Category Archives: Regency era

I’m visiting Austen Authors blog today!

sir_roger_newdigate_in_the_library_at_arbury_arthur_devis

 

I have an article posted on the Austen Authors blog today, titled The Significance of Books and Reading in Jane Austen’s Novels.  Please join me on their site at Austen Authors.

 

Illustration: Sir Roger Newdigate in the Library at Arbury, by Arthur Devis (18th Century) via Wikimedia Commons Here

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Filed under 18th century England, 19th century England, Jane Austen, Regency era

Smuggling in Jane Austen’s Time

The real cause of the present high price of provisions, or, a view on the sea coast of England, with French agents, smuggling away supplies for France by James Gillray

Smuggling could be the effort of individuals seizing an opportunity, or a professional, large-scale planned venture. The majority of fines and penalties were, unfortunately and perhaps unfairly, paid by the opportunists, who could come from any class-a desperate individual, a shop keeper willing to become part of a distribution chain, or a fashionable lady unable to resist the lure of hard-to-find fabrics or trimming. Professionals frequently had the backing of well-heeled sponsors and could afford to consider fines the cost of doing business. A new ship could be purchased after a few successful runs.

Smugglers brought in goods subject to tariffs and taxes-silk, lace, brandy, etc.-for sale. Import restrictions and blockades made certain goods hard to come by, and taxation was heavy on those goods that were available legally. Individuals in all classes would take advantage of a consignment filled by smugglers to avoid paying these heavy duties. Once a cargo was landed, it was brought overland in well-planned routes that made it almost impossible to know if an item was smuggled or legitimately obtained by the time it reached a market place.

All coastal areas were affected by smuggling, including the Scilly Isles, Kent (especially Romney Marsh), Cornwall, Sussex, and Whitby in Yorkshire. Some communities along the coast were in league with smugglers, with an entire community potentially dependent on smuggling, first to obtain goods not otherwise available to them, and then as participants in the landing, concealing and moving the goods. Foreign smugglers also contributed, such as the Dutch smugglers who brought gin and other goods into Whitby. Ultimately, smuggling was virtually a national industry, and involved numerous gangs, moving alcohol (gin, wine and brandy, among other beverages), tea, silk, lace, tobacco and other popular items. It is not impossible that the shops frequented by Jane Austen in London may have carried smuggled goods.

Smuggling went both ways during Napoleonic wars with refugees, goods and information moving into England, while escaped prisoners, money and information moved into France. In the last years of the war, Napoleon accommodated smugglers in Dunkirk and Gravelines, and encouraged them to make the trips back and forth. (Such a journey could be accomplished in 4 or 5 hours, weather and other conditions permitting.)

Politicians and the monarchy were acutely aware of a depleted treasury (war and the Prince Regent were both very costly), and worked hard to suppress smuggling. Taxes of course were no more popular in Jane Austen’s time than they are today. The wars drew away troops, leaving fewer available for the preventive service for much of the coast, although fears of a French invasion kept attention focused on the coastline, especially the south-east coast-it’s no coincidence that militia units were stationed in coastal areas such as Brighton (the possible deterrent to smugglers may have been as much a motive as a deterrent to invasion).

After Waterloo ended the war in 1815, there was an upsurge in smuggling due to men being released from military (especially from the navy) unable to find jobs. (A lack of excitement after wartime may have also been a factor.) However, it was reduced by the 1820’s due to activities of Customs, Preventives and Coast Guard. Smuggling methods had to adapt (contraband had to be concealed-hidden under a legitimate cargo or in clever hiding places). The Coast Blockade established on land on the east Kent coast 2 years after Waterloo consisted of land patrols that were an effective deterrent, in spite of clashes with smuggling gangs, and the temptations of bribery.

Sources include:

Adkins, Roy & Lesley. JANE AUSTEN’S ENGLAND. 2013: Viking, New York, NY.

Blue Anchor Corner. “A bullish attitude towards smuggling in the 18th century,” posted by Philip Atherton 12/11/2014. http://seasaltercross.com/2014/12/11/a-bullish-attitude-towards-smuggling-in-the-17th-and-18th-centuries

Border Force National Museum. Maritime Archives and Library Information Sheet 24. “History of Smuggling.” (PDF) Last revised May 2010. http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/maritime/archive/pdf/24-History-of-smuggling.pdf

English Historical Fiction Authors Blog. “The Lesser Known Smugglers of the North” by Nick Smith, posted 9/17/2014. http://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.com/2014/09/the-lesser-known-smugglers-of-north.html

Regency Reflections. “Smuggling in Regency England,” posted by Naomi Rawlings, 4/23/2012. http://christianregency.com/blog/2012/04/23/smuggling-in-regency-england

Smugglers’ Britain. “Britain’s Smuggling History Expansion…and Defeat.” (No author or posting date shown.) http://www.smuggling.co.uk/history_expansion.html

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Filed under 17th century England, Georgian England, History, Jane Austen, Regency era, Smugglers

A Real Treat…

As I’m sure you know, I am a sucker for old books. I have in my hands a special treat, PLAYS OF SHERIDAN from the Library of English Classics. It is a single volume of the Plays of Richard Brinsley Sheridan published in 1920 by MacMillan and Co. Ltd. in London 1920. There is, of course, the obligatory biographical note, and then the richness… The Rivals, The Critic, my personal favorite The School for Scandal… There is of course more, but the secret pleasure is the volume itself. The dense paper, the half leather, half fabric binding, the hint of gilt. The spine has the gilding, the cartouches, the ribs – altogether, a luxurious volume that is as much a pleasure to hold as to see, never mind the treasures within. I have not taken a picture as yet. Somehow, I don’t think I can do it justice…

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Filed under Georgian England, History, plays, Regency era, Sheridan, theatrics, thoughts

The Duke of Wellington’s Wife

(This is a reblog of comments I made on Goodreads 9/20/2011 in their entirety.)

Original engraving of Catherine Wellesley, wife of the Duke of Wellington, by J R Swinton, circa 1850 from early sketch circa 1810

I think all of us are familiar with the Duke of Wellington, hero of India, the Peninsular Wars and the victor at the Battle of Waterloo. However, little acknowledgement is paid to his wife.

Her name was the Honorable Catherine Pakenham, known as “Kitty.” She was born in January 1772 in Ireland at Pakenham Hall, and was a distant connection by marriage of Arthur Wesley (before the family name was changed to Wellesley”, who was also in Ireland. Kitty was small, slender, with grey eyes, curly hair and a beautiful complexion. She was very high spirited, and stubborn, with a willingness to argue her point to exhaustion. She was very popular and had many admirers, including young Arthur. By all reports, Kitty was very kind and impulsively generous. She loved gossip, and could never keep a secret, which led to accidental exposure of information. She professed high principles, honesty, and high standards of behavior, and was not tolerant of others’ lapses.

Arthur Wesley’s courtship of Kitty began in 1790. He proposed twice: the first time in 1792, which was turned down by her family and again in 1794 which was also turned down. Kitty’s father lectured young Arthur on his need to improve himself and his prospects. Subsequently, young Arthur went into Parliament and subsequently back into the military. (One could wonder how much his disappointment over Kitty pushed him to make these moves.) He was away 12 years, during which period he had no direct contact with Kitty. She continued with her normal life at home, with at least one serious beau (his courtship came to nothing, because Kitty loved Arthur and was waiting for him).

Friends wrote to Arthur, particularly Olivia Sparrow, and he indicated that his feelings were unchanged and he still wanted to marry Kitty. Kitty was getting older, and becoming very nervous and anxious about the situation, especially wondering if Arthur would still want her when he saw how she’d changed. He returned to Ireland, this time successful and financially established, and, in October 1805, wrote to her brother for permission to marry Kitty. This time, Kitty’s family approved and they were married 4/10/1806. The lengthy settlement negotiations were not concluded until after their marriage, finally signed in August. After their marriage, he plunged straight back into his work, setting a pattern for their marriage in which she took a back seat to his career.

At this point, you have two people of completely different character, separated for 12 years, who have made a lifetime commitment after just a few months’ reacquaintance. Both had changed significantly: he was successful, confident and dominating. She had changed from a pretty, confident belle, to a 30-year old, somewhat spinsterish woman who was no longer sure of herself. Not surprisingly, Kitty felt neglected and complained to family and friends. As these reports circulated, they were used by Arthur’s political enemies, the Whigs, in attacks on him. This lack of discretion and its results in turn aggravated him and made him doubt her loyalty.

In 1806, Kitty was pregnant with their first child, and spent most of her time without Arthur, who was preoccupied with his work. He did write, but was very emphatic about expenses and the need for control. Kitty was not forthcoming about bills and costs, and her lack of honesty and control over household expenditures angered him. Since Kitty had impressed him with her strength of character and principles as a very young girl, whom he had idealised, it was difficult for him to recognize and accept the reality of the woman he married. (It must be said that the Arthur Kitty had loved for so long was a younger, less confident man, without the experience and success of the rather stern and authocratic man who returned to her. She was nervous of and afraid to confront him.)

Their personal communication was also difficult. Arthur was accustomed to the society of military men. Kitty had remained in her normal family and social life. He was no longer accustomed to chat, discussions of social activities or family trivia. She was unable to join in the conversation when his military or political colleagues came to call. In short, they had little to talk about together.

Their first son, Arthur, was born 2/3/1807. At the time of the child’s birth, Arthur was away hunting. Letters from him during this time make no mention of the child. Arthur was appointed to a political post in Ireland, and went ahead, leaving Kitty and their child in London. They finally joined him in May of 1807. She became pregnant again in 1807. Arthur spent a great deal of time socializing and hunting without her. Their second son was born in January of 1808. Somewhere during this period, Kitty apparently loaned her brother Henry a significant sum of money from the housekeeping funds, which resulted in bills not being paid.

In the spring of 1808, Arthur was in London. He was promoted to lieutenant-general, and it was nearly certain he would command an expedition to Portugal. In a letter written to the Duke of Richmond June 4th, he specifically states that the subject should not be mention to Kitty until things were positive. This is significant, as it shows a pattern he established, of not telling Kitty anything until the last possible moment, to avoid gossip, discussion and argument. He went in July 1808, had a victory at Vimeiro, and was recalled to England. He returned to Ireland at the end of October 1808, and spent the rest of the year deeply engrossed in plans and work.

In late January 1809, they were closing the house in Ireland to move back to England permanently, and Arthur insisted all of the bills be paid. At this point, the truth came out and Kitty had to explain and provide detailed accounts. Ultimately, Kitty’s deception and Arthur’s discovery of it put the final seal on his disillusionment. Her concealment of the situation and poor excuses demonstrated a lack of moral courage that was completely foreign to him, and showed him that she was not the person he had thought he had married. He never trusted her again.

In the spring of 1809, Arthur left for Portugal and the Peninsular Wars, and did not return for five years. He forbade her to take the children to Ireland. He did write, but told her very little, and nothing of signficance. She angered him again by requesting information from other people, which he felt implied his inadequate attention and he considered disloyal. Her life was very routine and dull: taking care of her sons, and other children, sewing, making shoes (a hobby she took up), reading extensively, music and so forth. She became very bored and depressed. Her household accounts were a nightmare for her-she was kind-hearted and easily imposed upon. His military discipline caused Arthur to view her inadequacy in this respect as a serious offense whenever money problems arose. Kitty was not shy, and did enjoy social life, but she did not enjoy public functions and avoided them-she was married to a famous hero who never took leave to come home and seldom wrote; how could she answer questions about him, when she had no information unless she read something about him in a newspaper?

It is important to note that, while he was away, Arthur was not faithful to Kitty, supposedly from shortly after their marriage. He was very sociable, enjoyed hunting, parties and so forth, and he liked women. He was the subject of a great deal of gossip. (Just two of his escapdes: involvement with the famous courtesan Harriette Wilson in London, and in Brussels at the time of Waterloo,rumors about him and Lady Frances Webster Wedderborn.) Kitty made it a rule never to believe any gossip or negative reports against him, and maintained this her whole life.

Arthur finally returned to England 6/23/1814 as the Duke of Wellington, and took her to Paris with him as ambassadress, but never reposed trust or confidence in her. It is very ironic as Arthur was known as a kind and loyal man, quick to anger but quick to get over it; however, he was completely unforgiving of his wife. Kitty, for her part, never learned either; she ran into debt, and concealed her debts by borrowing. She occupied herself with raising her children, and other children of family members, and spending time with family and friends. She tried please Arthur and to build some kind of home with him. Her later years were spent at their house in Hampshire, at times in isolation. Kitty died in 1831.

Arthur never got over his disappointment in her. He seemed to feel that his marriage to her was a weakness or personal failure, which he just could not accept. In later years, he blamed his marriage on the undue influence of others.

There is information on line about Kitty Wellesley, Duchess of Wellington. A detailed work about her is A SOLDIER’S WIFE: WELLINGTON’S MARRIAGE, by Joan Wilson (1987: George Weidenfeld & Nicholas Ltd, London), from which I got a lot of information for this post.

Original Goodreads post: https://www.goodreads.com/comment/index/86909608
Image from Wikimedia Commons

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Filed under biography, History, Love story, Regency era, Regency society