Archive for December, 2006

Monstrosities of 1818

Monstrosities of 1821

George Cruikshank (1792-1878), began his career as a caricaturist and illustrator, becoming a successful cartoonist and social satirist while still a young man. Working with both wood and steel engravings, he limned a remarkable number of illustrations in the style of Rowlandson and Gillray that portrayed the British way of life. He observed society with visual brushstrokes, whereas Jane Austen used pen, ink, and words.

In these two hand-colored etchings (there are more in the series), Cruikshank exaggerated the fashions of the time. According to one reference, the black poodle as shown in Monstrosities of 1821 is a symbol of dandyism. Jane would not have seen these prints, as she died in July of 1817, but her sister Cassandra might have. Cruikshank was enormously popular during his day and his prints were widely distributed.

Learn more about George Cruickshank in the following links.

George Cruikshank: (1792-1878)

George Cruikshank: Wikipedia

George Cruikshank: The Art of the Print

The Victorian Web

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One of my favorite descriptions of the Regency dandy, and one that I contributed to Wikipedia, is the following in which author Venetia Murray quotes an excerpt from An Exquisite’s Dairy, from The Hermit in London, 1819:

Took four hours to dress; and then it rained; ordered the tilbury and my umbrella, and drove to the fives’ court; next to my tailors; put him off after two years tick; no bad fellow that Weston…broke three stay-laces and a buckle, tore the quarter of a pair of shoes, made so thin by O’Shaughnessy, in St. James’s Street, that they were light as brown paper; what a pity they were lined with pink satin, and were quite the go; put on a pair of Hoby’s; over-did it in perfuming my handkerchief, and had to recommence de novo; could not please myself in tying my cravat; lost three quarters of an hour by that, tore two pairs of kid gloves in putting them hastily on; was obliged to go gently to work with the third; lost another quarter of an hour by this; drove off furiously in my chariot but had to return for my splendid snuff-box, as I knew that I should eclipse the circle by it.

Beau Brummell, image from the British Library

Beau Brummell was the quintessential dandy of the era. Dandies are described in Prinny’s Set on the Georgian Index.

Find a short history of Brummell’s most famous sartorial contribution on the The White Satin Cravat.

Here is another quote about Brummell: “George Bryan “Beau” Brummell, then, must qualify as the most committed dandy of them all. Not only was he an enthusiastic, lifelong slave to his mirrors, he also polished them with champagne. His outrageously flamboyant, nascent rock’n’roll lifestyle, decadent splurging, shameless narcissism and meticulous attention to vanity and wardrobe has set the gold standard for dandies ever since.” (From All Mouths and Trousers)

Click on the following links to learn more about Mr. Brummell:

Beau Brummell: The Dandy

George Brian Brummell: Biography

The Sartorial Dandy

Lesson Two: The Gentleman’s Wardrobe

Upon My Word! Regency Fact and Figures

The Emergence of the Dandy

Dandyism: Andrew Solomon

Also on this blog: Male Bastions: The Clubs of St. James’s

Dandy Clubs for Research

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New Year’s Eve Traditions: Some Old, Some New

What did a New Year’s Eve Celebration look and feel like during the time of Jane Austen? This English Country House site gives you a good idea. You can still celebrate New Year’s Eve at Hunstrete House in Somerset much as they did in the 18th & 19th Centuries. Visitors are greeted by a cheery log burning on the fire, and are called to afternoon tea.

One can imagine the fabulous black tie meal consisting of a variety of courses that stretched for hours on end. The evening would then culminate with the ringing in of the New Year and a festive group singing the Robert Burns version of Auld Lange Syne. (Listen to it on this site.)

In England, “If the family prefer to bring in the New Year at home there is such a custom: the members of the household sat themselves round the hearth, and when the hands of the clock approach the hour, the head of the family rises, goes to the front door, opens it wide, and holds it thus until the last stroke of midnight has died away. Having let the Old Year out and the New Year in, he shuts the door quietly and returns to the family circle. ” (From this site)

The song, “Auld Lang Syne,” is traditionally sung at the stroke of midnight in almost every English-speaking country in the world to bring in the new year. The custom of singing this song on New Years Eve goes back to the British Isles from the 18th century when guests ended a party standing in a circle and singing this song. The custom first was rooted in Scotland, because the lyrics were written in 1788 by Robert Burns, their favorite folk poet of the time. But most musicologists feel that Auld Lang Syne came from a traditional Scottish folk melody. The entire song’s message merely means to just forget about the past and look ahead to the new year with hope. (From Study English Today)

More About Auld Lang Syne
The most commonly sung song for English-speakers on New Year’s eve, “Auld Lang Syne” is an old Scottish song that was first published by the poet Robert Burns in the 1796 edition of the book, Scots Musical Museum. Burns transcribed it (and made some refinements to the lyrics) after he heard it sung by an old man from the Ayrshire area of Scotland, Burns’s homeland,” Borgna Brunner .

Click here for my other New Year’s Post.

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Happy Christmas! The Christmas season in the early 1800s was a time of festive balls, dinner parties, and parlor games as described in Christmas Regency Style and a Jane Austen Christmas. While Christmas decorations in the form of garlands and mistletoe were put up on Christmas Eve and a yule log was cut and burned, the custom of ornamenting christmas trees, swapping Christmas cards, and singing Christmas carols did not become widespread until the Victorian era.

Click on the links below to learn how Christmas was actually celebrated during Jane Austen’s and the Prince Regent’s time.

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Boxing Day

The day after Christmas is called Boxing Day in England. December 26th was also known as St. Stephen’s Day, after the first Christian martyr. Money was collected in alms-boxes placed in churches during the festive season. This money was then distributed to the poor and needy after Christmas.

Boxing Day was first observed during the Middle Ages. In Jane Austen’s time the upper classes presented gifts in boxes to their servants on December 26 for good service the day before and during the previous year. The servants were often given the day off, and if December 26 fell on a Saturday or Sunday, Boxing Day took place on the following Monday. Boxing Day was also a traditional day for fox hunting.

Learn more about Boxing Day on the All About Christmas website.

This Snopes article about Boxing Day and its origins provides a more extensive overview as well: Click here.

To help you understand the Christian Calendar of that era, here is a listing:

Twelfth Night January 5
Epiphany January 6
Plough Monday First Monday after Epiphany
Hilary Term (law courts) Begins in January
Hilary Term (Cambridge) Begins in January
Hilary Term (Oxford) Begins in January
Candlemas February 2
Lady Day (a quarter day) March 25
Easter Term (Oxford)
Easter Term (Cambridge)
Easter In March or April
Easter Term (law courts) Begins after Easter
Ascension 40 days after Easter
Whitsunday (Pentecost) 50 days after Easter
May Day May 1
Midsummer (a quarter day) June 24
Trinity Term (law term) Begins after Whitsunday
Trinity Term (Oxford) Begins in June
Laminas (Loaf Mass) August 1
Michaelmas (a quarter day) September 29
Michaelmas Term Begins in OctoberMichaelmas Term Begins in October
Michaelmas Term Begins in November
All Hallows, All Saints November 1
All Souls November 2
Guy Fawkes Day November 5
Martinmas November 11
Christmas (a quarter day) December 25
Boxing Day Generally, first weekday after Christmas

Click on The Book of Days and then the Calendar of Days to learn more details about these yearly events and how and why they are celebrated.

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Yule Log

An enormous log of freshly cut wood called the Yule log was fetched and carried to the house on Christmas Eve. In England it was the custom to burn the log for the twelve days of Christmas, from Christmas eve on December 24th to Epiphany on January 6th.

The Yule Log was originally burned in honor of the gods and to bring good luck in the coming year. Since ancient times, the yule log ceremony celebrated the sun during the winter solstice. The log was chosen from a massive tree that required hauling by a team of horses or oxen. Tom Larson writes, “On or about Christmas eve, a big log was brought into a home or large hall. Songs were sung and stories told. Children danced. Offerings of food and wine and decorations were placed upon it. Personal faults, mistakes and bad choices were burned in the flame so everyone’s new year would start with a clean slate.”

Learn more about the origins of the Yule Log at the following sites:

The Yule Log

The Yule Log by Tom Larson

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Christmas Pudding

Illustration from Jane Austen Magazine
Christmas Pudding is considered a staple in a traditional English Christmas meal. The pudding has been around since the middle ages and was then known as mince pie. In her article about these puddings, Sarah Lane writes, “In 1714, King George I re-established pudding as part of the Christmas feast even though the Quakers strongly objected. Meat was eliminated from the recipe in the 17th century in favor of more sweets, and people began sprinkling it with brandy and setting it aflame when serving it to their guests. The Christmas pudding was not a tradition in England until it was introduced to the Victorians by Prince Albert. By this time the pudding looked and tasted as it does today. ”

For more about the Christmas Pudding, click here.

Mrs. Beeton’s Recipe:


Check recipe for shopping/store cupboard purposes and grease 1 basin.
5 oz breadcrumbs
4 oz of plain flour
4 oz chopped suet or modern day equivalent
4 oz currants
4 oz raisins
4 oz soft brown moist sugar
2 oz candied peel – Cut your own or use ready cut
2 oz raw grated carrot
1 teaspoon grated rind of lemon
half salt spoon nutmeg grated
1 good teaspoonful baking powder
about quarter pint of milk
2 eggs


Mix all the dry ingredients together except the baking powder.
Add the beaten eggs and sufficient milk to moisten the whole, then cover, and let the mixture stand for about an hour.
When ready stir in the baking powder, turn into a greased mould or basin, and boil for 6 hours or steam the plum pudding for about 7 hours.
Serve with a suitable sauce. Time 6 to 7 hours.
Sufficient for 9 persons.

For more about Christmas during the regency period, click on
The Regency Christmas Feast,
Christmas Pudding from Jane Austen Magazine, and

Christmas at Carlton House. Excerpt from that site:

Fun Fact:Christmas puddings and cakes traditionally had to be prepared by the Sunday before Advent in order to be considered ready for Christmas. They were thought to improve upon keeping. Oddly enough, the day became known as “Stir Up Sunday,” not because of the great deal of stirring done to prepare the victuals, but because of the collect for the church service that day: “Stir up we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people…”

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In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree :
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to manDown to a sunless sea.

So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round :
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree ;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

–Samuel Taylor Coleridge

When I visited

Brighton Pavilion in Brighton, a charming seaside town in Sussex’s South Downs, I found it more beautiful and fantastic than the drawings, paintings, and photos I’d seen. The building, rebuilt between 1815-1822 by John Nash, the Prince Regent’s architect, is starkly white and stands in the center of town. Approaching it on foot, one is astounded by the intricacy of the architectural details, from the exterior domes, spires, and columns, to the interior with its gothic touches, fantasy rooms, and exquisite color combinations and patterns.

The Prince Regent was known for his excesses and expensive tastes, and his architect John Nash succeeded in fulfilling the Prince’s most outrageous wishes. The Gothic Revival was in full swing during the Regency Era, including the love for all things mid-Eastern, Chinoise, and Arabian. This Arabian Nights fantasy in stone has been well documented in picture books and on the web. I will merely point out a few spectacular rooms and some of the details that struck me as being particularly beautiful or unusual.

The kitchen, a cavernous room created to comfortably accommodate the Prince’s idea of an intimate dinner, is depicted on this web page. Click here and scroll down to the kitchen. You can also see a panoramic view of the kitchen on the page if you have a real player. It was not unusual for the Prince to throw a banquet with 36 courses, hence the kitchen was designed to accommodate the scores of cooks and enormous amounts of food stuffs and ingredients required to prepare these foods.

The long gallery is indeed long. The colors are riotous, and one feels as if one is traipsing through a fantasy land.

On the left is a picture of John Nash’s long gallery. On the right is a photograph of the long gallery today.

The banquet room also lingers in my memory, with its long, long banqueting table, the exquisite details in the ceiling, and the fantastic carved dragons peeping out from chandeliers disquised as palms.

Salon & Music Room

Images of Brighton in the 19th Century:
Evening Gathering at Brighton Pavilion in the Yellow Room

Brighton, a seaside resort

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