The title of this article might just as well be "Lights on the Streets of Regency London," except that in the Regency, the dark of night was more powerful than any light which was used against it at that time. While doing research into various night-time events, I discovered some details about the appearance of London streets at night which will be of interest to Regency authors. Today, we have all lived with street lights for so long that we assume they have always existed and have always thrown the same amount of light. But they have not.
The gender of the night and the pools of light and shadow along Regency streets . . .
Gems of one type or another have been thought to possess a host of magical properties for many centuries across a number of different cultures. The magical property of each gem depended upon the type of stone and the culture in which it obtained. Despite the gradual diminution in superstitions through the course of the Age of Enlightenment during the eighteenth century, a few lingered into the nineteenth century. One of those lingering superstitions was the belief in the power of certain gemstones to provide some kind of special protection to the person who carried it.
During the Regency, these superstitions were not limited to the uneducated or those of the lower classes. There were even some among Continental royalty who held this opinion, including the Queen of Holland . . .
Recently, I published a review here of the biography of Lucia Mocenigo, a Venetian lady who lived through the Napoleonic era. The author, Andrea di Robilant, is that lady’s great-great-great-great-grandson, and spent many hours pouring over her papers and those of her family, in order to piece together her life. He also made it a point to visit all the places which were important in Lucia’s life. One of those places was the great Mocenigo estate north of Venice. It was there that Lucia’s husband built a villa for the family. And, it was there that di Robilant first learned of a unique and mysterious rose which was still growing on the estate and might be connected to Lucia.
Chasing the Rose: An Adventure in the Venetian Countryside is the story of the search for the origins of that special rose.
Though we usually spell the name of this now ubiquitous vegetable as "celery" today, during the Regency, it was just as often spelled "celeri" due to its supposed French and Italian origins. Because it was so difficult and labor-intensive to cultivate, it was indeed a delicacy, to be found only on the dining tables of the most wealthy, who generally grew it in their own gardens. The gardeners who grew celery gave it special care to produce a version of the vegetable seldom seen today. Casanova swore by it and would not venture upon a new conquest without partaking of it. Remarkably, modern-day medical research has borne him out. How our Regency ancestors cultivated and consumed celery . . .
This book, as have been so many which I have reviewed here over the years, was a serendipitous find while I was doing flower research for my debut novel, Deflowering Daisy. I actually read its quasi-sequel first, the search for one of this lady’s roses. More of that anon. But it was the search for a single rose over the course of two centuries which is what made me want to read Lucia’s story. The majority of my Regency research has been very much focused on England during that time. Lucia’s biography was incredibly enlightening for me, since it is the life of a young woman from a patrician Venetian family who lived during the decade of the English Regency, on the Continent, from Italy to Austria to France.
Why I found Lucia’s biography so rich and so compelling . . .
For those of you who may not be familiar with the term, abcedarium is taken from Latin, and by the last decades of the eighteenth century in England, was certainly the most highbrow of the words which denoted a book or list of the letters of the alphabet. These alphabetical word books or lists were also known as abcee, abcie or absey books, and were, in most cases, an elementary primer for the teaching of the basics of spelling, reading, and in some cases, even writing. There are versions of these letter books and lists which date back to the medieval era, but some of the most charming and engaging of these books were published just prior to or during the Regency.
Some options for teaching a young child their letters in Regency England . . .
Two hundred years ago, today, the Duke of Wellington moved in to the Palais Borghese in Paris. It was the opulent Paris town home of Princess Pauline Borghese, the youngest sister of the recently deposed French Emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte. As was his practice, Wellington had not commandeered the property of the conquered nation as other leaders might have done. He had directed that the magnificent property be purchased from its notably notorious owner, for use as the British Embassy in Paris. A few days after final negotiations were completed, the Duke moved into Pauline’s palace. Though Wellington spent little time there as ambassador, the grand mansion once known as the Hôtel de Charost became, and remains to this day, the heart of the British Embassy in France.
A brief history of the Palais Borghese and its second incarnation as the British Embassy in Paris . . .