POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER and ITS TREATMENT IN REGENCY ENGLAND

Louisa Cornell

Sir Gilbert Blane

At the end of the Napoleonic Wars, Sir Gilbert Blane (1749–1843), Physician of the Fleet, argued that the incidence of insanity in the Royal Navy, which he estimated at one in a thousand, was seven times that of the general population. To explain this striking disparity, he identified head injuries, sometimes the result of black powder intoxication in the close confines of warships, together with the shock and blast experienced by gun crews. It was observed that the majority of inmates of a London asylum were seamen who had been sent there after the Battle of the Glorious First of June in 1794. It was theorized that mental illness amongst sailors exposed to combat was possibly related to the phenomenon of wind contusions or tingling, twitching, and even partial paralysis diagnosed in soldiers who had been close to the passage of a projectile or its explosion but had not actually suffered a physical wound.

Click here for a link to the firing of a rolling broadside by the HMS Victory, Nelson’s flagship. The video lasts less than a minute. Imagine hours of this from the inside of a ship. Or imagine seeing this coming at you from another ship in the heat of battle.

During the nineteenth century naval doctors acting as advocates for their patients used mental illness as a criminal defense. Captain G. Scott of the Stately wrote to Nelson on the recommendation of Dr John Snipe to request that the application for a court martial for John Burn, a royal marine, who had struck an officer, be withdrawn on the grounds that the offence was occasioned by insanity. Implicit in this defense was the idea that sailors who had experienced the effects of brutal battles could have their reason disturbed and hence not be fully responsible for their actions.

In 1808, the navy’s lack of provision for clothes for sailors confined in places like Bethlem meant some had only a blanket to wear. Monies had to be dedicated specifically to the care of specific sailors. Situations such as this, once reported to the admiralty, were part of the impetus to establish facilities under the control of the navy and dedicated to the care of those sailors suffering from wounds that could not be seen.

James Norris, American seaman, chained to the wall at Bethlem Hospital for over ten years.

The number of sailors suffering from mental illness was sufficient for the Royal Navy to make special provision for their treatment. Between 1794 and 1818, for example, 1083 officers and ratings were admitted to Hoxton House Asylum, which had been founded in 1695 with Chatham Chest funds to treat naval and government cases. Most of these admissions were then transferred to the Bethlem Hospital at Moorfields for further care, though 364 were regarded as cured. As a Crown institution, Bethlem was obliged to admit patients referred by the Sick and Wounded Seamen’s Office and the War Office.

However, from its opening in 1753,the Royal Hospital at Haslar had admitted psychiatric patients and subsequently Rear Admiral Garrett was reported as saying that a seaman who has lost his reason in the service of the Crown should receive the love and attention on a scale not less than a seaman who has lost a limb in the same cause. In August, 1818 the navy opened a Lunatic Asylum at Haslar. In 1819, wards for soldiers were established at the asylum at Chatham. By the 1820s the emphasis was on moral treatments and patients were encouraged to work in the gardens, take exercise, and undertake tasks in the hospital. Case notes showed that most of those admitted were either psychotic or severely depressed, rather than troubled by the acute effects of battle; most were regarded as incurable.

The naval hospital at Great Yarmouth had been constructed between 1809 and 1811 to treat the sick and wounded of the North Sea Fleet. The Royal Naval Hospital in Yarmouth was also a major hospital for naval lunatics. Taken over by the army in 1844, it housed a Military Lunatic Asylum until the outbreak of the Crimean War when the Admiralty re-acquired the building.

The advantage to facilities established and run by the military were:

  1. Patients were afforded the same sort of organized and regimented life they had whilst serving. Consistency was a great help in the treatment of those admitted to these facilities.
  2. Many of the physicians and mad doctors running these facilities were former navy, army, or cavalry surgeons, apothecaries, and physicians. They served on some of the same battlefields as the men they treated and therefore had a better understanding of the trauma these men had suffered.
  3. These facilities were usually under the charge of military officers and as such, these officers were able to cut through the paperwork needed to requisition the necessary supplies to provide the patients with more basic comforts than those afforded in public asylums.
  4. These facilities afforded a place for many displaced soldiers and sailors to recover. Soldiers and sailors without physical wounds were often consigned to wander the countryside in search of employment, housing, and some place to recover from mental disturbances they often did not understand.

Some things to remember:

  1. Warfare is warfare. However, warfare during the Regency Era was quite different from warfare today. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder manifests out of the experiences of the soldier or sailor at war. Equating the trauma of those who fought in the Peninsular Wars or with Nelson at sea with the trauma suffered by military men today does a disservice to both.
  2. British sensibilities when it came to the behavior of men were very rigid, very stoic, and very regimented. The idea of the stiff upper lip is not a myth. My father was the son of first-generation Americans. His grandparents were all born in Britain, three in Wales and one in England. My father served in combat in Korea and in Vietnam. He saw horrific things. Yet, his attitude and demeanor about those things was always one of stoic detachment. No matter how horrific the trauma, it was war and one did not complain. One did his duty. This would have been the attitude of military men in the Regency Era. They would have difficulty admitting to trauma and shame at asking for help for it.
  3. Attitudes about those sailors and soldiers who had to be confined in asylums to deal with the trauma of serving in combat would be as varied as those about any other lunatics. Some would be sympathetic. Some would be concerned about lunatics who had grown accustomed to the violence necessary to go to war and survive. Some would ascribe their mental illness to malingering.
  4. Treatment offered at military lunatic asylums would be more likely to help those soldiers and sailors confined therein. Studies of the records of both public facilities and military facilities confirm this.
  5. Sons of the aristocracy who went to war and returned with PTSD in any form would be treated the same way they might be treated if they suffered from a mental illness not associated with their military service. They would be more likely to be taken care of at home than in either a public facility or a military facility. Unfortunately, families of the aristocracy were more mindful of the way things might appear. A son who came home from war traumatized or displaying behavior which might be seen as unstable of as a form of lunacy was a son who might bring shame to the family. Sad and unfair, but as cruel as it might appear, true.
  6. The best way to discover the source of a Regency era military man’s PTSD is to read first-hand accounts of battles, the aftermath of battles, and military life on campaign. Never presume to know the source of someone’s nightmares without doing the best you can to submerse yourself in the same.

For records and more insight into the admission of soldiers and sailors into military lunatic asylums check out the section on naval asylums at the British National Archives.

 

J.M.W. TURNER AT 70 – AN OLD ARTIST WITH SOME NEW TRICKS

The Fighting Temeraire (1839)

Joseph Mallord William Turner was born on 23 April 1775 at 21 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, London, the son of William Turner (1745–1829), a barber and wig-maker, and his wife Mary, née Marshall (1739–1804).

Joseph Mallord William Turner Self-Portrait c.1799

From these humble beginnings, one of the greatest artists of the early nineteenth century rose to straddle the art world of Regency England like a Colossus. From his earliest watercolors and sketches to perhaps his most lauded painting, The Fighting Temeraire, his work was admired for his incredible use of color and technique to evoke the sense of movement and realism touched by the shimmer of magic few artists before him had managed.

View in the Avon Gorge 1791

At the age of fourteen he entered the Royal Academy. In addition to his studies, he worked with architects and architectural draughtsmen and even painted scenery for the London stage. The latter probably accounted for his lifelong love of opera and the theatre. By the time he was fifteen he was funding his education selling prints and watercolors of his work. The rest, as they say, is history. Again and again he stunned and delighted the artistic world and the Royal Academy with signature works of art. And with a rather rough, sometimes caustic personality.

Turner remained a Londoner and kept a Cockney accent all his life, avoiding the veneer of social polish acquired by many artists of the time as they climbed the professional ladder. It did not matter. His work was sought out by the highest ranks of the aristocracy and the wealthiest of the nouveau riche.

By the time he reached the age of 70 it was assumed his style was established and people knew exactly what to expect from his work. Until the Royal Academy exhibition of 1845 when two of the six canvases he exhibited stunned visitors and caused quite a stir in the art community. These two paintings, both titled Whalers, would join two more paintings, Hurrah! for the Whaler Erebus! Another Fish! and Whalers (Boiling Blubber) Entangled in Flaw Ice, Endeavouring to Extricate Themselves in 1846 to form a quartet of paintings one might never attribute to Turner if one did not know they were indeed his work.

Whalers 1845

I had long been a fan of his work, what Regency romance writer isn’t, but I must confess I had neither seen nor heard of these late works. It took a trip to New York and at visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for me to come face to face with these amazing and forward thinking examples of Turner’s artistic talent and vision. Three of the four Whaling paintings are part of the Turner Bequest to the Tate in London. The third is part of the Wolfe Collection at the Met. Fortunately, during the time I was in New York the four paintings were reunited in an exhibit at the Met through a generous temporary loan by the Tate.

Whalers 1845

I cannot begin to explain the striking allure of these paintings simply walking into the same room with them evokes. The color palette and the motion in each of them immediately plunges the viewer into a world of feeling the ocean, the energy of the waves, the salty spray, the depth and breadth of the ships and the courage and smallness of the men. There is both mystery and clarity in each painting. The struggle between man and beast and the forces of nature come together on the canvas in a form never seen before this.

Whalers (Boiling Blubber) : Entangled in Flow Ice, Endeavouring to Extricate Themselves 1846

I sat for a long time before each of the paintings, studying them, and pondering the forward progression, the provocative and new ideas of an artist nearing the end of his life. Turner blazed across the artistic world of England, and as a result the world, from the humblest of beginnings to the pinnacle of artistic fame and never stopped learning, never stopped pushing the boundaries. This old artist taught the artistic world some new tricks that hinted at the world of Impressionism, but maintained always the mark of the brilliant young artist from the poor side of London.

 

Hurrah! for the Whaler Erebus! Another Fish! 1846

 

IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR ONCE MORE !

 

CHRISTMAS REVELS VI – Four Regency Novellas

Hannah Meredith

Anna D. Allen

Louisa Cornell

Kate Parker

 

Come Revel with four award-winning authors for Christmas tales filled with laughter, tears, and love…

Her Ladyship Orders a Christmas Tree – A pagan custom leads to an unexpected attraction.

“The Play’s the Thing…” – Going off script prompts a surprise ending.

Yuletide Treachery – Two lonely people find a traitor—and love.

A Perfectly Unexpected Christmas – An accident brings redemption and homecoming.

 

Each year around this time, three of my fellow Regency romance authors and I begin the long Christmas season by putting our annual anthology of Christmas novellas up for pre order. Mixing my favorite time of year with my favorite romance genre is some of the greatest fun I have as a writer. It is the next best thing to celebrating a Regency Christmas myself.

I invite you to find your most comfortable chair, pour yourself a cup of tea, have a mince pie or two, and revel in these holiday tales of Christmas, good will and love.

EXCERPTS

Her Ladyship Orders a Christmas Tree

By Anna D. Allen

The falling snow could not stop Mrs. Treadwell from her rounds in the village… or from relaying her bit of news. Basket in hand, shawl wrapped tight about her plump figure, she hurried across the green, now ankle-deep white, past the great equestrian statue of Richard the Roundhead, and headed straight to the butcher shop.

“Her Ladyship has ordered a Christmas tree!” announced Mrs. Treadwell without preamble to the assembled customers as she entered the shop.

Everyone stopped their chatter and stared at her. After a silence lasting the space of several heartbeats, a small voice spoke up.

“A what?”

“A Christmas tree,” repeated Mrs. Treadwell. “There we were, in the kitchen, having our breakfast, when who should come walking in without so much as a by-your-leave or a knock at the door but Sam the potboy from up at the Hall with a note telling the new man he was to find a Christmas tree for Her Ladyship.”

Everyone spoke at once.

“Well, I never.”

“What’s she want to go and do a thing like that for?”

“Humph.” That was Old Mr. Phelps.

From behind the counter, Mrs. Cunningham, the butcher’s wife asked, “So Her Ladyship has returned home?”

“No, no.” Mrs. Treadwell waved aside the question as a ridiculous notion. “She’s still in Cheltenham. But the Coburgs are coming home with her and will be stopping by on their way to Brighton for Christmas with the Prince Regent.”

Murmurs of shock, surprise, and approval rippled through the clutch of customers, the Coburgs being common parlance for the heir to the British Crown, Princess Charlotte of Wales and her new husband, the German Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Something-or-Other that no one in the shop could quite remember. Nor in the nation, for that matter.

Now the butcher piped up. “Don’t you think that should’ve been the first thing you said, woman?”

“No. I don’t, Henry Cunningham,” replied Mrs. Treadwell with her fists on her ample hips. “Everyone up at the Hall will be worrying over the Coburgs, but it’ll be left up to us to find this… this Christmas tree to impress them.”

“‘Tis true,” observed Old Man Phelps, “Not like we’ll be the ones wining and dining with the toffs up at the Hall. We’ll just be expected to line up and cheer, tugging our forelocks and waving our handkerchiefs. God save the King. La dee da.”

In the midst of glares directed at Old Man Phelps—practically treasonous, that one—a small voice asked, “What’s a Christmas tree?” It came in the nick of time, as Mr. Cunningham was about to come around the counter and box Old Man Phelps’s ears and toss him out. But thankfully, answers came in rapid course.

“Pagan idolatry.”

“A papist plot. That’s what it is.”

“Surely not?” asked the quiet voice.

“I don’t like it. Not one bit.”

“The Coburgs are not papists,” Mr. Cunningham attempted to explain, with little success, “They’re proper Protestants, like the rest of us.”

“Where is Coburg anyway?”

“Does the vicar know about this?”

That question—or more precisely, the pondering of the possible answer—silenced everyone, glances passing amongst them. An instant later, the customers tumbled out into the lane, leaving behind a baffled Mr. and Mrs. Cunningham and a grateful Mrs. Morris—she of the small voice—who no longer had to wait to purchase a bit of mutton for her dinner.

The clutch of customers—now transformed more properly to a gaggle of gossips—marched their way down the slushy thoroughfare to the vicarage and presented themselves at the doorstep of the Reverend Mr. Elijah Haywood.

 

“The Play’s the Thing… ”

by Hannah Meredith

 ACT ONE

 Scene One

An opulent bedchamber at the Duke of Newley’s estate. A gentleman holds a bedpost while his valet attempts to lace up his corset.

Harris gave another mighty pull, and Captain Lord Alexander Kingston decided he had had enough. “Bloody hell, leave off. You’re not reefing the topsail before a blow. I have to be able to breathe.” The last word came out as more of a grunt as Harris gave a final mighty tug and started tying off the tapes.

“Captain, if I’m supposed to get you into any of these fancy clothes, then you’ve got to be trussed up like this.” Harris backed up to survey his work. “This is no tighter than it was earlier.”

Alexander released his hold and wondered if the elaborate carving on the bedpost had left a matching imprint on his hands. His estimation of the fair sex had risen in the last few minutes. Ladies had to endure this torture daily, proving unequivocally they were the stronger gender. “Harris, remember to call me Mr. Kingston, or this charade will be for naught.”

“Right you are, Ca… eh, Mr. Kingston.” Harris held out a shirt the size of a sail. “But I must say, all of this padding you up and then slimming you down seems a bit unnecessary.”

Alexander could not have agreed more. But then, this entire assignment was ridiculous. The Admiralty had unceremoniously jerked him off the Wheatley and plopped him here in the middle of Lancashire tasked to determine if any of the guests at the Duke of Newley’s holiday gathering were secretly supporting the American cause. He was chagrined that his superiors thought this was the best use of his abilities. That he had been personally chosen by Melville, the First Lord of the Admiralty, did nothing to assuage his irritation.

The Wheatley had been his first command of a ship of the line. Yes, she carried only eighty-four guns, but he’d been proud of every one of them and had looked forward to meeting the French with those guns blazing. Instead, he was sent back to London where he was given the honor of spying on British peers who may or may not be aiding the fractious former colonials in what was, to his thinking, a minor campaign. Alexander felt this was a waste of his experience, proving once again the dry-foot sailors at the Admiralty were asses.

Those fools in London felt he had the necessary qualifications—he would be unknown to the other guests and he would understand implications of merchant ship movements if they were discussed. These were qualifications? They would apply to half of the serving officers in the Royal Navy. His name must have been drawn from a hat.

 

Yuletide Treachery

by Kate Parker

Miss Frances Smith-Pressley opened the door that had been pointed out to her and slipped inside. The others were dressing for dinner; she didn’t have much time to start exploring the Wolfbrook library.

The light filtering in through the shutters showed a high, ornate ceiling over two levels of filled bookcases, the second of which rose upward from a wrought iron balcony that encircled the room. She twirled around in the center of the space, her soft slippers skimming over the thick Aubusson carpet as she drank in the smells of old leather and dry parchment.

The library was every bit as thrilling as she’d heard. It would take her the whole Christmas holiday to study even a fraction of the works assembled here.

She started to skim the stacks. Astronomy. No. Natural sciences. Not today. And then… Was it even possible? Illuminated texts written in Latin. She’d only seen them in museums under glass. Here she could touch them. Study them. Read them.

Taking out the white cotton gloves she always carried hidden in the pocket of her skirt, she slipped them on before taking one of the medieval manuscripts from its place. She carried it over to a desk and sat down to open its vellum pages.

She could almost believe lightning sprang from the book and energized her fingers, her heart, her mind. Her Latin was equal to the task, and she was soon immersed in the Gospel of St. Matthew. There before her was the Christmas story, written out by monks centuries before.

“Who gave you permission to invade the library?”

The baritone voice broke through her concentration. She looked up at an apparition. Her breath caught in her throat before she realized this was a normal man. He wore a normal man’s evening wear, displaying broad shoulders, a flat stomach, and long legs. But where his face should be, piercing blue eyes stared at her out of a brown leather mask.

She took a deep breath, closed the gospel with a dejected sigh, and rose to face the figure. “I was led to believe it was allowed.”

As the masked man strode toward her, every muscle tensed. It was all she could do not to step back or fall into the chair.

“By whom?” His voice was quieter. Menacing.

 

A Perfectly Unexpected Christmas

by Louisa Cornell

“Lady Portia?” His voice, though nearly devoid of sound, startled her. His eyes fluttered open, as much as they could, that is. One was well on its way to sporting a black eye any pugilist in Britain might envy.

“I am here.” Well that was an obvious thing to say. “The doctor should be here any moment.” She gave his bare shoulder an awkward pat.

“Don’t need a doctor,” he mumbled even as his eyes fell closed once more. “A bit under the hatches is all. Be right… as rain… in the morning. Tell Pearce not to forget… the ring.” His head lolled to one side.

“What ring?” She gave him a shake. “What ring, my lord?”

“Wedding ring. Tying the parson’s knot… in the morning. Didn’t… forget.”

“Well, that is hardly a good sign.”

Portia looked over her shoulder to find Dr. Pratt directly behind her, a somber expression on his normally affable countenance. She stood and allowed the physician to take her place.

“Correct me if I am wrong, my lady, but your nuptials were nearly a year ago,” Dr. Pratt said calmly, even as he examined St John, and furrowed his brow more deeply with each passing moment.

 

Links:

Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07Y2DQCG3/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_dp_U_M2QGDb67KWA59?fbclid=IwAR3eF0MIl21XjyCojQVrIILcU3gsy3gfSGkoEHc5rzVHH0SsnMyH0c4UgmY

 

Kobo

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/christmas-revels-vi

 

Apple

https://books.apple.com/us/book/christmas-revels-vi/id1480859471

 

Barnes and Noble

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1133695857

ON THE SHELF: IN PRAISE OF OLD BOOKS

by Louisa Cornell – originally published June 26, 2017

Regular visitors to Number One London have read of my obsession with research books written on the Regency era. I collect them with a fervor just short of that of the Regency’s most avaricious bibliomaniac. As a subdivision of my obsession, I want to tell you a bit about my relationship with research books written during the Regency era. What the latest generation of twenty-somethings would call ancient books.

I currently own slightly over 500 research books about the Regency era. They are catalogued online at LibraryThing  which is one of the earliest online cataloguing services. I understand there are far more platforms now, but this one has served me well and the community is without peer when it comes to discussing and admiring the libraries of its members. My library is listed as public, which means it can be viewed by any member of LibraryThing. Here’s the link to my Regency Research Book collection, which comprises 1/6th of the books I have catalogued so far. I won’t tell you how many of my books are not catalogued. The number frightens even me.

As dearly as I love my Regency research books, those books written and published during or just after the Regency era are my most prized. Why? It isn’t the monetary value nor the cache of having antique books to display on my shelves. I live in the middle of nowhere and my library is hardly ever seen by anyone else. My old books have incalculable value to me for two reasons.

Their proximity to the era about which or during which they are written puts my research as close to the source as I can reach. Ask anyone who is a fanatic about a certain period and place in history and they will tell you, whether it be visiting an exhibit of clothing sewn and worn during said era or reading a copy of a book written and printed during that era, extant resources are the best. To be able to actually look at an item, be it a Manton pistol or a single-lens quizzing glass or a lady’s corset, transports a person into a place as near to the era as they will ever be absent a teleporting police box, a ring of Scottish stones, or an acquaintance with a couple of gentlemen named Bill and Ted. Books written about an era during that era or shortly afterwards offer the very best view into not only the subject matter, but also into the mind of the writer. An invaluable view to have.

For instance,

1829 Edition Paterson’s Roads
Title Page Paterson’s Roads 1829 Edition

 

 

Foldout map from Paterson’s Roads 1829 Edition

Paterson’s Roads was one of the essential travel atlases of the Regency era. Those huge, unwieldy spiral bound atlases one can purchase at rest stops, restaurants, and in no less a location that Walmart have nowhere near the elegance of this volume, but they serve the same purpose. With Paterson’s Roads in hand a Regency gentleman, an ambitious coachman, or a young lady looking to escape an unwanted marriage might find his or her way nearly anywhere the road might take them. My copy has a bit of scuffing about the cover, but it does include all eight foldout maps intact, a rarity. It also has the added thrill, mixed with a bit of sadness, of coming from the library of a country house. The new owners of Lowick Hall in Cumbria have parted with large portions of the home’s library in order to afford renovations necessary to maintain the house. Their loss is my gain, but I cannot help but wonder at whose hands have touched this book before me and what adventures it took them on before it made its way across the Pond to me.

I own two editions of The Stately Homes of England, Illustrated with 210 Engravings on Wood by Llewellyn Jewitt. One is the 1877  two-volume first edition published in England and the other is volume one of the 1878 edition published in the United States. The British edition was an intentional purchase from a book dealer in Saxmundham, England. The American edition I came upon at a flea market and I simply could not leave it there to languish unappreciated. This book allows me to see these stately homes, many of them gone now, through the eyes of both a writer and an engraver who lived only slightly removed from the Regency era. One cannot put a price on their vision. And the wood engravings are exquisite.

Stately homes of England by Llewellyn Jewitt 1877 edition

My 1890 edition of Glimpses of Old English Homes, Illustrated with drawings and portraits by Elizabeth Balch is a bit worse for wear. As with all of my old books it is carefully wrapped and preserved and I wear gloves when I consult it. She is a fragile old girl, but the information and illustrations and the scholarly research conducted by the author provide myriad little details a researcher more removed from the era might never have the opportunity to see.

Glimpses of Old English Homes by Elizabeth Balch 1890 edition
Front page Glimpses of Old English Homes by Elizabeth Balch 1890 Edition

In addition to these three beauties, I own a few more ancient books, as my nephew would call them. I have an 1860 edition of William Makepeace Thackery’s The Four Georges – Sketches of Manners, Morals, Court and Town Life. This book is both entertaining and informative and tells me in no uncertain terms what the author thought of the Georgian era and the people who made the era what it was.

I also have an 1821 edition of Real Life in London: On the Rambles and Adventure of Bob Tallyho, Esq. and His Cousin, the Hon. Tom Dashall through the Metropolis; Exhibiting a Living Picture of Fashionable Characters, Manners, and Amusements in High and Low Life. By an Amateur. Embellished and Illustrated with a Series of Coloured Prints, Designed and Engraved by Messrs. Heath, Alken, Dighton, Brooke, Rowlandson, &c. London: Printed for Jones & Co. This is a fun read and rife with all sorts of ideas for stories set in the Regency era. This is actually an imitation of the original work by Pierce Egan. However, this particular imitation is the one Egan is said to have favored the most. I have to agree with him.

Also on my shelf is The Annual Register, or a View of the History, Politics, and Literature, for the Year 1804 which was actually published in 1806. This is the sort of volume one would have lying about the library or the lounge of a club or anywhere someone might want to pass a few hours reading articles about various subjects as they appeared in the year noted. I cannot tell you how fascinating it is to pick up this book and immerse myself in the major, minor, and every level in between events of a single year during the Regency era.

I also have an 1818 edition of One Hundred Sixteen Sermons, Preached Out of the First Lessons at Morning and Evening Prayer, For all Sundays in the Year by William Reading, M.A. This book is especially close to my heart as it was given to me by a dear friend who knew how much I would treasure it. The inscription of the first owner is dated December 29, 1818. December 29th is my birthday. Reading the sermons probably has not made me a more pious person, but it has given me insight into the religious year and into the way people of this era practiced and thought of their faith.

I said before, there are two reasons I treasure these extant resources so very much. The second reason has nothing to do with monetary value, research value or their usefulness to me as a writer of Regency historical romances. It has to do with me as a human being. My Native American ancestors say “We are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey.”

That spiritual experience is what I have when I hold these books in my hand. When I curl up in a chair with a cup of Earl Grey and a plate of Walker’s shortbread and read the same pages someone from another time and place read I feel a connection, a tie to those long ago readers. I wonder about their lives, their hopes, and their reasons for owning and reading these books before me. When each of these books arrived, I spent a great deal of time holding it and turning it over and over again in my hands. I guess that makes me some sort of book geek, at best, and a book weirdo, at worst. Guilty as charged.

There is a reverence to the written word. Those of us who know the importance of words, of their preservation in these old books, can see as others do not the intangible connection books provide from one era to another, from one person to another, and from one soul to another. The electronic age has provided us with access to plenty of old books via inter-library loan and Google books. I do a great deal of my research this way. I confess if a book is particularly helpful I let the Harvard Bookstore print a Google book up for me. They are cute little volumes and the script and text are presented exactly as they appear in the originals.

In the end, there is simply something about holding a stalwart leather bound volume in my hand and carefully turning the pages of a book other souls thought important enough, for any number of reasons, to preserve so that I might treasure it all over again. In that moment, I understand them. Their soul speaks to mine. And as important as our connection to each other is, we can learn a great deal from our connection to those who have come before us. Old books give us that chance – to connect, to learn, and to grow on our human journey, and our spiritual one.

 

BABY IT’S COLD… IN REGENCY ENGLAND !

LOUISA CORNELL

As the weather begins to warm up here in LA (Lower Alabama) my thoughts, of course, turn to…WINTER ! Having spent three years in England in my youth and five years in Germany as a youngish adult, I have a much higher tolerance for and appreciation of cooler weather. Alabama in the Spring and Summer months moves from :

“It’s another warm one out there.”

to

“Crank up the AC, please.”  

to

“It is hotter than the hinges of hell.”

to

“Tarzan couldn’t take this heat! When will it end!”

Suffice it to say, I am quite ready for Fall and Winter’s return. When the temperatures will drop into the seventies.

These days we have myriad devices available to us to adjust the temperature to a more survivable level. During the Regency Era, whilst the devices were also abundant, they were not always as efficient as today’s versions. However, some came quite close. In this post, we will explore the world of…

THE REGENCY FOOT WARMER

There are a number of places to research what the weather was like in England during the years of the Regency Era. One of my favorites is :

http://www.pascalbonenfant.com/18c/geography/weather.html

I like this site because, rather than give simple temperatures and basic weather information, it actually includes weather events for each year and more commentary on what the weather was like and what it was like to live through it. For instance, the winter of 1813/1814 was one of the five worst winters on record. Heavy snow fell for a number of days in January, 1814 with a brief thaw and then more snow. In short, it was cold.

Now imagine going to church in such weather. Services conducted in a large high vaulted ceiling edifice with no heat source whatsoever. Imagine the journey to said church or to a ball or to London in a carriage on less than serviceable roads. Are you feet frozen yet? Enter the foot warmer.

Foot warmers took a number of forms. The most important aspects were its size, practicality, and ease of transport. The simplest version consisted of a brick wrapped in flannel material which was placed as close as was safely possible to the fire burning in the hearths of inns and taverns. It was then placed in the carriage as it left the inn, either on the floor beneath a lady’s skirt or beneath the feet of a gentleman, perhaps with a carriage blanket draped over his legs. The brick or bricks returned to the fireplace of each inn where the carriage stopped along the way to be warmed  and placed back in the carriage on departure. A simple enough device which provided heat until the absorbed warmth faded, usually long before the next coaching inn.

Most of the more advanced foot warmers were boxes of either wood, tin or brass. Each of these versions contained a metal tray at the bottom capable of being slid in and out to be filled with hot coals. Holes were poked in the sides in a regular pattern and a rope or metal handle was attached at the top for ease of portability.

Foot Warmer (Courtesy of eBay)
A Dutch version, meant to be used as a hand warmer.
Advertisement images for more elaborate foot warmers used in the home as well as in carriages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carriage Foot Warmer

An innovation brought into production during the latter part of the Regency Era and even more prevalent during the Victorian Era was the ceramic foot warmer. This device was filled with water, heated on the hearth, and placed on the carriage floor beneath a lady’s skirts. Early versions were completely round, but latter versions had a flat side, designed to stabilize the device on the floors of moving carriages.

Anitque Stoneware/Clay “Blind Pig” Hot Water Bottle Bed/Foot Warmer Flat

You will notice on the one above there is a hole for the water to be poured into it. What the photo does not show is how the bottle is closed. They are usually fitted with a cork at the end of a clay piece that looks rather like the top and first several threads of a screw. I know this from personal experience as I own two of these bottles. Treasures my mother purchased at an estate sale whilst we lived in England over fifty years ago.

An interesting use made of warming pans and foot warmers during the Regency Era was as a sort of vaporizer against colds, coughs, and some forms of asthma. Below is a mention of this use in a period newspaper.

 

Whitehall Evening Post, December 22, 1785

At this season of the year when the excessive damps, produced from the vapours of the earth have such a visible effect on the human body generating colds and putrid disease of the most fatal kind; the following, which has been tried in the circle of a few families, would doubtless have its use if more generally adopted, as it is not only a specific preventive, but is the surest palliative in asthmatic and consumptive constitutions. When the air is thick, foggy or moist, let small lumps of pitch be thrown into your first in such degree and so frequent, as to keep up an almost constant smell of bitumen in the apartment. In rooms where fires are not frequently used, a warming pan throwing into it small lumps of the same particularly before going to bed, might be applied with conveniency. Houses newly painted are best purified in this manner, and the more so as neither injures nor soils.

It wasn’t impossible to stay warm during the Regency Era, but in many cases it took a great deal of ingenuity. And a great deal of caution. Hot coals, even in a tin box, presented a very real danger to ladies wearing skirts made of materials not known for their fire-resistant properties. There are no reports of this sort of accident occurring, but I daresay there were some close calls.

So for those ladies who have not yet met their Mr. Darcy,

Might I suggest a foot warmer? Or perhaps a pug or two?