Those intrepid Dandy Chargers will embark on their eighteenth year of appearances in Regency dress, riding their Regency-era hobby horses. Those are the delightful vehicles which were also known as draisiennes, velocipedes, dandy horses and pedestrian curricles during our favorite period. Last year, the Dandy Chargers celebrated the bicentennial of the invention of the velocipede in Germany. This year, they will celebrate the bicentennial of the construction of the first dandy horses in England, at the very place where those first two-wheeled vehicles were made. They will also be making appearances at other Regency-themed events in Britain this summer.
Where to find the Dandy Chargers in 2018 . . .
Two hundred years ago, a chess-playing automaton returned to London, where it was on exhibit for much of the year. This same automaton, widely known as "The Turk," had already been displayed in England, thirty-five years before. However, a few tweaks had been made to the machine since its last tour of Britain. More importantly, there was a whole new generation of people in Britain who had never seen The Turk. One of those people was inspired to create what is now considered to be the first mechanical computer. To help increase the public’s interest, the owner of The Turk had a few other mechanical contraptions which were included in his exhibition. A visit to The Turk might make for an amusing or engaging scene in a Regency romance.
A brief history of The Turk and its 1818 return to London . . .
Last week, I wrote about the early life of Robert Coates in the West Indies, his move to England, Bath to be specific, and his introduction to life in London. Over the course of his life in Britain, he acquired a plethora of nicknames, most given to him by others. But he did have one, which he most preferred, probably because he chose it for himself. Though he came to Britain as a wealthy man, he was very generous with his money, and in the later years of the Regency, the source of his wealth was affected by trouble in his homeland so much that his failing finances forced him to flee to France.
Robert Coates ‘ life in London, and beyond . . .
Robert Coates was one of the most well-known and interesting eccentrics who lived in Regency England, so much so that he acquired a number of different nicknames over the course of his life, all of them related to those things about which he was quite passionate. He was partial to an extravagant style of dress which often generated derisive comments from those who saw him. He was thoroughly enamored with acting and did so at nearly any opportunity, yet Coates was considered a perfectly dreadful actor, and was often jeered by the audience. Remarkably, Coates seems to have been oblivious to the negative remarks made about his wardrobe and his acting, among his other eccentricities. He blithely went about his life in England, amusing many of the people who encountered him throughout most of the Regency, doing quite a bit of good along the way.
How Robert Coates came to London . . .
Though it may seem incomprehensible to most of us today, until the mid-nineteenth century, only a small percentage of people ever saw the reflection of their entire body in a looking glass. That was due to the fact that looking glasses, what we more commonly call mirrors today, were very expensive. Only the very wealthy could afford a looking glass large enough to see their entire reflection. Most people had to settle with a small glass, just large enough to see their face, while some people never owned any kind of a mirror at all. By the middle of the nineteenth century, new techniques were developed which significantly reduced the cost of making mirrors, thus making it possible for more people to have mirrors, including large ones.
A brief look at the development of looking glasses . . .
This coming Thursday marks the two hundredth anniversary of the earliest possible date for Easter Sunday in the Western Christian calendar in half a millenia. Easter will not fall that early in the year again for more than two hundred and fifty years. That very early Easter date caused significant angst for some of our more superstitious Regency ancestors, and at least a few of them believed it was responsible for the demise of one of the members of the royal family later that year. Regardless of its early date, the Easter of 1818 was accompanied by the many other superstitions which surrounded this springtime holiday.
The earliest Easter . . .
Though they were not as ubiquitous as they are today, some canned foods were available during the Regency, thanks, in part, to Napoleon Bonaparte. The French General did not invent the process himself, but it is due to him that it was originally discovered. As was common practice at the time, once the French version of the canning process was known, that process was enhanced and improved by a man in England, ironically, in large part for the benefit of the Royal Navy. Though canned foods were not widely available in Great Britain during the Regency, the process had been perfected there, and it is not beyond the realm of possibility that a few canned foods might turn up in a Regency romance.
Canned foods through the Regency . . .