Monthly Archives: June 2016

The Earl of Wittering Goes to the Seaside: Part Six The Ladies (and Porrett) Visit the Library

It is raining today, the second of the Gatwick family’s stay in Weymouth, so Lady Ditherstone abandons her father in law and husband to their news sheets, deals firmly with her daughter Emily’s pleas that taking to the ocean in the rain can hardly make you any wetter than you will be already, and carries off her mother in law the Countess of Wittering, Emily and young Arthur to visit the subscription library.

library

‘You have researched the available libraries I trust, Mr Porrett?’ She is inclined to rather like the Earl’s secretary, such a thoroughly nice, intelligent young man and really, once he takes off those wire-rimmed spectacles, quite good-looking. Intelligent, good-looking men are in short supply in the Gatwick household, although young Arthur certainly has a keen interest in natural philosophy.

‘Certainly, Lady Ditherstone. There are several, but most are not of a standard that would suit you, I fear. However there is one excellent one. As The Guide to All the Watering and Sea-Bathing Places remarks, those who frequent a good circulating library rather than a ballroom “frequently enjoy the most rational and the most permanent pleasure.” ‘ He regrets the quote as soon as he makes it, for Miss Emily fixes him with a look that is anything but kindly. So far as she is concerned nothing, but nothing, can exceed the pleasures of the ballroom.

‘Mr Porrett can come with us and carry our books as he is so fond of libraries,’ she says pertly. ‘And the umbrellas.’

Porrett, no fool, even if he is blinded by hopeless love, enlists the umbrella-wielding support of two footmen leaving himself to shelter Miss Emily. He employs the walk to the library with regaining her good graces. ‘They have all the latest fashion journals,’ he assures her. ‘And the latest novels.’ From ahead he can hear young Arthur stating that he needs a book on rocks and something on seaweed as he intends to collect both. Porrett is not certain, but he thinks the Viscountess gives the slightest, most well-bred, shudder. ‘And there is a section selling toys (he means novelties and small frivolities for adults, of course) – all the finest fans and reticules and so forth and souvenirs.’

Pic105Emily gives him a beaming smile, much restored by thoughts of shopping, as they reach the circulating library. Porrett, having established that the monthly subscription is eight shillings, deals with the business side, taking out a subscription for both senior ladies. He also subscribes for himself, for he has a secret penchant for poetry and intends to take a slim volume off to the garden where he can brood on his heartache in peace. (Above, the artist of a Regency ‘bat print’ bowl has caught Porrett immersed in his poetry next to a beehive.)

The library they find themselves in very like the one shown at the top of the post (Illustration of 1813 by Rowlandson). Note the shelf of New Arrivals on the right and the two gentlemen in energetic dispute over a political pamphlet on the left. A horn sprouting writing quills hangs in the right-hand window and a poster advertises a new book on Westminster and Its Monuments. The younger ladies shown are all in the height of fashion whereas the older lady with her little dog, long stick and black footman in attendance wisely chooses rather wider skirts and a lower waistline. Note the parasol propped up against the counter – it has the handle at what, today, is the wrong end. This persisted until about 1815 when the point where a parasol or umbrella was held when not in use shifted ends.

This evening the family attends the Assembly Rooms for an evening of dancing and cards. Porrett is thrilled to have been invited to accompany them, but somehow this afternoon, he is going to have to purchase a new pair of black silk stockings. Dare he risk ones with a stripe? What are the shops likely to be like? Find out more in   The Georgian Seaside: the English resorts before the railways came.

 

 

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Cutting and Rumping – How to Snub in True Regency Style

We have all been there and experienced the moment when the last person we want to acknowledge is that old friend or acquaintance coming towards us down Bond Street. We used to be bosom bows but now they have committed some unforgivable sin – and what that might be will vary depending on our sex and our sensitivity – perhaps they  flirted with our beloved, wore the same gown as we did to a Drawing Room, made snide remarks about our virility at the club, were overheard sneering about our new French chef’s offerings at our last, vastly expensive, dinner party. Or they might have proved themselves unworthy of our acquaintance by some error of taste or action and can no longer be counted as one of us, one of the ton.

Clarendon hotel

So – do you swallow your dislike or distaste and greet them as warmly as always, or do you deploy one of the armoury of “cuts” that the Regency lady or gentleman had at their disposal? Above is a scene in Bond Street with some cutting in action. It is from the “Bores” series (published by Thomas Edgerton 1824) and the story is that the military dandy is being approached by a country gentleman whose acquaintance he is now ‘bored’ with, so he is using the Cut Direct. The young man looking towards us appears to be using the Cut Modest to avoid eye contact with either of them.

The simplest cut (and the one most suited to the ladies as it involves no actual action at all) is The Cut Modest, or, Indirect. This is easiest if you are some distance from them, on the other side of the road perhaps, or in your carriage at the fashionable time to drive in Hyde Park. Just avert your gaze and pretend you have not seen them, even if they wave, call out to you or brandish their umbrella.

If they are right in front of you then you must be more assertive and exercise The Cut Direct. You act as though they are not there and so you look right through them, even if they are under your nose outside Wilding & Kent’s shop where you have just purchased some delicious lace or they are emerging from Dolland’s the opticians with the new telescope they are about to show off at the club. Look them in the face, meet their eye and show not a flicker of recognition.

They may, of course, assume you are simply miles away, thinking of that delicious young man they (most unfortunately) saw you with last night, or nursing a monumental hangover (caused by their cheap and nasty brandy ). In that case they may well greet you anyway, an embarrassing moment that calls for The Cut Courteous. Smile faintly, enquire courteously, “Sir (or Madam)? Do I have the pleasure of your acquaintance?” Then sail on past, they will get the point.

The person you wish to cut may be simply a chance-met acquaintance, one who you acquired on your travels perhaps, and who now hails you in the street, ready to presume on the fleeting camaraderie of that rather lurid night out in Rome on the Grand Tour, or the endless tedium of the voyage back from India where almost anyone other than the ship’s cat became a welcome companion. This calls for The Cut Obtuse. You have never been to Rome, you protest, certainly not to that dubious-sounding bordello near the Forum. India? Never set foot in it and as for the good ship Nausea, no it could not have been you, you never travel anywhere by sea except on your own yacht. And finally, no, you are most certainly not the Earl of Wittering.

They may be particularly persistent, or you may not have much confidence in keeping a straight-enough face. This requires The Cut Circumbendibus involving direct action – dodge into that alleyway, dive into that shop (and straight out again if you are female and you have found yourself in Weston the tailor’s elegant male sanctuary) or cross the street.

There are two embellishments to the basic cut that may be employed by the skilled cutter. The Cut Sublime involves casting up your eyes to the Heavens. You may pretend to be receiving inspiration from on high, studying cloud formation or wondering if that is a flock of ptarmigan flapping across St James’s Park. A degree of skill in not falling over your own feet or down a coal hole is required and you will need to estimate accurately when they have passed you by, or they may be waiting patiently for you to look down so they can enquire about the weather, the prospects for shooting game or the likelihood of divine intervention in your card playing. Finally there is The Cut Infernal, the opposite of the Sublime. Simply bend down and attend to your shoelaces or your spurs until the person has passed. This is obviously unsuited to ladies or to any gentleman whose posterior is best not displayed in such a manner. (See Rumping below.)

royal rumpFinally, and most regally, there is The Cut Visible, the cut so blunt and obvious that no-one could mistake it. The Prince Regent’s version of this is known as Rumping. If he wishes to indicate that some former acquaintance is now persona non grata then Prinny simply turns his back on them at the last moment as they approach him. The unfortunate cuttee is then presented with a fine view of the expansive royal backside. (A fine view of the Royal Rump can be seen in this detail from a Cruickshank cartoon of 1819)

I am indebted for these social hints to Pierce Egan’s version of Grose’s Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1823) and to John Bee’s Slang: a dictionary of the same year.

If you wish to stroll down Bond Street practicing your cutting technique the Walk 2 in Walking Jane Austen’s London will guide you to all the best places.

 

 

 

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The Earl of Wittering Goes to the Seaside: Part Five The First Day

The Gatwick family are up early this first morning in their rented house on the Esplanade in Weymouth, even the Earl who has been parted from Gaston his chef and his breakfasts for three days, so is eager to get back to his devilled kidneys.

Lady Wittering relies on Porrett, the Earl’s secretary to have researched what the procedure is this first day. ‘But I want to go in the sea,’ complains Emily, making Porrett feel slightly faint – then seriously overheated – for a moment.

‘It would be advisable for the family to inscribe your names in the Master of Ceremonies’ book at the Assembly Rooms,’ Porrett explains when he has recovered from the mental image of Emily in the sea, breasting the waves… Oh goodness, now he needs a cold dip. ‘He will then call and inform the ladies of all the events planned for the next few weeks, ensure he knows your preferences, offer to perform any introductions you might wish and recommend suitable shops. I would suggest that after the Rooms that the ladies might like to inspect the libraries and see which they wish to subscribe to and call at the bath houses to decide which will have their patronage and view the various facilities available.’ Weymouth had gone through a number of Assembly Rooms and the new ones were at the Royal Hotel, only a few steps away from their lodgings. [The first Assembly Rooms were at the Ship Inn, below and the ones that the Gatwicks would patronise are below that to the right. ]

Pic165

Weymouth ass rooms

‘Facilities?’ Emily turns her large brown eyes on Porrett. ‘I thought it was just bathing machines for hire?’

‘Oh no, Miss Gatwick. Shower baths, hot and cold seawater baths, steam rooms…’ Porrett’s brain begins to steam up giving him a vivid picture of Emily in the Warm Bath. He can’t cope with the thought of the Hot Bath… [Image from Political Sketches of Scarborough]

 

hot baths

‘Will you be accompanying us, Wittering? Ditherstone?’ The Countess studies her husband and son, both of whom have the air of men who would much rather take themselves off into town to locate the best library for the sporting papers, make enquiries about the prospects for some shooting, billiards and cards and generally avoid having to be grovelled to by the Master of Ceremonies.

‘I think not, my dear. I must go to the bank for one thing,’ Witttering emerges from his newspaper, obviously delighted to have found such an unexceptional excuse.

‘So must I,’ his son adds hastily. ‘Why not take Porrett to squire you about?’

Pic172‘I would be honoured, my lady. And, as it is such a pleasant day, perhaps you would care for a stroll along the main shopping streets?’ asks Porrett, in a seventh heaven. ‘I believe that Master Arthur has forgotten his hammer for extracting rock samples, so that could be purchased.’

‘Very well. Almira, Emily, Arthur, we will meet in the drawing room in one hour.’

Porrett makes a mental note to bring a footman along as well. he can hardly offer his arm to the countess (or, blissful thought) Miss Emily, if he is encumbered with a pile of shopping.

[Porrett will doubtless be taking his party along one of Weymouth’s bustling shopping streets – still full of Georgian buildings today]

The Georgian Seaside Cover_MEDIUM WEB

The Georgian Seaside: the English resorts before the railways came.

 

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The Earl of Wittering Goes to the Seaside: Part 4 The Journey

London to Weymouth

The day has dawned for the Gatwick family to set forth from their Mayfair Town house to their lodgings in Weymouth. Porrett, the Earl of Wittering’s much-tried secretary has driven the route recently, inspecting the available accommodation, but he went by stagecoach. Now he is in charge of the cavalcade of private conveyances his lordship’s party requires.

Cary mapThe first footman, two more footmen, two maids (more of those can be hired locally along with assorted kitchen skivvies) and Gaston the chef, left three days before to set up the house on the Esplanade and hire extra staff and furnishings required. That involved two lumbering old coaches plus a baggage coach.

Now Porrett is mustering a coach for the Earl and Countess; a coach for the heir, Viscount Ditherstone, his wife and children and a coach for himself, the two ladies’ maids, two valets and the dressing and jewellery cases. That is a tight squash, but Porrett is too soft-hearted to make one of the valets travel on the box, even though he easily outranks them in the household hierarchy. Behind them comes another baggage coach, a lighter one this time, which should be able to keep up. That contains the overnight essentials for the family and their wardrobes.Cary front

Porrett has studied the map in Cary’s Map of England and Wales [detail of the route above & slip case of the map  with the frontispiece of the Itinerary] along with Cary’s New Itinerary or an Accurate Delineation of the Great Roads… and knows it is 127 miles and 6 furlongs to Weymouth. [Page one of the route is shown right at the bottom of this post.]

Porrett would like to think they could travel at 10 miles an hour, but experience of the family tells him this is most unlikely, so he is estimating seven mph and has reserved rooms at the Angel Inn in Andover [below], a mere 63 miles and 4 furlongs along the route to allow for an inevitably delayed start. Porrett is braced for the journey – and armed to the teeth, as are the coachmen and grooms – because 9 miles into the journey is Hounslow Heath and, although the heyday of the highwayman is past, it still has a fearsome reputation.

Angel inn

Porrett tightens his fingers around the pistol in his pocket, daydreaming about rescuing Miss Emily from the loathsome clutches of a masked swine on horseback. Oh, Mr Porrett, Frederick… you are so brave, she whispers as he sweeps her up into his arms…

This happy fantasy lasts as far as Staines where Mullett, the viscount’s valet, jabs him in the ribs and inquires acidly if he is in pain, pointing out that they are crossing the Thames. And so onwards, stopping only to change horses at Hook where they refresh themselves at the Raven before passing through Basingstoke to Andover. The next morning Porrett succeeds in getting his travelling circus on the road by ten, which he considers a triumph.

In Salisbury the countess wants to stop to sketch the cathedral, but her husband over-rules this fancy. He has been separated from Gaston the chef and his dinners far too long. From Salisbury to Blandford for refreshments and then on to Dorchester where the Land’s End road that they have been following continues westwards and they turn south to Weymouth.

Finally they draw up in front of their home for almost two months, with the bay and seascape laid out before them. Emily,  young Arthur and the senior Ditherstones are delighted with the scene. The Countess is obviously itching to find her sketch pad. The Earl stomps inside calling for brandy. Porrett braces himself – will his employer like the house?

The next episode of Porrett’s love affair (if only… he sighs) and the family’s activities in Weymouth  will follow here soon. Meanwhile read more about the world of the Georgian seaside in  The Georgian Seaside: the English resorts before the railways came.

And to follow one of the iconic coaching routes (by car, or on Google Streetview from the comfort of your armchair) try Following the Great North Road

route to Weymouth 1

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The Earl of Wittering Goes to the Seaside. Part 3 – Where to Stay?

‘Well?’ The Earl of Witting glares at his  unfortunate secretary making Porrett drop the pile of paperwork he is juggling. ‘Here we are in June already – where have you found us to stay in Weymouth?’

Weymouth estate agent

[Porrett would have used a local agent, like this modern Weymouth estate agent. Or consulted advertisements in a guidebook or the local newspapers]

‘As you know, my lord, I returned yesterday and I have fully reviewed the options. There are boarding houses, where meals and domestic services are included in the charge. Meals would be taken communally, however and I am not certain large private drawing rooms will be available…’

lodging house breakfast

‘Communally! Have you taken leave of your senses, Porrett? Gatwicks do not take meals communally. Heavens knows what type of people one might encounter – medical men, clergy – ‘ (A nasty dig that, Porrett’s father is a clergyman) ‘ – merchants, even!’

[Above: a communal breakfast at a boarding house by J Green, etched by Rowlandson, in Political Sketches of Scarborough]

‘Quite, my lord. I dismissed those. Then there are lodgings where one might take a floor or the entire house. The lodgers would have to provide their own servants and cook, however, or rely on paying extra for whatever the landlady has to offer.’ The earl is becoming puce in the face, so Porrett adds hastily, ‘I assume you would be taking Gaston with you?’ Always assuming the French chef would condescend to cooking in an unknown kitchen.

‘Of course we are taking Gaston, unless I can rely on decent food. What about these hotels one reads about? Jumped up inns, eh?’

‘So I understand, my lord, although apparently some are being created with er, new facilities.’

‘Facilities? I should damn well hope they have facilities!’

‘No, my lord, I mean sanitary facilities. Water closets.’

‘Outrageous! Probably most unhealthy. What’s wrong with a chamber pot? So, does Weymouth have hotels?’

‘Not that you would find acceptable, my lord. I feel that lodgings might be most suitable. My researches show that there are, at present, one hundred and eight lodging houses.’ [Standardized rows of houses were built for lodgings, as these, below, in Weymouth probably were – and they still are ‘lodgings’ today]

Weymouth houses

The colour of his lordship’s face, which had begun to subside, becomes more vivid as Porrett hastens to explain, ‘I have reduced the number to six, my lord.’ And now, the question he has been aching to ask, the question that will tell him whether his summer is to be spent labouring in London on the receiving end of his lordship’s demands by post or whether, oh bliss!, he is to accompany the family. The family and Miss Emily. Emily with her dark curls and blue eyes, Emily with her rosebud mouth and the freckle just on the –

He pulls himself together. ‘How many chambers will be required, my lord? I collect that Viscount Dithermore and his family are to accompany you and the Countess, but will you require me with you, my lord. Or do I remain here?’

‘Hah! Leave you to frivol your time away in Town? The mice at play while the cat’s away? No, you will come with us, Porrett.’

It is hard for Porrett to keep the blissful smile from his lips. ‘I have the perfect house, in that case, my lord. On the Esplanade, newly built with a fine balcony on the principal floor to give views of the sea.’ And a little balcony on the floor above. As soon as he saw that little wrought iron confection he could imagine Emily standing upon it, the breeze stirring her hair as she turned to him. ‘Oh Porrett, Frederick… I have long lov-‘

Weymouth balconies

[Above: could this be Porrett’s romantic little balcony (left?) I’m not certain it would take the weight of two lovers… Houses on Weymouth’s Esplanade]

‘Then reserve it! Don’t stand there with that look on your face like a distressed halibut! We leave within the week.’

‘At once, my lord.’ Ah, bliss….

What will the journey be like? Will Gaston condescend to accompany them? Will Emily even notice Porrett? Find out in the next installment and meanwhile read about the vibrant world of the early English seaside holiday  in  The Georgian Seaside: the English resorts before the railways came.The Georgian Seaside Cover_MEDIUM WEB

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Can You Tell Your Dandy From Your Tulip or Your Corinthian From Your Swell? (And what about Pinks, Gilliflowers, Kiddys and Dandyzettes?)

In 1823 Slang, A Dictionary of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, the Pit and of Bon-Ton and the Varieties of Life… by ‘Jon Bee, Esq.’ appeared in print.John Bee front

John Bee was actually the pseudonym of John Badcock, a sporting writer and contemporary of the much more famous Pierce Egan, for whom he appears to have felt intense antagonism.

This was an era of popular slang dictionaries, the most well-know of which was Grose’s The Vulgar Tongue, and in the same year as ‘Jon Bee’s’ effort Egan produced what he said was the third edition of Grose, although it was more of a straight lift with some additions.

Bee’s dictionary, as well as including a vitriolic attack on Egan in the preface, contains many quite discursive and highly prejudiced definitions and I was entertained by his descriptions of gentlemen of fashion.

At the pinnacle of well-dressed sporting gentlemen is the Corinthian:

A man highly togged was so termed, by reason of the supereminence of that order of architecture. In process of time (1761), the term was applied to superlative articles of dress… We would confine the word to nobility and gentry of education, who join heartily in the sports of the turf or the ring, the latterly particularly: but well-dressed prigs assume the envied name, or seedy sordid knaves, who have no soul for those things.

Corinthians must, by definition be Gentlemen:

None can be considered a true English gentleman by us, who has not stored his mind with English lore, spells every word rightly, and is capable of forming a sane off-hand judgment upon every subject that may come upon the carpet.

And they are undoubtedly Pinks:

One above the common run of mankind in his manful exertions is a pink.

morning

(left) A Corinthian in his many-caped greatcoat waits atop the mailcoach for an opportunity to take the ribbons and ‘wagon it’.

Rather less impressive than the Corinthian, but related, is the Swell:

A man highly dressed, in white upper tog* and lilly shallow**, (for example,) is a swell, however circumstanced in pocket; but to keep up the name he must lay out his blunt freely; bet, and swear ‘damme, Sir.’ If he does not fight, at least he ought to know how, and take lessons – or give them. No fighting man by profession can be a swell, he is a tulip, if he dresses thereafter, and looks swellish: – ‘tis esteemed the first grade towards Corinthianism, which he can never reach by any possibility whatever. No man who ever performed any duty or service for hire (except doctors, lawyers, parsons, and statesmen) can possibly be a real swell, certainly not a Gentleman, most indubitably not a Corinthian.

*Upper tog – a great coat ** Lilly shallow – a white, low-crowned driving hat

So who is this lesser-ranking Tulip?:

Fine habiliments of various colours and strong ones, compose the tulip… Tulips compared with Swells are what gilt gingerbread is to a gilded sign-board; the one fades soon, the other is at least intelligent to the last.

A variety of Tulip is a Gillyflower:

None can be a gillyflower, who does not wear a canary* or belcher** fogle*** round his twist****: if he put up many more colours, he becomes a tulip.

*Yellow ** yellow silk handkerchief with a little white & black. Named for Jem Belcher the pugilist *** a silk handkerchief **** neck

But what about Dandies?

Lord PetershamAn invention of 1816, and applied to persons whose extravagant dress called forth the sneers of the vulgar; they were mostly young men who had this designation, and they were charged with wearing stays – a mistake easily fallen into, their wide web-belts having that appearance. Men of fashion became dandy soon after; having imported a good deal of French manner in their gait, lispings, wrinkled foreheads, killing king’s English, wearing immense pleated pantaloons, the coat cut away, small waistcoat, with cravat and chitterlings* immense: Hat small; hair frizzled and protruding. If one fell down he could not rise without assistance. Yet they assumed to be a little au militaire, and some wore mustachios. Lord Petersham was at the head of this sect of mannerists.

*Shirt frills

Above: Lord Petersham and his eponymous trousers

Our Dandy may very well be seen with his female counterpart – the Dandyzette – on his arm:

Her characteristics were, a large poked bonnet, short petticoats much flounced, and paint. When she walked she kept the step with her Dandy, as if they had been drilled together in Birdcage-walk.

And finally those ancestors of the modern Kidult – the Kiddy:

Big bum 2Kid, Kiddy and Kidling implies youth; but an old evergreen chap may be dressed kiddily, i.e. knowingly, with his hat on one side, shirt-collar up on high, coat cut away in the skirts, or outside breast-pockets, a yellow, bird’s-eye-blue , or Belcher fogle*, circling his squeeze**, and a chitterling shirt*** of great magnitude protruding on the sight, and wagging as its wearer walks. These compounded compose the kiddy; and if father and son come it in the same style, the latter is a kidling.

*Yellow or blue-spotted or black-spotted yellow silk handkerchief ** neck or throat *** large shirt-front frills

 

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