Tag Archives: Georgette Heyer

A Sea Journey, Regency Style

I don’t usually host guest blogs, but I couldn’t resist sharing the research fellow historical novelist Joanna Maitland has done on travel by packet boat. There’s more about Joanna at the end of her post . Over to you, Joanna –
It’s 1811, it’s wartime (pesky Bonaparte), and you have to go on a sea voyage. To Buenos Aires. Perhaps you’ve been sent there, like Sir Horace in Georgette Heyer’s wonderful story The Grand Sophy, but, unlike Sir Horace, you don’t have the luxury of travelling in peacetime).
How do you go about it?packet routes
First you get yourself all the way down to Cornwall, probably by mail coach, unless you’re so rich you can afford to travel post. By mail coach, it will take you 18 hours from London to Exeter plus another 14 or so to Falmouth. Quite a trip and that’s only the start!
Packet ships carry the mail, and passengers, from Falmouth to all sorts of places. Buenos Aires is one of the routes they are offering.
Your trip to Buenos Aires is expected to take 35 days out (and 52 days back, assuming you make it there in the first place). Your passage will not be cheap. You can travel steerage for £46 but you probably won’t enjoy it. If you want the “luxury” of a private cabin, the price is £86 one way (and £107 to come back).
The ship is very small and the passenger cabins aren’t exactly spacious. That blacked-in space on the plan will be yours!packet shp plan
Cabins have no portholes and they open onto a communal dining room. You’ll need to open your door to the dining room if you want any natural light. If you prefer privacy, you’ll need to light your candle or feel your way around in the dark.
Facilities are somewhat basic, too (see below right), but at least you won’t have to provide your own food and you’ll even get to eat with the officers! You will have to provide your own bedding, though, part of your 400 lb baggage allowance. And on the way back, in spite of that hefty price hike, you will have to provide your own food as well.facilities
During your 35-day voyage, you might have a run ashore at Madeira, but probably nowhere else, and you’ll have to take your exercise on the deck, trying to thread your way through the guns, and the ship’s boats, and the livestock (which you’ll be eating later). Remember, there’s to be absolutely no fraternising with the crew while you’re on deck. No climbing the rigging, either.
But, hang on, it’s wartime. What if your ship is attacked? What happens to you then? Just in case you’re wondering, these are your captain’s orders (and – sorry – they don’t mention you, the passenger, at all):
“You must run where you can.You must fight when you can no longer run and when you can fight no more you must sink the mails before you strike [your colours].”
So your ship will run from the enemy and you’ll get away, will you?
Well, you might. During the French wars, from 1793-1815, 68 packet ships were captured by enemy ships or by privateers. Three or four a year, on average. Since the total packet fleet in 1808 was only 39 ships, that’s OK-but-not-brilliant odds for your forthcoming trip. Still, some packet captains are stout fellows who are prepared to fight. Like Captain John Bull, shown here.
capt john bullCaptain Bull’s packet ship, the Duke of Malborough (see below), did fight in 1814 off Cape Finistere against a privateer. Sadly, one passenger was a casualty. Even more sadly, it transpired that the attacking ship was not a privateer at all, but a ship of the Royal Navy! They do indeed call it the fog of war.ship D of Marl
Bon voyage, intrepid traveller!
All information and exhibits from the splendid displays at the The National Maritime Museum, 

Joanna Maitland’s latest Regency ebook novella, His Silken Seduction , does not include a packet voyage but it does take readers as far as war-torn France and the excitement of Napoleon’s Hundred Days. It’s available for preorder at a special price until publication day.

joannapic6After many years publishing Regencies with Harlequin Mills & Boon, Joanna is very excited about branching out into new fields as an independent author with His Silken Seduction: His Silken Seduction Cover MEDIUM WEBher second book will be a timeslip, Lady In Lace. Details of all her books are at Liberta Books the site that Joanna and fellow author Sophie Weston, Joanna have just set up. Here readers and writers can meet and share enthusiasms and Joanna hopes to welcome fans, old and new, and readers of all sorts of fiction to the website.



Filed under Transport and travel, Travel

A Blue Plaque for Georgette Heyer

An absolute favourite writer for most lovers of the Regency is Georgette Heyer, and the great news is that on Friday 5th June English Heritage unveiled a Blue Plaque at 103, Woodside, Wimbledon, where Georgette was born on 16th August 1902.
I’ve been a Heyer fan as long as I can remember, and I particularly get a thrill when I’m in the History stacks at the London Library in St James’s Square and recall that this was where she did so much of her research.
Heyer’s novels are a treat for anyone who loves Georgian London and my favourite is Frederica, with its priceless image of the dreadful dog Lufra chasing the cows in Green Park, even if it does contain one of Heyer’s few research failures when she located the Soho Foundry, not in Birmingham, but in…Soho.
For anyone who is inclined to dismiss her writing as romantic froth, I would recommend Jenny Haddon’s post http://jennyhaddon.com/?p=973 “The Space Between the Words” on the understated power of her writing. And if you haven’t already read it, Jennifer Kloester’s biography Georgette Heyer, is the perfect accompaniment to her books.
I’ll leave you with a picture of two books from my collection, including one of my precious first editions. And if you like to see a (good) feature film, made of one of her novels, why not sign the petition http://www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/georgetteheyerfilm


Filed under Books

Would Darcy Have Ridden a Bicycle?


The combination of this fantastic print and the discussion in the UK press recently about encouraging cycling and making it safer prompted this post. Unfortunately the “Pedestrian Hobby Horse” arrived in England soon after Jane Austen’s death – I’ve love to know if she’d have ever given one of her characters a ride. I can imagine Lydia Bennett, skirts flying, shrieking with laughter!

The print, from Ackermann’s Repository (1819) is entitled Pedestrian Hobbyhorse and the text says it was invented by Baron von Drais, “a gentleman at the court of the Grand Duke of Baden.” The baron apparently invented a horseless carriage powered by two servants but it proved heavy and expensive so was abandoned, much to the relief of the unfortunate servants, I imagine!

 The baron went on to invent the hobbyhorse which he used for getting around large parks and gardens and it was introduced to London by Denis Johnson, a coach maker of 75, Long Acre. The Repository considered it simple, cheap and useful, especially in the country and in gentlemen’s pleasure grounds and parks. Medical men in France were already recommending it as a form of exercise.

 “The swiftness with which a person, well practised, can travel, is almost beyond belief: eight, nine, and even ten miles may be passed over within the hour, on good and level ground…the principle of this invention is taken from the art of skating.”


The rider sat astride a padded seat and rested his forearms on a padded board while steering with a small handle right at the front. Although it appears incredibly simple to us, used to bicycles and motorbikes, it was apparently necessary to take lessons and the  print above shows one of Mr Johnson’s Hobbyhorse Riding Schools. He opened one at 377, Strand and another at 40, Brewer Street, Golden Square in 1819. As you can see from the dress of the riders, this was a sport for well-to-do gentlemen. A hobbyhorse cost between £8-£10.

In Georgette Heyer’s novel Frederica the engaging youth Jessamy Merriville who cannot afford to hire a horse tries out the cheaper option of  a hobbyhorse, which Heyer calls a Pedestrian Curricle.

After a few lessons he hires one and,“Boy enough to want to startle his family with his unsuspected prowess, Jessamy had said nothing to them about his new hobby. Once he had perfected his balance, and could feel himself to be master of the Pedestrian Curricle, he meant to ride up to the door, and call his sisters out to watch his skill…he could not resist the temptation to coast down the long slope of Piccadilly, both feet daringly lifted from the flagway. This feat attracted a great deal of attention, some of it admiring some of it scandalised….”

Poor Jessamy finds himself in the midst of a dog fight and “…trying to control his balance, charged into a man mending chairs, lost control of his machine, and was flung on to the cobbled highway almost under the hooves of a high-stepping pair harnessed to a landaulet.”

The hobbyhorse proved impractical for any surface other than very well-maintained paths and so dropped out of fashion by the early 1820s. Two-wheeled progression lapsed until the invention of a device in 1865 called a velocipde which had pedals which worked directly on the front wheel. It became known as the Boneshaker and was almost entirely made of wood, with metal tyres and no springs – hence the name.


This photograph shows one in the Birmingham Museum’s Store.

Which of Jane Austen’s characters would you like to see on a Pedestrian Hobbyhorse? Would it be below Mr Darcy’s dignity? Perhaps Mr Collins would think it an improving way to take exercise…


August 15, 2013 · 1:41 pm