Reminiscing about the traditional Regency novel

Hi, readers! Susan here with another blast from the past — 1987 to be exact. I expect many of you inspirational Regency-lovers are like me…you loved the older, clean Regencies that were so readily available a few decades ago, published by Signet (my faves), Zebra and the like.

In fact, my efforts toward a fiction-writing career began with a desire to try my hand at writing one of these thrilling, yet clean, romances…with a dash or more of the Christian faith included as a character developing element…sometimes even as a plot twist or a conflict-causing, stake-raising factor.

So today, I am bringing you a review of an old favorite, Mary Jo Putney’s “The Diabolical Baron.”

Book Cover

Book Cover

Don’t let the title throw you, the book is a charming tale of true love, the twists and turns and the happily ever after. With two attractive suitors trying to lay claim to her heart and a father insisting she marry for a fortune, she has deep waters to navigate all the while trying to protect her beloved sister.

If you can find this title, I believe it might be one of your favorites too — though it is not a true inspirational romance. My hopes are that the Regency genre will grow in popularity again, with Christian writers bringing it to the fore.

 

Shell Pattern Manchettes

Camy here, and I’m knitting Regency knitting patterns again! This time, it’s “Shell Pattern Manchettes” from The Ladies’ Knitting and Netting Book by Miss Watts, originally published in 1837. You can download the .pdf of the Fifth Edition, with additions, which was published in 1840.

Shell Pattern Manchettes Watts-Ladies' Knitting and Netting Book 1st series 5th edition 1840 1

Shell Pattern Manchettes Watts-Ladies' Knitting and Netting Book 1st series 5th edition 1840 2

Shell Pattern Manchettes Watts-Ladies' Knitting and Netting Book 1st series 5th edition 1840 3

I had to Google what “manchettes” were. :) In the 1838 version of this same book, the pattern calls them “cuffs” instead of “manchettes,” but they seem to be longer than what we would consider cuffs, so they could have been perhaps wrist-warmers or arm-warmers.

(And autocorrect keeps trying to turn “manchettes” into “machetes,” so I apologize in advance if the blog mentions long blades instead of long gloves.)

The pattern mentions adding lace to the top and bottom, so I think they were meant to be worn over the dress sleeve, like the “muffatees” (fingerless gloves) patterns in the same book.

Even though this pattern was first published in 1837, I’m almost positive these patterns were in use during the Regency era. Most knitting patterns were passed down from one woman to another by word of mouth or copied instructions, hence they were called “receipts” since they were received from someone else.

The intricacy and complexity of British knitted artifacts dated from before 1800 (in the Georgian, not Regency era) point to knitting skills already fully developed beyond just knit and purl patterns. Knitting was mostly done by wealthy women for themselves, or for poor women who knit fine articles to sell to the rich.

Spinsters Christmas, The web 388I originally picked this pattern because I wanted my heroine to be knitting a gift for her friend in my next Regency novel. :) So I think I’ll knit these manchettes and then hold a contest to give them away when my Regency releases, like how I did with Gerard’s Red and Black Scarf from The Spinster’s Christmas.

Since most of us don’t have a maid to tie the ribbons of our manchettes for us (le sigh), I think I’ll knit these with ribbing to fit the manchettes to the wrist instead of the ribbon holes. But since these will be a giveaway, I’ll keep the arm part loose (no ribbing) so they’ll fit more people.

If you’re on Ravelry, here’s my project page for these manchettes.

Here’s the start of my machetes!

Peony Manchettes 1

Dark, Lovely, and Loved: The Diverse Regency

Vanessa here,

I’ve been away for a bit as I immersed myself in my latest writing projects. As you all know, I love the Regency, the mannerism, the wit, and the fashions. I am intrigued by the challenges the people of the times faced: the complexity and aftermath of war, the stark differences in the rights of women versus men, and the growing social consciousness.

But there is more, much more.

Did you know London was very diverse with large Jewish and African populations? Yet, it is very rare to see these aspects in Regency fiction. Except for my dear friend Ruth Axtell’s book, The Winter is Past, you do not typically see a racially diverse cast of characters.

I, an African American writer, am guilty of this, too. In my debut book, Madeline’s Protector, Justain’s conscience figure, Mason, was originally a free black, but I edited it out, thinking that such a close relationship between an earl and his black man-of-all-work wouldn’t pass the sniff test or even would upset some because he’s killed early in the book. I didn’t trust my audience as much as I should’ve, nor did I trust my ability to tell the tale. And if I had such worries, I can imagine how others feel when they lift pen to paper trying to write a historically accurate, compelling, and marketable tale. Those three components differ based on the eye or pocketbook of the beholder: Traditional Presses versus Indie Pubs, niche marketing versus mainstream pitches, Christian Bookseller Association versus American Bookseller Association, etc.

I applaud everyone brave enough to write their story in the way that they feel is right. I just know that for me and my pen, my laptop and smart phone, we shall tell the story and the whole story from now on, so help me God.

But London was diverse. And doesn’t love always win?

Let me show you some images. At first glance they may offend, but that is not my intent. With the sweetness of the Regency, one must also accept the bitter dregs, the things that have been swept away, because it is ugly.

Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University

Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University – Drawn by William Austin 1773

This is William Austin’s 1773 caricature: ‘The Duchess of (Queensbury) playing at Foils with her favorite lap dog Mungo’. This cartoon was meant to shame the duchess for spending 10,000 pounds (1 Million pounds in 2015 dollars) to teach one of her loyal servants, Soubise, how to fence. Soubise was treated like a son to the duchess.  Think of the trust the duchess must’ve had in this black man to invest that sum in his education and to trust him to wield a sword. But was he so unusual in the Duchess’s world?

By Regency times, historians, Kirstin Olsen and Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina, estimate that Black London (the black neighborhood of London) had over 10,000 residents. While England led the world in granting rights to the enslaved and ending legal slavery thirty years before the American Civil War, it still had many citizens who were against change.  Here is another image from an anti-abolitionist.

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The New Union Club Being a Representation of what took place at a celebrated Dinner given by a celebrated society – includes in picture abolitionists, Billy Waters, Zachariah Macauley, William Wilberforce. – published 19 July 1819. Source: Wiki Commons

This image is from 1819, a cartoon by George Cruikshank. It is supposed to depict an abolitionist’s dinner party, but it just shows fear of the races intermingling. It serves as a reminder of how many thought of blacks and how it was ingrained in the times. Notice the half-black half-white baby, the promiscuous woman sitting on the gentleman’s lap, the black-face additions to the artwork, the violence and chaos, even the blood shed amongst the party goers.

How many laughs did it draw in the parlors and drawings rooms of polite society? Moreover, how did the enslaved and free servants or the black men who owned shops feel fetching this paper to their masters, their employers, or watching it enfolded in the hands of their patrons?

Cruikshank drew fear, and he wouldn’t have, if Regency society didn’t possess it. For Cruikshank, a rising black middle class, intermingling in society, gaining in social power and wealth, was something to dread. Is this ugliness, this truth, the reason the fictional landscape of Regency exhibits stories abscent diversity and color? Does showing black or brown or yellow historical faces mean that the ugliness must also show?

Perhaps, or perhaps not. But to pretend it did not exist is to dishonor every person who received a racial slur and turned the other cheek, the unknown man lynched for the fault of his birth, or every fallen soldier felled on the road to equality.

My goal is to show through the stories pressing upon my spirit that truth and love can coexist on a diverse canvas. When love arrives, the picture changes and even the bad can be borne and overcome.

Here’s a picture showing love winning.

Lady Elizabeth Murray and Dido Belle, once attributed to Zoffany

Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay (1761-1804) and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray (1760-1825) painted in 1778. Source: Wiki Commons

Look at these two cousins, Dido and Elizabeth. Their great uncle, Lord Mansfield, loved them both and had them arrayed in fashionable apparel and pearls for this portrait. Both ladies are trapped by their circumstances, Dido by her race and Elizabeth by her lack of an inheritance. Johan Zoffany paints them, particularly Dido with no grotesques features, no overt subservient positioning, no hint of promiscuity or evil, just two lovely women.

It would be great if the date of these images showed progress, the growing changes in London society. They don’t. No, they just show truth. The landscape of Regency London was diverse and enlightened hearts embraced the diversity with love.

My second full length novel, Unmasked Heart releases on June 15, 2015. Gaia Telfair is a different kind of heroine. She’s a mulatto, with both black and white blood coursing within her veins, only she didn’t know it until she reached for love.

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Regency Wards and Guardians – the care of a well-to-do orphan

Kristi here. As long as people have been having children, there has been the question of what to do with them if the parents die before the child can care for themselves. In Regency England that care depended greatly on who your parents had been.

Orphanages were frequently reserved for the poor or poorly connected. Those with higher connections and particularly those with money and property became wards, but the assignment of the guardian was not always simple.

Early 19th Century painting of the Court of Chancery, via wikimedia commons

Early 19th Century painting of the Court of Chancery, via wikimedia commons

The father was the only person able to assign a guardian for his children should he die too early. If his will didn’t state who it was to be, the choice fell to the Court of Chancery. The court could also in extreme cases overrule the father’s choice of guardian.

If the child had property and money the court cared a great deal more than if the child didn’t. If there was no material wealth, then the court didn’t get very involved unless someone made a ruckus. If no one sued over the child, then the court was likely to leave them with whoever wanted to care for the child, such as a stepfather who had no legal right to his deceased wife’s children from a previous marriage.

The appointed guardian was usually the most closely related person that could not inherit from the child. The court was very concerned about the child being coerced out of his inheritance by a guardian or through marriage. If the child was a minor and the court did not approve of the marriage, it was considered non-existent, particularly if the child were male.

Adoption as we know it today did not exist during the Regency time period, though it was not unheard of for a ward to be treated as a son or daughter and even inherit certain things from their guardian, unless of course there was a title involved. Titles had to move along bloodlines.

After the age of 14 the child could have a say in who their guardian was,  but many children didn’t know this and felt they had to go along with whoever the court appointed. There were also instances where someone might have been appointed the guardian but someone else actually cared for the child (such as a brother or sister). This wasn’t an issue unless legal things such as permission to marry were involved.

Since the Court of Chancery was exceptionally bogged down and notoriously slow about things, they tended to ignore whatever didn’t involve titles, property, or angry people. As long as nothing untoward was happening and no one objected, guardianship of well-to-do but penniless people could be decided by society.

A working or middle class family might take in a neighbor’s child out of love or a wish for another pair of hands. There was no legal ramifications for this unless someone sued.

This lack of oversight comes into play my novella coming out in July. A Lady of Esteem is a complete story – no cliffhangers! – offered free as a preview to the upcoming Hawthorne House series. If you’re on Goodreads, hop over here and add the book to your to-read shelf. If 250 people add it, I’ll do an early release of Chapter One on my webpage.

*The assignment of wards and guardians and trustees could get very complicated. This is a very high level look at how guardianship was handled. For more information on the Court of Chancery, there are several books available through Google books that go into the formation and responsibilities of this particular court. Here are some other websites that go into greater detail about the types of guardians: Regency Researcher and Word Wenches

 

Charming Quotes from Jane Austen

Hello, my Regency-loving friends. Interesting, isn’t it, that the actual Regency last only from 1811-1820, but the periods before and after can also be considered part of the era?  When trying to explain to the uninitiated, what the Regency is, I’ll often bring up Jane Austen. I find that most, but not all, have heard of the book Pride and Prejudice and they can get a grasp on what kind of fiction genre I am writing.104_2304

So, to bring Jane Austen alive again, in our minds only, I bring you some of her delicious quotes.

What dreadful hot weather we have! It keeps me in a continual state of inelegance.

A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.”

There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.

Based on these quotes alone, I do believe I would have enjoyed know Jane Austen.

Which author would you have liked to spend time with? Answer in the comments, please.

Knit lace evening gloves

Camy here! Lately I bought a hand-made Regency-style dress from my friend and Steampunk author, Shelley Adina, (it was a steal because she didn’t want it anymore) and so now I’ve been looking for accessories. (I’ll post pics of the dress soon!)

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I realized that the blue dress is perfect for some lacy gloves I had made for myself a while ago. Actually, I originally made these gloves because Shelley had wanted opera gloves (designated “16-button gloves” even though there aren’t actually 16 buttons on the gloves) for when she goes Regency dancing, and I made my gloves as a test run before making Shelley’s.

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These are a pale blue lace-weight alpaca yarn, although the original pattern called for crochet cotton. I also had to extrapolate a bit to extend the gloves beyond my elbow.

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The gloves have pearl buttons at the wrist because Shelley had requested that, for ease of removing the hand portion when she has to eat. I found out later that the button slit is actually Victorian, and not Regency, but it’s extremely practical, don’t you think?

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I’m rather proud of these gloves because they’re just so pretty! :) I’m also so excited that they’re light blue, which matches the gown I just bought!

If you’re on Ravelry, here’s the link to my project page.

Do any of you own Regency style gowns? Where do you get your accessories, or how do you make them?

When Is a Dress Not Just a Dress ~ Regency Fashion Explained

If you’ve ever read a Regency-set novel, you’ve no doubt run across a description of the heroine’s clothing. It’s one of those things we do. But have you ever stopped to wonder what makes an afternoon dress different from a carriage dress? Or a ball gown different from a dinner gown?

Here is a rundown of a few of the qualities that make a Regency dress fit for the proper occasion.

MorningGownRuffleMorning Dress

Morning dresses were used for just that. Morning. They weren’t meant for company or for going out. They were the yoga pants of Regency England. They were plain, unadorned, and frequently made of thinner, cheaper materials than a woman’s other clothes. Silhouette-wise, morning dresses were the same as any other day dress, though they were replaced less frequently given that no one cared whether or not their morning dress was fashionable.

Often times, an old afternoon dress might have the trim salvaged off of it before being used as a morning dress.

Afternoon Dress

Which then does beg the question of what makes an Afternoon Dress.

rdAfternoon dresses were meant to be seen. Afternoons were for going visiting or walking in the park. As these were still day dresses, they had high necklines and full length sleeves. They would, however, been trimmed and fitted to the best of a lady’s fashion ability.

There were several types of afternoon dresses as there were several types of activities one could participate in during the afternoon.

Walking or Promenade Dress

Often the most decorative of the afternoon dresses, a walking dress was for strolling among the masses. Because they were meant to be noticed, care was taken to make sure they were flattering and impressive.

They weren’t, however, always practical since they followed the fashion of the day like everything else, including when it came to the length of the train.

ridinghabitCarriage or Traveling Dress

Carriage dresses were made of heavier fabrics, intended to put up with the stress of traveling by coach for long periods of time. The cotton muslin frequently used in walking dresses was prone to wrinkle. Carriage dresses were also less trimmed, since those could get crushed while traveling, particularly if your coach was full of companions.

Riding Habits

Riding habits were very sturdy, very simple, and very modest. They would have very full skirts to drape over the lady’s legs while riding side saddle.

Evening Dress

GauzyEveningDressEvening dresses were the finest dresses in a lady’s wardrobe. The fabrics were thinner than the afternoon dress but were also much finer. Silks, satins, light taffetas, and very fine muslins were the fabrics of choice. Sleeves were frequently shorter and bodices were cut lower.

The different types of evening dress were indicated more by the level of embellishment than by the style. A lady’s ball gowns would be trimmed and embroidered to the utmost fashion, with the intention of catching the light as well as the gentleman. Many ball gowns were actually two gowns, with a sheerer gown worn over another. The bottom gown was sometimes colored and the top layer might only fall 3/4 of the way down the skirt, allowing the embellished hem of the underdress to show.

Opera gowns and dinner dresses were, by comparison, a bit simpler. They were still made of fine fabrics, still cut to show off more than a day dress, but were not intended to be quite as impressive as the ball gown.

Court Gowns

courtdressCourt gowns were worn for the very special and rare occasion that a young lady went to the royal court. These gowns were a throwback to a bygone era, forgetting fashion entirely in the name of tradition. Wide, hooped skirts, long trains, and overly elaborate hair decorations ruled the court.

When people tried to mix these traditions with modern fashions you ended up with some very silly looking high-waisted gowns with elaborate bell-like skirts.

 

With all these dresses, it’s a wonder that Regency ladies ever got anything done besides changing their clothes.

Blast from the Past: Marion Chesney’s Regency novels

Hi all, Susan Karsten here!

…Back from an absence of about four months (that pesky tax job). Since I enjoy Camy’s posts on older regency books so much, I am bringing you info about a book, and its author, and telling you about her extensive and delicious back-list of regency reading fun (over 90 titles). If the author Marion Chesney is not familiar to you — get thee to a bookstore — or library in this case — since she isn’t (boo-hoo) writing regencies anymore.

No, she now only writes fabulously popular cozy mysteries now and you may know her as M.C. Beaton. However, her regencies are GREAT, and with some digging, are still available to the avid fan. She’s got some of her backlist out as e-books lately, too.

Chesney’s debut (writing under her own name) book, which I happen to own, is “The Poor Relation.” Heroine and former debutante Amaryllis Duvane’s fortunes have sunk low and she is reduced to the status of serving her wealthier relatives. Her past love, the Marquess of Merechester, shows up to court one of these wicked stepsister types, and the drama begins.

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I’ll happily admit to being a huge fan of Chesney, in all her genres. But the chance to read one of her first efforts makes me admire her career trajectory even more. As one familiarizes oneself with her work, it’s clear that as she gained publishing popularity and confidence, more and more of Chesney’s delicious humor comes out on the page. I can only hope to instigate half as many snickers for my own readers…someday…when I make my debut!

If you’ve ever enjoyed Chesney’s regencies, please add a comment.

Susan Karsten

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Dickens Meets Sherlock Holmes

Brentwood's Ward Cover PeekWhat do you get when you mix a shade of the darker side of Regency London with a quick-witted lawman? Nicholas Brentwood—a hero who’s a little rough around the edges, colorful as a Dickens character, and observant enough to be a forerunner of Sherlock. But he’s not just any lawman . . . He’s a Bow Street Runner.

Traditionally, male householders in London were expected to police the streets in their neighborhood, and every citizen was to report anyone they witnessed committing a crime. This changed in the eighteenth century because of increasing concerns about the threat of dangerous criminals who were attracted by the growing wealth of London’s middle class.

Prompted by a post-war crime wave in 1749, Magistrate Henry Fielding hired a small group of men to locate and arrest serious offenders. He operated out of No. 4 Bow Street, hence the name “Bow Street Runners.”

Fielding petitioned the government and received funding, but even so, he soon ran out of money to pay these men a worthy salary. Still, the runners were committed to justice, so they took on odd jobs such as watchmen or detectives for hire or even—as in the case of Nicholas Brentwood—guarding people or treasures.

What attracted my interest as an author was an old newspaper advertisement put out by Fielding. It encouraged the public to send a note to Bow Street as soon as any serious crime occurred so that “a set of brave fellows could immediately be dispatched in pursuit of the villains.” I wondered about those “brave fellows” and what kind of villains they might come up against, and thus was born Nicholas Brentwood.

Despite Bow Street’s efforts, most Londoners were opposed to the development of an organized police force. The English tradition of local government was ingrained deep, and they feared the loss of individual liberty. So, as gallant as the Runners were in tracking down criminals, the general public did not always view them in a positive light. Even the nickname given them by the public—Bow Street Runners—was considered derogatory and was a title the officers never used to refer to themselves.

Bow Street eventually gave way to the Metropolitan Police, and by 1839, the Runners were completely disbanded. But that doesn’t mean they don’t live on in the fictional realm. See if you can match wits with an experienced lawman as he tracks down a dangerous criminal in BRENTWOOD’S WARD . . .

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There’s none better than NICHOLAS BRENTWOOD at catching the felons who ravage London’s streets, and there’s nothing he loves more than seeing justice carried out—but this time he’s met his match. Beautiful and beguiling EMILY PAYNE is more treacherous than a city full of miscreants and thugs, for she’s a thief of the highest order…she’s stolen his heart.

 Available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine booksellers. But even better is that here’s your chance to WIN AN AUDIOBOOK! Hurry, though. This drawing ends tomorrow, April 17th.

CLICK HERE