Regency,  Research

Regency references – moving through London

atozOne of the challenges of writing a Regency Romance is geography.  I know.  Not what you thought, is it?  Well, it’s one of my challenges.  I want my characters to be taking the correct streets, catching the mail coach at the right inn, taking a walk along the right path in the right park, running off the road into the right ditch.

It’s not always easy to make this happen and I’m never quite sure I’ve got it right but I have certain go-to books that help me get around the Regency without taking a totally wrong turn.

My current WIP takes place mostly in London.  This at least puts some boundaries around my geographical exploration.  When negotiating the byways of Regency London, I always start with The A to Z of Regency London.  This fabulous book was published by the London Topographical Society in 1985 and is based on Richard Horwood’s map (third edition, 1813).  But it is far more useful than Horwood’s huge map (which requires really good eyesight and a magnifying glass).  The Horwood map is broken into 40 sections and enlarged.  And each street, square, lane, almshouse, burial ground (and more) is indexed.  If you want to know where anything is in Regency London and its relative position this is your resource.  It will, without a doubt, help you get your heroine from Little Brooke Street to Gunter’s for ices with nary a wrong turn.

Perhaps, you crave a little more detail.  I wanted to send my hero and heroine meandering through a park and needed more than a map to get the ambience right.  London Green by Neville Braybooke  has a pretty good overview of KensingtonGardens, Hyde Park, GreenPark, and St. James Park.  You have to be a little careful with Neville, here, as it’s not quite as era-specific as one would want, but it has some great illustrations, history and enough detail to probably extract what you need for a romantic stroll.

period-houseIt’s not all geography, though. If you have a burning need to be able to talk, in detail, about the design of your hero’s townhouse, you might want to take a peek at Georgian London by John Summerson. This lovely book is probably going to give you more information that you’ll ever need and maybe should be reserved for the day when you really want a thorough background on the architecture of the city.  For the basics, I really recommend The Period House: Style, Detail & Decoration 1774-1914, a good, general overview of several different types of townhouses complete with floorplans. This book will allow you to move your heroine from her room to the library (with a candle, in her nightclothes) without having her stray into the kitchen.

gentlemens-clubsJust a couple of more.  Your hero, undoubtedly needs a place to escape from his meddling mama.  You’ll need to send him to his club.  Also, you’ll need to know what club to send him to.  Try The Gentlemen’s Clubs of London.  This is also not era-specific, but it has a brief history and description of each club and great photos.  You’ll be able to find the right place for your boy to hide out and you’ll get a good picture of what it looks like.  What more you do need?

How about a romantic evening?  Vauxhall Gardens might be just the place.  VauxhallGardens, A History has more information than you’ll ever need about this scene of many a seduction.  Truly, it is more information than you’ll ever want unless you want your hero to build his own pleasure garden.  Which, come to think of it, is an interesting idea.

life-georgian-cityLet me leave you with one last, excellent, book for a general understanding of your era in London.  Dan Cruickshank and Neil Burton’s Life in the Georgian City is both general and detailed.  Dan Cruickshank makes the various parts of the Georgian city accessible to the reader.  This book has chapters on street life, work and play, houses and their occupants, construction, interior design, gardens, and includes two case studies.  This is something you might just want to read for pleasure.

I have lots more.  More on London, more on the countryside, more on getting from one to the other and what to do when you get there.  I look forward to sharing my library with you this year.

Do you have a favorite research book or web site?  What’s your go-to resource when you’re thinking about Regency England?

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Elena Greene
9 years ago

I love many of these, Myretta. I don’t have a single go-to but I do like books with a lot of good images–Jane Austen’s Town and Country Style is one.

I’ve got too many favorites to list but one I especially recommend is In the Family Way: Childbearing in the British Aristocracy 1760-1860. I first read it while researching pregnancy and childbirth but it covers a lot more, particularly the changes in how people viewed marriage and parenthood throughout this period.

Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

Geography is also a challenge of mine–especially figuring out exactly how long it would take to get somewhere going a certain way! (but I also have this problem in my everyday life–I often get lost going places I’ve been several times before). These all look wonderful….

9 years ago

I have In the Family Way, Elena and agree that it’s very useful. I met Judith Schneid Lewis (the author) at a conference in York England. Very down-to-earth and easy to talk to.

I’ll have more about traveling in the country later, Amanda. I’m thinking I’ll give you a tour of my reference library as we go along.

9 years ago

What great books. I am not a writer, so don’t need them for research. I enjoy finding what I can about what it was like in past eras and enjoy finding out as many of the little details as possible. Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to find some of these books and look through them.

I appreciate you taking the time and effort to get those details correct. For the most part, we would not know the difference if you weren’t correct in your descriptions, but since I read historical fiction in part to know what life was like in times past, I want what is in the book to be accurate.

9 years ago

Great references! Adding them to my To Buy list! I already had the A to Z and Gentlemen’s Clubs of London books.

Hibbert’s London Encyclopedia is one I refer to often.

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