Two hundred years ago, yesterday, Napoleon Bonaparte, reduced from Emperor of the French to the Emperor of Elba, left his tiny island kingdom. He set sail for the south coast of France with over a thousand men under his personal command, intent on regaining his former title and power. His arrival in Paris three weeks later marked the beginning of the "Hundred Days," which would culminate that June on the battlefield of Waterloo.
The how and why of Napoleon’s escape . . .
And so it was during the Regency, to quote the old song. There are many species of bananas, including the soft, sweet yellow ones with which most of us are familiar today. Unfortunately for our Regency ancestors, though bananas were known in Britain at the time, it was only in pictures in books. The fruit itself was not available in early nineteenth-century Britain, and would not be until the last quarter of the century. Therefore, no one living in England during the Regency would have enjoyed a fresh banana, banana creme pie, banana pudding, banana bread or even the occasional banana split. However, bananas were not only known but eaten in other parts of the British Empire, though at the time, they were not considered an upscale food, nor were they particularly sweet.
Bananas in the Regency . . .
In honor of Valentine’s Day, the holiday devoted to love, a discussion of a practice common during the Regency, which many women took as proof of the love and respect of their betrothed or their husband. And yet, today, such a practice would offend most women, should they learn about it. They would take it as an insult and thus such an action would put their fiancé or husband squarely in the basement of the doghouse.
Why there is less eighteenth-century jewellery today than there was before the Regency . . .
Today, the finest wool there is is that from Merino sheep. Such had been the case from the late Middle Ages right into the Regency. But for centuries, that particular breed of sheep was closely held in Spain and could not be exported. That all began to change in the last decades of the eighteenth century and into the early nineteenth century. So much so that there was what amounted to a Merino craze across Europe and America at that time. However, unlike most of the articles which I post here, in terms of Merino sheep and Regency Britain, this must be something of a negative tale.
Where were Merino sheep during the Regency?
Though no one but a botanical scholar or historian would credit it today, tobacco was first imported from the New World to the Old World as a medicinal plant. It was still held to have those properties for certain uses during the Regency. Even those who used tobacco in its various forms during the Regency did so under the impression it was good for them, or, at the very least, that it did them no harm. Which was partially true, since the tobacco used during the early nineteenth century actually contained fewer toxins than the majority of tobacco products available today.
The medicinal uses of tobacco during the Regency . . .
One of my favorite things about doing research is when I happen upon a book on a topic in my area of interest of which I was previously unaware. I got a real treat a few weeks ago when I found a book on pleasure gardens which was published a couple of years ago. The Pleasure Garden, from Vauxhall to Coney Island was published in 2013. It is a set of essays on several aspects of the origins and development of the pleasure garden, edited by Jonathan Conlin.
Some of the highlights in the history of pleasure gardens . . .
Scholars working in libraries during the Regency would not have been able to locate the books they were seeking using a card catalog or a call number, since neither had been invented at that time. However, as the number of books increased, librarians did find methods by which to organize their collections and enable them to retrieve the books their patrons were seeking with relative ease. The key to that organization was the pressmark.
How Regency readers found their books . . .