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Amusements of Old London: Sundry Diversions

Amusements of Old London

William B. Boulton, 1901

“… an attempt to survey the amusements of Londoners during a period which began… with the Restoration of King Charles the Second and ended with the accession of Her Majesty Queen Victoria.”

“Modern” folks less brutal and more sophisticated

People of condition in the reigns of Anne and the Georges flocked to the Strand or to Covent Garden to see waxworks at Mrs. Salmon’s, or puppet-shows at Mr. Powell’s, or to watch Mrs. Saraband’s dogs and monkeys going through the operations of a siege with toy cannons and scaling-ladders.

Side by side with these innocent simplicities flourished the brutalities which we have examined in our inquiries into the humours of Hockley, the cockpit and the prize-ring, the last two at least of which famous institutions depended upon the support of well-to-do people for their prosperity and development. So too with the great mass of the people, separated in those days much more sharply from the classes than to-day. They delighted, as we have seen, in the primitive joys of Bartholomew’s Fair or the tea gardens, and were always ready to see much fun in the spectacle of a man grinning through a horse-collar. From such innocent diversion they would turn with joy to the horrors of the duck hunt or the cockshy; and a good place of vantage from which to see old Lovat’s head roll on the scaffold at the Tower, or Jack Rann swing into the air at Tyburn Tree, was held worth while spending the previous day to secure.

Whatever else may be said of the modern entertainments which appeal to the tastes and the purses of the London of to-day, it will not be contended that they lack humanity or err on the side of simplicity in execution or design.

“Simple and curious entertainments”

The naïveté of the audiences of the early part of the last century, and the ease with which they were amused, appear very plainly, we think, in the success which rewarded some very simple and curious entertainments of a spectacular character, which, by reason of that success, became serious competitors of the legitimate drama at Drury Lane.

Puppet Shows

Great people flocked to Mr. Powell’s establishment under the Piazza in Covent Garden in numbers which seriously reduced the takings of the patent houses, and hampered the progress of the exotic opera, then lately introduced into England.

These included marionette plays mixing biblical stories with Punch and Judy characters, such as “Punch and Judy dancing in Noah’s ark, Punch subsequently seating himself on the Queen of Sheba’s lap, fighting the Duke of Lorraine, and selling the King of Spain a bargain.”

Mrs. Salmon’s waxworks in Fleet Street near Temple Bar, foreshadowed Madame Tussaud’s.

Mrs. Salmon’s Waxworks

M. Bisset astonished the town… with his Cats’ Opera and troupe of other animals; monkeys taking wine together, riding on horses, and dancing minuets with dogs. One of M. Bisset’s hares walked on its hind legs and beat a drum… [He] also induced his six turkeys to walk through the steps of a country dance.

Pantomime, like Opera, crept into England at the beginning of the eighteenth century, “comique masques in the high style of Italie” were announced, and a ballet at Drury Lane of the Loves of Mars and Venus, where the whole story was told by gesture… foreshadowed the real pantomime which soon followed. Rich at Lincoln’s Inn Theatre produced a piece called “Harlequin Executed” in 1717, which is accepted as the first real pantomime by historians of the stage… Even Garrick himself found the pantomime a serious rival, and was wont to reproach his audiences in the prologues and epilogues which he turned so neatly.

GHL33155 Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre, 1811

In the “modern” Victorian era, Boulton cites the “silly performances of the medical mountebank. Katerfelto

…took advantage of an epidemic of influenza to work upon the nerves of audiences with magic langterns and fearsome images of microbes and animalculae. His darkened rooms, black cats, and electric machines impressed his visitors hugely, instead of anticipating the fairly obvious fact later established by a magistrate, when his fire balloons set haystacks alight, that he was a rogue and a vagabond.

Dr. Graham, with the help of the lovely Emma, advocated mud-baths and lectured on “perpetual youth and beauty,” with the illustration of “blooming nursemaid… as the ‘Goddess of Health.'” The Celestial Bed held “great attractions for those wanting heirs, the ‘rosy Goddess of Health assisting at the celestial matters… and that sacred Vital Fire over which she watches.’ “With such attractions as these, Dr. Graham contrived to fill his rooms with a mob of silly people at five shillings a head.”

Philip Astley of Astley’s Amphitheatre was a “true pioneer” in the equestrian entertainment business “and should be canonised as the patron saint of all ringmasters. Astley saved George III’s life on Westminster Bridge and received a royal license. See more about Astley’s Amphitheatre in a previous post.

Like Heidegger, Tyers and others, Philip Astley and his son “claim mention here as men whose fortunes were made by devoting their energies to the amusement of the London of their day.”

Then there was cudgel-playing at open spaces like Spa Fields that drew large crowds. In 1768, “an extraordinary battle was fought in the Spa Fields by two women against two taylors for a guinea a head, which was won by the ladies, who beast the taylors in a severe manor.”

At Spa Fields and other places, grinning matches were popular attractions. In 1779, the authorities took advantage of “such assemblies of British manhood” by offering “an ox roasted whole and unlimited beer to the “friends of their king and country,” hinting at the advantages of enlistment. “Some men were enlisted, but more were impressed, as the bloodhounds were on the scent, and ran breast high.”

Boulton feels that Londoners came late to appreciate the value of the Thames as a source of entertainment, although its value for transportation exceeded London roads as late as the Regency.

People did swim in the Thames from Stuart times to George IV, however. “Mr. Benjamin Franklin, has left record of a swim which he took through London from Lambeth to London Bridge in the reign of George the Third.” In 1807, Lord Byron swam from Lambeth three miles with the tide.

The Thames appears to have been used as an opportunity for the common people to express their views without fear of retribution. People of fashion who traveled to Vauxhall by boat would hire musicians, not just for the entertainment value, but also for protection from unruly hecklers. “It was the pride and joy of the average boatload of apprentices from the city to unite the vulgarity of their whole company in an epithet of suitable brevity, and fire it off upon every passing boatload of their betters they encountered on the voyage.

The Folly, the only floating place of entertainment of which there is record, a large hulk moored off Somerset House in the days of the Restoration, and fitted up as a musical summer-house for the entertainment of the quality, sank from a resort of the fashionables “to a receptacle for companies of loose and disorderly people for the purposes of drinking and promiscuous dancing.”

The Ranelagh Regatta of 1775 was the first of many such functions. Later on, the proprietors of Vauxhall Gardens began offering prizes for sailing races, and that spurred on more interest in leisure sailing on the Thames.

Vauxhall Sailing Match, engraving, 1800 (Minet Library, London, Lambeth Archives Department, V. fo. 57). This appears to be the only surviving image of one of the Vauxhall sailing matches.

Then there was the cock-shy, or cock-throwing, which was celebrated on Shrove Tuesday.

On that holy day you might see, in all open parts of the town, cocks or hens tied by the leg, their owners offering sticks at twopence a throw at a range of a chain, or twenty-two yards, just, in fact, as one used to throw at cocoa-nuts at a country fair. The cock had a certain length of strong in which to manoeuvre, and his master had trained him to avoid the knock over, which him the property of his assailant, as long as possible, and so to earn may twopences.

The duck hunt, however, was not limited to a season.

The duck-pond was a small affair, and boarded to the height of the knee round its edges to prevent the excited spectators from falling in in their eagerness to follow the incidents of the sport. These all arose from the movements of a pinioned duck which was put into the water and hunted by a spaniel or spaniels. “It escaped,” we are told, “as long as it was able by diving.”

Survival of the Fittest

Of the amusements of our ancestors in London which we have examined in our inquiry, how many have survived to our times. Practically one, and one only, the theatre, which to-day perhaps fills a greater place than ever amongst the diversions of the town… Parks, of course, remain, but they are no longer the playground of fashion which London made of them in the days of the Ring or the Mall. The tea gardens and Vauxhall were features of the London of other days, which all who have studied their old delights must regret… We may congratulate ourselves upon the change in taste and manners which has rendered the excsses of the play tables impossible in these days. No one regrets the disappearance of Hockley in the Hole, or the closing of cockpits and prize-rings… Speaking generally, Londoners of all ranks have exchanged most of their former joys for diversions in which bodily exercise takes a chief part; the man who formerly lost his fortune at hazard or faro at White’s or Brooks’s now spends it in healthy forms of sport which take him over the country, and indeed, over the globe for its gratification. Men of a lower station play cricket and football or ride bicycles when they are young, and look on at others doing the same when age overtakes them. And London and England have surely gained by the change.

Amusements of Old London series

Romance of London: Mrs. Cornelys at Carlisle House

Romance of London: Strange Stories, Scenes And Remarkable Person of the Great Town in 3 Volumes

John Timbs

John Timbs (1801-1875), who also wrote as Horace Welby, was an English author and aficionado of antiquities. Born in Clerkenwell, London, he was apprenticed at 16 to a druggist and printer, where he soon showed great literary promise. At 19, he began to write for Monthly Magazine, and a year later he was made secretary to the magazine’s proprietor and there began his career as a writer, editor, and antiquarian.

This particular book is available at googlebooks for free in ebook form. Or you can pay for a print version.

Mrs. Cornelys at Carlisle House

Teresa Cornelys - Carlisle House Soho

Teresa Cornelys at Carlisle House, Soho

Teresa, by birth a German, and during man-years a public singer in Italy and Germany, settled in London about the year 1756, and for twenty years entertained “the votaries of fashion of both sexes” with great success. For this purpose Mrs. Cornelys obtained possession of Carlisle House, in Soho Square, formerly the mansion of the Earl of Carlisle.

Carlisle House

View of Soho Square and Carlisle House

View of Soho Square and Carlisle House

Carlisle House was of considerable extent: the Catholic chapel in Sutton Street was the banqueting-room, and the connecting passage between it and the house in Soho Square was called “the Chinese Bridge.” The arched entrance below the chapel was exclusively for chairs or sedans.

Mrs. Cornelys's assembly room at Carlisle House

Mrs. Cornelys’s assembly room at Carlisle House

The Antecedent of Almack’s?

TICKET

The nobility and gentry had the entrée of Carlisle House by payment of an annual subscription, for which they received a ticket of admission to all entertainments given there. They had the privilege of lending their tickets to friends, provided they wrote “the name of the person upon the back of the said ticket to whom they have lent it, to prevent any mistake.” Mrs. Cornelys had great success; but she had her troubles in powerful competitors; for we find her issuing this advertisement: “Whereas, it is been industriously reported, to the disadvantage of Mrs. Cornelys, that she has expressed herself dissatisfied with a subscription now on foot to build a large room in opposition to her; she esteems it her duty, in this public manner, to declare that she never once entertained a thought so unjust and unreasonable…” The “large room” here referred to in opposition is thus referred to by Horace Walpole, in a letter dated Dec. 16, 1764: “Mrs. Cornelys, apprehending the future assembly at Almack’s, has enlarged her vast room, and hung it with blue satin, and other with yellow satin; but Almack’s room, which is to be 90 feet long, proposes to swallow up both hers, as easily as Moses’s rod gobbled down those of the magician’s.” However, Mrs. Cornelys made additions to Carlisle House, with new embellishments, furniture, and decorations, which in the year 1765 cost some 2,000l… in consequence of which she was compelled to charge subscribers an additional guinea.

A musical evening at Carlisle House

A musical evening at Carlisle House

The ball on Feb. 26, 1770

…Mrs. Cornelys gave a magnificent fête to some 800 maskers. Walpole devotes great part of a long letter to a description of this masquerade, at which he was present.

Our civil war has been lulled asleep by a Subscription Masquerade, for which the House of Commons literally adjourned yesterday. Instead of Fairfax’s and Cromwells, we have had a crowd of Henry the Eighths, Wolseys, Vandykes, and Harlequins; and because Wilkes was not mask enough, we had a man dressed like him, with a visor in imitation of his squint, and a Cap of Liberty on a pole… The ball was last night at Soho; and, if possible, was more magnificent than the King of Denmark’s…

…The mob was beyond all belief: they held flambeaux to the windows of every coach and demanded to have the masks pulled off and put on at their pleasure, but with extreme good humor and civility. I was with my Lady Hertford and two of her daughters in her coach: the mob took me for Lord Hertford, and huzzaed and blessed me! One fellow cried out, “Are you for Wilkes?” Another said, “D—n you, you fool, what has Wilkes to do with a masquerade?”

Among the company were Lady Waldegrave, Lady Pembroke, the Duchess of Hamilton, Mrs. Crewe, Mrs. Hodges, Lady Algeria Carpenter, &c. The characters assumed were very eccentric. Sir R. Phillips appeared as “a double man,” half-miller, half chimney-sweeper. The Earl of Carlisle figured as a running footman; Mr. James, the painter, as Midas. The Duke of Devonshire was “very fine, but in no particular character.” And “Lord Edg—b, in the character of an old woman, was full as lovely as his lady.” The ladies were superbly dressed. “The Countess Dowager of Waldegrave wore a dress richly trimmed with beads and pearls, in the character of Jane Shore.” “The Duchess of Bolton, in the character of Diana, was captivating.” “Lady Stanhope, as Melpomene, was a striking fine figure.” “Lady August Stuart, as a Vestal, and Lady Caroline as a Fille de Patmos, showed that true elegance may be expressed without gold and diamonds.” “The Countess of Pomfret, in the character of a Greek Sultana, and the two Miss Fredericks, who accompanied her, as Greek slaves, made a complete group;” and to eclipse all, “Miss Moncton, daughter to Lord Galway, appeared in the character of an Indian Sultana, in a robe of cloth of gold and a rich veil. The seams of her habit were embroidered with precious stones, and she had a magnificent cluster of diamonds on her head: the jewels she wore were valued at 30,000l.”

BIGAMOUS DUCHESS OF CHUDLEIGH

The Bigamous Duchess of Kingston

An “opera strife” leads to bankruptcy

In the following year, 1771, Mrs. Cornelys got embroiled in an opera strife. Walpole writes, Feb. 22, 1771: “Our most serious war is between two Operas. Mr. Hobart, Lord Buckingham’s brother, is manager of the Haymarket. Last year he affronted Guadagni, by preferring the Zamperina, his own mistress, to the singing hero’s sister. The Duchess of Northumberland, Lady Harrington, and some of the great ladies, took up the brother, and without a license erected an opera for him at Madame Cornelys’s… Mr. Hobart began to starve, and the managers of the theatre were alarmed. To avoid the Act, she pretended to take no money, and had the assurance to advertise that the subscription was to provide coals for the poor, for she has vehemently courted the mob, and succeed in gaining their princely favour. She then declared her masquerades were for the benefit of commerce.… At last, Mr. Hobart informed against her, and the Bench of Justices, have pronounced against her. Her opera is quashed, and Guadagni… is not only fined, but was threatened to be sent to Bridewell.

Mrs. Cornelys’s masquerades were characterized not only by indecency, but also by mockery of solemn feelings and principles… The lessees of the theatre, injured by her popularity, opposed her; and she was convicted before Sir John Fielding for performing dramatic entertainments without a license.… Next, bills of indictment were preferred to the grand jury, insinuating of Mrs. Cornelys “that she does keep and maintain a common disorderly house, and did permit and suffer diverse loose, idle, and disorderly persons, as well men as women, to be and remain the whole night, rioting and otherwise misbehaving themselves.” In November following, appeared in the bankrupt list of the London Gazette, “Teresa Cornelys, Carlisle House, St. Anne, Soho, dealer.”

Pantheon_from_Papworth's_Select_Views_1816

The Pantheon, one of the competitors of Mrs. Cornelys’s that eventually caused her downfall

Mrs. Cornelys’s last stand

Nevertheless, Mrs. Cornelys resumed her revels here with great spirit in 1776. Two years later, Carlisle House was again advertised to be sold by private contract…

…Mrs. Cornelys attempted to retrieve her fortunes in various places; one being in a large detached mansion, known as Knightsbridge Grove, in Porter’s Lane, approached through a fine avenue of trees from the highway. At length, in 1785, Mrs. Cornelys gave up her precarious trade. “Ten years after,” says Davis’s Memorials of Knightsbridge, “to the great surprise of the public, she reappeared at Knightsbridge as Mrs. Smith, a retailer of asses’ milk. A suite of breakfast-rooms was opened; but her former influence could not be recovered.” The speculation failed; and at length she was confined in the Fleet Prison, where she died August 19, 1797.

In the literature of the day

Murphy, in his Epilogue to Zobeide, 1771, refers to her popularity:

Oh farewell!

For her each haunt that charms a modern belle!

Adieu, Almack’s! Cornelys! Masquerade!

Sweet Ranelagh! Vauxhall’s enchanting shade!

Combe, in his satire, The Diobalady, 1777, thus severely castigates the licentiousness of the amusements:

The ready ministers of hell’s commands, Obedient, fly and take their several stands

At Court,  Cornelys’, and the Coterie;

Where vice, more vicious by effrontery,

Fearless, unblushing, braves the eternal laws

Of God and man, to aid the devil’s cause.

Note: Teresa Cornelys was one of the mistresses of the famous lover, Casanova, to whom she bore a child.

casanova-tour

Giacomo Girolamo Casanova

 

Romance of London Series

  1. Romance of London: The Lord Mayor’s Fool… and a Dessert
  2. Romance of London: Carlton House and the Regency
  3. Romance of London: The Championship at George IV’s Coronation
  4. Romance of London: Mrs. Cornelys at Carlisle House
  5. Romance of London: The Bottle Conjuror
  6. Romance of London: Bartholomew Fair
  7. Romance of London: The May Fair and the Strong Woman
  8. Romance of London: Nancy Dawson, the Hornpipe Dancer
  9. Romance of London: Milkmaids on May-Day
  10. Romance of London: Lord Stowell’s Love of Sight-seeing
  11. Romance of London: The Mermaid Hoax
  12. Romance of London: The Bluestocking and the Sweeps’ Holiday
  13. Romance of London: Comments on Hogarth’s “Industries and Idle Apprentices”
  14. Romance of London: The Lansdowne Family
  15. Romance of London: St. Margaret’s Painted Window at Westminster
  16. Romance of London: Montague House and the British Museum
  17. Romance of London: The Bursting of the South Sea Bubble
  18. Romance of London: The Thames Tunnel
  19. Romance of London: Sir William Petty and the Lansdowne Family
  20. Romance of London: Marlborough House and Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough
  21. Romance of London: The Duke of Newcastle’s Eccentricities
  22. Romance of London: Voltaire in London
  23. Romance of London: The Crossing Sweeper
  24. Romance of London: Nathan Mayer Rothschild’s Fear of Assassination
  25. Romance of London: Samuel Rogers, the Banker Poet
  26. Romance of London: The Eccentricities of Lord Byron
  27. Romance of London: A London Recluse

Chatsworth: A Grand House, To Be Sure, But Would You Wish to Live There?

Charming Chatsworth

Since reading Amanda Foreman’s Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, which includes much of the infamous duchess’s letters and journal entries, I’ve been fascinated by the Devonshire family. The only thing missing among the highly dramatic history of this noble, highly-esteemed family—possibly the wealthiest in England in the Georgian era—is a happy ending. The Devonshires of this period are prime examples of failed British aristocratic marriage and family values. With a seemingly endless source of income and the highest social status, why were these people so desperately unhappy?

It also begs the question that if we all truly believe that money and possessions not only do not make us happy but tend to bring along with them worries and responsibilities to weigh us down, then why do so many of us never seem to have enough? How much is enough? A comfortable life with enough income to cover the bills sounds reasonable. But does that mean stately homes, expensive cars, and a yacht to sail around the world? If you have that, would you be satisfied, or would you yearn for even more? If the billionaires of this world were truly happy, then why do they keep going after more and more? What do you do with a billion dollars anyway, especially with tax loopholes that the ordinary citizen does not enjoy? In the end, do you get a solid gold casket or something? Do you get special privileges in heaven?

Enough preaching. I wanted to write about my Chatsworth experiences this week. Yes, there are lessons to be learned. Unfortunately, most people aren’t inclined to learn from the past, and thus we keep making the same mistakes over and over.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire

Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire

Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire

Pronounced George-ayna, by the way. Georgiana was the oldest daughter of the First Earl Spencer and his wife, also Georgiana. The Earl and his wife were childhood sweethearts. If you visit Spencer House on St. James Place in London (see my Pinterest board here), you will be told about their great love and shown all sorts of decorative features that proclaim their love match. It truly warms the heart of a romance addict. Except that…it doesn’t ring true when you realize they subjected their beloved seventeen-year-old daughter to a loveless marriage that brought her much unhappiness. What went wrong?

Well, perhaps it wasn’t entirely their fault. Young Georgiana probably thought it was a dream come true to marry the richest man in England who also happened to be a duke (the 5th Duke of Devonshire). It must have been a shock, though, to discover that her husband had no intention of being faithful, that even at the time of their marriage, his mistress gave birth to an illegitimate daughter who was eventually brought into the Devonshire family to be raised after her mother died. Georgiana herself found it difficult to conceive and suffered miscarriages before producing three children, two daughters, and finally a son, sixteen years after her marriage.

William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire

William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire

Georgiana enjoyed her life as a leading lady of fashion and politics in the ton. A friend of Queen Marie Antoinette of France, they copied each other’s fashions, including excessively tall hairstyles and large hats. Georgiana was also a leader of the Whig movement, hosting popular salons at Devonshire House in London for all the prominent Whigs of the time. (See a blog post here about her political exploits.) But with all this, she wasn’t happy. She spent lavishly, and gambled excessively (see post about her gambling exploits here), to the point where even the coffers of the richest man in England were seriously threatened. Her mother, the Countess Spencer—who also gambled beyond her means, particularly after her beloved husband died—warned her to be honest with her husband and to be more prudent in her gambling. Didn’t happen. The duke only found out the truth about her debts after her death. I guess they didn’t have Gamblers Anonymous in those days, or they’d know an addict isn’t able to manage his addiction prudently without giving it up entirely.

Georgiana seemed to have everything, and yet, she didn’t. Desperate for a close friend, when she met Lady Elizabeth Foster, who was separated from her husband and sons and seemingly destitute, Georgiana insisted she reside with them, and so began the ménage à trois. Lady Foster bore Georgiana’s husband two illegitimate children, who were brought up in the Devonshire home with their half-siblings, and Georgiana didn’t seem to mind. She and Bess were the best of friends, although many, including Lady Spencer, believed Bess to be a con-artist of the worst kind.

Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey and later Prime Minister

Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey and later Prime Minister

After the birth of her son, who later became the 6th Duke, Georgiana felt free to have love affairs of her own. She fell in love with Charles Grey, later to become an earl and a prime minister, and bore him a daughter, who was raised by the child’s paternal grandparents. Her husband was enraged and exiled Georgiana to France for three years, during which time she worried that her son would never know her. (Okay, the duke was a man of his time and perhaps not so terrible as he seems today, but punishing his wife for something he’d been doing for all their marriage just does not give a good impression of his character. Maybe it’s just me?)

Georgiana died in 1806 at 48 of a liver abscess (an eerie coincidence since I had this same affliction last fall, but am completely healed, thank heavens), and three years later, Lady Foster married the duke and became the second duchess, whereupon she admitted the paternity of her two illegitimate children and demanded that the duke provide for them as handsomely (or more so) as his legitimate children. (No, I don’t like her. Can you tell?)

Elizabeth Cavendish, second wife of the 5th Duke of Devonshire

Elizabeth Cavendish, second wife of the 5th Duke of Devonshire

The 6th Duke

Georgiana’s son was sixteen when his mother died and twenty-one when his father died and he inherited. He was active in Whig politics, but his special interest was landscaping and architecture. He had a north wing added to the house and an extensive renovation of the gardens. He spent lavishly to improve the property, which at that time included about 83,000 acres. William never married, having courted Georgiana’s sister’s daughter, Lady Caroline Ponsonby (yes, the one who went nutso over Lord Byron) and lost her to William Lamb, who undoubtedly regretted his marriage in retrospect. Perhaps His Grace realized his good fortunate in escaping a miserable marriage and couldn’t bring himself to risk it again. Certainly the marriages in his own family must have given him quite a few qualms!

The Devonshire Arms

The Devonshire Arms

The Devonshire Arms

Described as “a picturesque country pub at the heart of village life, offering the charm and character of an historic inn with a contemporary twist,” the Devonshire Arms offers comfortable rooms, superb food, and a quaint, medieval building that won’t fail to inspire any dedicated history lovers who book rooms here. Check out my Pinterest board here. And the village of Beeley is equally charming.

Chatsworth

Chatsworth is such a beautiful place, filled with such priceless art and furnishings (see Pinterest board here), that one can’t quite understand how so many of its inhabitants, possessed of great wealth and just about anything they wished, were so obviously unhappy. I thought about this a great deal as I took my time touring the rooms and listening to the audioguide, and even as I walked among the rolling hills and sheep from my lodgings to the house. So much beauty and wealth, and yet, I am not envious. At this point in my life, I don’t aspire to such heavy responsibilities, no matter the grandeur and glamorous lifestyle. It is enough for me to have the privilege of seeing it and experiencing it this one time.

Lovely ceilings throughout the house

Lovely ceilings throughout the house

Sketches Room (my favorite)

Sketches Room (my favorite)

Countess Spencer, Georgiana's mother

Countess Spencer, Georgiana’s mother

Dining Room

Dining Room

Devonshire family portraits

Devonshire family portraits

Wellington Bedroom

Wellington Bedroom

On With the New: Wall sculpture of DNA maps of current Devonshire family

On With the New: Wall sculpture of DNA maps of current Devonshire family

What do you think? Would you like to live the life of a wealthy celebrity? I’m curious to know if others feel as I do that “enough is enough”, and that happiness is not found in great wealth and possessions.

A Regency Gentleman: His Upbringing

Privileged children were born at home, typically with the aid of a midwife, and immediately handed over to a wet nurse, since upper class ladies did not nurse their own children. Brought up by servants or dependent relatives, children saw their parents rarely, always accompanied by servants.

Later, a young gentleman might be tutored by a local clergyman or by a hired tutor or governess. When he could read and write, he would be sent off to public school, such as Eton, Rugby, Harrow, Westminster, Winchester and Charterhouse. The course of study centered on the classics, the French language (used often in polite society when servants were present), drawing and fencing. However, life at public schools could be traumatic.

Eton

Eton

In spite of the outlandish fees charged by these exclusive schools, the accommodations were abominable. Sleeping chambers were cold and damp, food barely edible and scant, and the older boys bullied the younger ones unmercifully. The older—and bigger—boys forced the younger ones as servants—a system known as fagging—and often such treatment resulted in revenge against a headmaster who allowed such brutal bullying to occur. Headmasters, too, were known to cane a boy’s bare buttocks until it bled.

The idea was that a boy who could survive public school and learned the meaning of obedience could be trusted to command—servants or regiments— or succeed in whatever place in Regency society he was fated to take.

Following public school, our young man could go on to Oxford or Cambridge, although he could devote himself to other pleasures—eating, drinking and wenching—as well. Most university students did a fair amount of both.

On the Town

Prior to the Napoleonic Wars, a young man would go on a tour of Europe with a tutor (“bear-leader”) to sample the pleasures of Europe. During the Regency, a young man was more likely to take up a commission in the army (particularly if he was a younger son) or simply learn his way around London, therefore earning his “town bronze.”

A young gentleman was expected to be skilled in fighting with fists, swords, and firearms, as well as gaming. Coolness, courage, and a “stiff, upper lip” were essential for a young man about town. He was also expected to be stylish enough to be accepted into gentlemen’s clubs and ballrooms, including Almack’s Assembly Rooms. Gentlemen, too, were scrutinized by the patronesses before being issued the coveted vouchers.

Other frequent amusements by young bucks might be parading up and down Bond Street and “accidentally” tripping people with their canes, catching the edge of a lace gown with their spurs, or quizzing people with their quizzing glasses. These young men “raising Cain” were the scourge of the night watchmen with their tricks on unwary passers-by.

And then there were their “bits of muslin” or wenches. A young man was expected to marry for money or connections, make sure his heir was his, and then proceed to find passion with a series of mistresses. While discretion was expected, most of society turned a blind eye to these foibles, at least on the part of gentlemen. Ladies’ behavior was much more closely scrutinized.

Laudermilk, Sharon H. and Hamlin, Theresa L., The Regency Companion, Garland Publishing, 1989.

The Regency Gentleman series

The Regency Gentleman: His Upbringing

The Fashionable Gentleman

The Rise and Fall of Beau Brummell 

Gentlemen’s Clubs in Regency London

Captain Who?

Gentlemen’s Sports in the Regency

The Gentleman’s Passion for Horses

Riding to the Hounds

The Regency Gentleman’s Passion for the Turf

Elizabeth Bailey and “Adoring Isadora”

Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs Worthington.

When Noel Coward wrote that song, the profession of acting had acquired a certain cachet of glamour. Actresses, however, were still not respectable, and the stage-door Johnnies could still hope for the ultimate reward if they wined and dined their favourites.

Society had become much more integrated by then, but the middle classes were offended by theatrical morals and the bohemian lifestyle. This attitude did not much affect the male of the species, of course, although the well-born young man about town would encounter strong opposition if he attempted to take to the stage. An actor, however, might be accepted into exclusive circles, where his female counterpart would be firmly kept out.

Even when I trod the boards in the late sixties and seventies, there was a faint whiff of disapproval and suspicion. I remember my grandmother, on hearing I was an actress, saying to me, “But wouldn’t you rather be a secretary?” to which the short answer was “No!” What she meant was that I really ought to be doing something rather more respectable.

As the 19th century wore on, some actresses made the successful jump from stage to respectability, burying the past as “Lady” Someone or Other, but these were few and far between.

However, in the 18th century, my historical period, any female who set foot on the boards could kiss goodbye to any hope of respectability. All actresses then either got married or assumed married names, because that gave them a slight advantage and room for doubt. Sarah Siddons was probably one of the few actresses who were genuinely respectable and did not fall victim to “vice”.

To be honest, Society was not really to be blamed. The acting lifestyle provided endless opportunities for dalliance, secret assignations, intimate moments and the opportunity to enrich oneself at the expense of a generous protector. The temptation to stray was endemic, as the famous Perdita Robinson bore witness with her affair with the Prince of Wales, later Prince Regent.

Adoring Isadora3a reduced 700 x 500My heroine from Adoring Isadora knows full well what it would mean to plunge into a theatrical career, but this does not prevent her from hankering after the professional stage and making secret plans to take up a theatrical career. Isadora is hopelessly naïve, however, for she has no real idea of what such a life would mean, weaving dreams of success as a tragedienne taking the Ton by storm.

When the new head of the family, Viscount Roborough, appears, she is brought swiftly down to earth. Not that Isadora gives up easily. But questions concerning the probable earnings of an actress daunt her; nor can she ignore the potential for scandal that would come back on the family should she carry out her design.

I have to wonder if the taint of wickedness has an appeal in terms of glamour. Despite all these disadvantages, ever since women were at last allowed to appear in the theatre, replacing the young boys who had played female roles in Shakespeare’s time, the lure of the stage has always drawn the naïve, the reckless, the rebellious and the ambitious, as well as the genuinely talented.

About Adoring Isadora

Isadora’s secret plan to save her family is frustrated by the arrival of the Errant Heir, with plans of his own. As Isadora prepares to thwart him, Lord Roborough’s friendliness and warmth undermines her determination—until she discovers he is a hardened gamester.

As Roborough struggles to recover a wasted inheritance and counter Isadora’s attempts at sabotage, he is both intrigued and infuriated by her mercurial temperament. Bitterly hurt by her lack of trust, he despairs of a happy outcome.

Will the truth serve to effect a reconciliation? Or will Isadora’s outrageous plot signal the end of all hope?

Available

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About the Author

Elizabeth Bailey close-up reducedElizabeth Bailey grew up in Africa with unconventional parents, where she loved reading and drama. On returning to England, she developed her career in acting, theatre directing and finally writing. Elizabeth has 18 novels published by Harlequin Mills & Boon and recently began a Georgian historical crime series of which the first two books were published by Berkley (Penguin US). But since she still loves romance, Elizabeth is delighted with the opportunity to publish her work independently.

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Historical Romance Deal Breaker #6: Heroes With Mistresses or Who Sleep With Servants

Susana's Parlour

Literally decades of reading historical romances have led me to develop strong opinions of what defines a truly satisfying story, so the other day I set about making a list of characteristics that turn a potential five-star read into a one- or two-star. Admittedly, there are some skillful authors who manage to successfully incorporate one or more of these scenarios in their books; however, I have run across quite a few more who in my opinion haven’t quite managed it.

These are what I call “deal breakers”—characteristics that make a book a wall-banger instead of a pleasurable diversion. Not surprisingly, many involve character, particularly, the character of the hero and heroine. They have to be likable. They have to be three-dimensional, i.e., well-drawn-out characters with flaws, not fairy princesses. And they have to be able to fall in love, convincingly, the head-over-heels kind of love.

Overview of Susana’s Historical Romance Deal…

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Spotlight On Regency Personage Hannah More

220px-HannahMoreMonday’s Lady P episode mentioned Hannah More as having a significant influence on the changing attitudes toward women in the late Georgian/Regency era. Regency readers will recognize the name as being the author of books that many well-meaning Regency mothers assigned their daughters to read while said daughters preferred to indulge themselves with Mrs. Radcliffe’s novels.

Hannah More grew up in a very religious family. Her father taught in a free school and later opened a girls’ school managed by his daughters while he himself managed a boys’ school. Hannah started writing at a young age, beginning with pastoral plays for the young girls at the school to act out, and eventually moving on to London, where her play Percy was a great success at Covent Garden. For several years she enjoyed the social circle of a well-known group of bluestockings (a pejorative term referring to a female intellectual). Her second play, however, was not a success, and after a falling-out with a poet friend, Hannah withdrew from London’s intellectual circles and began to focus on religious and philanthropic works.

As the Regency period advanced and the older generation of politically-active ladies died or became infirm, fewer women involved themselves directly in politics. In 1815 Hannah More wrote a study on St. Paul’s description of the female character, which instructed women to dress themselves modestly and atone for their spiritual weakness by keeping silent and learning from the men. By daring to publish her writing, Hannah was herself breaking these rules, for which she apologized in all of her works.

  • Thoughts on the Importance of the Manners of the Great to General Society (1788)
  • An Estimate of the Religion of the Fashionable World (1790)
  • Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education (1799)
  • Hints toward Forming the Character of a Young Princess (1805)
  • Coelebs in Search of a Wife (1809)
  • Practical Piety (1811)
  • Christian Morals (1813)
  • Character of St. Paul (1815)
  • Moral Sketches (1819)

stricturesIn spite of the daunting titles, Hannah’s work outsold all of the authors of the aforementioned novels, and she became a force to be reckoned with, responsible for the sudden popularity of “religion of the heart” and countless conversions to the Evangelical faith.

Women could, of course, become involved in charity work to benefit the poor, and Hannah and her sisters threw themselves into establishing a series of schools in rural areas. The schools taught reading, the Bible, and catechism, as well as sewing and knitting, but not writing, as that was thought to give the poor too much power. Even then, they ran into opposition from the farmers, who feared that too much education would prove the end of agriculture, and from the clergy, who claimed that she was teaching Methodism, a religious movement of the lower classes that was considered dangerous by the established churches.

Along with William Wilberforce, she became a major force in the fight to abolish the slave trade, publishing a poem called Slavery in 1788.

The Pendulum Swings the Other Way

Through her writings and philanthropic work, Hannah More wielded a huge influence on English society, urging people to seek God in their hearts through Bible reading, to live their lives in an orderly and circumspect manner, and to help the poor escape their misery.

For the most part, though, her strictures did not address the moral depravity of the upper classes, where debauchery and excesses continued to rule the behavior of the Prince Regent and his brothers on down. The Evangelical movement did not address the inequalities in English society, but took the position that if God chose someone to be rich or poor, there must be a good reason for it, and the best thing to be done was to be content with one’s circumstances and look toward treasures in heaven. Wilberforce, for all of his efforts to help the poor in Africa, condemned as immoral the formation of unions against unfair employers in England. Easy to say for a man who inherited wealth and married more of it.

Another problem with the Evangelical movement that Hannah More was a part of was when the fight against “worldliness” went to extremes. Just about anything pleasurable was considered “worldly,” including dancing, card playing, and taking country walks on Sundays. By the time Thomas Bowdler had begun altering Shakespeare’s works to make them acceptable for reading in mixed company, the puritanical excesses of the Evangelicals were making them a laughingstock.

In Episode #11, Lady P decries the extremism in English morality. Hannah More’s popularity is proof that her “religion of the heart” was a timely one that many were eager to hear. Taken to extremes, as it was by Wilberforce and other Evangelicals, however, that message becomes lost in a sea of strictures and censorship that incites ridicule and rebellion.

Thanks go to:

Our Tempestuous Day by Carolly Erickson, 1986.