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Serle’s Soft Boiled Eggs

Boiled eggs have been a mealtime staple probably since boiling anything was invented. In fact, egg cups (you know what these are: those adorable little cups perfect for holding hard or soft boiled eggs) have been found during archaeological explorations of Crete dating to as early as the 18th century BC. An early silver version from 74 BC was even found in the ruins at Pompeii. Soft boiled eggs were, by Jane Austen’s time, not only served at breakfast, as the broken egg shells on the table at Mansfield Park suggest, but also served throughout the day, as a healthy, plain food for children and invalids. In Emma, they are one of the few foods that even invalid Mr. Woodhouse can recommend with grace: “Mrs Bates, let me propose your venturing on one of these eggs. An egg boiled very soft is not unwholesome. Serle understands boiling an egg better than any body. I would not recommend an egg boiled by any body else; but you need not be afraid, they are very small, you see — one of our small eggs will not hurt you.” Soft boiled eggs in adorable cups, with, perhaps, little hats or “cosies” on top are a favorite childhood memory for many. Paired with hot, buttered toast “soldiers” (narrow strips of toast for dunking in the runny yolk) they can make the most important meal of the day a comfort food feast. This silver egg service for 6 dates to 1820 and was recently sold (more…)
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Capt Gronow and Sir Harry Smith Write their Memoirs

Captain Gronow: His Reminiscences of Regency and Victorian Life, 1810-60 By Christopher Hibbit   This is a very difficult book to review as I liked it a lot, but I still have a number of reservations about it – mostly about its editing. First, let me tell you about Captain Gronow – he was one of life’s observers, and might have slipped through history with only the vaguest of mentions in a few diaries had he not needed to resort to his pen in the 1860’s in order to support himself. He wrote four books which were stacked to the gunnels with anecodotes, slanderous stories and all sorts of gossipy snippets. These were snapped up by his Victorian audience who were keen to read about the sinful vagaries of that bygone era, the Regency. Christopher Hibbert has done a pretty good job in collecting together some of the better stories and putting them into this one volume. He has also created some sense to the mass of stories by organising them into chapters. These chapters include subject headings like “The Prince Regent, His Family and Friends” and “Rakes, Dandies and Men about Town”. So it makes it an easy volume to browse for those of you reading this for fun. There are a few things with this book that I do find difficult. The first is that Hibbert never questions the veracity of what Gronow says. There are several apocryphal stories in here which Gronow tells (the one of Brummell’s (more…)
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The Mail Guard

nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds Starting in 1784, letters sent by Royal Mail traveled by Mail Coach. These were special stagecoaches that carried few or no passengers and were specially guarded. Averaging a speed of eleven miles an hour, they were a great deal faster than other coaches. The Mail guard wore the Royal livery consisting of a scarlet coat trimmed with gold braid. He was also provided with a blunderbuss, a clock kept in a leather pouch, a horse pistol, and a horn with which to warn other road users as well as to announce the arrival and departure of the coach. The duties of the mail guard, an employee of the post office, were the delivery and safety of the mail and keeping the coachman on time. Every coach carried a locked timepiece and the guard had to transfer the time recorded by that on to a time-bill. The Royal Mail guard had to write in an explanation for any delay witnessed by the Post-master. In an attempt to avoid bribery and corruption, the Royal Mail paid their guards well, 10s-6d a week (a very large sum then). The Mail guard was also provided with a new hat and scarlet coat with gold braid on every year. They also gave them a good pension when they retired. In addition to this, there were the tips. “The driver and the guard are to be paid at the (more…)
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The Origins of Regency Era Christmas Carols

For many of us, Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without many of the carols that we sing or hear on the radio. I know I start playing Christmas music early on in the fall to try and make the season come a little faster, and last just a little longer. While caroling itself dates back to the middle ages, it had long ago died out with the end of the feudal system. By Jane Austen’s day, Friends and neighbors no longer tramped door to door begging Wassail and bringing good cheer. Here We Come a Wassailing, The Twelve Days of Christmas, The First Noel, Good Christian Men Rejoice and Greensleeves are all traditional Carols from the Middle Ages By the Regency Period, some hymns were sung in Christmas church services, but the majority of the carols we know today had not yet been written. Though Jane Austen and her family may have sung familiar words, the tunes might not be recognized by modern audiences. While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks at Night was written by Nahum Tate, in 1700 and first appeared in Tate and Brady’s Psalter in 1702. The now common tune was written by George Frederick Handel in 1728 and arranged in Harmonia Sacra, in 1812. Adeste Fideles (O Come All Ye Faithful) is commonly thought to have been written in France in 1710, though the first published version (words and music) would not be seen until 1760. It was translated into English by Frederick Oakeley in 1841. (more…)