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Tom & Jerry

It’s not much of a spoiler to tell you that Thorn is secretly a playwright. But the plays he’s writing are loosely based on a novel by a man named Pierce Egan. Egan’s Life in London or, the Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorn, esq., and his elegant friend, Corinthian Tom, accompanied by Bob Logic, the Oxonian, in their rambles and sprees through the Metropolis spawned not only a theatrical adaptation (Tom and Jerry, or Life in London by William Thomas Moncrieffe), but had all of polite London society using the lowbrow slang of its characters. The Tom and Jerry cocktail created by Egan to publicize his work is still drunk by people who probably don’t even know where it originated. And the book was the inspiration for the Tom and Jerry cartoons more than a century later. How’s that for author longevity?

I learn something new every day. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me before, but Regency era theaters were fully lit during the entirety of performances. There was no turning down of the lights, because the “house lights” were candles in sconces and chandeliers! Can you imagine lighting all those, and then blowing them all out, then lighting them again, etc.? It would take forever and be utterly impractical. As for the stage, they had foot lights, which were also candles but set in reflectors. Here’s a drawing I found of them on Pinterest. I collect tons of Regency era images on my various boards, so follow me on Pinterest so we can journey down the historical picture rabbit hole together!

Regency Gardens

You were probably unaware that the study in Armitage House in London (Sheridan’s townhouse) looks out on a courtyard with a garden Sheridan stares at when he needs solace. The English have enjoyed gardening (and gardens) for centuries, to the extent that some of their landscape gardeners became celebrities. Lancelot “Capability” Brown comes to mind, although it was his successor, Humphry Repton, who coined the term “landscape gardener.” They were known for “creating” charmingly informal vistas, where there were fake ruins (which exist at Armitage Hall in the country), manufactured ponds and lakes, structured slopes, and ha-ha’s (hidden ditches that prevented animals from grazing near the house, essentially), all of it intended to look utterly natural. The style was popular for a century or more. If you want to be impressed, look up Capability Brown and you’ll discover the sheer volume of parks and gardens he designed in his lifetime. It has its own category on Wikipedia!

Horses of Regency

If you ride horses or deal with them regularly, you might already know the info in this tidbit (even so, you might find this more detailed article interesting. For the rest of you, here’s something you may not know. Horses were used in different capacities in the Regency. That’s why Sheridan considers raising money by selling some of his. A gentleman might have saddle horses for riding and carriage horses for pulling his carriage. A rich gentleman might also have Thoroughbreds for racing. Then, if their racing days are over, the owner might keep them for putting out to stud and charge stud fees. So Sheridan kept the moneymaking horses and (very sadly) sold some of the saddle horses.

Just Dance

I hope y’all will forgive me if I talk more about Regency dancing, which was a bit like our square dancing. The master of ceremonies called out the figures, or dance moves, because the dances at this time didn’t have fixed figures. Experienced masters of ceremonies would most likely plan these figures ahead of time, so they all led naturally into each other and fit the tempo and length of the piece of music. Complicated, huh!

As I researched dances for Grey to teach Beatrice, I had trouble finding one with set figures for a specific piece of music. Although “Jenny’s Market” from Project Duchess was created specifically for the Emma BBC series, all of the figures can be found in a variety of English country dances, so I went with that one. Plus, it looked sexier than a lot of the others. Hey, just because I wanted a dance that was true to the period doesn’t mean I had to sacrifice intimacy to get it!

Frost Fairs

So, if you’re a fan of the Regency period, you’ve probably heard about the London Frost Fair of 1814, when the Thames froze for four days, and people set up fairground booths on the ice. They even led an elephant across! But you may not know why it happened. It was partly due to the Little Ice Age, which engulfed many parts of the world from around 1600 to 1850. Since seven possible causes have been postulated for why that happened, we won’t get into that. The upshot is that the Thames was wider and slower then, so the decrease in temperatures resulted in a number of frost fairs being held during those centuries. London Bridge also had more pilings that dammed up the river with ice in winter.

After 1814, the Thames never saw another Frost Fair. London Bridge was rebuilt with less pilings. The river was embanked, which helped it flow more freely. And the weather grew warmer. Don’t you wish you could have experienced a Frost Fair on the Thames? I do!

Puzzles

Although the word “jigsaw” didn’t exist before the jig saw was invented in the late Victorian age, such puzzles did exist, cut out with marquetry saws. They were called “dissected maps.” Apparently, puzzles go back to the 1700’s, when they were primarily maps cut along the borders of the countries/counties, etc. You can see an example of two on my Pinterest page. I even saw them mentioned in a period account as a popular gift for loved ones on Valentine’s Day!

“Auld Lang Syne”

You probably know that “Auld Lang Syne” was written by Scottish poet Robert Burns, but you may not know that he was taking some of it from an older folk song. He’s the one who retooled it into its current version and popularized it in Scotland, and then, once he had it published, in England. Regency revelers sang his poem on New Year’s Eve just as we do, although it may not have been sung to the same tune. Still, it’s amazing how far back the sentiments go. One precursor to his poem that uses similar verses was published in 1711!

Timepieces

Believe it or not, I didn’t invent the erotic automaton watch in The Pleasures of Passion. They were popular throughout the late Regency and Victorian periods. Some even had two faces—the one that showed on the front with a sedate animated scene and the hidden one that was more erotic. This one, for example, has a much naughtier inside panel, but you could just enjoy the outside panel where the boat rocks, the servant rows the boat, and the gentleman plays the mandolin. Very clever. Can’t you just imagine certain young men carrying these sorts of watches, if only to provoke their relations?

Gaming Hells

I did some writing while in Vegas, which was a surreal experience because Warren’s book involves gambling, and it definitely enhanced the writing experience to be in a city so dedicated to that. Most Regency bucks gambled primarily in private clubs (like St. George’s) or gaming hells. My book concerns the latter, since I wanted to have a sort of tavern/gaming hell combo where tavern maids served the men. I had to scour the internet for period descriptions and images of hells, which is how I was reminded of Crockford’s, a club run by a former fishmonger. Originally he worked in a gaming hell, and I found an excellent article at the Smithsonian magazine about it. It’s clear from the article that gaming hells were designed to cheat the customers at every turn. I guess we know why they were called hells! As usual, the house always wins, one way or the other.