Friday, July 2, 2010

Where the Fashionable Bluestocking Shops

I'm behind on my book that's due September 1, which means no fun reading for me. Pooh! But that doesn't mean you have to forego the pleasure this summer. Here's a post from August 20, 2008, on how nineteenth century young ladies in London went searching for a good read.


“Summer reading, had me a blast
Summer reading, went by so fast . . .”

Sorry, wrong period! And forgive my liberty with the lyrics. I was thinking about my favorite summer pastime, which, oddly enough, doesn’t necessarily involve beaches or boys.


Reading was a popular pastime for the nineteenth century young lady as well, although she might not want to admit it for fear of being labeled a bluestocking, one of those ladies with more brains than social skills. Marissa’s previous posts mentioned some of the authors and stories. I, of course, am just as interested in the shopping aspects.

In the early nineteenth century, London had twelve good circulating libraries, where you could pay a subscription to borrow books; four French booksellers; one German bookseller; three children’s booksellers; and twenty dealers of rare books. If you were very fortunate, your family had a private library, or you knew someone with a private library. Marissa’s characters borrow books (with rather disastrous consequences) from the private library of a noted sorcerer in her Bewitching Season. Sir Joseph Banks, the noted botanist and president of the Royal Society, and Earl Spencer, the forefather of Princess Diana, were said to have the best private libraries. Spencer House is just off St. James’s, so quite easy to access on your way to the sensational shopping on Bond Street.

And just around the corner is Hatchard’s, one of the premier bookstores in London. It opened in 1797 at No. 173 Piccadilly. In 1801, it moved to No. 190. Later it was moved to No. 187, where you can still find it today. Hatchard’s was the social meeting place for those who loved literature. Being right across the street from the Albany, where the poet Lord Byron lived, it attracted any number of literary luminaries. Even Queen Charlotte shopped there. You could always find the daily newspapers set out on a table by the glowing fire, and your servants could wait on benches outside the door while you took your time perusing the many fine offerings.

Such as the handsome baronet thumbing through Shakespeare.

So, what are you reading this summer?


Amy DeTrempe said...

I have started listening to books on CD because I am in the car so much. Right now I am listening to The Temptation of The Night Jasmine by Lauren Willig. I believe it is the fifth book of her Pink Carnation Series, which I have loved from the very first book.

Regina Scott said...

Amy, Lauren's work has been on my list to read for some time. I've heard extremely good things about the series! Perhaps when I finish this draft I can indulge. Thanks for reminding me!

Rachel said...

Hatchard’s is gorgeous! I definitely miss it.

I'm reading St. Elmo by Augusta Evans Wilson.

Anonymous said...

oooh! Hatchard's! I went there, last time I was in London.
I'm the kind of person who goes to London with a spare, empty suitcase, because... books!!!

I'm reading Georgette Heyer, on Marissa Doyle's rec.
Also, seconding recommendations of Lauren Willig! She got me into this genre.