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Friday, September 27, 2013

Casting Judgment from White's Bow Window

White's famed bow window is on the ground floor.
The following poem takes a tongue-in-cheek peek at the arbitrators of fashion who sat in the infamous bow window of White's on St. James. The author is Henry Luttrell (1765-1851) who Byron referred to as "the best sayer of good things, and the most epigrammatic conversationalist I ever met."

Indeed, all the diaries and letters I've read from the era refer to Luttrell as the great wit. The most recent edition of the Englilsh Dictionary of National Biography says that, unfortunately, most of Luttrell's wit does not translate well two centuries later. It's one of those cases where ya had to be there.

Luttrell was the illegitimate son of the 2nd Lord Carhampton.

The Bow Window at White's
By Henry Luttrell

 Shot from yon Heavenly Bow, at White's,
No critic-arrow now alights
On some unconscious passer-by
Whose cape's an inch too low or high;
Whose doctrines are unsound in hat,
In boots, in trousers, or cravat;
On him who braves the shame and guilt
of gig or Tilbury ill-built;
Sports a barouche with panels darker
Than the last shade turned out by Barker;
Or canters, with an awkward seat
And badly mounted, up the street.
Silenced awhile that dreadful battery
Whence never issued sound of flattery;
That whole artillery of jokes,
Levelled point-blank at hum-drum folks;
Who now, no longer kept in awe
By Fashion's judges, or her law,
Strut by the window, at their ease,
With just what looks and clothes they please!

 Since George "Beau" Brummell was known to occupy a seat in that most well-known of bow windows, I suspect Luttrell is poking fun at him in this poem which first appeared in Luttrell's Advice to Julia, published in 1820, four years after Brummell fled to France to keep from debtor's prison. I found it in my little 1909 gem, The Lure of London.—By Cheryl Bolen, who's delighted to announce the release of a Christmas novella (The Theft Before Christmas) in the Regent Mysteries series on Oct. 7. Preorders are on all sites except Barnes & Noble.

                                                     Beau Brummell



Monday, September 23, 2013

An English Autumn

It's fall to Americans, but Autumn has come again, and in Regency England this was the time of year for country events.

Actually, most anyone who could leave London in the heat of summer would do so. July and August were not great months in a city that still used the Thames for its sewer and refuse.

The harvest began in August and September. In fact, September 24 was a day associated with beginning harvest in much of medieval England.

During harvest time, Corn Dollys would be crafted—by tradition the dolly held the spirit of the corn (and do remember that corn in England means any grain). The dolly would be tied in a design specific to the area, so a Yorkshire dolly would be different from one made in Shropshire.

One Corn Dolly, a countryman's favor, was usually a plait (or braid) of three straws that was tied into a loose knot to represent a heart. If a young man gave this to a girl and she wore it next to her heart he knew his love was reciprocated.

The traditional last day of harvest is still September 29, Michaelmas Day, which is the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel, who is also the patron saint of the sea and maritime lands, of ships and boatmen, of horses and horsemen. Michaelmas Day is sometimes called Goose Day, and Goose Fairs were held in some English towns, such as Nottingham.

Because it was quarter's end, Michaelmas was the time for Mop Fairs, when servants and laborers would hire themselves out again for the next year’s work. The name comes from maids who, looking for work, would carry a small mop to show her skills (a shepherd had wool, a gardener had flowers, and so on). Gentry folk, or even tenant farmers looking for help, might visit a mop fair (usually the great houses hired their staff through agencies, and from families who had worked for the house for generations).

Autumn was also the time to begin training young hounds for the coming hunt season.

Fox hunting began after the first frost, and after all the harvest had been brought in. Before that, however, the hunt master would take out his young hounds and start to train them with a "drag" (the scent of a fox in a bag, possibly even a dead fox in a bag) so they would learn to hunt properly and obey the master's and the huntsmen's commands. This season of "cub hunting" (the cubs were the young hound, not young foxes) was, and still is, an excellent time to begin training young horses as hunters, and a season to start getting older horse fit for the hunt again. (Most hunters were put out to pasture in the spring and summer so they could have some rest between hunting seasons.)

Shooting season began in mid-August, with grouse. Additional game birds came in season as of September 1, and woodcock and pheasant seasons opened on October 1. Originally, the Forest Laws covered hunting and shooting rights. Put into place by William the Conqueror, these acts carried harsh penalties for poaching or for even using the king's forests. Gradually, the acts relaxed and opened up to allow for nobles, and then for landowners to hunt, shoot, and use the forests--and the forests themselves were reduced over the centuries for building ships, houses, and cities. However, the Black Act of 1723 put into place the death penalty for over 50 crimes, including being found in a forest while disguised (poachers were blackening their faces to hunt for food--a necessity, given the widespread poverty from the bursting of the South Seas Bubble). It was not repealed until the reforms of 1823. 

The Game Act of 1831 further loosened restrictions, and the right was at last given to anyone to kill game on their own land, or on that of another with permission.
Autumn months when a time when owners ate pheasant, partridge, duck and grouse. Fish for meals included perch, halibut, carp, gudgeons, and shell fish. Poachers also looked to snared hares for their pot. Beans were still fresh, and the fruits of summer gave way to pears, apples, nuts and the last harvest of grapes.

With the harvest put away, those in the country could settle into winter's hibernation, or look to return to London when Parliament again met in November.

Shannon Donnelly Bio
Shannon Donnelly’s writing has won numerous awards, including a RITA nomination for Best Regency, the Grand Prize in the "Minute Maid Sensational Romance Writer" contest, judged by Nora Roberts, RWA's Golden Heart, and others. Her writing has repeatedly earned 4½ Star Top Pick reviews from Romantic Times magazine, as well as praise from Booklist and other reviewers, who note: "simply superb"..."wonderfully uplifting"....and "beautifully written."

Her Regency romances can be found in print or as ebooks on all formats, and her Regency Historical, The Cardros Ruby is currently on sale this September at

Friday, September 20, 2013

Wooing,Regency Style

I admit, I've been out of the dating scene for (ahem) a few years now. Okay, over twenty. But from what my single friends tell me, not much has changed since I was in the dating scene. Basically a man asks out a woman, (or if she's braver than I ever was, she asks him out). They might meet online, or be introduced by a friend, but eventually they end up on that first date. It might be dinner or drinks or just coffee. It might involve a movie or miniature golf or a museum. It might even occasionally include another couple but it never involves parents or chaperons, and no one thinks anything of a man and a woman being alone together in a car or a house.  

Dating in Regency England was very different. For one thing, it was called courting or wooing. But most importantly, a young lady of good breeding who wished to keep her reputation pristine so she would be a candidate for marriage never, ever put herself alone with a man. (The double standard is, of course, that the man could have a very sullied reputation and still be considered a good match if he were wealthy and well-connected enough, but that's a matter for a different post.) Therefore, courting was a very public affair. 

First they'd have to be introduced by a mutual friend before they'd be allowed to converse. They often met at balls which were THE places to meet those of similar social backgrounds, but they might also meet at a dinner party, soiree, musicale, or even the opera or the theater. 

If the man wished to get better acquainted with the lady he'd met, he'd send her flowers the next day, and later pay a visit upon the family during their "at home" hours where her mother or aunt or other chaperon would be present. He might take her for a walk in one of the walking parks, or take her riding, either horseback or in an open carriage--open being the operative word since riding in a closed carriage could ruin her reputation as fast as being alone in a house. During these outings, a chaperon may or may not be close at hand. 

Courting could be short or take place over a long period of time. If she refused to dance with any other man but him, she basically announced to the world that she was unofficially engaged. If she danced with him more than twice in one night, everyone assumed she was either engaged to him or was "fast," a terrible label for a proper young lady. If he spent a lot of time with her to the  point where people began to notice how much they were together, public opinion pretty much placed them as engaged. If he failed to make an offer of marriage for her, people said he had failed to come up to scratch and shook their heads and wondered if she were unsuitable or if he were. Either way, the couple's reputations suffered. 

Such courting practices may sound rigid and even sterile to the modern-day woman, but I think it leaves so much open. For one thing, they relied on witty conversation rather than getting physical to get to know each other. And since the courting practices were pretty predictable, a man had to use creativity to impress the lady. 

Once he felt secure she returned his affections, the gentleman would make an appointment with the girl's father and formally ask for her hand in marriage. His income would be scrutinized and they would draw up a prenuptial agreement called a marriage settlement which included her pin money, dress allowance, jointure, and other ways he'd provide for her, as well as what dowry would go to the man. Once all that was settled, the father would break the news to the girl and the wedding preparations would commence.

My job as Regency romance author is to keep in mind these social customs known as 'manners and mores' and yet find unique ways for my hero and heroine to meet and fall in love. It's fun to create a unique twist on acceptable courting, throwing in lots of obstacles in the way of their happily ever after, and revealing the final, happy, triumphant ending.  That doesn't make me a hopeless romantic, it makes me a hopeful romantic. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Of Time Travel and Cooking

by Donna Hatch

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to time travel back to your favorite era in history? I do, all the time. I'd pick Regency, of course, since that’s the era in which all of my historical romance novels take place. I’ve decided that I’d better travel as a very wealthy lady or I'd be totally helpless. For example, trying to cook would be a disaster all by itself.

Not only are most of the foods I love modern and unavailable in the Regency, but trying to follow a recipe to cook for myself would be impossible. Have you ever seen an old recipe? They are so vague that no one who doesn’t already know how to prepare the dish would ever be able to follow them. They use words such as ‘a handful,’ ‘a dash,’ ‘until the mixture has the right consistency,’ and so forth. The new cook must have learned at the elbow of an experienced cook or suffered many disasters.

In Shannon Donnally's post What's Blanc Mange  she made this quote: Amounts in older cookbooks can also confuse a modern reader, often listing ingredients to be added as handfuls, as in the rue, sage, mint, rosemary, wormwood and lavender for a "recipt against the plague" given by Hanna Glasse.

This got me to thinking, when were measuring spoons and cups standardized? This question sent me on a quest.

According to Answer BagFannie Farmer introduced the concept of using standardized measuring spoons and cups in her book, "The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book." Farmer's work was published in 1896 while she was the director of the Boston Cooking School. I discovered this same answer on a cooking post on Etsy.

However, according to IfoodMeasuring cups are invented by David Holcombe in the year 1982. Measuring cups are made with glass, plastic or metal. It has the capacity to hold approximately 0.2 to 1 litre.
I think he means 1892, since I know for a fact measuring cups were around long before 1982 :-)

Amy Balenger’s answer on Cha Cha says: First invented in 1879, measuring cups were created for standardization of measurements in cooking and baking.

Another answer on Ask said Betty Crocker, maybeI'm not convinced. 

None of these sources cited a reference, so I can't follow them back to their source to find out the truth. However, based on the answers I found (and those were the only answers I found on line—all the other hits were either nonsensical or were listings for the sale of measuring cups and spoons) the general consensus is the standardization of measuring cups and spoons happened somewhere in the late 1800’s, which was the Victorian Era, when the rising middle class created a need for women who were ladies of their own homes and who did the cooking for their own families but didn’t necessarily have training from a skilled cook to teach them.

I suspect cooks used their own cups and spoons and just knew to use a certain cup or spoon for the recipe that they either kept in their heads or wrote for their own use. I doubt anything became standardized until cook books became common. Supposedly the first printed cookbooks were sometime around the 1st or 2nd century, but would not have been a common household item to help domestic servants and housewives with cooking instruction. Books were just too rare and too expensive, and most servants were illiterate. Since the printing press was invented in the early 1800's and not widely used until the middle of the century, the idea of using it to mass produce cookbooks would have taken time. 

So the next time you open a recipe book, stop and allow a moment of gratitude for the standardization of measuring cups and spoons so you can duplicate a prize-winning dish...unless you’re like I am and manage to mess it up even if you use the right measurements, but that’s another problem altogether. Oh, and make sure when you time-travel, you arrive dressed as a noblewoman so you won't be expected to do any menial chores like cooking or cleaning.