Our Favorite Regency Figures

In our poll a few weeks ago, several of you indicated you’d like to see more profiles of historic Regency figures. That got us talking about various people we could feature. So this month we asked our authors who they thought was one of the most intriguing figures from the Regency era.

Lord byron
Lord Byron. Photo: wikimedia commons

Ruth Axtell

Lord Byron, for me, I think.

Susan Karsten

Neither of my most-intriguing Regency figures is very “cool” noble-character-wise, but I am interested in Hariette Wilson and Beau Brummel. Though I suppose she, with her loose morals and fly-in-the-face of society’s mores attitude, and he, with his obsession with surface and image, would be considered cool in the world of today. I intend to do a blog post on Wilson in a few days — so watch for it.

(We’ve mentioned Beau Brummel on this blog before. Check out Mary Moore’s post about Brummel and his influence on society.)

Jane Austen
Jane Austen

Kristy Cambron

I love Jane Austen – she will always be in my heart as my first introduction to British wit and brooding heroes. : )

Vanessa Riley

That would be Jane Austen.  Her wit and turn of phrase still haunts my dreams, but in a good way.

(Do you love Jane Austen? Keep an eye on this blog! August is Austen month here at Regency Reflections and we’ll be celebrating Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice.)

Laurie Alice Eakes

Mrs. Radcliffe. I want to meet one of the hottest selling authors of the Regency. (Mysteries of Udolpho)

Lady Jersey
Sarah Villiers, Countess of Jersey

Kristi Ann Hunter

I’m going to go with Lady Jersey and the others of her ilk. The whole idea of the Queen Bee fascinates me. I love looking at them and trying to figure out what about them made them the one who got to dictate what was right and proper to everyone else. While we have the rankings to make some sense of certain women’s rise to social power, there are certainly other factors to consider.


What about you? Who do you find fascinating from the Regency Era? Anyone in particular you’d like to see us do a post on?

Originally posted 2013-07-10 10:00:00.

Who Was Jane in Love With?

Jane Austen – Wikipedia

I recently read an older biography of Jane Austen entitled Presenting Miss Jane Austen. It was written by May Lamberton Becker and published in 1952. It was well-researched and endorsed by the Jane Austen Society.

What intrigued me the most, however, was a short section in Chapter Thirteen about one of the summer journeys Jane and her sister Cassandra took while they were living in Bath. One of the things Jane most looked forward to living in Bath was spending summers at the seashore. This was a new vacation destination for regency society, who had up to then been accustomed to going to the watering holes of Bath and Tunbridge Wells. But with the Prince Regent preferring to spend his time at the seashore in Brighton (which grew up around the original settlement of Brighthelmstone), the Brits took to the sea.

Jane writes about this new mobilization in a satirical way in one of her unfinished novels Sanditon, in which a resort town is being constructed around a traditional fishing village. You can see her humor in the town’s name which sounds suspiciously like “Sand Town.”

It was on one of these summer jaunts that Jane and her sister met a young clergyman at one of their stops. Perhaps it was in Devonshire, the author speculates. This clergyman was visiting his brother, a doctor. Her sister Cassandra is quoted in one of her letters as saying he was “one of the most charming persons she had ever known.” When they continued their journey, this gentleman asked permission to join them farther ahead in another town. According to the author, permission was given, which in these more formal times, meant a tacit agreement of a serious intention. When the sisters arrived at the town, Jane received a letter announcing his death.

Fast forward to more recent times when a literary biographer, Dr. Andrew Norman, has written a book called Jane Austen: An Unrequited Love (2009). He claims the identity of this mysterious gentleman is the clergyman Dr. Samuel Blackall, the brother of Dr. John Blackall, a physician. It seems Jane met him years earlier in 1798, when the two were guests of mutual friends, the Lefroys (one of whom, Tom Lefroy, is depicted as Jane Austen’s love in the movie In Becoming Jane).

Four years later they seem to have met again on the southern coast of England in the town of Totnes in Devon. Norman says she was visiting this town with her parents and met and fell in love with a clergyman who was visiting his physician brother who worked there.

Until then no one knew the name of this mysterious clergyman. But Norman searched the town records until uncovering the name of one physician, a Dr. John Blackall. He put two and two together and concluded that this is the same family Jane had met earlier at the Lefroys.

Very few of Jane’s letters survive from the years directly after this meeting, between 1801-1804.  Norman says that Blackall did not die but married someone else in 1813.

So, who knows what really happened. I prefer the first biographer’s conclusion, that Jane and this young clergyman did meet and fall in love and then he died prematurely. Jane loved him to her dying day, and her feelings are reflected in that famous quote from her novel Persuasion in which she debates who loves longest, men or women: “All the privilege I claim for my own sex (it is not a very enviable one, you need not covet it) is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone.”

What do you think?

Originally posted 2013-07-08 10:00:00.

Disastrous Actor or Brilliant Satirist?

We shall never know whether or not a man name Robert Coates, come to known as Robert Romeo Coates, thought himself a brilliant actor, or if the farcical manner in which he played roles like Romeo were done as parody. What we do know is that he walked out on stage in a flowing cloak and tight pantaloons in blue and red, his garments sprinkled with diamonds, and proceeded to butcher the role of this tragic Shakespearean hero. His garments were so tight he moved stiffly.

“We are not disposed to be severe on Mr. Coates performance,” reports Kirby’s  Wonderful Magazine in 1815, “which afforded singular amusement; but it is necessary, in order to give a just idea of it, to say, that for some time it was not so much below mediocrity, that it appeared likely to pass off in that flat routine which is neither forcible enough to affect the feeling in the pathetic, nor absurd enough to amuse by provoking risible faculties. At length a sudden start, or rather frisk and jump, in one of the love speeches, called forth so universal a burst, and from that moment the laugh was not discontinued, nor the audience composed for one instant to seriousness, for the remainder of the night; and whether Romeo addressed Juliet; or Juliet pronounced the praise of Romeo, laughter convulsed the house, and made it sometimes impossible for the love-sick maid herself (though represented in a very superior manner by a young lady of the name of Watson) to forbear from a smile and a titter, where a sob and a tear would be appropriate, if the tragedy had not been so superlatively commedyized, or rather farcified by her lover.”

Mr. Coates was not a professional. He only took to the stage for charitable events; however, every time he did, the houses were packed with audiences who ended up laughing themselves sick. After a while, actresses refused to play opposite Mr. Coates and theater managers refused to let him take to the stage, even with the bribes he was known to offer them.

You see, gentle reader, Mr. Coates was a wealthy man. The only survivor of a wealthy West Indian planter, he moved to Bath, where he had caused to be built, a curricle. “It was literally covered with brass cocks; the saddle of the horses (weighing fourteen pounds) as well as the buttons and buckles of the harness, and every ornament that could be turned into a cock, wore the resemblance of that biped; even the buttons on his servants coats were stamped with a cock; …”

Is it any wonder that boys crowing “Cock-a-doodle-doo” often followed him through the streets?

Mr. Coates was not all amateur actor, over-dressed dandy and flamboyant whipster. He also held strong principles on matters such as gambling. He didn’t do it. The idea he would do so offended him, as he claimed he had enough (money) and intended to spend it himself.

He did spend it, building a new curricle of whimsical design after the first was wrecked somehow. Eventually, he fell into financial difficulties and retired from his outrageous lifestyle for a while. In this time, he married a well-bred young lady, got financially on his feet again, and lived a quiet, respectable life until he died in a street accident in the 1840s.

Of all the colorful characters the Regency produced, Robert Romeo Coates is one of the most colorful of them all—quite literally. Probably to the relief of Mr. Shakespeare, no one has ever performed the role of tragic Romeo quite like Mr. Coates, nor have audiences laughed until they cried during this tragedy, instead of simply crying.

Originally posted 2013-07-05 10:00:00.

The Regency Weather Forecaster

Kristi here. I live in Atlanta, Georgia, unofficially and unaffectionately nicknamed Hotlanta. We have two seasons here, winter and summer. Maybe a week of spring or fall thrown in just to make you hope.

While we are accustomed to hot summers, this year it’s been worse than normal. For most of the United States, higher than normal temperatures have been an issue. With the mixed blessing of weather forecasting we can know that this heat isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Painting of couple walking arm in arm away from church.
How did people in Regency England know whether or not they needed their umbrella?
“A Wet Sunday Morning” by Edmund Blair Leighton Photo: Wikimedia Commons

With this expansive summer heat comes the ever present summer rain shower. I have an app on my phone that can tell me whether or not I can expect rain on a given day and what time it’s going to appear, almost down to the minute.

People in the Regency didn’t have the blessing of their local Channel 5 meteorologist or the Weather Channel app on their smart phone. That doesn’t mean that they were unable to make educated forecasts about the day’s weather.

By the time of the Regency, barometers had become a fairly common tool for the upper and middle class. Barometers use a tube filled with liquid to measure the pressure of the atmosphere. Low pressure meant a higher likelihood of rain and clouds whereas high pressure was usually an indicator of clear sunshine.

Weather forecasting is a notoriously fickle thing. Even the best equipped meteorologist today gets the extended forecast wrong most of the time. This was no different for the amateur forecaster in England. The barometric pressure had an average range of 3 inches. As the tools became used by more and more people, adjustments were made to the barometer’s design that made it easier to read the small variations in pressure.

Example of the wheel gauge barometer. Designed to make it easier to read the small variations. Photo: Morguefile.
Example of the wheel gauge barometer. Designed to make it easier to read the small variations. Photo: Morguefile.

Designers and furniture makers also got into the barometer business, making the tools into decorative pieces for the home and adding thermometers, clocks, or a hygrometer.

The hygrometer used an oat fiber to indicate the humidity in the air.

Barometer makers also created a new way to read the level, creating a wheel gauge that would allow people to more easily detect the level of the mercury. The wheel had a needle that pointed to the pressure level. It had a tendency to stick requiring people to tap lightly on the glass to attain an accurate reading.

While I’m very grateful for the accuracy of Doppler radar and I wouldn’t trade the ability to know how my beach weekend is going to look, I like that so many people acquired a basic knowledge of atmospheric science in order to make their own predictions about the weather.

What is your favorite scientific tool that is now or once was part of everyday life?

Originally posted 2013-07-03 10:00:00.


Vanessa here,

While I love the ballrooms of London or the estates found in the countryside, I also have a fondness for unusual architecture. I started my debut novel, Madeline’s Protector near one of the greatest engineering feats for England, Shropshire’s Ironbridge. The bridge was built in 1779 and was one of the first bridges made of cast iron.

Source: Wiki Commons
Source: Wiki Commons

Ironbridge has come to symbolize the start of the Industrial Revolution in England. It is over 100 feet wide and spans the River Severn. During the Regency, the area was heavily mined and filled with iron working operations such as foundries.

The Design

Abraham Darby I mastered the use of sand moulds to pour and set cast iron into strong shapes, which could be used for buildings. His great grandson, Abraham Darby, III continued working with iron and perfected this technique.

Source: Wiki Commons
Source: Wiki Commons

At twenty-nine years of age, Darby III took the design of the bridge from architect Thomas Farnolls Pritchard and started construction. It took three months to build the bridge. Constructed from over 1736 casting made in a foundry 500 yards away, the bridge weighs over 378 tons.

The Mystery of the Build

No firsthand accounts existed such as diaries or work notes, so it was a mystery, how the bridge was actually constructed.  Most assumed the bridge was started on one side, and then built piece by piece to the other side.  In 1997, a sketch was discovered showing the bridge under construction, the only drawing of its kind.  The sketch showed the bridge being raised from a barge floating in the river and the casts being winched into place.

Source: Wiki Commons
Source: Wiki Commons

Also, by examining the bridge in detail, they discovered each part was cast to order. They put pieces in place. Measured the gap to the next piece and then adjusted the moulds / casts to fit the sections.

While it was being built, the Ironbridge area was filled with foundries. The smoke of the smelting of the iron made the area dark, like a smoke-spewing setting. Today it’s one of the prettiest and is heavily toured with lots of greenery surrounding the bridge.

One Final Tidbit.

No pictures of the Darbys exist like the other iron-masters of the day because they were Quakers and thought, that such renderings would be vane.

Sources: BBC.co.uk, Ironbridge Gorge Museum, and VisitIronBridge.co.uk


Originally posted 2013-07-01 10:00:00.

A Picnic or . . . Al Fresco

My husband and I did not get to go on vacation this year. We have a 14 year old lab that literally doesn’t get around much anymore. We used to take her with us, but she cannot travel anymore, so our “vacations” are one-day adventures that don’t take more than six hours. One of our favorite “mini” vacations is to take chicken salad sandwiches, lots of chips and snacks, some fruit and whatever dessert I have on hand and drive up on the Blue Ridge Parkway for a picnic nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

My friend and colleague, Kristy Cambron, did a marvelous post on many of the fêtes London was famous for during the Regency period. But I have always been fascinated by the al fresco luncheons popular during the Season. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines al fresco as “taking place or located in the open air.” Somehow al fresco sounds more…Regency….than an ordinary picnic.

And our simple chicken salad would never have done for an al fresco outing.

Photo from the Movie Emma (1996 British TV)
Photo from the Movie Emma (1996 British TV)
No, no, there could have been as many courses as with a sit down dinner. One could have expected chicken pudding, a joint of cold roast beef (along with the tongue!) and/or pigeon or onion pie.

Cheese and fruit would certainly have been in the “basket.” Who could forget the scenes from Emma as they picked strawberries, eating some as they went, then feasting on them as they played the unfortunate game that created hurt feelings with both Miss Bates and Mr. Knightley?

Emma movie-picnic 1

But fresh fruit along with pastry biscuits with orange marmalade would have been the least of sweets for the palate. A nearby stream or creek would be keeping clotted cream chilled. There might be a plum cake, a whypt syllabub or several sponge cakes to round out desserts.

And libations of ale, lemonade, sherry, cider and claret would have flowed freely.

I confess that I often wondered at those attending these al fresco affairs. I believe the very young ladies and gentleman thought of the opportunities to outdo chaperones and snatch a few minutes alone. However, I picture the mature ladies and gentlemen more concerned with the neck cloths they spent so much time tying, wilting in the afternoon sun and the ladies worried their gowns might become creased. But perhaps most were not so fastidious as I imagine and enjoyed a picnic as much as my husband and I do, our only worry which backdrop to choose and . . . ants.

Oh my, do you suppose they had to worry about ants as well?

Pictures from Miramax Film, Emma 1996
Picture from Jane Austen World.com

Originally posted 2013-06-28 10:00:00.

Homebodies or Intrepid Travelers

“For all races of Teutonic origin the claim is made that they are essentially home-loving people. Yet the Englishman of the sixteenth and seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, especially of the latter, is seen to have exercised considerable zeal in creating substitutes for that home which, as a Teuton, he ought to have loved above all else,” writes Henry C. Shelley in the preface to his 1909 book Inns and Taverns of Old London.

During the Regency, anyone who could afford to do so took to the miserable roads and toured everything from natural beauties, to mills and jails, to stately country houses. They kept journals. They took notes. They drew pictures all in the hope of getting their observations published one day.

And for these travelers and would-be authors existed a host of guidebooks full of advice. In an 1812 tour guide, Daniel Carless Webb advises, “The carriage of baggage may be justly considered an inconvenience; it is therefore proper to take as few things as possible; these carried in a light green bag (I would on no account recommend a blue one, as that might occasion you to be mistaken for a lawyer).”

One might think that a visit to a gorgeous home full of antiquities and ancient tapestries might yield the kind of glowing praise Wordsworth heaped upon the Lake District. On the contrary, many of these published guides and memoirs of travels gave advice on how nature could be improved upon and details about what was wrong with the country houses visited.

A delightful satire on this is The Tour of Dr. Syntax, an 1812 spoof on the Search for the Picturesque wherein Dr. Syntax declares to his faithful wife, “You well know what my pen can do, and I’ll employ my pencil too: I’ll ride and write, and sketch and print and thus create a real mint: I’ll prose it here, I’ll verse it there and picturesque it everywhere. I’ll do what all have done before; I think I shall and somewhat more.” And so he went off to the Lake District.”

(My thanks again to Emily Hendrickson http://www.emilyhendrickson.net for research materials used with permission.)

Originally posted 2013-06-26 10:00:00.

A War of Ideals: The Difference between War in Regency England and Revolutionary France

For a good portion of the Regency Era (and for the last decade of the 18th Century), Napoleonic WarEngland and France found themselves at war.


War was hardly a new thing for either country. With past wars between England and France, greed, land acquisition, and strengthening the monarchy were the usual catalysts and goals. But with the advent of the French Revolution (and the American Revolution preceding it), a new mentality regarding war arose among the common people.

Before the American and French Revolutions, commoners fought in wars that served to benefit the aristocracy or monarchy. With these new revolutions, regular citizens and common people had a better reason to fight: themselves. Each man standing in France’s army believed he would have a better life if he was allowed to choose who governed his country, rather than be subject to a hereditary monarch.

One thing that the British initially failed to understand about the French  and Americans was WHY they wanted to fight. If you study the French Revolution, American Revolution, Napoleonic War and then the War of 1812, you’ll find this misunderstanding for every single war. With the changes in the French and American governments came a type of energy and belief that the mass of the population could fight for freedom, or for a government they wanted rather than one handed to them by a monarch. And Britain failed to grasp these ideals.

Napoleonic WarsIf you were to ask a Frenchman in 1793 and 1803 why he fought, he would have given an answer that involved something about freedom and thwarting tyranny. Even if you were to ask this question a decade later in 1813, after twenty years of war, the answer may well have been the same. “We want freedom. We don’t want another Bourbon king.”

Interestingly enough, if you were to ask a British subject in 1793 why he fought, he likely would have answered “because the king wants us to fight.” If you were to ask the same British soldier that question in 1803, his answer might well be the same, or he might say something to the effect of “because I don’t trust that French Consulate and Napoleon.” If you were to ask the same question again in 1813, the answer would likely be, “Because that Corsican Monster Napoleon is trying to take over Europe, and he’ll take England if we don’t stop him.”

For the first decade of war between France and England, the average British sailor and Napoleonic Warsoldier didn’t have a reason to fight beyond “the government wants us to.” The average Englishman had nothing to gain by fighting with France until the English populace began to believe Napoleon Bonaparte a threat to England (part of which was came about as a result of printing intentionally untrue propaganda against Napoleon). And only then did Britain truly begin to best France in battle.

Now I’m curious about your views. Do you think Britain misunderstood the motivation of both the French and American people when they went to war? Do you think some of that misunderstanding is what led to two decades of war between Britain and France, and the United States defeating Britain two different times?  When you look at the French Revolution and Napoleonic War, do you believe the French people had a reason to fight? Do you believe the British people had a reason to fight?



Originally posted 2013-06-24 10:00:30.

An Article All About… You!

It’s the first official day of summer! As we all know, summer is a time of freedom and fun, which occasionally leads to forgetting something.

Which we did.

We forgot to schedule a post today.

So we’ve decided to let you write the post! We always want to get more acquainted with our readers so that we can provide the kind of blog you want. Take a few moments and answer the questions below so that we can make Regency Reflections the best blog it can be.


Kristi Ann

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Originally posted 2013-06-21 10:00:00.

Your Favorite Holiday… And We Don’t Mean Christmas!

In Regency England holidays weren’t special annual occasions – they were vacations. People went on holiday or holidayed by the sea.

We asked our Reflections authors what some of their favorite holidays were and where they are most wanting to go.

Coast of Lisbon, Protugal
Coast of Lisbon, Protugal

Laurie Alice Eakes

Nine days in Portugal. It’s such a beautiful country, and the people are warm and friendly. I stayed in a little fishing village 35 kilometers south of Lisbon where I ate fish caught just that morning, and soaked up a great deal of sunshine when home was getting an ice storm. I also too forays to historic landmarks like a fountain that has been drawing water from a mountain stream for nearly a thousand years.

Where would I like to go? Lots of places still on my “to visit” list. And I’d like to get back to a few others. You know, I’d rather like to go to the site of the Battle of Waterloo for the 200th anniversary.

Susan Karsten

My favorite adult vacation was to Hawaii. My favorite childhood vacation was to Breezy Point resort in the region of Brainerd, MN. My current dream vacation would be to get back to Hawaii. It’s such a world apart.

Kristi Ann Hunter

I had the opportunity to spend nearly two weeks in Europe touring the Alps and Italy. The mountains are something I will never forget. Standing on top of some of those viewpoints you can see nature for miles, with no manmade obstructions or anything. Just mountains and snow and sky. It’s beautiful. Things there are so much older than they are in America. In the States something that is 200 years old is an amazing relic. There, it’s practically new. Okay not really, but it feels like it when you look buildings that are nearly a thousand years old.

Swiss Alps near Zermatt, Switzerland
Swiss Alps near Zermatt, Switzerland

I would really like to get back to England for a research trip. Tour more of the old homes and museums, take pictures of the countryside. I would also really like to see Australia someday. Closer to home, I eventually want to visit all fifty states. I’m about half way there now.

Vanessa Riley

Bikes on the BeachI rented a condo for a week with all my brothers and their families on an island off Savannah. It was a blast. Bike riding, cooking fresh seafood, watching movies until late. No takers on P&P though.

Kristy L. Cambron

My favorite vacation has been to the quiet beaches of the Outer Banks, North Carolina. My sister and I had a weekend getaway a few years ago and I’ve never forgotten it. Ocracoke Island’s thriving artists’ colony and lazy bike rides we took to the beach I will always remember. Maybe it was the special company I loved the most? 🙂

As for where I want to go? Paris. It’s always been Paris – c’est bon!

Naomi Rawlings

My favorite vacation was to Finland before my junior year of high school. We have some family friends over there, and it’s a really beautiful country. Did you know they have church buildings that are 400 years older than the United States? We saw one built in the 1300s. I’ve never seen a more beautiful church in my life.

Angkor Wat with trees and Native huts
Angkor Wat in 1866 before refurbishment.

As for a favorite place I would like to go, I’m a little weird so I’d go for something in Central or South America that would allow me to see some ancient Indian ruins. I’ve wanted to visit Angkor Wat since I was in high school. But actually those ruins have been restored and turned into a bit of a tourist destination. So I’d rather go to some less visited area and see ruins with grass and trees and the like growing out of it.


What about you? What was your favorite holiday? Where would you like to see? Have you been to any of our favorite places? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

All pictures courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Originally posted 2013-06-19 10:00:00.