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Posts Tagged ‘Louis Simond’

Gentle reader, This post from my archive ties in several elements – Louis Simond’s 19th century observations with current links and photographs. As you can see, the Earl of Pembroke’s magnificent house, the embodiment of the Palladian ideal, has been a favorite visiting destination for centuries:

Wilton House, located in Wiltshire, is the ancestral home of the Earls of Pembroke. In 1811, Louis Simond wrote about his visit to the great house in An American in Regency England. Here is his description of the park and grounds.

I measured an evergreen oak (not a large tree naturally); it covered a space of seventeen paces in diameter, and the trunk was twelve feet in circumference. An elm was sixteen feet in circumference, and many appeared about equal. Beyond the water, which before it spreads out into a stagnant lake, is a lively stream, you see an insulated hill covered with wood. We went to it by a very beautiful bridge. The view from that eminence is fine, and its slope would have afforded a healthier and pleasanter situation for the house. The deer came to the call, and ate leaves held to them – too tame for beauty, as they lose by it their graceful inquietude and activity and become mere fat cattle for the shambles. Deer are a good deal out of fashion, and have given way to sheep in many parks.

Deer in Richmond Park

Learn More About This Topic By Clicking on the Following Links:

Veteran Oak, Windsor Park

Arial view of the Wilton House grounds


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Louis Simond, a Frenchman who lived in the United States, landed in Falmouth on Christmas Eve, 1809 to begin a twenty-one month journey of the British Isles. During his tour, Louis set down his observations, which resulted in a well-received book, Journal of a Tour and Residence in Great Britain during the Years 1810 and 1811 by a Native of France with Remarks on the Country, its Arts Literature, and Politics, and on the Manners and Customs of its Inhabitants. The following passage in the book describes the custom of drinking milk in London:

In the morning all is calm–not a mouse stirring before ten o’clock; the shops then begin to open. Milk-women, with their pails perfectly neat, suspended at the extremities of a yoke, carefully shaped to fit the shoulders, and surrounded with small tin measures of cream, ring at every door, with reiterated pulls, to hasten the maid-servants, who come half asleep to receive a measure as big as an egg, being the allowance of a family; for it is necessary to explain, that milk is not here either food or drink, but a tincture–an elixir exhibited in drops, five or six at most, in a cup to tea, morning and evening. It would be difficult to say what taste or what quality these drops may impart; but so it is; and nobody thinks of questioning the propriety of the custom.– Louis Simond, An American in Regency England, The History Book Club, London, 1968, p 29-30.

The doling out of tiny portions of milk in the early nineteenth century could be explained by the Corn Laws, which protected the cultivation of land. Because of this law, less land became available for grazing cattle, resulting in a reduction of milk. (Liquid Pleasures: A Review). Milk prices must have risen steeply as well. Regardless of the available supply, milkmaids would walk through London, aiming their cries at the servants of the house, who worked belowstairs:

Milk Below Maids! Will you buy any milk today Mistress? Any milk today Mistress? Will you have any milk maids? Milk Below!

Many of the estimated 8,000 milk cows were housed in dairy buildings scattered throughout this densely populated city. One can imagine that the conditions were anything but sanitary. (Cries of London – Milkmaids, Regency World). Cows also grazed in the meadows and grasslands of parks and pleasure gardens, such as Vauxhall. They were milked at noon, and the warm, fresh milk was sold for a penny a mug. (Parks and Pleasure Gardens of Regency London, JASA)

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On July 6, 1810, Louis Simond wrote in An American in Regency England:

Salisbury is a little old city, very ugly, and of which there is nothing to say, except that the steeple of its cathedral, which is immensely high, and built of stone to its very summit, is twenty inches out of the perpendicular, which is really enough to take off the attention of the most devout congregation. We went to the morning service, and did not find a single person in the church except those officiating. It is not the the first time we have observed this desertion of the metropolitan churches–even where the steeples were quite perpendicular.


Well, I disagree with Louis Simond. We spent a pleasurable afternoon in Salisbury, gazing at the cathedral and visiting the town and found them charming. People are too picky at times: I enjoyed visiting an empty church. This allowed me to study its treasures up close and at leisure!

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Jane Austen’s characters attended assemblies, routs, and parties so often that one is left to wonder: Did these people never stay home?

When the social whirl was in full swing during the London social season, a well-connected, rich, well-born, or idle person could attend several gatherings in one night. Here is a first-hand description of an assembly by Louis Simond, a transplanted Frenchman in America, inveterate traveler, and author of An American in Regency England (p. 31):

“Great assemblies are called routs or parties; but the people who give them, in their invitations only say, that they will be at home such a day, and this some weeks beforehand. The house in which this takes place is frequently stripped from top to bottom: beds, drawers, and all but ornamental furniture is carried out of sight, to make room for a crowd of well-dressed people, received at the door of the principal apartment by the mistress of the house standing, who smiles at every new comer with a look of acquaintance. Nobody sits; there is no conversation, cards, no music; only elbowing, turning, and winding from room to room; then, at the end of a quarter of an hour, escapting to the hall door to wait for the carriage, spending more time upon the threshold among footmen than you had done above stairs with their masters. From this rout you drive to another, where, after waiting your turn to arrive at the door, perhaps, half an hour, the street being full of carriages before the house–then every curtain, and every shutter of every window wide open, shewing apartments all in a blaze of light, with heads innumerable, black and white (powdered or not), in continual motion. This custom is so general, that having, a few days agao, five or six persons in the evening with us, we observed our servants had left the windows thus exposed, thinking, no doubt, that this was a rout after our fashion.”

Indeed, with such a throng of people inside an enclosed space and candles blazing on hot spring and summer nights, the rooms would have been stifling. Had the windows and doors not been kept open, the heat and lack of fresh air would have been insufferable. People often needed to step outside to the terrace or gardens to gain some relief from candle smoke, body odor, and fetid air.

As you can see from this illustration of the Assembly Room in Bath by Thomas Rowlandson, the public assemblies also provided opportunities for dancing. One must surmise that private and public assemblies differed in character. The size of a hostess’s house and her budget must also have dictated whether she could also provide music and dancing at her gathering.

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Louis Simond, An American in Regency England, describes a meal with his host and hostess as thus:

“The master and mistress of the house sit at each end of the table–narrower and longer than the French tables–the mistress at the upper end–and the places near her are the places of honour. There are commonly two courses and a dessert. I shall venture to give a sketch of a moderate dinner for ten or twelve persons. Although contemporary readers may laugh, I flatter myself it may prove interesting in future ages.”

First course (not in order)
Oyster Sauce, Fish, Fowls, Soup, Vegetables, Roasted or Boiled Beef, Spinage, Bacon, Vegetables

Second Course (not in order)
Creams, Ragout a la Francoise, Pastry, Cream, Cauliflowers, Game, Celery, Macaroni, Pastry.

Dessert (not in order)
Walnuts, Raisins and Almonds, Apples, Cakes, Pears, Raisins and Almonds, Oranges

“Soon after dinner the ladies retire, the mistress of the house rising first, while the men remain standing. left alone, they resume their seats, evidently more at ease, and the conversation takes a different turn–less reserved–and either graver, or more licentious.”

Click on more links to food in the Regency Era:
Historic Food Links
The Food Timeline
Food and Drink in Regency England
The Art of Cookery
History of Tea in Britain

About the Art of Cookery: ‘The Art of Cookery’, written by Hannah Glasse, was published in 1747. It was a best seller for over a hundred years, and made Glasse one of the best-known cookery writers of the eighteenth century. As Glasse explains in the preface, the book was intended to be an instruction manual for servants – ‘the lower sort’ as she called them. During the 1700s there was a fashion for books of this kind, which were designed to save the lady of the house from the tedious duty of instructing her kitchen maids.”

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