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Simplifying Regency Style


In her 1983 book, Period Design & Furnishing, Judith and Martin Miller present a wonderful overview of historical furniture design along with stunning photographs of both extant homes as well as contemporary recreations. This book is fascinating, not only to the Janeite hoping to better understand the nuances of fashion during the eras Jane lived through (Georgian, Regency, Empire and Biedermeier) but also to the author seeking to set her stage, the miniature artist attempting to capture a moment in time and the home decorator feathering her nest in a style reminiscent of days gone by.

The Miller’s book, Period Design & Furnishing.

Quoting from the chapter, Regency, Empire and Biedermeier, we find a lovely description of Regency taste and how it differentiated from the preceding Georgian Era:

“Life in the English Regency period, which in its broadest sense stretched from the late 1790s  until the late 1830s, was more intimate and informal than previously. Rooms, often with a bay window, were smaller and had lower ceilings, and the arrangement of furniture was much more casual. Instead of being ranged around the room, pieces were grouped close to the fireplace. Family and friends would gather around a circular table to talk or play cards. Interiors were better lit than before: the new, efficient oil lamps enabled several people to share a table fore reading or writing.

A sample Regency dining room from Ackermann's Repository, 1816.
A sample Regency dining room from Ackermann’s Repository, 1816.

Regency rooms were on the whole light and graceful with fairly plain walls in a clear pale color. There would be a narrow frieze, and the ceiling was usually plain or decorated with a small central garland with a chandelier hanging from it. Fabric was used in abundance– swathed and draped over valances and sometimes festooned between the legs of chairs. Continue reading Simplifying Regency Style

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Carlton House Table & Chair

Carlton House Table & Chair

Ackermann’s Repository of Arts was an illustrated, British periodical published from 1809-1829 by Rudolph Ackermann. Although commonly called Ackermann’s Repository, or, simply Ackerman’s, the formal title of the journal was Repository of arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions, and politics, and it did, indeed cover all of these fields.In its day, it had great influence on English taste in fashion, architecture, and literature. The following excerpt from the April, 1814 edition displays a table and chair set designed for the Prince of Wales‘ Carlton House.

 An early 19th century sketch of the entrance front of Carlton House in London.
An early 19th century sketch of the entrance front of Carlton House in London.

Though no where near as extravagant as the the Royal Palace at Brighton, Carlton House remained an icon of the Prince’s particular sense of style. The glowing terms in the following passage can only be seen as ironic in light of Jane Austen’s own personal struggle with the Prince. In 1815, she would be “invited” to dedicate her upcoming novel, Emma, to him, a figure whom she claimed to loathe. Along with this “invitation” came the opportunity for a personal tour of Carlton House, guided by none other than the Prince’s own librarian, James Stanier Clarke.

This began a series of correspondence between Austen and Clarke. He appeared fascinated by his brush with fame (possibly even painting her portrait) while she later lampooned his topical suggestions for her future novels in her “Plan of a Novel, According to Hints from Various Quarters”.

Fashionable Furniture
We know that a people become enlightened by the cultivation of  the arts, and that they become great in the progress of that cultivation. That a just knowledge of the useful and a correct taste for the ornamental go hand in hand with this general improvement, the dullest observer may be satisfied by looking around him. We now acknowledge, that it is alone the pencil of the artist which can trace the universal hieroglyphic; understood alike by all, his enthusiasm communicates itself to all alike, and prepares the mind for cultivation. A national improvement is thus produced by the arts, and the arts are supported in their respectability by the calls which the improving public taste makes for their assistance; they are inseparable in their progress, and mutually depend on each other for support. In the construction of the domestic furniture of our dwellings we see and feel the benefit of all this. To the credit of our higher classes who encourage, and of our manufacturing artists who produce, we now universally quit the overcharged magnificence of former ages, and seek the purer models of simplicity and tasteful ornament in every article of daily call. Continue reading Carlton House Table & Chair

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Fashionable Furniture: The Library Table

library table

“How pleasant it is to spend an evening in this way! I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”
-Pride and Prejudice

Ackermann’s Repository of Arts was an illustrated, British periodical published from 1809-1829 by Rudolph Ackermann. Although commonly called Ackermann’s Repository, or, simply Ackerman’s, the formal title of the journal was Repository of arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions, and politics, and it did, indeed cover all of these fields. In its day, it had great influence on English taste in fashion, architecture, and literature.

Many of the English fashion plates that remain from the Regency era are from Ackermann’s and while a wide assortment of topics were covered in each issue, fasshionable furniture was also highlighted. The following library table, from the January, 1814 issue, is suggested as the perfect piece for smaller homes and city apartments. Jane Austen spent time in London in 1814, with her brother Henry (his wife, Eliza, had passed away the previous year) Perhaps she wrote parts of her upcoming novel, Emma (1815) at a desk like this one, while staying at his home in Henrietta street.

Continue reading Fashionable Furniture: The Library Table

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The Lady’s Drawing Table

drawingtable  Elinor sat down to her lady’s drawing table as soon as he was out of the house, busily employed herself the whole day, neither sought nor avoided the mention of his name, appeared to interest herself almost as much as ever in the general concerns of the family; and if, by this conduct, she did not lessen her own grief, it was at least prevented from unnecessary increase, and her mother and sisters were spared much solicitude on her account. -Sense and Sensibility Fashionable Furniture from The Repository of Arts by Rudolph Ackermann, February, 1814 The very elegant and tasteful article represented in the annexed engraving, is intended to serve the double purpose of usefulness and pleasure. In the first, it is convenient as a breakfast or as a sofa-table; it also forms a convenient writing or drawing-table, with drawers for paper, colours, pencil, &c. For the second, a sliding board for the games of chess, drafts, backgammon, &c. which slides under the desk. It is very light, goes upon castors, and is particularly pleasant to sit before, as there is sufficient accommodation for the knees by its projecting top. The chair is contrived for study or repose. Its sweeping form is calculated to afford rest to the invalid; and the arms are sufficiently low to allow it to be used at the writing or reading-desk. It is lighter than its form would indicate, and it is easily moved, being placed upon traversing castors.
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How win at Speculation

In the evening it was found, according to the predetermination of Mrs Grant and her sister, that after making up the whist-table there would remain sufficient for a round game, and everybody being as perfectly complying and without a choice as on such occasions they always are, speculation was decided on almost as soon as whist; and Lady Bertram soon found herself in the critical situation of being applied to for her own choice between the games, and being required either to draw a card for whist or not.   Mansfield Park How to Play Speculation Deck: 52 card deck with Aces high Players: 2 to 9 Object: To be the holder of the highest trump at the end of a round. Preliminaries:Each player contributes to the pot. The dealer deals three cards to each player, face down. She turns up the next card in the deck to determine trump. Play: If the trump card is an Ace, the dealer takes the pot. If the trump card is a King, Queen or Jack, the dealer offers it for sale to the highest bidder. Players may check their cards to decide whether they wish to bid. The dealer may choose whether she wishes to accept the bid. If she does, the payment is made and the card passed to the buyer. All cards are now turned face up, and the holder of the highest trump takes the pot. If the faced up trump is a card with a number, the card (more…)
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The Type-Founder

The first part of the type-founder’s business is tot prepare the medal, which is a composition of lead and regulus of antimony, melted together in the furnace. In large foundries this metal is cast into bars of twenty pounds each, which are delivered to the workmen as occasions may require; this is a laborious and unwholesome part of the business, owing to the fumes which are thrown off. Fifteen hundred weight of this metal is cast in a day, and the founders usually cast as much at one casting as will last six months. We now come to the letter-cutter; that is, to him who cuts the moulds in which the letters are cast; and he must be provided with vices, hammers, files, gravers, and gauges of various kinds. He then prepares steel punches, on the face of which he draws or marks the exact shape of the letter, and with pointed gravers and sculpters he digs out the steel between the strokes or marks which he made on the face of the punch, leaving the marks standing. Having shaped the inside strokes of the letter, he deepens the hollows with the same tools; for, if a letter be not deep in proportion to its width, it will, when used at press, print black, and be good for nothing. He then works the outside with files till it is fit for the matrice. A matrice is a piece of brass or copper about an inch and half long, and thick (more…)
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Advice to the Cook

The Cook must be quick and strong of sight: her hearing most acute, that she may be sensible to when the contents of her vessels bubble, although they be closely covered, and that she may be alarmed before the pot boils over; her auditory nerve ought to discriminate (when several saucepans are in operation at the same time) the simmering of one, the ebullition of another, and the full-toned warbling of a third. It is imperiously requisite that her organ of smell be highly susceptible of the various effluvia, that her nose may distinguish the perfection of aromatic ingredients, and that, in animal substances it shall evince a suspicious accuracy between tenderness and putrefication: above all, her olfactories should be tremblingly alive to mustiness and empyreuma. It is from the exquisite sensibility of her palate, that we admire and judge the cook; from the alliance between the olfactory and sapid organs it will be seen, that their perfections is indispensible. Good manners have often made the fortune of many, who have had nothing else to recommend them: ill manners have as often marred the hopes of those who have had everything else to advance them. Dinner tables are seldom sufficiently lighted, or attended; and active waiter will have enough to do, to attend upon half a dozen good eaters: there should be half as many candles as there are guests, and their flame be about eighteen inches above the table, our foolish modern candelabras seem intended to illuminate the ceiling, (more…)
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Advice to House Servants

Miscellaneous Observations, Compiled for the use of House Servants Many well-meaning servants are ignorant of the best means of managing, and thereby waste as much as would maintain a small family, besides causing the mistress of the house much chagrin by their irregularity: and many families, from a want of method, have the appearance of chance rather than of regular system. To avoid this, the following hints may be useful as well as economical:– Every article should be kept in that place best suited to it, as much waste may thereby be avoided, viz. Vegetables will best keep on a stone floor; if the air be excluded.—Meat in a cold dry place.—Sugar and sweetmeats require a dry place; so does salt.—Candles cold, but not damp.—Dried meats, hams, &c. the same.—All sorts of seeds for puddings, saloop, rice, &c. should be close covered, to preserve from insects; but that will not prevent it, if long kept. Bread is so heavy and article of expense, that all waste should be guarded against; and having it cut in the room will tend much to prevent it. It should not be cut until a day old. Earthen pans and covers keep it best. Straw to lay apples on, should be quite dry, to prevent a musty taste. Large pears should be tied up by the stalk. Basil, savoury, or knotted marjoram, or thyme, to be used when herbs are ordered; but with discretion, as they are very pungent. The best means to preserve blankets (more…)