RESOLVING NOT TO RESOLVE! (shared from Austen Authors)

 

Early 20th-century New Year's resolution postcards
Early 20th-century New Year’s resolution postcards

Have you already broken your New Year’s resolutions? I confess that I haven’t! Of course, that’s simply because I never made any. I used to make resolutions when I was younger, but then I realized I lacked the “want to” to follow through. The cartoon below represents my current way of dealing with those who ask if I’ve made any resolutions.

Hobbs pic

Still, after seeing so many mentions of resolutions in social media, some posted by my fellow Austen Authors, I began to wonder why the tradition began and when? Here’s some of what I learned.

It seems the Babylonians made promises to their gods in March of each year. BabylonOddly, their resolutions had to do with returning borrowed objects and paying their debts. Now, those are resolutions I could get behind! And, with any luck, the neighbor who borrows all our tools would be reminded to return them at least once a year!

Then came the Romans, who began each year by making promises to the god Janus, the two-faced god who looks backwards towards the old year and forwards into the new. Their resolutions had a moral flavor: mostly to be good to others. This seems odd to me since they spent so much time conquering and plundering so many countries, but who am I to judge.

Janus
Janus

Then, when the Roman Empire took Christianity as its official state religion in the 4th century, these moral intentions were replaced by prayers and fasting. Christians chose to observe the Feast of the Circumcision on January 1st in place of the revelry indulged in by those who did not share the faith.

Supposedly, medieval knights had their own version of the New Year’s resolution called The Vow of the Peacock or of The Pheasant. One by one, during the last feast of the Christmas week, they would place their hands on a live or roasted peacock, brought in with great pomp in a large vessel of gold or silver by a bevy of ladies. It was presented to each in turn, and each madePeacock vow his vow to recommit themselves, for the next twelve months, to the ideals of chivalry. Afterward the bird was set upon the table to be divided amongst all present. The flesh of the peacock (or of the pheasant) according to the old romances, was the peculiar diet of valiant knights and heart-stricken lovers. Charles Dickens wrote about these oaths in a Victorian periodical he founded, All the Year Round.

The tradition has other religious parallels. During Judaism’s New Year, Rosh Hashanah, through the High Holidays and culminating in Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), Jews reflect upon their wrongdoings and both seek and offer forgiveness. Christians act similarly during Lent, although the motive is more of sacrifice than of responsibility. In fact, the practice of New Year’s resolutions came, in part, from the Lenten sacrifices. The concept, regardless of creed, is to reflect annually upon how one can improve oneself.

I searched for lists of the most common resolutions, lists of which resolutions were most often broken and the length of time most resolutions were kept. Here they are in order:

Top 10 New Year’s resolutions for 2015

  1. Lose weight and get fit
  2. Get organized
  3. Get out of debt and save money
  4. Enjoy life to the fullest
  5. Eat healthier and diet
  6. Learn something new
  7. Quit smoking
  8. Help others achieve their dreams
  9. Fall in love
  10. Spend more time with family

Top 10 Commonly Broken New Year’s Resolutions

  1. Lose weight and get fit
  2. Quit smoking
  3. Learn something new
  4. Eat healthier and diet
  5. Get out of debt and save money
  6. Spend more time with family
  7. Travel to new places
  8. Be less stressed
  9. Volunteer
  10. Drink Less

Length most resolutions are kept (enough said)

  1. One week – 75%
  2. Two weeks – 71%
  3. One month – 64%
  4. Six months – 46%

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Finally, I saw this meme and thought these resolutions had a lot of merit even if vacuum is misspelled, so I am sharing it with you!

My dogs recs

Now, since I confessed that I stink at keeping resolutions, I wondered about you? Am I the only one? Does something have you buffaloed? For me it was and is exercising more.Exercise

If there’s something that has you intimidated, would you be willing to admit it? Remember confession is good for the soul. And, for those who obviously have their act together because they keep their resolutions, here is your chance to brag in the comments! I hope you will.

Information for this post came from: http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/

http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2040218_2040220_2040221,00.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Year%27s_resolution And http://billpetro.com/history-of-new-years-resolutions

 

 

Christmases Past & A Giveaway

Reposted from Austen Authors!

One tradition I love most this time of year is watching Christmas movies—some I have watched every year since I was a child.

My favorites are the older movies: It’s A Wonderful Life,Its a wonderful life Miracle on 34th Street (1947 version), The Bishop’s Wife (Cary Grant version), A Christmas Carol (George C. Scott version), White Christmas and Holiday Inn.

Miracle on 34th Street
Miracle on 34th Street

 

The Bishops Wife
The Bishops Wife

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Grinch
The Grinch

I also enjoy some of the newer offerings like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Jim Polar-ExpressCarrey version) and The Polar Express.

 

And, I would be remiss if I did not mention the animated classics: Frosty the Snowman and A Charlie Brown Christmas. Yes, I confess I even like to watch the cartoons.Frosty The Snowman

While considering the movies which had left an indelible impression on me all these years, however, I began to wonder if those were the same movies that had impressed the majority of people. Therefore I googled lists of the top ten Christmas movies and, boy, was I in for a shock! These are not your grandparents’ favorites, or likely your mother’s and father’s, either.

Forbes list of the Ten Best Christmas Movies (feature films, not animated) included Die Hard (Can you believe it was #1?) and they had two others I had never heard of—Brazil and 1941. I suppose I am just too old-fashioned (or maybe just too old), but I never dreamed Die Hard would go down in history (with apologies to Rudolph!) as a Christmas classic.

Thinking this had to be an aberration, I looked for additional top ten Christmas movie lists and found some were worse than Forbes’, in my opinion. Many included Gremlins, Home Alone, Batman Returns, Edward Scissorhands and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (I was afraid to look that one up to see what it was about) in their top ten. Are any of those movies your Christmas favorites?

I was beginning to worry I was the only one out of step when I found this list from AMC.com and felt somewhat vindicated:

  1. Elf
  2. It’s A Wonderful Life
  3. Home Alone
  4. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
  5. How The Grinch Stole Christmas
  6. A Charlie Brown Christmas
  7. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
  8. Miracle On 34th Street
  9. A Christmas Story
  10. Frosty The Snowman

So tell me. What movies do you associate with Christmas? If you absolutely love Die Hard, I apologize for disparaging it. Still, I would love to know your top three favorites and see if anyone is as old-fashioned as I am.

Since it is Christmas, I am giving away two prizes: A lovely 2016 JAFF Calendar from JT Originals 2016 300x234(http://www.jt-originals.com/2016-calendar.html) to the first name picked in a random drawing and a PandP Christmas Tree Ornamentpair of Darcy and Elizabeth Christmas Tree Ornaments to the second. Just comment before Friday at midnight CST and your name will be included in the drawing.

And, because I am incapable of leaving you with “vision of sugar plums” dancing in your heads, I am leaving you with pictures of Chatsworth (Pemberley in my heart) as it looks when decorated for Christmas.  And, as Tiny Tim said, “A Merry Christmas to us all. God bless us, every one!

Chatsworth-House-at-Christmas

christmas-generic

Chatsworth xmas

chatsworth-opener_2078637b

England Derbyshire Chatsworth House by kev747

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Thanksgiving Nostalgia (shared from Austen Authors )

Thanksgiving Nostalgia

Thanksgiving Nostalgia

When I realized that my post this month would fall on Thanksgiving, I had two thoughts. First, that everyone might be too busy cooking and eating to read it and, second, that Thanksgiving has nothing to do with the Regency stories I love to write. While there were harvest festivals and such, there were no Thanksgiving celebrations as we Americans (and Canadians) know them. I mention this because I like to share Regency information in my posts.

I have often wished I could include a Thanksgiving celebration in one of my books. Not only is that is my favorite holiday, but I can easily imagine Darcy being forced, for Lizzy’s sake, to spend every Thanksgiving either at Longbourn or with the Bennets at Pemberley. Can’t you imagine him suffering through Mrs. Bennet’s effusions over the roast pheasant every year? However, since I’m very reluctant to change continents or write a modern story, that will probably never happen.

Still, I was bound and determined to include my favorite picture of Thanksgiving in this post, so I started there. The painting below, Freedom From Want,  is by America’s beloved painter and illustrator Norman Rockwell, and it best exemplifies what I remember of Thanksgivings spent at my grandparents’ farm in Cullman County, Alabama, as a child.

 

Freedom From Want
Freedom From Want

And, once I found this painting I realized what this post needed to be about. Norman Rockwell included this picture in a series of oil paintings in 1943 he called the FOUR FREEDOMS.

These are among his best-known works and at one time, were commonly displayed in post offices, schools, clubs, railroad stations and a variety of public buildings.

Freedom of Worship
Freedom of Worship

 

Freedom of Speech
Freedom of Speech

 

Freedom From Fear
Freedom From Fear

These paintings—Freedom of Worship, Freedom of Speech, Freedom from Fear and Freedom from Want—illustrate President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s January 1941 State of the Union address in which he identified essential human rights which should be universally protected. In my opinion, they represent America as our forefathers designed it—one nation, under God, indivisible. Our Declaration of Independence, which pre-dates and pre-exists the Constitution, states:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…

I thank God every day that I was born in the “land of the free,” and I try to pray for those who were not as fortunate. At this Thanksgiving, let those of us who value freedom from want, freedom from fear, freedom of speech and freedom to worship, make our voices heard.

My wish for you and your family is that your day is filled with love, laughter and thanksgiving for your blessings. To help bring you laughter, I am posting another of my favorite Rockwell Thanksgiving paintings, “Cousin Reginald Catches the Thanksgiving Turkey.”

Cousin Reginald Catches the Thanksgiving Turkey
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Off to Gretna Green and a giveaway!

Off to Gretna Green and a giveaway!

SHARED FROM AUSTEN AUTHORS

Do you just love those scenes in Jane Austen fanfiction where a couple we care about elopes to Gretna Green?Road to GG London Illustrated News 1871 2

The Elopement by John Collet
The Elopement by John Collet

Whether it’s Darcy and Elizabeth or some other couple we are rooting for, it seems so romantic to picture them rushing off to be married. Of course, we also cringe when a naughty couple such as Wickham and (fill in the blank) do the same. Still, I love to read about Gretna Green, and I thought I would share just a little about this life-changing village in Scotland and why it became legendary.

 

Arrival at Gretna Green
Arrival at Gretna Green

The reason for the exodus to Gretna Green was the Marriage Act of 1753—Lord Chancellor Hardwicke’s Act for the Prevention of Clandestine Marriages. The law passed after a good deal of debate about regularizing marriages to protect wealthy families from having their offspring preyed upon. Prior to this, London was infamous for “Fleet marriages” performed by clergymen who were in Fleet Prison for debtors.

Fleet Prison
Fleet Prison

Clergymen could live in the “Rules” area, just outside the prison (meant to provide them a sanctuary) and there they performed questionable marriages. They could not be fined for performing these marriages and were effectively beyond the law. The Fleet weddings were the bane of many a rich family. Underage heiresses were tricked or kidnapped and forced into marriages by unscrupulous men. Fathers also complained of sons who had married unsuitable brides. Even two dukes saw their sons married in these secret ceremonies. However with the Marriage Act, by 1754 the informal wedding had been swept away.

Under the act, clandestine or common-law marriages in England were made illegal. Now marriages required an official ceremony performed by a Church of England priest, unless the couple was Jewish or Quaker. The groom and bride had to each be 21 years of age, or have the consent of their parents or guardians. The wedding had to take place during daylight hours in a parish church within the Church of England’s jurisdiction. Banns had to be read for three Sundays prior to the ceremony, and the curate would ask if anyone knew any reason why either the man or woman could not marry. If the couple lived in separate parishes, the banns had to be called in each. Lastly, a license had to be obtained and the marriage recorded in the parish church.

Special Licenses avoided all these requirements but had to be obtained from the Archbishop of Canterbury,4589307480_3f83dfee60 and the names of those to be married had to be written on the license. These constraints did not help those wishing to marry against the wishes of their families. By requiring parental consent, the act gave parents the right to reject any marriage they considered undesirable. A clergyman who performed an illegal marriage could be transported for up to fourteen years. Yikes!

This act also applied in Wales and Ireland. However, it did not apply to Scotland which was under its own legal system and where the age of consent was 12 for girls and 14 for boys. Hence marriages at Gretna Green became popular. It was not the only Scottish Border village destination, though it was the first village over the border on the main west coast route from England. It was not the closest place if you went north from London. If you went up the Great North Road to Scotland, it would take you to Coldstream Bridge or Mordington or Lamberton Toll, all on the eastern side of the country.

Moreover, marriage records show a number of Irish couples married in Scotland to thwart the Irish marriage laws. Gretna Green was not the most popular venue for the Irish, however. Instead they headed for Portpatrick in Wigtownshire on the far west coast because there was a daily packet boat service from Ireland to that village. Finally, the eloping couple didn’t necessarily need to go to Scotland at all. The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man also allowed for clandestine marriages before their laws were changed.

Gretna-Green-Scotland-Eloping-Three-1024x768One had to be absolutely certain they were in Scottish territory when the marriage took place. The Berwick toll keeper, who usually presided over the weddings for those who crossed into Scotland there, was sent to prison for performing a ceremony in Berwick town itself, which was in England.

Under Scotland’s irregular marriage traditions, anybody could perform marriages whether they were farmers, the blacksmith, the toll masters, the landlord of the local tavern, a passing highwayman or a local smuggler. So, contrary to the common tradition of “anvil priests,” the blacksmith was not the only person who could marry a couple.

After reading this, I began to wonder if I would actually feel married if the ceremony was performed by a blacksmith, much less a highwayman or smuggler! How binding would that seem? I would love to hear your views on the subject.

 Information in this post came from the following: http://wordwenches.typepad.com/word_wenches/2013/11/ten-fascinating-facts-about-gretna-green.html  and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shrigley_abduction

 

 

I had new covers created for my books, “Fitzwilliam Darcy An Honourable Man” and “Mr. Darcy’s Forbidden Love” and in celebration, I am giving away a Kindle e-book of each. Just leave a comment to this post by Midnight Friday (CST) if you would like to be in the drawing. Fitzwilliam Darcy An Honourable Man Mr. Darcy's Forbidden Love

 

The Dreaded Freak Carriage Accident

Shared from Austen Authors post!

One of the things I love about writing Regency stories is thinking of ways to dispose of characters, especially characters we all love to hate. A lot of acronyms have sprung up on Jane Austen Fan Fiction forums over the years, and one such acronym is FCA. On occasion a new reader will ask what FCA stands for and this post provides the answer. Freak carriage (or coach) accidents are used often in JAFF tales, and I thought it would be fun to look into one of our favorite plot devises.

As we investigate numerous reasons why these accidents may have happened, I couldn’t help but add my own thoughts in bold. Please indulge me.

 

travel-regency-england

Drivers were often careless, furious, intoxicated or even ignorant.

Careless driving often resulted because a driver was not paying attention and turned corners too fast, driving up banks or into ditches, or crashing into other vehicles or obstacles. Not too much different from today, what with women wearing the latest skimpy fashions!

Driving while angry or furious was not a frequent cause of accidents, mainly, I suppose, because the coachmen/drivers wished to keep their jobs. There were no penalties for it. It was suggested, however, that if the guilty driver gave a false address, they should be prosecuted for a misdemeanor. So road rage was not a big problem in the Regency era.

Thomas Rowlandson -The Runaway Coach

Driving while intoxicated was deterred by having stiff penalties inflicted upon the employers of known drunkards and then ensuring that full penalties were meted out to the guilty parties. DUIs started with carriages? Unbelievable.

Ignorant driving relates to those who did not know the best way to hold the reins. Tips for doing so included never driving with the reins too slack. In the article I found, there was an explanation of how to loop the reins so that they pulled on the hand, not the fingers. Supposedly, holding the rein in this way levelled the pull on the horse’s mouth. However, I could not make heads or tails (pun intended) of the instructions. Should you be scheduled to drive a team of horses in the near future, you can follow the link listed at the end of this post for more detailed instructions.

Bad road conditions.

The main obstacles in towns were the blocking of streets for the loading and unloading of goods or for performing work on them. As for vehicles outside the town limits, mail coachesCarriage Accident and others had to keep an eye out for dangerous items in the roads. Some of the things regularly encountered by coaches were plows, tree branches and doors and gates, gates being the most common item found in roadways. Sound like the morning rush-hour traffic report to you, too?

As someone of that era said, “It was never clear if these obstacles were placed there to facilitate robbery, or out of sheer wantonness . . . [as the] instances of such acts of wickedness were frequent.”

In addition, cart and wagon owners often used large stones to block a wheel while they loaded or unloaded their carts or wagons. If left in the road, these loose stones were particularly dangerous to horses traveling downhill, and it was a situation easily prevented by a little thoughtfulness. So many road problems could be prevented by a little of that.

Collisions with Other Vehicles.

These occurred primarily because of runaway horses, although it was claimed that a good driver could avoid them. The rule of the road was keep to the left side and to pass vehicles going in the same direction on the right. The advantage to the rule was that everyone knew what to expect, and a driver could use his whip without accidentally lashing pedestrians. Hmm. I wonder if he might not lash someone when he went to the right to pass.

Georgian Carriage AccidentAnother way to avoid collisions mentioned in my research was for a less experienced driver to collide with something that would stun the horse and force it to stop rather than hit another carriage. Can you imagine the poor creature crashing into a tree? Methinks it might stun not only the horse, but the occupants!

Horses presented a myriad of problems.

Relying on horses for transportation presented many problems included bolting, shying or rearing when a horse became frightened or was in pain. A good driver was aware of his horses’ conditions and noted the prick of their ears, so they could be ready to stop before an accident happened. For horses which pulled carriages, jibbing was more common than rearing. Jibbing was stopping and refusing to go, a habit hard to eradicate. Drivers were advised if their horse was a jibber, they should not attempt to have it pull a four-wheeled carriage, except as one of a pair. Moreover, it was suggested that jibbers pull gigs rather than other kinds of carriages. I love horses and prefer to blame all their eccentrics on the inexperience of their handlers.

On occasion a horse might have stomach staggers which made him giddy, stagger sideways, and fall by sinking to the ground on its hind legs first. It was frequently caused by over feeding a horse on dry oats and hay and was remedied by feeding the horse steamed corn or a bran mash. There were also several other reasons for this malady, including excessive driving, a badly fitting collar pressed against the horse’s windpipe, or a tight bearing rein. Poor animal!

 Runaway Horse

Other Causes of Carriage Accidents: Harness and Carriage Issues, Passengers.

Harness issues were too numerous to mention but included breaking bands, straps and bolts. The main advice given to avoid harness accidents was for drivers to double check their harnesses for any defects before driving. Carriage issues involved going too fast downhill or having the carriage lose ground and run backwards when going uphill. Had to smile at that one, for I imagined Lady Catherine in the coach!

As for passengers, women were advised to leave their hands free, even while being helped in or out of a carriage by a gentleman and to watch that their long skirts did not catch onAscending and Descending a Carriage-M-1189 the steps. That puts a damper on all the scenes where Darcy helps Lizzie in or out of a carriage and they look longingly at each other, doesn’t it!

Riders were advised never to jump out of a carriage in motion, which was a risky proposition. You think? However, if a horse bolted and the person needed out, he was advised to jump in the same direction as the horses were going. I cannot see that ending well, either.

When riding in carriages, passengers were advised to be careful to secure themselves so as not to slide off the seat if there is any sudden movement. Sitting in Mr. Darcy’s lap would be my safety suggestion. If not the safest position, at least it would be the most enjoyable.

One important side note about carriages: The choice seat in a carriage was the one on the right hand side facing the animals; this was usually reserved for women or the elderly. Refer to my note above regarding Darcy’s lap.

Now that we have gone over the many causes of FCA, please tell me your thoughts. Do we writers rely on them too often? Or are they to be expected given the times? I have to admit that I love them as a plot point no matter how many times I read them.

Information for this post came from:http://18thcand19thc.blogspot.com/2015/08/carriage-accidents-and-remedies.html

 

Have you had your biscuit today?

Shared from Austen Authors website

One of the first things you learn about writing stories based in the United Kingdom is that what Americans call a certain item is not necessarily what the British call it. To name all the differences would take too long. Besides, if you are a Jane Austen fan, you probably know most of them already. However, lately I learned something new about British biscuits (cookies to us in the States) and thought I would share it with you. First, here is the Oxford Dictionary’s explanation of the difference between a cookie and a biscuit, from the British and American perspective:

 Biscuit:  In the UK, your biscuit might be topped with chocolate or have currants in it. You might dip it in your cup of tea, or have one as a snack after lunch. If you were in the US, you might put bacon and eggs on it or smother it in gravy and have it for breakfast. Or you might put a piece of chicken on it and have it for dinner.

How did these two very different meanings come to be? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word biscuit comes originally from the Latin biscotum (panem), which means bread “twice baked,” which would explain the hard, crunchy quality of a British biscuit. An American biscuit is similar to what the Brits would call a scone (and an American scone is something else entirely). It’s unclear how these two different foods came to have the same word, and we can only speculate about the influence of the French language in the southern United States.

Cookie: The word cookie opens up a whole other can of worms. In the UK, a cookie is a soft, squishy, moist biscuit, for lack of a better word. British cookies tend to be bigger and more substantial than a British biscuit. In the US, a cookie covers both what the British would call a biscuit and a cookie. The word comes from the Dutch koekje, meaning “little cake,” and could have been popularized in the US through the early Dutch colonization, though we don’t know for sure.

So, a British biscuit is an American cookie and an American cookie is a British cookie and an American biscuit is a British scone and an American scone is something else entirely. Simple!

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Napoleon 4ANow that you have mastered all of that, allow me to continue. While watching the made for television movieDeath Comes To Pemberley, I noticed that when Mrs. Reynolds was showing Mrs. Darcy what food was to be served at the ball, she mentioned “Prince of Wales” biscuits. I thought nothing of it, for who has not heard of foods named after kings, queens and even celebrities. Anyone care for a slice of Napoleon?

However, a friend shared a link to a lovely blog, Food History Jottings, which opened up a whole new side of biscuit-making for me. That is the practice of using stamps to mark the biscuits for celebrating historic events and/or the monarchy. I knew about cookie cutters, but I had no idea there were stamps. These little tools stamped biscuits with printed motifs by hand before mechanised processes took over during the course of the nineteenth century

Below is a picture of Prince of Wales Biscuits and the recipe.

Prince of Wales Biscuit

 

Prince of Wale’s Biscuit

1 lb butter and 3lb 8ozs of flour. To be mixed the same as hollow biscuits; and to be stamped with the prince’s feather; they must be pricked with a fork; and baked in rather a slower oven. From Joseph Bell, A Treatise of Confectionery (Newcastle upon Tyne: 1817).

This fine stucco of the Prince of Wales Feathers adorns the space Prince of Wales Feathers above the back entrance to the prince’s kitchen wing at Brighton Pavilion. This emblem was the motif printed on the Prince of Wales biscuits.

 

york20biscuits20commemorate20wedding20DOY20and20Princess20Frederica201790_zpse1ra8byw

York Biscuits were invented to commemorate the marriage of the Duke to Princess Frederica Charlotte of Prussia in 1790 and continued to be made well into the twentieth century. A picture of a boxwood York stamp is included below.

York20Biscuit20stamp_zpsc3km9q5c

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Duchess of York’s Biscuits

1 lb butter, 8 oz. of sugar, 3 lb of flour. Rub the butter into the flour; then add the sugar, and mix it up into a stiff paste with milk; rolle the paste out about a quarter of an inch thick, they must be cut square and stamped with a proper stamp of the happy union and baked in a good oven. From Joseph Bell, A Treatise of Confectionery (Newcastle upon Tyne: 1817).

Lastly, here is a biscuit stamp with a strong connection to George III, father to all three brothers – the Prince Regent,RarebiscuitdockerfromNapoleonicwars the Duke of York and the Duke of Clarence. It is carved with a royal crown and engraved with the words Royal Volunteers Biscuit. The use of the long s, rather like an f, dates this print prior to 1810. Volunteer militias were raised throughout Britain during the Napoleonic Wars, and perhaps these biscuits were enjoyed in the officers’ mess with a glass of wine.

The pictures below depict the biscuit making process. First, the dough is rolled out and cut into strips using the rolling pin as a ruler. The other illustrates how the biscuit prints or stamps were used.

Dough20rolled20out_zps3zzbugoa

York5_zps3qd59vx6

In addition to stamps, every kitchen drawer in the Regency period also housed a docker, which was a device for punching tiny holes into the biscuits to stop them from bubbling up. Many of the biscuit prints, like those discussed above, also incorporated their own little docking nails to combine the two steps.

b0a5ccbc-aa56-4edb-bbbe-67f9254e83d5_zpswleh6bwbThe biscuit in the centre has not been docked correctly and has blown up into a bubble. It will, therefore, easily flake and fragment, making it no good for keeping (but great for eating right away!).

1896c75e-391a-4e78-8a85-2cf1d6dcb028_zpsdtvnvjgc

 

 

 

 

This is just the kind of information I love to discover in my research. If you have time, be sure to check out the Food History Jottings blog at the link below. It may inspire you to do some biscuit/cookie baking of your own.

 

Now, I leave you with a picture from this blog showing a large selection of biscuits and a giveaway. In the foreground are millefruit biscuits, sweetmeat biscuits, filbert biscuits and rolled wafers. The round biscuits on the plate in the middle printed with the feathers emblem are Prince of Wales biscuits. In the background can be seen some spice biscuits and more rolled wafers.

millefruit20biscuits_zpsrqi6cgmi

Have I made you hungry? I hope so, for I am giving away two Kindle E-booksThe Little Book of Scones by Liam D'Arcy of THE LITTLE BOOK OF SCONES from Grace Hall and Liam D’Arcy. I chose this book instead of a book on biscuits, simply because I like the author’s name! Just comment before midnight Saturday to be in the drawing to win a copy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most of the information for this post is from: http://foodhistorjottings.blogspot.ca/2013/05/some-regency-biscuits.html?utm_source=feedly

 

Breaking Bad in Regency England

Shared from Austen Authors:

Now that I have your attention, I confess that I have never watched the television program Breaking Bad. However, the hype about the show was so successful that even non-television viewers like me have heard of it.

As I was doing research for a Regency story, I found some information about broken bones I thought I would share. I think we all know that a bad break to a bone in the Regency era was a very serious thing. In fact, one of the sources of this article called their post: Setting a Broken Bone – 19th Century Medical Treatment was not for Sissies 17_skeletonbecause setting broken bones was a painful procedure in a time before anesthesia.

A simple fracture of the arm might be relatively easy to put right. Muscles contracted in reaction to the injury and had to be stretched before the bone was set. Thus, the bone of a 18_ortho_pic_zpsyvky3s6sforearm could be set without too much exertion on the part of the surgeon or bone setter. Once set and placed in a sling, the arm bone required only time and rest to heal.

 

Larger limbs were not as simple to set. With a broken leg, the size and strength of the leg muscles far exceeded that of the arm, and the exertion to set the bone in place would have required at least two persons. A fracture in the lower leg would have been easier to remedy than a fracture of the thigh, which has the largest muscles. Thigh muscles experience a greater degree of contraction and shortening, and several assistants would have been needed to properly place those bones in their natural position. If, after all the pulling and resetting, both limbs were the same length again, the procedure was considered to be a success.

As early as the 16th century, there were apprentice barber-surgeons who learned their trade by necessity. Yet, not all bone setters were apprenticed to a medical person. If no surgeon or physician lived nearby, the local blacksmith might set bones in humans as well as animals for a fee. The apprentices were often forced into the army to treat soldiers. However, if a soldier’s bones were shattered from canon or gun fire and risked infection, the surgeon might chose to amputate before the tissue developed gangrene.

Bow Frame Amputation Saw 1601-1700
Bow Frame Amputation Saw 1601-1700

Over the centuries, scientific inventions sped up a surgeon’s or bone setter’s ability to help patients. As early as the 15th century, the printing press churned out medical manuals in which procedures were standardized and knowledge disseminated over the world. In the late 17th century, traction was being used to repair a broken bone, and in 1718, French surgeon, Jean Louis Petit, invented the tourniquet to control bleeding, a medical technique that was especially helpful during amputations.

Some bone setters were celebrated for their skill. In the early 18th century a Mrs. Mapp was legendary for her abilities. The daughter of another famous bone setter, Polly Peachum, the wife of the Duke of Bolton, Mapp was known as Crazy Sally. Nevertheless, her curesearned her upward of 100 guineas per year. Below is a quote from an article in Boston Medical and Surgeon Journal regarding Mrs. Mapp.

Her bandages were neat, and her skill in reducing dislocations and in setting fractures was said to be wonderful. If it was known that she was going to the theatre, that was sufficient to fill the house. Her own estimate of herself is shown by an interesting incident. When passing through Kent street, she was taken for one of the King’s German mistresses, who was unpopular. A mob gathered and used threatening language. Mrs. Mapp thereupon put her head out of the window and cried, ‘Damn your bloods, don’t you know me? I am Mrs. Mapp, the bone setter,’ and drove away amid the applause of the multitude.”

Sarah Mapp - Bone Setter
Sarah Mapp – Bone Setter

 

Not everyone was a fan however. In the same publication was this insult: “Mr. Percival Pott, the celebrated surgeon, who was her contemporary, spoke of her claims as the most extravagant assertions of an ignorant illiberal drunken female savage.”  

I will add that had Ms. Mapp appeared at my door, she would likely have been sent packing. Bless her heart. It is good thing she had an occupation because she wasn’t going to catch anyone’s eye with her beauty! And, though she was married at one time, it was said that her husband thrashed her before running off with her money.

I wanted to end by including this picture entitled The Comforts of Bath by Rowlandson. Though it was meant to make us smile, there were a great many people during Jane Austen’s time that suffered because of the lack of medical care and knowledge. As far as our health is concerned, we are truly blessed to live today.

the-comforts-of-bath-rowlandson

Beaches and Bathing Machines!

Beaches and Bathing Machines!

For much of my life, the arrival of June meant family vacations at the beaches of Alabama or Florida. Even now, when the calendar rolls over to the first of that month, I feel as though I can finally unwind and relax. A holdover, I am certain, from all the years spent waiting for the school year to end so we could take a well-needed break from our daily lives.

I cannot help but consider how a trip to the beach today compares to one in the early 1800’s. I confess that I cringe when I watch the scenes in Persuasion where the women are walking along the seashore and the bottoms of their gowns get wet. Washing clothes in that period was not an easy task, made more difficult because of the length of their gowns. Furthermore, I cannot fathom how stifling the heat must have been in the summer months when one was wearing all those clothes. Heat stroke, anyone?

Still, had a woman wished to ‘take to the water’ in order to cool themselves, they would likely have used an invention known as the bathing machine. The purpose of this invention was to keep women and their bodies out of sight, while the men were allowed to frolic freely, if on a separate section of the beach.

Mermaids at Brighton by William Heath 1829
Mermaids at Brighton by William Heath 1829

The bathing machines in use in  Margate, Kent were described in 1805 as “four-wheeled carriages, covered with canvas, and having at one end of them an umbrella of the same materials which is let down to the surface of the water, so that the bather descending from the machine by a few steps is concealed from the public view, whereby the most refined female is enabled to enjoy the advantages of the sea with the strictest delicacy.”

Bognor, UK West Beach
Bognor, UK West Beach

Bathing machines began popping up around the 1750s as four-wheeled carts with two doors on either side that were normally rolled out to sea by a horse. Swimwear hadn’t yet been invented and most people still swam naked. Later, when early forms of swimwear were introduced, society declared that a proper woman should not be seen on the beach in her bathing suit. The bathing machine allowed bathers to change out of their clothes and into their bathing suits without being seen or having to cross the beach in improper clothing. The machine would simply be rolled out to sea and hauled back in when the beachgoer raised a small flag attached to the roof.

bathing12

Once deep enough in the surf, the bather would exit the cart using the door facing the water. For inexperienced swimmers, some beach resorts offered the service of a “dipper,” a strong person of the same sex, who would escort the bather out to sea in the cart, essentially push them into the water and yank them out when they were done. As long you as you didn’t drown, this was considered a successful day at the beach.

At their most popular, bathing machines lined the beaches of Britain and other parts of the British Empire, as well as France, Germany, the United States and Mexico. Below is a panoramic view of a beach in France.

France

The following excerpt from The Traveller’s Miscellany and Magazine of Entertainment written in 1847 recalls the details of a luxury bathing machine. Along with the excerpt, I have included a picture of Queen Victoria’s bathing machine. I can just imagine the interior may well have rivaled the description given in the magazine.

“The interior is all done in snow-white enamel paint, and one-half of the floor is pierced with many holes, to allow of free drainage from wet flannels. The other half of the little room is covered with a pretty green Japanese rug.  

Queen Victoria's Bathing Machine
Queen Victoria’s Bathing Machine

In one corner is a big-mouthed green silk bag lined with rubber. Into this the wet bathing-togs are tossed out of the way. There are large bevel-edged mirrors let into either side of the room, and below one juts out a toilet shelf, on which is every appliance. There are pegs for towels and the bathrobe, and fixed in one corner is a little square seat that when turned up reveals a locker where clean towels, soap, perfumery, etc. are stowed. Ruffles of white muslin trimmed with lace and narrow green ribbons decorate every available space.”

The bathing machines remained in active use on English beaches until the 1890s, when they began to be parked on the beach and used as stationary changing rooms. When legal segregation of bathing areas in Britain ended in 1901 and it finally became acceptable for both genders to bathe together, it was the beginning of the end of the bathing machine. Most of them had disappeared in the United Kingdom by 1914, and by the 1920s, they were almost entirely extinct, except for those used by the elderly.

Brighton Walks
Brighton Walks

 

Still, even in this era of bikinis and topless beaches, some of the bathing machines are still in service, having been divested of their wheels to become changing cabins. The adorably photogenic and colorful little beach houses, pictured above, are the direct successors of the Georgian bathing machine and a little-known reminder of seaside history. Who knew?

Now, my question to you is this: Had you lived in that era, do you think you would have dared to take advantage of a bathing machine? Better still, would you have dared to appear in one of those bathing costumes?

The information in this post is from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bathing_machine and www.messynessychic.com

Fire – A Regency Necessity + A giveaway!

I have enjoyed writing Regency stories for several years, and the more I write, the more I realize how much more there is to know about that era. But, if I have learned anything along the way, it is this: For a tale is to be believable, the details must also be believable.

With each new story, I find another aspect of the Regency period that I need to investigate. I’m not speaking of the protocols of courtship or station that I tend to flaunt in my ‘what if’ tales, but about everyday matters my characters would have faced—such as how to build a fire, treat a cold or how much time it took to travel from point A to point B.

Today I would like to pass along a little bit of what I learned about fire. By the fourteenth century, the Steet seller of matches for tinder boxes 1821“match” was known in Europe, but it was much more similar to what we think of as a wick or a fuse. It was a chemically treated cord which burned slowly but continuously, and could be used to ignite the touch-hole of a cannon or a campfire.

Fire was not truly portable until the end of the reign of George IV, and the inexpensive matches we take for granted today did not come along until the reign of Queen Victoria. But, if matches were not readily available during the Regency, how was fire managed at that time? That would commonly be by means of a tinderbox. This was a metal box, most often made of tin, with a lid that fit tightly on the box, like a modern-day canister. Often the lid would have a box with candleplace for a candle so that you could use it as a holder if you wished.

A tight fit was necessary to keep the tinder in the box dry. The tinder was kept in the very bottom, under a metal disk of the same diameter as the box. Often the disc had a small handle for ease of use. This disk was the damper and was used to extinguish the tinder once its sparks had served their purpose. Resting atop the damper would be the steel striker and the flint nodule which would be stuck against each another to create sparks. Above those implements would be stored the matches, which were sticks made of deal (wood from Scots pines) dipped in sulphur or spunks (a kind of wood or fungus that smolders when ignited). These matches were nothing like the friction matches yet to be invented but were simply implements of fire transfer.

The most favored tinder material during the Regency was scorched linen, which was made by putting cloth into an almost airtight tin with a small hole in it, and cooking it in campfire coals until the smoking slowed and the cloth was properly charred. These cloths ignited with the smallest spark and were used with a flint and steel. When away from home, small pocket tinder boxes were often carried, sometimes set with a burning glass (a lens) in the lid to light the tinder directly from the sun’s rays. The poorer people working in the fields would obtain a light by simply striking a flint on the back of a knife onto a piece of touch-paper that they carried in their pockets.

How were these items used together to make fire? First, everything was removed from the tinderbox except the tinder. The steel was held over the tinder and the flint was struck against it. The steel showered sparks, and eventually a spark would ignite, at which point the fire would be drawing tinderencouraged by a few soft, steady breaths. Once the tinder was burning steadily, a match was applied to it. The match would ignite and be applied to a candle for light, or to a taper or paper spill to be used to light a fire laid on the hearth. As soon as the match had been ignited, the damper was put back into the tinderbox to snuff out the tinder so that it could be used again.

In most households, the kitchen fire was kept burning around the clock. At night, it was banked and covered with a metal hood pierced with many small holes, called the curfew, a corruption of the French couvre-feu, meaning “fire cover.” Each morning someone would remove the cover and use bellows to blow fresh life into the imagesA2Q9886Msmoldering embers and then add fuel to renew the fire. As it was not always convenient to dash to the kitchen hearth for a light, many homes kept a tinderbox on each mantelpiece. A thoroughly utilitarian domestic appliance, a tinderbox might be kept out of sight in an elegant town home or an opulent country mansion, except for those made of brass or silver. Still, it was a common feature of modest houses and cottages.

Now that you know the effort required to start a fire, it’s quite understandable why the invention of the friction match was so incredibly important. Imagine rising on a cold, dark, winter morning to find that your kitchen fire had died during the night and having to fumble in the dark to find the tinderbox, grasp the cold flint and steel, and then struggle to strike enough sparks to ignite the tinder.

Whew! It makes me tired just to think about it. Aren’t you glad that we have modern heating (and air conditioning)? At least, should the electricity go off, we can strike a match and light a candle.

By the way, I had to include this picture of a silver tinderbox. I could see Mr. Darcy having one with his initials on it!

Antique silver box 2

Information in this post came from Wikipedia and The Regency Redingote site.

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Since Mother’s Day has just passed, I would like to give away two copies of my books. Your choice of a paperback or kindle e-book of Fitzwilliam Darcy – An Honourable Man, Mr. Darcy’s Forbidden Love or Darcy And Elizabeth – A Most Unlikely Couple! Just put a note in your comment that you would like to be included in the drawing. Giveaway closes midnight Friday (CST)

Winter and I are not friends!

Reposted from Austen Authors!

Posted on March 19, 2015 by Brenda J Webb • 10 Comments

wearing pattens to protect her shoes smallerBeing born and raised in the southern United States, I have never been a fan of cold weather. While I don’t care for really hot weather either, if I had to choose between sweating to death or being turned into a popsicle, I would definitely choose the former.

I have many dear friends who live in the frozen tundra of the northern states and they seem to cope really well. Still, every year when winter begins to extend its icy grip with blizzards, frozen lakes and truckloads of snow, I cannot help but wonder why they don’t move to a milder climate. Logically, I suppose work and family keep them rooted to their particular hometown and,  if everyone moved south, who would be left to shovel the snow?

Understandably, many yanks migrate south when the temperature drops. After all, everyone deserves to thaw out at least once during the winter. The snowbirds, as they are called in the south, suddenly appear like blackbirds in a corn field and disappear just as swiftly in April or May. My theory is that while they enjoy the milder winters, they really can’t handle the heat.imagesWX0FZD9E

As a writer, I have become very cognizant of the weather in my stories. If the scene involves turmoil for my characters, I may have a storm raging simultaneously. If our lovers are engaged in a tender moment, the heavens are likely to be cloudless. Weather is used as a common plot device in JAFF books, mainly because it is so easy to have Darcy and Elizabeth stranded by either rain or snow, which forces them to communicate. I wrote just such a scene at the beginning of my book, Mr. Darcy’s Forbidden Love, where our dear couple is stranded alone overnight because of a flood.

Though I took into account the hardships of living in the early 1800s when I began writing novels, I was not aware that England received so much snow and ice in the winter. Then I came across several articles about the Frost Fairs, which were held on the River Thames. I found them fascinating. Between 1309 and 1814 the lower section of the river froze solid at least 23 times in the London area. By the seventeenth century, however, Londoners were venturing out onto the ice of the frozen river to enjoy impromptu events which came to be known as Frost Fairs.

According to my research, the last Frost Fair was held on February 1, 1814 and lasted four days. It even featured an elephant being led across the river below Blackfriars Bridge. An oil on canvas painting (below) of the fair from 1684 depicts coaches, sledges and sedan-chairs on the ice as a game of ninepins is played.

1684 oil on canvas painting called A Frost Fair on the Thames at Temple StairsMoreover, it was said that there were up to ten printing presses in operation making cards and popular sheet-music of the time. A printer named George Davis published a 124-page book, Frostiana: or a History of the River Thames in a Frozen State, and the entire book was type-set and printed in Davis’s stall. Unlicensed gambling, drinking and dancing were likely the greatest draws at the fairs, there were stalls selling food, drink, souvenirs and personalized keepsakes for just a few pennies. Featured in the Museum of London’s A souvenir tankard from the frost fair of 1683set of memorabilia are a souvenir tankard from the frost fair of 1683 and a souvenir silver spoon from the frost fair of 1683 to 1684.

 

The inscription on the spoon says: ‘This was bought at the faire kept upon the Midle of ye Thames against ye Temple in the great frost on souvenir silver spoon from the frost fair of 1683 to 1684the 29 of January 1683/4.’

After 1814, the climate grew milder. Old London Bridge was demolished in 1831 and replaced with a new bridge with wider arches, which allowed the tide to flow more freely. Once the new bridge opened, the Thames never froze over in the London area again, despite temperatures dropping to -20C at times in the notoriously cold winter of 1895.

You may be asking yourself why I went from talking about the weather in the United States to frozen rivers in Regency England. The answer is simple. Since I began writing Jane Austen inspired tales, I look at everything in the context of what people in that era would have seen or done. It’s an obsession that I fear I shall never overcome (not that I should ever want to).

I hope that by now the worst of the winter is over, and March is going out like a lamb. I am eager to see lilies push up through the soil once more. My lawn is huge and has no top soil. The hard clay makes it impossible to grow flowers unless they are in pots or beds. Though my little lily plot is new and not well established, when it springs back to life, I am reminded of Genesis 8:22:

“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”

lillies 300X.jpg

With all the cares of this life, I find comfort in knowing that everything continues just as God planned. It gives me a sense of peace. How about you

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