Friday, March 27, 2020

Free for All

File:Weight guesser on the Pay Streak 01, A-Y-P, 1909.jpgIt’s a time when many of us are finding ways to help our family and friends, and authors are giving back. Normally, I save my free online reads for my newsletter readers, but I’m offering them for anyone who is looking for a fun, easy read right now.

Debonair gentleman-turned-valet, Peter Quimby, stumbles upon his long-lost love about to marry a duke in “The Marriage Campaign,” sequel to the Master Matchmaker series. 

At Christmas, impoverished Eleanor Grasland reminds her former love, retired Major Sir Percival Nightincourt, of “A Light in the Darkness." 

In addition, the following Regency-set Kindle books are free right now (but may not be by the time you read this blog, so always check!):

Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice 

Lady by Chance by Cheryl Bolen 

Vanessa Riley’s The Bittersweet Bride (on my TBR pile!)

A Lady Never Tells by Lynn Winchester (also on my TBR pile!)

Brenda Hiatt’s Gabriella 

A Lady of Esteem by Kristi Ann Hunter (another on my TBR pile!)

Enjoy, stay safe and healthy!

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Now That’s an Ackermann!

I’ve been posting images and content from Ackermann’s Repository for a loooong time now...looking back, I see his name was first mentioned on NineteenTeen back in November of 2007, about a month and a half after this blog began. Most of what I’ve posted here have been from prints or pages from the original magazine that I’ve picked up in various antique and junk stores both in person and on-line; occasionally I’ll post something from a copy of Ackermann’s from an online archive. I’ve often seen (and sighed over) bound copies of entire years of Ackermann’s—what riches!

But in the dozen or so years I’ve been at this, this is a first. May I present to you...

A copy of Ackermann’s Repository as it might have been purchased in Ackermann’s store in the Strand, back in 1824!

All of the complete copies I’ve ever seen, be they individual or bound in a book, have started with the table of contents. This copy includes an outer cover made of a sturdier paper than the inner pages: the front, as you can see, includes this decorative engraving with the date, issue number and price (4 shillings). There is some color (brown and a smidge of blue) in the engraving; the rest of the cover is black.

Speaking of which...the back contains (as do magazines today)...advertising! Price and Gosnell, Perfumers to His Majesty, sold toiletries, from soap and skin lotions to dyes to toothbrushes and toothpaste.

And as for the binding...the interior pages are sewn together, and the exterior cover seems to have been glued. There is no printing on the spine.

Inside the front cover are more advertisements, from publisher J.Harding of St. James’s-street, and Urling’s Lace, a neighbor to Ackermann in the Strand.

Inside the back cover, we have more book ads from J. Harding, and sheet music from J. Willis of Covent-Garden.

I’m thrilled to be able to share this with you...but I have a few questions. How was the Repository mailed to subscribers? Was it enclosed in an envelope of some description, or wrapped in a paper band with an address? Or were subscribers’ addresses written directly on each issue? Or were they sent in a bundle (or singly, if necessary) to local post offices along with a list of recipients?
Questions, questions...but in the meanwhile, I hope you are as geeked out by this as I am!

EDITED TO ADD: At the request of a reader, I'm adding a close-up of one of the ads on the inside front cover: here you go!


Friday, March 20, 2020

Reimagining the Regency Part 2: Edmund Blair Leighton

Besides the marvelous Charles Haigh-Wood we discussed previously, another artist made his living reimagining both the Regency and medieval periods. I found it interesting that, though he had far less critical acclaim than Wood, Edmund Blair Leighton’s pieces are still quite popular today. And he actually had his photograph taken.

Leighton was born in the fall of 1852. His father was already an established portrait painter who even had his work accepted for exhibition at the Royal Academy. Leighton attended University College School in Hampstead (what we in American would consider a high school), then went on to study at the Royal Academy. His work wasn’t deemed worthy of exhibition, however, until he was 26. Once he was deemed worthy, he had something in the annual exhibition for 40 years. He married at age 33 and had two children.

He specialized in paintings that told a story. Reviewers at the time called them “highly wrought.” There was no doubt, however, that they had high popular appeal. I think you can see why. In fact, you might recognize some paintings that have since graced the cover of Regency romance novels. Here are some of my favorites.


The Request (love her collar!)
File:Edmund Blair Leighton - The request.jpg

Adieu (because, sailing ship!)
File:Edmund Blair Leighton - Adieu.jpg

The New Governess

A Wet Sunday Morning (Love her sisters and family watching from the church!)

Leighton was never made a member of the Royal Academy. He died just short of his seventieth birthday in 1922. But his paintings live on in the hearts of many.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Fobbed Off

Charm bracelets have been in fashion for decades, right up until the present day; girls (and women!) still seem to love them. But in the 18th and 19th centuries, they weren’t necessarily for girls...and they weren’t bracelets, either.  

Pocket watches began to come into their own in the second half of the eighteenth century, thanks to improvements in technology and metals science. A pocket watch usually is attached to one’s person somehow; the last thing you want is your expensive and delicate timepiece falling out of your pocket every time you chance to bend over. A length of ribbon or cord sufficed, but a chain or strip of chain mesh was both sturdier and offered more scope to show off with.

Originally, this fastener for one’s watch was called a fob (likely from a German word meaning “pocket”.) Then it was realized that hanging little dangly things from one’s fob added enough weight to aid in keeping it closer to the body, and therefore made it less likely for the fob (and watch) to catch on something and be yanked from the pocket. It made sense for one of those dangly bits to be, say, the key that wound the watch; then it was realized that the fob would be a useful place to hang one’s seal...and then the decorative and (ahem) show-off possibilities dawned on everyone. Hanging other things from one’s watch chain became the fashion...and in times, these gewgaws were referred to themselves as fobs.

Over the course of the 19th century, a watch chain with fobs became a peculiarly masculine fashion (and chains themselves known by other names: an albert was a chain worn horizontally across the waistcoat from pocket to pocket, while a leontine was a short chain most often worn on dress occasions.) In fact, it became so fashionable that wearing a huge collection of fobs on one's watch chain probably meant that you were a dandy.

So what form did fobs take?

They could be senti-mental—a tiny miniature of a loved one or a snip of hair in a locket. They could be practical—a minute pencil or button hook for fastening one’s gloves, a tiny case for vestas (matches) or a wee vinaigrette like those shown in these photos of fobs from my collection. 

Those whose hobbies included mount-aineering or ballooning might have a small baro-meter or altimeter or a compass; members of sporting clubs or other organizations might have club badges or commemorative medals. Seals of course remained popular...but really, almost any small object could be and probably was turned into a fob and worn by someone somewhere.
The introduction of the wristwatch during World War I spelled the death of the pocket watch...and the delicious, tiny fobs often found their way onto women’s jewelry as necklaces charm bracelets.

Though I love to wear bracelets and adore the concept of charm bracelets, I find them too clunky and distracting to wear. But a watch chain with fobs...that is a practice I could totally embrace.

How about you? Could you see yourself with a collection of these tiny, jingly treasures hanging from your watch chain? ☺

Friday, March 13, 2020

Dressing an Heiress: Cover Reveal!

So, what does a Regency heiress wear?

That’s what my cover designer, Kim Killion of The Killion Group, had to figure out when I asked her to create the cover for the second book in my Grace-by-the-Sea series. The Heiress’s Convenient Husband tells the story of outspoken Eva Faraday, orphaned daughter of a wealthy financier. Eva’s father was a self-made man, and he never wanted his daughter to lack for anything. As a result, Eva can have the most beautiful gowns and the most expensive jewels. Except, she’s not that sort of girl. And her late father tied up her inheritance until she reaches the age of 25 or marries, so she’s living on pin money while the Earl of Howland acts as trustee over her accounts and tries to force her to marry his heir.

Here’s how she described her recent clothing choices:

"Eva had always favored brighter colors, but the earl’s wife had wrinkled her nose and declared that young ladies wore pastels. So, Eva had promptly used her allotment of monthly pin money to buy a length of purple satin, purple embroidered gauze, and a sash the color of the fuchsias in Kew Garden. The countess had averted her eyes whenever Eva wore the outfit."

I hope you didn't avert your eyes!

The Heiress’s Convenient Husband is available for preorder now as an ebook at fine online retailers (print book coming shortly):


The book arrives April 20, 2020.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Children of George III: Adolphus Frederick, Duke of Cambridge

His Majesty’s seventh son, Adolphus Frederick (notice all the name recycling; by this time naming the kids must have been quite a chore) was born on February 24, 1774, at Kew, almost exactly a year after his brother Augustus...and like that brother, he would be a bit of a mold-breaker...but I’m getting ahead of myself.

As the third son in a sequence of three boys born within three years, Adolphus was lumped with his older brothers Ernest and Augustus and a pair of tutors into one household at Kew Green, which contained a whole set of houses for the royal children, for just about all of his childhood.

This lumping continued when the three brothers were sent to the University of Göttingen in 1786, when Adolphus was a lad of twelve. He seemed to thrive at the university and actually applied himself to his studies; being of such tender years, he couldn’t apply himself instead to the rowdier pastimes of university students like drinking to excess, dueling, or womanizing.

But by 1790 his college days were past, and Adolphus, like his older brothers, had entered the army. He saw active service in Holland, including being badly wounded and temporarily captured by the French in 1793 (though he was rescued by a timely sortie.) He returned to active military service until the Hanoverian forces withdrew in 1795, and returned with them to Hanover, where he lived for the next several years, still serving with honor and distinction in the army and generally charming everyone with his excellent manners and real interest in the arts and sciences (he was, it seems, an excellent violinist.) Napoleon’s advance across the continent forced his unwilling return to England—he would far rather have stayed to fight—after Hanover decided not to resist the approaching French forces

Adolphus (who had received his ducal title of Cambridge in 1801) lived quietly in London for the next decade or so. He spent much time with his parents and siblings and, unlike his brothers, lived within his means, proving to the world that not all of the king’s sons were “damned millstones” around the country’s neck (as the Duke of Wellington would at a later date describe them.) It is perhaps an indication of his character that even after Adolphus heartily promoted his eldest brother’s marriage to Caroline of Brunswick—an utterly disastrous marriage if there ever was one—the brothers remained the best of friends.

By 1813, with Napoleon’s fortunes on the wane, Adolphus was begged to return to Hanover and became its Governor-General, expecting to settle down and once more be of service to his family...until the death of Princess Charlotte a few years later kicked off the race for the king’s sons to produce a legitimate heir to the throne. Within two weeks of Charlotte’s death, Adolphus had proposed to and been accepted by Princess Augusta of Hesse-Cassel, all of twenty years old to Adolphus’s forty-three...but as it turned out, theirs was a very happy union. They duly produced a son in 1819, but the birth of children to Adolphus’s older brothers Edward and Ernest meant that the boy would likely inherit neither the throne of Great Britain nor Hanover. Two daughters followed over the years—Princess Augusta, who would be a close friend to her slightly older cousin Victoria, and Princess Mary, who would herself one day produce a queen for England.

Adolphus continued to serve Hanover until the death of his brother William in 1837 meant that the throne of Hanover would go to big brother Ernest, as Victoria, being female, could not inherit it. So he retired at last to England and spent the rest of his life doting upon his wife and continuing to do his duty for his family and country. Though his increasing eccentricities (he liked to sing along at concerts, make loud comments about sermons in church, and always wore a distinctive blond wig) made him a bit of a joke, they were harmless; and he showed his continued good sense by keeping out of politics (though he couldn’t resist trying to encourage a match between his son George and Victoria—neither of who were interested.) Family relations remained strained at times between him and Victoria (and Albert) because of a few small, foolish squabbles about nothing very important; eventually though, their relationship improved, and when Adolphus died in 1850, he was sincerely mourned by all.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Reimagining the Regency, Part 1: Charles Haigh-Wood

We are so blessed to have access through the internet to thousands of paintings from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Through them, we gain insights into clothing, accessories, buildings, and accomplishments. But later in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, several painters began recreating scenes from those years. While their work might be better termed a reimagining rather than accurate depiction, the paintings nonetheless convey that elegance and romance that defined the period for those of us who love it.

One of those painters was Charles Haigh-Wood. When he was born in 1856, the Regency was far behind him. But his father built picture frames and eventually began selling paintings to go in them. When Charles showed an aptitude for painting himself, his father enrolled him in Manchester Art College. By the time he was 17, he had been accepted to study art at the Royal Academy in London. He was elected a member at 21.

He promptly set off for a three-year tour of the Continent, studying Renaissance masters in Italy. When he returned, he set about doing commercial painting, creating works that had instant appeal. While portraits were his bread and butter, his scenes of polite society vaulted him into popularity. With names like "Love Will Triumph" and "The Keepsake," each painting told a story. I’m sure you can see why they were so popular.

He exhibited his paintings at the Royal Academy from 1874 to 1904. They found their way onto greeting cards and into galleries and collections around the world. His income grew sufficiently that he could devote himself to more “serious” works. This appears to be scenes of villagers laboring. Those paintings earned him more critical acclaim.

Though Charles Haigh-Wood passed away in 1927, in recent years, some of his paintings have come up for auction, one fetching above $70,000. 

People love the Regency, even reimagined!

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Regency Fabrics, Part 28

Here’s another post in our ongoing series on Regency fabrics.

As I have in previous posts, I’ll be examining actual fabric samples glued into several earlier editions of Ackermann’s Repository, samples supplied by the manufacturers and published by Ackermann in order to boost the British cloth-making industry at a time when exporting British goods to Europe was almost impossible because of the Napoleonic war. I'll give you a close-up scan of each sample, the published description if available, and my own observations of the color, weight, condition, and similarity to present-day materials, to give you as close a picture as possible of what these fabrics are like.

Today’s three samples are from the September 1811 issue of Ackermann’s Repository. The overall condition of my copy is excellent; the page itself is free of foxing and is only slightly toned. One of the samples shows some foxing, but overall they’re in very good condition.

Here we go!

No. 1 and 2. A striped Persian dove-coloured chintz for window-curtains and bed furniture. The colour of this article is so chaste, and at the same time so perfectly neutral, that fringed trimming of any hue will suit it; a rich gold yellow, however, is particularly adapted to shew it to the greatest advantage. This pattern is supplied by Mr. Allen, 61, Pall-Mall, whose taste as a designer and printer of furniture is so conspicuously displayed in the elegance of all his productions, as to have procured him the most flattering patronage of His Royal Highness the Prince Regent.

My comments: Hmm. I’d always thought “dove-coloured” to be a grayish color, but this sample is decidedly brown; either it has changed over the years, or the definition has. It’s a nicely evenly-woven, not-too-heavily glazed chintz, which would drape well but would likely need lining to give it sufficient body for curtains.

No. 2. is a celestial blue waved gauze for evening dress. This article, equally novel and graceful, should be worn over white satin or sarsnet, and may be had of Messrs. Cooper and Co. silk-mercers, 28, Pall-Mall.

My comments:  Oops—some mis-numbering here. This is an airy net-like fabric, beautifully silky, with a pattern of zig-zags to give it visual interest. The pale sky blue would be lovely over white satin as suggested in the text.

No. 3. A sprigged chintz, designed for morning dresses. It combines a high degree of elegance with a pleasing simplicity; and is sold by Cooper and Co. 113, New-Bond-street.

My comments: Ah, another morning dress print fabric, perhaps for a Morning Dress like this one at left from Ackermann in February 1810. This chintz is woven of very fine thread which makes it sturdy yet supple, and the printing is neatly and accurately done.

What do you think of this month’s fabrics?

Friday, February 28, 2020

Need a Picnic Hamper? Think Fortnum and Mason

Fortnum and Mason is an upscale department store, beloved by millions today. But its roots date back to before the Regency period, and our ladies and gentlemen of the nineteenth century would have been sure to make use of its offerings, especially the famous picnic hamper.

Established in 1707, when an enterprising footman from the household of Queen Anne and his landlord agreed to start a small shop in St. James’s Market, Fortnum and Mason catered to those travelling. One of their earliest innovations was the Scotch egg in 1738. The culinary delight consisted of a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat and coated with deep fried breadcrumbs. I must admit I had never heard of it before researching for this blog post, but you can be sure it will find its way into one of my stories in the future!

One of the greatest needs was from the wealthy who had to travel long distances between their country estates and London. They also needed sustenance when travelling to horse races or out on their pleasure craft. Fortnum and Mason met these needs by stocking hampers with luxury travelling food like poultry in aspic jelly, game pie, cheeses, and fruit cake.

But their efforts extended beyond the wealthy. Fortnum and Mason had a soft spot for the military. They sent dried fruit and other preserves to the British army during the war with Napoleon. And they gave soldiers and sailors discounts on letterboxes—places to send and receive mail.

Fortnum and Mason is located on Piccadilly in London, as it has been since the late 1700s. Charles Dickens even shopped there. You can learn more about the amazing shop on their website

(Picture of the shop courtesy of Michel Wal and hampers courtesy of Matt Brown.)

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Swiss Miss and Sailor Moon?

Well, well. Just when I think I’ve seen everything La Belle Assemblée has to offer, it surpasses itself yet gain. But I’m not sure it can get any better than this. May I present, from the August 1830 issue, some Fancy Ball Dresses...and hoo boy, are they fancy or what?

Here are the descriptions:

Costume of a Swiss Peasant

Over a short but extremely wide petticoat of dark grey silk, with a shaded silk border, is another petticoat somewhat shorter, composed of blue and white striped silk, and ornamented nearly half-way to the waist, with a double row of narrow trimming, of the lozenge form: they are a mixture of dark blue and brown. Low boddice [sic] of flowered silk, over which is a high one, made perfectly tight to the shape, but open on each side of the front, so as partially to display the upper part of the bust, and the under-boddice; a trimming disposed on each side of the bust partially shades it. The boddice is composed of tawny yellow, plain gros de Naples; the arm hole and upper part of the sleeve are ornamented with black silk braiding; a nœud [a knot or bow] of dark blue ribbon is attached on each shoulder; a band passes from it down each side of the boddice, and finishes with a nœud. The sleeve, which sits as close as possible to the arm, terminates below the elbow. The hair is combed back from each side of the face, and arranged in two plaits, mingled with ribbons; a long end of ribbon descends from each nearly as low as the bottom of the dress. The coiffeure is a cap of wrought whalebone, which is a perfect imitation of black lace. The caul is almost flat to the head; two ornaments resembling rings [I think this is a typo for wings] stand up round the face on each side, and a full nœud of ribbon is placed on the summit of the head between the wings; two bands of ribbon descend from the nœud on each side to the middle of each braid, where they are attached by bows. A black velvet collar is fastened in front by a silver buckle. A lappet of the same material as the cap, and very richly wrought, hangs pendant from the collar to the knee. Stockings of vermillion-coloured silk, with white clocks. Sabots of black gros de Naples.

The very short length of the skirt is...well, very short! I’m used to seeing ball dresses a bit above the ankle in length, which only makes sense: tripping over one’s own dress in the middle of a lively dance is the last thing any lady wants to happen. But this is quite a bit above that. And the large headdress would seem to discourage one’s dance partner from looking anywhere but at the dancer’s face, don’t you think? I suspect the “wrought whalebone” part is a carven headband, to which the wings attach.

And then we get to the truly surprising part...ladies wearing what look like culottes—to a ball!

A Lady in Sailor’s Costume

This is one of those travestissements which are not unusually adopted in French fancy balls. At those splendid ones given in the winter at the French Opera House, there were many ladies of rank and fashion in similar dresses. We have selected one of the prettiest of them as the subject of our print.

Striped silk trowsers, made en matelot [sailor-style], but extremely wide, and finished at the bottom by knots of ponçeau [“poppy-colored”, en Français] ribbon. A plain, tight corsage, cut rather high behind, and very low in front of the bust, is attached to the trowsers. Veste of ponçeau gros de Naples, forming the shape of a heart in front; it is cut out on each side in bands, which resemble braiding, while the open spaces shew the under corsage. A row of rich brandebourgs [the loopy, ribbon-y ornaments seen on military coats] finish it in the hussar style on each side of the front. The jacket, which is exactly in the form of a sailor’s, is of bright blue gros de Naples. Manchettes [frilled cuffs] of embroidered cambric. A cambric frill of the pelerine form, but disposed in full plaits, falls over round the bust; and the throat is encircled with a small black silk cravate à la coquette. Black silk hat, turned up on one side, and ornamented with a black esprit and a knot of ribbon. Ponçeau sash. Black shoes with small gold buckles.

Wowza! It’s amazing what carte blanche a costume ball could lend: ladies “of rank and fashion” appearing in public in silk trousers, no matter how wide?! I love the bright poppy-red military-inspired vest and the jacket “exactly in the form of a sailor’s”, feminized with embroidered cuffs and the wide, flouncing collar of the under-blouse. It’s as cute as anything...but still kind of mind-blowing. Think of how scandalized many people would be by Amelia Bloomer and her very baggy “bloomers” which were as unrevealing as any skirt. Can you just see some daring young woman, set on wearing her sailor costume to show off her shapely attributes, pooh-poohing her scandalized family by saying, “Oh, Mama, it’s French! And after all, it’s only a fancy dress ball! Nobody will care about that!”

So what do you think of this week’s Swiss Miss and Sailor Moon?

Friday, February 21, 2020

A Tale of Writing Spaces

I love that laptops and tablets have made it easy to write anywhere. That wasn’t always the case. Jane Austen may have written some of her novels at a little table. Gentlemen might have a lap desk to carry with them when travelling and much larger desks at their homes. This lady philosopher is said to have gone into raptures after solving a knotty problem at her desk. 

Mine is a different tale. I didn’t have a desk at home growing up. We did our homework and wrote our papers on the kitchen table. I scribbled in notebooks and journals. Sometime in high school, I figured out how to take two particle-board bookcases, turn them side by side, put a plank across one end, and make my own desk. Surrounded by books, I typed stories on an ancient Remington that had belonged to my grandmother. My parents were convinced to purchase me an electric typewriter when I started college.

That funky little make-shift desk followed me from home to my first apartment to a better apartment in another part of the state. A slightly bigger version held the massive electronic typewriter that showed a full sentence at a time—imagine!—and then an actual word processor.

It wasn’t until my sons were in elementary school that my wonderful husband insisted on a real desk for me, oak, with a hutch over the top to store books and room for a printer as well as a computer. And we added three floor-to-ceiling oak bookcases to match. Oh, the luxury. My office grew from a corner of the bedroom to a bedroom of its own—first the smallest, then the mid-size as one son went off to college and finally the largest room when they both left home.

Five and a half years ago, we moved across the state to a smaller house and a fixer-upper at that. I took the smallest room for my office, but it is a very nice size with plenty of room for desk and bookcases. But immediately we ran into problems. My lovely bookcases wouldn’t fit through the door upright, and the turning radius was too narrow to allow them to be angled in, from any angle. We ended up bringing them in through the window, with a burly mover inside and out. They will not be moving until other burly movers appear.

Next, my floor plan was stymied by a defunct baseboard heater. It sticks out six inches from the wall under the window. We should have removed it before bringing in the furnishings, but there were those handy burly movers about. So, a second desk now presses up against it, and the floor plan mostly works.

The third problem we have yet to master. You see, the room used to belong to a teenager with a vivid imagination and an indulgent father. She painted two of the walls teal, two turquoise, and added random hot pink circles of various sizes wherever she fancied. And she painted all the wood trim and the defunct heater purple. (I did mention the house was a fixer-upper.) I fully intended to paint it (a nice Wedgwood blue, perhaps?), but I realized I would have to empty and re-position those bookcases again.

The décor is growing on me.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The Universal Advertising Sheet, Part 5

Let’s see what interesting shreds of personal and social history we can read about, courtesy this week of the Monthly Compendium of Literary, Fashionable, and Domestic Advertisements from the August 1810 edition of La Belle Assemblée...


JOHN FELL, sole inventor of the PORTABLE WIND-UP SHOWER BATHS, respectfully informs the Public that he has ready for Sale, a number of the above universally approved Machines, at his Warehouse, 161, High Holborn, near Broad-street. This invention has received, as it is undoubtedly entitled to, unlimited Patronage. There is a Moveable Cylinder, so admirably contrived as to furnish the utmost facility in filling, and afterwards by gradually elevating it, to produce a shock in such proportion as the feelings, age, or habits of Bathers may require. It is, moreover, made to take to pieces, and pack up most conveniently.—Price from Five to Seven Guineas.—N.B. J.F. is Inventor and Vender of the Corking Machines so much in present use.

Showers weren’t so much used for getting clean as they were for a sort of do-it-yourself  health treatment, rather like sea-bathing was done for curative, not recreational, purposes. Interestingly, when I went to look for more information on Mr. Fell, I found mention in 1887 of a John Fell and Co., suppliers of bath and lavatory valves and beer machines and bar fittings—which covers both his shower baths and the Corking Machines mentioned in the ad. 


The Clubs met with great success in the last Lottery at HORNSBY and Co.’s, Cornhill; part of the 20,000 l. sold by them, was divided among Thirteen jolly Watermen of St. Catherine’s; besides Shares in the Borough, and many other places in the Metropolis; and also at Liverpool, Bath, Chester, Taunton, Leith, and Deal—Many Clubs are now forming from Gravesend to Richmond, and every other place in the Kingdom; and additional £20,000 in the present Lottery, to be drawn October the 19th, creates a strong desire of adventuring.

Lotteries were quite the thing at this time, as Regina once posted about here...but I love the “Thirteen Jolly Watermen of St. Catherine’s” touch in this particular ad.

Rational, Pleasing, and useful.
No. 14, Tavistock-street, Covent Garden.
Greatly Enlarged.

The Public are respectfully informed, that valuable and expensive Works, in every class of Literature, are daily added to this Library; which now consists of sixty thousand Volumes of modern Publications, really valuable, useful, and entertaining.

Catalogues and Cards of the terms may be had on application at the Library.

Books were expensive to purchase outright; a typical three-volume novel could run upward of several guineas for a heavily illustrated tome. Enter the subscription library, where for a fee books could be borrowed before the free public library became a fixture of philanthropic giving later in the century.  Even small towns and villages could often boast of at least one small one, and London and other cities were rife with them, and advertised their wares we can see here.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Enjoy the Day of Love!

Happy Valentine’s Day! I’ll be spending the evening with my favorite fellow. I have a candlelight dinner planned, ending in angel food cake and strawberries. I hope you have a chance to celebrate with those you love!

We’ve talked about Valentine’s Day in the nineteenth century a number of times, including here, here, here, and here. This year, I thought you might enjoy seeing some Valentines from the era. The one at the top is a lovely Kate Greenaway version. I think it's supposed to be depict medieval times, but aren't the dresses perfect for the Regency?

The one below is by Esther Howland, dating from about 1870. She truly had a knack.

This is from 1884. Such a demure young miss!

And this is certainly something, from 1862.

Oh, and one more Valentine, from me to you. The first book in my Lady Emily Capers, Secrets and Sensibilities, is on sale until the 21st for 99 cents. The boxed set of Secrets and Sensibilities, Art and Artifice, and a special short story not available elsewhere is two dollars off at $3.99.



Friday, February 7, 2020

In Which the Author Cobbles Together Tantalizing Snippets and Calls It a Blog Post

I have a cold. Not miserable. Yet. But I looked at what I had considered blogging about today and decided it was just too much to bear. Party for pity? Yes, please. One only. So, instead, I offer you some enticing tidbits sure to warm any fan of Regency-set fiction.

Author Regina Jeffers has an interesting post on her blog about letters during the Regency period, including information on franking (basically, using something to indicate you didn’t have to pay postage) and seals. 

Author Victoria Hinshaw has a fabulous post about Osterley Park on the Number One London blog. Osterley Park is the basis for Carrolton Park in Never Envy an Earl. The blog has awesome pictures!

And author Elaine Bach, on Caroline Warfield’s wonderful blog, shares the horrifying details about Regency-era medicine

I’m taking notes on that one. Book 3 of the Grace-by-the-Sea series features a hero who is the new spa physician. I found a great medical manual dating from the late 1700s, on Google Books. I can tell you, reading it is not for the faint of heart.

Makes a cold seem positively invigorating!

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Fancy Mourning Dishabille, Of Course

Ah, La Belle Assemblée never fails to inform...and delight!

Behold this marvelous “invention” of Mrs. Bell in the January 1818 issue—a Fancy Mourning Dishabille!

The accompanying text reads “Morning slip of grey Merino crape, ornamented with black round the border in ranges of leaves; the slip made low, without sleeves, and worn over a cambric spencer, ornamented with fine muslin, embroidered at the edge with black, and finished at the throat with a triple ruff of muslin, tied in front with black love. Black sarsnet French apron, edged round with a newly invented trimming of black love. Cornette of fine muslin, crowned with a garland of black flowers. Black chamois slippers.

So... why mourning? A look at the date answers that: official mourning was still in effect for Princess Charlotte of Wales, Prinny’s daughter who died in childbirth the previous November. This dress moves into the half-mourning range, as the dress is of gray crepe rather than black and includes a white cambric undershirt, or spencer, and white muslin headdress.

And the “Fancy Dishabille” part? That title and the decorative apron suggest this was a dress to be worn “at home”...but not when one’s plans included giving the dog a bath and cleaning out the
lingerie drawer! Rather, it was for when one was expecting, say, friends and acquaintances to drop by—maybe to pay “thank you for your hospitality” calls after a dinner or party, as one did.

I’m intrigued by the references to the “ black love” trimming the French apron and the hat: it looks almost like a chenille trimming of some sort, or perhaps a pleated ribbon. The apron itself—I’m not sure what makes it French, but it’s certainly a fetching enough article. And the leaf decoration around the hem definitely presages the heavily decorated dress hems that were soon to be all the rage.

What do you think? Will this be your next lounging-about-at-home costume?