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

 

 

 

 

 

A Fashionable Georgian Address: Berkeley Square

Berkeley Square c.1816

Berkeley Square c.1816

Since the Georgian era, Mayfair has been one of the most prestigious places to live in London.  And during the Georgian era, Berkeley Square was one of the most desirable addresses.

Berkeley Square is actually an oblong garden that was, and is, surrounded by residential and commercial buildings. It’s named after John Berkeley, the 1st Lord Berkeley of Stratton (1602-1678). When Lord Berkeley built his town home on Piccadilly in 1675 for £30,000, he purchased the adjacent land north of his property. In 1692, Berkeley House was sold to William Cavendish, the 1st Duke of Devonshire and the house was renamed Devonshire House. From this 1830’s map, you can see the relationship between Devonshire House and Berkeley Square.

Berkeley Square

The five acres that encompass Berkeley Square were designed in 1730 by William Kent and is home to approximately 30 Maple trees. An equestrian statue of George III originally sat in the square, commissioned by his daughter, the Princess Amelia. The statue was removed in 1827 due to structural problems and a gazebo was erected on the site.

Berkeley Square

During my last visit to London, I stayed near Berkeley Square and took frequent walks around the Square. Sadly, only a few of the original buildings remain. Lansdowne House is one of those buildings, except the structure has been altered over the years. It is now an office building and private club. It stood next to Devonshire House until that building was torn down in 1920. Lansdowne House was designed by Robert Adam for Prime Minister John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute. In 1765 it was sold, unfinished, to William Petty-Fitzmaurice (1737-1805), Earl of Shelburne, later 1st Marquess of Lansdowne and a leading Whig statesman of the period. His home was a popular meeting place for social and political circles. Information on the dining room of this home can be found elsewhere on this website.

Lansdowne House

Lansdowne House

And speaking of dining, Gunter’s Tea Shop was a fixture on Berkeley Square beginning in 1757. This shop was housed in Nos. 7 and 8, and was one of the finest confectioners in London. They sold syrups, candied fruits, cakes, biscuits, ices, delicate sugar spun fantasies, and elaborate table decorations. In addition to eating your ice or ice cream inside the shop, you could also order from the convenience of your carriage. A waiter would bring your order out to you, giving you the opportunity to eat your treat in your carriage under the shade of Berkeley Square. It was a popular destination during the Regency era, since it was the only establishment in London where a lady could be seen eating alone with a gentleman who was not her relative, without it harming her reputation.

John Linnell's design for a State Bed, 1765

John Linnell’s design for a State Bed, 1765

Another business located on Berkeley Square belonged to cabinetmaker John Linnell (1729-1796), who occupied No. 28. He was one of the first English furniture makers to be educated in design, studying at St. Martin’s Lane Academy. During his lifetime, John Linnell produced high-quality furniture that rivaled other leading craftsmen of the day such as Thomas Chippendale. Aside from producing beautiful furniture, Linnell submitted designs for the State Coach of George III and produced the designs for the boxes at Drury Lane Theater. These boxes might have been occupied, at one time or another, by some of his notable neighbors.

Horace Walpole by Joshua Reynolds

Horace Walpole by Joshua Reynolds

Horace Walpole, the Whig politician, lived at no. 11 from 1779 until his death in 1797.

Sarah Child Villiers, Lady Jersey

Sarah Child Villiers, Lady Jersey

No. 38 was the Jersey Residence. On May 23, 1804, in the drawing room of that home, Lady Sarah Sophia Fane, the daughter of the 10th Earl of Westmorland, married George, Viscount Villiers, and became Lady Jersey when her husband inherited the title. She was a patroness of Almack’s and a prominent figure in Society. Her Berkeley Square town house was her London residence throughout her marriage, and she died there in 1867 at the age of 81.

George Bryan "Beau" Brummell

George Bryan “Beau” Brummell

Beau Brummell, the arbiter of men’s fashion, lived at No. 42 in 1792.

Major-General Robert Clive, 1st Baron Clive

Major-General Robert Clive, 1st Baron Clive

No. 45 was home to Major-General Robert Clive, 1st Baron Clive, (1725–1774), also known as Clive of India. He was a British officer who established the military and political supremacy of the East India Company in Bengal. He’s credited with securing India, and the wealth that followed, for the British crown. After returning home, he sat as a Tory Member of Parliament. In 1774, Clive died in his Berkeley Square home. There was no inquest into his death, however there was speculation he died from a self-inflicted wound or an overdose.

The Right Honorable George Canning

The Right Honorable George Canning

A few doors down, the Right Honorable George Canning, a former Prime Minister, called No. 50 his London home, until his death in 1827. It was then leased by a Miss Curzon, who lived there until she died at the age of 90. The next resident is responsible for giving this house its reputation as one of the most haunted houses in London. A Mr. Meyers was soon to be married and took possession of the house, furnishing it for his bride. Shortly before the wedding, the woman jilted him. He moved into a tiny room at the top of the building and shut himself off from the world. Years later, a number of people died while spending time in that room, and in each instance their deaths were preceded by terrible screams. If you want to read more about this haunted house, check out the 50 Berkeley Square website listed below. And if you are every around Berkeley Square, you might want to look for No. 50. The house is still standing.

50 Berkeley Square

50 Berkeley Square

Resources used include:

50 Berkeley Square – http://www.haunted-london.com/50-berkeley-square

Jane Austen’s World – https://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/tag/gunters-tea-shop/

British History Online – http://www.british-history.ac.uk/old-new-london/vol4/pp326-338

Number One London – http://onelondonone.blogspot.com/2012/03/death-of-lady-jersey-in-1867.html

Regency History – http://www.regencyhistory.net/2011/11/lady-jersey-1785-1867.html

The Devoted Classicist – http://tdclassicist.blogspot.com/2011/10/duke-of-devonshires-lost-london-house.html

The Georgian Index – http://www.georgianindex.net/Gunters/gunters.html

The Victoria and Albert Museum – http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/d/design-for-a-state-bed-by-john-linnell/

 

The Power of the Quizzing Glass

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The quizzing glass or quizzer was a popular accessory during the Georgian and English Regency eras.  It consists of a single round, oval or oblong lens rimmed in gold, silver or pinchbeck.  Some of the handles are quite elaborate and might even have compartments containing such items as vinaigrettes or a lock of hair.  The loop of the handle often swivels to make it easier to lay flat when hung from a chain.  Depending on the owner’s needs a quizzing glass was either set with a magnifying lens or a corrective lens.  The lenses were made by opticians and were most likely set into frames provided by goldsmiths and jewelers.

The quizzing glass appears to be an innocuous item that would have been used to assist a person who had poor vision, but when you look deeper you discover it was much more than that.

I first became enamored with antique quizzing glasses when I read Slightly Married by Mary Balogh.  The novel introduced the powerful and coldly disciplined Wulfric Bedwyn, the Duke of Bewcastle, who had the ability to intimidate people by simply studying them through his quizzing glass.  Georgette Heyer also featured this Regency accessory in some of her novels such as An Infamous Army, The Corinthian, and Devil’s Cub.  Maybe it’s because of stories like these that people often associate quizzing glasses with haughty English aristocrats or dandies.  But the popularity of using lenses for more than reading might actually have begun in France with the use of the lorgnette.

The lorgnette is a pair of glasses a person would hold up to their eyes by a handle and was popular in France during the late eighteenth century.  Lorgnette comes from the French lorgner, “to peer at.”  Frenchmen began using them for unashamed observation of feminine beauty.  In an article entitled “Les Lorgneurs” by Mercier, published in the Tableau de Paris in 1793, there is a wonderful description of how bold these Frenchmen were.

“Paris is full of these lorgneurs, setting their eyes on you, fixing your person with a steady and immobile gaze.  This behavior is so widespread that it is not even considered indecent anymore.  Ladies are not offended when they are observed arriving at the theatre or whilst taking a walk.  But should this happen when they are amongst themselves the lorgneur is considered uncouth and accused of insolence.”

In England the single lens quizzing glass became a fashionable way to observe people and objects.  It was possible to issue a set-down simply by peering through the lens of a quizzing glass with a critical eye.  Hogarth, Rowlandson and Cruikshank all caricatured its use.  And famous quizzing glass users included Beau Brummell and Charles James Fox.

The fashion was not limited to men as women also took to wearing them.  Typically a man would wear his quizzing glass about his neck with a black ribbon and a woman would suspend hers around her neck by a long chain.  In the painting below of Miss Rosamond Crocker by Sir Thomas Lawrence you can see how fashionable this accessory had become.

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So the next time you are on line at a shop and some rude patron tries to cut you off, just think how fabulous it would be if you could simply peer at them through a quizzing glass to put them in their place.  Oh and by the way, the one that I wear has also come in handy when my friends are trying to read the small type on restaurant menus.  It really is quite a versatile accessory.

Sources used include:

  • Candice Hern’s Website
  • The College of Optometrists Website
  • The Georgian Index Website
  • Mercier, “Les Lorgneurs” Tableau de Paris (1793)
  • The Word Wenches Blog