Y’all may or may not be aware that I’ve gotten into birdwatching from all my time spent writing on my deck. (I’d be there now except it’s all torn up as my husband gets it ready for spring.) That’s why I decided to give that hobby to Eliza. Also, Regency folks liked birds, too (no big surprise). I took her birdhouse from one that was actually from the period. Well, close to the period, anyway—1846. I had a hard time finding images earlier than the Victorian age, but the word “bird-seed” dates back to the 1700’s, and Regency era books abound for “bird-fanciers,” which tell you how to feed, house, rear, etc. birds of all types. Pet birds also appear in stories from the period. So I think I’m safe in saying Regency folks liked them!
This has nothing to do with lipedema, but What Happens in the Ballroom (presently available on Kindle Unlimited, among other retail spots) has a scene where widow Eliza Harper Pierce sings several songs to entertain an audience. One of those, “The Suffolk Miracle,” is a ballad that Eliza uses to torment her papa (also in the audience) about a father who disapproves of his daughter marrying a man of a lower station. You can read the lyrics here, but I chose it by accident while looking for the ballad, “The Holland Handkerchief,” which I have on my folk albums. The two tell a nearly identical story, but “The Suffolk Miracle” is the title Eliza is likely to have heard for it. I happen to love ballads, and I learned long ago that most period ballads have multiple renditions, with variations in wording, title, and even ending. I only wish there was a version for this one with a happy ending!
If you haven’t heard of a harp-lute, that’s because it was invented by Edward Light in 1795 and was briefly a sort of fad among young ladies in the Regency. Regency ladies liked it because they could accompany their singing with it. Once the piano replaced it as the instrument of choice for that, the harp-lute fell out of favor. There is still interest in it as part of the development of the guitar, though, and you can find a host of images here. Here’s an image of one in the Metropolitan Museum.
When I think of autumn and the Regency, I think of harvest fairs and harvest balls, brisk October winds, and lots of apples. But did you know that bobbing for apples was another of those romantic games where future romance was predicted? I didn’t, until I read this entertaining and thorough article about the origins of Halloween. Apparently, one variation was played the same way as it is now, except that names were carved into the apples so that whichever name was on the apple you seized was that of your future true love. Fortunately, the variation called “Snap-apple,” where a player had to seize the apple while it swung around on a pole with a burning candle at the other end of the pole, died out, or we’d not be enjoying trying to grab those apples quite so much!
Although some fairs had started to die out, some still provided popular entertainment in the Regency. You may have heard of Bartholomew Fair, which took place in London in September, or Scarborough Fair, which occurred in Scarborough, Yorkshire, around the same time (although it closed for good in 1788). Both were among a group of several “charter” fairs, established by Royal charter centuries before our period. Like most of them, they combined sales of things like cloth, rugs, or farm tools with entertainment like games, puppets, acrobats, rides, and dancing. You can see the swings in the image below. A few fairs still go on! So we’ll try to replicate one at the Historical Romance Retreat.
Here’s a fun addition to my A Yuletide Kiss story. To enhance the Christmas Eve celebration at the inn where he and the others are snowbound, Juncker plays an angelic organ, also known as a glass harp. The instrument was well-known by the time of the Regency, and consisted of several glasses (Juncker uses wine glasses) filled to different heights, so that when the harpist wets his finger and rubs it around the rims of the various glasses, it makes music (angelic music, I gather). Interestingly enough, the Brit who first mastered the instrument—an Irishman named Richard Pockrich—played his with sticks, which I would imagine created a slightly different sound. He played Handel’s “Water Music” on it (pun intended, ha ha)! Juncker settles for using his fingers. He doesn’t know how to put the sounds together to play actual songs, but he figures the melodious, random ringing will add to the festive air. And it does!
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!
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!
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.