Where Did the First American Ambassador Live in London

When I began writing An Unexpected Countess, one of my favorite bits of research included where I wanted my characters to live. The Secret Lives of the Ton trilogy is set in London and in a previous article I talked about Albany, the fashionable residence of Regency era bachelors that is home to my hero the rakish Lord Hartwick. Well my heroine, Miss Sarah Forrester, is the daughter of the American Minister to the Court of St James. To determine where Sarah and her family should live, I needed to investigate where the first American Ministers lived in London.

Before I share what I learned, I’d like to explain the title of “American Minister to the Court of St. James”. Currently, the highest-ranking individual at the American Embassy in London is the Ambassador to the Court of St. James. His title does not reference Great Britain because Great Britain is a Constitutional Monarchy and he is appointed to the Royal Court. The Royal Court is where the Sovereign resides. When America gained its independence, George III’s residence was the Palace of St. James in London. George IV, and subsequent sovereigns have taken to residing in a number of palaces throughout the year. In order to avoid confusion, American Ambassador’s continued to reference their post as the Court of St. James.

The first American man to serve as the highest ranking envoy to England was John Adams. Mr. Adams was appointed American Minister by Congress on February 24, 1785 and was presented to King George III on the first of June. While in London, he found a modest property in the best part of Town. I was thrilled to discover the building is still standing—and it’s in Grosvenor Square in Mayfair, across the park from the current American Embassy.  

The American Embassy in London, which is also referred to as a chancery.

Grosvenor Square, London

For his residence, Adams chose the corner building that is 9 Grosvenor Square. There is a plaque attached to the building that informs you that in this house lived John Adams, First American Minister May 1785 to March 1788, afterwards served as President of the United States. From here, his daughter Abigail was married to Colonel William Stephens Smith, First Secretary of the Legation and an Officer of the Revolutionary Army and Washington’s Staff.

No. 9 Grosvenor Square, the London residence of John Adams.

Mr. Adams’s time in London was not an easy one. He had signed the Declaration of Independence which had been considered a treasonous act at the time, promoted America’s independence, and negotiated the treaty that achieved that. The London press had scorned his appointment and the public was not impressed. When Abigail joined him, she also was exposed to slights. The wife of an MP once asked her, “But surely you prefer this country to America?”

For all the bashing by the public, he appears to have had a cordial relationship with people in authority. Although, he had little diplomatic results to show for his time. In fact, when he left his position as American Minister in 1788, the American Government saw no need to fill it until Thomas Pinckney was appointed by President George Washington on January 12, 1792.

By the time Mr. Adams left, the press had softened on him a bit. On March 30, 1788, the Westminster Evening Post reported on his leaving and stated that he “settled all his concerns with great honor; and whatever his political tenets may have been, he was much respected and esteemed in this country.”

While I chose not to use No. 9 Grosvenor Square as Sarah’s residence, it did give me an indication of the size of the house and the location in Town that she should live in . And I did find a charming residence not far from there to serve as my inspiration for her home.

An Unexpected Countess is out now!

Sarah Forrester is an American diplomat’s daughter who must locate the fabled Sancy Diamond or her family will be ruined by a mysterious blackmailer. But the Earl of Hartwick has also been tasked by the Prince Regent with finding the diamond. Little does he know that the feisty woman he meets on a roof top is his competition. As they each follow the clues hidden in a bracelet, Sarah and Hart realize they will have to work as a team. Being together may be as dangerous to their hearts as the hunt is to their lives…and finding the jewel is only the beginning.

Available in print and ebook. Click on the links below to get your copy:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
iBooks
Kobo

 

Sources used for this article:

A Founding Father in London, John Adams’ Trouble, History is Now Magazine, July 7, 2015.

The American Embassy

Westminster Evening Post, March 30, 1788.

The Connection Between a Favorite Drink of Regency Era Gentlemen and the Great Comet of 1811.

I’m writing the third book in my Secrets of the Ton trilogy and my hero, the Earl of Hartwick, is a man who appreciates fine brandy. I love creating personal details about my characters and wanted to include the name of Hart’s favorite brandy in my story. When I started my research, I thought I’d simply get the name of a notable brandy from 1819. What I discovered, gave me insight into the cognac I drink today and I thought you might find it interesting as well.

First let me explain the difference between the terms brandy and cognac. Brandy is made by distilling wine and aging it in barrels. Cognac is brandy which comes from the Cognac region in France.

During the Regency era, the finest brandy was produced during 1811 in France. The interesting thing is, still to this day, that vintage is considered to be one of the greatest in history. And the reason behind it is tied to a comet.

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The Great Comet of 1811, as drawn by William Henry Smith. Curtesy of Wikimedia.

In March of 1811, the Flaugergues comet began its trek across the sky in the Northern Hemisphere. Although the comet was visible to astronomers for 17 months, during September and October of  that year, it was visible to the naked eye. Accounts of the time describe the comet as illuminating the night sky and at one point it exceeded the diameter of the sun.

It’s believed the presence of the comet contributed to optimal growing conditions, particularly in France. The long hot summer and warm dry autumn of that year led to an abundant harvest of perfectly ripe grapes. People soon realized that the cognac, wine, and champagne of this vintage were exceptional. Even today, you can find bottles of cognac in your local liquor store that have stars on the labels. This isn’t a ranking. The stars are there as a tribute to the 1811 vintage, known as “The Comet Vintage”.

If you’re familiar with Courvoisier cognac, you’re probably aware it’s known as “Le Cognac de Napoleon”. According to the company’s website, not long after they were founded in 1809, the reputation of their cognac grew quickly among brandy connoisseurs and Napoleon visited their warehouse in Bercy to try it. He started giving a ration of cognac to his artillery companies to lift their morale during the Napoleonic Wars. When he was exiled to St. Helena, legend has it that he chose several casks of Courvoisier cognac to take with him as one of the luxury items he was granted by the British. The British officers on board the HMS Northumberland, who were tasked with transporting Napoleon, appreciated the cognac their prisoner shared with them and referred to it as “the brandy of Napoleon”.

And in case you’re curious which brandy the Earl of Hartwick favors in my upcoming book An Unexpected Countess, it’s an 1811 Croizet B. Léon cognac, which currently is selling for €25,000 for one bottle.

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References:

http://courvoisier.com/us/history

http://www.forbes.com/sites/sethporges/2013/10/10/6-things-you-probably-didnt-know-about-cognac/#3b2df53b7bf5

http://www.oldliquors.com/cognac-1811-croizet-b-léon-4837

The Daily Cognac: 1811 The Comet Vintage

 

How to Smell Like a Regency Era Gentleman

I fully admit to having a thing about the way my characters smell. I kinda get a bit obsessive about it. Maybe it’s because I can still recall which cologne each of my ex-boyfriends wore and, if I smell them today, the scent will bring back a distinct memory. And before you question that statement, I’m referring to smelling the cologne, not an ex-boyfriend.

Creating a distinct smell for a female character that lives during the Regency era is much easier than figuring out how I’d like my heroes to smell. I’ve read about so many male characters smelling of Bay Rum, that I was beginning to question whether there were other scents available to men. So during my recent trip to London I was on a mission to find out what scents gentlemen favored during the Regency era. There were two shops, in particular, that I wanted to visit because they’re chemists and perfumers who have been around since the late 18th century and catered more to a male clientele. Lucky for me, each shop had very helpful salesclerks that were happy to show me some of their oldest scents.

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My first stop was D.R. Harris & Co., Chemists and Perfumers on St. James’s Street. This shop was established in 1790. During the Georgian era they gained a reputation as purveyors of Lavender Water, Classic Cologne and English Flower perfumes. While I was there, I sampled some of the men’s fragrances that were around during the Regency era. Here is what I discovered. Classic Cologne is a typically fresh fragrance, Freshening Cologne has a tangy lemon note, and Traditional Cologne is a warmer scent with subtle orange notes.

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Two of their other oldest fragrances caught my eye. They were  Albany, named after the fashionable bachelors’ residence on Piccadilly, and Mayfair, named after the exclusive area of London where the Regency era elite resided. It was surprising to see such a modern technique of naming a product. I liked both of these fragrances so much, that I brought bottles of them back with me. Albany is a blend of lavender and citrus, and Mayfair had a sweeter floral fragrance.

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I also did smell Bay Rum. It was not to my taste at all and, for the record, none of my heroes will smell like it. I expected a very warm fragrance leaning more towards spicy rum. It actually smelled more like bay leaves.

 

 

Another shop I visited is Truefitt & Hill, which is also on St. James’s Street. This is the oldest barbershop in the world and was established in 1805.

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Famous Regency era men who were patrons of this shop include the sons of George III, the Duke of Wellington, Lord Byron, and Beau Brummell. Aside from the services of the barber shop, they also sell men’s cologne and shaving products. Sadly, I was not able to find out which scent was favored by Brummell.

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Statue of Beau Brummell on Jermyn Street in London

 

It was amusing to learn that their Freshmen Cologne was specifically blended in 1805 with fashion conscious Cambridge and Oxford students in mind. According to the shops description, it has “top notes of Lemon, Bergamot, Rosemary, Mint and Orange Blossom surrounding a heart of Clary Sage, Lily of the Valley, Jasmine and Ylang-Ylang which comfortably rest on a base notes of Musk and Oakmoss.”

Their Spanish Leather cologne dates back to 1814. I’ll often have my heroes smelling like leather, depending on what they are wearing or if they’ve been riding. To find a fragrance named leather made me laugh. It is described by Truefitt &Hill as “a rich, but subtle blend, with top notes of Fruit, Bergamot, Orange and Pimento, with a heart of Carnation, Cinnamon, Patchouli, Rose, Orris and woody notes, all resting on a base of Amber, Moss and Musk, Vanilla and Tonka.”

So now I have different scents to distinguish my characters, and you now know what a Regency era gentleman might have smelled like if you were standing beside him under the glittering chandeliers of a London ballroom. And best of all, you can still buy these fragrances today!

If you’re interested in learning more about these shops or buying some of there products, here are the links to their websites:

D.R. Harris & Co.

Truefitt & Hill

 

 

 

 

 

The Inconvenient Problem of the Poor

Today, I’ve invited my friend Virginia Heath to my cozy drawing room to share a bit of early 19th century history with you. Prior to her current career as a Regency romance author, Virginia was a history teacher. So pour yourself a cup of your favorite beverage and settle in. Class is in session. Take it away, Virginia.

The ladies and gentlemen of early 19th century had a problem- extreme poverty amongst the labouring classes. A problem which was getting bigger with each passing year and one which they would prefer to ignore. Unfortunately, no matter how hard they tried, those pesky poor people were becoming a noisy, angry, organised mass who were buoyed by the recent successes of the French and American revolutions. It made the ruling classes have to listen, even if they were not prepared to make a great many concessions and created a climate of acute nervousness in the homes of the great and the good throughout Britain. It is this nervousness which I would like to explore here today.

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Cartoon by John Leech for Punch Magazine. 1846 Courtesy of PBS Learning Media.

First of all, you need to understand the mind-set of the average English aristocrat at this time. They did not have the plucky pioneer spirit of the Americans, where a new nation was forged from scratch in a relatively short space of time, and where industry, fortitude and self-made men ruled. In the New World, anything was possible. Such radical ideas were simply not British. The concept of society being rigidly structured was ingrained; the feudalism from medieval times was still very much alive- although undisputedly not very well. Two bloodless British revolutions had seen to that.

The Agricultural Revolution saw thousands displaced from their tiny holdings with the Enclosure Act of 1773, so that efficient modern farming techniques could be implemented. The fact that this also served to render thousands incapable of eking out their own meager living was by-the-by.

To compound the misery of these faceless, voiceless individuals further, by the early 1800s the Industrial Revolution was in full swing, making the rich richer and Britain great. Those polluting, soul-destroying factories needed legions of workers and it was those on the bottom rung of the ladder who were forced to swarm to the newly expanding industrial towns like Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield and London to get work.

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Sheffield from the Attercliffe Road c. 1819 Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The rich both feared and despised these people and tried to categorize them in order to understand them. By the Victorian era, they had even coined particular phrases to separate the wheat from the chaff. The ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor. The deserving consisted of anyone who slaved away in a menial, poorly paid job, former soldiers injured in the service of the nation, certain old people who could no longer work and foundling children who needed to be institutionalised to save their souls. Such people were romanticised to appear almost noble, like the flower seller in Francis Wheatley’s ‘Cries of London’ exhibition at the Royal Academy in the 1790s. These were the sort of people the aristocracy wanted to rule over.

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Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The ‘undeserving’ were vast, and seen as drunks, layabouts and criminals. Those without the means to feed themselves, those forced into prostitution or into begging were not to be helped. These people were a plague which needed to be eradicated. Hogarth’s ‘Gin Lane’ shows the typical stereotype fervently believed by the rich to avoid having to face up to the issues they themselves created.

The horrific conditions the poorest were made to work and live in do not bear thinking about, so that is precisely what the well-heeled gentry at the time did. Not think about the poor. Ignore them. Segregate them.

The city of London is an excellent example of how they did this. Here is a typical map of the capital city from 1817.

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As you can see the old city followed the route of River Thames. But so did the rigorously structured population. The river flows west to east, eventually out into the Thames Estuary and the sea beyond. The further west you were, the less smelly and polluted Father Thames, therefore it is no accident that the wealthy neighborhoods, like Mayfair and Kensington, sit in the West End of the city. This engraving of Berkeley Square shows the typical paved splendour of the affluent.

Berkeley Square, London

Berkeley Square c.1816

The dregs got to live close to the flow of effluent and toxic waste dumped in the river in the East End. And they lived in over-crowded squalor far away from the genteel sensibilities of their rulers.

This was also the perfect place to put the docks. Although foreign trade was essential for Britain’s power and commerce, those ships brought other undesirable things into the capital which the rich did not wish to rub shoulders with: sordid sailors from around the world, immigrants. Nasty diseases. The merchants and tradesmen tended to live in the centre of the town, the part now known as the City, within easy reach of both their wealthy clientele and the imported stock they sold them. These industrious men were partially tolerated in society because they provided the essential status symbols, however they were looked down upon. They might wish to shop in Cheapside, but Heaven forbid they should have to live there!

However, as the century progressed, the population of these industrial towns soared and the problems they created multiplied. John Thomas Smith wrote an impassioned tome on the subject in 1817 entitled ‘Vagobondiana’. He complains “Beggary, of late, has become so dreadful in London, that the more active interference of the legislature was deemed absolutely necessary, indeed the deceptions of the idle and sturdy were so various, cunning and extensive, that it was in most instances extremely difficult to discover the real object of charity”.

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Massacre at St Peter’s by George Cruickshank Courtesy of the British Library

Imbued with a new sense of political purpose the labouring classes began to organise. The Corn Law riots, Spa Field riots and Peterloo Massacre are pertinent examples of how the British government tried to keep the poor in their proper place. Violent clashes where blatant, unpatriotic insubordination was dealt with harshly by the authorities. The aristocracy ardently supported this. They wanted the inconvenient problem of the vocal, terrifying battalions of potential usurpers to simply go away.

Yet the poor just kept on complaining, and growing in size, to such an extent that in the 1830s a French-style revolution was only narrowly avoided with some minor concessions from parliament. However, the chasm between the ruling and the working classes was now to wide to be breached and only became wider with time.

A Bit About Virginia Heath:

When Virginia Heath was a little girl it took her ages to fall asleep, so she made up stories in her head to help pass the time while she was staring at the ceiling. As she got older, the stories became more complicated, sometimes taking weeks to get to the happy ending. Then one day, she decided to embrace the insomnia and start writing them down. Her first Regency romance, That Despicable Rogue, is available now but it still takes her forever to fall asleep.

If you want to find out more about Virginia and her books, check out www.virginiaheathromance.com. You can also follow her on Twitter  and on  Facebook.

The Anglo-American Convention of 1818: An International Friendship Begins

My upcoming novel, An Unsuitable Duchess, is a historical romance about the daughter of an American diplomat and an English duke. The story is set in London in 1818. While I was researching what the relationship was like between the United States and Great Britain during that time, I came across information about the Anglo-American Convention of 1818. I’m certain it was covered in one of my history classes in Junior High School, but I had forgotten all about it. Now I can appreciate the importance of this convention that resulted in the Treaty of 1818, which determined, among other things, the 49th parallel as the border between the United States and British North America (Canada). Many historians believe the negotiations surrounding this Treaty were the beginning of congenial relations between the United States and Great Britain.

The convention is referred to by many names: The Convention respecting fisheries, boundary, and the restoration of slaves between the United States and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, the London Convention, Anglo-American Convention of 1818, Convention of 1818, and simply the Treaty of 1818. It was held in London in October of 1818 and the Treaty was signed on October 20th. Ratifications took place on January 30, 1819. The opening paragraph of the Treaty explains the purpose and who conducted the negotiations.

The United States of America, and His Majesty The King [George IV of the United Kingdom] of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, desirous to cement the good Understanding which happily subsists between them, have, for that purpose, named their respective Plenipotentiaries, that is to say: The President of the United States [James Monroe], on his part, has appointed, Albert Gallatin, Their Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of France; and Richard Rush, Their Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of His Britannic Majesty: And His Majesty has appointed The Right Honorable Frederick John Robinson [1st Viscount Goderich], Treasurer of His Majesty’s Navy, and President of the Committee of Privy Council for Trade and Plantations; and Henry Goulburn Esquire, One of His Majesty’s Under Secretaries of State: Who, after having exchanged their respective Full Powers, found to be in due and proper Form, have agreed to and concluded the following Articles.

The Treaty consisted of six articles. Here’s a breakdown of what each accomplished:

Article 1 – Secured fishing rights off the shores of Newfoundland Labrador for the United States.

Article 2 – Set the boundary between British North America (Canada) and the United States “along the line from the most northwestern point of Lake in the Woods along the 49th parallel of north latitude to the Stony Mountains (Rocky Mountains).” Great Britain also ceded the part of Rupert’s Land the Red River Colony south of the 49th parallel. Fun fact: The border between the United States and Canada is 5,525 miles (8,891 km) long. It is the longest international border in the world.

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Article 3 – Set equal control of the Oregon Country, which was the Colombia District of the Hudson Bay Company, for ten years. It was agreed that both countries would control the territory and their citizens were guaranteed free navigation through the territory without interference from the other country.

Article 4 – Confirmed regulation of commerce between the two countries for an additional ten years. It also extended the stipulation that vessels of the United States could not dock or hold communication with the Island of St. Helena as long as Napoleon Bonaparte was in residence there.

Article 5 – An agreement was reached that would defer differences over the United States claim in regards to the Treaty of Ghent would be resolved by “some Friendly Sovereign or State to be named for that purpose.” The United States claimed the British had taken some slaves belonging to Americans during the War of 1812. They wanted these slaves returned or compensation given for them.

Article 6 – Stated that ratification would occur within six months after the Treaty was signed.

James Monroe's note to the US Senate regarding the Treaty of 1818

James Monroe’s note to the US Senate regarding the Treaty of 1818, courtesy of Rice on History blog.

In reviewing the Treaty of 1818, I also found it interesting to see a map of what the United States looked like at the time.

A map of the United States by mapmaker John Melish, published in 1820, following the Anglo-American Convention of 1818. Courtesy of CBS News.

A map of the United States by mapmaker John Melish, published in 1820, following the Anglo-American Convention of 1818. Courtesy of CBS News.

If you are interested in reading the Treaty of 1818, this link from Yale Law School presents the document in its entirety: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/conv1818.asp

References used:

CBS News: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/almanac-the-49th-parallel/

Rice on History:  https://riceonhistory.wordpress.com/category/diplomatic/treaty-papers/page/3/

Yale Law School

 

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and its Ties to Regency England

The Headless Horseman

With Halloween approaching, it seems like the ideal time to tell you the tale of how one of America’s best-loved ghost stories has its roots tied to Regency England. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a short story written by the American author Washington Irving and was published in 1820. Many of you may be familiar with the story of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman. If you’ve never read the story, this is a quick recap.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is set in 1790 around Tarry Town (sic), New York and a secluded, nearby glen known as Sleepy Hollow. Schoolmaster Ichabod Crane comes to town and sets his sights on marrying the town heiress, Katrina Van Tassel. Unfortunately for Ichabod, he has competition for her hand from local bad boy Brom Bones. One autumn night, Ichabod attends a party at the Van Tassel’s and listens to the locals recount the tales of the ghosts that haunt the area. The most fearsome ghost is that of a Hessian trooper who had his head shot off by a cannonball during a battle in the American Revolution. Each night this Headless Horseman rides to the scene of the battle in search of his head.

As the party breaks up for the night, Ichabod fails to secure Katrina’s hand and rides from her home “heavy-hearted and crestfallen” toward his schoolhouse in Sleepy Hollow. After passing a tree supposedly haunted by the ghost of British spy Major André, Ichabod spots a large cloaked figure on horseback. He quickly realizes the man’s head is not upon his shoulders but on his saddle. Terrified, Ichabod races across the bridge adjacent to the Old Dutch Church with the Headless Horseman in hot pursuit. The specter hurls his severed head at Ichabod, and it crashes into the schoolmaster, knocking him from his horse.

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Ichabod Crane, Respectfully Dedicated to Washington Irving from William J. Wilgus, artist, c. 1856.

The next morning, the townspeople find Ichabod’s horse wandering around the cemetery of the Old Dutch Church along with his trampled saddle, and his hat lying beside a shattered pumpkin. Brom Bones goes on to marry Katrina, and the old Dutch wives believe Ichabod was “spirited away by supernatural means.” Years later, an old farmer arrives in town and informs them Ichabod is still alive. He fled the area because he was mortified by Katrina’s rejection and feared the Headless Horseman.

So how does a ghost story that takes place in a small Dutch hamlet in New York and written by an American, have a connection to Regency England? For that, we need to look closer at the author, Washington Irving.

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Portrait of Washington Irving by John Wesley Jarvis, 1809.

Washington Irving was born in New York City in 1783. At the age of nineteen, he began to write a series of satirical essays under the name Jonathan Oldstyle, Gent. and published them in New York City’s Morning Chronicle newspaper. Three years later, he passed the bar exam and became a lawyer. But his love of writing continued, and he published more essays, as well as a book entitled A History of New York under the pseudonym Diedrich Knickerbocker.

In 1815 Irving went to England to try to help save his family’s floundering shipping business, but in the spring of 1818 the firm was forced to file for bankruptcy. That summer he stayed in Birmingham with his sister Sarah Van Wart and her family. One night, his brother-in-law began reminiscing about New York, and an area Irving spent time in along the Hudson River known as Sleepy Hollow. According to accounts in Washington Irving, An American Original, in the middle of the conversation Irving bolted from his chair and ran to his room, slamming the door behind him. The words to a story were coming almost faster than he could get them down on paper. The conversations about Dutch New York and Sleepy Hollow had inspired and energized him. In that one day, Irving wrote the story of Rip Van Winkle. Soon after, still at Sarah’s house, he outlined The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Feeling motivated, he decided to move to London for a time and dedicate himself to a career as a writer.

He sent a collection of short stories to his brother in New York to be published in a series of volumes in the United States. On June 23, 1819, the first volume of The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. went on sale. Two thousand copies were printed and each ninety-three page book cost 75 cents, or about $11 in today’s money. The book was an enormous success. This volume contained the story of Rip Van Winkle but not The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Americans would have to wait for the sixth volume of The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. to read that tale.

John Murray's Residence in London

John Murray II’s Residence in London

Meanwhile in London, Irving feared his work would be pirated by British printers, so he set out to find a British publisher to protect his interest. At the recommendation of Sir Walter Scott, Irving appealed to renowned publisher John Murray II, but his work was rejected. He also tried Murray’s former partner Archibald Constable and was rejected again. Determined to profit from his work, Irving decided to take matters into his own hands and self publish his book using John Miller’s Burlington Arcade imprint. The British edition of The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., which included the first four volumes of the American counterpart, was released on February 16, 1820. This edition included the following introduction to the British public:

The following desultory papers are part of a series written in this country, but published in America. The author is aware of the austerity with which the writings of his countrymen have hitherto been treated by British critics; he is conscious, too, that much of the contents of his papers can be interesting only in the eyes of American readers.

Irving was wrong. He was praised by British readers and critics alike.

A month later, the sixth volume of The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. was published in America. This is the volume that included The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Not long afterward, this story was released in Britain in the second volume of The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.

People on both sides of the Atlantic agreed The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was Irving’s finest work. In fact it was so well received, many literary scholars believe it to be the story that propelled Irving from a man of letters to America’s first international literary celebrity. So while many people think of it as a quaint spooky story that has been immortalized in movies and TV shows, it actually is a significant work in America’s literary history.

I have one last bit of information about the connection between Regency England and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Irving’s original British publisher folded not long after his initial print run. John Murray, who had turned down Irving’s work, stepped in to buy the remainder of his stock and agreed to publish more of his work. So the man who published Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Byron’s Don Juan also published the second British volume of The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., the one in that contained The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

A few more fun facts:

  • In 1835, Irving eventually settled in Tarrytown and bought ten acres of land along the Hudson River. One hundred years prior to Irving’s purchase, a branch of the Van Tassel family had lived in the stone cottage that was on his property.
  • Washington Irving is buried in the family plot in the Old Dutch Church cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, New York. That’s the same cemetery where the Headless Horseman may, or may not, have attacked Ichabod Crane.
  • The idea for my first book, An Unsuitable Duchess, was inspired by Washington Irving’s life, and the story came to me while touring his home years ago. I even named my heroine Katrina.

Resources:

  • Butler, Joseph T., Washington Irving’s Sunnyside. 1974.
  • Irving, Washington, The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. 1820.
  • Jones, Brian Jay, Washington Irving, An American Original. 2008.

 

Five Links I Love About the Regency Era

Links I Love

This past month, I’ve been consumed with editing one of my books. For a historical romance writer, edits do not just include changes to sentences and the altering/addition of scenes. Frequently, they also include historical research to flush out a scene or ensure what you’re writing is accurate to the time period. With that in mind, I thought I’d share five links that I found helpful in my research this past month. I hope you find them as interesting as I do.

  1. Have you every wondered what the inside of a Georgian era townhouse looked like? Jane Austen’s World explains the layout of a typical London townhouse that can be found in Mayfair. https://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2009/06/03/characteristics-of-the-georgian-town-house/
  2. If you were staying in London during the Season and did not own a townhouse, you could lease one. Susanna Ives explains how one leased a house in London during the 18th century. http://susannaives.com/wordpress/2012/02/how-to-lease-a-home-in-18th-century-london/
  3. For those sunny days walking around Hyde Park or attending a garden party, a lady might choose to take her parasol along. But what color would it be? What would it look like? Geri Walton, who writes the fabulous History of the 18th & 19th Centuries blog, has all the info. http://18thcand19thc.blogspot.com/2014/11/parasol-fashions.html
  4. When I needed information about Parliament during the Regency era, I turned to Cheryl Bolen’s always helpful Regency Ramblings blog. https://cherylsregencyramblings.wordpress.com/2012/10/03/parliament-in-regency-england/
  5. And finally, there are times when I’m writing that I’ll use a common expression. I always try my best to search them out and check to see if they were used when my stories take place. This week, I was so happy to find out that you could indeed call someone a dog during the Regency era! http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/Why-being-called-a-dog-is-a-royal-insult/articleshow/4026729.cms
Portrait of the 3rd Earl of Grantham by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, 1816 from the Getty Museum

Portrait of the 3rdBaron Grantham by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, 1816 from the Getty Museum

I know I said I would share five links with you, but writers need inspiration, and this was one of mine this month. Consider him a bonus.

You Can Still Shop in the Footsteps of Regency Era Celebrities

Since so many of you enjoyed my last article on “How to Shop Like a Regency Era Gentleman,” I thought I’d tell you about a few more London shops that were selling goods back in the Regency era and are still open today.

If you’re a person who loves a good scent, you should check out Floris London, located at 89 Jermyn Street. This perfume shop was founded in 1730 by Juan Famenias Floris and his wife Elizabeth, and it currently is still run by their descendants. Throughout the Georgian era, Floris created individual scents for their patrons and were known for their personal grooming supplies. In 1818, while living abroad, Mary Shelley wrote to her friend Thomas Love Peacock in London and asked him to send her “two hairbrushes and a small toothbrush” from Floris. In 1820, they received their first Royal Warrant as Smooth Pointed Comb Maker to King George IV.

FlorisThe first time I stepped into Floris, I was greeted by a helpful clerk behind the counter and was lucky enough to have the store to myself. While perusing their products through the wood and glass display cases that appear to be original, it was easy to imagine what a shopping experience might have been like for a Regency lady. Floris has products for men, women, and the home. If you’d like to try any of their products but can’t make it to London, you can order from Floris online.

For the bluestockings among you, a short walk around the corner from Floris to 187 Piccadilly will take you to Hatchards booksellers. During the Regency era, wealthy men and women could pick up the latest editions from their favorite authors at Hatchards. Nestled close to the popular shopping streets of the day, Hatchards is London’s oldest surviving bookshop. It was founded in 1797 by John Hatchard, and his portrait presides over the shop’s winding staircase that connects the five floors of books.

Hatchards

Hatchards
Hatchards

I will admit, this is one of my favorite places in London, and it’s featured in two of the novels I’ve written. As you walk through the store, you’ll pass the original fireplaces, dark wood paneled walls and rooms crammed with books. I can easily spend an entire day here. If you’re the type to appreciate some quality name-dropping, Queen Charlotte, the Duke of Wellington, and Lord Byron are some of the famous people who have purchased books a Hatchards.

Directly next to Hatchards is Fortnum & Mason, founded as a grocer in 1707 by Hugh Mason and William Fortnum. William was one of Queen Anne’s footmen and had the idea to sell the royal household’s half-used candles to make money. This is how Fortnum & Mason began. While the current building is not the original, the store has always been located at the corner of Duke Street and Piccadilly.

Fortnum and Mason

During the Regency era, Fortnum & Mason was known for food that was easily portable for long distance journeys. They also introduced ready-to-eat specialty items aimed at wealthy area residents. During the Napoleonic Wars, many officers ordered packaged supplies from Fortnum & Mason for a bit of comfort while out on their campaigns. These packages included tea, dried fruit, spices, and other preserves. And in 1814, the Earl of Egremont turned to Fortnum & Mason when he was entertaining the Czar of Russia. Today they are a renowned purveyor of fine food, hampers, tea, and wine. They have a number of restaurants and it’s a lovely place to go for tea.

Speaking of tea, did you know that you can still buy tea in one of Jane Austen’s favorite tea shops? Although Twinings flagship store is located outside of Mayfair and St. James, the quality of the tea was so good, that it was worth the trip. This shop was founded in 1706 and continues to occupy its original location at 216 Strand. Two Chinese men and a lion preside over the doorway just as they did in Jane Austen’s day.

Twinings front door

For the record, none of these stores contacted me to include them in this article. They just happen to be places I like to visit when I’m in London, and when I walk through these shops, I’m reminded that museums aren’t the only places you can visit to feel a sense of the past.

For more information on any of these stores, you can visit their websites:

Where Did the Fashionable Regency Gentlemen Shop?

Since I’ve been known to be a bit fond of shopping, researching where the fashionable gentlemen in my books might go to outfit themselves kept me occupied longer than it probably should have. I’ve gathered together all my notes and decided to share the highlights with you here.

Lord Granville Leveson-Gower by Thomas Lawrence, c1804-1809 (Yale Center for British Art)

Lord Granville Leveson-Gower by Thomas Lawrence, c1804-1809
(Yale Center for British Art)

During the Regency era, London tailors were considered the best in Europe. Any man who was interested in presenting himself as an arbiter of taste, let alone one of the Dandy set, knew he needed to shop in London. Two of the best-known tailors of the day were Schweitzer and Davidson of 12 Cork Street and John Weston, located at 34 Old Bond Street. Weston was known to be the most expensive tailor in London and a favorite of Beau Brummell and the Prince Regent.

Wool Broadcloth Greatcoat with Silk Velvet Trim by John Weston, 1803-1810

Wool Broadcloth Greatcoat with Silk Velvet Trim by John Weston, 1803-1810

Boots were what the fashionable man wore during the day. Hoby, on the corner of Piccadilly and St. James’s Street next to the Old Guards Club, was known as the finest boot maker in London. Their clients included George III, the Prince Regent, Lord Byron, Beau Brummell, members of the ton, and many officers in the army and navy. The Duke of Wellington thought so much of George Hoby that he worked with the boot maker to modify a Hessian boot to his specifications. In 1817, the Duke instructed Mr Hoby to cut his boots shorter and make them tighter. He wanted the trimming removed and the “V” shape straightened out. This new style of boot became the iconic Wellington boot.

Wellington boots made by Hoby between 1817 and 1852.

Wellington boots made by Hoby between 1817 and 1852.

For his beaver hat, a man of fashion could go to Lock & Co Hatters (1676-present) located at 6 St. James’s Street. Lock made hats for Lord Nelson, as well as the plumed hat the Duke of Wellington wore to Waterloo. They also made military helmets for officers in the Hussars and Royal Dragoon Guards, and the folding chapeau-bras gentlemen wore to Court or to Almack’s. Lock & Co. is still in existence and continues to make hats of the finest quality.

Lock & Co.

Across St. James’s Street, a gentleman could venture into Harris’s Apothecary, which was originally located at Number 11. Harris’s opened in 1790 and established a reputation selling Lavender Water, Classic Cologne and English Flower perfumes. They also were known for shaving supplies, soaps, and creams. The company is still in operation, and today you can find them down the street at Number 29 under the name D.R. Harris & Company.

D.R. Harris & Company, London

D.R. Harris & Company, London

After a day in the shops, a gentleman might continue on to Number 3 St. James’s Street, where he could stop in Berry’s for a bottle of his favorite port. Berry’s was established in 1698 as a grocer. In 1810 the owners began to focus more on wine. Beginning in the late 18th century, it became fashionable to be weighed by the shop’s weighing scales. Such notable names in Berry’s weighing books include royal princes, Lord Byron, Beau Brummell and William Pitt the Younger. In the 1940’s the name changed to Berry Bros. & Rudd and that name is still used by the shop today.

 

Berry Brothers and Rudd

If a gentleman wanted to have his hair cut by someone other than his valet, he could go to Flex Rowland, who was located at the Thatched House Tavern on Haymarket. It is said that Rowland invented macassar oil, which men used in their hair, and specialized in military style haircuts. I found this description in “Round About Piccadilly and Pall Mall or, A Ramble from Haymarket to Hyde Park” by Henry Benjamin Wheatley, published in 1870:

Beneath the tavern front was a range of low-built shops, including that of Flex Rowland, the fashionable hair-dresser, who made a fortune by the sale of his macassar oil.

If a gentleman had a penchant for watch fobs, rings, and snuff boxes, he would certainly know about Rundell, Bridge, and Rundell Jewelers, located at 32 Ludgate Hill (est. 1788). They were the principle jeweler and goldsmith of the Prince Regent. Other prominent jewelers of the day included Phillip’s on Bond Street, Gray’s on Sackville Street, and Jeffrey’s. The Prince Regent was so fond of Jeffrey’s that at one point he owed the jeweler £89,00 in unpaid bills.

Gold-mounted tortoiseshell snuff boxes, supplied by Rundell, Bridge & Rundell, were a favorite royal gift. The richness of their decoration varied according to the status of the recipient. Rundell’s accounts include a number of boxes of the type shown below. A similar tortoiseshell box was sold by Rundell to George IV in 1821 for £81 18s.

Snuff Box made by Rundell, Bridge & Rundell

To fill up his snuff box, the fashionable gentleman would visit Fribourg & Treyer in Haymarket (1790-1981), known throughout London as the purveryor of the finest snuff in Town.

Fribourg & Treyer

One of the best parts about researching these places was seeing how many of them are still in operation. I had visited a few of them the last time I was in London, and now I have one more to see the next time I’m in Town. It’s wonderful to be able to enter a store and know that you can still shop like a Regency gentleman.

If you know of other London shops from the Georgian era that are still in existence that might have appealed to a fashionable gentleman, please post a comment and let me know. I’d love to add them to my list.

Sources used:

 

Get Your Bling On – Jewelry of the Georgian Era

Thomas Lawrence PortraitI intended to write this post about an entirely different topic, but then I became distracted by the jewelry I saw in this portrait by Thomas Lawrence. Not one to be able to resist a good sidetrack in my historical research, I followed my urge to find out more about the jewelry that was made during the Georgian era.

The Georgian era is defined as the years between 1714 and 1830. We need to remember that back then, jewelry was crafted by hand. Due to the lack of precision cutting machinery, precious stones cut during the Georgian era have a rougher look than stones cut today. These stones were set low into the metal and backed with silver, gold, or colored foil behind them to enhance the color and reflect more light through the stone. Silver was the only white metal used for setting diamonds. White gold didn’t come into use until after about 1925, platinum after about 1890.

Back and Front of Earrings from my collection, ca.1775-1790

Throughout the Georgian era, diamonds were the stone of choice. Rock crystal and colored stones such as pink topaz, green chrysoberyl, and purple amethyst were popular early on.

5 rose cut diamonds set in gold ca. 1770

Rose Cut Diamond Ring, ca.1770

Pearls were fashionable, set alone or mixed with gemstones, and as the years went on emeralds, garnets, rubies, yellow topaz, onyx, coral, and turquoise came into favor as well.

Georgian Red Coral Bracelet

18th Century Red Coral Bracelet

It may surprise some people to hear that fake stones were also used. These stones were known as paste. Paste is faceted leaded glass cut to resemble gems. It is sometimes called “strass” after the 18th century Parisian jeweler, Georges Frederic Strass who became world famous for his paste jewelry which was even prized by the likes of Marie Antoinette. The earrings from my collection and the earrings below are made of paste. They are day/night earrings. This style of earring was developed during the 18th century. Typically this is a two element earring in which the top cluster can be worn separately from the attached drop, making it a more appropriate choice for daytime wear.

18th Century Day Night Paste Earrings

Day/Night Paste Earring, ca.1770

During the day, women wore very little jewelry. In many instances you can see portraits of women wearing a simple black ribbon around their neck.

Mrs. Hugh Bonfoy by Joshua Reynolds, 1754

Mrs. Hugh Bonfoy by Joshua Reynolds, 1754

Evenings for the aristocratic set, were an entirely different matter. Short necklaces were prefered and some of the most desirable styles included the dog collar, now known as a choker, and rivieres. A riviere is a necklace with individually set stones of the same size or graduating to a larger size in the front. It could be worn alone or with a pendant attached. Often a riviere was part of a parure, which is a suite or set of matching jewelry including a necklace, earrings, bracelet, and brooch.

Georgian Riviere Necklace

18th Century Diamond Riviera Necklace

The girandole was also popular and used in pendants, brooches, and earrings. This design is composed of three hanging pendants that are set with single or multiple stones hanging from a centerpiece. Georgian girandole jewelry were often embellished with bows, foliate motifs and/or garlands. The popularity of this style began to wan around 1790 as neoclassicism began to dominate the styles of the era.

Georgian Emerald and Diamond Girandole Pendant, ca.1780

Diamond and Emerald Girandole Pendant, ca.1780

As the 19th century approached and we move into the Regency era, dress styles changed dramatically and women began to favor delicate empire waist dresses with short sleeves and low necklines. This style of dress was inspired by Europe’s fascination with ancient Greek and Roman culture. Like the style of dresses, the style of jewelry followed suit. Armlets were worn on the upper arms and could be used as a garter to hold up a woman’s glove.

armlets

Gold chain esclavage necklaces were part of this neoclassical movement and were worn with drop earrings. These necklaces are comprised of several rows of chains, beads or jewels. In the portrait I was studying, the sitter is wearing an esclavage of pearls.

Georgian Esclavage Necklace ca.1815

Esclavage Necklace, ca.1815

A simpler style of jewelry also complimented the style of Regency era dresses. If your economic condition did not allow for costly pieces, you could adorn yourself with a simple gold chain and a small pendant.

Topaz Crosses That Belonged to Jane and Cassandra Austen

Topaz Crosses That Belonged to Jane and Cassandra Austen

And finally, this was the era that introduced us to one of my favorite pieces of jewelry: the lover’s eyes. The eye miniature set into jewelry is believed to have originated with the Prince of Wales (later George IV) and his secret wife, Maria Fitzherbert. Their relationship was frowned upon by court, so a miniaturist was employed to paint only the eye and thereby preserve anonymity and decorum. The couple married in 1785, though all present knew the marriage was invalid by the Royal Marriages Act, since George III had not approved. It is believed that Maria’s eye miniature was worn by George IV, hidden under his lapel from the time of their courtship. Apparently George’s lover’s eye must not have been much of a secret since this supposedly led to the lover’s eye becoming fashionable between 1790 and the 1820s.

Lover's Eye Brooch from my collection, ca.1800

Lover’s Eye Brooch from my collection, ca.1800

If you lived in London during the Georgian era and were in the market to purchase something lovely to wear to the opera or to a ball, you could have visited these fine establishments for your jewelry:

  • Rundell and Bridge at 32 Ludgate Hill (Rundell, Bridge & Rundell after 1805)
  • Phillip’s on Bond Street
  • Thomas Gray’s on Sackville Street
  • Stedman and Vardon at 36 New Bond Street

Sadly, a large majority of Georgian jewelry has not survived to the present. Many families restyled the pieces to keep up with trends, or they sold them off and the components were taken apart for their value. Brooches and rings are the most common types of Georgian era jewelry still in existence. Earrings and necklaces remain available to a lesser extent. I love the fact that these pieces were all crafted by hand, and I’ll continue to admire them in portraits, and search them out in some of my favorite antique shops.

Resources used include: