Friday, October 20, 2017

Put a Lock on It

File:Locks on the thames Teddington London.jpgI’m researching a new book (lovely, lovely research), and I found myself looking more deeply at navigation on the Thames during the nineteenth century. The River Thames was the lifeblood of London and every town upstream and down, carrying goods and people where they were needed. I spent nearly 30 years living on another great river, the Columbia, so I had some idea of how important a waterway could be. What surprised me were the number of locks, and how they were used.

The Columbia River is confined by hydroelectric dams that also serve as flood control mechanisms. These dams have locks to allow ship traffic passage. When I sailed on the Lady Washington, our state’s tall ship, we passed through the lock at McNary Dam, and the massive gates reminded me of the mythical Mordor of Tolkien fame. But the locks on the Thames weren’t designed for electric power or flood control. They were originally created for navigation purposes.

The Thames is an aged river. As such, its braided, curving channels make for a leisurely passage at best. So, in 1751, George II chartered the Thames Navigation Commission to ensure safe and efficient travel along the river. Through the Regency period, they oversaw the building of 25 locks to even out rough patches and speed transit. The City of London had jurisdiction of the river through its environs and built an additional set of locks.

File:Strensham Lock - 2 - - 1167190.jpg
Locks came in several designs, but the basic purpose was the same, to store up water that could be flooded downstream to make passage easier or faster. Some of the locks had sloping earthen sides, but most were lined with brick or stone. Gates of massive timbers marked either end and had to be cranked open and shut, often by hand. To facilitate the process, most locks were staffed by lock keepers, with a cottage to live in nearby. (Photo by Trevor Rickard)

The Thames Navigation Commission sounds like an interesting group. At the time of the Regency, it included as many as 600 people. Yes, you read that right—600. Care to envision that committee meeting? Every person with more than one hundred pounds to his name who owned land along the river was a member. So too was Oxford University and each mayor with a town along the river.

But with all these possibly competing interests, a quorum was only 11 commissioners. And if those 11 commissioners decided your land would be a good spot for a lock and cottage, you had no choice by law but to sell. They could also select land to be used for tow paths for barges and canal boats, so long as they didn’t take someone’s house, garden, or orchard.

Some interesting plot ideas there, eh? I think that’s a lock.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Such Language! Part 18

A bit of 19th century slang and cant silliness, courtesy of the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. Enjoy!

Belly Timber: Food of all sorts. (My little brother swore to Cook that unless he was provided with some belly timber at once, he would perish of hunger.)

Uppish: Testy, apt to take offence. (Cousin Lucretia is apt to be uppish whenever anyone mentions the fact that all of her suitors from last season are now engaged elsewhere.)

Znees: Frost or frozen. Zneesy weather; frosty weather. (It has been such zneesy weather these last weeks—do you think there will be a frost fair on the Thames?)

Baker-knee’d: One whose knees knock together in walking, as if kneading dough. (George thought he looked very fine in his go-to-Almack’s black silk breeches, but his being baker-kneed rather ruined the effect.)

Pogy: Drunk (We adore our Uncle Fred, but he does have a lamentable habit of crashing Mama’s dinner parties when he’s pogy.)

Waggish: Arch, gamesome, frolicsome. (But his waggish behavior when he does usually saves him from one of Mama’s scolds.)

Shabbaroon: An ill-dressed shabby fellow; also a mean-spirited person. (Cyril, who is fabulously rich, often affects the appearance of an utter shabbaroon to keep all the fortune-hunting misses at bay.)

*Cake, or Cakey: A foolish fellow. (I do wish George’s Oxford friends weren’t such cakes; it’s embarrassing to be forced to acknowledge them at our local assemblies.)

*Aha! Readers of Georgette Heyer will recognize this term, which she famously used in the expression "making a cake of himself" in The Unknown Ajax and The Nonesuch and others of her books.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Nineteenth Century Heroine: Putting on a Good Face

I’m researching a new series (lovely, lovely research!), and my first heroine is slated to be a cavalry officer’s widow. I wanted her to be well traveled—having followed him to Egypt, Flanders, and Portugal. I’ve seen the Sharp movies. I know the infantry’s enlisted men had ladies in the barracks and in their tents on occasion. So I wondered: Could an officer’s wife have followed him? Could she have bunked with her husband while on campaign? I found several sources that talked about army regulations and traditions, encouraging men 1) not to marry and 2) not to bring their wife and children with them.

And then I discovered this post’s nineteenth century heroine.

We know little about her, not even her name. She was the wife of a British infantry officer during the War of 1812, and she accompanied him to Canada with their infant daughter. She left behind a memoir that could well have been turned into a novel (or a movie!), though she only sent it to a trusted friend whose papers were provided to a museum on his death. Here’s what she said about arriving in Kingston on Lake Ontario:

“…we took possession of our tent by the light of a brilliant moon -- can you imagine anything more delightful or novel than there being at the end of a long day's journey in a very crowded waggon. I could not tear myself away from the door of my tent for hours. The encampment was on a quiet delivity sheltered from the winds by a green hill covered by a magnificent forest and before was the calm expanse of water in the Harbour, reflecting in the moonbeams, and all around us the snow white canvas tents with the bustling soldiers assembling their campfires for cooking their suppers, or resting on the grass, or posting sentinels. It was a beautiful scene and I enjoyed it thoroughly, fortunately without any presentiment of the change which was approaching.”
Ooo, the plot thickens. It seems her dear husband had been chosen for special duty, namely sailing upriver on a secret mission. If he succeeded, he could return to her. If not, the ship would continue to Niagara. Either way, she and their baby daughter Tilly would be left alone in a strange land. What was a lady to do?

Work out a way to go along, of course. She even convinced her husband to agree with the mad plan. He and his men went aboard, while she stayed on shore, waiting for her chance. She was shocked to find the ship a tiny thing with no sleeping accommodations. But she refused to give up.

“Our travelling bags were already on board and with Tilly in my arms I followed at a short distance, not wishing to make myself conspicuous as I would have been had I kept with the party. This, thought I, is one of the consequences for which I thought myself quite prepared. The moment was approaching when I must either be separated from my Husband or take my chances with him in actual perilous mission. It is exactly what I expected and wished and I tried to think it very exhilarating and kept up my spirits and my courage by talking to Tilly and telling her as we walked what a Hero and Heroine she had for a Papa and Mama and what a fearless girl she ought to be with such an example of valour.”
 At last, she made her way aboard, walking boldly past men and crew. No one seemed to notice her. Not even her husband!

“I suppressed the momentary conviction to ‘turn the white feather’ and putting my plaid mantle closely round little Tilly I quickly stept on board without raising any objections from any one so that the first glance of my Husband looking for us found me seated very comfortably in a corner of the deck upon a pile of greatcoats which I had arranged for my own accommodation.”
But alas, all was for naught! The officer in charge noticed her and demanded that she leave.

“I now thought to try the aspect of my pretty face which I have sometimes found a very powerful ally when all other means failed so I thereon gave the old gentleman the full benefit of my most insinuating smile while I pleaded for permission to stay where I was.”
Unfortunately, her attempts failed. The lady was put ashore. And what happened next? I would love to know! Only a piece of her memoir is available online, and for that we are thankful!

You can find the full snippet at the War of 1812 website, courtesy of Access Heritage.  

Friday, October 6, 2017

Must be the Season

File:Woodland path.jpgWe have a lot of seasons these days. There are the four seasons—winter, spring, summer, and fall. Then there’s the television season, which seems to fall in many different periods depending on the network, fill-in-your-favorite-sports seasons, and the holiday season, which is fast approaching. In early nineteenth century England, of course, there was only one Season. Or was there?

We’ve talked about the Season, that time between Easter and the beginning of hunting season (another season!), when the aristocracy flocked to London. Young ladies made their debuts. Marriages were contracted. Almack’s held its famous balls. And Parliament sat.

That, more than anything else, drove the Season. Your dear papa or older brother must take his seat in the Lords, and you came along to see and be seen. But you see, Parliament didn’t always sit just in the spring and summer months.
Older Regency romance novels talk of the Little Season, but many of us authors have looked in vain at period sources to discover what and when that might be. My theory is that the Little Season happened in the fall, when Parliament happened to sit later or arrive earlier than usual.

For example, in 1812, Parliament adjourned on July 30, but a general election was held in October. The newly elected in the House of Commons took their seats on November 24 and continued sitting with the House of Lords until July 22, 1813. Likewise, Parliament began sessions on November 4, 1813, and adjourned July 30, 1814. I cannot imagine every gentleman left family behind the entire time or huddled together over a pint without a ball or two to liven things up. This fall/winter time in London may have been what has been deemed the Little Season.

But at the moment, we seem to be in another type of season entirely. A sale season. Marissa mentioned Tuesday that her award-winning story, Skin Deep, is on sale through today. My publisher has put 500 of its books, including my A Convenient Christmas Wedding on sale for $1.99 from October 7 through 10.

It also so happens that my Art and Artifice, the second book in my Lady Emily Capers, parts of which were published as La Petite Four, is on sale for 99 cents through October 14.

Lady Emily dreams of joining the famous artists of the Royal Society for the Beaux Arts until her longtime betrothed Lord Robert declares his intent to marry her, immediately. What can the fellow be thinking! And why is handsome Bow Street Runner Jamie Cropper dogging Lord Robert’s steps, and Emily’s?  It’s up to Emily to use her art to uncover artifice and discover whether Lord Robert has something up his sleeve besides a nicely muscled arm. Along the way, a duke’s daughter might just form a perilous passion for a most unlikely suitor.

You know, it's always the season to read.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Recent Acquisitions: Bathing Place Assembly Ball Dress

Now, I ask you, dear NineteenTeen readers: is this print not perfectly wonderful?

I’m not absolutely certain of the date of this marvelous “Bathing Place Assembly Ball Dress” print from La Belle Assemblée. One source lists it as being from January 1813...but would anyone really be interested in “bathing place” attire in winter? On the other hand, the placement of description of the dress at the top of the plate is in keeping with other La Belle Assemblée prints from 1809-1810, so I’m going to go with August or September of one of those years.

It shows a young woman strategically posed before a full-length mirror so that the viewer very conveniently gets a look at the back of this delightful dress. I can’t begin to guess the materials used, but the style gives more than a passing nod to drapery techniques—the ribbon drawing up the overskirt and the peplum-like decorations  in back make me think of custom window treatments. Note the tops of the sleeves—strips of the green fabric, woven in a lattice—and the frill of lace extending all around the neckline, and the little lion’s head belt buckle.

And her hat! It’s a delightful cross between a Nelson bicorne and a Carmen Miranda head-dress and utterly made of win. Notice too how her hair is arranged, with a braid across the forehead ending in a fetching little curl!

We’ve seen another “bathing place” costume recently—the evening dress that was actually a walking dress, also from La Belle Assemblée. I’ve yet to discern what it is that separates an everyday ball dress (if there is such a thing!) from a Bathing Place ball dress. Perhaps a touch more informality than one might expect in a London ball dress?

And speaking of bathing places (but not ball dresses), my Cape Cod-set contemporary fantasy, Skin Deep, is on sale for 99¢ now through next Friday, after which the price will be going to $4.99—so now’s your chance! You can find it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, theApple iBookstore, and Kobo. Happy reading!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Better Than the Sound of Silence

Two people dear to me are beginning to lose their hearing, and both are too proud to wear hearing aids. I find myself raising my voice a lot and attempting to enunciate more clearly than usual. Had they been born in the upper class in the early nineteenth century, however, they might have used an ear trumpet.

You may have seen the horn-shaped things in old movies or read about them in books. Basically, the cone collected sounds and funneled them to the ear. Made from silver, horn, or wood, some were custom designed for a particular client. In 1800, Frederick Rein opened the first commercial shop in London.

Most had to be hand-held or placed on a stand on the table, and thus were quite visible. Some were collapsible for easy transport, but still evident in use. Like my two darlings, not everyone wanted to advertise their loss of hearing. So, Rein also developed less noticeable types, such as twin flower-shaped horns worn over the top of the head like today’s headphones. He also developed an acoustic urn that sat in the center of a table, collected sounds from around the room, and funneled them down a long tube to the listener. For the King of Portugal, he designed a special chair, where open-mouthed lion heads on the arm rests channeled sounds to the top of the chair, near the king’s ears. Talk about stealth hearing devices!

Other famous people besides the king said to have used ear trumpets during the early nineteenth century include the painter Joshua Reynolds and Beethoven.

Now, allow me to trumpet a little. I’m delighted to report that I have an audio book for the first time! “An Engagement of Convenience” has been recorded as part of the Summer House Party audiobook by Brilliance Audio. I can’t describe my delight when I heard my words being read aloud for the first time by someone other than me! 

And I hope Daisy and Lynn Lovegreen will be equally delighted. Lynn won the $25 Amazon gift certificate from last week, and Daisy won a copy of one of my books (e-book for Edwards and Williams’ titles, print copy from my stash for my Love Inspired titles). Contact me at reginascott at owt dot com with your physical address, and I’ll send those right out. Thanks for being part of Nineteen Teen as we head into our next 10 years!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Regency Fabrics, Part 16

Here’s another post in our ongoing series on Regency fabrics.

As I have in previous posts, I’ll be examining actual fabric samples glued into several earlier editions of Ackermann’s Repository, samples supplied by the manufacturers and published by Ackermann in order to boost the British cloth-making industry at a time when exporting British goods to Europe was almost impossible because of the Napoleonic war. I'll give you a close-up scan of each sample, the published description if available, and my own observations of the color, weight, condition, and similarity to present-day materials, to give you as close a picture as possible of what these fabrics are like.

Today’s three samples are from the October 1810 issue of Ackermann’s Repository. The overall condition of my copy is moderate; while the physical integrity of the fabric samples is good, there’s a lot of spotting on the top sample that obscures the pattern somewhat—mildew, perhaps? The other two samples are in good condition.

Here we go!

No. 1 and 2. A most lively and appropriate furniture print, from Mr. Allen’s 61, Pall-Mall, adapted principally for drawing room curtains and sofas. Boudoir draperies have a most pleasing effect when composed of this article. The most happily contrasted linings are, shades of green, blue, and purple, with variegated fringes to correspond.

My comments: I will confess that my first impression of this pattern was a memory of the little circular gummed reinforcement labels for three-hole punched paper (remember those?) The fabric itself is very finely and evenly woven, with a smooth glazed chintz finish and sufficient weight to mean this fabric definitely draped well. But, um, paired with green, blue, or purple lining? Not in my boudoir, thank you very much!

No. 3. This is an article very superior of its order, forming a neat and delicate intermediate kind of robe, and procured at the most modest expence [sic], being offered from 8s. to 14s. the dress, at Millard’s, in the city. The proprietor of this fashionable resort, which we have had occasion to notice in the foregoing numbers of our Repository, has, we are informed from the best authority, succeeded in forming connections with the great commercial cities in Russia, India, China, South America, Germany, France, Spain, Scotland, and Ireland; and thus rendered the establishment a grand depôt of every article which in elegance or utility can render a mansion comfortable or attractive, as far as relates to the requisite and ornamental furniture for drawing-rooms, eating and sleeping-rooms, nursery, &c. Ladies’ dresses of every degree, and of a superior description, as well as those for general use, are exhibited in abundance; and selections for forming new establishments made be readily made, and executed without delay. Here the nobility and gentry, the merchant, the country trader, and the public, are regularly supplied; and we cannot withhold the just portion of merit which belongs to the proprietor, whose persevering industry, ingenuity, and taste, have completed a depot on so vast and useful a scale. The assemblage of valuable India shawls, and of those manufactured in this country, are, we understand, immense in this establishment.

My comments: Well, it might have been nice to know a little more about the fabric and a little less about the industrious and ingenious (and unnamed!) proprietor in whose establishment this superior article could be purchased! It’s a very fine (and sheer—would definitely require a lining) muslin striped with a thin double line, of red and and white, twilled. Very dainty for a morning dress, I’m sure. Oh—did you notice the reference to the fact that the proprietor appeared to be trading with France? I would have thought that the little matter of being at war with that country might have interfered with trade, but evidently not!

No. 4 is a neat and appropriate article for gentlemen’s waistcoats, and is styled silk toilonet. It is ¾ yard wide, and sold by Messrs. Smith and Ash, fancy waistcoat warehouse, Prince’s-street, Soho, facing Coventry-street. The taste, utility, and reasonableness of this article, are too obvious to need further comment.

My comments: Hmm. I can’t help suspecting that further comment wasn’t forthcoming because the actual samples hadn’t been delivered to Ackermann’s offices before print time, but maybe I’m being cynical. It’s a curious fabric, without any modern counterpart that I can think of: heavier in weight, rather stiff, and in texture somewhere between flocked (like a velvet) and sueded, but not particularly soft to the touch. There’s a bar pattern woven in at wide intervals, of a single thread each of charcoal, brick red, and white. 

And did you think I forgot? The winners of our commenter drawing from my birthday party post last week are...

For the $25 Amazon gift card, veedham!
and for one of my print books (your choice),  mamafrog!

Ladies, if you would, please contact me via marissa @ marissadoyle dot com (removes spaces etc.etc.) so we can arrange for you to receive your prizes. Thank you all for commenting...and reading NineteenTeen!

(Oh, and a postscript: this is the last week By Jove will be on sale for 99 cents, so if you've been dithering on picking it up, now's the time to grab it before the price goes back up. You can snag it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple's iBookstore, and Kobo, as well as at Book View Cafe's own store (in both epub and mobi formats.)