Thimbles:   Drab Dross or Tiny Treasures

Thimbles had been in use around the world for several millenia by the time the Prince of Wales became Regent of England. But by the Regency, they were no longer just simple implements which many needleworkers used to protect their fingers while sewing. They were also sometimes given as costly gifts or love tokens; some were used as a unit of measure; and still others were employed in games, at least one of which was a rather disreputable game of chance. Despite its small size, a thimble might play a big part in a Regency romance.

Thimbles through the Regency . . .

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Of Alehoof, Cat’s-Paw and Creeping Charlie

These names, among many others, all refer to a perennial, evergreen creeper, most commonly known as ground ivy. This plant, regarded by many as a weed, had numerous culinary and medicinal uses during our favorite decade. In fact, some people still use it for many of those same purposes today. Ground ivy flowers are quite pretty, so even though some thought the rapid growing plant a weed, there were many others who were quite happy to have it growing in their gardens.

Ground ivy in the Regency . . .

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Paternoster Row and the Book Trade in Britain

Not long after Johannes Gutenberg introduced the movable-type printing press in Germany, the use of the device spread throughout Europe and across the English Channel. By the beginning of the sixteenth century, a strong trade in books was developing in London. It would continue to develop and increase until the British book trade was perhaps the largest in the world by the middle of the nineteenth century. During the Regency, the center of the British book trade was located in Paternoster Row, though as that decade came to a close, the book trade was already beginning to disperse further west in the metropolis.

Paternoster Row and the English book trade . . .

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On Jactitation of Marriage

As it happens, jactitation is both a legal and a medical term. In this article, only the legal meaning of the term will be addressed. In particular, its legal meaning with regard to marriage will be the focus here. This curious and antiquated legal option was less commonly used at the end of the nineteenth century and was finally abolished near the end of the last century. However, it was used from time to time during our favorite decade and it is quite possible that at least a few Regency authors may find its provisions useful as an uncommon plot twist for a romance set during that era.

On jactitation of marriage . . .

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1818:   The Year In Review

By the time the year 1818 came to an end, the king’s wife of more than half a century had passed away, and the Crown had sold off a Royal Forest. The old Parliament had been dissolved and elections held for a new one. Due to government effort, there was a temporary lull in the social unrest which had unsettled much of the country since the final defeat of Napoleon. A new theatre had opened in London and a fascinating automaton had returned to mystify the metropolis. Important work in the fields of art and antiquities had taken place. There had also been new innovations in security devices and food production that year, as well as the first successful blood human-to-human transfusion. In addition, several important publications with which we are familiar today first went to press.

A look back at the year 1818 . . .

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Regency Bicentennial:   First Performance of Stille Nacht

This coming Monday, Christmas Eve, marks the two hundredth anniversary of the very first performance one of the most beautiful and classic of all Christmas carols, known in English as Silent Night. That event was the result of a natural disaster and the cooperation of two friends to ensure music for a Christmas Eve Midnight Mass. Though this first performance took place in a small village in Austria, it was soon carried further afield by two families of traveling folk singers who learned the song and included it in their performances.

The first night of Silent Night . . .

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Of Parfilage or Drizzling Through the Regency

Last week, I wrote about the history of goldwork embroidery through the Regency. This week’s article is about a hobby which destroyed such work, known as parfilage in France and "drizzling" in England. Though this hobby was most popular with ladies, there were a few gentlemen who practiced it as well, some of them quite famous. Shocking as it may seem, there were actually at least a few instances when an obsessive drizzler would misappropriate goldwork without permission, in order to satisfy their need to drizzle, sometimes even in public.

Drizzling through the Regency . . .

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