The BAM Festival on April 15, 2023 was a good day. We were set up in the courtyard between the Mandel Library and City Hall in downtown West Palm Beach. Between the Green Market and the festival itself, there was a lot of foot traffic. The weather was perfect. Although warm, I was in the shade, and caught a bit of a breeze from time to time. Music was in the air as various groups performed. Books, Art and Music worked their magic. Watch for it next year!
BAM FEST: A good day
Filed under BAM Festival, Book festivals, Historical fiction, Lauren Gilbert, Writing
BAM Festival Tomorrow!
The Amelia Island Book Festival was a wonderful event. I’m very excited to be attending the BAM Festival in West Palm Beach, Florida tomorrow. This is my first time attending this festival and I’m sure it will be great. Books, Art, Music-what more can one ask? It will be outside in downtown West Palm Beach, rain or shine! Please visit their webside for more information. https://www.bamwpb.org/
The Marriage Drama of Frances Vane Stewart, 3rd Marchioness of Londonderry
By Lauren Gilbert
The Hon. Frances Anne Vane Tempest was born January 17, 1800, in St. James’s Square, London. Frances Anne was admired and respected for her successes as a political and a society hostess, her business acumen, and her position in society. She capably ran estates in England and Ireland, and was known for being strong minded. Her background certainly prepared her to think for herself, to trust her own judgment, and to stand her ground. Her parents were fascinating people in their own rights.
To read more about Frances, and her intriguing background, visit the English Historical Fiction Authors blog here: https://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.com/2022/09/the-marriage-drama-of-frances-vane.html
Image via Wikimedia Commons: Photo by Franzy89 April 4, 2020.
Filed under Uncategorized
A Visit to the Seaside: Worthing
As we ease into spring and then summer, people start thinking of vacations. What could be better than a trip to the beach? During the Georgian era, watering places became popular destinations year round because of the possible health benefits of taking the waters and sea bathing. Where did people go? There were a number of popular spas and watering places; one of these was Worthing, on the Sussex coast of Great Britain, which has a fascinating history. My blog about Worthing is up on the English Historical Fiction Authors blog. Here’s a snippet:
Located on the coast in West Sussex, Worthing is between 50-60 miles south of London, and 10-12 miles west of Brighton and Hove (depending on routes taken). It has a long and fascinating history.
Stone Age people were in the area approximately 60,000 years ago. By the New Stone Age or Neolithic era (between about 4000 BCE to about 2000BCE), Worthing was the centre of flint mining; Romans also settled the area. The Iron Age (about 750 BCE-about 43 AD) hillfort Cissbury Ring is the largest hill fort in Sussex, and the 2nd largest in England. It contains one of the Neolithic flint mines found in the area.
To read more about Worthing, and its development, please visit https://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.com/2022/04/a-visit-to-seaside-worthing.html
Filed under Uncategorized
Sunshine State Book Festival Coming This Weekend!
Coming up this weekend is the Sunshine State Book Festival. On Saturday, April 4th, I will be in space #42, with a lot of terrific authors. It promises to be a beautiful and fun weekend, so be sure to come by the Oaks Mall, check out all the authors with their books and say hello. You can visit the website https://sunshinestatebookfestival.com/2022AuPage/ssbf-authors.html for more information. I hope to see you there!
Exciting Events Coming Up!
The Jane Austen Fest in Mt. Dora, Florida is coming up next month, on February 11-13, 2022. The action begins Friday, February 11, in the afternoon and goes on into Sunday afternoon. Speakers, workshops, a fashion show and, of course, tea! I have the honor of speaking on Saturday morning, February 12, at 9:00 am, and will be presenting “What’s Love Got To Do With It? Jane Austen and the Unmarried State.” There will be several speakers, including Elizabeth Paquette, who will be speaking at 3:00 pm on Saturday, on “Medicine in Jane’s Era: Doctors, Illnesses and ‘Cures'”. It promises to be a fun and informative weekend in a delightful town. For more information, visit the website here: https://janeaustenfest.com/events/schedule
Filed under Book festival, Entertainment, Jane Austen, Lauren Gilbert, Regency era, Regency society
A Holiday House Party in Regency England
by Lauren Gilbert
The holidays are a time when people want to gather with friends and family. When possible, people travel for the holidays, often spending a few days or more. This is not a modern phenomenon. House parties were popular during the Regency era as well, and one’s visitors generally stayed for a length of time, possibly as long as a month or even more. For example, Jane Austen’s sister Cassandra travelled to Godmersham Park for Christmas at the home of their brother Edward Austen-Knight in 1798; she was there long enough to receive several letters from Jane. The Marquis and Marchioness of Abercorn entertained a large party at their country home, The Priory, at Christmas in 1804. The planning and logistics of that time were rather different from ours.
The holidays themselves were more numerous. The Christmas season started with St. Nicholas Day, celebrated on Dec. 6, when small gifts would be exchanged. Next came St. Thomas’s Day, observed on Dec. 21, which was marked with charitable giving.
Christmas Eve was a day to gather greens and decorate the home, and guests would have been included in these activities. These decorations included wreaths (the making of which included rosemary and laurel as well as greens) and a kissing bough (which probably would have included mistletoe). Fruit such as oranges and apples could also be included (cost would have been a consideration for oranges, as citrus was quite expensive). Christmas Day celebrations would have included attendance at church services (weather and health permitting). A special dinner would be planned and served. Gifts would be exchanged. There would be music, including Christmas carols.
Next up was Boxing Day, which was also St. Stephen’s Day, celebrated the day after Christmas. On this day, gift boxes and the day off were extended to the servants, if any. (Meals would be planned for cold collations)
New Year’s, of course, was celebrated, and could entail small gifts. 12th Night was celebrated on Jan. 6, marking the official end of Christmas season. A party with games, dancing, and possibly a masquerade was held when possible; a 12th night cake and hot spiced wine could be served. The greens were pulled down and burned for good luck.
As we can plainly see, a number of matters had to be carefully considered. A spur-of-the-moment decision to dine out was not an option. There was no television or electronic entertainment available. Even with staff, a hostess had to consider a number of factors. First and foremost were the numbers of guests. There could be people coming and going throughout the entire month, some arriving as others leave, some staying throughout the month. Juggling rooms, linens, and so forth would be serious business.
The next issue would, of course, be food. Food choices of the time would rely heavily on what was available seasonally, and often to regional tastes. While the wealthy and upper middle class could indulge in imported or hot house comestibles, most food choices would have depended on what was available seasonally. Elizabeth Raffald included a helpful list of every thing in season each month of the year in her THE EXPERIENCED ENGLISH HOUSEKEEPER.
The Christmas Day dinner menu could include two or possibly three courses. A first course could include a fish dish, such as turbot with shrimps and oysters, soup, sausages, and meat or fish pies. Brawn, one of Jane Austen’s favourites, was also popular. The second course would often include roast beef, goose and/or pheasant, another soup such as a shell-fish bisque, and possibly some roast duck. A dish of fruit, such as apples, pears and grapes, would also appear, with sweets such as a pear tart. These courses would be supplemented with vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, celery, beets, spinach, and forced asparagus. Various pickles were also popular. A third course could include savouries, more sweets, dried and fresh fruits, and nuts including chestnuts, walnuts, and hazelnuts.
Favoured sweets at this time of year would include mince pies, steamed Christmas pudding and gingerbread. Festive beverages would include syllabub, various wines, wassail (a concoction of beer, sherry, sugar, and spices) and ale. Coffee, tea and hot chocolate were also popular. After dinner, the gentlemen might have remained in the dining room, enjoying more wine and spirits, while the ladies (and gentlemen who chose) withdrew to drawing room for tea (or port or sherry or other wines).
As so many of these holidays involved gift giving amongst the household or to the community, the hostess had to know who would be present at what time to be sure everyone was considered. Gift giving was a delicate matter. Unmarried men and women did not exchange gifts usually, unless courting, engaged, or related by blood. Gifts were often created. Handwork, including knitting, embroidery, and painting, was often employed. Such objects could include embroidered slippers, handkerchiefs, and bookmarks, handmade lace, etc. Quilled paper was also a popular craft, and cabinet makers sold objects such as boxes, wine bottle coasters, picture frames and more for young ladies to decorate with their paper filagree work. A drawing or painting of a favourite view or animal would have been another option. A handmade gift of this nature would have shown a degree of intimacy, so recipients must have been carefully weighed.
If finances permitted, one could shop for Christmas gifts as well. Items such as books, sheet music, fancy or decorative boxes, supplies for writing or arts and crafts would be unexceptionable for friends; perfume and fans, jewellery (particularly hair jewellery), and similar objects would have to be judged cautiously, as those could be considered more personal, and potentially improper. Much care had to be given in selecting appropriate gifts for family as well as guests for the appropriate days, carefully weighing cost, relationships, and the potential for misunderstanding.
Entertainment was of great importance. One would not want one’s guests to be bored. Meals, and evening entertainments such as cards, dancing and so forth were obvious. However, the hours in between also had to be considered. If a musical instrument was available, it would need to be tuned and ready for use. Sheet music would be desirable. Singing was also popular. Books and periodicals would help guests fill time. Weather permitting, walks in the neighbourhood or on the grounds would have been enjoyed. If the weather permitted, there could have been ice skating. Depending on the size of the establishment and the means, all manner of activities could be possible. Games were always possible, and it would be up to the hostess to have suggestions and any necessary pieces or costumes available. Age would, of course, have been a consideration. Plans would have to factor in gifts, entertainment, and menus for any children in the household during the holiday.
As we can see, the Regency era house party would have required serious logistical planning. Even with staff, the hostess would be the arbiter of decisions regarding food and entertainment, and the delicate matter of appropriate gifts. Making sure that guests were accommodated as people arrived and departed, or arrived and stayed for the duration, required detailed planning for laundry as well as space. In houses with servants, Boxing Day brought other challenges, as servants had that day off. Cold meals would have to be planned, as well as other matters considered. Budgetary considerations for food, beverages, and gifts were also significant. Even for a smaller household expecting only intimate family, expectations had to be managed and planning was crucial.
LaFaye, Deirdre, ed. JANE AUSTEN’S LETTERS. Fourth Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.
Raffald, Elizabeth. THE EXPERIENCED ENGLISH HOUSEKEEPER. Lewes: Southover Press, 1997.
Smith, Eliza. THE COMPLEAT HOUSEWIFE. First ublished 1758. Facsimile edition published London: Studio Editions Ltd., 1994
English Historical Fiction Authors blog. “A Regency Christmas Feast” by Maria Grace, posted Dec. 10, 2013. https://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.com/2013/12/a-regency-christmas-feast.html ; “Twelfth Night” by Lauren Gilbert, posted Dec. 10, 2011. https://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.com/2011/12/twelfth-night.html
Random Bits of Fascination blog. “Regency Holiday Gift Giving” posted Dec. 15, 2018 by Maria Grace. https://randombitsoffascination.com/2018/12/15/holiday-gift-giving/
The Regency Redingote blog. “Quill-Work or Quilling?” by Kathryn Kane, posted April 17, 2015. https://regencyredingote.wordpress.com/2015/04/17/quill-work-or-quilling/
Images-Holly Christmas Card https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Holly_Christmas_card_from_NLI.jpg Public Domain ; Still Life of a Roast Chicken, a Ham and Olives on Pewter Plates with a Bread Roll, an Orange, Wineglasses and a Rose on a Wooden Table by Osias Beert https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Still_Life_of_a_Roast_Chicken,_a_Ham_and_Olives_on_Pewter_Plates_with_a_Bread_Roll,_an_Orange,_Wineglasses_and_a_Rose_on_a_Wooden_Table.jpg Public Domain
British Newspaper Archive. Morning Post, Thurs. Nov. 29, 1804, p. 3, London, England; Oracle and the Daily Advertiser, Fri. Nov. 30, 1804, p. 3, London, England. https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/
This post is part of the Regency Romance Fans Christmas Party on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021 from 3:00 pm to 9:00 pm. I am giving an e-book of my latest novel, A RATIONAL ATTACHMENT, to a U. S. reader. Visit the Regency Romance Fans Facebook page to enter the giveaways and interact with authors, including me at 5:00! Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/934474906612465
Filed under 19th century England, Christmas, Cookbooks, Cooking, Eliza Smith, Giveaway, Home entertainment, Regency era