Cary’s New Itinerary . . . 

In 1819, Cary’s New Itinerary was indeed "new" again, for the publication of the eighth edition of his compendium of the roads of Britain contained a number of significant updates. This volume was very useful to nearly every traveller in the British Isles during the Regency. It may still be of great use to authors of romances set in our favorite decade, should they have occasion to plan trips though Britain for their fictional characters.

The 1819 edition of Cary’s New Itinerary . . .

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A Regency Furniture Wood Primer

Recently, I read a Regency romance which included a scene in what was supposed to be an elegant and luxurious room in a London townhouse. Unfortunately, the entire effect was spoiled for me when the author described the supposedly very sophisticated and fashionable furniture in this room as being made of oak. Oak?! I nearly dropped the book. The author then went on to describe this oak furniture as having been finely carved and gilded. Completely impossible! In actual fact, during the Regency, oak was the least fashionable of the furniture woods, and due to the properties of that wood, it could not be finely carved, nor would its surface take gilding well. No one with any pretension to elegance, or even good taste, would have had a room filled with oak furniture during the years in which the Prince of Wales was Regent. During the Regency, as it had been for nearly a century, oak was considered suitable primarily for the making of house frames, floor boards, barrels and ships.

With any luck, the majority of the readers of that romance will not tumble to the glaring error the author made in her choice of wood for the furniture in that fictional room. I did only because I spent years studying the history of furniture and the woods of which that furniture was made. However, I suspect that most Regency authors have neither the time nor the inclination to spend years, months, or even a few days, studying the fine furniture woods which were used during the Regency, or in the decades before. Nor do they need to, since I realized that I could outline the basic information that any author would need to know in order to use the correct furniture woods in their stories. And so, a furniture wood primer for Regency authors …

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Carlton House:   Never-Ending Renovation

King George III gave his eldest son, George, Prince of Wales, Carlton House as his London residence when the young man attained his majority. From that day, until it was finally and completely demolished, it was an almost constant drain on the resources of the nation. This was because the Prince continually and repeatedly renovated, remodeled and redecorated his London mansion and its surrounding grounds for the duration of his residence there. Despite the ongoing changes at Carlton House, it was also the scene of many important events throughout the Regency period. Not to mention, it also gave its name to those in the Prince’s inner circle, who became known as the "Carlton House set." Authors may find that it would make a rather sumptuous setting for scenes in stories of romance set during our favorite period.

Carlton House though the Regency years . . .

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The London Encyclopedia

Nearly every Regency romance author, or, as a matter of fact, any Regency romance reader, may want to have a copy of The London Encyclopedia in their library. This large, single volume book is one of the most concise, and perhaps the richest source, on literally thousands of aspects of the history of the British capital city. London is an ancient city, as there is ample evidence that there were human settlements in the area even in prehistoric times. There is no doubt it was a thriving metropolis by the turn of the nineteenth century, and right through the Regency. It has long been a popular setting for romances set in our favorite decade. The London Encyclopedia is a treasure trove of information on many wonderful and fascinating places in the city.

Some of the more useful aspects of The London Encyclopedia . . .

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Regency Bicentennial:   The Burlington Arcade Opens

This coming Wednesday marks the bicentennial of the opening of the Burlington Arcade, in the Mayfair section of London. Though it opened in the last full year of the Regency, this elegant shopping area was popular from the outset. Its many upscale shops selling luxury goods were frequented at one time or another by the majority of the affluent residents of the city, both ladies and gentlemen. Authors of Regency romances might find that this new shopping venue will make an ideal setting for one or more scenes in a story of love in our favorite decade.

A brief history of the Burlington Arcade . . .

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Frogmore:   Royal Spouse House

Some of you may remember that last spring, the reception for the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was held at Frogmore House, which is situated within the grounds of the Home Park at Windsor Castle. It is generally speculated that Frogmore House will become the home of the Duke of Edinburgh, if Queen Elizabeth II should shuffle off this mortal coil before him. Which, you are saying to yourself, is not history, it is not even news, it is just speculation. And so it is, but it echoes the history of Frogmore during the Regency, when Frogmore House was the favorite residence of poor mad King George III’s long-suffering spouse, Queen Charlotte, and her unmarried daughters.

A brief history of the Frogmore Estate and its inhabitants during the Regency …

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Tunbridge Ware Through the Regency

Though small decorative wooden objects had been made in the Tonbridge area for well over a century before the Regency, the style of that art form was just entering a period of transition during our favorite decade. For that reason, what is now considered to be the quintessential type of Tunbridge ware was not actually made there in large numbers until the middle of the nineteenth century. Regency authors who wish to gift one or more of their fictional characters with these charming toys will want to be sure they give them the right type of Tunbridge ware objects.

Tunbridge ware through the Regency . . .

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A Peep Into the Past:  Brighton in the Olden Time, by John George Bishop

This curiously charming book was a pleasantly serendipitous discovery while I was researching a completely different topic. However, Brighton is one of my favorite settings for a Regency romance, perhaps because it was an important setting for the very first Regency romance novel ever written, Regency Buck, by Georgette Heyer. Therefore, I could not resist reading through this book on the history of that city. Having done so, I suspect that many Regency authors and aficionados will be very happy to add this chatty tome on the early days of Brighton to their research library.

Peeping into Brighton’s past . . .

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Regency Bicentennial:   Grimm’s Fairy Tales for Children

Today, the fairy tales which are published as having been collected by the Brothers Grimm are thought to be quite suitable for everyone. However, the original versions of most of those tales were highly criticized as being very inappropriate for children. The Grimm brothers took those criticism to heart. In 1819, they began to edit their stories, not only so that they would be more appropriate for children, but also to protect the image of motherhood.

Some of the changes the Grimm brothers made to their fairy tales . . .

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Oral Hygiene During the Regency

"The toothpowder genius has some sort of hold over her," Penelope said.

Chapter 8,   The Double Wager
By Mary Balogh

This is one of my favorite lines, from one of my favorite traditional Regency romances, in which the heroine’s young siblings are seeking to determine what is troubling their sister. I re-read it recently, and yet again, could not help but wonder about oral hygiene at that time.

Though the practice of dentistry did not formally exist until the 1830s, the denizens of the Regency did not ignore their dental health. Of course, their oral hygiene practices were not nearly as effective as those of today, but many of those who lived during our favorite decade did make a regular effort to care for their teeth.

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Regency Bicentennial:   Murals in the Painted Chamber Revealed

The Painted Chamber was part of the complex of the Palace of Westminster in London. Though the chamber itself had been known for centuries, until the turn of the nineteenth century, the fact that the walls were covered with a series of murals depicting Biblical stories had long been lost to human memory, despite the name of the room. However, in the last year of the Regency, those murals were once again revealed. Fortunately, they were then recorded in a series of drawings and paintings, since the Painted Chamber itself was ravaged by fire in the autumn of 1834.

The revelation and recording of the murals in the Painted Chamber . . .

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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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