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Author Archives: Diane Gaston

About Diane Gaston

Diane Gaston is the RITA award-winning author of Historical Romance for Harlequin Historical and Mills and Boon, with books that feature the darker side of the Regency. Formerly a mental health social worker, she is happiest now when deep in the psyches of soldiers, rakes and women who don’t always act like ladies.

Did you know that January 1 wasn’t always January 1? The grandparents and parents of our Regency heroes and heroines would have known a year when January 1 followed March 24. What’s more, that year they would lose a whole eleven days that September.

Until 1752 Britain and the British Empire, including the American colonies, still followed the Julian Calendar, established in the time of Julius Caesar, which made the year 365 days long and used leap years, but the calendar had an error that made the Spring equinox drift from its date of March 21. Two hundred years earlier, though, astronomers convinced Pope Gregory to change to a calendar based on the  solar calendar that kept the equinox on March 21, important, because that was how they calculated when Easter would be.

Most of the Catholic countries adopted this Gregorian calendar in the 1500s, but Britain refused to switch to that “papist” system. You can imagine how confusing using two different calendars could be to travelers and traders.

And how disruptive changing the calendar would be to birthdays, festival days, paydays, dated contracts–any number of things.

In 1752 in Britain, March 25 became January 1, the start of a new year. But more adjustment was necessary to bring things in line with the Gregorian calendar, so Wednesday September 2, 1752, was followed by Thursday September 14, 1752, “losing” eleven days.

In 1752 William Willett of Endon bet that he could dance non-stop for twelve days. He started dancing on September 2, danced all night and stopped the next day–Sept 14. Twelve days! He won the bet.

The Whigs, who were more progressive and were convinced by the science of why the change was needed, supported the change. The conservative Tories were opposed and protested under the slogan, “Give Us Our Eleven Days.”

In 1755 Hogarth released a satirical print called An Election Entertainment depicting a tavern scene with some bawdy Whigs celebrating while Tories outside protested, “Give us our eleven days.” Apparently, though, citizens did not really riot in the streets believing they’d lost eleven days, as many believe. Hogarth’s print is thought to have contributed to this idea. 

If you’d like to learn more about the differences in the Gregorian and Julian calendars, here’s the Wikipedia link.

bodfp_smallWhenever I’m at a loss for a topic for this blog, I take a peek at Hillman’s Hyperlinked and Searchable Chambers Book of Days. The Book of Days (or, if you like, the real title: The Book of Days: A Miscellany of Popular Antiquities in Connection with the Calendar, Including Anecdote, Biography, & History, Curiosities of Literature and Oddities of Human Life and Character) was published in 1832 by Robert Chambers, a prolific writer particularly known for his reference books.

The Book of Days is arranged around the calendar, and contains interesting essays and trivia. The original work was printed in two volumes, each 840 pages long. It is an incredible feat of research.

Today’s date in the book contains who was born this date, who died, and the saint whose feast day it was. There was an essay about mermaids and about the “Circe of Carlyle House, Soho Street,” Teresa Cornelys. Mrs. Cornelys ran an upscale Assembly Room where great balls and masquerades were held.

The last essay of November 24 was this one:

THANKSGIVING DAY IN AMERICA

The great social and religious festival of New England, from which it has spread to most of the states of the American republic, is a legacy of the Puritans. They abolished Christmas as a relic of popery, or of prelacy, which they held in nearly equal detestation, and passed laws to punish its observance; but, wanting some day to replace it, the colonial assemblies, and, later, the governors of the states, appointed every year some day in autumn, generally toward the end of November, as a day of solemn prayer and thanksgiving for the blessings of the year, and especially the bounties of the harvest.

Thanksgiving day is always celebrated on Thursday, and the same day is chosen in most of the states. The governor’s proclamation appointing the day, is read in all the churches, and there are appropriate sermons and religious exercises. Families, widely scattered, meet at the bountiful thanksgiving dinners of roast turkeys, plum pudding, and mince and pumpkin pies. The evenings are devoted by the young people to rustic games and amusements.

The subjects of the thanksgiving-sermons are not infrequently of a political character, and in the chief towns of the union, those of the most popular preachers are generally published in the newspapers. The thanksgiving festival, though widely celebrated, is Not so universally respected as formerly, as the influx of Roman Catholics and Episcopalians has brought Christmas again into vogue, which is also kept by the Unitarians with considerable solemnity. As a peculiar American festival it will, however, long be cherished by the descendants of the Puritans.

Not a mention of shopping in Chambers’ essay. When you shop on Black Friday, don’t forget to put Megan’s The Duke’s Guide to Correct Behavior and Susanna’s A Christmas Reunion!

How many of you are planning plum pudding and an evening of rustic games and entertainments this Thursday?

Happy Thanksgiving!

“One knows so well the popular idea of health. The English country gentleman galloping after a fox — the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable.”
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), A Woman of No Importance, act 1.

Fox_Hunting_-_Henry_AlkenPursuing the “uneatable” was a popular sport among Regency gentlemen and the fox hunting season would have been this time of year, from after the leaves have all fallen to right before spring planting. Fox hunting has a long history in Britain, dating back to the 16th century. It became especially popular after the decrease in the deer population made hunting deer more difficult.

Hunting foxes was once considered a form of vermin control. Foxes were notorious for attacking small livestock, but by Regency times, the main purpose of the hunt was the sheer sport of it. Hounds were bred specifically for fox hunting. Gentlemen kept up to 12 hunters, horses bred for the hunt, so they could hunt six days in a row, using two horses per hunt. During the Napoleonic Wars, the Duke of Wellington kept eight horses and hunted frequently while on the Peninsula.

Hunting was the sport of wealthy gentlemen partly because those gentlemen had the wide expanse of land that the hunting required. Others could only hope to be invited to the hunt. Unauthorized hunting anywhere was considered poaching and could incur severe penalties.
220px-Daniel_Gardner_Sir_William
Regency times were times of house parties during which gentlemen rode to the hounds and only a very few ladies did. Ladies were encouraged to ride out with the hunters or to watch the hunt from carriages.

Fox hunting was outlawed in Great Britain in 2005 but still exists in other countries including Australia and the USA.

I love the idea of galloping over the countryside on horseback, but to chase a fox and have it torn to bits, not so much. I understand the appeal hunting game animals, although I couldn’t do it. Could you? Do you hunt? Have you ever been fox hunting?

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