Back to Top

Author Archives: Myretta

About Myretta

Myretta is a founder and current manager of The Republic of Pemberley, a major Jane Austen destination on the web. She is also a writer of Historical Romance. You can find her at her website, and on Twitter @Myretta.

This  is the last regularly scheduled post from Megan Frampton and me.

fishWe have loved being part of Riskies and hope to be able to stop back from time to time to check in. But life intervenes and we both find ourselves very busy, so are stepping away for now.

We’d like to leave you with some reminders of of our Risky Regencies history and a few hints about where to find us.

For a look back over Megan’s time with Risky Regencies, I give you the Megan Blog Search.  And to see what my shorter term looked line, here I am.

We will not have disappeared from the Internet, however. You can still find Megan at, on Facebook, and Twitter and, of course at Heroes and Heartbreakers. You can also find me at, on Facebook, and, less frequently, on Twitter. I am also always find-able at The Republic of Pemberley.

Being here with all the rest of the wonderful Risky ladies and with our excellent readers, commenters and guests has been a treat. We hope you have found some of it educational, or entertaining, or maybe both. And we hope to see you out and about in cyber space and other gatherings of the romance-minded.

throttle-smallMy WIP features a curmudgeonly hero who would rather be on his estate raising sheep than out and about among society. However, in order to make the most of his extraordinary wool, he feels he needs to get into the textile business. I know nothing about making textiles. But that’s okay, I know nothing about most of things I end up writing about until I start the research. I started my research yesterday with a field trip to The American Textile History Museum in Lowell, MA. Of course, my first choice of research destination in this case is Manchester, England, but Lowell is several thousand miles closer and doesn’t involve getting on a plane.

Print Block

The ATHM is not a large facility but it has a rather targeted collection that tells the story of the textile mills in 19th and early 20th century New England.  I went particularly to look at the machinery. Not only technology in all its phases a particular interest of mine, but I had a burning desire to be able to picture in detail what an early 19th century mill would look like. I was not disappointed.

bromleyThe museum houses an extensive collection of textiles, including the detailed scene shown at the left, which was printed at Bromley Hall in England between 1774 and 1811 especially for export to America or other British colonies as evidenced by the blue threads in the fabric’s edge. They have a current exhibit of textiles by artists from Picasso to Warhol. This was not particularly relevant to the reason for my visit, but fun to see, nevertheless. The also have a small but wide-ranging standing clothing collection.

Carding Machine

Carding Machine

But, as I said, I was there for the hardware. The exhibits ranged from the late 18th to the early 20th century and it was easy to imagine that changes to the machinery were mostly small and incremental. Even the with change from water power to steam to electricity the machinery function was totally recognizable. I realize I’ll have to do more research to learn exactly what the changes were and how they would have affected my characters.

If you’re in the area and interested in a larger view of the Lowell mills during the mid-19th to 20th century, I recommend including the Lowell National Historical Park in your visit. The park covers a good deal more of the life and work in the mills,  including housing for “mill girls” and recreations of an actual mill, as well as canal tours of the area.

This was an excellent first look at what I need to know in order to continue with my Duke’s business plans. It made me anxious to learn more. Now, if I can only arrange a trip to Manchester.

According to Hone’s Every Day Book (1827), today is St. Nicholas Day. This is, apparently, the anniversary of his death in 343.

Hone reports that

St. Nicholas

He is in the almanacs, and church of England calendar. He is a patron or titular saint of virgins, boys, sailors, and the worshipful company of parish clerks of the city of London (an interesting collection). Mr. Audley (of Audley’s Companion to the Almanac) briefly observes of him, that he was remarkable in his infancy for piety, an dthe knowledge of the scriptures; that he was made bishop of Myra, in Lycia, by Constantine the Great, and the ‘he was present in the council of Nice, where it is aid that he gave Arius a box on the ear.’

St. Nicholas & the pickled children

St. Nicholas & the pickled children

One of the stories of St. Nicholas’s virtue concerns him resurrecting two boys who had been killed and cut into pieces with the intention of selling them for pickled pork. (Ick) Nicholas, then the bishop of Myra, had a vision of these proceedings and went to the innkeeper who had salted the boys. Once the innkeeper confessed, asked for forgiveness and “supplicated restoration of life to the children, “the pickled pieces reunited, and the reanimated youths stepped from the brine-tub and threw themselves at the feet of St. Nicholas.

This, and other tales of virtue, caused his festival day to involve choosing a choir boy to “maintain the state and authority of a bishop.” This show of the “Boy Bishop” was abrogated by Henry VIII by proclamation but revived in the reign of Mary “with other Romish ceremonials.”

Hone leaves December 6 with a poem entitled Winter.

Hoary, and dim, and bare, and shivering.
Like a poor almsman comes the aged Year,
With kind “God save you all, good gentlefolks!”
Heap on fresh fuel, make a blazing fire,
Bring out the cup of kindness, spread the board,
And gladden Winter with our cheerfulness!
Wassail! — to you, and yours, and all! — All health!

And so say we all.

Frederick playing viola da gamba by Philippe Mercier

Frederick playing viola da gamba by Philippe Mercier

We often see young ladies at the pianoforte in our books, but musical men appear so infrequently as to make one think that music was strictly for the ladies.  Today, let’s take a look at men making music.

To begin, there were musical male members of the Royal Family, and they had a tradition of performing in private: George III’s father, Frederick, Prince of Wales was a noted viola da gamba player.  On the left is a painting of him playing the instrument with his sisters at Kew Palace.

George III's transverse flute

George III was a noted flutist, having received instruction from Carl Friedrich Weidemann, and  was also an harpsichord player. The image to the right is a picture of his transverse flute , now in the Royal Collection.

William Wollaston and his Flute by Gainsborough

William Wollaston and his flute

If you look at Gainsborough portraits, (a little early for our period proper, but still relevant) you will find many men of the gentry class of England in the 18th century, pictured with their musical instruments: for example the portrait of William Woolaston shows him pictured with his flute;he was a landowner in Suffolk (he owned Finborough Hall and also became a local Member of Parliament).

Glee clubs were also very popular during the 18th century and early 19th century, with both the aristocracy and the gentry, not to mention the lower orders. George IV was a member of the Noblemen and Gentleman’s catch club, which was originally formed in 1761 at the Thatched House Tavern in St James’s Street ,London. These glee and catch clubs tended to be men only institutions, and were very social occasions with simple food /porter etc. served to the participants.

Rev. John Chafy Playing the Violoncello in a Landscape circa 1750-2 by Thomas Gainsborough 1727-1788

Rev. John Chafy Playing the Violoncello in a Landscape circa 1750-2 by Thomas Gainsborough 1727-1788

In 1811, Jane Austen writes to her sister:  Eliza is walking out by herself. She has plenty of business on her hands just now, for the day of the party is settled, and drawing near. Above 80 people are invited for next Tuesday evening, and there is to be some very good music — five professionals, three of them glee singers, besides amateurs. Fanny will listen to this. One of the hirelings is a Capital on the harp, from which I expect great pleasure. The foundation of the party was a dinner to Henry Egerton and Henry Walter, but the latter leaves town the day before. I am sorry, as I wished her prejudice to be done away, but should have been more sorry if there had been no invitation.

Henry Austen’s apothecary, Charles Haden, was also an accomplished amateur musician. But he did not appear to wish to “perform to strangers” according to this letter from Jane Austen in 1815: But you seem to be under a mistake as to Mr. H. You call him an apothecary. He is no apothecary; he has never been an apothecary; there is not an apothecary in this neighbourhood — the only inconvenience of the situation perhaps — but so it is; we have not a medical man within reach. He is a Haden, nothing but a Haden, a sort of wonderful nondescript creature on two legs, something between a man and an angel, but without the least spice of an apothecary. He is, perhaps, the only person not an apothecary hereabouts. He has never sung to us. He will not sing without a pianoforte accompaniment.

Just a few examples of Georgian and Regency musical men. It would be fun to find more of them in what we read. I’d love to hear more examples.

This post would probably be more appropriate in mid-July, but as things start to cool down here in the Northeast, my mind turns to ice.

Holkham Hall Ice House

Holkham Hall Ice House

In grand estates of the 18th century and early 19th century ice was harvested and kept in ice houses, especially built for the purpose. Ice houses were usually filled with fresh ice every winter. They were usually situated near a pond or a lake, such as the one still extant at Holkham Hall, Norfolk. Once the lake froze in winter, the gardeners would break the ice and take it by cart to the ice house where it was pounded by mallets into a powder,and then rammed down into the ice house to form a solid mass.A lining of staw was usually put between the wall of the ice house and the ice to insulate it. The entrance lobby was simularly insulated with straw.

Ice House Section

Ice House Section

As you can see from the diagram here, these houses were constructed so that the main part of the storage area was below ground for insulation purposes. The one at Godmersham, home of Jane Austen’s brother, Edward Austen Knight, was also shaded by tress grown around the entrance mound of the ice house .

Once it was empty of ice in late summer the ice house would have been used as a temporary store for root vegetables. Until around around 1820, ice houses in cool weather were used solely for storing ice.  Around that time, it was  realized that the ice house could be used as a very simple freezer, and could preserve fruit such as cherries, strawberries, raspberries, and peaches.

A better name for these buildings was an Ice Well- this was the term used in the 1660’s when they were first introduced into England from Italy.

Of note, of course, is that one of the uses for ice from these ice houses was making sorbets and ice creams.

A good book on this subject is Elizabeth David’s  Harvest of the Cold Months; A Social History of Ice and Ices .

Here is a recipe for fruit ice cream from Mrs Rundell’s cookery book,  A New System of Domestic Cookery, published in 1816.  This recipe gives details of the “ice cream maker” in use at the time.

Get a few pounds of ice, break it almost to powder, throw a large handful and a half of salt among it. You must prepare it in a part of the house where as little of the warm air comes as you can possibly contrive.

The ice and salt being in a bucket,  put your cream into an ice-pot, and cover it; immerse it in the ice, and draw that round the pot ,so as to touch every possible part.

In a few minutes put a spatula or spoon in, and stir it well, removing the parts that ice round the edge to the centre. If the ice cream, or water, be in a form, shut the bottom close, and move the whole in the ice, as you cannot use a spoon to that without danger of waste. There should be holes in the bucket, to let off the ice as it thaws.

Georgian Ices

Georgian Ices

Note.When any fluid tends towards cold, the moving of it quickly accelerates the cold; and likewise, when any fluid is tending to heat, stirring it will facilitate its boiling.

Mix the juice of the fruits with as much sugar as will be wanted, before you add cream, which should be of middling richness.

Ivan Day’s wonderful site on historic food, has a great page on Georgian Ices (also the source of the picture above).

Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Join millions of other followers
Powered By