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Category: Risky Regencies

We’ve been talking about private weather diaries from the extended Regency period, particularly the hand-written volumes that have been preserved in the library archives of the UK’s Meteorological Office. Several have been digitized:

My initial interest was specifically a diary by John Thomas Swanwick of Derbyshire, kept 1793-1828, but it grew exponentially from there (see Part 1 of this article, posted March 13).


The next set of diaries records 80 years of weather in Modbury, Devonshire, 1788-1868, at the opposite end of the UK from Gordon Castle in Scotland. The diaries were kept by a father, John Andrews Sr., to 1822, and by his son John Andrews to 1868. Handwritten notes at the front of the diary indicate that the diaries were “offered to the Meteorological Society” by the son and accepted in June of 1868.

Only informal notes fill the first two months, but starting in March, 1788, Andrews recorded barometer and thermometer readings in hand-drawn columns along with commentary. The handwriting is not so fine a hand, and readings are not reported consistently. At the end of 1789, he reported the days, month-by-month, that “Moore’s Almanac” predicted rain or snow would fall, within a day one side or the other. We assume this was so he could compare for accuracy?

These diaries each cover two years. In 1790 Andrews began to be more regular about including the barometer readings and began to record twice daily, at 8am and 10pm, although temperatures are still missing. He clearly doesn’t have all the weather-recording instruments that some of the other diarists use. On December 14, 1790, he began to include temperatures again, but notes his dissatisfaction with the accuracy of the thermometer. By 1791, Andrews was including three barometer reports each day, at 8am, noon, and 10pm, and had shifted the format from using the pages normally to a vertical form running down two pages turned sideways.


On March 15, 1790, he begins to include hygrometer readings (humidity), which were also included in Dr. Hughes’s Stroud diary. Andrews notes how he has kept a separate account of it since October when it was first put up, and has noticed it shifting “considerably” towards the “0” marking the median between moist and dry on the dial. He does not say what kind of hygrometer it is, but it seems likely it might have been one of the whalebone and human hair types invented by either Jean-Andre Deluc or Horace-Benedict de Saussure, who both developed them around 1783, just seven years earlier (pictured below). The metal ring appears to be the “dial” with measurement markings on it.

A small, narrow reddish colored box shown placed vertically with the cover open to the left, displaying a whalebone frame with a metal ring at the top, inside the box.

Deluc’s c. 1783 whalebone and hair hygrometer, By Rama, CC BY-SA 3.0 fr,

The later diaries also appear to be hand-made or created using pre-lined accounting books. One kept by a woman, Caroline Moleworth, in Cobham, Surrey, 1825-1867, includes notes on barometer readings and two thermometers, “in the vestibule” and “in the window of the library”—which tells us she was well-to-do to own the equipment and also have a large enough house to include a library.


Storm Glasses

Interestingly, Caroline also had a “storm glass,” an old method of predicting storms via chemical solution inside a glass globe. She proudly calls hers a “Tagliabues storm glass.” Cesare Tagliabue Jr. (1767-1844) expanded his family’s instrument business by opening a firm in London in 1799 to produce thermometers, barometers, and hydrometers (which successive generations expanded further), so this is likely the source.

Storm glass 1825 advertisement (By Jeffery Dennis -Public Domain,

In 1825, Caroline was using it well before the fad for them in mid-century led by Vice-Admiral Robert Fitzroy of the HMS Beagle, who used a storm glass extensively on his sea journey explorations and promoted their use.  Her diary includes occasional observations when she notes changes in its appearance.


Storm glasses are still available today. Fitzroy is credited with popularizing the accepted “reading” chart still in use.

He is considered a “pioneering meteorologist who made accurate daily weather predictions, which he called “forecasts”. In 1854 he established the Met Office, and created procedures to pass weather information to sailors, fishermen and other mariners for their safety.” (Quoted from Wikimedia Commons)

A list showing the various readings for interpreting the storm glass appearances

storm glass chart

The accuracy and the method by which these storm glasses work are still debated today. One theory is that the earlier glasses were not well sealed and were affected more by air pressure, like a barometer, and today’s tightly sealed ones are affected more by changes in temperature. A good source for more information on these (besides Wikipedia) is:

a vertical glass tube on a wooden base, with a white froth of chemical crystals in the bottom

Storm glass picture (By Brudersohn – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,


John Thomas Swanwick was born in 1792 in Derby, so it seems certain that it had to be his father, Thomas Swanwick, a schoolmaster, who first started keeping that Derbyshire weather diary. Thomas, born in 1754, would have been 39 years old when he began it. John Thomas, the middle child of three, no doubt grew up watching his father enter data into that diary faithfully every day. At some point, John Thomas, the son, had to have taken it over, for his father died in 1814 at the age of 60 and the diary continues for another 14 years.

At age 41 in 1833, John Thomas Swanwick married a widow, Isabelle Hall. At the time of his marriage his occupation is listed as schoolmaster, like his father. Did he step into his father’s shoes professionally as well as in taking over the weather diary? Did he postpone marriage while tending to his mother?

Derby was a major market town in Derbyshire, with a population of 11,000 in 1801. The family attended All Saints Church, which later became Derby Cathedral. Derby School (aka Derby Grammar School), founded by Queen Mary Tudor in 1554, stood in St Peter’s Churchyard.

Old Derby -All Saints (public domain)

Did the Swanwicks teach there? Since we don’t know where either Swanwick taught, we also cannot know if it was a full-time occupation or whether they were gentlemen farmers on the side. The diary stops in 1828, five years before John Thomas Swanwick married.

This diary is fragile and has not been digitized. I was fortunate to obtain some pdf images of the pages I needed through the kindness of the Met Office library archives staff, Mr. Duncan Ball in particular. It does seem the printed templates of the Swanwick diary were custom-designed by the writer and commissioned privately from the printer—none of the other diaries are so elegant.

Did the son faithfully recopy his father’s data into a new book, one he had pre-printed with templates that captured all the categories roughed out in an earlier version? Or did the father have it done? The printed headers say Thomas Swanwick up until 1802, and then John Thomas Swanwick after that. The handwriting does appear to change at that time, and is not as perfect. John Thomas would have been 9 years old. Was he deemed old enough for his father to start teaching him to keep the diary then?

1805 sample summary page from the Swanwick diary (, public domain)

Perhaps the schoolmaster bartered some lessons in return for the extravagance of the custom printing job. Or perhaps Thomas Swanwick was highly paid. The beautiful quality of the father’s handwriting in addition to the finely detailed organization and presentation of that particular diary certainly suggest a high level of training and competence.

I had less luck tracing information about the other diarists. Two John Andrews of similar age lived in Modbury, Devon, baptized within 6 years of each other and married to different women within two years of each other. I could not pull marriage records in detail that would have told me their professions.

Dr. Thomas Hughes of Stroud was probably a clergyman who died in 1815, but there is almost no record of him other than his marriage “c. 1780.” Another Thomas Hughes of Stroud left a will probated in 1813, so he died that year or earlier. He was a surgeon, so at that time would not very likely have been recognized as “Dr.” or been as well-educated as a clergyman, but I would need access to the will to know more.

Taken together, the evidence suggests all of these diary keepers (except for Caroline Moleworth) were educated, well-to-do men with a scientific, scholarly interest in studying weather rather than the purely practical interest of those managing the land. Further research into the identity and lives of each of these diary writers might not prove that conclusively—all we can do is speculate. Caroline was clearly interested in weather science as well as other natural phenomena –her diary includes notes about animals seen and flowering plants in bloom as well as weather.

Advances in weather forecasting were slower than progress in some other fields. As late as 1888 and 1889 the Council of the Meteorological Office requested lectures to be given at various British ports on the use of the barometer for seafarers. In 1890 the lectures were published as “Weather Forecasting for the British Islands by means of a barometer, the direction and force of wind and cirrus clouds”.

The Meteorological Society to whom the Modbury diaries were donated wasn’t formed until 1850, well after the Regency period and just four years before the national government office was established. It was granted a royal charter in 1866, and went on to become the Royal Meteorological Society in 1883.

However, the fifteen science-minded men who founded it were also astronomers and versed in other overlapping sciences as well. Many were Regency-era members of the Astronomical Society of London, which was founded in 1820. Interest in science blossomed in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and that interest included weather. Who knows how many other weather observers in those early periods were watching and keeping records that are lost to us now?

Many thanks to the Library & Archives of the UK Meteorological Office for helping me with research and setting me off down this deep rabbit hole. I hope those of you who read all this have enjoyed the trip! If you did, perhaps you’d be so kind as to leave a comment.  🙂

In story-telling, we are always warned not to start with the weather. That is exactly the recurring joke in the Peanuts cartoon when pup Snoopy’s novel always begins, “It was a dark and stormy night”(although doesn’t that at least make you expect something dramatic is going to happen?). But weather plays an important role in story settings, and can be an effective tool to drive events in plot. Ignore it and your story can fall flat.

Weather forecasting today is a fine science we all rely on and I dare say also often take for granted until storms or other potential disasters threaten. Obviously, in the Regency period there was no such service anyone could turn to. And given the agricultural basis of Great Britain’s economy at that time and the importance of sailing ships, weather played a very crucial role in the daily lives and the prosperity of the nation.


The Industrial Revolution had begun by Regency times, but it would not reach full sway until Queen Victoria’s era. Weather might not affect the factories springing up in the north counties, but farming the land was still the backbone of both the economy and society at this time. Landowners and tenant farmers alike were dependent on getting the greatest yield they could from the acres under their care. That was very much tied to weather along with the fertility of the soil. And weather could certainly affect the transportation of goods from those factories in the north, or the safety of anyone in the path of floods or storms.

Were a reliance on folklore beliefs and an ability to “read” current conditions the only methods they could employ to predict what weather might lie ahead and to plan accordingly?

Research for my current wip, Book Four in my Little Macclow series set in Derbyshire (HIS LADY TO LOVE), has led me down a new rabbit hole to share with you—private weather diaries. There is a fine collection of these hand-written volumes that have been digitally preserved in the library archives of the UK’s Meteorological Office:

My initial interest was specifically a diary by one John Thomas Swanwick of Derbyshire kept 1793-1828. (My story happens in August of 1815). Comparing the August weather recorded in flawless handwriting across all those years gave me a good view of what it should be in my story. But I quickly became more interested in the diary itself, the man who kept it, and what it said about his discipline and daily habits. Also, this particular diary has what are clearly custom-printed templates, for both the yearly comparisons and the monthly observations. Was keeping a “weather diary” a special hobby, or a regular part of normal record-keeping? (click on photos to enlarge)

Sample page and printed headings in the Swanwick weather diary

I wanted to know–did Mr. Swanwick design this book and have it privately printed, or were such blank diaries available from printers for customizing? If the latter, then keeping weather diaries was something enough people did for printers to make a profit by offering such books. If the former, then Swanwick had to be a man of enough means to be able to afford such a bespoke product.

These questions led me to examine some of the other diaries in the Met Office archive collection that are available at the link above.

The earliest one dates from 1755-1775 in Exeter. A typewritten note in the front says it is probably the earliest extent account of twice-daily barometer and thermometer readings. The 12-column format of all the pages suggests that it might have been a type of readily available accounting book that the diarist, one S. Milford, adapted to his own use.  Milford’s headings are: day, hour, bar., ther., wind, and “weather” (i.e. fair, cloudy, stormy, showery, rain), a much simpler system than Swanwick’s. Milford fit two days’ data across a single page.

Exeter Weather diary Aug 1756

Barometers and Thermometers

It is interesting to note that Milford and the other diarists generally owned both expensive barometers and thermometers and had the education to interpret them. Some seem to have also had hygrometers and sophisticated wind-measuring instruments. The barometer was invented in 1643 by an Italian physicist to measure atmospheric weight or pressure. Improvements by several more scientists turned it into the first “weather globe” and ultimately the more familiar barometer. The first thermometer was invented by Galileo, but a mercury-filled one similar to modern ones was invented in 1714 by physicist and inventor Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit. Jean-Andre Deluc, Swiss scientist who lived in England from 1773 until his death in 1817, was an advocate of the mercury thermometer over Galileo’s earlier alcohol-based versions. We don’t know which kind the diarists were consulting.

The next oldest diary goes from 1771-1813. Observations kept by Dr Thomas Hughes at Stroud, Gloucestershire, include other noteworthy events such as “storms, floods, earthquakes, aurora sightings and other geophysical data and occasional phenological remarks,” all indicating a man of some education. The book’s columns are ruled by hand, and the pages are set up to run vertically across two pages of the horizontal book turned sideways. The summary says his casual notes (kept in a dedicated column at the far right) “include reference to a number of historical events including the victory at Trafalgar and subsequent death of Admiral Nelson in the action.”

Sample page from the Stroud weather diary

More often, those notes expand on the “weather” observations. For instance, on January 3, 1771, he recorded cool and cloudy in the morning, then stormy with thunder and wind. The casual note says “a vessel on the Severn damaged by lightening.” On April 6, he noted snow still on some hills, the ground dry and grass withered “except in some moist places.” Hughes possessed a hygrometer in addition to his other instruments, reporting humidity readings among his other data.

From 1781-1825 a set of diaries was kept at Gordon Castle in Moray Speyside, Scotland, “complete except for June and July 1812.” Who made the notes, the (original) 4th and 5th Dukes of Gordon themselves or more likely staff members assigned to the duty? This book, too, is hand-ruled, set up with five narrow columns at the left and a large space more than 2/3rds of the page reserved for the actual weather observations. Perhaps it is not surprising, given the Scottish location, that this diary includes first among its narrow standard columns the one labeled “Rain,” used to record the measured amounts.

Gordon Castle  By John Claude Nattes 1804- National Library of Scotland Digital Gallery Shelfmark ID J.134.f, Public Domain, Rebuilt in 1769 for the fourth Duke of Gordon, the central four-storey block incorporated a six-storey medieval tower called the Bog-of-Gight, and was flanked by a pair of two-storey wings.

Also interesting—for the first year there is no barometrical data, and only wind direction. But starting in January of 1782, seven columns report date, rain, barom., therm (at 8am), wind (divided into direction and “force”), and therm again at 3(pm). Perhaps a barometer and some new wind measuring instrument had been gifts or purchases at the end of the previous year?

Gordon Castle diary sample page

There is a note at the end of this first month mentioning an “alteration” in when some of the data is noted and the addition of the wind force, but no mention is made of adding the barometric readings. By the next month, the 8am thermometer readings are marked “in” and “out” –did they acquire more thermometers, too? If “in” means inside, it is notable that the temperature in the castle runs generally only about 7-8 degrees warmer than outside, until the summer months when it is about the same, or cooler on the warmest days.


In Part Two (DEEP rabbit hole!): more diaries, more equipment, and investigations into the diary writers themselves. (will be posted on Thursday March 16)


“How much I adore you no language can tell !/ Like your charms, does my passion all others excel;/ O! say then, dear girl, you my fondness approve,/And consent to be mine at the altar of love.”

Valentine’s Day was celebrated by unmarried adults (and in some locations, children) during the Regency period, and in a post in this space last year (here) I talked about the types of cards and mementos that might be exchanged, including the fascinating folded “puzzle-pocket” types. I mentioned that books were available to help those who were not talented writers, so I thought we could take a peek at those this time around.

Google Books has a small collection of the poetry books that were published in Regency times to help those struggling to express themselves (search for “Valentines”). The poems, some quite good and others less so, range from passionate to scornful, deeply adoring to clearly intended as humor. The books are aimed at a rising middle class who could read and could spare a handful of pence to purchase such volumes, for the poems frequently make reference to lacking fortunes and rejection of those who are not content with a simple life. They were published by various printers, usually in London, and sold widely in bookstores, stationers, and even a toyman’s shop.

Cupid’s Annual Charter; or, St. Valentine’s Festival (“by Cupid”) “In which all true lovers have free leave to declare their sentiments to each other” was apparently published every year and sold for sixpence.
It starts with a call to action:

“Love has power life to charm /And all it’s cares and ills disarm /Hasten then to Cupid’s shrine /And each one choose a VALENTINE /Call in Hymen to your aid /Let to him your vows be paid /Thus ensure your bliss for life /And avoid the rocks of strife”

An example of the poetry:

Or, how do you like this sweet little verse?

The Herald of Love; being a choice collection of Valentines and answers, etc (1801) includes an additional subtitle: “with a valentine to a waterman”! Why that particular one should be specified, I have no idea, but this fun collection includes Valentine poems written specifically for quite a number of various professions. I can’t resist sharing a few of them below, notably ones to a publican, carpenter, footman, soldier and an apothecary, plus ones from a sailor and from a draper who joined the volunteers!


“Bright emblem of the budding rose, /In blooming spring that early blows; /Like her, the ravish’d sense you meet, /As fair, as innocent, and sweet. /To you your valentine commends /His suit, and this soft emblem sends. /Two hearts united here combine, /Where that the lot of yours and mine, /Sure the chaste union would be found, /By heav’n with constant blessings crown’d.”

This one amused me at the admission of INATTENTIION:  Each Sunday morn with joy I rise, /And strait to church repair; /Where I behold your sparkling eyes, /My sweet angelic fair. /Tinctur’d by love I scarce conceive, / What e’er the Parson says, /As you my pensive thoughts bereave, /Whilst on your charms I gaze. /Then Oh! thou lovely, blooming maid, /Believe my heart is thine; /And thou alone can give me ease, /My charming valentine.

And this one charmed me with a tale of RIVALRY:  T’other day as I was a crossing the Park, /I saw you, dear Betsy, along with a Spark; /So trim and so gay, it troubled my heart, /And this method I take, my woes to impart. /Can I hope, my dear girl, that you will be mine, /When I know I’ve a rival so graceful and fine? /But this my sweet maid, I would have you believe, /And trust me, my words are not form’d to deceive. /Tho’ in flattery and grandeur he may me excel, /Yet this I am sure, he wont love you so well; /Then answer me fairly, if you will be mine, /And give peace to the breast of your true valentine.

TO A PUBLICAN;  How now, Mr. Bung-does your memory fail, /instead of good Beer, you are sure to draw Ale;/Your conduct must alter, or else from your home /You’ll be driven, and then to the workhouse must come./Your pipes are all broken, and news-papers lost, /Your bottles the same, all by laying in frost; /If your practice don’t alter I surely decline, /And never more own you for my valentine.

TO A SOLDIER:  Tho’ you think yourself a soldier smart, /Don’t think your big looks will charm my heart: /Your helmet fierce, and your coat so red, /Clothe an artful heart and a stupid head; /And though you are bedeck’d so fine, /You ne’er shall be my valentine.

TO A CARPENTER:  Tho’ you use such a tool as makes every thing smooth,/Yet you’re rough in your manners, and hard at heart; /Therefore I must say, all your love I refuse, /For I think it most pleasant when we are apart. /If your saws they are rough, your language is most, /To such strange manners I’ve never been used; /So with all your vain notions you’ve nothing to boast,/For it’s easy a better than you for to choose. /So take warning by this, for there’s worthy Tom Mallet, /I shall soon to the church with him trip away; /Such a goodnatur’d man would suit any one’s palate, /So good bye Mr. Surley, ’tis Valentine’s Day.

TO A FOOTMAN:  Since last Valentine’s day, to my sorrow I find, /You, Thomas, have run day and night in my mind;/ You’re grown so bewitching as never before, /For I find that I love you each day more and more. /Each morning your face, with what pleasure I see, /Not my own in the glass, is so charming to me. /I’m so vex’d I could cry, when you’re out of my sight, /But when you are present my heart feels delight; /How I wish my dear Thomas, for life you were mine, /My lover, my friend, and my true valentine.

TO AN APOTHECARY:  Altho’ you are a Surgeon smart, /And Apothecary call yourself; /Don’t think your big looks will charm each heart, /Many know you to be a stupid elf. /What’s worse than a conceited fop, /Whose smile is like a Monkey’s grin? /Behind your counter as you hop, /With cravat, hiding all your chin. /I hate your haughty sneering looks /Altho’ you are deck’d out so fine; /Your heart I scorn so take it hence, /For really you shall not have mine.

FROM A SAILOR:  What dreadful dangers have been mine, /Since last I saw my valentine: /Tempests and storms upon the deep, /Would make thy gentle heart to weep. The fury of the foe combined, /When many a tar his breath resigned; /All these by good fate I’ve withstood, The perils of the raging flood. /Escap’d from all those various ills, /Safe is return’d, your constant Will. /Evils severe, I oft endure, /Which you will pity I am sure; /If that your love is still the same, /You’ll not delay, the day to name; /And should your love but equal mine, /I’ll bless the day of valentine.

FROM A VOLUNTEER:  To be a soldier’s now the fashion, /Therefore hear me declare my passion /Dear Miss, I really hope and trust, /My red coat won’t give you disgust. /True, when my business I could mind, /I always thought that you was kind; /But since I’ve been a Volunteer, /I really think you’ve chang’d my dear. /’Tis true it brings me heavy losses, /Neglect of business, and such like crosses. /You know, when I could measure ribbons, /Muslins, Cambrics, and Irish Linens ; /My strict attention to my trade, /Made me of no rival afraid. /Now do not think that I neglect you, /I am a soldier to protect you; /And beg that you’ll your heart resign, /To me, your faithful valentine.

There are more books of this sort–you can view Love’s Preceptor or a Cabinet of choice, by “Love” (1800) in Google books, for instance–but I’ve given you a taste. What do you think? If you had lived in the Regency and were expected to hand-write poetry on a Valentine for your beloved (or someone else!), would you have been tempted to rely on a source like these?

For my part, I would love to know more about the prolific, anonymous writers who penned all these verses–who they were, how much they were paid, if they wrote other things, what their lives were like. Hah! Inspiration happens. The urge is now upon me –I think that’s all going to have to go into a story.

Happy Valentine’s day, everyone!!

Did they or did they not have chocolate sweets in the Regency period? (I have seen authors fight over this!) What kind of sweets DID they have? In my new book, Her Perfect Gentleman, the heroine conceives the idea (wisely or not) to involve much of the village of Little Macclow in a project to make sweets for the wedding everyone has come there to attend. Researching this part of the story was an interesting rabbit hole!

I found a great resource to help me, a “confectionary” cookbook from 1789 with newer editions in 1807 and 1809. It is called The Complete Confectioner (Or, the Whole Art of Confectionary with Receipts for Liqueures, Home-made Wines, etc. the Result of Many Years Experience with the Celebrated Negri and Witten, by Frederic Nutt, Esq.

This remarkable tome (available in Google Books) includes 38 recipes for biscuits—that’s cookies, to us Americans—including chocolate ones made of chocolate, egg whites and powdered sugar, like meringues. No flour, which interests me to try them since I have allergies and must stay gluten-free.

There are also six types of wafers, and ten flavors of drops—including chocolate, so there WAS a type of chocolate candy in period, just not the kind we think of as “chocolates” today. Filled chocolate candies such as we eat today were first displayed to the world in 1851 at the Great Exhibition in London at the Crystal Palace, well past the Regency decades.

The Regency chocolate drops were just like the “chocolate nonpareils” you can still get today, named for the white sugar beads that coat them. Have you eaten chocolate nonpareils? Wikipedia says: “a round flat chocolate drop with the upper surface coated with nonpareils. Ferrero makes a variety marketed as Sno-Caps. In Australia, these confections are commonly known as “chocolate freckles“, or simply “freckles“. Nonpareils are also sold in the United Kingdom as “Jazzies“, “Jazzles“, “Jazz drops” and “Snowies” (the latter being of the white chocolate variety). The coating of nonpareils is often referred to as “hundreds and thousands” in South Africa and the UK. The Canadian company Mondoux sells them as “Yummies“. So if you want Regency sweets and don’t want to make them, buy yourself some of these!

The book also covers eight kinds of jelly (and six jams), essences for ices, seventeen flavors of “waters” to serve at routs (including lemonade), 32 flavors of ice cream (including chocolate, but also “burnt almond” and “parmesan”), plus a whole section on “water ices” (I think similar to sherbert?), all sorts of fruits preserved in brandy, and a large section on preserved fruit both wet, candied, or dry. Beyond all this yumminess, Nutt also offers the promised recipes for liqueurs and wines, along with a small number of cakes and sweet puddings, plus illustrations for laying out a dessert course on tables for different numbers of guests.

Nutt’s book also has a whole section on “Prawlongs.” I read it with interest, having no idea what they were. I soon discovered other mentions spelled “prawlins” and guessed that perhaps it was an alternate spelling of pralines. According to an article on the history of the famous New Orleans pecan praline (here), the Praline is named after the 17th century French diplomat César duc de Choiseul, Comte du Plessis-Praslin (1598 or 1602-1675). One theory is that Plessis-Praslin’s personal chef Clement Lassagne was the actual inventor, and the sweets were gifts for the duc’s lovers. If you consider the French pronunciation of Praslin, I think Nutt’s spelling “prawlong” may have been phonetic.

These first pralines were made with a combination of caramel and almonds. However, Nutt’s recipes include pistachios, filberts, or almonds covered with caramelized sugar syrup, AND he also used the method with slivered lemon and orange peels, orange flowers, and chunks of Seville oranges!! So it may mean in the 18th century, at least in England, pralines (however you want to spell them) may have meant caramel-coated whatever-you-want! And the practical early settlers of New Orleans adapted the French recipe to pecans, since that’s what they had.

I have to say, without the aid of candy thermometers that are so helpful for today’s cooks, I am in awe of how period cooks managed to turn out sweets without always burning the mixture or undercooking it. Would you be brave enough to try a recipe from 1809? Have you ever tried to recreate an authentic period dish?

Her Perfect Gentleman releases on Thursday (Dec 15th)! Can we wish my characters, Christopher and Honoria, a happy book birthday?

As you know Washington DC joined the rest of the mid-Atlantic in experiencing a record-breaking December snowstorm. Here in the Northern Virginia suburbs, the snow started Friday night about 9 pm and didn’t stop until late afternoon Saturday. We got 2 feet of snow. Here is a view of our snow, taken from my upstairs window at 12 noon Saturday.

One nice thing about snow is it covers all the dirt and darkness in a blanket of pure white, everything becomes quiet and life, of necessity, slows down.

One can almost imagine what it would be to live in the country in Regency England, to take walks through the wood, perhaps even to go skating on the pond or zipping over to your neighbor’s house in a horse-drawn sleigh.

Of course, a Regency winter walk might be like this:

And zipping along in a vehicle, might be more like this:

In the newspaper you might read about stories like this one from the 1814 Annual Register:

Extraordinary Instance of the Sagacity of a Dog.—Mr. T. Rutherford, of Long Framlington, was, about a fortnight ago, overcome in a snow storm, near Alnwick, and fell. In this state he was exposed to all the horrors of the night, till seven o’clock in the morning. His faithful dog at this time observing a shepherd at a small distance, used every exertion to attract his attention, such as howling, going from and returning to the spot where his master lay. This induced the shepherd to follow the dog’s motions. Mr. Rutherford was found, (then covered by the snow,) carried to a neighbouring publichouse, and, after five hours’ exertion, life was restored, and he is now quite well.

On the other hand, one might have a lovely Regency Christmas, eating Christmas pudding, drinking wassail, playing Christmas music on the pianoforte, dancing or playing cards.

What do you imagine a Regency winter and Christmas to be like? What do you think you’d like best about it?

It’s been a great gift to have such a wonderful Risky Regencies community. I wish all my fellow Riskies and everyone else a very happy holiday season!

by Sir Walter Scott

Heap on more wood! – the wind is chill;
But let it whistle as it will,
We’ll keep our Christmas merry still.

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