A number of you may be familiar with the many delightful Regencies by best-selling author Emily Hendrickson. However, you may not be aware that she has also written an engaging and enlightening reference on Regency social and cultural history, entitled A Regency Handbook. Whether you are new to that special decade when the Prince of Wales ruled as Regent of England, or if you have been reading Regencies for years, you will find a vast array of new and interesting historical nuggets in this handbook for Regency devotees.
A brief overview of A Regency Handbook …
Though this elegant reference is titled A Regency Handbook, it has not been published in book form. It is available only on CD and is divided into seven sections. Buttons to launch each section are provided on the launch page when you click the RegencyHandbook.exe file. The first section, the Regency Reference Book is also the largest. This section is in .PDF format and runs to 185 pages. It covers a wide array of social and cultural history topics with a focus on those aspects which figure most often in Regency novels. Not only is there a segment on Life in London, but on hotels and gentlemen’s clubs, popular amusements and the social life of the city. Other segments cover English village life, and various modes of travel, on land and water. There are also several segments on aristocratic titles, their rankings and the correct forms of address for each type of title, right down to what would be printed on their calling cards and the correct form of their signatures. The segments on the money of the time are very detailed, from guineas and sovereigns right down to farthings. Hendrickson has a suite of segments which cover various aspects of marriage, including Gretna Green, marriage settlements and even divorce. Many will enjoy the segments on men’s, women’s and children’s clothing, which include a list of Regency-specific color names, and the fashionable fabrics of the time. My favorite segments are those on the language of the Regency, which include both a Regency lexicon and a Regency thesaurus. With this reference, the next time the characters in the Regency novel you are reading start speaking with words whose meanings elude you, it will be a simple matter to find out what they are really saying. For anyone interested in learning even more about the Regency, this section offers an extensive bibliography of sources. However, though the table of contents for this section lists a index, there is no index. Since the handbook is on CD, the ability to search the document electronically does somewhat compensate for the missing index.
The next section, Regency Crafts & Pastimes, is an HTML file and when you click the button for this section, it will open your default web browser. However, you do not need to be connected to the Internet when you click the button for this section, as the file is on the CD. The majority of passtimes covered in this section are those which would have been popular with upper and middle-class ladies. Needlework of various sorts are covered, including needlepoint, embroidery, knitting, knotting and tatting. However, other crafts such as shellwork, quilling, featherwork, papier-maché, wax modelling and drizzling, among others, are explained. This section also includes a list of references for those seeking more information on a specific topic.
There are two sections of the handbook which provide information on different aspects of Regency meals. The Georgian Tea Table, which is in .PDF format, sketches the Regency rituals of tea-taking. I found this section particularly interesting, since Hendrickson provides details on how tea would be taken by people of different classes and incomes. Would you like to know how a mantua-maker might take her tea? Or, are you more interested in how tea was served in the country, or when aristocratic ladies gathered in a London townhouse? You will find that information in this article. The other section which provides information on Regency meals is entitle Dining in Style, and is also in .PDF format. In this article, Hendrickson walks you though all the steps which must be taken to throw a dinner party in the Regency, from deciding on the date on which to have this grand dinner until the moment when the gentlemen joined the ladies after the meal for tea in the drawing room. In addition, information is provided on the details of giving a ball, as well as an overview of the etiquette expected from both the host and hostess and their guests.
The section entitled The Green Bag Traveller offers an overview of travelling during the Regency, from a visit to a great house to the Grand Tour. As for the "Green Bag," it seems that one tour guide advised travelers to carry their belongings in a green, rather than a blue bag, lest they be taken for a lawyer. This article also provides the weight limits on baggage for those who traveled by coach. Hendrickson discusses travel guidebooks, maps and books devoted to the roads of England at this time. She gives some history on how roads were improved by Telford and McAdam, what it was like traveling in the winter or in bad weather. Travel by water, both by sea and inland canals is covered. The options travelers had for meals during their journeys is also discussed. Developments in city street paving and house numbering are also outlined. This article covers a number of aspects of travel from the late eighteenth century up until the arrival of the railroads eventually did away with many of these modes of travel.
Many Regency novels are set all, or in part, in an elegant country mansion. But just how were such houses built? In the section, Building the Stately English Home, you can learn about the architectural and construction practices of the time, which were employed in the building of homes in England during the Regency. Hendrickson touches on some of the primary craftsmen whose talents were required to complete the construction and decoration of a stately home. She even notes that there were occasionally differences of opinion between an architect and his client which might result in a legal dispute. This section also has a brief bibliography which lists some of the classic works on Regency architecture and interior decoration.
The last section button on the handbook launching page is actually a link to Emily Hendrickson’s web site. In order to use this button successfully, you will need to be online when you click it. However, this launch button will not respect your selection for default web browser, and will launch Hendrickson’s web site in Internet Explorer. At her web site you can find information about Emily herself, as well as a list of her books, and links to more Regency history information and a list of her favorite Regency-related web sites.
A Regency Handbook is illustrated throughout with numerous period prints and photos of the objects, fashions and buildings under discussion. The period prints, particularly those of Regency fashions and social activities, city and country scenes, are charming. Personally, I was delighted to find a print illustrating the interior of Messrs. Harding, Howell and Company, of Pall Mall. This silk-mercer’s shop is, of course, the shop which was located at No. 80, in the east wing of Schomberg House, of which I have just completed a history. Hendrickson has also included a line-drawing map of the greater Mayfair area of London, c. 1800, on which locations are marked for many notable places which frequently appear in Regency novels.
Overall, the various articles which make up A Regency Handbook are a good introduction to many aspects of Regency history which often figure in the many novels set during that period. There are a few factual errors in the handbook, but most of them are minor and do not significantly detract from the overall value of this reference work. This handbook is a gold mine of details on Regency daily life for authors of Regency novels, especially when then need to use just the right form of address for one of their aristocratic characters, or need to have another character to commit some egregious faux pas at a Regency dinner party. It is also a very useful resource for those who enjoy reading Regency novels and would like to know more about some of the details of daily life which are not easily found in most histories of the era.
As noted above, though this extensive reference is titled A Regency Handbook, it has not been published in book form. Rather, it is available only on CD, directly from Emily Hendrickson herself. Despite the fact that I am a confirmed bibliophile, I found this handbook to be a useful compendium of the social customs, diversions, manners and mores of Regency life which make that era such a popular setting for romance novels. I also appreciate the bibliographic information which Hendrickson has included, as a number of the references which she listed are not yet a part of my own Regency research library. And, it has the added advantage that it is electronically searchable, which can be a real time-saver when seeking a specific piece of information. For those who chose to purchase a copy of the handbook CD, I would recommend that once you have the CD in the disk drive of your computer, that you copy the RegencyHandbook.exe file to your hard drive. That way, you can store the original disk in a safe place and use the copy on your hard drive. If that copy should become corrupted for any reason, you can delete it and replace it with a clean copy from the original disk which you have stored away.
However, there is one important caveat with regard to this disk. It is Windows-only. I have tested it on both Windows XP and Windows 7, and it runs on both platforms. I do not have access to a machine running Windows 8, so I do not know if it will run on that platform. Testing has shown that it will not run on the Macintosh platform. All of the various files which comprise the sections of the handbook have been enclosed within an application wrapper so that they are only accessible from the RegencyHandbook.exe file, which is the only file on the CD. Fortunately, the files contained in the handbook are cross-platform, so if you have a Macintosh, but do have access to a Windows computer with a disk drive and Adobe Reader, all is not lost. You can put the CD into the disk drive of a Windows computer and click on the RegencyHandbook.exe file. Then, you can open each section, all but one of which will launch as a .PDF file. You can then choose Save As from the File menu and save each file as a regular .PDF file in a folder. Only the Crafts and Pastimes section will launch as an HTML file, but you can also save that as a separate file in your Regency Handbook folder. Once you have saved all the files, you can copy your files to a new CD or a flash drive. Either format should be accessible on a Macintosh machine.
If you would like to acquire your own copy of A Regency Handbook, you can do so from Emily Hendrickson. Details can be found at her Regency Handbook page. Please note, Emily only accepts checks or money orders as payment, so you will need to email her to get her snail mail address. There is a link on her Regency Handbook page by which you can get her email address, but to do so, you must right click the link then choose Copy Email Address from the context menu that will be displayed. You can then paste her email address into the To: field in your email client. I sent my money order to Emily and my CD was delivered to me within the week.