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

 

 

 

 

 

Why Regency Era Husbands Would Have Loved Online Shopping

I love when I run across bits of history that show me how similar we are to the people who lived two hundred years ago. Today, I’m writing about a select group of individuals that many of you may know. They are the husbands, boyfriends, and fathers of women who shop. You can easily spot them, sprawled out on the chairs and sofas in clothing stores. They are the ones looking thoroughly bored or completely engrossed with their phones. Some might even be asleep. I have a soft spot for these men, who think enough of the women in their lives to patiently endure such torture.

While I’m accustomed to seeing these poor souls in the stores I frequent, I was surprised to run across such men in a caricature that was printed in 1808. The etching, entitled Miseries of Human Life, is by Isaac Cruikshank and was printed in England. It illustrates the trials endured by husbands while they waited for their wives to finish shopping.

Courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library

Courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library

The caption reads:

During the endless time that you are kept waiting in a carriage while the ladies are shopping having your impatience soothed by the setting of a saw close to your ear.

So Regency era gentlemen had to endure the sound of the saw, and today’s gentlemen must contend with the music blaring in some of the shops they sit in. I suppose it’s true, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

*This post is dedicated to all the men who patiently sit in shops and wait for the women in their lives. Stay strong, my friends.

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: