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Tag Archives: Mrs Hurst Dancing

Last weekend, I took my girls camping at Salt Springs State Park in Pennsylvania, one of our favorite nature spots. On a 90 degree day, the swimming hole in the creek is pure heaven. I took a lot of pictures, some in an attempt to capture the beauty of the place and some to help remember how much fun we had.
During the Regency, learning to sketch was part of a typical young lady’s education and it would come in handy while traveling for pleasure, serving a similar purpose that cameras do now. Of course, if one lacked the talent or inclination to draw, prints were also often available from professional artists, just as post cards are now.
In the late 18th century Edmund Burke developed a theory of the beautiful and the sublime, the “picturesque” being a synthesis of the two, uniting conventional beauty with the “horror” of rough elements like mountain crags. William Gilpin continued along this thread, writing treatises and taking people on tours through the countryside. Those who could not take the Grand Tour, either due to limited means or current political situation, were encouraged to enjoy the more accessible pleasures of picturesque locales including the Lake District and Scotland.
An interesting tidbit I found while researching this post was that tourists often used a “Claude Glass” (named after the artist Claude Lorraine), a darkened and slightly convex pocket mirror that created a more “picturesque” version of whatever was viewed in it.  Sometimes they even used this mirror when sketching. I’m not surprised, because I already knew that period sketches of places often took some romantic license.  Just compare the above image of Crummock Water in the Lake District by T. Allom with a modern photo of a similar view. I enjoy this sort of romanticized landscape and collected a number of prints like this while I was in England. On the other hand, the Lake District is lovely enough without trying to make it look like the Alps!
A different reason for trying to capture images is to preserve memories of events involving family and friends.
The closest Regency equivalent to family snapshots that I’ve found is Mrs Hurst Dancing and Other Scenes from Regency Life 1812-1823. It’s a collection of watercolor sketches by Diana Sperling, annotated by Gordon Mingay. It’s a wonderful record of everyday life of the rural gentry, their labors and their pleasures. Pictures have captions like “Papering the saloon at Tickford Park”, “The finding of the lost sheep!” and “Charles Sperling picking up his sister Isabella who had rolled off her donkey.” I can imagine the Sperlings and their friends looking through these sketches the same way we sometimes look at and laugh over old photo albums.

Do you enjoy photography or sketching? What are your favorite subjects? Do you have a preference for romanticized images or realistic?


This weekend we had an ant infestation in our kitchen. Naturally, this would happen when the exterminator wasn’t available. We had to battle the army of ants all by ourselves. I went to the internet to see what weapons we might use against this assault.

I now know more than I ever wanted to know about ant control. Turns out you not only have to remove the temptation (In this case, sugar. Apparently some ants have a sweet tooth; other ants crave other things), you have to interrupt their scent trails. I wiped everything down in vinegar, but that didn’t seem like enough. One of the suggestions was to spray a mixture of essential peppermint oil and water in the areas where it was suspected the ants entered. Well, I had essential peppermint oil, but I didn’t have a spray bottle. Besides, I thought, if a dilution of essential oil would work, how much better could it be if I didn’t dilute it?

I sprinkled full-strength peppermint essential oil all around the window and the sink.

Five hours later, the scent of peppermint was still so strong it made us all feel sick. It made even pizza taste funny.

Today we’ve seen some strays, but I’m still hopeful we’ve solved the problem. I got to thinking. What would a housekeeper have done about an ant infestation in Regency times?

I could not find out what they would have done about ants in Regency times, but I did learn a little about “bug control.”

This is from The Art of Cookery Made Plain And Easy; which Far exceeds any Thing of the Kind yet published by Mrs Glasse (1784)

The Toilet and Cosmetic Arts in Ancient and Modern Times by Arnold J. Cooley (1866) tells about how to get rid of parasites, like the head louse (stiff brush, “occasional” soap and water, and pomade), the body louse (regular bathing), and the crab louse (a solution of corrosive sublimate and sal-ammoniac in soft-water), but I can hardly bear thinking about having to battle such bugs. Cooley also recommends tobacco smoke to drive away insects, such as mosquitos, gnats, and bed bugs. That just goes to show that insects aren’t dumb enough to want to breathe in tobacco smoke. 

Have you come across any other Regency era insect exterminating practices? 
Or, how do you get rid of ants?

Look for a new contest at my website today!

*The picture is “Mrs Sperling Murdering Flies” from Mrs. Hurst Dancing by Diana Sperling, charming watercolors created during the Regency. 

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