create their nativity scenes.
In later years the Jesuits in Prague popularized the crèche. In 1562 the crèches came from Italy to Austria, where the first large crèches displayed in churches, and eventually homes, were made popular by the Jesuits and the Franciscans. Traditions and materials would vary from country to country and century to century. Today, crèches hold an honored place in millions of Catholic and Protestant homes across the globe nearly 800 years after St. Francis said to his friend Giovanni: “For once I want to see all this with my own eyes.”
Lingerie: -noun 1) Underwear, sleepwear, and other items of intimate apparel worn by women. Origin: 1835 (although not widespread until 1852), French lingerie> things made of linen or flax. Originally introduced in England as a euphemism for scandalous under-linen.
OK, I confess here and now that I took a minor liberty in creative license by introducing this word for the slinky satin night-garments worn by Lizzy to entice her husband. The truth is that very little authoritative information can be uncovered, at least in my methods of research, as to women of the pre-1900’s donning scanty, erotically designed clothing. What is abundantly clear is that women all through the ages have been well aware of the affect of their bodies, especially the bust and derriere, upon the opposite sex (And vice versa – tight breeches, anyone?!), although the fashion ideals of how to augment that affect have changed. Everything from outerwear to the various corsets and chemises worn underneath have largely evolved with this simple desire in mind.
The Renaissance brought a new focus on womanly curves and women went to unnatural extremes to achieve the perfect hourglass figure. Corsets of that era were highly restrictive and tightened to the point of being dangerous; often so tight that ribs were broken or pushed out of place! Many women actually passed out from the excessive constriction, surely contributing to the concept of ‘the weaker sex.’ Cleavage was highly prized in the 18th century, and corsets/stays were designed to heighten the effect. Although corsets were still made of constrictive whalebone there was a definite movement towards the decorative undergarments we know today by adorning with ribbon, lace, and intricate embroidery. By the end of the century doctors were speaking out about the health hazards of corsets, and the less-restrictive designs were introduced. The late 18th century and on into the Regency ushered in an era of minimalism in a myriad of ways. Dresses were of lighter fabrics and free flowing. The stays and chemises reflected this style and were thus equally lighter weight and decorative.
Let’s face it ladies, no matter how enslaved to fashion we may be in order to please our own sensibilities, we are lying if we deny that a great part of what we wear is to draw the eyes of the guys! Maybe not us long married gals – although we probably should remain attentive to what we cannot pretend is a male fact, ie: they are largely visually tantalized – but for sure the single girlies are deeply cognizant of this reality!
Still, when it came to what was actually worn in the Regency bedroom, the information is limited. That men tended to don ankle length nightshirts with robes, or banyans as they were called, while lounging about is well documented. Women’s nightgowns were not much different, in general style, from a man’s nightshirt, with robes also added for warmth. Yet, is it not logical to assume that her nightgown, like her thin chemise, would be feminine and beautified? Drawings and vintage samples verify this. But, would a respectable female wear anything more revealing? Or were these types of titillating attire, which I just cannot believe did not exist in some form, only for prostitutes? Were people simply too polite and honorable to talk or write blatantly about the various ways they enhanced their partner’s arousal? Were there only cotton and linen chemises trimmed with pretty ribbons and lace? Or perhaps slips of satin and silk, fabrics that did exist, for the additional tactile stimulus?
Negligee comes from the 1750’s. From the French word negliger> literally ‘to neglect,’ it was applied to the loose gowns worn by women in comparison to the elaborate costume of a fully dressed lady of that period. Most commonly referring to casual dresses worn while lounging in one’s bedchamber, it would not be until 1835 that the term would evolve to encompass a flimsy, lacy dressing gown. The pic to the left is from 1693 and was subtitled ‘negligee.’ Does not much resemble what we envision, but when you consider the standard dress of the day this is pretty casual! Where lingerie now primarily applies to undergarments, negligee refers to sexy nightwear. Eventually it, like lingerie, would refer to all clothing specifically designed for women to express their sexuality as well as for men to enjoy intimate communication with their partner.
In conclusion, I admit to my stretching of the precisely known terminology. And I confess I am liberally fabricating based on nothing but sheer inference and logic. Nor do I care! As the old saying goes: there is nothing new under the sun; so I am sure that women of all ages have been well aware of the fact that their husbands are pleasingly aroused by slinky attire! The scenes will stay as written, Lizzy wantonly purchasing the outfits provided by Madame du Loire and brazenly flaunting for an appreciative Darcy.
The concept of tracing the shadowed outline of a person’s profile has been an artform practiced for hundreds of years. Until the invention of the camera, the only way to quickly and cheaply immortalize a loved one was through a shade also referred to as shadow portraits. It provided a simple and inexpensive alternative for those who could not afford more decorative and expensive forms of portraiture, such as painting or sculpture. Early artisans would simply copy a person’s profile, using no more than scissors on paper and their two eyes, creating within minutes a freehand miniature in startling accuracy. Or they would paint with soot or lamp black onto plaster or glass. Casting shadows onto paper with lights was another technique utilized, the artist then tracing and, depending on his talent and financial offering of the client, cutting in fine materials or with more elaborate details.
Nonetheless, the artistry was inexpensive. This fact, however, did not halt it from becoming all the rage in early 1700’s Europe, especially France, where the aristocracy embraced the amusement. Featured artists would attend extravagant balls and cut out the distinguished profiles of the Lords and Ladies capturing the latest fashions and elaborate wigs. In a strange twist of irony, it was this very thrifty artform taken to incredible extremes by the pre-Revolutionary French noblemen and women that would later give the tracing of shades it’s perpetual name.
While the aristocrats were having their profiles cut out and eating like kings, much of Europe was starving. In the 1760s the Finance Minister of Louis XV, Etienne de Silhouette, had crippled the French people with his merciless tax polices. Oblivious to his people’s plight, Etienne was much more interested in his hobby of cutting out paper profiles. He was so despised by the people of France that in protest the peasants wore only black mimicking his black paper cutouts. The saying went all over France, “We are dressing a la Silhouette. We are shadows, too poor to wear color. We are Silhouettes!”
The name ‘silhouette’ in relation to shades would not be used for another forty years, but the art of profiling in shadow would proliferate. Thankfully the negative connotation did not last. Nor did the plain, unadorned black sketches. Clients wanted novelty and artists needed to stand out from competitors. This soon led to elaborate variations on the simple cut profile. By the 1790s, many profiles were painted – on paper, ivory, plaster, or even glass. Elaborate embellishments became prominent, depicting jewelry, lace collars, and elaborate hairstyles. Bronzing, or the process of adding fine brushes of gold paint to the hair or clothing, became very popular after 1800. Inevitably prices increased as the materials became more expensive. Yet, the simple truth is that it is the black face which allows the work to be termed a silhouette. Any extra detail on the face would have made it a portrait, not a shade!While some shades were life sized, or nearly so, most were very tiny. Placing the shadowy profile of a loved one onto a broach or necklace required a skill of astounding proportions. Two of those most gifted were Englishmen John Field and John Miers. The plumed woman to the left is one of Miers’s masterpieces. Miers opened a London business in 1788, attained a high level of success and fame including the honor of painting King George III and Queen Charlotte.
The art of silhouette cutting reached its “golden age” in the 1800s. Many eighteenth century silhouettists were in fact aspiring portrait artists or miniaturists. Some of them turned to creating silhouettes to tide themselves over when business was slack. Others found they developed a name for their work in this genre, and quickly developed a market for it. Often unpretentious, they gave their public what they wanted without aspiring to artistic greatness, therefore reflecting with great clarity the pre-occupations and sensibilities of their time. The simple truth here is that it is the black face which allows the work to be so reasonably priced. Any extra detail on the face would have made it a portrait, not a shade!
The most famous silhouettist of the Regency Era was August Edouart. He resisted the fancier flourishes, insisting on the traditional black outline, although his lithographed backgrounds are legendary for their beauty. It was also he who first used the term ‘silhouette’ formally, believing it had a magnificence to elevate the art form. He traveled up and down the English coast plying his artistry and becoming very wealthy in the process. By the end of his life it is estimated that he amassed a collection of over 100,000 portraits! Tragically a shipwreck off the coast of Jersey would lead to the vast bulk of his portfolio being lost at the bottom of the sea, where they presumably still remain. Edouart escaped death, but was so grief stricken at the loss that he never again cut a profile.
With the advent of the camera and the increased availability of reasonably priced paints, silhouette as a unique art form waned. By the 20th century there were few artisans who maintained the professional attitude, and they were generally found at carnivals and seaside resorts. That is not to say, however, that the craft of silhouette died completely.
Prior to 1843 it was common for people to send special greetings to far flung friends and family around the holiday season. So much so that the custom was becoming the bane of the postal service! In 1822 the Washington D.C. Superintendent of Mails complained to Congress, begging them to ban the sending of these homemade precursor to the Christmas Card saying, “I do not know what we will do if this keeps up.”
But it did keep up. The first commercial card designed and placed for sale was by London illustrator John Calcott Horsley in 1843. He was commissioned by wealthy business man Sir Henry Cole to produce a ready-to-be-sent card specifically for the holiday because Sir Cole was frankly too busy and had so many friends that he simply did not have the time to write individual letters! Plus, he was a bit of an innovator having modernized the British Postal service, oversaw the inauguration of the Victoria and Albert Museum, and arranged the Great Exhibition of 1851, all while running an art shop on Bond Street that specialized in decorative items for the home.
Horsley’s card depicted a family raising wine glasses in a toast, a move that raised the ire of those in the Temperance Movement, while the side panels display the good deeds of clothing and feeding the poor. The sprigs of holly symbolized chastity and the white ivy represented the places God walked. “Merry” was a spiritual term that meant ‘blessed.’One thousand of Horsley’s hand-painted cards were printed, on a single page stiff cardboard. Sold in London shops for a shilling, the cards were an instant hit, probably largely due to the fact that they could be sent by post for one penny, a cheap concept created by none other than a shrewd Sir Henry Cole 3 years earlier! Furthermore, the mild scandal due to the image of a child sipping alcohol added to the fervor. Yep, some things never change! Only 12 of these cards are in existence today.
The concept took off from there with gradual growth and spread to other parts of the world until now one can hardly imagine a Christmas without sending and receiving elaborately designed cards! Thank you, Sir Cole and Mr. Horsley.
XmasI have to admit that I have never liked using this shortened form for Christmas because it struck me as ‘taking the Christ out of Christmas.’ In fact I have often heard it stated such and considered it a sign of disrespect. Therefore, when I stumbled across this history lesson in my idle rambles through the various traditions, imagine my pleasure……..
The ‘X’ abbreviation for Christmas is of Greek origin. The word for Christos – ‘Messiah’ or ‘Annointed One’ – in Greek is spelled Xristos or Xpiotoc. The Greek letter X is Chi or Khi. Numerous early church documents of the Greek Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant churches contain the letters XP or Xt as a substitute for Christ. During the 16th century some Europeans began using the first initial of Christ’s name, as they saw it, as a shorthand form for Christmas. Early Christians understood this, but the actual meaning became lost over time until now it is mistaken as a sign of contempt for the true purpose and significance of Christmas.
As for the ofttimes extended idea that the X originated as a representative of Jesus’ cross, there is no basis in fact. There is overwhelmingly strong evidence, irrefutable actually, that the Roman crosses used for crucifixion were always in a T shape.Of course, the truth is that for many this is indeed a way of minimizing Jesus’ influence on the season. Between political correctness, commercialism, and the general secularization of Christmas, there can be no doubt that the habit has been grasped onto. I suppose it is ironic and somewhat humorous that those who do so for these reasons have no clue either that they are actually using a symbol with deep, ancient religious roots!
King Tut never saw a Christmas tree, but he would have understood the tradition which traces back long before the first Christmas. The Egyptians were part of a long line of cultures that treasured and worshiped evergreens. When the winter solstice arrived, they brought green date palm leaves into their homes to symbolize life’s triumph over death. The Romans celebrated the winter solstice with a fest called Saturnalia in honor of Saturnus, the god of agriculture. They decorated their houses with greens and lights and exchanged gifts. They gave coins for prosperity, pastries for happiness, and lamps to light one’s journey through life. Centuries ago in Great Britain, woods priests called Druids used evergreens during mysterious winter solstice rituals. The Druids used holly and mistletoe as symbols of eternal life, and place evergreen branches over doors to keep away evil spirits.
According to Church records, Saint Boniface in the 7th century attempted to Christianize the indigenous Germanic tribes by introducing the notion of Trinity by using the cone-shaped evergreen trees because of their triangular appearance. The converted people began to revere the Fir tree as God’s Tree, as they had previously revered the Oak. By the 12th century it was being hung, upside-down, from ceilings at Christmastime in Central Europe, as a symbol of Christianity.
Late in the Middle Ages, Germans and Scandinavians placed evergreen trees inside their homes or just outside their doors to show their hope in the forthcoming spring. Legend has it that Martin Luther began the tradition of decorating trees to celebrate Christmas. One crisp Christmas Eve, about the year 1500, he was walking through snow-covered woods and was struck by the beauty of a group of small evergreens. Their branches, dusted with snow, shimmered in the moonlight. When he got home, he set up a little fir tree indoors so he could share this story with his children. He decorated it with candles, which he lighted in honor of Christ’s birth. There are numerous records of trees popping up in German houses and churches from this time on.
It would remain a largely German and Protestant tradition until 1815 when Princess Henrietta introduced the custom to the court in Vienna. From there it began the spread across Europe. A visitor to Strasbourg in 1601 records a tree decorated with “wafers and golden sugar-twists (Barleysugar) and paper flowers of all colours.” The early trees were biblically symbolic of the Paradise Tree in the Garden of Eden. The many food items were symbols of plenty and the flowers originally only red for knowledge and white for innocence.
In Britain, the Christmas tree was introduced by King George III’s Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz but did not spread much beyond the royal family. Queen Victoria as a child was familiar with the custom. In her journal for Christmas Eve 1832, the delighted 13-year-old princess wrote, “After dinner…we then went into the drawing-room near the dining-room…There were two large round tables on which were placed two trees hung with lights and sugar ornaments. All the presents being placed round the trees…” After her marriage to her German cousin, Prince Albert, the custom became even more widespread. In 1847, Prince Albert wrote: “I must now seek in the children an echo of what Ernest [his brother] and I were in the old time, of what we felt and thought; and their delight in the Christmas-trees is not less than ours used to be.”
The 1860s English Tree became more innovative than the delicate trees of earlier decades. Small toys were popularly hung on the branches, but still most gifts were placed on the table under the tree. By the 1870s, glass ornaments were being imported into Britain from Lauscha. It became a status symbol to have glass ornaments on the tree; the more one had the better one’s status! Still many homemade things were seen. The Empire was growing and the popular tree topper was the Nation’s Flag, even Christmas Trees patriotic! The 1880s saw a rise of the Aesthetic Movement. At this time Christmas Trees became a glorious hotchpotch of everything one could cram on; or by complete contrast the aesthetic trees which were delicately balanced trees with delicate colors, shapes, and style. They also grew to floor standing trees. Still a status symbol, the larger the tree the more affluent the family which sported it. It was a case of ‘anything goes’. Everything that could possibly go on a tree went onto it. By 1900 themed trees were popular. A color theme set in ribbons or balls, a topical idea such as an Oriental Tree, or an Egyptian Tree. They were to be the last of the great Christmas Trees for some time. With the death of Victoria in 1901, the nation went into mourning and fine trees were not really in evidence until the nostalgia of the Dickensian fashion of the 1930s. Fanciful trees would again flourish and there was no turning back from the custom!
The Christmas tree tradition most likely came to the United States with Hessian troops during the American Revolution, or with German immigrants to Pennsylvania and Ohio. But the custom spread slowly. The Puritans banned Christmas in New England. Even as late as 1851, a Cleveland minister nearly lost his job because he allowed a tree in his church. America being so large tended to have pockets of customs relating to the immigrants who had settled in a particular area, and it was not until the communications really got going in the 19th century that such customs began to spread. Thus references to decorated trees in America before about the middle of the 19th century are very rare.The Christmas tree market was born in 1851 when Catskill farmer Mark Carr hauled two ox sleds of evergreens into New York City and sold them all. By 1900, one in five American families had a Christmas tree, and 20 years later, the custom was nearly universal.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
How lovely are your branches.
In summer sun and winter snow,
A dress of green you always show.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are your branches.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
With happiness we greet you
When decked with candles once a year,
You fill our hearts with yuletide cheer.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
With happiness we greet you
O Tannenbaum is a traditional German poem/song of unknown origin dating to at least 1550. Placed to folk tunes a number of times, the lyrics differing in various incarnations and translations, it still remains the classic ode to the fir tree!
This Regency individual intrigued me early on and those of you so fortunate as to have read my later chapters know that I included this notorious woman a couple of times. Before I get into a dissertation about her, let me just say that one aspect of the fun in writing a literary piece set in a particular time period is ‘name dropping!’ Of course, the fact is that a man of Darcy’s wealth and prestige would hobnob with members of royalty and the elite gentry. So tossing a name out here and there is amusing and credible. Still, I would never want to have a real life person, even if deceased for over 200 years, say or do something that is out of character. Never have I incorporated these people into the tale in a way that would contradict reality. So with the Countess de Lieven I simply had her be there, say a few words, and open her Salon to our favorite couple and the good Doctor in a way that was totally within character.
So who was she? Dorothea Brenkendorff was a Russian noblewoman born in 1785. In 1800, at the tender age of 14, she was married to Count Christopher (Kristofor) von Lieven – he was 26. As a quick aside: I have seen their name written as von Lieven, de Lieven, and just plain Lieven… so your guess is as good as mine! After a brief stint as minister in Berlin, Count Lieven was appointed Ambassador to the Court of St. James in London in 1812, a post he would hold until 1834 when he was recalled to Russia. She birthed 6 children to her husband, remaining married to him until her death in 1857. However, after only three years dwelling with the now Prince Lieven in Russia, Princess Lieven moved to Paris in 1837. There she remained living with her lover, the French statesman Francois Guizot, until her death. Prince Lieven died in 1839.
OK, that is the dry narrative! Who was she really? It was clear from a young age that this woman of superior intelligence, charisma, and humor was driven to be more than just the pretty trophy wife of a powerful man. In a day when women could rarely hope for more than that, she was determined to excel beyond the norm. Additionally she was a rabid Russian patriot. While her husband performed his duties and used his power to cement relations between the two great countries, always with Russian interests his prime goal, she utilized her own gifts to do the same. The Salon she opened was exclusive and called ‘the listening/observation post of Europe’; the friendships she fostered were comprehensive; the lovers she took were prominent; the secrets she gleaned were significant; the power she wielded as the first foreign Patroness of Almack’s Assembly was absolute; and her control over Society, fashion, protocol, and etiquette was extraordinary, including introducing the Viennese waltz.
I will let some of the quotes speak for themselves:
“I have no doubt the inclination of the lady to do this country all the mischief in her power in return for much kindness and good will with which she was treated during a long residence here…… She can and will betray everyone in turn, if it should suit her purpose.” The Duke of Wellington
“Her cleverness was generally recognized, but her tact was shown rather in her fastidiousness than by her geniality, and the impression she produced was that she as fully conscious of her own superiority as she was of the inferiority of those with whom she was brought in daily contact.” Lionel Robinson, translator of her letters
“There never figured on the Courtly stage, a female intriguer more restless, more arrogant, more mischievous, more (politically, and therefore we mean it not offensively) odious than this supercilious Ambassadress,” A scorching valediction in The Times
“The most feared, most flattered, worst hated female politician of her day.”
“It is a pity Countess Lieven wears skirts. She would have made an excellent diplomat.” The Russian Tsar
“She succeeded in inspiring a confidence with prominent men until now unknown in the annals of England.” Russian foreign minister Count Nesselrode
She knew “everyone in the Courts and cabinets for thirty or forty years”; she “knew all the secret annals of diplomacy” a French diplomat
“She is a stateswoman and a great lady in all the vicissitudes of life.” The Russian Ambassador to France
She discovered in herself a flair for politics and as Ambassadress she had a wealth of connections that she judiciously used with incredible political acumen. Her lovers included the Duke of Wellington, the Austria Chancellor Metternich, King George IV, several Prime Ministers, Lord Castlereagh, and Lord Grey among others. Her liaisons, however, are not to be considered a simple matter of a harlot working her way through the prestigious movers and shakers of Regency England like a rock star groupie. Romantic entanglements were just one method of how she used her extensive charms to increase the intimacy and relationships with prominent people of the Era. Her actual influence in matters of State were considered marginal at the time; however, in the decades since her death, as her numerous letters to family and especially Prince Metternich (who she was mistress to for some eight years) have been released by her descendants, the full extend of her involvement is now known. Tsar Alexander enlisted her as a diplomat in her own right, charging her with a mission to utilize her clout in any way possible, including as a spy. It is clear from her letters to Metternich that information from gossip to governmental secrets were passed to him, leading to the statement that ‘Austria had two ambassadors, the official one and Dorothea.’ The level of detail she relays in her letters to family in Russia clearly reveal a woman who was extremely aware of the most intimate knowledge from the King on down.
In the 1820s a series of sessions of the Congress of Verona met in her Salon where she acted as a conduit between the diplomats. It is said that she was instrumental in the birth of modern Greece, and made a notable contribution to the creation of today’s Belgium. I honestly do not know what this means, but it sounds pretty heavy! Even after she left England her power and political sway would continue both in Russia and in Paris where her second Salon and affair with Guizot aided her desires to politically and socially meddle. All said, this is a woman to rival many queens through the ages.
Her letters, as well as those of her husband, seem to indicate a relationship between the two that was a bit one sided in matters of love. That the Count was enamored and suffered deeply by her indifference is strongly indicated. However, in matters of politics they were a formidable partnership. She supported his position with intense loyalty and freely gave of the information she gleaned, in all the various ways, providing an invaluable service in advancing Russian foreign policy.
I cannot say that I wholeheartedly admire the Countess’ tactics, many of them frankly immoral and therefore a bit repugnant to me. Nonetheless, she certainly had nerve! I suppose I am enough of a modern woman to feel a need to shout Hurrah! to a woman who managed to exert such influence in a time when women essentially had zero rights as individuals. Whole books have been written on this remarkable lady, several others that are compilations of her translated correspondence, and she is noted in literally every biography written about any other famous figure of the Regency Era. She was complex, intriguing, and important.I will end this with a few of her own words:
“This beautiful England is always the same – an endless chain of perfections which appeal to the reason but leave the imagination untouched….. I am everywhere received as no other foreigner has been and I flatter myself that I have been a success, but never would I wish to die in this country.”
“It is not fashionable where I am not.”
“English domestic politics excite my curiosity and interest to the upmost.”
Now I will take the time to further illuminate the concept of a Salon as hosted by the infamous Countess de Lieven. In a review I was once criticized for having the Darcy’s visit a Salon, the Austen ‘expert’ extending the review not familiar with her own history! Let me assure you that such a social assembly was not only a reality during the Regency, but extremely popular and esteemed.
A salon – small ‘s’ – is a word around since at least the late 1600s (the references I found varied between 1664 to 1705), and is derived from the Italian salone or French sala > a reception room or great hall. Originally the indication was of a particular part of a house where people met or gathered. The English equivalent would be the drawing room or parlor. We, today, would call it our den or living room!
The concept of a Salon – capitol ‘S’ – gradually became synonymous with the Paris assemblies popular since the early 1600s (more on that in a moment). There would be many names for these gatherings of Society intellectuals, but they almost all were based on the name of the room where the meeting took place. As the word ‘salon’ became the common designation for these parlor areas in French mansions, the title took on a life of its own in reference to the Salons of the fabulously wealthy and intriguing elite of French culture. Use of salon for a beauty establishment would not become common until around 1910, although the word was noted from time to time for rooms outside of the home, such as art galleries, exhibition halls, museums, and the like.
Now, the Salon ideal as begun by the French and Italians dates back to the 16th century and probably far before. The basic theory was of an intimate gathering, almost always around a woman of royalty, who held court with select individuals versed in the arts, literature, philosophies, sciences, etc. Until the end of the 17th century these intellectual conclaves often took place in the ladies bedroom! The importance to these gatherings would grow during these decades, the power and influence wielded by the beautiful, educated patronesses extreme. In 1620 the Paris Salons of Madame de Rambouillet and Madeleine de Scudery were the original assemblages of the ‘blue-stockings’ or les bas-bleues, an informal society of women that eventually spread throughout all of Europe whose influence on education and society was unparalleled. Here is a link on the Blue Stockings. They also came to be known as les precieuses, translated preciousness, and refined the courtly tone of romance and elegant French language. There is a whole article on this, with references, in Wikipedia.
The point of all this information is to emphasize the prestige of these gatherings, and more importantly, the women who were the hostesses. As the momentum grew, the Salon became the place to discuss everything from the arts to politics. Always the driving force was intellectual discussion for the betterment of one’s education and culture. Enlightenment was the key. I trust it is clear how very different these social get-togethers were compared to balls or the typical amusement based soirees. During the 1700s these Salons were numerous, all with their varied characteristics or impetus motivated by the personality of the woman leading, but generally of a morally upright, edification based nature with entertainment and fun an afterthought. Of course, to be fair, not all Salons held to such high standards, many no more than a cover for vice and frivolity with morals dubious. Again, the persona of the hostess pervaded how the Salon was operated and depravity has existed throughout the entirety of human existence.
This excerpt is from the memoirs of Marmontel regarding the Parisian Salon of Julie de Lespinasse:
The circle was formed of persons who were not bound together. She had taken them here and there in society, but so well assorted were they that once there they fell into harmony like the strings of an instrument touched by an able hand. Following out that comparison, I may say that she played the instrument with an art that came of genius; she seemed to know what tone each string would yield before she touched it; I mean to say that our minds and our natures were so well known to her that in order to bring them into play she had but to say a word. Nowhere was conversation more lively, more brilliant, or better regulated than at her house. It was a rare phenomenon indeed, the degree of tempered, equable heat which she knew so well how to maintain, sometimes by moderating it, sometimes by quickening it. The continual activity of her soul was communicated to our souls, but measurably; her imagination was the mainspring, her reason the regulator.…… Her talent for casting out a thought and giving it for discussion to men of that class, her own talent in discussing it with precision, sometimes with eloquence, her talent for bringing forward new ideas and varying the topic-always with the facility and ease of a fairy, who, with one touch of her wand, can change the scene of her enchantment-these talents, I say, were not those of an ordinary woman.”
Although never as popular elsewhere as they would be in Paris, Salons did spread to all of Europe, England as well. By the late 1700s and early 1800s, it was considered a fashionable and esteemed occupation for a woman of eminence. The Countess de Lieven was just one of probably several dozen women who opened their homes to the glittering luminaries, mostly all of a literary or artistic bent, who shared gossip and philosophies along with their talents for all to enjoy. As the 1800s drew to a close, Salons lost their previous fervor. Assemblies of like minded artists will continue in various forms, still do to this day, but the age of Salon as an influence upon Society and culture would wane
Seems that there are several claims to the title of Saint Valentine and so many legends swirling about that even the Roman Catholic Church could not decide so ended up removing his feast day from their official calendar in 1969. Apparently the name ‘Valentine,’ or derivatives thereof, were fairly common, the root valens meaning ‘worthy.’ Even more surprising is that the historical facts dubiously support any romantic attachments to the actual persons who bore the name!
There are two men who legends and archeological artifacts support as Valentine. One Valentine was a holy priest or Bishop in Rome, who assisted the Christian martyrs in the persecution under Claudius II. He was apprehended and sent to the Emperor of Rome, who was ineffectual in making him renounce his faith, commended him to be beaten with clubs, stoned, and then beheaded. One of his ‘crimes’ were persisting in marrying couples, an act forbidden to young men by Claudius who wanted to keep his potential soldier stock unencumbered. Valentine also aided imprisoned Christians to escape. His execution occurred on February 14, 269. Since miracles must surround one who is named a Saint, there is a legend of questionable and much later dating that says Valentine restored sight to his jailor’s blind daughter and on the eve of his death penned a note to the daughter saying, ‘From your Valentine.’ Another Valentine was a Bishop of Terni, consecrated by Pope Victor I in 197. A reputed evangelist, miracle worker and healer, he was imprisoned, tortured, and beheaded at night to avoid a riot by the Terni people who loved him, during the persecution of Aurelius, also on February 14.
Coincidence? Or the same man? Some scholars do lean toward the idea that these two men were the same fella. However, that does not appear to be the most popular belief. There are enough ancient inscriptions, notes among the Acta of the Catholic Church written by both men and written by others about them, as well as the legends, to support the probability of them being two different people. In both these cases it was love for their Christian faith that drove them to martyrdom and led to their honoring. Archeologists have found a number of ancient catacombs that bear the name Valentine, and several churches are named after. In the Middle Ages, two Roman churches were dedicated to Saint Valentine. One was the tenth-century church Sancti Valentini de Balneo Miccine or de Piscina, which was rededicated by Pope Urban III in 1186. The other, on the Via Flaminia, was the ancient basilica S. Valentini extra Portam.The Catholic Encyclopedia also speaks of a third saint named Valentine who was mentioned in early martyrologies under the date of February 14; he was martyred in Africa with a number of companions, but nothing more is known about him. There are literally dozens of other listed Valentines scattered throughout the various ancient annuls of the church with many dates given besides February 14. The feast of St. Valentine was first established in 496 by Pope Gelasius I, who included Valentine among those “… whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are known only to God.” As Gelasius implied, nothing was known, even then, about the lives of any of these martyrs. As I stated in the first paragraph, the legends and facts were so intermingled and impossible to adequately decipher that the official commemoration for universal liturgical veneration was removed from the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints in 1969, although many areas where specific remains or inscriptions are found still laud his day with religious observances.
So, as fascinating as all this has been, how did we get from a lesser known saint amongst the thousands to this Day of lovers and romance that is celebrated practically everywhere? The credit seems to be equally shared by the medieval church’s need to circumvent pagan holidays and rituals, and the poetry of Geoffrey Chaucer.
For some 800 years the ancient Romans celebrated Lupercalia on February 15. Dedicated to the god Lupercus, the various rituals attached had more to do with fertility and illicit sex than love. During this time there were also feasts to honor the goddess Februata Juno and god Pan, both associated with purifying and fertility. The observances were related and the customs varied from place to place, but one can easily imagine how ribald many became and why the Church would strive to eradicate the sinful practices, or at least lend an air of sweetness to them. Much could be said about this, but I will leave further enlightenment on archaic mythology in your hands!
Chaucer accidentally built on the common belief that birds begin to pair and mate in mid-February when he penned Parlement of Foules in 1382 as a love poem to honor the engagement between England’s Richard II and Anne of Bohemia.
For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day
When every foul cometh there to choose his mate
Interestingly, the poem was written in May for the marriage and Chaucer was probably referring to a Saint Valentine of Genoa who died in May of 307. He also was undoubtedly aware that birds do not begin to mate in February! Yet somehow the association to the other Saint Valentines was made, and the romantic nature of the poem stuck and became the launching point. From this time forward there are numerous French and English literary references to St. Valentine’s Day as a proper occasion for love letters and romantic tokens. The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. In this French poem he refers to his wife as ‘Ma tres doulce Valentinée.’
Valentine’s Day is also mentioned in Hamlet, in Ballades by John Gower, and in the Paston Letters by Dame Elizabeth Brews where she writes about a perspective mate for her daughter being finalized on Valentine’s Day. It is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.
These are just a few of the numerous references to romance and February 14. However, in the UK it would not be until the mid-18th century that Valentine’s Day would be celebrated with any sort of regularity with handwritten love notes and small gifts exchanged. Manufactured cards, decorated with Cupids and hearts, appeared near the end of the eighteenth century and became the most popular way to declare love during the early decades of the nineteenth century. Miniature works of art, the cards were usually hand painted and were often lavishly decorated with laces, silk or satin, flowers (made from the feathers of tropical birds), glass filigrees, gold-leaf or even perfumed sachets! If you recall my essay about Christmas cards and the brilliant innovation by Sir Henry Cole of the penny post, you can see where that would also greatly influence the Valentine Card trade! Naturally the romantic sensibilities of the Regency and Victorian Ears would raise Valentine’s Day to a whole other level. Gradually over the years such delicacies as chocolates and champagne would be added to the flowers, jewels, cards, and candlelit dinners that are the hallmark of this special lover’s day.This 1790 valentine card is the oldest and happens to be the world’s most expensive valentine card ever! At present this card is placed at the British Postal Museum under their records and they have no plans to sell it. A handcrafted puzzle that unfurls to expose poetic letters it is far away from the short love-giggles mentioned in today’s Valentine’s cards. The face of the card reads:
“My dear the Heart which you behold,
Will break when you the same unfold,
Even so my heart with lovesick pain,
Sure wounded is and breaks in twain.”
I think we all know that live action theatre, or theater to us Americans, in all its various forms is the precursor to movies. The concept of acting out stories is as old as time. Adam probably acted out the humorous antics of the monkeys to Eve! But somewhere between the actors prancing about on a stage to the immortalization on celluloid there were intermediate steps. One such step was the Magic Lantern.The actual magic lantern device, a 200 year precursor to the modern projector, has many ancient incarnations and cannot be traced to one individual inventor. It is believed that as far back as the second century those crafty Chinese were experimenting with candles and glass images to project larger pictures onto walls. There are numerous other vague references to similar techniques and some historical artifacts, but nothing is conclusive and the methods varied.
However, it was in the 1650’s that the invention attained a sort of formality and became a showman’s instrument. In simplest terms, a series of glass slides with painted pictures would be run through the lighted, mirrored device, casting the pictures onto a wall or screen. Initially these images were still. Creatively this alone was awe–inspiring; the ability to see enormous and in many cases life-like images projected was fascinating. However, the true brilliance came with ingenious innovations that allowed the images to simulate movement. What is probably most important about these devices is the indication that people wanted to see moving images; not just images of motion or inanimate objects, but things that would actually move across a surface.
These wandering ‘lanternists’ traveled all over Europe and America putting on shows for anyone interested. And believe me, everyone was interested! From the aristocracy on down to the poorest rural farmer, folks were mesmerized by the illusion of moving images. Although primarily of an entertaining nature, many lanternists utilized their talents for education purposes. History as well as Biblical morality lessons could be taught in an enthralling way. By the Victorian Era, Magic Lanterns were everywhere from homes to churches to assembly halls to grand theatres. Physicists and scientists experimented with optics and glass, fine tuning the machinery so that magic lanterns came in all shapes and sizes. Toy lanterns for children were popular with a plethora of mass produced slides available. Mobile lanterns of varying sizes were utilized by the traveling showmen. Larger halls and highly skilled professionals used the enormous brass and mahogany, double lens machines lit with limelight. Yes, this is where the term ‘being in the limelight’ originates. Limelight was created when oxygen and hydrogen were squirted onto a piece of limestone, which turned incandescent once the gases were lit, and produced a light as powerful as a modern-day movie projector! By this method the device could project small slides onto full-sized screens. As the show commenced, a live showman and musician provided the music and the audience joined in creating sound effects, playing horns and tambourines, with clapping, cheering, and booing just as in the melodramatic theater.
It was Etienne Gaspard Robert, a Belgian professor of physics, who took the art to a higher level. In 1798 he created an improved version with moving slides, further enhancing the effects by projecting the images onto thick clouds of smoke. Adjustable lenses and a moveable carriage allowed the images to be increased or decreased in size, and any quantity or variety of ghostly apparitions could be painted on glass “sliders,” doubled up, and cleverly manipulated by the operator in the unknowing darkness to obtain the dramatic vision of moving eyes or mouths. The effects were further brought to life through the art of ventriloquism. He called his machine a phantasmagoria, cashing in on the terror of the French Revolution and the superstitious nature of people in those days to create a show of horrors. These Phantasmagoria, or Fantasmagorie, were purely designed to frighten and Robert was a genius. He used red colored liquids to simulate blood and experimented with a wealth of instruments to create eerie sounds.
“I am only satisfied if my spectators, shivering and shuddering, raise their hands or cover their eyes out of fear of ghosts and devils dashing towards them; if even the most indiscreet among them run into the arms of a skeleton.” Etienne RobertA 1798 observer wrote: “The members of the public having been ushered into the most lugubrious of rooms, at the moment the spectacle is to begin, the lights are suddenly extinguished and one is plunged for an hour and a half into frightful and profound darkness; it’s the nature of the thing; one should not be able to make anything out in the imaginary region of the dead. In an instant, two turnings of a key lock the door: nothing could be more natural than one should be deprived of one’s liberty while seated in the tomb, or in the hereafter of Acheron, among shadows.”
In 1801 such shows crossed the Channel into England. Fueled by the popularity of Gothic novels, these macabre spectacles grew in popularity, each artist adding their own twists of creativity. Shown in some of the best theatre halls in London, these shows were considered a respectable entertainment for all of Society and would continue to play a role well into the early 20th century. Eventually the dramatics were taken beyond just scary images to full enactments of novels, such as The Flying Dutchman and Poe’s The Raven. Other artists used the technology, always with innovative developments, to perform comedic stories, fairy tales, or historical reenactments. Christmas themed shows also became popular as the century advanced along with visual landscapes from parts of the world.The details and action attainable as the century unfolded were increasingly more lifelike. The magic lantern art form would reach its zenith with the brilliance of American Joseph Boggs Beale (1841-1926). His work was part of an effort to make great literature, history, and religion available on screen to a wide audience, a project that continued from about 1880-1915. His proto-cinematic effect was heightened by sequences of slides that not only tracked the action, but moved the “camera angle” or point of view, shifting perspective to emphasize psychological points. Dissolving images, close-ups, fades, cross-editing of storylines were all part of Beale’s artistic repertoire for telling stories on screen.
Yet, as miraculous as Beale’s work, he could not compete with the invention of the true motion picture. He set the stage, so to speak, by telling fully rendered stories; a concept that movie producers latched onto with zeal. Thomas Edison’s 1893 Kinetoscope combined the looping celluloid picture strips created by William Dickson with Edison’s electrical powered picture camera and the first sequential film movies were born. Like with the magic lantern, this invention was expounded by dozens of film scientists, including Edison, with all kinds of machines designed. Quality improved and the so-called ‘peep shows’ of only a few minutes were lengthened into longer and longer motion films. The first Nickelodeon Theater was opened in Pittsburgh in 1905 with enough several minute long films available to fill an entire half hour! The rest, as they say, is history.
Magic Lanterns died out, now to be only an occasional novelty and museum piece for those souls seeking a taste of the past. The basic mechanism would evolve into the projectors we older folks remember from our classroom lessons! Yet, no one argues the fact that if not for the inventive men who took a mirror, glass painting, and light source to create something spectacular, we may still be turning to the stage or Uncle Bob to entertain us with a lively tale! Or, heaven forbid, just the pages of a book and our own imagination!!
Here are a few websites with further interesting reading and pictures:
Early Visual Media – terrific general cinema info
Magic Lantern History – a history but also current info on American shows still offered
Not sure about you all, but whenever I picture folks writing in the bygone days of yore, I always envision the standard quill with pluming feathers. Somehow seems romantic and dashing, for some strange reason! Those of you who have read the chapter from Loving Mr. Darcy where Darcy showers Lizzy with birthday presents know that I discovered a little bit about steel tip pens. Just for fun I did some more rapid scanning and learned even more. Here are a few of the facts for your enlightenment.
Quill pen: This most common of writing instruments, replacing the reed pen, was introduced to Europe from the Far East as early as 790 AD. Made from the feathers of birds, generally goose and swan, the left wing was favored because the feathers curved outward and away when used by a right-handed writer. The strongest quills were the primary flight feathers taken from living birds in the spring.
For making fine lines, crow feathers were the best, and then came the feathers of the eagle, owl, hawk and turkey. In its natural state, the barrel or quill has a greasy external skin or membrane and internal pith and it is inclined to be soft. To remedy this, it must first be dressed or cured by hardening the quill and removing the fatty surface and internal pith. The feathers on the quill are not necessary, and in the 18th century and earlier most of the feathers were removed from the quill pen, and in some cases all of the feathers were removed. Once the quills were cleaned and properly hardened, the next step was to cut the nib with a pen knife. The key to successfully cutting the nib of your quill was to have a very sharp pen knife. A pen knife in the 18th century was not the miniature folding pocket knife that today is known as a pen knife, but rather a practical fixed-blade tool used solely for the purpose of cutting pens. Quill pens lasted for only a week before it was necessary to replace them.
Dip pen: Also called ‘nib pens’ these usually consists of a metal nib with capillary channels, holes, and slits, mounted on a handle or holder made of wood, glass, bone, or metal. This direct precursor to the fountain pen did not possess an ink reservoir, thus needing to be dipped into the inkwell in the same way as a quill. A bronze nib pen was discovered in the ruins of Pompei from the year 79, but the first references are in the 1663 diary of Samuel Pepys and by Daniel Defoe in 1724. Still, the nib pen did not gain common usage until around 1803 when Englishman John Mitchell pioneered the mass production of steel tipped pens. One can easily fathom how much more efficient and ultimately cost effective this new device was compared to the fragile quill. The penknife was not necessary, but cleaning cloths were essential to clear the clotted ink from the tip. Also, one had to carry a renewable ink source along with the sturdy nib pen, prompting ingenious inventors to brainstorm ways to fashion a pen including ink that would flow through the tip. Sadly it would be well into the late Victorian Era before anything came along that worked even moderately well, and not until 1870 that a practical fountain pen was created.
Pencil: Graphite was first discovered around 1560 in Borrowdale, England, supposedly when the black powdery substance was noted near the roots of a tree uprooted after a storm. Whatever the actual case, it did not take long for ingenious folks to recognize the use of graphite for marking. 1565 is the date notable for seeing the first actual pencil with a hard graphite core surrounded by wood, although the invention cannot be traced to a specific individual. Interestingly, centuries before the rather revolutionary discovery of the malleable graphite, other soft metals, such as lead, were formed into shaped writing instruments. This is where the reference to ‘lead’ in pencils is traced to, although no actual lead or any other metal is used!
The name ‘pencil’ comes from the Middle English word pencel meaning artist’s brush. Over the next hundred years the process would be further perfected by dozens of inventors. French chemist Nicolas Conte, in 1795, patented a process that mixed clay with the graphite, firing it in a kiln to varying degrees of hardness. A penknife, same as those used to sharpen quills, was an essential accessory to the pencil. The number of inventors, perfecters, and manufacturers of these unique writing instruments are too vast to name here. Suffice to say, the advantages to this form of writing over indelible ink were enormous so many people joined into the industry. Above is a collection of 1883 mechanical type pencils.
Rubber was first brought to Europe in 1736. French scientist and explorer Charles Marie de la Condamine gave samples of the stuff used by South American Indian tribes to make bouncing balls and adhesive to the Institute de France in Paris. It did not take long at all for this rubber to replace breadcrumbs as the best way to erase pencil errors. However, pure rubber hardened rapidly and fell apart. Thanks to the vulcanization process discovered in 1839 by Charles Goodyear, cleverly named after the Roman god of fire, rubber became more useable and long lasting, thus erasers became very common. The first patent for attaching an eraser to a pencil was issued in 1858 to a man from Philadelphia named Hyman Lipman.
A special room to grow plants and trees; a greenhouse. Yeah, we all know that! But like all things, there is a history. In the case of rooms such as this, the concept is closely tied to the rise of wealthy folk wanting status symbols to blatantly convey their monetary worth and the Industrial Revolution.
But first, etymology! Both terms appear to arise in roughly the 1650s. Conservatory, as in greenhouse or glasshouse (not the room dedicated to music), is from the Latin conserva or Italian conservato > to save, preserve, watch over, guard + ory> a place for. Orangery was a French term for the same, the history of which I will elaborate in a moment.
The idea of having walled-in, private gardens is probably as old as money itself. Wealthy folks of all cultures have desired places of rest amid lush, flowering gardens. The yearning for creating gardens that displayed either a structure or particular plant unique or spectacular seems ingrained. Heck, even in my humble yard I search far and wide for plants that are not found at every other house in the neighborhood! But even with our modern knowledge in how plants grow, with all the chemicals at our disposal, with gardeners and horticulturists in each town, cultivating a plant that is not specific to one’s Sunset Planting Zone is next to impossible! Enter the wonder of controlled environments.
Those crafty Romans are first credited with creating greenhouses to provide the Emperor with varied fruits and vegetables for his table. Tiberius, in 37AD, was reported to favor a cucumber-like vegetable that was grown just for him in wheeled carts that were brought into the sun during the day and safely stored at night in a special ‘cucumber house’ covered with oiled cloth or sheets of mica. In the 13th century it was the Italians who took the initial steps into what would be modern greenhouses – called giardini botanici or botanical gardens – by employing the infant science of botany to house the rare, bizarre plants being brought back by explorers. As early as 1545 a conservatory/orangery was constructed in Padua and at the University of Pisa. In 1580 Sir Francis Carew built one in his garden in Surrey, and in 1617 the Palace of the Louvre added one. Obviously these early attempts to create hothouses with controllable atmospheres were more often failures than successes, but the concepts spread to all parts of Europe nonetheless.
The French called these greenhouses orangeries as the main intention was the growth of various citrus trees, including oranges, originating in the warm climates of south Asia. Early orangeries had no heating other than from open fires lit inside the building which could not be well regulated, and were positioned so that tall windows faced the rising and setting sun. Sheeted glass was exceedingly rare and expensive, so waxed tarpaulin called ‘cerecloth’ was stretched between the very thick walls. If rich enough, pieces of leaded glass measuring at most 4 to 6 inches square would be painstakingly paned as a wall. Insulated with straw or buckwheat shells, lined with clay, and frequently covered with shutters, everything was attempted to conserve the heat inside the room. These early specimens were not ornate in any way, were usually not attached to the house, and in essence did not look all that different than the main dwelling aside from having more windows. Generally small and attached to the walled gardens where necessary vegetables and fruits grew for the family’s consumption, they were more utilitarian than entertaining. The delicate trees themselves were typically planted in mobile barrels and additionally covered with protective cloths to conserve warmth and protect from the harsh elements. In England, John Parkinson introduced the orangery to the readers of his Paradisus in Sole (1628), under the heading ‘Oranges.’ He described the method of planting against a brick wall in planked sheds, adding…..
‘…some keepe them in great square boxes, and lift them to and fro by iron hooks on the sides, or cause them to be rowled by trundels, or small wheeles under them, to place them in an house or close gallery.’
It was not until the return of peace to Europe after the end of the Eighty Years war in 1648 that the fashion for building orangeries really took off in England, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. Merchants began to import orange trees from Southern Italy, as well as banana plants, oleander, Hibiscus, pomegranates, and other tropical flora. The desire for image status among the prestigious brought an evolution in fancier design. No longer was the impetus only for presenting exotic edibles, but for providing a garden for exhibition. Although limited due to the problems noted above, the demand for this symbol in the elite birthed a rise in garden designers and architects. Improved techniques, such as under floor heating and roof windows that could open for ventilation, aided the proliferation of these rooms. This link between a functional hothouse and elaborate garden directly lead to the incredible pleasure gardens now synonymous with the filthy rich. Tub plants and citrus trees could be grown inside and then transported to outdoor gardens in the summer. Fragile seedlings could be matured before transplanting. Design revolutions allowed for larger orangeries displaying fountains, ponds, and statues amid the striking greenery with massive doors leading onto stunningly sculptured and landscaped gardens beyond. The prestige in being able to stroll directly into a massive garden attached to the Manor was important. The ever driving need to outdo The Joneses, or Lord So-n-So, inspired imaginations while draining bank accounts.
In England the oldest surviving orangery of substance is the Royal Botanic Garden at Kew. Built in 1761 it was the largest greenhouse at the time, measuring 92 feet in length! Originally designed to grow oranges it was unfortunately unsuccessful in that venture due to the low, solid roof that prevented proper lighting. In 1825 the famous Regency architect John Nash designed four orangeries for the King’s new home, Buckingham Palace. All were later destroyed except for one that was relocated, also at Kew, and is known as the Nash Conservatory and is the oldest 19th century conservatory standing today. In 1814 Jane Austen herself wrote in Emma:
“In Frank’s last letter she complained, he said, of being too weak to get into her conservatory without having both his arm and his uncle’s!”
Other examples of old-style orangeries can be found at Kensington Palace, Margam Park in Wales and Hevenington Hall in Suffolk, just to name a few.
By the early 1700s larger glass panes started to become available, up to sizes 10 x 16 inches. In 1737 glazing putty was first made in The Netherlands from chalk and linseed oil and this enabled panes to be more weather proof and provided greater insulation than the leaded windows made up of smaller panes used previously. Until the middle of the 18th century, glass could not be easily or confidently spun larger than 4 feet across, and it was very thin. Additionally, a tax was placed on glass and was not abolished until 1845. Advances in technology – especially the invention of cast iron, steel, and rolled sheets of glass – as well as the now cheaper price of glass, allowed for the enormous, glass roofed, delicate structures we now associate with the true Conservatory.
Between 1836-1841, Sir Joseph Paxton designed and superintended the building of the Duke of Devonshire’s iron-framed conservatory at Chatsworth House. It covered ¾ of an acre, was 277 feet long, 67 feet high, and at the time was the largest glass building in the world. It took eight boilers to heat the seven miles of iron piping, had a central carriageway to drive through it, was lit with 12,000 lamps, and cost over 30,000 pounds to build! Sadly the Great Conservatory was demolished in 1920 due to cost factors and all that remains are vague pictures and drawings like the one above. Pictures of this amazing structure are largely what inspired me to write of a conservatory at Pemberley, although the reality is that a structure of this magnitude not only would have been impossible to build in Darcy’s time, but was probably beyond him financially. Therefore, as amazing and inspirational as it was, I have never imagined the Pemberley conservatory being such a structure, but rather picture an orangery along the lines of the Hevenington Hall style with a domed glass roof.
Paxton used his Chatsworth creation as a model for the Crystal Palace built in 1851 for the Great Exhibition in London. Erected over 22 weeks, the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park covered 19 acres and was the largest enclosed space on earth. It was 1,851 feet long, 408 feet high, and contained 293,635 panes of glass! There is no doubt that Paxton’s masterpiece, which earned his knighthood from Queen Victoria, exerted a tremendous influence on conservatory design and ushered in a long era of popularity. Two more paintings of this astounding structure are below.
Sadly, World War 1 would put an end to such extravagant follies and too many of the grand Victorian glasshouses fell victim to rust and decay. But over the last 40 years there has been a renaissance in their popularity as construction problems have been overcome and a new wave of technology such as double–glazing, self–cleaning glass, and solar glass have emerged to make them easy to maintain and heat. Under floor heating, without huge quantities of coal and miles of pipe, can also be installed using electric heating that costs just pennies run. Paxton and the Duke of Devonshire would be jealous! They also would likely faint dead away at such marvels as the Biosphere 2 in Arizona (below, which I was fortunate enough to tour a few years ago) and the Eden Project in Cornwall. To steal a phrase: We have come a long way, Baby!
Even after all this time and research I still have a difficult time fathoming the vast number of peoples it would take to manage an estate and house the size of Pemberley. I had Darcy tell Lizzy at one point that the numbers of servants were, ‘As many as needed to get the jobs done.’ In truth, a man like Darcy, as I have written him, would probably know precisely down to the last man or woman how much staff he paid! But, at the time I wrote that part, and even now, I find the concept so mind-boggling that his response is not too unbelievable…. is it?!
The truth is that I have been unable to unearth a reference that gives any specific numbers. I do not know why this is, and perhaps there are books or websites out there somewhere; but then again staff needs varied widely from place to place and time to time, so exact counts may not exist. The recent adaptation of Sense and Sensibility had a brief scene of a maid beating a massive carpet. For some reason that scene struck me. Elinor says, ‘They were just beaten a month ago. They are clean.’ I shuddered imagining how truly UN-clean they probably were compared to our modern vacuums and steam cleaners, yet the work involved in beating a rug even once every few months was staggering. And that is just the beginning! I honestly doubt if there is a person alive today who can truly appreciate what would have been involved in the normal upkeep of even a small house.
We may not know the specific number of maids or gardeners, but we do know the occupations and jobs necessary. I have decided to research the topic a bit more thoroughly than I have in the past and to share that knowledge with you. Because the various positions were so numerous and their tasks plentiful, I will be splitting the essays up into parts. Naturally I have amassed a long list of Regency, Georgian, and Victorian websites where I get my information, but I wanted to share four with you that relate to this particular subject if you are interested in further reading. All of these sites have loads of additional info beyond servant related miscellany.
The Victorian Dictionary – click under ‘professions & trades’
I found many more references and facts from the mid to late 1800s. It is hard to say why this is, but one of the reasons appears to relate to the rise of industry and unions. Suddenly folks were far more aware of occupations, wages, working conditions, and the like. More literature and informational exposes were written about the plight of the lower classes during this period. Certainly Charles Dickens was highly intrigued by the working class! Still, discovering set pay scales is extremely difficult as it varied so much, domestic staff were given free room and board, and the gentry were not so forthcoming with their personal finances. Therefore I will not attempt to give any details about that.
In general, Manor House staff was divided into inside and outside personnel. There was a definite hierarchy with even servants acutely aware of rank and class distinctions. Serving in a Manor House of an esteemed individual was usually considered a prime occupation, and one to be proud of. An exceptional domestic could hope to rise to a position of power; the Housekeeper and Butler, for instance, often having begun service in a lower capacity. Children of trusted staff could be assured the prospect of positions themselves, either in the household they were raised in or by references extended by the Master, or on occasion given educations that would secure an independent future. As typical for the Era, men were prized above females and earned a higher wage. The number of male, liveried servants was a symbol of status for the Master, his ability to pay for a large number of men a sign of his wealth and prosperity. Of course, this attitude was true of all the servants across the board: the more one employed, not only was your prestige displayed, but you had to do none of the work yourself!
I like this quote from Mrs. Beeton’s book:
The sensible master and the kind mistress know, that if servants depend on them for their means of living, in their turn they are dependent on their servants for very many of the comforts of life; and that, with a proper amount of care in choosing servants, and treating them like reasonable beings, and making slight excuses for the shortcomings of human nature, they will, save in some exceptional case, be tolerably well served, and, in most instances, surround themselves with attached domestics.
The Steward: This position was by far the highest ranking and most important for the running of estates during this pastoral era in England. Not really a ‘servant’ in the typical sense, this man was a professional employee and independent from the rest. Educated, respected, well paid, trusted, ranked barely below the Master he served, and often owning a home away from the estate, he was squarely in the middle class. His duties included all management issues for the estate itself: hiring and firing of workers, settling tenant disputes, overseeing the harvest and livestock, collecting rents, keeping of the financial records, etc. Sometimes called a bailiff in times past, he also dealt with local criminal matters. Very wealthy men with several estates would often have several stewards. My Darcy, however, is a hand’s on type of fella, so only needs Mr. Keith!
The Valet or Manservant: This independent servant had the vital task of caring for the Master, thus he ranked above all other household staff members and was answerable only to his Master. During the Regency especially, when the male appearance was so incredibly important, a gentleman literally could not survive without a valet and it was essential that the valet himself reflected this concern and skill by presenting himself nearly as well-dressed and groomed as the Master. The, to our eyes, simple task of getting dressed was impossible without someone to help. The valet, therefore, had the primary job of maintaining his Master’s wardrobe. He removed stains, polished boots and buttons, brushed the dust from jackets and coats, cared for the hats and other accoutrements, and washed the unmentionable undergarments. Aside from assisting with the dressing and undressing of the Master, he might shave him (although most men preferred to shave themselves), cut and styled his hair, beard, and mustache, and attended to all grooming chores imaginable. He probably even clipped his toenails, but this is merely my own speculation! He would prepare the various personal concoctions such as the preferred eau de cologne, tooth powder, and blacking for the boots. The final cap, wardrobe wise, was mastering the intricate tying of the cravat!
But it did not stop here! The personal manservant, although rarely considered a friend and never an equal, was expected to be more intimately familiar with his Master than most wives or any male companions. They were often confidants, privy to secrets no one else would know. Trust was imperative as the valet witnessed their employer’s unguarded moments, beheld all their secrets, bore the brunt of their moods, served as agents to all demands no matter how capricious, ran personal errands of delicate natures, and so on. They were expected to foresee any possible need and never require the Master to ask for anything. Everything from choosing the appropriate attire or grooming product to having the fire lit or bath drawn or curtains opened should be anticipated and prepared. Once the Master was dressed, groomed, and gone, the valet’s work did not cease. He was in charge of the dressing room and main quarters. Other servants, such as maids, would follow his commands, ensuring that the private sanctuary was prepared precisely as the Master required. Merchandise such as fresh razors, brushes, soap, linens, etc. would be acquired by the valet. All items used by the Master, no matter how small, were repaired, cleaned, and stocked by the valet; no one else would ever touch anything that touched the body of the Master.
Because the valet was so essential, he was almost always a traveling companion. He often arranged the journey itself upon the Master’s information, using secretarial skills to prepare (he was always a learned man, although not generally highly educated). It was expected that he could pack a traveling bag swiftly, forgetting nothing and knowing exactly what was needed down to the tiniest detail. Do you have new respect for Samuel now?
The Lady’s Maid: Sometimes called an abigail based on a character from the 1616 play The Scornful Lady, and perhaps associated with King David’s wife, named Abigail, who called herself a handmaid. She ranked below the Housekeeper, but was also independent from all other servants, male or female, in that she answered only to her Mistress, and, I suppose, to a lesser degree the Master as well since he employed her.
In a general sense one could say she is the female counterpart to the valet with duties that are similar. Yet in many respects her job was tougher. A woman’s wardrobe, cosmetic needs, and personal hygiene requirements were more numerous and onerous. The fabrics she would have to be able to proficiently clean, iron, mend, store, and dress were enormous compared to a man’s. Furs, lace, delicate satins, ribbons of silk, tweeds, muslin, feathers, you name it, a woman wore it! And the maid must be able to maintain it all. She must be well versed in the latest fashions so as to advise her Mistress, and it increased her worth if she possessed the skill to be a seamstress and modiste. To a degree she was a chemist, understanding which cleaning solutions removed stains from particular cloths. Add to that the wealth of cosmetics and toiletries and perfumes that she would not only need to know how to acquire and/or concoct but also how to apply, the numerous jewels and hair adornments and fashion accessories to polish and protect and repair, the dozens of hairstyles she must know how to create, and the various brushes and combs and curling devices to clean and repair, and one can see where just keeping her Lady well dressed was extremely challenging!
Like the valet it was expected for her to know her Lady’s whims and desires and necessities at all times. Where a gentleman’s daily garments were basically much the same in fabric and style, a woman’s dress varied greatly. There were different gowns for different times of the day, a Lady changing clothes up to five times! Then there were the special outfits for the opera or a dinner party or Royal event or ball or…. well, you get the idea! Just aiding a Lady in dressing and undressing all those times could easily take up the whole day. But, somewhere in there the maid needed to not only care for the clothes and accoutrements, but take care of the private chambers of her Mistress. Everything from the carpets, bed linens, flowers, dusting, polishing, emptying the water closet pot (Yuck!), providing fresh water, etc., were all done by her. In some cases, and with certain chores, she may enlist the assistance of a chambermaid, but for the most part the Lady’s private chambers were restricted.
Lastly, again like the valet, she was in charge of packing for trips. That alone was a task far more involved due to the above mentioned points. She personally communicated with shop owners and tradesman, purchasing her Lady’s supplies. And through it all she would be polite, impeccably groomed, and gracious, remembering that she represented her Mistress and must please her at all times. Does Marguerite fit the bill?
Part 1 covered the ‘special’ staff: House Steward, Valet, and Lady’s Maid. Those employees were relatively independent from the remainder of the vast number of workers required to keep a Manor-sized estate functioning in these tough times of no electricity or indoor plumbing. Yet despite the unique placement of those 3 in the overall rank hierarchy to the domestic staff, they were all servants. Paid a wage, yes, and to a degree respected, but servants nonetheless. Times have radically changed, but to fully grasp some of the points regarding the various servant class positions, one must remember that we are dealing with a very different mindset, either due to our modern ways or cultural diversions, or both.
But one thing that has NOT changed is human nature! As Mrs. Beeton wrote in her 1860s books on household management, servants were a necessary way of life, but the manner of dealing with them varied from household to household. Sadly it was too often common among Society to abuse servants and blatantly sneer at their inferiority. And, it bears emphasizing, each individual servant had their own concepts. I remember years ago now, watching the terrific Anthony Hopkins movie Remains of the Day. I loved it because I love Sir Anthony, but comprehending his attitude as butler was tough for me. From what I recall it brilliantly portrayed the devotion of a servant to his master, the household, the prestigious family name that he was proud to be associated with, and the satisfaction in knowing that his work was important and valued. Obviously not all servants would have felt this way! And, just as obviously, not all Masters would look upon their servants as esteemed fellows to be revered in their own right for what they contributed.
I cannot help but think of the beautiful relationship between Frodo and Samwise in Lord of the Rings. Tolkien wrote these two with a reverential understanding of the interdependence a Master can have with his trusted employee. If you have seen the movies or better yet read the books, you know that Frodo and Sam’s relationship developed far beyond what would have been normal! But even in the beginning pages it is clear that Frodo and Bilbo respected, admired, and even loved the men (Sam and his father the Gaffer) who devoted their lives to take care of them. Even in the end, when Sam was more of a brother to Frodo than a servant, he deferred to his ‘Master Frodo’ and was humble. That bit probably has little to do with this essay, or my story as I have no intention of having Mr. Taylor save Darcy from a fiery volcano! But I mention it because I have written the relationship between Mr. Darcy and his household with this ideal balance in mind. I never imagine Darcy being best buds with Samuel or hanging at the local pub with Mr. Clark! But I do like to think he, and Lizzy, are the types of masters who value their staff and treat them with the utmost respect. Certainly we can glean this from the original text in how Mrs. Reynolds eloquently exalts Mr. Darcy to Lizzy and the Gardiners while displaying evident pride and attachment to Pemberley and the family she serves:
“Do you not think him a very handsome gentleman, ma’am?”….. “Oh! Yes, the handsomest young lady that ever was seen; and so accomplished! She plays and sings all day long.”…. “I have never had a cross word from him in my life, and I have known him ever since he was four years old.”…. Mrs. Reynolds related the subject of the pictures, the dimensions of the rooms, and the price of the furniture….Mr. Gardiner, highly amused by the kind of family prejudice to which he attributed her excessive commendation of her master…. “He is the best landlord and the best master that ever lived.”…. “Whatever can give his sister any pleasure is sure to be done in a moment. There is nothing he would not do for her.”….The commendation bestowed on him by Mrs. Reynolds was of no trifling nature. What praise is more valuable than the praise of an intelligent servant?
The Butler: On a fairly equal par, rank wise, with the valet was the Butler. Certainly when it came to the direct management of indoor matters in the general running of the Manor, he was premiere. His duties were myriad, but foremost was the task of being in charge of the wine cellar, and in these days of pre-refrigeration this was a highly delicate task! It was a phenomenal responsibility, alcohol being apparently highly important as not only the preferred beverage choice, but for prestige and reputation in Society. In brief, only he was allowed to touch the wines or even enter the cellar itself. His job included safe storage of the wines, possibly the brewing of beer, purchasing diverse vintages, properly selecting to accent each course during the meal, keeping the financial accounts, pouring the wines at mealtime, and so on. He was a sommelier before that term was even invented!
After that main occupation, he was responsible to clean and safeguard the family silver, china, glassware, table linens, and serving implements. Everything to do with the dining room was directly up to him. This included the lighting and fires, directing the footman who assisted with meal service, announcing the meals, serving the first dishes personally, removing the dish covers, orchestrating the flow and timing of each course, pouring all the beverages, serving the final dessert course, and attending at teatime. All through the meal, and while the family and guests were dining, he stood at attention behind the Master’s chair or at the sideboard, ready to jump into action when signaled. Since meals were highly formal in those days, especially when entertaining guests, this was not a lightweight responsibility. Dinners could last for several hours, with a dozen food courses, so coordinating this perfectly was an enormous undertaking.
Aside from meals, the butler oversaw the footman (more on them later) in the general running of the house itself. As a male he ranked above the Housekeeper, so was therefore technically her boss and manager of the entire household staff, male and female. It fell to him, ultimately, to ensure that everything indoors was handled flawlessly. He usually was assigned to answer the main door, especially if guests were expected, or to ensure a footman was in attendance at all times. He kept one set of keys (and the only key to the wine cellar), assured the house was secured at night, guaranteed all the candles and lamps were in good repair, lit, and readily available, and tended to the fires. In a pinch he may need to act as valet, assist the Master with business matters, operate as a secretary, and pay bills. In appearance, he did not wear livery, but would never allow himself to be mistaken for a gentleman. Thus his attire was impeccable but subdued, usually a solid dark suit with simple tie.
The Housekeeper: She was the highest ranking female servant. As such she was in charge of all the maids and the kitchen staff, including the cook. Her relationship with the butler must be sound and favorable as she served as his right hand helper in assuring the household was flawless. But, she was subservient to him and could not command the footmen. They were men, after all! But this minor fact of life did not diminish her power. The simple truth is that in an age where the male species were considered more valuable and paid more for their positions, they did not necessarily work harder or attain places of status. Not to diminish a man’s role in the work force where tough physical labor was typical and worth more than they were often paid, but women really got the short end of the stick! But we already know that!! Still, despite that flaw to our modern eyes, the Housekeeper of that day would probably not have agreed with us. It would have merely been the natural order of things, and her position was a supreme one.
She wielded tremendous authority and was the immediate representative to the Mistress of the manor. Her integrity, honesty, industry, and organizational abilities must be top notch. She was also entrusted with keys to the house and all storage cabinets. Her main job was to maintain the order, cleanliness, and supplies to the entire household. All purchases of necessary stores were conducted by her, requiring her to handle the provided monies and keep impeccable accounts. She kept detailed inventories of every last item in the house and frequently examined the lists for usage changes over time, anticipating future needs. Household articles would be inspected regularly for breakage or wear, replacement purchases made as needed.The various maids were directed by and reported to her, but it was her responsibility to make sure they completed their tasks. These tasks will be outlined more specifically when I get to the various maid types. In general the cook ran the kitchen without too much interference, but the Housekeeper would be aware of and oversee all aspects of the menu, grocery purchases and storage, and final approval of the food to be served. She also would be expected to know how to cook as a back up if necessary. In fact, she would be expected to perform all household chores competently. Much of her time would be spend assisting the maid in charge of the still-room. This room, generally attached to the kitchen, was where distillation of herbal waters, brewing of teas, drying of flowers and herbs, preparations of colognes and toilet waters, concoctions of medicines, making of candles, and mixing of spices took place. It was a very important room, managed by the highest ranked, most competent maid in the household. The close connection between the Housekeeper and still-room maid lead to the natural passing of knowledge, the maid frequently assuming the place of Housekeeper herself in due time.Her personal quarters would be in the house, and include a sitting room that served as the dining area and meeting place for the upper level servants. This may vary if the House Steward dwelt at the manor, in which case his quarters would be utilized for this purpose. In either case, the lower level servants would dine in the kitchen and socialize together, rarely mingling with the higher ranked staff.
The Footman: Could be considered the precursor to the male model! Well, not literally, but lets just say that in today’s world the average footman could have an excellent case of discrimination or sexual harassment! The main qualifications for being a footman in the Regency and Victorian Eras were good looks and a great physique. They needed to be tall, masculine, strong, athletic, handsome, and have a good voice. Remember, this was the age of Beau Brummell accenting the fine male specimen. Being surrounded by as many manly servants in their sparkling livery as possible was not only appealing to the eye, but boldly declared one’s wealth and station. This was an Era wracked by wars, meaning that young, physically fit men were hard to come by. The military snatched up the choicest prospects, so the wage for a footman was high in order to attract and secure. It isn’t that the footman’s job description did not entail real work, but it is apparent that appearance was too often the main prerequisite, probably for a host of reasons. To quote Mrs. Beeton:
“…when the lady of fashion chooses her footman without any other consideration than his height, shape, and tournure of his calf, it is not surprising that she should find a domestic who has no attachment for the family, who considers the figure he cuts behind her carriage, and the late hours he is compelled to keep, a full compensation for the wages he exacts, for the food he wastes, and for the perquisites he can lay his hands on.”
So, did the footman just stand around all day long looking delicious? No, not really. A large part of his duties did involve standing at attention, whether it was aiding in meal service, waiting to answer doors and take outer wear garments, riding on the backs of carriages to open the door and assist disembarking, manning the household bell station so calls would be responded to instantly, and hovering unobtrusively nearby during all gatherings. He looked pretty, his attire immaculate from powered wig to snow white gloves to shiny buckled shoes. But he was expected to have the eyes of a hawk, alert and aware of every movement, quick to respond to the minutest signal from his employers or their guests.
But there was a practical application to having all this brawn about. To the footman fell the tough tasks. He rose early, as all the servants did, donning old clothing while he set to work. He used his strength, exercised those muscles, in polishing the silver and copper, sharpening the knives, carrying the food encumbered trays to and from the dining room, shining and blackening the boots, applying the heavy furniture polishes, any carrying and lifting of heavy items, and so on. Remember that the Butler was his immediate boss, so all the tasks the butler was in charge of fell to the footman to perform. Such as, setting the table for meals, acting as a waiter throughout the meal and teatimes, trimming the lamps, sweeping the fireplaces, setting the fires and keeping them burning, and prowling the house at night.
Eloquence, manners, and intelligence must also come with the handsome face. The footman ran errands, delivered and received messages, greeted at the door, escorted the ladies of the house when out, and did it all with the utmost civility and perfection. Never could he err in delivering a written or spoken message, or mispronounce a name when announcing, or catch a lady’s gown in the carriage door, or act as if he is listening to the conversations around him, or show the slightest overt interest in the activity, or spill a drop of food, or blunder in the precise pattern of meal service, or attract attention to himself by noise or movement, or be familiar in any way.
I want to point out that although I obtain a large portion of my information from Mrs. Beeton’s wonderful book, I also cross reference with Georgian/Regency databases. Mrs. Beeton wrote her books in the Victorian Era and I suppose it is logical to assume that some things may have changed in those 40 years! But these mini-essays are not intended to be an exhaustive research didactic, but just a smidge of enlightenment to give a better grasp of how a Manor in those bygone days of yore may have ran. So, with that disclaimer, let’s begin the instruction!
The Housemaid: To this poor young woman fell all the gritty, grimy, grueling tasks that kept the Manor functioning. The number of women needed to keep the house ship-shape naturally varied, but it likely would have been quite a large number when one considers all the tasks needed to be accomplished. Even within this broad category of ‘maid’ there was a hierarchy of sorts. Those most diligent and trusted were assigned the upkeep of the family rooms and main chambers, as well as important responsibilities like cleaning the china or assisting the still-maid or acting as a Lady’s maid. These were the chambermaids and parlormaids who wore finer quality uniforms just in case they were seen or called upon to serve in some capacity. In some cases certain maids would be designated to particular portions of the house and would rarely work elsewhere. The general maid-of-all-work, conversely, rarely left the laundry area or lower level rooms where the rougher tasks were performed and to her fell the more unpleasant, back-breaking duties.
However, all of them, footman as well, would be up at the crack of dawn dressed in utilitarian garb and sturdy aprons, starting in on the heavy-duty chores and preparing the house for the family when they arose. Under the leadership and direction of the housekeeper, the maids’ chores included sweeping all floors and carpets daily, cleaning the vast number of fireplace grates – and by ‘cleaning’ I mean not just emptying of old ashes, but also scouring, scrubbing, and oiling the bricks, fireirons, utensils, and grates – and laying new coal and/or wood that was hauled by bucketfuls from sheds away from the house, cleaning the drapes and shutters and windows, polishing and dusting and cleaning every surface in sight, lugging of water buckets for baths, making the beds with fresh linens each day, mending and repairing, emptying the chamberpots, beating the rugs, and on it went. Her work day would begin very early and proceed until nearly midnight. Her pay was poor and she was only given a half day per week off for her leisure; yet nonetheless, she was fortunate in that her meals and housing were provided, and she could count on a steady income and long-term position if she worked hard. It was, all considered, a comfortable life compared to some.
Laundry maid: Pretty much what you imagine. Washing, always washing. Ironing, starching, bleaching, folding, removing stains, etc. Generally a separate building of stone with excellent drainage was dedicated to the process of keeping all the fabric items of the household clean. A washing room with an array of tubs, another for the ironing and starching, another with a furnace to steam and dry, and places to store all the materials and chemicals needed for all these procedures. Just take a second to dwell on all the various fabrics she had to deal with and I think you will have a new respect for this lowly job!
Nanny or Nurse: I have just come to realize that ‘nanny’ was a familiar term for one’s nurse not used until the late 1790s. It comes from either the Greek nanna for aunt, or possibly the Welsh nain for grandmother. In the Regency and before it was most common to refer to this person as the nurse. She was the caretaker of the children from birth onward, assisted by as many nursemaids as needed. The nature of her job tended to create a woman quite indulgent and highly attached to her family, often serving for successive generations.
Nursemaid: Specific helpers to the nanny who assisted in caring for the children. Think about your own monsters…um, I mean darlings….and you can easily figure how tough this job may have been! No play pens or walkers, just people to keep the little ones in line. Along with all the obvious chores of feeding, bathing, and playing with, the nursery staff was expected to instruct the youngster in proper manners, teach him to walk, potty train, begin the basics of education, break of any bad habits, take all meals with them, and show love and affection. On top of this they were responsible for the upkeep of the nursery and schoolroom chambers, mending of clothing, and the knowledge of basic illness and treatments.
Governess: Not really a servant per se as she was an educated woman from an upper to middle class family who, for various reasons, needed to earn a living. Her job was to teach the younger children, before they required the advanced tutelage from a tutor. She would begin with the basics, the 3 Rs so to speak, before focusing on instructing her female charges in etiquette, French, music, painting, and some higher learning. The older male children would not be taught by a governess, but by a tutor, who was always male. In some cases, depending on the philosophy of the parents, female adolescents would also receive instruction from the tutor. The role of a governess is well documented during Victorian times thanks to the Bronte sisters, but less is known of her precursors. Her job was precarious in that once the kids grew she was out of a job, unless one of her female charges enlisted her as a companion.
Tutor: I could find little about the tutor in these times. It seems clear from various movies seen and books read, that the tutor was respected in a way that the governess was not. I think this was largely due to their sex. A tutor was perhaps somewhat similar to the Steward in that he was educated formally, but not independently wealthy so therefore had to attain employment. He was paid more and unlike the governess had an education in such subjects as the sciences, literature, business, history, languages, and so on.
The Cook: The undisputed ruler of the kitchen. The term ‘chef’ would not be used until the 1830s, derived from the French chef de cuisine meaning ‘chief of the kitchen.’ But, cook or chef, the idea is clear. Could be either a male or female, although as I have pointed out males were generally regarded higher and were thus prestigious and paid more. In fact, they were so well paid that only the very wealthy could afford a male cook! A female cook who trained under a male cook was preferred while also costing less.
She was in charge of all food procurement, storage, and preparation. She maintained the kitchen equipment and rooms, kept all the grocery accounts, and dealt with the merchants, gamesman, etc. In a large household her staff was sizeable and she was in charge of all of them. Furthermore, added to these jobs was the all important one of meal production. This was an enormous undertaking! She employed many kitchen and scullery maids, all trained, to aid her, but essentially it was all on her shoulders. Her hand touches every dish and nothing is served without her stamp of approval. Meals, especially dinners, were lavish affairs with numerous courses. They not only had to be tasty, but beautiful to the eye and perfect in temperature and timing. And, it wasn’t just the meals, but also the concocting of jellies, relishes, honeys, sauces, creams, pastries, sweets, compotes, and anything else to accompany or snack on.
Dairymaid: Mrs. Beeton has a long section of her book dedicated to the duties of this obscure servant. I searched and found a number of oblique references to the post from various cultures of the day, including England with a note of the profession in the Domesday Book, but nothing too specific. I would assume that such a person, or persons, was needed in the Regency as well, food preservation not being advanced enough to allow butters and creams to be shipped from elsewhere. In brief, she was in charge of daily safely obtaining the milk from the estate’s cowkeeper. She stored it properly in cold rooms deep in the basement or sheltered from the harsh sun, and spent her day churning butter and separating the creams. We know that these people were ignorant of bacteria and the chemistry involved in creating the multitude of dairy products, but eons of experience had taught them the techniques needed to render basic milk into the array of pleasing substances for the palate, and what would happen if they did even the tiniest thing wrong. It was not easy and would consume all her day just so the Master could have fresh butter with his toast or unspoiled milk with his tea.
Scullery maid or scullion: Just sounds bad, doesn’t it? Well, it kinda was! These were the lowest level servants. Very young girls and boys who began their domestic life washing the pots and pans, cleaning the vegetables and raw meats, cleaning the servants’ quarters and kitchen and pantry, blackening and lighting the stoves, and fetching for the cook.
The precise number of servants needed to keep a modest estate functioning and clean was considerable although it would vary widely. Still, just a rapid calculation of the basic requirements easily leads to 20 persons. A manor the size of Pemberley would likely take another 10 at the least, probably more. It was a small army! And this miniature host performed quietly in the background all tasks necessary for the genteel to survive in the manner they were accustomed. All of these persons, with the exception of the upper level employees, would share rooms either in the basement or the attic. These accommodations were far from luxurious; spartan with the basic needs provided. If they were lucky the rooms possessed small casement windows for ventilation from the smoky fires and to provide sunlight and fresh air. Cast off rugs and wall hangings may be allowed to dim the cold seeping through the stone and add the warmth of hominess. How comfortable their lodgings and well fed they were depended on the generosity of their master.
Again, remember the ranking status and the fact that within this under-the-stairs realm there was the hope of improving one’s position in life. Even the low scullery maid could envision a future of working above the stairs as a chambermaid if she was industrious and patient. Maybe even someday she could be a housekeeper! The work required was tough, but easier than working in a factory, farm, or other drudgery jobs. Additionally domestic service provided security, companionship, a roof over one’s head, and regular meals. In these harsh times that was a great deal to be thankful for.A couple more interesting websites I found for your further enlightenment or just for fun.
The Cook’s Guide – An 1861 cookbook written by Queen Victoria’s chef
In general it appears that the inside staff consisted of a larger array of servant types with delineated duties and ranks. There was a definite hierarchy that I could not find referenced as vigorously in the outside staff members. I do not think that this is because those who worked beyond the Manor’s walls were any less important to the overall survival of the house – in fact one could almost argue they were more important. The three general categories of outside staff are the stable personnel, gamekeepers, and groundskeepers.
The Stable Staff: Consisting of the coachmen, grooms, and stable boys, these were the males who kept the stable environs running. In this agricultural/pastoral era of pre-automobiles or trains, I think it easy to fathom how vitally imperative horses and all the trappings were. Not only for the basic needs of transportation since one could literally go nowhere of any significance without a horse, but because the very livelihood of the entire estate depended on horses. Sure, they may have utilized oxen or some other beast of burden here and there for various tasks, but the horse was the cornerstone. Due to this accepted reality, even modest establishments exalted the stable complex to near equal status with the main house and hired a troupe of skilled employees to attend to the animals’ needs.
In the midst of discussing the staff I will include some information about the stables themselves. Sort of an essay within the essay!
The British Stable is a book by Giles Worsley and apparently has wonderful historical information regarding the evolution of stables, the architecture, and the attitude toward horses. Here is one quote from the article about his book:
“Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century quadrangular stables were limited to royal palaces and the Earl of Northumberland, but Worsley suggests that in the eighteenth century the form was taken over by the new real rulers of the country: the prime minister and the great landowners. The continuing high status of horses in polite society is indicated by the way Roger Morris’s quadrangular stables at Althorp overshadow the neighbouring mansion, and it is hinted (perhaps heretically) that James Paine’s stables at Chatsworth may even compete with ‘the rather confused ducal residence they serve.’”
This photo is the stable complex at Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire. Information on the Chatsworth stables is easy to find and the next two photos are of the entrance and inner courtyard respectively.
It is 190 feet square, has two complete storeys, and had 80 horse stalls in its functioning days. I could certainly see Darcy, as I have written him with his obsession for horses, having a structure as enormous if not perhaps so grandly designed. The Darcy wealth, in actuality, probably could not compare to that of the Duke of Devonshire! Nonetheless, an estate the size of Pemberley, even without my added plot device of having Darcy raise thoroughbreds as part of his wealth, would require a massive structure to comfortably and healthily house the dozens of horses necessary just for the usual requirements.
In fact, the entire livestock campus would likely include several barns and buildings in addition to the main stable structure. The principal focus to the stables was the roomy private stalls placed in a central location with excellent ventilation, the ability to heat in the winter, appropriate light, and easy access to the feeding troughs, hayloft storage, and grooming areas. Everything that occurred in and around the stables was for the express purpose of keeping these noble but ofttimes fragile animals in prime condition. Granaries, numerous storage areas for the livery and equipment, the garage, sleeping quarters, the smithy, and offices would just be the basic essentials. Add on the immense open areas and corrals for exercise and training and it is plain how much space the complex would consume.
Grooms, assisted by stable boys (otherwise known as apprentice grooms) were in charge of caring for the horses directly. Brushing, feeding and watering, exercising, training, and examining. They were veterinarians of a sort, expected to watch for any ailments and treat accordingly. They daily mucked and washed each stall, inspected the harnesses and other tack, and shoed the horses as needed. If the horses were involved in sports or racing then the groom would be expected to travel with the horses and provide support services during the competition. Additional helpers may include a blacksmith, farrier, wheelwrights, and leather workers.
The Head Groom, or Stablemaster, would oversee all these aspects of the stables, as well as coordinate with the Master, Steward, and coachmen regarding supplies and any problems. He would devise training schedules for the horses, accommodate the household’s riding and driving needs, provide lessons in horsemanship, and ensure that a groom was available at all hours of the day and night to fulfill the family’s demands.
The coachmen were in charge of the carriages and were the designated driving specialists. Being able to competently drive a carriage, especially those four- to six-horse drawn coaches of the day, required intense concentration and incredible proficiency. It was a mastery highly praised and sought after, not only by the public coaching companies and mail transports, but also by wealthy gentlemen. In fact, it was so esteemed a skill that many gentlemen considered it a challenge to be able to drive a carriage themselves, although very few did beyond the smaller variety. Simply stated, the average person could not possibly manage a heavy coach without years of experience, and the amateur knew this and, if wise, would not risk his life out of pride.
So the coachman’s prime duty was to hone his driving skill and care for the carriages, although naturally he would be expected to be an equine expert as well, usually starting life as a groom. The more prestigious and industrious the estate, the more dedicated this position was with the coachman far too busy with his tasks to cross over as a groom, and the number of coachman could be large. Modest households, such as Longbourn, would not be able to extend this luxury, the coachman and groom probably the same two or three fellows. The coachman’s portion of the stable complex was where the array of carriages were housed. Private equipage ranged from the simple gig or horsecart to the elegant coaches. All would be daily inspected, maintained and repaired, kept meticulously cleaned and polished, stocked as ordered, and prepared for use. The coachman was additionally a mechanic, knowing down to the last spring and bolt how the vehicle was constructed.T
he garage facilities (or carriage house – the appropriate term) would include rooms filled with equipment and accessories, and a smithy for repairing metal parts (as well as creating horseshoes). They may be attached to and part of the stables, or a separate building located nearby. A wealthy landowner or aristocrat of the day could easily rival Jay Leno in his desire for collecting costly vehicles! Various carriages had specific uses, to be sure, so the desire for different types was a sensible need. However, the manly passion for stylish conveyances did not begin with the age of automobiles, but rather with fine horses of unique breeds and luxurious carriages. These were their Rolls Royces and they were housed accordingly. The carriages of the wealthy, both large and small, were elegantly equipped with rich silk damask fabrics upholstering the seats and beautifully painted and gilded crests embellishing the doors. Accessories might include pistols stored in hidden slots, wine or other spirits stowed in a special compartment under the seat, a beautifully made carriage clock, brick or metal lined hollows in the floorboard to place heated stones, traveling lamps for illumination, and rich fur lap robes.
London townhouse stables opened onto the narrow alleyways behind the house called the ‘mews.’ These slim, two storey buildings were located behind the enormous townhouses of the rich and were modest compared to their country stable counterparts, but the purpose of safely sheltering the horses and carriages needed for city travel was as imperative. Today the mews of London have all been converted into apartments or businesses, as shown here.
Gamekeeper: The history of the gamekeeper is fascinating and I almost got lost in some of the writings I found on the subject! This profession now has its own associations, guilds, and unions as well as colleges that educate and license men and women who chose this career. However, the Regency predecessor would likely be confused by the politically correct conservation attitudes of our modern world! Nevertheless, the kernel of this mindset existed in the gamekeeper of yore since his primary job was to protect and preserve the wildlife that roamed his Master’s country estate. His duty was to make sure that there was enough game for hunting and fish for angling as this was an essential part of the gentleman’s amusements, and also necessary for the culinary extravaganzas that were a focus in this era of grand dining. Unfortunately he did not typically look beyond the acreage belonging to his employer nor were the natural sciences all that advanced, hence he would not quite meet the standard of today’s true conservationist!But, in their primitive way, these vital employees would be aware of the natural habitats of the estate’s wildlife. They would record statistics of available game, control predators, prevent poaching, preserve the woodlands and moors and waterways for the various animals, and monitor the health and breeding patterns. They would also arrange hunts and do a fair amount of hunting themselves. In addition to the wild game that roamed freely about the lands, they also cared for the livestock and poultry kept for the household’s dietary demands. They too would have assistants to aid in the common farm tasks of gathering eggs, milking cows, slopping pigs, and so on. Naturally, and not to get disgustingly graphic, they would attend to the slaughtering.
A fascinating extra tidbit is that gamekeepers of these bygone days are directly responsible for the creation of many breeds of dogs! The bullmastiff, especially, was bred expressly to catch poachers by knocking him down and holding fast because they did not want the poacher mauled but rather to be hanged as a public example. English gamekeepers of the early 19th century crossed mastiffs and bulldogs until attaining the perfect combination of a dog with tremendous physical strength, endurance, intelligence, and guarding instinct. Other dog breeds unique to England and the art of hunting include the Airedale terrier, foxhound, coonhound, border collie, bulldog, sheepdog, and Springer spaniel just to name a few. An interesting aside to add at this point is the prevalence of dogs to an English estate. I have not written in dogs to my story – although I think I should! – but these domesticated animals were essential not only for hunting assistance and catching poachers, but also for guarding. Much as our rottweiler and German shepherd used today, the English used dogs to protect and guard. Dalmatians were especially popular long before fireman got ahold of them as carriage ornaments and living alarms.
Dovecote: Also called pigeon lofts, these small buildings have an ancient and fascinating history in England not only for their unique architecture but also for their agricultural and social influence. However I will not take the time to elaborate on all that here, but will post some links at the end if you are interested. The keeping of doves (or pigeons since the names are often used interchangeably for 6 species of wild birds and over 350 species of domesticated birds) provided a constant source of fresh meat during the winter months as well as eggs at all times, furnished feathers for beds, and produced a ready supply of fertilizer for crops. These tall, circular or square buildings, usually made of stone, were located on estate farmlands as sanctuaries for the birds. The interiors were lined with hundreds of nesting boxes and feeders with ladders allowing the keeper to access the nests. The dovecote shown here is at Newark Castle, built in 1597.
Falconry: Also called hawking, it is an art and sport that involves the training of raptors to hunt game for humans. Here again you have a history that spans back centuries and I will provide links at the end for additional reading. I have always found this sport particularly amazing, largely because my step-father owned a hawk for years and was part of a Hawking Club. In England it seems that this ancient talent was practiced by most hunters to some degree, but began to fade away during the 17th century with the advent of superior shotguns and fencing in lands. It became a sport of the aristocracy and privileged class, surviving total extinction thanks to the Falconer’s Society of Great Britain and by other countries, namely The Netherlands, taking up the cause of promoting the art. To this day it is still a rarity, but falconers and hawkers do still enthusiastically learn the techniques, my father being one of them!
Both a dovecote and falcons would be managed by the estate gamekeepers. Somehow I can readily imagine even Darcy, as I have written him, learning the skills necessary to control a raptor. It just fits, don’t you think? And, let’s face it, is a manly image indeed! Whatever the case, both the keeping of doves and raptors, although not common by the Regency, did exist among the elite, of which Darcy and Pemberley qualify.
Groundskeeper: Far more than simple gardeners, these men were in charge of every last chore related to maintaining the fabulously landscaped and sculpted parks of the wealthy. As with the two above servant categories, I could write a whole essay on gardening history, but will instead post a few links at the end. Suffice to say, the knowledge of plants and all the accompanied beatifications, such as fountains, follies, mazes, statues, and so on, was a well established art and science with extensive historical precedence. The English certainly did not invent the elaborate gardening landscape ideal, but they brought their own style and techniques to the endeavor. Over the centuries the trends evolved and changed, just as clothing fashions did, often influenced by other cultures. The French inspiration of formalized, symmetrical gardens – such as seen at Chatsworth – gradually waned in the latter 18th century to a more natural feel with curved pathways and rounded ponds and vegetation allowed to assume a freeform growing pattern. Over time natural influences have altered Chatsworth Park to what it is today, but the symmetrical style remains.
Go to my Portrait Gallery for tons of photos of Chatsworth…. my Pemberley inspiration.
The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature.
To nurture a garden is to feed not just on the body, but the soul. Share the
botanical bliss of gardeners through the ages, who have cultivated philosophies
to apply to their own – and our own – lives:
Show me your garden and I shall tell you what you are.
Alfred Austin, 1835-1913
Through all various changes one factor was constant: those men who perfected their art and tended with loving care. I confess that I could find nothing that gave specifics as to the day-to-day activities of a groundskeeper in the Regency or any other era. I think it easy to imagine that this job, not one that is exactly a piece-of-cake today, must have been extremely arduous without the aid of gas powered hedge clippers and riding lawnmowers! Looking at photographs of Chatsworth Park and the other great manor house grounds, I simply cannot fathom how many men it would take to keep those gardens pristine. And aside from the gardens planted for enjoyment and beauty, there were the extensive areas of vegetables, fruits, and herbs for the family’s food.
Some facts I did learn: Pesticides as we know of them did not exist, although various chemicals such as sulfur, mercury, arsenic, and nicotine were utilized. Watering fountains have graced yards for millennia, originally using the natural flow of water pressure, but as early as the 13th century engineers began inventing pumps to force water to rise higher and create sophisticated designs. The first lawn mower was invented by English engineer Edwin Beard Budding in 1827 after he noticed a machine with revolving blades on a cylinder that was used in textile mills to shear the nap of velvet. Tired of using a scythe by hand, the only way to cut grass up until then, he invented a mower very similar to the classic manual-type mower used today! Suttons Seeds is a horticultural supply company in the UK, and the official royal provider, and has been in business continuously since 1806.
Additionally, and I will admit this is sheer conjecture based on applied logic, someone had to take care of the structural preservation of the manor itself. Who painted or fixed chips in the stone exterior? Who cleaned all the windows? Who swept the terraces? Who cleaned debris from rooftops and ledges? Who repaired malfunctioning equipment? Who made sure the gargoyles weren’t covered with mold or moss? You get the point. As vast and complicated as the occupation of gardener with all the various tasks and intelligence that would require, equally daunting must have been the chores necessary to keep the house gorgeous and fully functioning. And then there are the gravel driveways, dozens of paths, the conservatory, and whatever else you can imagine.
Below are a bunch of links for terrific reading.
Mrs. Beeton – scroll down for stable staff
Silk: A natural fiber, some forms of which can be woven into textiles. The highest quality silk is obtained from the cocoons made by the larvae of mulberry silkworms – Bombyx mori – and are raised in captivity in a process called sericulture. Other caterpillars produce ‘wild silks’ that do not have the same shimmer that true silk does and are very difficult to harvest and impossible to artificially cultivate. The use of these silks, as well as those produced by spiders and other insects, has always been rare and commercially unprofitable. If interested in this part of the process, Wormspit.com is the site for you!
It was the Chinese, over 4000 years ago, who first cultivated silk and created the sericulture process. Originally only worn by the Emperors, sericulture was a well-kept secret for over 30 centuries! China cornered the market in silk production and it was the staple of their economy, spreading to all parts of Asia, until 300 AD. But, good secrets do finally squeak out, and it was India that stole the recipe. The Byzantine Empire, during the time of Justinian in 550 AD, managed to obtain silkworms smuggled into Constantinople and later the Romans tried to keep the secret of sericulture tightly controlled. Julius Caesar forbid the wearing of silk garments to anyone but him, and even after his fateful demise silk remained a royal fabric for many centuries. However, by the 13th century silk was widely grown and traded. The Italians and later the French would lead the Western world for decades in sericulture. James I of England tried to establish the silk industry in both England and the Americas in the early 1600s with fair success in Kentucky by the Shakers, but total failure in England where it was just too damp for the worms to survive. Instead the industry managed to prosper to a fair degree by obtaining raw threads imported and a few cities blossomed in the trade, especially Manchester, Dublin, Spitalfields, and Derby – where, if you have read Loving Mr. Darcy, you know the oldest silk mill in all of England still stands!
Despite the proliferation in the industry and trade relations, silk remained rare and moderately expensive; a fabric for the rich. Even today, although far more available, it is costly and greatly supplanted by cheap synthetics like nylon. The stunning gown worn by Keira Knightley in the amazing movie Atonement was entirely of silk. Anyway, all this is to verify the commonness of silk as a fabric that has been around for millennia and readily available to the masses of England during the Regency, especially those who were fortunate enough to not worry over finances!
Taffeta: -noun 1) A medium- or light-weight fabric of acetate, nylon, rayon, or silk; usually smooth, crisp, and lustrous, plain woven, and with a fine crosswise rib effect. 2) Any of various other fabrics of silk, linen, wool, etc. in use at different periods. Origin: 1325-75, Middle English taffata from the Turkish tafta and Persian taftah> silken or linen cloth; related to Persian taftan> to twist or spin.
Taffeta originated in Persia and was exclusively made from silk. In respect to class and demand for luxuriousness, it was on par with satin made from silk; a ‘high end’ fabric preferred for ball gowns, wedding dresses, and draperies. Even today, although taffeta can be woven from synthetic threads, pure silk taffeta is the best. It has a glossy, polished appearance and can be woven with different methods to be stiff or soft. In the West taffeta gained its greatest popularity during the Tudor years as a favored fabric for the dresses of noble ladies. Detailed descriptions of Queen Elizabeth’s wardrobe extensively mentions taffeta, especially for the farthingales (hoop skirts). Shakespeare mentions it in Twelfth Night:
“Now, the melancholy god protect thee; and the tailor make thy doublet of changeable taffeta, for thy mind is a very opal!”
And he also has a quote in Henry IV when Prince Hal compares the sun to “a fair hot wench in flame colored taffeta.” Now, considering Matthew Macfadyen played Prince Hal on the London stage, I am really loving this reference! The creator of human flight in a hot air balloon, Joseph Montgolfier, used taffeta for his balloons in 1782. And, according to the Judiciary of England and Wales, taffeta has been one of the designated fabrics for judges’ robes since 1635.
Porcelain: A strong, vitreous, translucent ceramic material, biscuit-fired at a low temperature, the glaze then fired at a very high temperature. The name derives from the French porcelaine, which is the name for a cowry shell. The cowry shell derives its name from the Italian porcellana which means ‘of a young sow’ due to the shell’s resemblance to a pig’s back! I found that convoluted name evolution fascinating! I have seen lots of shells and pigs, and can’t say I get the resemblance. It’s a mystery!
Porcelain was first produced in China roughly 2000 years ago combining white kaolin clay and petuntse rock, and fired at incredibly high temperatures. The distinctive methods employed by the Chinese created fine ceramic vessels so valuable that by the 1500s the term ‘china-ware’ was synonymous with porcelain. Above is a statue of Chinese porcelain dated 1735. Other countries, including England, attempted to reproduce porcelain, but these lesser types of porcelain, usually utilizing ground glass, are not as hard. Still, these porcelains are quite fine with unique qualities and artistry all their own. Incidentally, bone china was invented in England! Keen to produce porcelain of a quality to rival true porcelain, it is attributed to Thomas Frye in 1748 and Josiah Spode later in the century who began mixing ox bone ash with kaolin and Chinese stone, thus creating the hardest china/porcelain of all. Go Englishmen! The Spode porcelain factory is still in operation today in Stoke-on-Kent.
The Templemen Library of theatre playbills has an extensive collection of London playbills, the oldest ones dating 1822, including Covent Gardens and Drury Lane. They also have collections of provincial theatres about England, the oldest dated 1798, another from Bath dated 1802, and several others from the first two decades of the 1800s. The Royal Edinburgh website claims to possess a collection of playbills dating from 1807 onward. Another site, the University of Sheffield library, has a collection of programmes from Drury Lane and Covent Gardens dating 1789-1838. These three websites are just a sample of the dozens I found for the UK, Europe, and US by doing a simple Google search. The two photos placed here are from 1718 and 1793.
Steel: An alloy consisting mostly of iron, with carbon or various other alloying elements such as manganese, chromium, vanadium, and tungsten. Steel in one form or another has been produced as far back as 1400 BC in Africa, and was used extensively by the Roman military and the Chinese. Blister steel and crucible steel were techniques born in the 16th and 17th centuries in England, both of a higher quality than the ancient alloys. Crucible steel is still to this day the finest, toughest, and most precise steel, but it is more expensive. The English invention of the patented Bessemer process in 1855 would change the face of the steel industry, being able to cost-effectively mass-produce a supreme quality product. Numerous countries reaped the benefits of steel production, England only one of them, with forward-thinking, smart men investing financially and growing rich…. such as Darcy! Wikipedia has an excellent section with numerous links for further reading.
The first American bathtub was installed and dedicated as recently as December 20, 1842. The bathtub was then still a novelty in England. It had been introduced in 1828 by Lord John Russell and its use was yet confined to a small class of enthusiasts. Moreover, the English bathtub, then as now, was a puny and inconvenient contrivance — little more, in fact, than a glorified dishpan — and filling and emptying it required the attendance of a servant. Taking a bath, indeed, was a rather heavy ceremony, and Lord John in 1835 was said to be the only man in England who had yet come to doing it every day……
Very interesting, you say? Indeed. Thanks, Sharon, for keeping us so informed! Aah, you are very welcome. I do my best! Too bad the above quote is complete and utter hooey! Yep, flimflam, hokum, claptrap, baloney… sorry, got lost in the thesaurus. The above excerpt comes from a December 1917 article in New York’s Evening Mail by H.L. Mencken and was a hoax all the way through. As fascinating as the story behind Mencken’s little joke as a way to lighten up during a time of war, more intriguing is how the fantastical claims took root and became a standard for what generations since have believed about our ancestors and their bathing practices (or lack thereof) and overall hygiene. Despite the numerous attempts to debunk Mencken’s ‘history’ – dozens by Mencken himself – the ‘facts’ from this one article have become the standard idea of the past.
Even if you slept through all your years of elementary and high school history, I am sure you recall the ingenuity and magnificence of the Roman baths (an example from Bath, England). Then there are the famous sweat houses of the American Indians and steam rooms of the Greeks. These are just a few well-known example of the lengths our ancestors would go to for cleanliness. However, the purpose of this essay is to enlighten as to bathing practices during the Georgian age in England, so I will not go into the depths of bathing history in total. Suffice to say there is extensive information out there and despite some of our pre-conceived notions of how filthy and stinky everyone was up until the days of inside showers, the truth is somewhat different. Concepts and methods of staying clean altered greatly, but the awareness of being clean is not a 20th century phenomenon. I will provide some great links at the end for your reading pleasure and education.
What I found interesting as I researched the topic are the varied opinions. My personal thought on this is that generalizations about whole cultures or classes of people are often arrived at based on little definitive information. The aptly named Dark Ages and the eras that followed are steeped in mystery to some degree. What first-hand writings remaining are often contradictory. What does seem to be fairly clear is that the Europe of this time had diverged greatly from the Roman and Oriental influence in regards to bathing. The two main reasons for this lack in hygiene were the involvement of the Church and a primitive concept of infectious disease. In brief, the Church became outspoken regarding the supposed sin and self-indulgence that surrounded the public bathhouses of the day, (note the 1597 drawing to the right, and the 1400 one to the left), and people began to identify a connection between the epidemics and diseases that were rapidly spread through poorly maintained and constructed lead viaducts and contaminated water supplies. There was absolutely truth in both points, but like many things in life, the massive swing to the opposite end of the spectrum was rife with errors also. The Church pushed the idea that bathing was a form of vanity, leading to immorality and sexual sin. Visible dirt and odor was considered a sign that one’s focus was outside themselves, upon God and family. It was also believed to be a protection from plaques, protecting the skin from unsanitary waters. Strangely and unbelievably enough, the smell was not off-putting, especially when hid under layers of clothing and perfumes. Quite frankly, their olfactory nerves were probably deadened, or extremely tough! As an aside, perfumes during those decades were not to mask your own odor, but for you to smell something pleasant rather than the odor emanating from the fella next to you!
Naturally there were exceptions to this pervading attitude. The centuries of cleanliness were not all that easy to eradicate and many people continued to wash and bath as often as was possible. Queen Elizabeth I was known for her adherence to bathing, adding the first indoor bathroom to Windsor Castle. The business of making soap in England was so financially solvent that King James I, in 1622, granted a massive monopoly to a soap maker so he could reap the monetary benefits. Napoleon Bonaparte was fanatical about bathing, to the point that a tub of hot water was constantly kept near him so he could submerge whenever the fancy struck. (one of his tubs, now modernized, is to the left). The Regency Era Duke of Wellington took a daily bath and was considered odd for doing so, but nonetheless the practice was emulated. Historical and archeological evidence proves that bathtubs, primitive showers, bathrooms, and so on existed. Precisely how wide-spread the practice was or was not is very difficult to ascertain, and there is equally strong verifications for both sides of the argument.
But yet the undisputable facts seem to be that bathing, as we know of it – ie: a daily occurrence – was simply not the case until well into the 19th century. The key there is the phrase “as we know of it.” Water sources were irregular and not always fresh. The average person did not have the time to heat bucketfuls of water, or even lug cold ones, to provide a frequent tub bath. Soaps, tubs, and other bathing adjuncts were costly. Centuries of traditions, superstitions, false information, and plain old-fashioned ignorance were hard to overcome. Plumbing was in its infancy. The sad truth, no matter how hard we may wish to paint it pristine in our Merchant/Ivory idea of England, folks were not lily white and smelling sweet. Sorry.
Nonetheless, it was not as gloomy during the Georgian/Regency and beyond as the years prior. So take heart! As with many aspects of those years on the brink of revolution, the tide was turning. A great portion of the thanks can go to wise men, often sadly thought of as quacks, who extolled the virtues of sea bathing and ‘taking the waters’ at the rapidly increasing number of mineral spas. These men preceded those who would finally identify bacteria and viruses, but they instinctively and, in some cases, through scientific observation and research, began to recognize the hidden horrors in filth. The continued incidence of diseases and plagues in spite of avoiding unclean water led to the inevitable question: Why? The result of this question would lead to a multitude of amazing discoveries and changes in practice. The mid-1700s onward spawned a revival in the concept of cleanliness with ancient Roman bath towns, like Bath, being revitalized and their buried secrets revealed. Seaside towns like Brighton and Weymouth launched a massive tourist trade that would not only affect bathing, but also travel aspects like improved road conditions, overnight accommodations, and public transportation. Sure, much of the glamour of such places was the socialization, but gradually the joy of just being clean did catch on. It helped to have the celebrities of the day – John Nash, the Prince Regent, and Lord Admiral Nelson just to name a few – lavishly extol the virtues to be had in the waters and how robust their health as a result.
“My health, thank God, is very near perfectly restored, and I have very near the perfect use of my limbs, except my left arm.” Wrote Nelson after a visit to Bath to recuperate from battle wounds.
Now, to the specifics of the time. Would Lizzy and Darcy have bathed frequently? And how would they have done so? Excellent questions! And, as hard as I have tried to find an absolute, no debate answer, I just can’t. There appears to be wide variations in what very knowledgeable historians have decided are the ‘facts.’ Here are a few quotes:
“Every house of every nobleman or gentleman, in every nation under the sun, excepting Britain, possesses one of these genial friends to cleanliness and comfort (bath tubs).” Regency Etiquette, the Mirror of Graces (1811)
“Baths were seldom taken and when they were, it was a hip bath filled with hot water brought up from the kitchen by the servants. For everyday washing, the washstand was devised to hold a basin and ewer and gentlemen had their specialized shaving stands.” Classic Georgian Style
“Along with immaculate tailoring, Brummell advocated scrupulous washing and freshly laundered linen.” Jane Austen, a Companion by Josephine Ross
“The habit of washing the body and the introduction of wash basins and portable bath tubs began to spread among wealthy households in the late 18th century…. Most people, even in the highest social stratum, hardly washed anything except their faces, necks, hands and feet…. There is evidence to suggest that carelessness in personal hygiene was more common among upper class women in England than abroad.” The Family, Sex & Marriage in England 1500-1800 by Laurence Stone
“Baths and bathrooms were certainly more prevalent than water closets. Most baths were portable and made of painted wood, sometimes dignified with a marble finish.” Regency Style by Steven Parissien
So you can see that the practice obviously varied from person to person and house to house. But before we make a final decision on just how sparkling clean the Darcys may have been, let me give some more history.
It was during the Regency that the first patents for a flush toilet and the shower would be granted. In 1810 the English Regency Shower was invented. Unfortunately I could not find a drawing of the device, but it is described as a 12-foot high tote shower made of metal painted to look like bamboo, consisting of a basin with a drain and hidden tank, with a pump arrangement to force the water to the top basin and then out the hollow poles onto the bather’s head. There were hinges along the top for the curtain. The user, who wore an oiled cap to protect their hair, was as likely to be a man as a woman. Needless to say, it was probably not all that popular a device, and certainly only purchased and used by the wealthy dandy of the day, but the fact that it even existed at all gives credence to the idea that cleanliness was not quite the horrific ideal that some maintain was the standard. There was a 1830 Victorian shower stool, and to the right an image of a very fancy 1890 shower cabinet.
The actual ‘bathtub’ has been around forever, literally. Whether it the public type or private, the construction of large basins to put quantities of water in for washing is steeping in antiquity. The sizes ranged from the enormous structures utilized for public houses to smaller ‘hip baths,’ and the materials varied from marble to wood to metals to porcelain. Smaller basins placed onto washstands were a standard fixture in all houses, no matter what the occupants’ attitude on total immersion bathing, as they must have something to wash their hands and faces in. Portable tubs were most common as plumbing, once a refined technology for the Greeks and Romans, was largely a lost art until the end of the 18th century. The history of pipes, pumps, and plumbing is vast, but to be honest not all that intriguing to me. Suffice to say, the ability to bring water from far away sources and then distribute it was a skill that was far from unheard of, but just not all that common. Piping into houses, even above the first floor, was more than possible from a technology standpoint, but still rare beyond the kitchen. You see the evidence of this expertise in the grand fountains of the day, but perhaps the ingrained outlooks toward bathing prevented fully taking the concept to the next logical level…. yet. Thus it would be well into the Victorian Era before fancy claw-foot tubs with hot and cold running water in elaborately decorated bathrooms became the norm. But again, it was not impossible or utterly fantastical, even piped heated water a luxury that could be arranged if one was forward-thinking and rich.
It is also necessary to note that even today it is a primarily western cultural normalcy to bathe (or shower) every day! The bulk of the world still does not take a bath or shower on a daily basis. There is food for thought! As an additional irony, even we in the modern west rarely take baths. Instead, we shower. Baths have been relegated to the once-in-awhile event more for the joy of relaxing then cleansing. So, from a certain angle, bathing has come full circle and is largely the rarity it once was!But back to the Darcys and the Regency. The question, I realize, is not actually answered. Naturally we simply cannot, do not, and will not visualize a sweaty, smelly, grimy Darcy making love to a stinky, grubby, perspiring Lizzy! But I do not think we have to. There is enough evidence to make a case for the wealthy of the day being tolerably clean. Again, perhaps not as we may think on it, but more than adequate. Washing, personal hygiene, and fastidiousness of appearance are hallmarks of the Brummell principles that ruled amongst the upper strata of society. The medicinal advantages to cleanliness were becoming accepted. Machinery was allowing the ease of such things as piped water, and the wave of discovery in industry and inventions was rising rapidly. By 1840 public bathhouses would again be the norm in London and elsewhere. All taken together, I think it logical and rational to deduce that the Regency generation was cleaner and sweeter smelling than the generations before.
Some cool links:
Soap: The earliest recorded formula for soap, consisting of water, alkali, and cassia oil, was written on a Babylonian clay tablet around 2200 B.C. The Ebers papyrus indicates that the Egyptians of 1550 B.C. not only bathed regularly but combined animal and vegetable oils with alkaline salts to create a soap-like substance. Oddly enough the uber-clean Romans were ignorant of soap, preferring to scrap the skin after languishing in steamy water for hours. This is actually a very effective method of cleaning and the norm in many cultures, but that is another story. The word soap> Latin sapo, first appeared in Pliny the Elder’s A.D. 77 encyclopedia Historia Naturalis where he discussed the substance manufactured from tallow and ashes as a pomade for the hair. True soaps for cleansing as we know it were produced by medieval Islamic chemists in the first century A.D. They combined animal and vegetable oils with lye, far more effective, and all soaps since are descendents of this basic formula. For more info, click on the link offered above.
Shampoo: As a specific, patented hair care item it was not invented until 1920. Until then soap was used. The word shampoo is derived from the Hindi word for massage and dates to 1877 when English hairdressers boiled soap in soda water and added herbs for health, fragrance, and manageability.
Conditioners: Natural oils – such as tea tree, sandalwood, orange, grapeseed, and jojoba – have been used for centuries to condition the hair. The first explicit hair-grooming conditioner was brilliantine. At the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris, French perfumer Ed Pinaud presented his concoction of perfume and colored oil as a way to soften men’s hair, beards, and mustaches, giving them a glossy appearance! And who says only women are vain?
Toothbrush: Documented history and archeological evidence of everything from bamboo twigs, chewsticks and other plants with fibrous medicinal qualities, bird feathers, animal bones, and porcupine quills used to keep the teeth cleaned. The first recorded toothbrush creation was in China in 1400: a group of stiff hog’s hairs attached to a bamboo stick.William Addis of England is credited with creating the first mass-produced toothbrush in 1780. In 1770 he had been placed in jail for causing a riot. While in prison, he decided that the method for teeth brushing of the time – rubbing a rag on one’s teeth with soot and salt – could be improved. So he took a small animal bone, drilled small holes in it, obtained some bristles from a guard, tied them in tufts, then passed the bristles through the holes on the bone and glued them. He soon became very wealthy and the rest is history, as they say!
Toothpaste/powder: The earliest known reference to toothpaste is in a manuscript from Egypt in the 4th century AD, which prescribes a mixture of powdered salt, pepper, mint leaves, and iris flowers. From there on the history is filled with all types of tooth-cleaning-aids containing ingredients such as charcoal, salt, pulverized brick, chalk, the resin dragon’s blood, alum, cinnamon, soap, and even urine! Real ‘toothpaste’ as we know it with fluoride, sweet tastes, and collapsible tubes are a very late 19th century invention, largely brought to general public consumption by the Colgate company!
Dental floss: Pieces of fibers and toothpicks have been found in the teeth grooves of prehistoric peoples upon excavation. But it is Levi Spear Parmly, a dentist from New Orleans, who is credited with inventing the modern form of dental floss. He had been recommending that people should clean their teeth with silk floss since 1815, but it would not be until 1882 that floss was commercially available and it was Johnson & Johnson in 1898 that patented the idea.
There may be other people who tried to create devices to play music, but all the sources I found give the credit to Antoine Favre in 1796. He was a Swiss watch maker in Geneva who was inspired by the carillon bell towers of Europe. These medieval instruments consisting of numerous bells attached to levers, wires, pedals, and hammers had evolved over the centuries from bells for warning to musical instruments found in churches and town squares. Favre sought to invent a way for those sounds to be reproduced in a smaller form. He utilized the watch’s mechanisms and replaced the bells with steel combs consisting of numerous teeth in varying shapes and lengths so that a different note was produced each time a tooth was plucked by tiny pins set into a revolving cylinder. He even inserted tiny drums and bells in some of his creations! Naturally, since he dealt with small objects, he placed his ‘musical comb’ into pocket watches, perfume bottles, cane heads, pendants, snuff boxes, powder cases, and so on. The desire was to allow people to carry the treasure on their person to be shared and enjoyed anywhere. These original miniature marvels are extremely rare now, but a few examples remain, as I have shown here. The round one is a viniagrette from 1810, and the square one is a gentleman’s snuff box made into a music box.
It was not long until the idea was expanded upon both into larger items and self contained boxes, but also the technology to enhance the musical range. The desire to recreate more complex tunes led to the creation of multiple cylinders and much larger cases to house them in. Gradually, over the first decades of the 19th century, the musical box became an instrument all its own, beautifully designed in elaborate cases that were a centerpiece in parlors everywhere. Whole orchestral effects and classical compositions were made possible. The boxes themselves were decorated with spinning ceramic dancers, jeweled inlays, lush fabrics, exotic woods, and more. The smaller, carrying type musical boxes went out of style, although they were produced here and there as novelty items. In 1885 Paul Lochmann of Leipsig invented the metal disc and it would revolutionize the industry as it was cheaper and easier to make. It replaced the cylinder although it seems from what I read that the music produced by the disc was never as crisp and pure as that from the cylinder. Whatever the case, the advances in music reproduction from other instruments, such as the phonograph and player pianos, caused a decline in grand music box production. In a complete to the circle, the smaller wind up boxes that we are all familiar with – What girl did not have a ballerina jewelry box? – once again became the norm and are all that remain today.
An interesting historical note is that a German named Brachhausen left his German music box firm and opened a shop in Rahway, NJ called the Regina Music Box Company. Later, when the musical box industry collapsed at the advent of World War I, Regina diversified into vacuum cleaners, which are still made today! There are several sources for further reading. Rather than add a list here, just do what I did: Type in ‘history musical box’ into a Google or Yahoo search!
Rug/Carpet The history of placing some sort of covering onto ones walking surface is literally as old as mankind. Primarily of animal skins, the concept of adding warmth and comfort by creating a barrier to the cold ground is instinctual and probably began with Adam and Eve. In addition to hides, early cultures created mats of woven reeds, straws, or anything else handy. Historical writings are replete with references to the art of rug weaving. Fragments found in Egyptian tombs and Mesopotamic ruins show a very advanced ability to weave both flat and pile carpets. The oldest surviving rug, the Pazyryk seen here, was found in Siberia preserved in the frozen ice. It dates to the 5th century B.C. and is incredibly detailed in design and color. The Turks and Persians took carpet weaving to greater heights. The fabrics used, weaving skills employed, designs fabricated, and sizes created are legendary. These skilled artisans continue to be considered the best in the business to this day.
After the Crusades in the 11th century, trade opened up and such treasures poured into Europe. It was the Spaniards who, as far back as the 1st century A.D. began making their own rugs, probably inspired by the Oriental ones. Wealthy Europeans, especially royalty and others of the aristocracy, quickly made use of carpets for beauty and comfort for their floors, but also for wall hangings and to cover tables. Paintings of the day clearly display carpets under the feet of those in the portrait. The common man throughout most of Europe would continue to utilize rushes and straw over their floors, or the pelts of animals and simple fabric braided rugs, until the 17th century. An explosion of English and European made carpets appeared during these years, styles and techniques varying. However, Oriental rugs were still initially preferred by the wealthy as it would be some decades before the skill in creating sturdy and beautiful carpets would surpass those imported from regions that had been doing it for centuries. Nonetheless, the artistry was there and it advanced, the Industrial Revolution aiding in the cost effectiveness of manufacturing rugs accessible to all. It would not be until the late 19th to 20th century that power machinery and synthetic fabrics allowed the creation of carpet by the yard that could be sized to fit entire rooms.
Now, terminology. Rug and carpet are interchangeable for the most part. Yes, we modern folk tend to think of a carpet as that wall-to-wall variety that is very different to the area rug thrown over the floor. But the ancients would not have differentiated in that way. Until the late 19th century, a carpet was any type of covering, even one on a table or wall or bed, whereas a rug was most often referring to the floor cloth or skin, but also to what we would call a ‘lap-robe’ or blanket, (but blanket was also used).
Rug comes from the Scandinavian and Norse roots rogg or rugga which meant ‘coarse hair; coarse fabric; wool’ and probably referred to the skins of animals and roughly woven fibers.
Carpet comes from the Latin carpita or carpire which means ‘rough cloth; woolen bedspread; thick woolen cloth.’ Both apply to coverings for the floor. The Encyclopedia Britannica lists them together.
Discussing the trade in animal skins would take way more time or room than I am willing to give. Bears, as in the general species, live just about everywhere, or have at various times through history. Hunting for their pelts has been no different than any other animal. In writing about the bear skin rug that Lizzy and Darcy enjoy on their honeymoon and then later acquire for their bedchamber, I honestly did not give a whole lot of thought to the precise type of bear or origination. As an American I guess I visually imagined a Grizzly or black bear (sans head attached – yuck!), and since trade with the Americas was constant and included skins as I know from my elementary history lessons, I do not think this far afield. Bears were so plentiful that pelts were actually fairly inexpensive, however the mass hunting of bears in America led to a near extinction of some species and too many species no longer surviving in what was once their native range. But, the reality is that bear hunting was common all throughout Europe as well, so the Darcys’ rug could have come from anywhere!
To Americans this is the plumbing fixture itself. To the British it is both the actual flushing device and the room it sits in. In a moment I will give more details regarding the history of flushing toilets. Etymology-wise, it comes from the French toile> the cloth that was draped over a lady or gentleman’s shoulders while their hair was being dressed. By extension this term eventually applied to the cloth or doily that covered all the dressing table elements, the whole ensemble called the toilette. Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries the word usage continued to evolve, always relating to beautifying items and processes, but it was in 1819 that the first reference to ‘toilet’ as a separate room was noted. Even then it did not include washing or waste disposal, but rather what we would call the dressing room. Much later it would come to be used for a bathroom as such, but was probably initially as a coy euphemism along the lines of ‘powder room’ or ‘restroom.’ The use of ‘toilet’ for the porcelain bowl itself is still today not readily accepted in all cultures, many preferring commode or some other nicer sounding word. Generally English written commentaries will boldly talk about ‘toilet history’ while discussing the flushing appliance and human waste disposal; however, no one prior to some hundred years ago would ever have done so.
Privy: An old fashioned term for the outhouse or toilet. Originating in Scotland and the north of England around 1225, the term was an alternative for ‘private.’
Water closet: Strictly speaking this phrase only refers to a flushing toilet in its various incarnations over the centuries, and then in a broader sense to the room where the toilet would reside. As mechanisms for flushing human waste were invented, the people involved would have called it a ‘water closet’ and not a ‘toilet.’
Chamber pot: A bowl shaped container of varying materials (usually porcelain), with a handle that was kept in the bedroom under the bed or in a cabinet or in the dressing room. The one to the right is dated 1860. Most often, until Victorian times, the chamber pot was nearby, in the bedroom or dressing area. Although eventually replaced in most parts of the world with indoor water closets, chamber pots are still utilized in extremely rural environments. It is from this basic gadget that we get the humorous term ‘potty.’
Commode: From the French and Latin word commode meaning ‘convenient or suitable.’ Until roughly 1850 it referred to a cabinet specifically serving as a washstand with drawers to store soap and towels, only then being built with an enclosed area to store a chamber pot. You can see the idea of combining the place to relieve oneself with the notion of washing afterwards, all conveniently located in one spot, took another step here.
Pan closet: A 1750 invention where a chamber pot with a hole was situated over a sealed pan to trap the odors. Nice idea, but apparently not all that effective as it was difficult to clean the sealed pan!
Cesspit: A chamber of various types in which sewage was collected. In the country these pits were often part of the moat or located under the privy or in a location fairly close to the house. In London they were in the cellars! The cesspits were part of the city’s archaic sewer system, which had existed for centuries. But before you get the idea in your head that these sewers were very functional, think again! Here is a short essay on the Sewers of London if you want to know the brutal, smelly truth. Aside from the fact that the drainage was into the streets or directly into the rivers, the pipes were frequently clogged with dead animals and other unmentionable products. Yuck! I will allow your individual imaginations to envision the result of so much standing sewage. Even worse, many houses did not have collection pits so the waste was tossed out the window onto the street.
Loo: This chiefly British word for the toilet/bathroom has an etymology that is debatable. The most common belief, and the one that is the most fun, is that it is a corruption of the French phrase gardez L’eau. Translated: “Watch out for the water” – this would be yelled to warn any passersby that a chamber pot was about to be dumped into the street!
Garderobe: These were small rooms in medieval castles that jutted out from the stone walls with holes in the bottom so waste would fall into the moat or cesspit below. Wooden planks would serve as the sitting surface and sometimes there would be chutes for the waste, but typically it would fall freely. Basically a latrine/toilet/privy….or whatever name you like! Word etymology is of French origin with garder> to watch or guard, and robe> for clothing because these tiny chambers also served as the storage place for their finest clothing. Why would this be, you ask? Believe it or not it was because the stench would keep moths away, thus preserving the garments!
Gong farmer: Also called a gongfermor, this was the Oh-so-lucky guy who emptied the cesspits. The waste, known as ‘night soil’ was collected and taken to places outside the city boundaries. Sometimes it was sold for fertilizer and people could actually make money off their own waste! No doubt this must have been one of the worst jobs ever. Apparently they earned a decent wage, but were only allowed to work at night, had to live sequestered with other gong farmers, and frequently died from the noxious fumes or by falling into the pit. Yeah, too much information! As for the name, all I could find was one reference to ‘gong’ being a term similar to ‘dung.’
OK, terminology is out of the way! As with many facts I have discovered while studying history, it seems that our ancient ancestors were quite intelligent and forward thinking. Then the centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire with the subsequent plagues that nearly wiped out all of humanity led to an ignorance and stupidity that has only recently been overcome. Sadly it was a time of filth and squalor all the way around. So it is with bathroom habits. Archeological evidence shows that the concept of a flush toilet goes as far back as King Minos on the Island of Crete around 1700 BC and in India around 2000 BC! The Romans and Persians also have extensive evidence of sophisticated systems for washing away human waste. Plumbing in all its applications was something these cultures did very well. In all of these civilizations, however, the bathrooms were public and connected to water drainage structures that were enclosed and separate from other water sources. As I said, very sophisticated and hygienic, but not to the point of commonly appearing in individual houses.
Although various inventions would crop up now and again, it seems that the intervening centuries were primarily ones of the chamber pot or just squatting behind a bush. The medieval garderobe (1000 – 1480s) was a huge step forward, believe it or not, in that no potty emptying was required! Outhouses with deep holes were typical. The age of the Tudors and Stuarts (1485 – 1700) began to see some advancement, especially with creating toilet pots that were comfortable and pretty! Sewer systems, as I noted above, were created and if they emptied into the Thames, so what? Right? At least the act of elimination was a bit more pleasant if the waste was immediately washed away. In time, of course, this would prove to be a tragic problem. London was still a small city, comparatively, but that would change with the Industrial Revolution of the late 1700s onward. The influx of people led to rising disease, stench, and death. But you can read about that on your own.
The first real water closet is attributed to Sir John Harrington in 1596. He was an inventor and also the godson of Queen Elizabeth I. No one knows precisely how his device worked, but it is recorded that his godmother loved it and insisted on having one installed in her palace. She would use it until the day she died, as did Sir John, but the trend never caught on. The story goes that he was ridiculed for his absurd invention, although probably not in front of the Queen, and never built any others. His water closet was later destroyed and it would be nearly 200 years before anyone else tackled the idea.
While creative folks produced elaborate chamber pots with cushioned seats and lovely cabinets to hide them in, other clever men began again considering the concept of a flushing device. The simple fact is, the flushing toilet is literally one of the greatest inventions of all time. Think about it: Without a truly functioning toilet and sewer system, highly populated cities could not exist. London during the Industrial Revolution was the largest city in the world, no debate. It would take nearly a hundred years to catch up, waste management wise, but the rapid increase in human bodies that must relieve themselves led to the serious contemplation of how to fix the problem. Therefore, a ton of men over those decades came up with all kinds of ideas, some that worked and some that did not, and no one person can be given total credit. One thing that is certain is that England was the center of the toilet industry!
I want to give an honorable mention to the earth closet. While some were looking at water as the logical way to deal with waste, others were looking at soil. It would be a battle, of sorts, and we know who eventually won. But for some years the war raged. The earth closet was essentially a kitty-litter type device using absorbent clay or plain old-fashioned dirt to cover the excrement. Various devices were patented. Outside earth closets were similar to cesspit type outhouses except that buckets of dirt were kept handy to throw onto the waste. Indoor fancier models, like the ones shown here, included dirt reservoirs that dumped into the pot/bucket once used. Queen Victoria preferred the earth closet and installed one at Windsor Castle.
As for the water closet, well, the information is too extensive to do justice to here. Instead I will post the numerous links I found at the end of this essay. Since I primarily am trying to answer the question as to what the Darcys may have used, I will keep to that. In 1738 JF Brondel introduced the valve type flush toilet, but it was Alexander Cummings who improved upon the device and received the first patent in 1775 for the ‘strap’ – basically a chamber pot with a sliding valve between the bowl and the water trap. Others soon followed Cummings lead in rapid succession. The plunger closet was patented in 1777 by Samuel Prosser, and one year later Joseph Bramah patented his version with a more secure hinge valve and in 20 years had installed 6000 of them. I am not a plumber, so am unclear what all this means, but I sure am glad these guys were on the job! These early toilets were self contained and still needed to be manually emptied and cleaned, but did solve some of the issues regarding odor while paving the way for toilets that would be linked to sewer or septic systems. That would be an ongoing problem that would not be truly resolved and a standard in most parts of the world until well into the 20th century. With those improvements came the concept of elaborate bathrooms as we have today.
So you can see that the Regency fell smack in the middle of these exciting years of water closet invention! Admittedly, the vast majority of average folks, and even the wealthy, used their porcelain chamber pots. The poor would have no option but to stick with an outhouse or inside pot. The rich could afford something cushy, decorated, and probably hidden away in some capacity. But, it is also quite obvious that the water closet was now an accepted mechanism, not open to the laughter and ridicule of Sir John’s gadget. Personally, before doing all this research, I imagined Lizzy and Darcy having an individual commode type cupboard or closet in their dressing room where their nice porcelain chamber pot was kept. Generally speaking this is probably still possible and not at all unlikely, even though it could just as easily be right in their bedroom. But, considering the Darcy I have written who is enamored with modern inventions, I can actually now see Pemberley sporting a real water closet with a flushing device of some kind! Probably not attached to piping and a septic tank, but maybe one of those Bramah versions. What do you think?
Thomas Crapper – This guy gets a lot of credit in the toilet world, but not for what he really did. As cool as it is to think a man with his unfortunate surname invented the flush toilet, he had absolutely nothing to do with it. Rather his claim to fame is as the founder, in 1861, of the Thomas Crapper and Co. Ltd. in London, a plumbing supply business. He was a shrewd businessman and a master plumber who heavily promoted sanitary plumbing and pioneered the concept of the bathroom fittings showroom. He received several Royal Warrants from both King Edward VII and George V. There is not a shred of evidence that the slang terms ‘crap’ or ‘crapper’ are related to him.
Toilet paper – Much to my shock, I discovered that paper for the use of wiping one’s backside was available in China in the 6th century AD! In 589 AD the scholar-official Yan Zhitui (531–591) wrote about the use of toilet paper:
“Paper on which there are quotations or commentaries from Five Classics or the names of sages, I dare not use for toilet purposes.”
In 851 a Muslim traveler wrote:
“They (the Chinese) are not careful about cleanliness, and they do not wash themselves with water when they have done their necessities; but they only wipe themselves with paper.”
By the 14th century massive quantities of sheeted paper was being produced in China. Still, in other parts of the world cleaning up after doing one’s business was accomplished with whatever was handy. Paper, maybe, but also cloth, moss, wool, hemp, wood shavings, shells, sticks, leaves, grass, hay, feathers, catalog pages, snow, or even a hand! Eew!! Water, of course, when available was the preferred cleaning substance. The Roman public bathrooms kept a sponge adhered to a stick soaking in a bucket of saltwater that would be reused by everyone. Blech! In 1857 Joseph Gayetty sold the first factory-made paper in the US; loose, flat sheets with instilled medicated aloe! Nice. But the first patent for rolled, perforated paper (branded ‘The Standard’) goes to Seth Wheeler of Albany, NY. Between 1871-1883 he obtained a number of patents including ones for the dispenser tubes and brackets, and his company is the first of its kind. The rest, as they say, is history!
Wikipedia: Toilet – start here and follow the links for tons of info
Kissing Bough: I wrote about this item as one of the Darcy family heirlooms retrieved from storage for Lizzy’s first Christmas at Pemberley. My inspiration was, in fact, a kissing ball that I made for our family when my husband and I were first married. Back in those days I was like many newlywed wives and tried to be artsy! I’ve given up on that pathetic endeavor, but the kissing ball I made is one of our heirlooms and I am rather proud of it! According to Wikipedia:
A Kissing Bough is a traditional Christmas decoration in England. Also called a Christmas-bough or mistletoe-bough, it has the shape of a sphere or globe with a frame made of wire. The whole frame is covered with greenery. Red apples or oranges may be hung from ribbons in the centre and mistletoe is tied below. Additionally candles may be clipped to the frame and bright streamers are attached to the top. Another form that the Kissing Bough can take is that of a crown with a structure composed of only the top half of the globe.
The history of the kissing bough is intriguing. Christmas traditions throughout the centuries are replete with the item, but I will not go into an exhaustive essay. In brief, the bough was the precursor to the Christmas tree that would not appear until the Victorian Era. Dating from at least medieval times, it was originally a holy ornament created by cutting off the top of a tree, hanging it upside down as a memory of the Holy Trinity, and having it blessed by a local priest. It was a symbol of peace and love, with embracing and affectionate kisses a common practice under the bough. The Holy Bough is a terrific site on this subject. Another option was to take branches of various evergreen trees and bushes, wind them into hoops or spheres, and decorate with small effigies of Christ. Over time, naturally, other adornments such as fruits, nuts, ribbons, ornaments, etc. were added with the bough often a status emblem pointing to the wealth of the family. The religious roots were lost to a great degree, with only the fun of stealing kisses remaining. Last Christmas I wrote two essays on the Christmas Tree and Mistletoe with more detailed info related there, the history of which does link to the greenery customs.
Cloth coverings for the legs. Origin 1583, from Old English stocka> leg covering, stock; and stocu> sleeve; and stocc> log, trunk. The latter relation is probably due to the fanciful resemblence of legs to tree trunks. Related to hose (dated 1100, from German hosa), hosiery (dated 1780), and sock (Latin soccus dated 900). These are just a few terms for the dozens of leg covering types woven or knitted of cloth, silk, wool, and cotton to provide both warmth and modesty. The styles, lengths, materials, weaves, etc. would change over the centuries, usually in response to garment fashion. Interestingly, it is men who most advanced the hose! Unlike women up until some 100 years ago, a man’s leg was in full view and needed to be covered by something both moveable and fashionable. Leggings of all types were held up by lacings and belts, early loose-style trousers/breeches actually offshoots of the hose themselves. Developments in weaving implements, like pointed-needles, allowed for closer fit stockings.
A large stride forward was reached in 1589 when English clergyman William Lee invented the knitting machine. Now the true ‘tight’ stockings could be woven, the ability to form-fit to the entire lower body far better than previous. Think Shakespeare and those fashionable Elizabethan tights! For more detailed Hosiery History, click the link.
Garter is a band of (now) elasticized material or a suspender strap to hold a sock/stocking up. Origin 1300, French gartier> band above or below the knee. It was actually in 1820 that Englishman Thomas Hancock founded the British rubber industry and patented elastic fasteners for gloves, suspenders, stockings, and shoes. Prior to that marvelous invention, loose hose were kept up by different inventions and methods (straps, ties, or even folding over the tops of boots) including cloth garters tied over the upper edge. The need to prevent the various leg coverings from falling down is so basic and ancient that there is no historical notation of when a ‘garter’ was actually invented. Presumably clever, desperate folks would have utilized assorted materials to tie around the top edge of a stocking long before the item may have been given a specific name and design. Over time they became a fashionable item all their own, sewn with pretty lace, ribbons, and even small bells.
A couple interesting asides – and you know how I LOVE those:
1) The practice of tossing the wedding garter is considered by most sources to be the oldest surviving wedding ritual. No one really knows for sure when the idea originated and the purposes of the custom varied. During the Dark Ages it was traditional for guests to accompany the bride and groom to their conjugal bed, the groom then throwing the garter out the door as an indication that he was attending to the necessary task of consummation! Other superstitions believed that keeping a part of the bride’s wedding garment brought good luck. It seems that willingly parting with a separate item was wiser that allowing remnants of her actual gown to be torn from her body! Yikes!
2) The British Most Noble Order of the Garter is the oldest and noblest order of knighthood in England, dating from 1348 and still the premiere honorable Order to this day. The history of this Order is steeped in legend and mystery, but the garter is the symbol, with the agreement that the intimate and supportive nature of a garter (remember, worn by men as well) was a key factor. The Order of the Garter is a fabulous, inclusive website for more reading.
The garter belt, that sexy item women loathe and adore at the same time, came about in the early 1920s as a way to make stocking wear simplier and more convenient. Slipping a narrow (and pretty) belt on was far easier than a fully elastizied girdle/corsets, those rapidly going out of style in the age of the Flapper!
Folks for millennia did have outdoor meals on a lawn spread blanket; but it would likely have been called a ‘dinner alfresco’ rather than a ‘picnic’ for a good long while. The first usage of the word was by the French, traced to 1692’s Origines de la Langue Française de Ménage, which mentions ‘pique-nique’ as being of recent French origin. It was a term used to describe a group of people dining in a restaurant who brought their own wine. Generally the term retained the connotation of a meal where everyone contributed something. ‘Pique’ is a French word meaning to pick or peck; ‘nique’ a nonsensical word, probably added for humor, but also possibly influenced by a German word meaning ‘little pieces or worthless things.’
Thus, a ‘pique-nique’ differed from a lavish banquet as it was a small, informal meal in which the guests picked little pieces of food as they chose.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), it was in 1748 that the word ‘picnic’ first appeared in an English text. In a letter from Lord Chesterfield to his son, ‘picnic’ was used to describe a fashionable, but casual, indoor assembly where each person contributed food. Lord Chesterfield’s son was in Berlin at the time, and interestingly enough, the German’s used the word ‘picknick’ very commonly for such social gatherings. Whether the Germans were influenced by the French ‘pique-nique’ or not is open to debate; also it is not precisely known whether the English were influenced by the French or German words. Sort of an etymology chicken-or-egg discussion! What is clear is that the term was expressly applied to indoor events for the elite to show off their cooking skills, as well as other talents. In 1802, the Prince of Wales – who would soon be the Prince Regent – formed the Picnic Society. This was an exclusive social group that met to eat and perform plays that they wrote themselves.Dining out-of-doors was a very common activity for both the wealthy and not-wealthy, usually as a needed respite while on hunting forays. For the bourgeoisie class, open-air meals of cold food rapidly became social gatherings and were often extremely elaborate. English history shows that such events boomed in the years following the French wars, with Royal Parks widely opened to the public. It was during these first two decades of the 18th century that the OED recognizes that the indoor pleasure parties known as picnics shifted to an outside, rustic location. The rapid shift has never been explained, except to point to the Romantic nature of this time in English history. They became leisurely pastimes offering the pleasures of rural walking and the picturesque, with the joy of dining. In less than twenty years, an invitation to a picnic would signify a completely different set of customs, clothes, social groupings, behaviors, food, settings, and values. This article by Andrew Hubbell from 2006 addressing Romanticism in English history covers the picnic evolution fabulously.
Frumenty is one type of Christmas pudding. Also called furmity, fromity, fermenty, and several other variations, this medieval (and possibly even Roman Britain) cuisine was primarily a type of soupy porridge made from boiled, cracked wheat. The basic dish could be enhanced with milk, eggs, or broth; made sweet with dried fruits, nuts, sugar, etc.; or served as a pottage with herb-cured meat. The recipe above is from a 17th century cookbook. There has never been one way to cook it, the recipe varying from place to place on down through the centuries. Other porridges made from oats, barley, and other grains were common, the recipes frequently overlapping with modifications rampant as people shared ideas or the availability of edibles fluctuated.
Mincemeat, fruitcake, and plum pudding are offshoots of frumenty. The Celts considered their version of frumenty part of a traditional Christmas meal, and other peoples included it to their holiday menus from time-to-time. The Puritans of 1660 banned it due to the spirits added to the pudding, saying it was unfit for people who followed the ways of God! But, in 1714, George I reinstated it as part of the royal Christmas feast, much to the dismay of the Quakers. The modern day recipes for Christmas Pudding – a staple firmly established by the Victorian Era – mostly derive from frumenty and its deviations. A simple Google search will yield dozens of ‘traditional’ frumenty/plum pudding recipes. I rather enjoyed this one:
Original fourteenth or fifteenth century English recipe for Frumenty:
Tak clene whete & braye yt wel in a mortar tyl the holes gon of; seethe it til it breste in water. Nym it vp & lt it cole. Tak good broth & swete mylk of kyn or of almand & tempere it therwith. Nym yelkys of eyren rawe & saffroun & cast therto; salt it; lat it naught boyle after the eyren ben cast therinne. Messe it forth with venesoun or with fat motoun fresch.
From “Curye on Englysch”
Who was this guy who gave an entire period a title? It is interesting to me that the Prince ruled in his father’s stead for a mere 9 years and only for ten years as King, yet so much has revolved around this time. Why?
First, the facts. The Prince’s father was George III, who technically ruled from 1760 until his death in 1820. The four Georges who were king occurred in a long succession from 1714 until the death of George IV (the Prince Regent) in 1830. This over one hundred year period, including those Regency years, is more appropriately referred to as the Georgian Era. A Google search will yield literally hundreds of pages of information about those years, a large portion of them centering on the latter decade of the 1700s and beyond. This is clearly because it was during this time that the French Revolution raged, followed by the troubles with Napoleon.
George III, however, was also quite famous to us Americans due to that spot of turmoil we lovingly refer to as our War of Independence! Actually, I rather feel sorry for poor George as his lengthy reign was rife with conflict. The fellow barely had time to rule his own country as so much was going on elsewhere. No wonder he was driven insane! Seriously, it is now hypothesized that the King suffered from an inherited blood disease called porphyria that causes neurological complications. To top it off, he also endured crippling rheumatism and cataracts.
This tragically recurring disease beget the subject of needed the Prince of Wales to assume the throne years before he actually did. In 1788 his imbalance became so severe that he was unable to open the session of Parliament per tradition. For the first time in history, Parliament convened without the address from the King’s throne and the first order of business was to begin the procedure that would name little George as Regent. The squabbling amongst the Lords of Parliament went on for nearly five months. The official bill was in the final stages of being passed in the House of Lords (having already passed the House of Commons), when George III recovered. Luckily, the wise King understood the action of his underlings and confirmed the measure as valid. This paved the way for the easier assumption as Regent in 1810 when George’s illness again consumed him. Tragically, the King would have no further remissions.
The Prince of Wales, from even his youngest days, was radically different than his frugal, conservative father. He embraced all forms of profligate entertainments. One fact I noted, in odds with the fine 1816 portrait to the right, is that by 1797 at the age of 35, the Prince weighed some 245 pounds (111 kilograms)! And he only kept on growing! I am thinking that Henry VIII had nothing on this guy!! The etching at the top is probably a bit more accurate.
He was extravagant in all ways. His debts were astronomical, far beyond the generous income granted him. His mistresses were numerous and it is speculated that he fathered several illegitimate children. At the age of 21 he illegally married Maria Anne Fitzherbert, a Catholic widow. This one act alone should have prevented him from ever assuming the throne as it was unlawful to marry a Catholic or without the King’s consent. It could have been a scandal of epic proportions if not for the loyal connections the Prince had in Parliament, culminating in a public declaration that the swirling rumors were false. This protected the heir, but dashed any hopes Mrs. Fitzherbert held of ever being Queen. Their relationship would continue on through his life, but not exclusively as the Prince appreciated all the lusts of life, especially women.
All through his life as Prince, financial troubles would plague him as a result of his exorbitant lifestyle. His marriage to his cousin, Caroline of Brunswick, was accomplished only because it was the lone way his father would pay his debt. The marriage was a disaster, the two barely speaking or doing anything else! The couple would produce one child, a daughter Charlotte (who would sadly die in childbirth along with her son), before separating formally. George refused her the title of Queen, leading to another minor scandal, and Caroline would die under suspicious circumstance a year after her husband became King. He never married again.
His rule as both Regent and King was mercurial. His preference was clearly to party rather than govern! I shall not go into details here. Naturally much can be found about the political goings on. Years of laziness, heavy drinking, indulgent living, an addiction to laudanum, and general debauchery took their toll. His health rapidly deteriorated. His final few years were spent in various agonies, including possibly his father’s illness of porphyria, all leading to his death in 1830, the shortest reign of the four Georges.
So, as fascinating as all this history is, (at least to me) I still have not answered my initial question. To quote Lord Wellington upon the King’s death,
“He was the most extraordinary compound of talent, wit, buffoonery, obstinacy, and good feelings, in short, a medley of the most opposite qualities, with a great preponderance of good – that I ever saw in any character in my life.”
He was a huge patron of the arts and modern architecture. Building was a passion for him, inspiring the whole Regency style which added a lightness and elegance to the traditional Georgian by blending Greco and Roman influences. His close association with the architect John Nash, who designed both Regent’s Park and Regent Street in London, was instrumental in advancing this technique. Both can be seen below.
It was George who basically discovered and revamped Brighton with massive quantities of money spent to elaborately establish a resort catering to decadence and entertainment. He completely renovated Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace into the places they are today. The Regency design can be seen in hundreds of places throughout the UK.The Prince was also a dandy. Friends with the notorious Beau Brummell, who literally revolutionized men’s fashion during that time, George added touches of his own, most greatly inspired by his bulk. Long trousers overtook knee breeches due to the rotund man’s need for covering his legs, high collars and fancily tied cravats hid a double chin, and darker colors were slimming. It was he who abandoned the use of powdered wigs. His delight in pageantry of all kinds led to the ceremonial side of the monarchy now commonplace.
He was a lavish collector of art and books, including the novels of one relatively obscure writer named Jane Austen. Ever heard of her? Me neither. For all his myriad faults, he possessed taste, elegance, intelligence, comportment, and charm. This seems to be a universal acknowledgement even among those who disliked him. His collections exist to this day in the British Museum, at Brighton, and the two palaces.It would seem that even though his extravagant lusts nearly bankrupted the country, the effects of his avant-garde tastes and excesses transcended. Leisure became an art form in itself, pleasures of all kinds premiere, comfort and glamour highlighted, class and manners exalted. He was a bad king, but a trend setter extraordinaire! I suppose we can thank him for that.
I have often been asked about the portraits of “Lizzy” and “Darcy” that Sourcebooks’ design chose for the covers of my novels. Who are they really? Who painted them? I did not have an answer and although I have been curious from time to time, my curiosity over the subject never persisted long enough to remember the question when I was speaking with my editor. We always have better topics to discuss, like edits for a book! Truthfully, it did not matter all that much to me. My happiness was in images that so perfectly fit my visions of Lizzy and Darcy. Now, here is the truth of the secret identities behind the gorgeous woman and handsome man who have served so wonderfully in representing my Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy–
Elizabeth Campbell, the Marchesa di Spineto, 1756-1823, was the second wife of the Marchese di Spineto. He was an Italian nobleman and scholar who became prominent in 1820 when he acted as interpreter for Theodore Majocchi, Queen Caroline’s servant, during her trial for adultery before the House of Lords. Neither were particularly renowned, as far as I could discover, with no other mention of the Marchese beyond the trial. The only reference I managed to uncover on the Marchesa was a few lines within a biographical book on John Stevens Henslow, Darwin’s mentor, where she is present along with several others at a gathering in 1838. The commentary in the novel says,
“The marchesa who appears in a number of references to Henslow’s parties was the second wife of the teacher of Italian and French in the University, the Marchese di Spineto. She was born Elizabeth Campbell, a ‘Scotch lady of good reputation’ and she and her husband must have been very popular at the University.”
I discovered that “the University” refers to Cambridge, but that is all I could unravel. I particularly loved this exposition about the painting itself:
Portrait of Elizabeth Campbell 1756-1823 Marchesa di Spineto, c.1812, a painting by Sir Henry Raeburn. The combination of ‘sensibility and sexuality’ that Duncan Thomson detects in Raeburn’s Mrs Robert Scott Moncrieff can be imputed just as much to the present portrait, which was painted, Thomson suggests, at around the same date. The fact that the sitter’s physicality as a woman is as much the subject of the portrait as her intellectual presence produces an image of considerable power, and one that is to be engagedby all the senses. The feeling of sensuality barely restrained by decorum is worthy of the very best work of the romantic painters on the Continent at this date….. Elizabeth Campbell is one of a number of Raeburn’s portraits painted at this date in which the sitter’s emotion is as much a subject of the painting as her likeness, and perhaps by its comparative restraint, it is one of the most successful. Other examples of female half-length portraits at this date rely for too much of their effect on an extravagance of posture or expression; Elizabeth Campbell’s confident, level gaze makes for a more impressive and intense interaction. Unlike other sitters, whose raptured glance to either side of them inevitably deflect our attention, Elizabeth Campbell contains the sitter’s scrutiny within her own and holds them there. The sitter’s command is total, even over her draperies. In other compositions a cloak is pulled tighter over the shoulders to be pulled opened at the breast in an almost melodramatic touch. Here the Marchesa’s cloak rests upon the sitter’s back so lightly that, it seems, the slightest movement would cause it to slip off. Against comparable female portraits by Raeburn at this date, less is more in the case of Elizabeth Campbell, and the sitter came equipped with sufficient personality and presence of her own that the painter needed to trust only his own power to interpret his subject without inventing for her any excess of passion.
Doesn’t that description fit Elizabeth Darcy? I think so! The portrait to the right is by George Henry Harlow and is thought to also be Elizabeth Campbell, the Marchesa di Spineto, although it is not a certainty. It does look like you though, doesn’t it?
This portrait of my Mr. Darcy is from 1817 and was also painted by Sir Henry Raeburn. It is of Commander Hugh Clapperton, 1788-1827, a Scottish traveler and explorer of West and Central Africa. Wikipedia has an entire article on the Commander, he obviously much more famous than the Marchesa. At 13 he entered naval service, continued through the Napoleonic Wars and eventually commanded a schooner on the Canadian Lakes. In 1820 his heart turned toward Africa. Clapperton and others embarked on an expedition to Bornu for the British government. For seven years his adventures led him through numerous regions of Africa until his death of diphtheria while in Sokoto. The accounts of the groups’ travels were published in two volumes: Narrative of Travels and Discoveries in Northern and Central Africa and Journal of a Second Expedition into the Interior of Africa.
Clapperton was the first European to make known from personal observation the Hausa states. He charted every degree of latitude between the Mediterranean and the Gulf of Guinea, and his discoveries led directly to the opening of sustained European contact with an important region of sub-Saharan Africa. The greater part of both remarkable journeys was made on horseback Richard Lemon Lander, who had brought back the journal of his master, also published Records of Captain Clapperton’s Last Expedition to Africa in 1830.
Quite an interesting fellow! Not sure I could see my Mr. Darcy trudging through the jungles of Africa, but he does have the spirit of a discoverer in how he delights in ancient ruins and modern technologies. Clapperton is described as ”tall and attractive” and that certainly fits Darcy! This portrait is also of Commander Clapperton, painted in 1825 by Gildon Manton. To me the two look quite different, especially around the eyes, but who am I to argue with the artists? Both renderings of Clapperton are appealing. Clapperton’s adventures have been written into a number of books, including A Sailor in the Sahara by Jamie Bruce-Lockhart, Difficult and Dangerous Roads (a compilation of his notes), and Hugh Clapperton: Into the Interior of Africa by Paul Lovejoy.
So there you have it! The mystery solved.