WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Belly Timber

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Belly Timber

We know many things about aristocratic foods and meals during the Regency era, likely from all the Jane Austen books and adaptions we consume, but let’s have a brief review just the same.

Huge meals were the order of the day, and eating carried on what we would consider late into the night. Breakfast was served nearer what is now commonly called lunchtime (when you’re at a ball til the break of dawn, you don’t want breakfast til the break of noon, I suspect.). With such a late ending of one’s fast, there was no further food until dinner, which fell around 6:00pm in the country and as late as 10:00pm in Town. Yes, afternoon tea (not high tea, ever!) became a novelty after its introduction by the Duchess of Bedford, but she was lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria, so it is not a Regency era construct. It was also not the mini-feast it has turned into today. Think tea with biscuits, not tea with a three-course lunch. Dinner was a formal affair and could last several hours, what with pre-dinner socializing (i.e., drinking and inspecting each other’s wardrobes) and the passing of course after course at the table. Supper, when taken, fell however many hours after dinner the hostess deemed necessary and appropriate, often midnight or later.

Foods served ranged from traditional English fare (what excellent boiled potatoes!) to the continental or worldly dishes of one’s premier chef (Italian if you please, or French if you must, but only after the exile of the Corsican); butter, cream, eggs, and spices were the order of the day, to reflect one’s wealth. Possession of domestic and exotic fruits in a personal orangery was the veritable icing on the dining cake. As the period progressed, the idea of a more organized, mid-day snacking began to take shape – we’ve all read of ladies taking “nuncheon” or “noon shine” nibbles such as bread, cheese, biscuits, and tea –  but it was not a formally-recognized practice until later in the 19th Century. Picnics or riding excursions needing treats, however, could also occur on a whim during the day, taking place anywhere and anytime.

A Brighton Breakfast or Morning Comforts, 1802. Print made by Charles Williams and published by S.W. Flores, British Museum. Mrs Fitzherbert, on the right, says, “Won’t you take another Comforter? we must make haste I expect Noodle [the Prince] here presently.” Her companion replies, “I think your Comforters are bigger than my Johns.” Saucy Gillray.

Regency aristocrats enjoyed more variety in food and drink than ever before, and with this greater choice came more creative ways to cook and bake the victuals. Food preservation techniques were on the rise during this industrious period, as was the phasing out of open-fire cooking in favor of huge (but still labor-intensive) stoves. Bless the poor servants who had to not only make these meals, but sneak their own in at some point during their long and arduous day.

Belly Timber

Food of all sorts.

So what did all this largesse look like? The folks at The Supersizers Go… are so glad you asked. In the final episode of this excellent and entertaining show, The Supersizers Go…Regency, and the world is much better for it. It is well worth your time.

 

  • Find a treasure trove of information and pictures of Georgian and Regency fare at the History Cookbook.
  • Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.
  • The Jane Austen Centre has a fine list of Regency Recipes for you to try at home.
  • If you’re much too busy and too refined to be entertained by the likes of Sue Perkins washing her face with a combination of brandy, milk, and lemon juice, whilst a scrambled egg white cleans her hair, well … I feel sorry for you. But you can read a thorough recap of the show at Just Hungry. They breakdown the entire episode, relaying every dish served and every ingredient abused for beauty purposes. Bon appétit!

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Lombard Fever

One of my favorite words is “ennui.” It’s the requisite Regency novel term to use when describing the impetus behind the rakish hero suddenly noticing the different, thinking-for-herself, heroine.

George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, by Richard Westall, 1813, National Portrait Gallery.

It’s the requisite Regency novel term to use when describing the impetus behind the stifled heroine plotting to break free of her societal restraints in small fashion, usually catching the eye of the aforementioned rake in the process.

Sweets to the Sweet by Edmund Blair Leighton, public domain.

Ennui means a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement (according to the oracle Google). I also enjoy its synonyms: lassitude, languor, lethargy, listlessness.

Nymphs Listening to the Songs of Orpheus by Charles Francois Jalabert, 1853, Walters Art Museum.

As it seems the majority of substitutes must start with an “L,” it’s only fitting the slang equivalent does as well.

Lombard Fever

Sick of the lombard fever; i.e. of the idles.

A portrait of Lord Granville Leveson-Gower, later 1st Earl Granville , at the time of his mission to Saint Petersburg, c. 1804–1809, by Thomas Lawrence.

This gentleman with the vacant eyes, the future 1st Earl Granville, was said to be as boring as he looked. Historian David Wetzel, in A Duel of Giants, writes Granville “was a drab figure, the original stuffed-shirt – starch outside, sawdust within.” Which goes a long way to explaining why the original, original stuffed shirt, one William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire (or Notorious DoD, if you prefer), favored the man with the hand of his daughter, Lady Harriet. Granville was likely a man after Devonshire’s own heart: both men were renowned for their infamous affaires de cœur – Devonshire with Lady Elizabeth Foster (his wife’s best friend) and Granville with his future wife’s own aunt, Henrietta, Countess of Bessborough.

The Hostage by Edmund Blair Leighton, 1912, public domain

In modern parlance, rather than labeling tedium as ‘ennui,’ or even the far less glamorous ‘boredom,’ we would issue instead a flurry of memes emblazoned with the byline ‘I just can’t.’ And this poor lady below is perhaps the can’t-ious of all just can’ts.

Contemplation by Félix Armand Heullant, 1905, Düsseldorfer Auktionshaus.

 

  • Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.
  • If you’re a war history fan, and I am (thanks, dad!), David Wetzel wrote a fantastic book about Bismark, Napoleon III, and the origins of the Franco-Prussian War, called A Duel of Giants. He traces the roots of the conflict throughout European History.
  • I would look up a source to give you for my information on Granville and Devonshire, but what I’ve written is simply information I’ve picked up along life’s road. And really, the men are not worth the effort.
WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Green Sickness

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Green Sickness

This week’s word is one of those that make you laugh and roll your eyes at the same time. Oh, the taint of virginity on one’s health – the concept implied physical affliction but reality revealed true financial miseries to be the main component. Back in the day, a woman married to survive. Literally.

Perhaps that thought would make one ill.

A girl fainting and collapsing into the arms of a woman, engraving by W. Sedgwick after E. Penny, Wellcome Images (alternative title, Apparent Dissolution).

Green Sickness

The disease of maids occasioned by celibacy.

William Savage, who writes historical mystery novels and blogs at Pen and Pension, has a thorough post on this topic that I encourage you to visit ~ The Cure for Green Sickness. He hooks interest with the first few sentences:

‘Green sickness’ was described as a condition ‘peculiar to virgins’, which was said to turn the skin a greenish colour and leave the sufferer weak and melancholic. It was also believed to be common throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, especially in girls approaching puberty and in thin and languid young women.

Perhaps she’s dressed in a smart green pelisse to ward off the vile Green Sickness. Walking Dress, fashion plate from La Belle Assemblée, April 1817, public domain.

Are your eyes rolling yet?

Barbara W. Swords wrote an essay comparing the actual status of women during Jane Austen’s time versus the Lady’s representation of women in her works. It’s a historically-rich read for any connoisseur of the era and Austen, but for this week’s purposes of adding sardonic laughter and a groan or two, I adore this quote from a 1770 parliamentary statute (purloined from Ms. Swords’ treatise A Woman’s Economic Opportunities During the Regency Era).

Here we go:

All women of whatever age, rank, profession, or degree, whether virgin maid or widow, that shall from and after such Act impose upon, seduce, and betray into matrimony any of His Majesty’s subjects by means of scent, paints, cosmetics, washes, artificial teeth, false hair, Spanish wool, ironstays, hoops, high-heeled shoes, or bolstered hips, shall incur the penalty of the law now in force against witchcraft and like misdemeanors, and that the marriage upon conviction shall stand null and void.

It is amazing that parliament omitted those ladies of a greenish hue that were desperate to obtain the marriage cure for their sickness. The beautiful lady above scoffs at the notion of Green Sickness, although perhaps she’ll regret such an in-your-face skewering when she reads about the deadly Regency pigments of Emerald Green and Paris Green at Jane Austen’s Regency World.

But that’s a post for another week.

Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. The rest of the links are highlighted in the post. Read and enjoy!

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ To Sham Abram

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ To Sham Abram

It’s always been a thing for kids to fake an illness to stay home from school. The classic movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is predicated on this very concept. Now, I think more adults use this excuse to skip a day of work, having been the creators of the concept back in the day. After all, youth is wasted on the young. Fun Fact: this concept, rather than direct quote, is most likely attributable to George Bernard Shaw instead of Oscar Wilde, according to the Quote Investigator.

But I digress.

Visiting the Sick by James Gillray, published 28 July 1806 by Hannah Humphrey, National Portrait Gallery.

To Sham Abram

To pretend sickness.

So how does one succeed in shamming wise Abram?

The Sick Prince by James Gillray, published 16 June 1787 by Samuel William Fores, National Portrait Gallery.

So glad you asked.

Consulting the modern-day oracle again, Ferris Bueller, we find the secret is the cold, clammy hands . . . but avoid the phony fever at all costs. That’s a one-way ticket to the doctor, and that’s worse than enduring whatever you have going on in your life. So even though Ferris is describing the parental fake-out, I think it could work on the job as well. There’s nothing like showing up “sick” to make your co-workers scream for you to take the day off. No one wants to catch what you’re trying to share.

Punch Cures the Gout, -the Colic, -and the ‘Tisick by James Gillray, published 13 July 1799 by Hannah Humphrey, National Portrait Gallery.

To start your Monday off well, let’s learn how To Sham Abram from the master.

 

Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Cruisers

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Cruisers

The sea hath no king but God alone…
Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Thinking about the American Revolutionary War conjures images of George Washington, tea in Boston Harbor, Valley Forge, and an ignominious surrender at Yorktown.

But what about The Pond?

Atlantic Ocean Map, 1544, Library of Congress.

The American Revolutionary War saw the birth of the United States Navy, but first there were privateers. For many, the word privateer is synonymous with pirate, but that’s too simplistic a view. Privateers sailed under Letters of Marque from a country for the purpose of striking a blow against that country’s enemies by capturing prizes – that is, enemy ships and cargo. They flew the flag of their sponsor country and were subject to all laws and treaties of that country. A pirate sailed for no man or country save himself, owed allegiance to no one, and plundered (stole, pillaged, and killed) at will. Some wily pirates did pledge allegiance to a country when the Marque provided access or legitimacy to big scores, but they quickly and indiscriminately dropped their loyalty when necessity withered.

Privateers have sailed the seas for centuries. Think Barbarossa Hayreddin Pasha (Turkey), Sir Francis Drake (England), Sir Henry Morgan (Wales), and Jean Lafitte (French Louisiana). After the American Revolutionary War, new names were added to that roll call: Esek Hopkins, David Hawley, Noah Stoddard, and Ephraim Sturdivant.

Cruisers

Rogues ready to snap up any booty on offer, like privateers or pirates on a cruise.

Privateer Snow by Joe Hunt Joseph, 1977. Inscribed “with goodstaken from British merchantment being rowed up the Piscataqua to Portsmouth for offloading ca. 1780.” Skinner Auctioneers and Appraisers, Boston.

Britain controlled the seas and coastline of its thirteen colonies prior to the American Revolution. In fact, they controlled most of the world’s seas, period. That all changed when the quarrel with the colonies developed, pitting loyal Englishman against disgruntled Englishman. Skirmishes steadily grew in frequency and severity as all-out war approached.

Because it lacked sufficient funds to build a navy of any count, the Continental Congress, in a bill signed by then-President John Hancock on 3 April 1776, gave privateers permission to disrupt the progress of any British ship involved in commerce. It read: “Commanders of Private Ships or vessels of War, which shall have Commissions of Letters of Marque and Reprisal, authorizing them to make Captures of British Vessels and Cargoes.” Congress soon upped the ante by issuing Privateer Commissions that allowed for direct harassment and attack of any British vessel regardless of purpose.

Privateer Commission 1813. Although this example is post-Revolutionary War, it’s a wonderful example of Privateering. Signed by President James Madison, the document authorized the New Hampshire schooner Dart to “subdue, seize and take any armed or unarmed British vessel.” After the successes enjoyed under the Continental Congress edicts during the Revolutionary War, a proviso was included in the U.S. Constitution to give Congress the authority to grant these commissions to private armed ships like the Dart.

Both levels of privateering drastically changed the War. By seizing British vessels and goods, privateers supplied their fledgling country (and enriched themselves in the process). They also dealt a stiff maritime blow to their Mother Country. An estimated 300 British ships were captured during the War. It’s important not to underestimate the importance of private American seamen capturing vessels of the country that heretofore ruled the seas: victories of both supply and morale. In effect, these colonial upstarts were hoisting the English by their own petard.

It’s likely impossible to determine which was the greater motivator for taking to the seas during this period – politics or profit – but New England was lousy with both whigs and privateers.  Huge prizes were taken and fortunes built as the war progressed. One such privateer, John Brown (1736-1803), used his newfound wealth to help found and construct the buildings for a new school in Providence known as Rhode Island College. That’s Brown University now, to you and me.

So as we celebrate our Independence from the tyranny of madness and taxation without representation (No More Kings!), let’s not forget to tip our hats to the unsung heroes of the Revolution. Those legal pillagers of all those who sailed under the flag, “His Majesty’s Jack.” Those harassers and despoilers of Redcoat ports and supply lines. Those usurpers of rum, sugar, and British nationalism.

American Revolutionary Cruisers.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Waspish

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Waspish

Bitter and rancorous feelings can twist even the prettiest countenance or heart into an ugly thing. Some are more predisposed than others to unkind thoughts and actions, while others are warped by circumstance and hardship. Whatever the cause, the results are as nasty as the names: harpy, shrew, witch, harridan.

Waspish

Peevish, spiteful.

When I think waspish, I immediately conjure two images: Lady Catherine de Bourgh and the Real Housewives of *insert city here.* No one likes to be the object of tittle-tattle or meanness, but many like to be in on the hearing and observation of it, and television has brought the most specious, intriguing, and sometimes salacious news and imaginings straight into our homes.

When a stroll through the interwebs turns up Jane Austen/RHOetc. mashup, well, heaven help us.

Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Balum Rancum

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Balum Rancum

This week’s word deals with dancing prostitutes, so as you can imagine, period illustrations were a bit hard to find. Thank goodness the upper classes had no compunction about acting a bit shamefully on occasion. Or at least enough to satirize.

Exhibition Stare Case, print made by Thomas Rowlandson, 1811 (?), British Museum. Visitors to the Royal Academy struggle up and down the steeply curving staircase of Somerset House. The wild display of bare legs brings delight to the spectators.

Blaum Rancum

A hop or dance, where the women are all prostitutes. N. B. The company dance in their birthday suits.

Waltzing! or a peep into the Royal Brothel Spring Gardens dedicated with propriety to the Lord Chamberlain, 1816, British Museum.

Far from an illustration of prostitutes, but based on the description of the engraving, there is a definite spirit of balum rancum afoot.

Three couples dance immodestly in a space bordered by a red rope behind which are many spectators. The breasts and shoulders, and sometimes the arms, of the women are bare, their skirts short and edged with transparent lace. A fourth couple stand arm-in-arm on the extreme right, inspecting a lady seated on a bench. A corner of the musicians’ gallery is on the left. The men’s costume also is caricatured. All wear tail-coats and high collars; one wears very tight and short pantaloons, another loose baggy trousers resembling plus-fours (cf. No. 12825). There is a carpet with a large lyre for centre-piece (or perhaps this represents the designs then chalked on ball-room floors). Above is a gas-chandelier with many jets. On the wall are three pictures. (1) ‘Naked, but not ashamed’: three women with bare breasts and short petticoats, two wearing hats, and two having a grotesque stoop (cf. No. 12840). (2) Two men raising their hats; one wears short loose trousers, the other tight breeches with top-boots. (3) ‘Tobacco Pipe imitations of Female Dress—or Smoking the Fashions of 1816.’

The Royal Joke, -or- Black Jacks Delight by James Gillray, published by Samuel William Fores 25 April 1788, National Portrait Gallery.

Fiddling, dancing, royalty, gawkers, and a whip – who needs prostitutes?! And while the colorized etching is held at the National Portrait Gallery, the description is pure British Museum:

A scene in Carlton House. The Prince of Wales, seated in a chair, holds a stout, good-looking lady (Mrs. Sawbridge) across his knees and chastises her with upraised hand; she holds out her arms imploringly. Alderman Sawbridge (right) faces her in profile to the left, playing a fiddle and dancing; from his pocket hangs a piece of music inscribed ‘The Reform’, a new Motion. On the extreme left Lady Archer stands in profile to the right, holding a driving-whip, and pointing angrily at the injured lady. A little girl (Sawbridge) stands full-face, clasping her hands in horror at the treatment of her mother. Behind are a number of onlookers: a very fat lady in profile to the left is Miss Vanneck; Mrs. Fitzherbert watches, not displeased; Fox, his arm round her shoulder, gazes amorously at her…

 

Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.