The woman about whom this biography was written died near the end of the Regency, and she never set foot in England in her life. Despite its rather dour title, this is one of the most vivid and intimate biographies of anyone I have ever read. Yet Mary Fish was not a prominent citizen or a powerful public figure. Nor was she married to one. Mary was an ordinary woman who lived among ordinary people. The kind of woman about which very little is known, because few such women left behind any record of their lives. But, unlike many other women of her era, a great deal is known about Mary because her youngest son did become a prominent man. He revered his mother, and kept her private papers, ensuring their survival into modern times.
The Way of Duty: A Woman and Her Family in Revolutionary America was researched and written by the husband and wife team of Joy Day and Richard Buel, Jr. Sadly, Joy Buel has since passed away, but this biography still remains as a testament to her scholarship and skill as a writer.
Posted in Reviews
Tagged Books, Regency
During the Regency, there were still some wealthy aristocrats, and quite a few royals, whose funerals were held after dark. But those night-time funerals had their origins in the seventeenth century and actually began as a revolt by a number of Scottish aristocrats against the overbearing authority of the College of Arms. They persisted into the Regency in large measure as a status symbol, by which they demonstrated to the community the wealth and social superiority of the family of the deceased.
When artificial light was a statement of rank and power . . .
Two hundred years ago today, a freak accident occurred which sent a flood of beer into the poor London neighborhood of St. Giles. This was not just any beer. It was porter, at the time, the beer which was most popular with London’s working classes. This unexpected flood demolished all or part of four buildings, killed at least eight people and injured many more. Some believed this disaster could have been avoided, while others believe it was a case of negligence on the part of the owners of the brewery. Reports of the event on the day record that bystanders acted with extraordinary decency and consideration, while the reports which came later stigmatized the crowd as unruly, insensitive ruffians.
The great Regency porter flood . . .
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.