Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Just Because

I think it’s time for some fashionable eye candy, courtesy of La Belle Assemblée. There’s something very relaxing about contemplating many of these prints, and this one, from the January 1810 issue showing fashions for February, is particularly pretty:

Evening Dress

A jacket of pale buff Merino cloth, with antique stomacher, richly embroidered in green chenille, finished with silk tassels; a fine India muslin petticoat and train, embroidered round the bottom with a trimming to correspond, and worn over a white satin slip. A Spanish cap of cloth and green satin, of the same colour as the dress, ornamented with a long green drooping ostrich feather, border similar to the dress. A French shawl of ruby coloured silk. Emerald necklace and earrings. Green kid slippers with silver roses. Limerick gloves. The hair on the forehead in short ringlets, with a long Theresa curl flowing gracefully over the left shoulder.

I’m fascinated by the construction of the “jacket” : it’s very abbreviated, with the front consisting of the stomacher (the decorated piece over the bust and tummy) and a strappy belt. I’ll bet it would have been a pain in the you-know-what to wear—probably shifting all over the place unless one sat or stood very still (or had pinned it into place!)—but it’s quite charming in an illustration (and I like the sneaky way the artist gave us the peplum-ish back view on the lady descending the stairs at right!) The embroidery around the hem of the muslin petticoat completes it nicely. And the tassels—I love tassels. 😍  And then there are her gloves: we learned about tan Limerick glovesmade of exquisitely fine calfskinin the Accessories series.

The hat is quite a confection itself, with the matching chenille embroidery, that ostrich feather (!), and the insouciant long curl “flowing gracefully” over one shoulder; evidently one should not have cut one’s hair into a fashionable crop to sport this look. The image does not include the “emerald necklace and earrings” suggested in the text, but I kind of like the jaunty gold hoops and big pearl necklace—combined with the hat, they have an almost piratical air.  And of course, even though the Peninsular War raged on, a “French shawl” was still acceptable, because fashion.

What do you think of this decorative, if improbable, ensemble? 

And just a quick note: Regina and I will be taking a few days off to enjoy the Independence Day holiday. We hope you'll enjoy your holiday as well!

Friday, June 26, 2020

Discover More Regency Reads to Love, Courtesy of The Beau Monde

Marissa and I have posted in the past about our membership in The Beau Monde, a group devoted to writers of Regency-era fiction. Normally, we attend the annual meeting and conference every July. Because of COVID-19, The Beau Monde is hosting a virtual retreat today and tomorrow for its authors and other writers, with more than 200 expected. Wow! And that means a special treat for you too!

A number of authors will be showcasing their books in videos on The Beau Monde’s Facebook page on Friday and Saturday. More than a dozen authors will tell you about their latest and how to learn more about them. You may just find your next favorite!

And if you haven’t tried the Fortune’s Brides series yet, or you enjoyed it and would like to point others that direction, be aware that the first book in the series, Never Doubt a Duke, is free on major online retailers around the world through June 29.

I will so miss rooming with my dear Marissa on this conference, but I will take solace in the fact that we will at least see each other via the conference Zoom. 


Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Being a Homebody

I’ve been very much a homebody lately—haven’t we all? Being at home for me hasn’t chafed at all: I’ve been gardening up a storm—look at those zucchini, cucumbers, and green beans! 

My fingernails are permanently stained from weeding, and Beatrice-bunny has been feasting on fresh parsley, cilantro, and Italian dandelions from my herb planters.

And when not outdoors, I’ve generally had a paintbrush in my hand—my office now wears a handsome coat of “Creamy Mushroom” and my bedroom is cool and blue in “Life at Sea.”

And then I remembered Mrs. Hurst Dancing.

Mrs.Hurst Dancing is a delightful book I mentioned here back in 2010—it’s a collection of drawings by Diana Sperling, a young lady who lived with her family at a comfortable country house in Essex in the early years of the 19th century. Di (as she was called) recorded her family’s doings between 1812 and her marriage in 1834 in a series of watercolor drawings in a charmingly naïve style, and they are suffused with good humor and charm…as well as giving us an excellent picture of life among the country gentry at this time.

And what do we see the Sperling family doing? Among other things, they redecorate…

And plant a garden…

And suddenly, 1820 doesn’t seem all that far from 2020...

What are you doing at home?

* * * * * * * * * * *

In a postscript, one other thing I’ve been doing is receiving some good news: Evergreen is a finalist in two RWA chapter contests—the NationalReaders’ Choice Awards and the Prism Awards. More news soon!


Friday, June 19, 2020

Don’t Go Near the Waters!

I must admit to some trepidation when I decided to make the hero of my upcoming release, The Artist’s Healer, a physician. Medicine and the medical profession aren’t subjects I delve into much today, so tackling them in the nineteenth century seemed daunting. But once again, I was delighted that my research (lovely, lovely research) turned up some wonderful source materials, including a treatise that was used to teach medicine during the early nineteenth century. My copy was the sixteenth edition, published in 1798 and authored by Dr. William Buchan, Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh.

Dr. Buchan was something of a celebrity. His treatise was first published in 1769, and the last edition was published in 1871, decades after his death. It was translated into most European languages. The full title (and it’s a whopper!) is Domestic Medicine; Or, A Treatise on the Prevention and Cure of Diseases by Regimen and Simple Medicines, With an Appendix, Containing a Dispensatory for the Use of Private Practitioners. To which are Added, Observations on the Diet of the Common People Recommending a Method of Living Less Expensive, and More Conducive to Health, Than the Present. Phew!

But what tickled me most about the book was the entire chapter devoted to saltwater bathing and drinking mineral waters at a spa.

Dr. Buchman has a number of concerns about spas. “No part of the practice of medicine is of greater importance, or merits more the attention of the physician, as many lives are lost, and numbers ruin their health, by cold [saltwater] bathing, and the imprudent use of the mineral waters.”

According to Buchman, only a physician in residence at a spa will have occasion to both know the properties of the waters and to apply them to cure disease. When used improperly, he claims saltwater bathing can cause apoplexy, fever, and diseases that outlast any benefit. He thinks even less highly of warm water bathing but acknowledges that it is little used in Britain. (Personally, I wouldn’t brag about that!)

He does, however, believe that saltwater bathing is particularly useful for those living in populous cities, who “indulge in idleness and lead sedimentary lives.” He advises it for the nervous, which “includes a great number of the male and almost all of the female inhabitants of great cities.” Humph! He also discusses the practice of throwing cold water over a person coming out of a warm bath. “Though this may not injure a Russian peasant, we would not recommend it to the inhabitants of this country.”

He has more to say about drinking mineral waters. He recommends drinking a little over time, because too much too fast will cause a “purge.” (Anyone who has endured the preparations for a colonoscopy will understand fully.) He prescribes a half pint glass at bedtime and an hour before breakfast, dinner, and supper.

But my favorite recommendation? When one goes to a spa to drink the waters, it is best to relax, breathe the fresh air, stroll the shops, and enjoy the company. My hero physician, and the citizens of Grace-by-the-Sea, would agree.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Such Language! Part 26

More wordly wonderment and wackiness, with some help from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. What's your favorite word this week?

Cream-pot love: Such as young fellows pretend to dairy-maids, to get cream and other good things from them. (My brother Augustus brings a posy every week to our cook and swears eternal devotion, but we all know it’s simply cream-pit love.)

Plump currant: I am not plump currant; I am out of sorts. (Overindulgence in Cook’s strawberry rhubarb curd tarts might explain why he is not in plump currant this evening.)

Inexpressibles: Breeches. (Augustus swore he hadn’t had a single tart, but suspicious red stains on his inexpressibles told a different tale.)

Fire shovel: He or she when young, was fed with a fire shovel; a saying of persons with wide mouths. (Augustus’s long devotion to Cook might explain why he appears to have been fed with a fire shovel, but Papa’s mouth is similarly wide.)

Gallied: Hurried, vexed, over-fatigued, perhaps like a galley slave. (Poor Cook tends to look more than a little gallied when Augustus is home from school during holidays.)

May bees: May bees don’t fly all the year long; an answer to anyone who prefaces a proposition with, It may be. (Augustus hopes that maybe the strawberries will have a longer season this year; in response, Cook was heard to mutter something about May bees.)

Hum durgeon: An imaginary illness. (Grandmama’s latest hum durgeon involves an infirmity in her spleen; her liver is undoubtedly relieved to have the week off.)