Archive for the ‘Regency’ Category

Nursing woman

Drinking while pregnant. Another Regency author and I were discussing this at the convention this past weekend. My son was born in 1980 and her daughter was born about the mid-1980s. I had a secretary who became pregnant around 1998, and it was the first time the doctor mentioned it to her. That said, some doctors saw a link between strong drink and weak babies.

In 1725 physicians tried to convince the House of Commons to ban women from drinking strong spirits. That would have included brandy and gin but not wine. The law was never passed because there was no way to conclusively prove that drinking caused a problem. I think it’s also possible that the problem was the problem of the lower classes instead of the upper or middling classes. As we already know, ladies were highly discouraged from imbibing too much wine, strong spirits were considered gentlemen’s drinks. Unfortunately, many women at the bottom of the class system in London were not only drinking gin, but giving it to their babies.

There is some evidence that the Western Islands of Scotland did ban women from drinking ale during pregnancy and while nursing. On the other hand, many countries, including mainland Scotland, encouraged ale for milk production for nursing women. As I mention during my Regency Libations class, women of all walks of life were encouraged to drink porter (it’s much like stout) while pregnant and nursing.

It was not until 1899 that a British found a much higher rate of stillborn baby in alcoholic mothers.


Read Full Post »

Birth control—Not long ago there was a thread asking how historical romance authors dealt with safe sex in their books. My answer was that I didn’t. In my opinion, one should respect and be true to the culture. And, for the most part, birth control during the Regency was not a concept that existed. Other than an unmarried, gently bred lady not falling pregnant, that is.

Women, in all walks of life, became pregnant on a regular basis. A gentleman was bound by honor to provide for his illegitimate children. And there was no wide spread condemnation of illegitimate children. If a man took a mistress or had relations with an unmarried woman, it was expected that they would probably become pregnant. That was just how it was. Some women were pregnant every year.

Condoms were for disease control, not birth control. It wasn’t until after well after WWI that the idea they could be used for preventing pregnancy took hold. During the Regency they were mostly made of sheep’s gut that has to be soaked for a long time before use. There is evidence to support the idea of pouch of silk tied on with a ribbon was used as well. The first rubber condom was not invented until later in the Victorian era. Ergo, there was no whipping out a condom before one engaged in amorous relations.

That’s not to say birth control didn’t exist, it did. Sponges soaked in vinegar with a string attached were used. Although, that was considered a whore’s trick I imagine some ladies and middling class women might have known about it. A tincture of Queen Ann’s Lace (daucus carota) has long been used for birth control, but one wasn’t going to get that knowledge from a physician. The knowledge would have been passed down through women in a family. Some of them would have known about the rhythm method, but again this would have been passed down through females. Doctors had been known to get it entirely backwards telling women that relations were save two weeks after her courses.

Nursing could, and does, stop ovulation for a time depending on how often and long a woman nursed.

family portrait

#RegencyTrivia #Historical #ReadaRegency

Read Full Post »

Regency Trivia – Thieves Cant
Can was popular among the younger men of the ton. They picked it up a boxing matches, cock fights (none of my heroes attend them), low taverns, and gaming hells.
Cant is not rhyming cockney which is Victorian. Here are just a few examples of Cant.
All -a -gog – Anxious, eager
All-a-mort – Confounded
Mort – A queen or great lady can be used for any lady.
Fartcatcher – footman
Bantling – young child
A fabulous free resource for Cant and lower class slang is the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. https://amzn.to/2K1Al5A
Another resource is Cant, A Gentlemen’s Guide. This is, unfortunately, not free, but here’s the link. https://amzn.to/2whpguU

Read Full Post »

regency swearing

Swearing was vastly different during the Regency than it is today where pretty much anything goes. Gentlemen would have learned early on not to swear in the presence of ladies not matter how vexed they were. Ladies, by and large, were simply not exposed to swearing or vulgar language such as Cant. Do go thinking that servants would swear around them. That was a quick way to unemployment.

So, what words did gentlemen use when they swore? Here is a list of swear words and oaths I complied over the years”

Devil it, Bollocks, Bloody, Hell, Damn his eyes, Damme, (Egan uses Demmee), Devil a bit, Devil it, The devil’s in it, Hell and the Devil, Hell and damnation, Hell and the Devil confound it, How the devil . . ..

As opposed to words that could be used around a lady:

Perdition, By Jove’s beard, Zounds, Curse it, Balderdash, By Jove, Confound it, Dash it all, Egad, Fustian, Gammon, Hornswoggle, Hound’s teeth, Jove, Jupiter, Lucifer, ‘Pon my sou, Poppycock, Zeus.

Oaths appropriate for ladies were:

Dratted (man, boy, etc.), Fustian, Heaven forbid, Heaven forefend, Horse feathers, Humdudgeon, Merciful Heavens, Odious (man, creature, etc.), Piffle, Pooh, What a hobble (bumble-broth) we’re in.

You’ll notice that the word “bastard” is not listed. The first written usage appears to have been in 1830. Here are the examples from the OED:

1830   N. Scatcherd Hist. Morley 339   Bastard, a term of reproach for a mischievous or worthless boy.

1833   C. Lamb Let. 27 Apr. (1935) III. 367   We have had a sick child, who sleeping, or not sleeping, next me with a pasteboard partition between, killed my sleep. The little bastard is gone.

The first written usage of the word as it is used in modern day English is this:

1937   J. A. Lee Civilian into Soldier i. 29   ‘He’s a bastard.’ Guy used the term not for its dictionary meaning, but because among New Zealanders no term expressed greater contempt.

This makes sense. Being a bastard during the Regency was not a horrible thing. If one was fortunate to have been born to a king, he could become a duke.

So, it appears that the word as we use it today comes from New Zealand.

The word “bloody” was used frequently and was not considered offensive until sometime around 1750 when it began to be considered vulgar and profane. In 1755, Johnson calls it “very vulgar”, in 1888 the Oxford English Dictionary states “bloody now constantly in the mouths of the lowest classes, but by respectable people considered ‘a horrid word’, on par with obscene or profane language.”

It is unclear when the term “bloody hell” was first used, but during the Regency and beyond, it would only be used by the disreputable people.

Fuck is also not on the list. Although the word has been around forever, Shakespeare used it, it was not used in its current context until 1929.

Researching swear words take a lot of work as they were not normally used in written form. However, the OED online is a great source because they keep updating their dictionary.

Next – Insults

Read Full Post »

During the Georgian era, cosmetics (mostly lead based) were used in abundance. However, during the Regency the style changed to a natural look. The beauty emphasis focused on a natural complexion spurring a variety of creams and other stratagems for the much desire milky complexion. Here are some of the products popular at the time. Milk of Roses, Olympian Dew, Gowland’s Lotion, The Bath Lotion, Bloom of Ninon. Home remedies included crushed strawberries and cucumber.

Instead of resorting to the rouge pot (still used by older ladies) for a healthy bloom in their cheeks young ladies were encouraged to “take the air” in the form of outdoor exercise: walking, riding a horse, riding in an open carriage were all the rage. Suntans and freckles—no one wanted to be labeled ‘bran faced—were definitely not in fashion, therefore large brimmed hats and parasols were highly encouraged for outdoor jaunts.

For older ladies who needed some help, Pear’s Almond Bloom was a popular foundation that guaranteed a light delicate tint. Rice power or fine talcum powder were of the few cosmetics not frowned upon. To give one’s skin a shiny look, finely ground bismuth in the form of Pear’s White Imperial Powder was used. As with most cosmetics, this was used by more mature ladies.

Power, liquid, and cream rouges could be used in a pinch.

Eye makeup was frowned upon, but it did exist. Burnt cork and mixing lamp-black with oil could be made into a paste that was applied to eyebrows and lashes. In Georgette Heyer’s, The Infamous Army, the heroine admits to darkening her lashes.

Darkening one’s lips appeared to be roundly condemned, although, cosmetics did exist in the form of Rose Lip Salve made of almond oil, white wax, and a coloring agent. Rigge’s Liquid Bloom was also popular. It apparently gave lips a rosy glow. Again, these would be used by older ladies.

Washing not only one’s body but ones teeth became much more important. Helpfully, the first commercial tooth cleansers became available. One product was called Essence of Pearl. Some of the products promised to stop decay, fasten loose teeth, and cure gum infections.

The first book on beauty, The Mirror of the Graces or The English Lady’s Costume, was published by A Lady of Distinction in 1811.

It encouraged ladies thusly, “Combining and harmonizing taste and judgment, elegance and grace, modesty simplicity, economy with fashion in dress. And adapting the various articles of female embellishment to different ages, forms, and complexions; to the seasons of the year, rank and situation in life: With useful advice on female accomplishments, politeness and manners; the cultivation of the mind and the disposition and the carriage of the body: offering also the most efficacious means of preserving health, beauty and loveliness. The whole according with the general principles of nature and rules of nature.”




Read Full Post »

During the Regency, the age of majority was one and twenty years old. The only exception was for a reigning monarch. In the case of a king or queen, the age of majority was eighteen. Women who were widowed before they reached the age of twenty-one were considered emancipated.

Why is this important? If one had reached their majority, he or she no longer needed parental permission to wed. Although, families had a great deal of influence whether or not the person was a minor. Still if on decided to marry against the wishes of one’s family, there was no need to fly to Gretna Green to wed. One could marry legally by special or regular license.

Unfortunately, this had no bearing at all on any funds in trust.

Read Full Post »

Whether a lady could set up her own household depended upon a number of factors. It also depended on whether she wanted to maintain her friends and be received by Polite Society. Whether she had enough money that anyone would care was certainly an issue, as was age, and which members of her family were still living. I think that by the age of five and thirty, a lady could manage to set up her own household. But again, it depended on the factors involved and she would have to be extremely careful.

The basic rule was that ladies of marriageable age with sufficient wealth did not live separately from her family. This was for her protection (to keep her from being abducted and forced to marry or held for ransom) and to keep her reputation intact. Also, society did not want to encourage women to be independent.

If her parents or grandparents were still alive, there is no way society would accept her living separately from her family.

But let’s say you have a lady who wanted to set up her own household) after her parents and grandparents died), and she did care about what people thought. First, she would have to have an older companion. A lady with enough standing, and gravitas to appear as if she was in control of the younger lady, such as a widowed or spinster aunt. The lady would be required to have a complete household of servants from butler, housekeeper, and lady’s maid to maids and footmen. She’d also better not have anyone in her immediate family complaining about her not living with them. Unless, of course, everyone knew how impossible that person was.

Other women a lady could live with was a sister. Two famous spinster sisters of the Regency era are Mary and Agnes Berry.

Another way a lady could gain some form of independence, if she had sufficient funds, was to continuously visit other family members. She would still have to have an older companion and enough servants to keep her safe.

Lynne Connolly posted an interesting article on the Ladies of Langollen about two 18th century ladies that wanted to live together in an intellectual friendship. Lynne made the point that one of them was almost committed. For a while they were cast out of society, their families refused to see them, however, they eventually became “fashionable.” https://wellcomecollection.org/articles/the-ladies-of-llangollen/

Here is a link to the book. https://www.amazon.com/Ladies-Llangollen-study-Romantic-Friendship-ebook/dp/B005CPHSXA/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: