Giveaways,  Jane Austen

The smelling like badgers contest

What would you like to do if you were to spend a week or so immersed in Regency life?

I’m not talking about reenactment so much as a situation like the bizarrely inaccurate Regency House Party series, 2004. And by the way, isn’t I smelt like a badger the whole time a wonderful headline? This is one of many articles online about the project, and you can view episodes on Youtube.)

I have the book tho it’s over the husband’s side of the bed because he likes the pictures. And that was the strength of the series, I thought–how everyone looked absolutely right in the clothes, and the house, Kentchurch Court in Herefordshire, was gorgeous. But really, other than agonizing over the chamberpots (oh come on, the Regency had indoor plumbing… ), the women were very bored. As one of the participants reported

The narrow round of permitted activities: ‘a walk around the corridor to view the portraits’, needlework, pianoforte practice (to entertain the gentlemen in the evening) was hardly stimulating and quickly exhausted. Six modern independent girls slumped into a Regency lethargy. Relieved of all work and responsibility, most became little girlies who giggled over hot chocolate after lights out (11pm) while I found myself climbing trees like a tomboy. Our infantalising party frocks were more likely to tempt Mr Darcy to give us a balloon and a pat on the head than a proposal of marriage. More

So if you were to be a Regency lady of leisure for a limited amount of time, how would you entertain yourself in what was a very homosocial society? At least in the daytime when the boys were off doing boy things? Or would you, like Larushka Ivan-Zadeh, become one of the boys too?

What would you suggest as activities for women that would be, more or less, historically accurate, but be of interest to history geeks (or not)? And what activities would you suggest for both men and women (other than the obvious) that would actually be fun?

You’ve guessed it. This is for the WIP. There will be prizes for the two suggestions I like best–your choice of a packet of tea from the Jane Austen Series at Bingley’s Teas(US only). I’ll be picking a winner on Monday.

So come up with something fun and creative!


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Dorothy Muir
11 years ago

What about Japanning and Decoupage?

11 years ago

Well, it may not be terribly creative, but (nerd that I am) I think that many of the activities mentioned in Jane Austen novels sound like excellent fun: long walks, reading books and poetry (both silently to oneself and aloud in company), an amateur production of “Lover’s Vows” (perhaps not entirely appropriate but it could be just as fun for men and women as it was for certain characters in Mansfield Park), Regency parlour games (Speculation, Lottery Tickets, Vingt-Un). A outdoor picnic if the weather were fine. Strawberry picking.

And if I were to be a Regency lady of leisure and fortune, I would be very pleased to do my duty in helping the poor of the parish

Magda Alexander
11 years ago

What about lessons? Dancing, fencing, swimming, horseback riding are some that come to mind.

11 years ago

Some good suggestions have been made. Also, riding, driving, archery, badminton, golf, tennis ( indoor), bowls, Pell Mell. Sketching parties. There is a book called Period Pastimes that is chock full of all sorts of artistic endeavors for ladies.
Charades, amateur theatricals, a talent show. Plan a masquerade party and the ladies have to make their costumes. Items from trunks in the lumber room and from shops in the nearby village or town would be used.
Go sightseeing if people were not familiar with that part of the country.

11 years ago

I’d spend my time the way Jane Austen herself did–writing! I doubt I’d turn out literary masterpieces like she did, but composing letters to friends and relations would be a great way to pass the time. And waiting for and receiving the responses would give me something to look forward to in the interim!

Jane George
11 years ago

Oh yes, walking & riding! Cutting & drying flowers, grasses and herbs.

11 years ago

I think I’d definitely be tempted to play pranks on my chaperones! Short-sheeting the bed, snake in the chamberpot, shoe polish on the opera glasses, etc.! Those pranks were probably new back then…

Beth W.

11 years ago

Writing, of course! Though writing a character who is a writer may be a little bit meta.

Studying nature might lead to amateur taxidermy. Of course, if our heroine doesn’t want to stuff the animals, she could tame them.

Illicit commerce? What about fashion design on the sly? Men’s fashion?

Raising hawks
Breeding chickens
Painting teacups
Sculpting lifelike flowers, pets, children, artificial food
Inventing games
Matchmaking (very period)
Playing an unusual instrument: bagpipes, sackbut, piccolo, guitar

I imagine a gentleman might like to hawk, or play games invented by his lady, or listen to her play the guitar.

Elena Greene
11 years ago

I can’t think of anything new to add, but I was sadly disappointed in how that show depicted women’s lives. There really was a lot more for them to do, as everyone has proven.

Ann Wass
Ann Wass
11 years ago

Sewing, of course–fine embroidery for a while, working on a cravat or shirt for my husband for a while. And, as Frances Baylor Hill once did, perhaps trading work with someone else–she works on my most tedious project for a while, and I work on hers, just for a little more variety.

Diane Gaston
11 years ago

I think I would have lots of cats….
And I might take up watercolors and dressmaking.

11 years ago

Maybe head to the museum and ogle the nude statues and then meet up with my book club.

Janet Mullany
11 years ago

Wonderful ideas!

Snake in the chamberpot??? Bagpipes???? The minds of Risky visitors never cease to amaze me.

I like the idea of exchanging boring bits of sewing with your friends too.

Diane, you already have lots of cats. btw, everyone, did you know Diane has a new book out today on Kindle??????? Check it out.

You can see that my pastime would be abuse of question marks.

Keep em coming, ladies.

Louisa Cornell
11 years ago

Still laughing at the snake in the chamber pot. SOMEBODY had a very interesting childhood!

You could organize a scavenger hunt among the ladies with a list of articles particular to each of the gentlemen at the house party. The more intimate the article the more points! Each of the ladies could put money in a reticule and the winner gets the money and quite the reputation!

11 years ago

Definitely riding! Some plein air sketching and watercolor painting. Maybe some genteel gardening (with a gardener for all of the really sweaty jobs). Lots of walks and nature gathering (shells and bird eggs and wild berries and plants of all sorts). Needlearts! Knitting, embroidery, crocheting, tatting, lace-making, you name it.

hmmm. basically all of the stuff that I like to do today. Go figure.

Kate Dolan
11 years ago

I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t even think of writing, although one would think that would at the top of my list. My first thought is that I would just enjoy not feeling the need to be productive. I’d drink tea, gossip and read, enjoying the fact that I didn’t have to do the washing up. You did say we’re the right sort of of Regency people, right? But that doesn’t help you with your WIP. After many weeks of leisure, if I got bored I might try out different artistic crafts to make gifts for people (paper cutting, painting china, crocheting doll clothes) I probably wouldn’t stick with anything long enough to get good at it so my gifts would be pretty poor.

Did someone mention archery already? That would be fun and dangerous at the same time!

Oregon Kimm

11 years ago

I would keep a journal. I would actually have time to do it, but it doesn’t sound like I’d be doing much worth writing about. I would go for long walks. Travel would be my biggest desire. There was much to see with museums and old ruins.
I could sit around, embroider, read, garden, and gry flowers, but that would get old.

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