Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Posts That Go Bump in the Night

We’ve not had very much to say about Halloween on NineteenTeen, mostly because it wasn’t all that much of a “holiday” to the 19th century misses we often write about....though I can't imagine that they wouldn't have enjoyed parts of it as celebrated in the 21st century.

But that doesn’t mean that our 19th century misses didn’t enjoy a shiver or two, whatever day the calendar said it was … and those shivers could generally be found in a circulating library. Spooky stories had become to come into their own in the second half of the 18th century, and authors such as Horace Walpole, Ann Radcliffe, and Matthew Lewis wrote hugely popular "horrid" fiction—stories that would eventually be gently lampooned by Jane Austen. Later in the century and up to this day, tales of ghosts and the supernatural were more likely to be popular in Britain around a different holiday; authors like M.R. James wrote ghost stories for the Christmas season that still raise goosebumps on readers today.

And, after all, maybe Halloween was not widely observed because unexplained phenomena—ghosts and other echoes of the past—are so common in Britain. When unexplained footsteps and cold drafts happen every day, who needs a special spooky holiday?

Hmm. Then again, if Reece's Peanut Butter Cups are involved, I just may have to raise my hand...


Have a sweet, shivery evening, everyone!

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Not a Slippery Slope


Here’s a bit of a riddle to introduce today’s topic: can you guess what it is?

  • Jane Austen wrote her books on one.
  • The daughters of George III had them for their voluminous correspondence and artwork.
  • You can order one on-line right this minute, from a multitude of places.

What is it?

It is one of these: writing slopes!

Writing slopes are elegant little boxes (generally twelve to fourteen inches wide and ten to twelve inches deep.) They’re called slopes because they open like so, providing an angled surface (generally around twenty-five or thirty degrees), usually covered with fabric (blue velvet is a favorite) that provides an absorbent surface on which to write—in short, a portable desk.

The interiors are divided into small compart- ments in which one could keep writing paper, pens, ink, penknives, sealing wax, and all the other appurtenances of writing. The tiny ink bottles just slay me!


They could be relatively plain, like this one:



Or elaborately inlaid with decorative woods, bone, mother of pearl, and metal. They often had locks, so that one could store private correspondence in them; some even had secret compartments.

The world is fortunate that Jane Austen's writing slope, a gift from her father in the 1790s, has been preserved—along with are purported to be some of her spectacles! It is in the collections of the British Library; go here to see a couple of really cool 3-D manipulative images of it.

And as for writing slopes today, physical therapists, teachers, and orthopedists have found that using a slanted surface to write, read, or draw at, which is why slanted surfaces are readily available today. However, I’ve yet to see one as pretty as those from the 19th century!

* * * * *

Speaking of slopes…slide your mind back to March 2022, when NineteenTeen welcomed guest blogger Katie Kennedy to talk about which president she would most prefer to go bathing suit shopping with (among other things!) I’m happy to report that Katie’s The Presidents Decoded: A Guide to the Leaders Who Shaped Our Nation is out today!  You can find it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or your favorite independent bookstore.

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Why Celebrate One Regency Holiday When You Can Celebrate Six?

We’ve talked about a number of Regency holidays over the years such as Christmas and Easter. I’m delighted to report that I have a Regency steampunk story, in the Regent’s Devices universe, out this Thursday. Like the other stories, which are more-traditional Regencies, it centers around a Regency holidays. We cover from May Day to Twelfth Night, featuring some of your favorite tropes—enemies-to-lovers, second-chance romance, forbidden love, friends-to-lovers, and more! The collection includes the following stories:

May Day Mayhem by Ann Chaney—Intrigue, death, and love come to Horsham-Upon-the-Thames as the small English village anticipates their May Day celebration. Home Office agents the Duke of Doncaster and governess Helen Stokes join forces to uncover a missing list of French agents before an enemy discovers it. Mired in May Day preparations while chasing hoodlums and gentry, Helen and Doncaster try to fight their mutual attraction in a romantic farce worthy of Covent Garden.

My Favorite Mistake by Courtney McCaskill—Sixteen years ago, lady’s maid Fanny Price was swept off her feet by a handsome horse trainer named Nick Cradduck. The very next day, he shattered her heart. But now, at the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake, who should Fanny encounter but the man she crossed all of England to avoid… A second-chance love story featuring Fanny, the scene-stealing lady’s maid from How to Train Your Viscount!

His Damsel by Charlotte Russell—During her annual visit to Bartholomew Fair, Eliza Cranstoun is mistaken for a lady in distress when in fact she was attempting to avenge the honor of her cousin. Now, she insists Anthony Ripley, her savior, help her bring down a lordly scoundrel. Amidst the scheming however, the independent Eliza and the confirmed bachelor Anthony, discover that love finds even those who choose not to seek it.

When I Fall In Love by Cora Lee—The Harvest Festival is a chance for reunions and love, but perhaps not for childhood friends Sylvie Devereaux and Kit Mathison. When Kit returns to renovate the home he inherited, Sylvie’s financial burdens prompt Kit to propose a marriage of convenience. But Sylvie has always wanted to marry for love, and they don't love each other…do they?

Remember by Shannon Donnelly—Over the years, Beatrice Foxton keeps meeting up with Andrew Cliffs on Guy Fawkes Night, but these two friends are separated by her family’s expectations for her to marry a well-born lord and his family’s background in trade. And, yet, they can’t stay away from each other...

The Aeronaut’s Heart by Regina Scott—Josephine Aventure was on her way to earning a place in England’s Aeronautical Corps until the dashing smuggler she’d once loved showed up. Etienne Delaguard risked much to help England win the war against France. Over a Twelfth Night masquerade, can a gentleman of the sea win the heart of a lady of the air?

You can find all the links to your favorite online retailers here.

Time to celebrate!

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Regency Fabric, Part 36

 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 December 1813 issue of Ackermann’s Repository. The overall condition of my copy is very good: the paper itself is only lightly toned and has minimal spotting.

Here we go!


No. 1 and 2 is a new pattern for furniture, from the extensive warehouse of Mr. Allen, No. 61, Pall-Mall; where a great variety of new designs, of the most tasteful and attractive invention, are continually succeeding each other; and where many elegant patterns, of last season’s introduction, are selling at reduced prices.—The specimen here given, admits of almost every shade of lining and fringe, from the brilliant rose-colour, to the more cool and softer shades of pea-green and jonquil. Drawing-rooms, boudoirs, and sleeping-rooms, appear to advantage decorated with this species of furniture.

My comments: This does not quite feel like a chintz—the threads are not as fine and even as most chintzes—but seems weighty enough to drape nicely. It’s a touch drab, though—nothing I’d especially want in my drawing room.

No. 3 is a superfine orange Merino cloth, calculated for ladies’ dresses, mantles, and pelisses, which we confidently expect to be the favourite colour for the season, in compliment to our new friends the Dutch. It admits of a great variety of trimming, as fur, satin, velvet, or Chinese floss, and gimp ornaments. It may be purchased of every colour, and is sold by Messrs. Kestevens, York-street, Covent-Garden.

My comments: I certainly can’t accuse this sample of drabness! It’s autumn woven into fabric—not a color one usually associates with Regency dresses. Being Merino, I imagine it would make a warm and lightweight garment. Not as smooth as a challis, say—the weave is not as smooth. But very cozy!

 No.4 is a delicate and choice article for gentlemens waistcoats; and, when trimmed with sable or other Russian skin, offers a becoming and seasonable article for gentlemens winter wear. It is sold by the same house as the preceding.


My comments: A very handsome fabric indeed—a sort of heavy corded silk, perhaps?—with a fine brown stripe…but what I want to know is how the writer of this description thought fur should come into the picture. As a lining, perhaps? I certainly can’t imagine a fur trim as we think of “trimming”, but a sable-lined waistcoat would be seasonable indeed!

What do you think of this month’s fabrics?