Victoria here. People often ask me what I recommend for their visits to London. I always answer, if they are in search of the English Regency, Sir John Soane’s Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.
Sir John Soane (1753-1837) was a brilliant architect and teacher. The Museum is in his house and classrooms, so you will get a taste of a wealthy (but not aristocratic) residence, in addition to all of Sir John’s collections, used for the instruction of his architecture students.
The bust of Sir John Soane in the center of the picture above was sculpted by Sir Francis Chantrey (1781-1841). The Museum is comprised of a rabbit warren of rooms, each one chock-a-block full of architectural specimens, art and Soane’s various and varied collections.
Sir John began his career working for architects George Dance and, later, Henry Holland. He traveled to Italy to study and came back to London to begin his own practice, in which he prospered, often doing projects to expand, remodel and modernize the country houses of the wealthy. An example, below, is Moggerhanger House in Bedfordshire, finished in 1812 and updated as a conference center in recent years. More information is here.
Sir John Soane’s Museum shows several rooms in which his family lived, and I have always found the Drawing Room amusing. It’s very brilliant shade of yellow that was very popular during the Regency, as evidenced in a number of country houses (such as Goodwood House).
Whether you visit on a sunny or a rainy, gray day, this room will be cheerfully bright. The dining room is an equally vivid crimson, also a popular color for walls in the Regency.
Sir John Soane’s Museum also has gallery space for small, very selective exhibitions related to Soane’s era and interests. I recommend browsing the shop on the website for Museum publications. One of my favorites is The Soanes At Home: Domestic Life at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, from 1997. It’s full of pictures, copies of receipts and invoices and all sorts of fascinating information about life and household management in the early 19th century.
Above, Soane’s drawing of the Bank of England as he rebuilt it in 1814; since then, it has been remodeled and enlarged so that little of his work is evident today, except in portions of the interior. The Museum houses a collection of more than 30,000 architectural drawings by England’s finest architects, as well as Soane’s sketchbooks, business records and other valuable research and archival material.
Above is a drawing by J. M. Gandy of Tivoli Corner, part of Soane’s Bank of England, now remodeled.
Above, a statue of Sir John Soane in the Bank of England, where he is honored even though they changed his designs beyond recognition. Soane left the buildings of his Museum and his home to the nation as a resource for training future architects.
We’ll be visiting the Museum in September, as part of the itinerary of Number One London’s Town and Country House Tour – you’ll find further tour details and the full itinerary here.
“… I saw a great deal of Sheridan. We dined together several times, got a little bosky, and he took great pains to convince me he was sincere and confidential with me. … A plan of his relates to Ireland, and it is the substitution of a Council for the present Viceroy, the head of the Council to be the Prince of Wales, his assistants to be Lord Moira, Lord Hutchinson and Sheridan himself. The Prince is quite heated upon the subject; nothing else is discussed by them. Lord Hutchinson is as deep in the design as any of them, but God knows it is about as probable as the embassy of old Charley to Russia I believe Sherry is very much in the confidence of the Ministers. They have convinced him of the difficulty of pressing the King for any attentions to the Prince of Wales; he is quite set against him, and holds entirely to the Duke of York, who, on the other hand, is most odious to the Ministry. . . . Have you begun your visits to Knowsley yet? . . . If you see Mrs. Hornby, cultivate her. She is an excellent creature; her husband, the rector, is the most tiresome, prosy son of a —— I ever met with, but is worthy. . . .”
General Sir John Moore
General Sir John Moore to Mr. Creevey.
Sandgate, 15th Sept., 1803.
“. . . The newspapers have disposed of me and my troops at Lisbon and Cherbourgh, but we believe that we have not moved from this place. I begun to despair of seeing you here, and am quite happy to find that, at last, I am to have that pleasure. If the Miss Ords do not think they can trust to the Camp for beaux, or if they have any in attendance whose curiosity to see soldiers they may chuse to indulge, assure them that whoever accompanies them shall be cordially received by everybody here. . . .”
Capt. Graham Moore
Capt. Graham Moore, R.N., to Mr. Creevey.
“Plymouth, August 7th, 1803. “… I never had to do with a new ship’s company before made up of Falstaffs men—’decayed tapsters,’ etc., so I do not bear that very well and I get no seamen but those who enter here at Plymouth, which are very few indeed. The Admiralty will not let me have any who enter for the ship at any of the other ports, which cuts up my hopes of a tolerable ship’s company. … I hear sometimes from my brother Jack. He says they have had a review of his whole Corps before the Duke of York. . . . My mother was more delighted with the scene than any boy or girl of fifteen. N.B.—she is near 70. . . . She is an excellent mother of a soldier. I am not afraid of showing her to Mrs. Creevey, altho’ she is of a very different cast from what she has generally lived with. If Mrs. Creevey does not like her, I shall never feel how the devil she came to like me.
“Jack says his Corps are not at all what he would have them, yet that they will beat any of the French whom he leads them up to. I am convinced the French can make no progress in England, and do not believe now that they will attempt it; but how is all this to end? However that may be, as I am in for it, I wish to God I was tolerably ready, and scouring the seas. What the devil can Fox mean by his palaver about a military command for the Prince of Wales? That may come well enough from Mrs. Barham perhaps.”
Capt. Graham Moore, R.N., to Mr. Creevey.
Plymouth Dock, Feby. 1st, 1804.
“… I suppose you mean to join the set that prepare to worry the poor Doctor (Addington) when Parliament meets. What can he do? He seems, or we seem, to do as well as Bonoparte—fretting and fuming and playing off his tricks from Calais to Boulogne and back again. The fellow has done too much for a mere hum; he certainly will try something, and I hope to be in at the death of some of his expeditions. If they do not take my men, we shall soon be ready for sea again. New copper, my boy! we shall sail like the wind. . . .”
Mr. Creevey to Dr. Currie.
“2nd May, 1804.
“. . . It is felt by the Pittites that the Prince and a Regency must be resorted to, and as the Prince evinced on every occasion the strongest decision in favor of Fox, the Pittites are preparing for a reciprocity of good offices. God send we may have a Regency, and then the cards are in our hands. I wish you had seen the party of which I formed one in the Park just now. Lord Buckingham, his son Temple, Ld. Derby, Charles Grey, Ld. Fitzwilliam, Canning, Ld. Morpeth and Ld. Stafford. . . . The four physicians were at Buckingham House this morning: I feel certain he (the King) is devilish bad.”
But, as we know, the Regency did not begin for another seven years. We will post a number of excerpts from the many diarists and prolific letter writers of the Regency era in future blogs. Watch for more from Mr. Creevey, his friends, his enemies and those who never had the privilege to be either.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One of the most iconic buildings in England, Brighton’s Royal Pavilion has come to symbolize the decadence of the Regency Period. Built as George IV’s pleasure palace by the sea, the Pavilion continues to astonish visitors, just as it did in the 19th century. Even the typically unflappable Duke of Wellington was taken aback by the Pavilion’s excesses and the Prince’s flamboyant style of interior decor.
Princess Lieven recorded the Duke’s reaction upon first seeing the Pavilion in a letter to her husband written from Brighton on January 26, 1822:
“I wish you were here to laugh. You cannot imagine how astonished the Duke of Wellington is. He had not been here before, and I thoroughly enjoy noting the kind of remark and the kind of surprise that the whole household evokes in a new-comer. I do not believe that, since the days of Heliogabalus, there have been such magnificence and such luxury. There is something effeminate in it which is disgusting. One spends the evening half-lying on cushions; the lights are dazzling; there are perfumes, music, liquers – “Devil take me, I think I must have got into bad company.” You can guess who said that, and the tone in which it was said. . . . ”
After the death of the Prince Regent, his brother, King William IV, and later Queen Victoria, both visited the Pavilion. However, by Queen Victoria’s time, the town of Brighton had become much more developed and the population increased accordingly. Queen Victoria felt that the property could no longer afford herself and her family the seclusion they required and she sold the building to the Corporation of Brighton in 1850.
Today, the Royal Pavilion has been restored to it’s former Regency glory and is still astonishing the many visitors who arrive daily to experience the grandeur first-hand. Number One London Tours invites you to join us for a tour of the Royal Pavilion as part of the itinerary for our 2019 Queen Victoria Tour or our 2020 Regency Tour.
The video below offers the most comprehensive tour of the Pavilion’s interiors I’ve seen and it also includes a good overview of it’s history, so I’ve chosen to include it despite the interpreter’s very animated delivery. Final bit of trivia – Ironically, all of the kitchen copper-ware you’ll see in the video was once the property of the first Duke of Wellington and bears his ducal crest. It was transferred to the Pavilion in the 1950s, when Apsley House was placed under the control of English Heritage.
To say that Captain Gronow is not politically correct by today’s standards would be an understatement indeed. However, his comments no doubt reflect the prevailing view of his readers, however offensive we find his prejudices today.
Here are Gronow’s observations on author Matthew Lewis (1775-1818), known as Monk after the name of his renowned Gothick novel.
Matthew “Monk” Lewis by Pickersgill, 1809
One of the most agreeable men of the day was “Monk” Lewis. As the author of the Monk and the Tales of Wonder, he not only found his way into the best circles, but had gained a high reputation in the literary world. His poetic talent was undoubted, and he was intimately connected with Walter Scott in his ballad researches. His Alonzo the Brave and the Fair Imogene was recited at the theatres, and wherever he went he found a welcome reception. His West Indian fortune and connections, and his seat in Parliament, gave him access to all the aristocratic circles; from which, however, he was banished upon the appearance of the fourth and last dialogue of the Pursuits of Literature. Had a thunderbolt fallen upon him, he could not have been more astonished than he was by the onslaught of Mr. Matthias, which led to his ostracism from fashionable society.
It is not for me to appreciate the value of this satirical poem, which created such an extraordinary sensation, not only in the fashionable, but in the political world; I, however, remember that whilst at Canning’s, at the Bishop of London’s, and at Gifford’s, it was pronounced the most classical and spirited production that had ever issued from the press, it was held up at Lord Holland’s, at the Marquis of Lansdowne’s, and at Brookes’s, as one of the most spiteful and ill-natured satires that had ever disgraced the literary world; and one which no talent or classic lore could ever redeem. Certain it is, that Matthias fell foul of poor “Monk” Lewis for his romance: obscenity and blasphemy were the charges laid at his door; he was acknowledged to be a man of genius and fancy, but this added only to his crime, to which was superadded that of being a very young man. The charges brought against him cooled his friends and heated his enemies; the young ladies were forbidden to speak to him, matrons even feared him, and from being one of the idols of the world, he became one of the objects of its disdain. Even his father was led to believe that his son had abandoned the paths of virtue, and was on the high road to ruin.
“Monk” Lewis, unable to stand against the outcry thus raised against him, determined to try the effects of absence, and took his departure for the island in which his property was; but unfortunately for those who dissented from the ferocious judgment that was passed upon him, and for those who had discrimination enough to know that after all there was nothing very objectionable in his romance, and felt assured that posterity would do him justice, this amiable and kind-hearted man died on his passage out; leaving a blank in one variety of literature which has never been filled up.
The denunciation was not followed by any other severe criticism; but editors have, in compliance with the insinuations of Matthias, omitted the passages which he pointed out as objectionable, so that the original text is seldom met with.
“Monk” Lewis had a black servant, affectionately attached to his master; but so ridiculously did this servant repeat his master’s expressions, that he became the laughing-stock of all his master’s friends: Brummell used often to raise a hearty laugh at Carlton House by repeating witticisms which he pretended to have heard from Lewis’s servant. Some of these were very stale; yet they were considered so good as to be repeated at the clubs, greatly adding to the reputation of the Beau as a teller of good things. “On one occasion,” said Brummell, “I called to inquire after a young lady who had sprained her ancle; Lewis, on being asked how she was, had said in the black’s presence, ‘The doctor has seen her, put her legs straight, and the poor chicken is doing well.’ The servant, therefore, told me, with a mysterious and knowing look, ‘Oh, sir, the doctor has been here; she has laid eggs, and she and the chickens are doing well.'”
Such extravagances in those days were received as the essence of wit, and to such stories did the public give a willing ear, repeating them with unwearying zest. Even Sheridan’s wit partook of this character, making him the delight of the Prince, who ruled over the fashionable world, and whose approbation was sufficient to give currency to anything, however ludicrous and absurd.