Of Inkstands and Standishes

Even before the Regency, these diminutive and decorative altars to the pursuit of belle lettres could be found on the desks of most educated people. Before the Regency came to a close, they could also be found in the homes of the middle classes as well as the upper classes. Like snuff boxes, watches and other personal items, they were also sometimes made as special presentation or keepsake items to honor the recipient and/or to memorialize an important event. Though these delightful objects were nearly ubiquitous during the Regency, they have long since fallen out of daily use. Therefore, a modern-day Regency author may want to know more about them in order to make use of one or more of them in an upcoming romance.

Standishes and inkstands through the Regency . . .

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Moss Agates:   Pictures and Power

Despite their name, there was actually no moss within these lovely and fascinating semi-precious gemstones. However, it was not until the latter half of the nineteenth century that the true make-up of these stones was fully understood. Therefore, our Regency ancestors were quite certain that real moss had been trapped within these alluring and engaging stones. During the Regency, and for centuries before, many people also thought these unique and exquisite stones had powerful healing and protective properties. Therefore, the superstitions surrounding, and the beauty of, moss agates might prove useful to a plethora of plot points for a Regency romance.

Moss agates through the Regency . . .

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Cheapside Was Not Cheap!

In fact, quite a lot of money changed hands there every day during the Regency, as it had for many centuries before. It was not the "cheapness" of Cheapside which caused most people in high society to look down their noses at the area and those who lived or worked there. It was all that appallingly exuberant commerce which was daily transacted along that thoroughfare that rankled with the most pretentious members of society. Yet the area along Cheapside was crucial to the ecomony of London and of Britain during our favorite decade. Despite the aspersions which Mr. Bingley’s sisters cast on Cheapside in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, that area holds much promise as a setting for a scene, or a series of them, in an upcoming romance.

Cheapside through the Regency . . .

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Zoffany’s Painting of the Royal Academicians

This painting is considered by many to be one of Zoffany’s outstanding paintings and a tour de force. Though it was completed in 1772, and the artist passed away in 1810, this fascinating group portrait was the property of the king and it was on display from time to time during the Regency. Though, on the surface, it may appear to be a group portrait of the founders of the Royal Academy, there are many inside jokes and even a few risque comments about some of the members incorporated into the painting. Though most people today are unaware of Zoffany’s mischievous presentation of his fellow Royal Academicians, there were many people living during the Regency who would have been fully cognizant of its sometimes ironic, naughty and/or chauvinist secrets. There are any number of ways in which a Regency author might incorporate these details into a romance set during our favorite decade.

The special meanings to be found in Zoffany’s painting of the early Royal Academicians . . .

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Regency Bicentennial:   Jellies Before Jell-O

This year marks the two hundredth anniversary of the introduction of the industrial manufacture of gelatin. Prior to 1818, anyone who wanted to enjoy a dish which included gelatin, such as jellies or aspics, would have to spend a great deal of time extracting it from various animal sources. Therefore, only the affluent were able to enjoy special treats like jellies, since they had the staff available to do all the work necessary to create the crucial ingredient for such elegant dishes. Yet, this new industrial production was due primarily to the privations suffered in France during the Napoleonic Wars.

Jellies, from glue to health food to dessert . . .

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Of The Woman Who Became a Man and a Doctor

During the Regency, a young woman was actively engaged in transforming herself into a man, and then into a highly competent doctor. This determined woman then went on to live the rest of her life as a man. She joined the British Army, and eventually attained the second highest medical office in the service. As a respected doctor, she also lobbied for a number of medical reforms which saved or improved thousands of lives. She managed to hide her gender until her death, when it was revealed, against her wishes. There was great consternation when that fact became public and such a scandal that Army officials sealed all of their records regarding the doctor for a century.

When Margaret Anne Bulkley transformed herself into Dr. James Barry. . .

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Regency Bicentennial:   Venus Occults Jupiter

This very rare astronomical event occurred two hundred years ago, this week. However, the fact is, during the Regency, this event was "occult" in more ways than one. Very few of our Regency ancestors would have seen it, those that did so had to travel nearly halfway around the globe, and there are no known written observational records of this event which are extant today. Nevertheless, due to the extreme rarity of this astronomical event, a Regency author might find it a useful plot device for a special romance set during this extraordinary and spectacular "affair" between Venus and Jupiter.

When Venus occulted Jupiter in the Regency . . .

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