A "Timely" Tool for Regency Authors

Moonlight can be an important aspect of a romantic scene in a Regency novel. Moonlight was also critical during the Regency for night-time travel in the countryside. Few people would have ventured out on a journey of any length on a night without at least a partial moon. Most people preferred to travel long distances only by the light of a full moon. Of course, an author of fiction has the power to make the moon shine on command. But for those authors who are writing a story within a specific historical event or set of events, the more accuracy they can incorporate into their story, the better. Though most authors avoid using the names of the days of the week, again, those little touches can add additional realism to their story. And at the web site www.timeanddate.com, all of that information, and more, is at your finger-tips.

A review of some of the most useful features of http://www.timeanddate.com

The timeanddate.com web site is the brain child of Steffen Thorsen, and is based near Stavanger, Norway. It began in 1995, when he was a university student and, as a hobby, he developed a World Clock and Calendar, along with a countdown to the year 2000. Others were interested and he made the data available to them via his Unix account. Its popularity grew and he continued to add more services. At the end of the twentieth century he moved his wide array of time related data offerings from his school account to the World Wide Web, and has kept it available and free to all to this day. Mr. Thorsen and his team have continued to add many new features related to time data in many aspects. Today, timeanddate.com is the biggest, most popular and most respected site on the web which offers a wide range of time and date-related information.

The area of the site which I use most often is the Calendar section. One can go directly to the Calendar section by clicking the "Calendar" link on the main navigation band on the timeanddate.com Home page. However, if one is simply seeking the calendar for a year of the Regency, there is short cut below the main navigation band to the far right. In that Calendar dialog block one can select whether or not one wants a full year or just a specific month by clicking the appropriate radio button. Then, enter the year, select the month, if wanted, select the country and click the "View Calendar" button. The calendar for the month, or full year which has been selected will then be displayed, on a page which also includes small icons for the phases of the moon for each month and is printable, if desired.

There are a couple of quirks which one should keep in mind when using the timeanddate.com Calendar. A pick-list will often drop down from the year field on the home page or on the main Calendar page. Though this list includes only the years from this century, one can type any year from Year 1 AD to 3999 into the field to get the calendar for that year. There are also subtle differences between the calendars displayed for the same year but for different countries. For example, United States calendars start the week on Sunday, while calendars for the United Kingdom start the week on Monday. If you are using one of these calendars to find on which day of the week a certain date fell, it is important to keep that difference in mind. Though it does not impact the years of the Regency, this calendar takes into consideration the change from the Julian to the Gregorian Calendar in England in 1752. In that year, eleven days were dropped from the month of September in order to make the change. Those missing days are reflected in the United Kingdom version of the calendar for that year. All United Kingdom calendars for years prior to 1752 use the Julian rather than the Gregorian calendar, making this tool useful for authors of historical novels set before the mid-eighteenth century.

Once a calendar is displayed, there are a set of three buttons at the top of the page. The first, "Quick Design," allows the user to change the calendar design to a number of different styles. The "Formatting" button enables the user to change the formatting of the displayed calendar, including the layout, toggling the phases of the moon on and off, and the size of the title. The "More Options" button offers options for advanced customization. Another nice feature is that one can scroll though calendars, year by year, like a slide show, using the buttons just above the title. Below the calendar itself can be found a list of "Holidays and Observances" for that country. Therefore, if you are seeking the holidays of a specific country for a given year, it is important to select the calendar for that country

Though the phases of the moon are included as small icons under each month on any calendar, there is also a Moon Phase calculator at timeanddate.com which provides much more detailed information. To use this feature of the site, click the "Sun & Moon" button on the black navigation bar from any page. This will display the moon phase information for the current year. However, at the bottom of that page can be found the dialog by which to request the phases of the moon for any year, location and country. When the specifics are selected, the moon phase chart which is displayed with show not only the date, but the exact time and duration of each phase of the moon for that year. In addition, below the chart can be found any special lunar events for that year, including blue moons, micro moons and super full moons. Like the calendar displays, one can click through the moon phase charts of preceding or succeeding years using the buttons above each chart.

Another handy feature of the Sun & Moon section of timeanddate.com is that for the Seasons. Selecting "Seasons" from that menu will launch a page with the season data for the current year and location. However, like the calendar pages, there is a dialog at the bottom of the page where one can enter the fifty-year date range, the time zone or the location for the desired set of seasonal information. For example, if you select the 1800-1849 date range and United Kingdom – England – London, then click the "Show seasons" button, a chart will be displayed which lists all the equinoxes and solstices for those years, with the exact date and time (in London mean time). With this information, if you ever need the exact time for an equinox or solstice for one of your stories, you will have it at your finger-tips.

The timeanddate.com site also provides the dates and times of solar eclipses, but only as far back as 1900, so there is no information for the Regency period. However, that is not really a problem since there were no solar eclipses during the Regency. The same date restriction exists for lunar eclipses, so if the date and time of a lunar eclipse during the Regency is needed, there is a list of nineteenth century lunar eclipses at Wikipedia.

There are a number of other useful features at the http://www.timeanddate.com web site, including a day and night map, with a Mercator map showing which parts of the globe are in daylight and which are in darkness, and a similar map which shows which parts of the world are illuminated by moonlight. There is a time zone converter, making it easy to determine the time in another location around the world. There are also a number of calculators which can provide information on distances and travel times as well as date to date details and even international dialing codes. There is also an entire section on the site devoted to weather which enables one to see the current weather nearly anywhere on the globe.

Regency authors who have even the slightest interest in various aspects of dates and time during our favorite period will want to bookmark the http://www.timeanddate.com web site as part of their research toolbox. Then, anytime you are plotting out a story and need to know the day of the week on which a certain date fell, it will be easy to find. Perhaps your story will hinge upon a Leap Day event. Pull up the 1811 calendar and click through them till you find the leap year, and you will then also know the day of the week upon which that Leap Day fell. Then again, if your plot depends upon some past event which occurred on a Leap Day, click back through the years until you find the one that best fits your story. Or, should you need to know the phase of the moon at the time in which your hero and heroine are enjoying a private moment in a lovely garden, or the villain is plotting an evil deed under cover of the darkness of a new moon, you will be able to find the information you need in just a few minutes.

About Kathryn Kane

Historian with a particular interest the English Regency era.   An avid reader of novels set in that time, holding strong opinions on the historical accuracy to be found in said novels.
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15 Responses to A "Timely" Tool for Regency Authors

  1. It’s also important to know when Wednesday is, for Almack’s…
    I blogged ages ago with the approximate times of moon rise and moonset according to the phases because it’s extraordinary how many people these days aren’t aware of this. NASA give dates of Eclipses too and here’s a useful site of what was visible when in Britain – and it turns out to be none during the Regency period. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_solar_eclipses_visible_from_the_United_Kingdom_AD_1000%E2%80%932090
    I know it’s only Wiki, but they got it from Nasa.

    • Kathryn Kane says:

      It is a good thing that Wikipedia picked up that information, since the last couple of times I have been to the NASA site, those pages were not available. 😦

      I was sorry to see there were no solar eclipses during the Regency, since they might be just the thing for a story set then. Oh, well, the Sun will do as it will, without reference to us. 😉

      I do think there may have been at least a couple of lunar eclipses visible from the British Isles during the Regency, but so far, I have not been able to find an solid data on that point.



  2. That’s brilliant! Thanks a lot for the link.
    I immediately checked April 1813. Luckily – but by mere coincidence- I use the date for fullmoon correctly in my novel.
    When creating a new plot I certainly shall use timeanddate from the start to avoid trouble later.

    • Kathryn Kane says:

      I am glad you did not have to re-work your story. But that is exactly the reason why I wanted to share this find. I think all those tidbits of accuracy help to more fully pull a reader into the story, since they have more confidence in the author’s knowledge of the period.



  3. Interesting! I wonder if there was a moon when Catherine Morland got kicked out of Northanger Abbey by General Tilney? I must go back and reread that book.

    And have you ever done a post on Vauxhall Gardens? Evening entertainments there keep getting quoted in Mary Balogh novels.

    • Kathryn Kane says:

      Vauxhall Gardens is the setting for many a romantic evening in a whole flock of Regency novels beyond those of Mary Balogh, since it was the only one of the major pleasure gardens open in London during that decade. Ranelagh Gardens had closed in 1803 and Cremorne Gardens did not open until 1845.

      I may do an article or two on Vauxhall Gardens at some point, but I tend to prefer the more esoteric topics of Regency history. I want to make Regency authors aware of those snippets of history which do not get much attention online to enable them to add something new and fresh to their stories.

      If you are interested in Vauxhall Gardens, the most comprehensive book on it published to date is Vauxhall Gardens: A History, by David E Coke and Alan Borg. You can find more details about it at the Google Books page for that title.



  4. Azy says:

    Excellent. Thanks for that!

  5. helenajust says:

    This website sounds fascinating, as well as very useful. I live in the country, and go out to look at the stars before bed most nights. When it’s new moon and very dark, I think of what it must have been like for anyone trying to move around in the Regency, before electricity. When it’s full moon, I think of coaches travelling home from dinner parties or balls, or through the night to get somewhere as quickly as possible.

    Once you’re aware of just what a difference the moon makes, you look out for similar awareness by the author in the Regencies you read; are the characters forever roaming around at night with no mention of how they’re able to see what they’re doing?

    • Helena, being nictolopic and having managed to fall over guy ropes at guide camp in my youth, even with an electric torch, after a lat visit, I can certainly verify that careering ventre a terre around the countryside is no joke unless there’s a decent moon… and even then, the shadows may be confusing and deceptive. I can quite see an illicit trip at night leading to a heroine shrieking in terror – and maybe attracting the attention of a potential hero – because the moon coming from behind a cloud has illumined what appears to be a highwayman complete with pistol, which turns out to be no more than a bush, or tree stump [cf the story of Pa and the Bear on the Way in Little House in the Big Woods, when Pa Ingalls charges a treestump with a tree branch because the shape silhouetted against the moon, and the moon shining through a chink that looked like a glittering eye worked on his imagination….]. And yet I can see stars in their proper colours….
      Now here I’m wondering about a plot bunny with a heroine whose father is an amateur astronomer, and he needs her because her colour sight is good – large number of cones – so she has no difficulty seeing Mars and Betelgeuse as red, Saturn as yellow and so on but a low number of rods so she’s clumsy in the dark… and when trying to join him with some chart or other she blunders over and meets her hero that way…

    • Kathryn Kane says:

      Thank you for taking the time to post that very insightful observation of the night-time sky in the country.

      I was fortunate as a child to spend several summers on my grandmother’s farm, where I thoroughly enjoyed what could be seen in the night sky so far from the lights of an urban area. My siblings and I loved nights with a moon, when we were allowed to wander beyond the main farmyard without having to carry a flashlight. The nights without a moon were indeed inky black, and even on a cloudless night, without the aid of a flashlight, we could barely see beyond the end of our noses.

      I think it is very difficult for people today, who live anywhere with street lights, to understand the nearly complete lack of visibility on a night without a moon. Nor can they comprehend the full beauty of a night sky which is not obscured by light pollution.



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