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Advice to Young Women

James Fordyce and Co.

By tea-time… the dose had been enough, and Mr Bennet was glad to take his guest into the drawing-room again, and when tea was over, glad to invite him to read aloud to the ladies.

Mr Collins readily assented, and a book was produced; but on beholding it (for every thing announced it to be from a circulating library), he started back, and begging pardon, protested that he never read novels. —

Kitty stared at him, and Lydia exclaimed. —

Other books were produced, and after some deliberation he chose Fordyce’s Sermons.

Lydia gaped as he opened the volume, and before he had, with very monotonous solemnity, read three pages, she interrupted him…”

-Pride and Prejudice

Mr. Collins
During the Regency there were a wealth of books provided to instruct young girls in all the finer points of deportment and the arts of their sex. One such, Fordyce’s Sermons to Young Women” (1765) was chosen by Mr. Collins as proper instruction for the Bennet girls. Reading Dr. Fordyce’s views, one can see why Lydia was so disgusted. I wonder if Jane Austen would have approved of mary Wollstonecrafts views, though?

James Fordyce
On Being Weak and Passive:
In your sex manly exercises are never graceful a tone and figure of the masculine kind are always forbidding men of sensibility desire in every woman soft features a form not robust and demeanor delicate and gentle Nature appears to have formed the (mental) faculties of your sex, for the most part, with less vigour than those of ours, observing the same distinction here as in the more delicate frames of your bodies.

On Submission to Neglect:
I am astonished at the folly of many women who are still reproaching their husbands for leaving them alone, for preferring this or that company to theirs, when, to speak the truth, they have themselves in great measure to blame.

had you behaved to them with more respectful observance studying their humours, overlooking their mistakes, submitting to their opinions in matters indifferent, giving soft answers to hasty words, complaining as little as possible your house might be the abode of domestic bliss.

On Education:

As a small amount of knowledge entertains a woman, so from a woman a small expression of kindness delights, particularly if she has beauty.

On Being Pleasing to Men:

Never perhaps, does a fine woman strike more deeply than when composed into pious recollection she assumes without knowing it superior dignity and new graces the beauties of holiness seem to radiate about her.

Dr. John Gregory
Dr. John GregoryOn Being Ignorant:

Be ever cautious in displaying your good sense. It will be thought you assume superiority over the rest of the company. But if you have any learning, keep it a profound secret especially from the men, who generally look with a jealous and malignant eye on a woman of great parts and a cultivated understanding.

On Being Pleasing to Men:

When a girl ceases to blush, to has lost the most powerful charm of beauty.

The men will complain of your reserve. They will assure you that a franker behaviour would make you more amiable. But, trust me, they are not sincere when they tell you so. I acknowledge that on some occasions it might render you more agreeable as companions, but it would make you less amiable as women; an important distinction, which many of your sex are unaware of.

On Reserve and Modesty:

One of the chief beauties in a female character is that modest reserve, that reitiring delicacy, which avoids the public eye.

On Concealing One’s Love:
Violent love cannot subsist, at least cannot be expressed, for any time together, on both sides, otherwise the certain consequence however concealed, is satiety and disgust.

Mary Wollstonecraft on Conduct Book Advice:
Mary WollstoncraftEverything that women see or hear serves to fix impressions, call forth emotions and associate ideas that give a sexual character to the mind. False notions of beauty and delicacy stop the growth of their limbs and produce a sickly soreness rather than a delicacy women perceive that it is only through their address to excite emotions in men, that pleasure and power are to be obtained. Besides, the books professionally written for their instruction, which make their first impression on their minds, all inculcate the same opinions.

Pleasure is the business of a woman’s life, according to the present modification of society; and while it continues to be so, little can be expected from such weak things Regard for reputation, independent of it being on of the natural rewards of virtue took it’s rise from the grand source of female depravity, the impossibility of regaining respectibility from a return to virtue, though men preserve theirs during the indulgence of vice.

I am persuaded that in the pursuit of knowledge women would never be insulted by sensible men, and rarely by men of any description, if they did not by mock modesty remind them that they were women Men are not always men in the company of women, nore would women always remember that they are women, if they were allowed to acquire more understanding.

Mary Wollstonecraft sees true modesty as ‘purity of mind’, rather than regulation of behaviour, and that it is acchieved by cultivating the understanding.

Reprinted with permission, from The Jane Austen Society of Australia’s Newsletter.

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Ferry Service on the Thames

Until the Putney Bridge was built in 1729, the only means by which to cross the River Thames was by London Bridge or by boat. Watermen were employed in great numbers to row people, goods and equipment around London in boats known as wherries. Wherries were small open rowing boats used originally to carry passengers on the tidal reaches of the Thames. Noted for their great speed, wherries were sometimes called “light-horsemen”. Wherries measured a standard length of 22½ feet, and could take up to five passengers. Normally a wherry was rowed by two men with long oars. But for cross-river passages and other short journeys it would be manned by a single waterman using short oars or ‘sculls’; it was then known as a ‘sculler’. For some time boats were the quickest way to travel any distance in London. Until the Westminster Bridge was built in 1750, Vauxhall Gardens could only be reached by water via a six pence boat ride. Even after the bridge was built the trip to Vauxhall was best made by boat due to footpads stalking the roads. In fact it was quicker to walk than ride in London’s narrow, uneven streets, but it was unsafe to walk in many areas.

The Company of Watermen was established by Act of Parliament in 1555 not only to protect the economic interests of its members but also to regulate them and their activities. Queen Elizabeth I granted the company its arms in 1585. Officers empowered to license operators were not elected by members but appointed by the Lord Mayor. Boats and their owners had to bear a number and operate from an approved plying place. The waterman’s license attached him to a certain place, usually a dock at the foot of stairs or double stairs leading down from the upper banks of the Thames in the city of London. A call of ‘Oars!’ from one of the many landing-points on the banks of the Thames would bring the wherry to take you to your chosen destination. The Company’s influence on the Thames stretched from Gravesend to Windsor. Printed tables of fares became an annual publication by the early eighteenth century. By the early 1700s some 10,000 watermen were licensed to work on the Thames above London Bridge. London watermen wore a special livery consisting of a red frock coat with a badge on the sleeve showing the company coat of arms and license number. In 1700 the Lightermen, men who unload cargo from ships and carried it into port by lighter, joined the Company of Watermen.

London Bridge itself created problems for the watermen. The vast stone piers of the bridge protected by timber created an impediment to the Thames waterflow acting like a partial dam. This caused the water to speed up as it went through the spaces between the piers. At both high and low tides the water became a raging torrent. Passing under the bridge during the perilous tidal periods was know as “Shooting the Bridge.” Only an expert waterman could manage the passage of the torrent. Normally the passengers left the boat on the upstream side of the bridge at “The Three Cranes Tavern”. (The tavern was named for the three cranes on the Vintry Warf there.) The passengers met the boat again on the downstream side of the bridge at Billingsgate.

Reprinted with persmission Sharon Wagoner, Curator of The Georgian Index. Visit this site for a historical tour through Regency London!

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Jane Austen’s Easter

Colonel Fitzwilliam’s manners were very much admired at the parsonage, and the ladies all felt that he must add considerably to the pleasure of their engagements at Rosings. It was some days, however, before they received any invitation thither, for while there were visitors in the house they could not be necessary; and it was not till Easter-day, almost a week after the gentlemen’s arrival, that they were honoured by such an attention, and then they were merely asked on leaving church to come there in the evening. For the last week they had seen very little of either Lady Catherine or her daughter. Colonel Fitzwilliam had called at the parsonage more than once during the time, but Mr Darcy they had only seen at church. The invitation was accepted of course, and at a proper hour they joined the party in Lady Catherine’s drawing room.
Pride and Prejudice

Easter is arguably the most important holiday in the Christian Calendar. It is on this day that Christians from all denominations celebrate Christ’s victory over death, for, as the Apostle Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15 , “If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins…But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” That victory is the sure knowledge that He is the Son of God and that all He said was true—who else could be raised back to life from the dead? “For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day.” If He had not been raised then He would be, as some claim, only a great teacher or Rabbi.

As the daughter of a clergyman, Jane Austen would scarcely have missed a service at the small Anglican Church in Steventon where her father served. She would have been intimately familiar with The Book of Common Prayer, as Her father would have used this as a guide in planning his services throughout the year. It gives the prayers and rites necessary to a clergyman and scripture readings for each service. The suggested reading for Easter is in John 20, appropriately, the “Easter Story” of how Jesus’ disciples and friends went to grieve over his body in the garden tomb where it had been laid, only to find the Lord, Himself, alive and waiting to ascend to his Father in Heaven.

With this proof of Christ’s deity, the rest of His message to all peoples can be embraced, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” Salvation by Grace was a concept which was gaining ground in the Georgian world as evangelists like John Wesley and George Whitfield preached a break from the tradition of attending church for the sake of being seen and encouraged a personal relationship with Christ as offered through the scriptures. Austen, at first (in a letter to Cassandra in 1809) claims to dislike Evangelicals, though she declines to say why, but later on in life seems to question this belief with a sort of envy of their assurance of Salvation: “I am by no means convinced that we ought not all to be evangelicals, and am at least persuaded that they who are so from reason and feeling must be happiest and safest.” (a letter to her niece, Fanny Knight, 1814).

History of Easter
When Christian Missionaries spread throughout Europe in the early centuries after the resurrection of Christ they found that many pagan rites and rituals existed in the early spring, at the same time that they were celebrating the resurrection of Christ. One of these involved the Saxon Goddess, Eostre. When writing his Historia Ecclesiastica, Bede, the famed historian, noted that the month we know as April was named Eostre Month. From her name came a name for the time of year, Easter, and, as with other holidays such as Christmas and Hallowe’en, certain established rites surrounding her worship such as hares and colored eggs were absorbed into the modern celebration of the season.

It is interesting to note that the Puritan fathers (Those who colonized North America in the years before Jane Austen’s birth) looked on Easter as a pagan holiday and refused to celebrate using any of these devices. Nevertheless German settlers brought their customs with them and the idea of white rabbits bringing baskets of treats and eggs to good boys and girls caught on in the popular imagination. After the American Civil War (1861-1865) it gained popularity becoming the modern festival of candy consumption and Easter Egg Hunts.

Easter is known as a moveable feast, as it is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox, instead of on a set day each year. A table for calculating Easter Sunday was included in each book of the Common Prayer and, somewhat unbelievably, it takes 5,700,000 years for the cycle of dates to repeat itself!

During Jane Austen’s day, the Easter Season (Easter and the 40 days following it, until Ascension Sunday, when Christ’s final ascension into heaven is celebrated) or the Easter Holidays as they are sometimes referred to, were a time of traveling and visiting Family. Every mention of Easter in her letters and novels involves travel, including her most notorious use in Pride and Prejudice when Mr. Darcy arrives at Rosings Park, to visit his aunt, Lady Catherine DuBourgh.

The idea of wearing something new for Easter has its roots in Roman tradition (it was good luck to have something new to wear in the spring) and early Christianity where new converts would celebrate their baptism by wearing white for a week. The first Easter bonnets were spring bonnets which would be delightful to wear after the dark clothes of winter and somber tone of Lent.

Lent
Easter is preceded by 40 days of fasting, known as Lent. This is not a full fast and is broken every Sunday, making Lent actually fall on the 46 days preceding Easter Sunday. According to common definition, the forty days represent the time Jesus spent in the desert, where he endured temptation by Satan. The purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer—through prayer, penitence, almsgiving and self-denial— for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events linked to the Passion of Christ and culminates in Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.*

During Lent, it is customary to give up eating rich, fattening foods and live on only the simplest of meals. These foods would include sugar, eggs, meat, dairy products and other fats. Many traditions have sprung up around Lent including Mardi Gras in the United States (which means “Fat Tuesday” in French.) This is traditionally held as the last day of partying before Lent begins. In England the day before the beginning of Lent is known as Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Tuesday and is a time for using up all those ingredients you won’t be using during Lent, before they go bad.

Easter Eggs and other Specialty Foods
Eggs have long been a symbol of fertility and new life and giving them as gifts in the spring, often colorfully decorated, is a centuries old custom among many people groups. Since they would not have been eaten during the weeks preceding Easter, it was common to hard boil them (in order to make them last) and have them in abundance during the week of Easter. It is said that Christians dyed their eggs red using red onion skins in order to remember the blood of Christ shed in their place.

Beautifully decorated eggs became an art form across Europe, from the Pysanky created in the Ukraine and Faberge’s gorgeous creations for the Tsar’s family in Russia, to homemade tokens created as gifts from lovers to their beloved, often trimmed in paper, lace, gold leaf, and paint or dyed with natural colors. Dyeing them in pale, pastel colors seems to come from Egypt, though tales of multicolored eggs spring from the legends surrounding Eostre, as well.

It would be hard to imagine Easter without the traditional dinner of Ham or Lamb. While both may seem a bit odd considering that it is a holiday focused on a Jewish Man, known as the Lamb of God, there are good reasons for it. First of all, a meal of meat was a delightful celebration following the deprivations associated with Lent. What better way to celebrate this most auspicious of days? Easter is inextricably linked with the Jewish Passover celebration, as it was the festival which Jesus and his disciples were in Jerusalem celebrating when he was arrested and crucified. Central to the Passover celebration is the eating of the Passover Lamb—ironically, Passover and the Passover Lamb are pictures of Christ the once and for all sacrifice needed to wash away the guilt of our sins.

Practically, Easter was celebrated in spring, just as the first lambs were born and they would be readily available on farms and in markets. The same reasoning holds for hams, which would be the last of the cured meats, set aside for winter. Spring was the time to use them up in preparation for the fresh meat which would soon be available. Due to the doctrine of grace, early Christians did not hold to the kosher diet observed by Jews and some other religions, such as Islam, which forbid the eating of Pork. Eating ham in celebration of Easter was, therefore, an allowed indulgence.

Perhaps the most famous Easter food is the Hot Cross Bun. The first mention of these in association with Easter comes from Poor Robin’s Almanack (1733): “Good Friday comes this month, the old woman runs, with one or two a penny hot cross buns”. Typically, the cross marked on the top of the bun symbolizes the cross on which Jesus died, and they are eaten on Good Friday as a build up to Easter Sunday. English tradition holds that a bun baked on Good Friday brings good luck to the household and will not mold. Many were kept throughout the year until the next batch would be made.

Although Egyptians and Romans celebrated some spring rites with small loaves baked with crosses imprinted on top, the traditional “spiced buns first became popular in Tudor days, at the same period as the larger spice loaves or cakes, and were no doubt usually made from the same batch of spiced and butter-enriched fruit dough. For a long time bakers were permitted to offer these breads and buns for sale only on special occasions, as is shown by the following decree, issued in 1592, the thirty-sixth year of the reign of Elizabeth I, by the London Clerk of the Markets: That no bakers, etc, at any time or times hereafter make, utter, or sell by retail, within or without their houses, unto any of the Queen’s subject any spice cakes, buns, biscuits, or other spice bread (being bread out of size and not by law allowed) except it be at burials, or on Friday before Easter, or at Christmas, upon pain or forfeiture of all such spiced bread to the poor… In the time of James I, further attempts to prevent bakers from making spice breads and buns proved impossible to enforce, and in this matter the bakers were allowed their way.”**

Like their cousin, the Chelsea bun, hot cross buns were sold in great quantities by the Chelsea Bun House, writes, Alan Davidson in Oxford Companion to Food, “ In the 18th century large numbers of people flocked to Chelsea during the Easter period expressly to visit this establishment.”

The first mention of egg shaped candies comes in 1820 from Guglielmo Jarrin, a self described “ornamental confectioner”. In his book, The Italian Confectioner, he describes hollow comfits, filled with trinkets. At that time a comfit was a spice, dried fruit or nut covered in a candy coating, similar to a Jordan almond. The creation of these eggs was a difficult business and would have been attempted by only the most skilled confectioner.

During the Victorian Era, the celebration of Easter became more elaborate, adapting imagery from the pagan festival and other spring symbols (such as chicks). Candy making also became easier and more standardized due to the Industrial Revolution and many of what we now think of as traditional Easter candies were developed including the chocolate Rabbit (90 million sold annually, according to the National Confectioners Association) and Jelly Bean.

Many of these candies find their way into Easter Baskets. These, too hearken back to the days when the faithful would bring baskets of spring seedlings to the temple to be blessed by one of Goddess’ priests. A variation on this involves a Catholic tradition of taking the Easter food or eggs to mass to be blessed.

There is not a lot of information about how the Austen’s celebrated the season. What little we do know is drawn from Jane’s letters and what was typical for the period. While it is assured that Jane Austen celebrated Easter, her holiday was probably a quiet one. She would have observed Lent and broken the “Fast” on Easter with a special dinner with her family. She may have dyed eggs and probably ate them in abundance once Lent was concluded. Mrs Austen is known to have had chickens at Chawton Cottage and it is unlikely that they would have allowed the eggs to spoil. Likewise, Austen mentions Lambs at Steventon, as well as Hams that her mother cured so either might have been eaten at Easter dinner. In her letters, she mentions using the Easter Holidays as a time to travel, and visiting friends along the way to one of her brothers’ houses. As a religious holiday celebrated by a religious family in the early 1800’s, it is unlikely that she ever associated the holiday with rabbits or candy.

*Historical Information from Wikipedia and The Food Timeline

**English Bread and Yeast Cookery, Elizabeth David [Penguin Books:Middlesex UK] 1979

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The King of Clubs:


I expect my surveyor from Brockham with his report in the morning; and afterwards I cannot in decency fail attending the club.
General Tilney, Northanger Abbey


Every respectable Regency gentleman (and a few who weren’t exactly respectable) belonged to a gentleman’s club. Some of the more popular ones were White’s, Brooks’s, (yes that is the correct spelling and punctuation) and Boodle’s. All were very exclusive.

When a member was accepted into the club, it was known as an “election.” If a gentlemen had been a member for 3 years, others would say “three years after his election into so and so.” All exclusive gentlemen’s clubs in London used a method of voting for proposed new members whereby a system of back and white balls were deposited, in secret by each election committee member, into a special box. A single black ball was sufficient to deny membership. Hence the term “blackballed.”

By far the most revered (and oldest) of London’s gentlemen’s clubs during the Regency Era was White’s. It was founded as a chocolate shop in 1693 by an Italian, Francesco Bianco, who’d changed his name to Francis White. White’s was basically conservative, which means mostly Tory membership. It’s still considered the most prestigious club. Originally, White’s was mostly a gambling hub, with members who frequently played high-stakes card games. Whist, faro, quinze and hazard were some of the most popular games played. With all the clubs, obsessive betting occurred with some frequency. The smallest difference of opinion invariably resulted in a wager and was duly recorded in a book.

Brooks’s was basically liberal, which means a large Whig membership. For a while the Prince of Wales favoured it. He changed his preference to White’s when they blackballed his close friend, Jack Payne. As a gaming club in the eighteenth century, which is just before the Regency Era, it had been in Pall Mall where the stakes had been high. It had been customary for gamblers to play for 50 to 10,000 pounds on the table! Charles Fox and his brothers had been known to lose many thousands of pounds in a single night. Hazard was their customary game of choice.


With Boodle’s, I’ve seen so many different characterizations of this one that it’s hard to say, but it seems to have offered deeper gaming than the above two. Some sources say Boodles was the club for country squires and those who rode to hounds in the fox hunts. It wasn’t tied to any political party, at least not during the Regency.

Another was Watier’s which was a short-lived club started by the Prince of Wales’s (or Prinny’s) chef that specialized in fine food and very deep gaming.

There were many, many more clubs, but the above four were the ones with space in St. James’s Street and thus at the core of society. There was the Beaf-steak (or Beefsteak) club, which had precisely thirty members and met once a week for a fine dinner; their building was open to members for the usual purposes such as conversing with friends, reading the latest papers, gaming, etc. The Athenium Club focused on ancient Rome and Greece; I recall hearing that only Latin was spoken there which wouldn’t have been a problem for too many Regency gentlemen, since Latin was taught in school.

There were private gaming hells, which, since gaming was restricted to members and guests, qualify as clubs. Many clubs had bedrooms that members could use during a quick trip to town.

My favorite was also the Four-Horse Club, also called the Four-in-Hand Club which, though originally a wild club of young men, had, by the early 1800s, become a respectable club for superb drivers. Great fodder for heroes, isn’t it? It was a small group with only somewhere between 30-40 members at its peak. They didn’t meet in any specific place. It began to fade around 1815 and disbanded in 1820, was briefly revived in 1822 but finally ended. The members met at set intervals to drive coaches-and-four out to Chalk Hill and back. Hard-core Corinthians exercised with a very specific uniform, but they didn’t have a clubhouse. The rest of the time Corinthians used Jackson’s Salon or Manton’s as their daytime hangout and might spend an evening in Cribb’s Parlor, but all of these places were open to anyone so they hardly qualify as clubs. I have always heard that the Corinthians hung out at the gambling hells more than at the clubs.

There was also the Alfred Club at 23 Albermarle Street. It began in 1808 and attracted writers and other men of letters. If I remember correctly, Byron was a member. It was a great success, and in 1855 it joined with the Oriental Club which was established in 1824 (just after the Regency Era) as a club for men who’d been “out East” in India and other areas.


Donna Hatch has been writing since the age of 8. In between caring for six children, she indulges in her obsesssion, often writing late into the night. All of her heroes are patterned after her husband of 20 years, who continues to prove that there really is a happily ever after.

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A Brief Overview of Men’s Regency Fashion

men's regency fashion

An Overview of Men’s Regency Fashion

The Regency period, for both women’s and men’s Regency fashion, saw the final abandonment of lace, embroidery, and other embellishment from serious men’s clothing — it would not reappear except as an affectation of Aesthetic dress in the 1880s and its successor, the Young Edwardian look of the 1960s. Instead, cut and tailoring became much more important as an indicator of quality.

Breeches became longer — tightly-fitted leather riding breeches reached almost to the boot tops — and were replaced by pantaloons or trousers for fashionable street wear.

Coats were cutaway in front with long skirts or tails behind, and had tall standing collars. The lapels featured an M-shaped notch unique to the period.

Shirts were made of linen, had attached collars, and were worn with stocks or wrapped in a cravat tied in various fashions. Pleated frills at the cuffs and front opening went out of fashion by the end of the period.

Waistcoats were relatively high-waisted, and squared off at the bottom, but came in a broad variety of styles. They were often double-breasted, with wide lapels and stand collars.

Overcoats or greatcoats were fashionable, often with contrasting collars of fur or velvet. The garrick, sometimes called a coachman’s coat, was a particularly popular style, and had between one and three short capelets atached to the collar.

Boots, typically Hessian boots, already a mainstay in men’s footwear, became the rage after the Duke of Wellington defeated Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815. Wellington boots, as they were known, sported low cut heels and tops that were calf-high.

The Rise of the Dandy

The clothes-obsessed dandy first appeared in the 1790s, both in London and Paris. In the slang of the time, a dandy was differentiated from a fop in that the dandy’s dress was more refined and sober.

In High Society: A Social History of the Regency Period, 1788-1830, Venetia Murray writes:

Other admirers of dandyism have taken the view that it is a sociological phenomenon, the result of a society in a state of transition or revolt. Barbey d’Aurevilly, one of the leading French dandies at the end of the nineteenth century, explained: Some have imagined that dandyism is primarily a specialisation in the art of dressing oneself with daring and elegance. It is that, but much else as well. It is a state of mind made up of many shades, a state of mind produced in old and civilised societies where gaiety has become infrequent or where conventions rule at the price of their subject’s boredom…it is the direct result of the endless warfare between respectability and boredom.

In Regency London dandyism was a revolt against a different kind of tradition, an expression of distaste for the extravagance and ostentation of the previous generation, and of sympathy with the new mood of democracy. It was an entirely new style of men’s Regency fashion.

Beau Brummell set the fashion for dandyism in British society from the mid-1790s, which was characterized by immaculate personal cleanliness, immaculate linen shirts with high collars, perfectly tied cravats, and exquisitely tailored plain dark coats (contrasting in many respects with the “maccaroni” of the earlier eighteenth century).

Brummell abandoned his wig and cut his hair short in a Roman fashion dubbed à la Brutus, echoing the fashion for all things classical seen in women’s wear of this period. He also led the move from breeches to snugly-tailored pantaloons or trousers, often light-colored for day and dark for evening, based on working-class clothing adopted by all classes in France in the wake of the Revolution. In fact, Brummel’s reputation for taste and refinement was such that, fifty years after his death, Max Beerbohm, wrote:

In certain congruities of dark cloth, in the rigid perfection of his linen, in the symmetry of his glove with his hand, lay the secret of Mr Brummell’s miracles.

Not every male aspiring to attain Brummel’s sense of elegance and style succeeded, however, and these dandies were subject to caricature and ridicule. Venetia Murray quotes an excerpt from Diary of an Exquisite, from The Hermit in London, 1819:

Took four hours to dress; and then it rained; ordered the tilbury and my umbrella, and drove to the fives’ court; next to my tailors; put him off after two years tick; no bad fellow that Weston…broke three stay-laces and a buckle, tore the quarter of a pair of shoes, made so thin by O’Shaughnessy, in St. James’s Street, that they were light as brown paper; what a pity they were lined with pink satin, and were quite the go; put on a pair of Hoby’s; over-did it in perfuming my handkerchief, and had to recommence de novo; could not please myself in tying my cravat; lost three quarters of an hour by that, tore two pairs of kid gloves in putting them hastily on; was obliged to go gently to work with the third; lost another quarter of an hour by this; drove off furiously in my chariot but had to return for my splendid snuff-box (Decorative boxes), as I knew that I should eclipse the circle by it.

Hairstyles and Headgear

Older men, military officers, and those in conservative professions such as lawyers and physicians retained their wigs and powder into this period, but younger men of fashion wore their hair in short curls, often with long sideburns.

Tricorne and bicorne hats were still worn, but the most fashionable hat was tall and slightly conical – this would evolve into the top hat and reign as the only hat for formal occasions for the next century.

*****

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Gentlemen’s Morning Attire

Gentlemen’s Morning Attire

It is hard to imagine, what, for example, Mr. Darcy would have worn to breakfast or what Mr. Bennet would have thrown on when awakened by the express rider with the news of Lydia’s elopement.
Early nightshirts, like the shift or chemise worn by women, would have been the shirt that had been worn all day long, tucked into pants or breeches.
This long shirt also filled the role of underwear for men, as drawers and the advent ofmodern day skivvies were still decades away from popular acceptance.

When dashing off ot breakfast, or lounging in the morning, however, one would not simply lie about in just a nightshirt. Nightgowns, a far cry from what we think of now, were worn like bathrobes are now, over the undergarments, providing a measure of modesty. These gowns could be heavy or lightweight depending on how warm they were meant to be. The Victorians used dressing gowns in a similar way. Surprisingly, many familiar Victorian characters, from Ebenezer Scrooge to Sherlock Holmes, come to mind dressed simply in nightclothes and a “nightgown” or dressing gown.

The following ensembles, part of the collection held at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, give an idea of what Mr. Darcy’s nightgown would have looked like. The captions are taken from Four Hundred Years of Fashion, courtesy of Cathy Decker’s Regency Fashion Page.


“Double-Breasted Nightgown, quilted blue satin, English, late 18th early 19th century The matching waistcoat fronts are stitched to the inside of the gown. Pocket holes are let into the side seams at hip level. There is a pleat at the centre of the back.

Nightgowns of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries were acknowledged items of informal dress worn over the shirt and breeches or trousers for comfort and warmth. Made in a variety of styles and often of exotic textiles, their cut and style was influenced by clothes and textiles brought back to Europe by traders of the English, French and Dutch East India Companies in the 17th and 18th centuries”

This lovely quilted robe would be the perfect thing to dress a regency romance hero in for an informal breakfast. The hero could button in the waistcoat and add breaches if going outside the bedroom to eat. The versatility of the nightgown to serve as what we might call “lounge wear” today is not something men still have–in fact, men today would never have a “nightgown,” only a nightshirt! The female equivalent would be morning dress.


“Nightgown, cream flannel with black wool tufts imitating ermine … [English] There are two pocket holes let into the side seams set close to the centre back pleat. The buttons are covered in linen. The edges trimmed with cream silk twill … [This nightgown was originally owned by] Thomas Coutts (1735-1822), founder of Coutts Bank …. `Cossack’ Trousers, unbleached linen [English] … The trousers are cut full, tapered to the ankles, and kept taut by buttoned straps under the instep. They are attached to a deep waistband and evenly gathered at the front. `Cossack’ trousers were introduced after 1814 when the Czar came to London for the peace celebrations and brought Cossack soldiers with his entourage” (149-50).

The nightgown is a type of dress men no longer have, sort of a combination of lounge wear, pajamas, and bathrobe. The fact that the nightgown is imitation ermine is interesting since men rarely wear fur today. While her husband wore such an outfit as this, a lady would probably wear morning dress.




Cathy Decker has created the Regency Fashion Page which catalogs fashion plates from 1790-1820. These plates include full color photographs of the original plates as well as descriptive notes. Her page has been recommended by the History Channel.

Four Hundred Years of Fashion
by Madeleine Ginsburg (Author), Avril Hart (Author), Valerie Mendes (Author), Natalie Rothstein (Editor)
List Price: £19.99
ISBN: 1851773010

Why not browse our costume section at our online giftshop for costume, patterns and accessories?

 

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Court Dress For Men

By nature inoffensive, friendly and obliging, his presentation at St James’s had made him courteous.
Pride and Prejudice

As it had been for women, a strict standard governed what could be worn at Court when attending an audience with the King. This standard was often unaffected by prevailing fashion and changed little over the course of a monarch’s lifetime. The following suit, from the collection held at the Victoria & Albert represents the what was no doubt very much like the suit worn by Sir William Lucas upon his fateful introduction at St. James’s Court.

Full dress suits of this type (which is probably French, 1790s) were worn for ceremonial occasions. The silk embroidery on the suit, mainly in satin stitch, is considered to be among the finest in the collection, and its design probably dates from the 1780s.

Unfortunately, this scan does not show off the glorious floral embroidery on this dress suit. Even the buttons have flowers embroidered on them! Many representations of these formal dress suits are held by museums. The Victoria and Albert Museum owned twenty-four of them from 1770-1800 in 1984! Most formal suits like this are in dark colors, either solids or subtly patterned as seen in this suit.


By 1807, the waist of court dresses for women had moved up to the height common for dresses, but, since hoops were still required, it was much less attractive. Here a lace-trimmed overskirt covers a dress with bands of flowered garland and a deep lace trim around the bottom of the skirt. The male figure shows the typical formal court dress that varied little from the 1780s. The formal suits included matching coat and breeches in the same fabric, usually a dark color and sometimes patterned. Always these court suits would be heavily embroidered. This suit is embroidered on collar, cuffs and along the front opening. The sword would be worn for such a formal event as the Birth Day, the traditional closing ending event of the London season. The waistcoat here is lighter than the suit, but we are unable to see if it is embroidered or not. The hat is a style particularly easy to carry under the arm. Compare this to the formal suit of the 1790s owned by the Victoria and Albert museum. The words beneath the print read “Court Dresses for His Majesty’s Birth Day. Printed for J. B. Bell & Co.”

The description for this image, originally published in Le Beau Monde, or Literary and Fashionable Magazine, January, 1807, is as follows:


Court Dresses for Her Majesty’s Birthday

The return of the rigid season brings with it once more, to every loyal bosom, the happy occasion of doing honour to the birth-day of our gracious and amiable Queen. Fancy and taste have been long busy in making preparations, and the condescension of a noble lady has enabled us to anticipate some of the characteristics that are likely to distinguish the habiliments of the day. The design which she has done us the honour to communicate, brings the whole into a central point of consideration, and we have therefore only to describe it.

Fig. No. 1. FOR LADIES.–The hair dressed in natural curls round the face, with a coronet, bandeau, or other ornament in gold–feathers of every kind. The body, sleeves, and petticoat, of rich, full coloured satin or velvet: the draperies of gauze or tiffany spotted with gold embroidery; the trimmings and false sleeves of the same, edged with rich lace, and the cords and tassels that festoon the draperies, of gold. The bracelets round the sleeves, the zone and the binding of the petticoat to be of plate gold, we suppose in commemoration of the lately achieved conquest of South America. The petticoat is decorated with artificial wreaths of the white thorn made in relief.

Fig. No. 2. FOR GENTLEMEN.–Dark-green, or other dark colour, coat and small- cloaths of silk, velvet, or fine cloth, covered with a small spot somewhat lighter of the same kind of colour, edged with silver lace, and embroidered with any kind of wild flower of acknowledged British growth: waistcoat of white satin, embroidered in a very light pattern of gold thread. Silk stockings perfectly white.

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This text, along with the images, has been borrowed from Cathy Decker’s Regency Fashion Page. The text from the 1790 suit is from Natalie Rothstein’s Four Hundred Years of Fashion London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1984.

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Beaver Hats Build a Nation


But the merit of the curricle did not all belong to the horses; Henry drove so well — so quietly — without making any disturbance, without parading to her, or swearing at them: so different from the only gentleman-coachman whom it was in her power to compare him with! And then his hat sat so well, and the innumerable capes of his greatcoat looked so becomingly important! To be driven by him, next to being dancing with him, was certainly the greatest happiness in the world.
Northanger Abbey
Jane Austen

Beaver fur was the raw material for a high quality felt suitable for hat making. Felted beaver fur can be processed into a high quality hat that holds its shape well even aftersuccessive wettings, making it the material of choice for the hats worn by English gentlemen.

At first, British hatters imported beaver pelts from Russia and Scandinavia. When these populations dwindled under the overtraping due to the high demand for beaver fur, hatters turned to the American Colonies for their raw materials. Hats made exclusively from the undercoat of a beaver were the most expensive and of the highest quality. Lower quality, half-beavers, hats could be made of beaver fur mixed with wool or hare fur, to produce a hat that was similar in style, less durable, and less expensive in price.

Hat production was a staple of the British economy. This industry employed many workers from low skilled carders to highly skilled journeyman and master hatters. Their production supplied not only the fashion industry, but also military contracts.

Beaver pelts for hat making were acquired from trappers who were often Native Americans by a network of trading posts. The revenue from beaver pelts and deer skins fueled the economy of the Colonies and Federal America and moving on to areas that weren’t trapped out created a westward push. The price a beaver pelt brought rose steadily over the 18th century, progressing from around 5 shillings to about a Guinea by the year 1800, when the animals had become nearly extinct. John Jacob Astor controlled the largest American fur trading company. The beaver pelt was the first great American commodity and the trade in them made Astor a millionaire. Something on the order of 30,000 beaver pelts a year were exported from North America in the 1790s. The introduction of steel traps and heavy demand for pelts brought the animal to the brink of extinction. By 1834, Astor recognized that all fur-bearing animals were becoming scarce and retired.

The felt hats were produced in a process that involved removing the unwanted outer guard hairs, shaving the dense inner coat, arranging the shaved fur or fluff in random directions know as carding, and agitating the fluff producing a loose felt called a batt. Then the shaping of the hat could begin with the addition of heat and moisture and finally a stiffing agent like gum Arabic followed by steaming and ironing. At last, a silk lining could be sewn in.

Britain exported several hundred thousand pounds worth of beaver hats per year to other European nations. In 1700, 69,500 beaver hats were exported from England and almost the same number of felt hats. By 1760, just over 500,000 beaver hats and 370,000 felt halts passed through English ports. Over the seventy years from 1700 to 1770, 21 million beaver and felt hats were exported from England.

The clothing industry and fashion are important forces in history that are often overlooked in a war based history perspective. A swimming rodent with a luxeriant coat played an important role in the development of North America. Beaver pelts were the first great American trade commodity. The beaver pelt provided an article of exchange that brought metal manufatured trade goods to America and bullion to English coffers. Maybe it is time the teaching of history went into the closet.

A. Carding (combing the fibers) and Bowing (cleaning and fluffing)

B. Matting (various layers of the fiber into felt)

C. Basoning (manipulated the batt of felt into a triangular shape called a capade or gore that will become the crown of the Hat)

D. Flanging (attaching the brim)

E. Blocking (forcing the hat body onto a wood form
and stamping the moisture from it)

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Reprinted with persmission Sharon Wagoner, Curator of The Georgian Index. Visit this site for a historical tour through Regency London!