Fleet Prison Marriages of the 1700s

Marriage ceremonies associated with the Fleet Prison is London were many in the mid to late 1700s. It is estimated that in the 1740s over half of London’s marriage ceremonies took place in “marriage shops” surrounding the Fleet Prison. By some accounts, 800,000 people named in the marriage records of the times were married in this manner. These were what some termed as “clandestine” or “irregular” marriages. According to GenGuide, “A marriage without banns or licence or conducted away from the parish of residence of both parties was considered ‘clandestine’ and a marriage that took place in one of the party’s parishes without banns or licence or away from the parish of either party by banns or licence was considered ‘irregular’. Whichever way was chosen, the union was in the eyes of the law a legally binding contract. Many nonconformists married in this manner often in their own meeting houses.

“Marriage registers from ceremonies conducted in and around the Fleet Prison in London, with many taking place in local taverns and coffee houses. As clergymen were often confined to the Fleet as debtors, they performed marriage ceremonies for other inmates for a fee without licence or other formalities. This practice was stopped in 1711, but clergy carried on conducting irregular but legal marriage ceremonies in nearby taverns. These so called ‘marriage shops’ could also be found in the grounds of the May Fair Chapel and the King’s Bench prison and other centres such as the Holy Trinity, Minories and St. James, Dukes Place. The ceremonies were conducted by individuals who had taken holy orders without licence who could legally marry two people at any time and at any place. Although they ignored the official rules on using banns and licences the marriages were still legally valid.” 

Between 1613 and 1754, a legal loophole created a situation where on-the-spot marriages could be carried out in an area surrounding the Fleet Debtors’ Prison, known as the ‘Liberties of the Fleet’. There is suspicion that some illicit matches took place, against the will of one or other of the parties, but judging from the number of unions made (estimated to be almost 250,000 in just 60 years up to 1753), it seems more likely that the ability to marry without parental consent might well have been the more common motivation.

Clergymen  who were imprisoned for debt, set up shop in the Liberty of Fleet Prison  and conducted weddings. At the time, marriage needed only to be conducted by an ordained clergyman of the Church of England for the ceremony to be valid. Many of these weddings passed unnoticed into history.  Sometimes these marriages were bigamous  and quite often fraudulent. A man, for example, might marry a woman with a bit of money or property and  then relieve her of it before decamping. He might then go elsewhere and marry another with the due reading of the banns.

While the courts accepted all sorts of evidence that a couple had been joined together in a valid marriage, they were very reluctant to accept the certificate or register of a Fleet parson. This reluctance was based on numerous examples of fraud, forgery, and false entries.

s-l300.jpg The Lord Chancellor, Lord Hardwicke thought to close those loopholes. The Marriage Act 1753, full title “An Act for the Better Preventing of ClandestineMarriage“, popularly known as Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act (citation 26 Geo. II. c. 33), was the first statutory legislation in England and Wales to require a formal ceremony of marriage. It came into force on 25 March 1754. “The legislation stipulated that marriage must take place in a licensed Anglican parish church in the bride or bridegroom’s own parish and be recorded in a special book with a numbered space for each entry, to prevent fraud. Banns were read publicly on three separate Sundays, which allowed for objections to be raised possibly by parents of children under the age of 21 or previous spouses to call a halt to the proposed wedding. The legislation also allowed marriage by licence in a different parish to that of the couple’s residence. The only exceptions allowed were for Quakers and Jews, so all other non conformists including Roman Catholics had to marry in an Anglican church.

“As the Hardwicke’s Act did not apply in Scotland, English ‘runway’ couples were able to obtain a valid marriage certificate in the Scottish border towns such as Ayton, Chain Bridge, Coldstream, Gretna Green, Halidon Hill, Ladykirk, Lamberton, Mordington, Norham and Paxton. Less well known areas for ‘irregular’ marriages were the coaching inns in the Canongate district of Edinburgh and South Leith marriages which are transcribed in Marshall’s Calendar of Irregular Marriages in the South Leith Kirk Sessions Records 1697-1818. The English Episcopal Chapels in Scotland during the 19th century also married English runaways.

“In Scotland a marriage was considered ‘regular’ after the reading of banns and if the marriage ceremony was conducted by a minister of the established Church of Scotland. The 1834 Marriage (Scotland) Act extended ‘regular’ marriages by permitting dissenting clergy to conduct marriage ceremonies. If these requirements were not adhered to the marriage was deemed ‘clandestine’ and illegal but crucially could be valid in the eyes of the state. Under Scots Law a marriage was considered valid (but not legal) under certain conditions as follows:

§  Both parties declared themselves married in the presence of witnesses.

§  Marriage ceremony followed by sexual intercourse.

§  Simply living together with the status of man and wife – by habit and repute.

“Irregular marriages in Scotland were abolished with the passing of the Marriage (Scotland) Act 1939 which introduced civil marriages with marriages only becoming legal and valid on production of a certificate proving publication of banns or a notice of intended marriage and if celebrated in an office of an authorised Registrar. Irregular marriages were unrecorded in the statutory marriage registers.” (Fleet and Other Irregular Marriages)


Other Resources: 


http://british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=45111 (Extract from ‘Old and New London: Volume 2’ (1878) by Walter Thornbury entitled The Fleet Prison)
www.bmdregisters.co.uk/help/aboutRG7.htm#whatis (Guide to the Fleet registers held at TNA in RG 7)
www.hertsfhs.org.uk/hfphs42.html (Fleet Marriages of Hertfordshire People to 1754)

Posted in British history, buildings and structures, Church of England, customs and tradiitons, Georgian England, Georgian Era, marriage, marriage customs, marriage licenses, real life tales, Scotland | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Austen and Portrait Artists of Her Time

Sir Joshua Reynolds

There are many people who have purported the idea that Austen presenting the Pemberley housekeeper the name of “Reynolds” in Pride and Prejudice is a reference to Joshua Reynolds, the most widely known artist of the late Georgian era. After all, Mrs. Reynolds leads Elizabeth and the Gardiners to the infamous portrait gallery, where Elizabeth returns again and again to Darcy’s portrait, essentially surrendering to her attraction to him and eliminating all her doubts regarding the man. There are some who also suggest that another housekeeper, Mrs. Hodges who is employed at Donwell in Emma could refer to William Hodges, a well-known painter of “exotic” lands, for he travelled with Captain James Cook on Cook’s second voyage to the Pacific Ocean. 

William Hodges

Hodges’ painting of HMS Resolution and HMS Adventure in Matavai Bay, Tahiti

However, there are more overt references to painters of the time. For example, in Northanger Abbey, Catherine Morland’s (the heroine’s) younger brother is George Morland. The painter George Morland was known for his images of rural life. Morland’s unassuming style and rural subjects match quite well with the fictionalized Catherine Morland, whose charm can be easily found in her lack of pretentiousness. 

George Morland at an easel

George Morland’s (26 June 1763 to 29 October 1804) early work was influenced by Francis Wheatley, but he came into his style during 1790s. He came by his talent naturally. His father Henry Robert Morland was an English portrait painter, best remembered for a portrait of King George III. Meanwhile, his grandfather, George Henry Morland, was a British genre painter. Morland began to draw at a very young age, some say as early as three years old. At the age of ten, his name appears as an honorary exhibitor or sketches at the Royal Academy. Later, he exhibited at the Free Society, the Society of Artists, and, again, at the Royal Academy. 

The Cottage Door








It is said that his father shut young George up in a garret to make drawings (copies of the paintings of others), etc., to sell for the family funds. It is also said young George hid some of his drawings and sold them for his own devices (usually something involving self-indulgence). His father set him to copying pictures of the Dutch and Flemish masters. He was introduced to Sir Joshua Reynolds and obtained permission to copy Reynolds’s pictures. His originality became evident in his The Angler’s Repast. His work appeared in a lively print trade; he supposedly had some 4000 paintings and drawings accredited to him. George Morland was celebrated for what was called “cottage door” style paintings, depicting sentimental homecomings. Is it ironic that the character of George Morland in Northanger Abbey is one of those who meet Catherine upon her return from her stay at Northanger Abbey. “Her father, mother, Sarah, George, and Harriet, all assembled at the door, to welcome her with affectionate eagerness.” More ironic is the fact that one William Collins wrote a biography of Morland’s life, which was said to have been full of reckless self-indulgence and dissipation. 

Remember Austen originally sold the manuscript of Northanger Abbey to Crosby & Co. Her brother Henry bought it back, and in 1816, Jane Austen added this disclaimer to it: “those parts of the work which thirteen years have made comparatively obsolete.” Unlike Persuasion, there was no revision of Northanger Abbey because Jane’s illness took her too soon. It was published as it was originally written. 

The Alehouse Door

We do know that Jane Austen was familiar with George Morland’s career (and likely his fall of shame) because her sister Cassandra did watercolors of Morland’s The Alehouse Door and The Alehouse Kitchen. Later, Cassandra did another watercolor of Morland’s Pedlars

Do you recall the scene in Northanger Abbey where the Tilneys are on Beechen Cliff. The Tilneys are describing the landscape. “They were viewing the country with the eyes of persons accustomed to drawing, and decided on its capability of being formed into pictures, with all the eagerness of real taste. Here Catherine was quite lost. She knew nothing of drawing—nothing of taste—and she listed to them with an attention which brought her little profit, for they talked in phrases which conveyed scarcely any idea to her.”

Charles Hayter

Charles Hayter is another artist of the time, whose name you might recall as belonging to one of the characters in Persuasion. Hayter, the artist, specialized in portraits of navy men and their families. Hayter (24 February 1761 to 1 December 1835) was the son of an architect and builder, who, initially, trained with his father, but soon his ability to draw images of family members sent him down a different path. He attended the Royal Academy Schools in London, entering there at age 25, much older than the average student. He made his living as a painter of portrait miniatures, creating some 113 images between 1786 and 1832. His two sons, Sir George Hayter and John Hayter, along with his daughter Anne, were all successful artists.

He taught “perspective,” of which he was considered an authority, to Princess Charlotte, King George IV’s daughterm to whom he was later appointed Professor in Perspective and Drawing. He also dedicated to her his book An Introduction to perspective, adapted to the capacities of youth, in a series of pleasing and familiar dialogues, first published in 1813 in London. He later published A New Practical Treatise on the Three Primitive Colours Assumed as a Perfect System of Rudimentary Information (London 1826), in which he described how all colours could be obtained from just three.

Portrait of an Unknown Woman and Two Children, about 1800, watercolour on ivory

Like Morland’s work, Hayter’s pieces were also available in the form of prints. We know that miniatures were excessively popular during Austen’s life time. The average size of a miniature became three inches. Hayter was especially skilled with the use of watercolors on ivory, the medium preferred by those seeking miniatures made. The small, compact portraits were quite popular with naval officers, allowing them to take an image of their loved ones to sea with them. If one recalls the tale in Persuasion, Captain Benwick had had his image done up in a miniature for Fanny Harville. He asks Captain Harville to have the portrait “properly set” for Louisa Musgrove. The need for a new setting likely indicates that the original image held an inscription meant for Harville’s sister, Fanny. That would need to be removed before it could be presented to Louisa Musgrove. Even Austen mentions “the little bit of Ivory on which I work with so fine a Brush” in one of her letters. 



Posted in British history, British Navy, Georgian England, Georgian Era, history, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, real life tales, Regency era, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Birthdays and Jane Austen


This week I marked another birthday. I am a VIRGO. Some of you know what that means. Some of you are about to learn. 

Horoscope.com tells us these Virgo Facts

  • Symbol:   The Virgin
  • Element:   Earth
  • Polarity:   Negative
  • Quality:   Mutable
  • Ruling Planet:   Mercury
  • Ruling House:   Sixth
  • Spirit Color:   Silver
  • Lucky Gem:   Peridot
  • Flower:   Sunflower & marigold
  • Top Love Matches: Cancer   
  • Key Traits:   Graceful, organized, kind
  • Motto:   “My best can always be better.

Smart, sophisticated, and kind, Virgo gets the job done without complaining. Virgos are amazing friends, always there to lend a hand and also lend advice. Practical Virgos are incredibly adept at big picture thinking, and planning out their life, their vacations, and what they’re going to do today isn’t a drag it makes them feel in control and secure.

Virgos have a rich inner life, and can sometimes seem shy at first meeting. A Virgo will not spill secrets right away, and it is important to earn a Virgo’s trust. But once you do, that Virgo will be a friend for life. 

Virgos expect perfection from themselves, and they may project those high standards on the other people in their lives. A Virgo hates when someone lets him or her down, even if the indiscretion is minor and unavoidable, like a last-minute cancellation. Virgos never want to disappoint the people in their lives, so they may spread themselves too thin and put themselves last.

Intelligent and a lifelong learner, Virgos loves trying new things, reading books, and learning about the world. They will happily sign up for an adult-education course, and they consider an afternoon in bed with a book pretty much ideal. A Virgo prefers an evening with good friends to a huge party and values downtime just as much as socializing. This sign does not need to fill their calendar to be content.

All this talk of birthdays got me thinking about the lack of birthday celebrations in Austen’s novels. It is quite disheartening to have others forget one’s birthday, but it was not so for Jane Austen and her family. We know Christmas had not the “glorious significance” as it does these days, but what of birthdays? Quite simply, as Anglicans, such humoring of a person, would have been frowned upon.

Sense-and-Sensibility-007Can you think of one person in Austen’s books who even mentions a birthday? The only one which springs to mind to me is Harriet Smith in Emma. Harriet speaks of hers and Robert Martin’s birthdays occurring within a fortnight, and those birthdays were separated only by one day.

As readers we know many of the characters’ ages. Lydia Bennet is but fifteen when we first meet her, but she is sixteen when she marries George Wickham. Marianne Dashwood is seventeen at the beginning of Sense and Sensibility and is nineteen when she marries Colonel Brandon. Fanny Price is a child when she first comes to Mansfield Park; yet, never once are her birthdays mentioned as a passing of time. Jane Fairfax is approaching one and twenty and the prospect of becoming a governess. Charlotte Lucas at seven and twenty has “become a burden to her family.” Elizabeth Elliot is nearly thirty and not married, and Anne Elliot is seven and twenty when Captain Wentworth returns to claim her. Catherine Morland turns eighteen just before Henry Tilney claims her as his wife. Even Elizabeth Bennet must have had a birthday somewhere in the year she had taken Mr. Darcy’s acquaintance. But when? There is no mention of her chronological aging, only her emotional aging. The closest we come to knowing something of Elizabeth’s age is when she admits to being twenty to Lady Catherine. But we do not know if she was nineteen when the book began and turned twenty some time between November when she dance with Mr. Darcy at the Netherfield Ball, or whether, like me, she is a September baby, turning one and twenty after she encounters Darcy again at Pemberley. Is such true for all of Austen’s characters? Austen wrote from her life experiences. If she did not “celebrate” such milestones, why would her characters? Tell me what you think. Am I being bizarre or is there some truth in this assumption?

Meanwhile, enjoy this list of September birthdays celebrated by some of our favorite Austen Actors. 

party-clip-art-balloons-different-coloursHappy September Birthday to these Fabulous Austen-Inspired Actors…


images September 1 – Aisling Loftus, who portrayed Charlotte Lucas in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies


Unknown-3henrySeptember 7 Christopher Villers, who portrayed Tom Bertram in 1983 Mansfield Park

September 7 – Henry Maguire, who portrayed Jack Wickam in 2003’s Pride and Prejudice: A Latter Day Comedy


Unknown-4Unknown-5September 9Hugh Grant, who portrayed Edward Ferrars in 1995’s Sense and Sensibility

September 9 Julia Sawalha, who portrayed Lydia Bennet in 1995’s Pride and Prejudice



Unknown-3September 10 Colin Firth, who portrayed Fitzwilliam Darcy in 1995’s Pride and Prejudice Unknown-4

September 11 – Alan Badel, who portrayed Fitzwilliam Darcy in 1958’s Pride and Prejudice (11 September 1923 to 19 March 1982)



images-2September 15 – Sabina Franklyn, who portrayed Jane Bennet in 1980’s Pride and Prejudice Unknown-5

September 16 – Alexis Bledel, who portrayed Georgiana Darcy in Bride and Prejudice



imagesUnknown-3September 19 David Bamber, who portrayed Mr. Collins in 1995’s Pride and Prejudice 

September 22 – Billie Piper, who portrayed Fanny Price in 2007’s Mansfield Park


Unknown-4September 22 – Rupert Penry Jones, who portrayed Captain Frederick Wentworth in 2007’s PersuasionUnknown-6

September 23 – Crispin Bonham Carter, who portrayed Charles Bingley in 1995’s Pride and Prejudice



2b03d4f0September 23Peter Settelen, who portrayed George Wickham
in 1980’s Pride and Prejudice 




hqdefault September 24 – Ryan Paevey, who portrayed Donovan Darcy in Unleashing Mr. Darcy


images-1 September 26Talulah Riley, who portrayed Mary Bennet in 2005’s Pride and Prejudice



2202857,tjUBdj3LNXhm0qAuo3TLB1ygUfTrZOGQXAeMS1OawmjRfXEvlZLprOD9Mx5Ha3GHNTcYybJh04GQPbBKSvfyoQ==Unknown-3September 26Edmund Gwenn, who portrayed Mr. Bennet in 1940’s Pride and Prejudice (26 September 1877 to 6 September 1959)

September 27 Gweyneth Paltrow, who portrayed Emma Woodhouse in 1996’s film version of Emma


Unknown-4September 29 – Greer Garson, who portrayed Elizabeth Bennet in 1940’s Pride and Prejudice (29 September 1904 to 6 April 1996)

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What did Jane Austen Know of Prize Money Awarded by the British Royal Navy During the Late Georgian Era?

Prize money awarded by the British Royal Navy usually came about during naval warfare, but there were other means for a man to earn “his fortune.” The capture of enemy ships or of cargoes belonging to an enemy in time of war customarily earned the men upon a ship prize money. The captured ship could be in port at the outbreak of the war or captured in international waters or other waters that were not the territorial waters of a neutral state. A Prize Court customarily adjudicated the claim for prize money, first, condemning the prize before any distribution of cash or good could be made to the captors. 

La Blanche towing La Pique, a French prize, 1795 by Robert Dodd

Contraband goods being shipped to enemy-controlled territory and used to make war was considered part of the “prize.” Occasionally, prizes were awarded for the capture of pirate ships, slave ships (after the abolition of the slave trade) and ships in breach of The Acts of Trade and Navigation (a long series of English laws that developed, promoted, and regulated English ships, shipping, trade, and commerce between other countries and with its own colonies). “Similar monetary awards include Military Salvage, the recapture of ships captured by an enemy before an enemy Prize Court has declared them to be valid prizes (after such ships have been condemned, they are treated as enemy ships), and payments termed Gun moneyHead Money or Bounty, distributed to men serving in a state warship that captured or destroyed of an armed enemy ship. The amount payable depended at first on the number of guns the enemy carried, but later on the complement of the defeated ship.

“Certain captures made by armies, called Booty of War, are distinct from naval prize because, unlike awards under naval prize legislation, the award of booty is only made for a specific capture, often the storming of a city; the award does not set a precedent for other military captures in the same war, and does not require adjudication by a prize court. When the British army and navy acted together, it was normal for instructions to say how any prizes and booty should be shared, and the shares allocated. In this case, combined naval and military force to be dealt with under naval prize law rules. Although prize law still exists, the payment of prize money to privateers ceased in practice during the second half of the 19th century and prize money for naval personnel was abolished by those maritime states that had provided it at various times in the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century.” [Prize Money]

If you wish more information on pay scale, prize money distribution, etc., you might find “An Introduction to Pay and Prize Money in Aubrey’s Royal Navy” helpful. 

Jane Austen’s naval brother Charles was assigned to command the Indian (18 guns) in January 1805. His primary role in Britain’s war efforts at that time off the North American coast was to protect trade, transport troops, and search American ships for British deserters. Those duties did not keep Charles Austen and his fellow shipmates and officers from hoping to capture an “enemy” ship to earn prize money. We know the Indian captured several privateer vessels. Some of these belonged to France’s allies. Some belonged to neutral nations. Most carried munitions, goods required by the French soldiers, or other contraband.

From 1805 – 1811, Charles Austen and his men brought claims to the Vice Admiralty courts in Halifax and Bermuda against some twelve vessels. As was custom at the time, the capturing captain of a ship could expect to receive a three-eighths share of the prize money. 

Therefore, we can expect that if her brother was in such a position, Jane Austen would have held more than just general details on the ships, goods, and the prizes involved. 

Comparing Charles Austen to Austen’s most famous sea captain, Captain Frederick Wentworth, Charles did not do as well as did the fictionalized Captain Wentworth. In reality, Charles Austen earned only about £1200 in prize money, while Wentworth accumulated some £25,000. Even so, the Austens knew of several of Charles’s associates who had earned much more than did he. 

from Chapter 8 of Jane Austen’s Persuasion

Anne suppressed a smile, and listened kindly, while Mrs Musgrove
relieved her heart a little more; and for a few minutes, therefore,
could not keep pace with the conversation of the others.

When she could let her attention take its natural course again,
she found the Miss Musgroves just fetching the Navy List
(their own navy list, the first that had ever been at Uppercross),
and sitting down together to pore over it, with the professed view
of finding out the ships that Captain Wentworth had commanded.

“Your first was the Asp, I remember; we will look for the Asp.”

“You will not find her there.  Quite worn out and broken up.
I was the last man who commanded her.  Hardly fit for service then.
Reported fit for home service for a year or two, and so I was sent off
to the West Indies.”

The girls looked all amazement.

“The Admiralty,” he continued, “entertain themselves now and then,
with sending a few hundred men to sea, in a ship not fit to be employed.
But they have a great many to provide for; and among the thousands
that may just as well go to the bottom as not, it is impossible
for them to distinguish the very set who may be least missed.”

“Phoo! phoo!” cried the Admiral, “what stuff these young fellows talk!
Never was a better sloop than the Asp in her day.  For an old built sloop,
you would not see her equal.  Lucky fellow to get her!  He knows there
must have been twenty better men than himself applying for her
at the same time.  Lucky fellow to get anything so soon,
with no more interest than his.”

“I felt my luck, Admiral, I assure you;” replied Captain Wentworth,
seriously.  “I was as well satisfied with my appointment as you can desire.
It was a great object with me at that time to be at sea;
a very great object, I wanted to be doing something.”

“To be sure you did.  What should a young fellow like you do ashore
for half a year together?  If a man had not a wife, he soon wants
to be afloat again.”

“But, Captain Wentworth,” cried Louisa, “how vexed you must have been
when you came to the Asp, to see what an old thing they had given you.”

“I knew pretty well what she was before that day;” said he, smiling.
“I had no more discoveries to make than you would have as to
the fashion and strength of any old pelisse, which you had seen
lent about among half your acquaintance ever since you could remember,
and which at last, on some very wet day, is lent to yourself.
Ah! she was a dear old Asp to me.  She did all that I wanted.
I knew she would.  I knew that we should either go to the bottom together,
or that she would be the making of me; and I never had two days
of foul weather all the time I was at sea in her; and after
taking privateers enough to be very entertaining, I had the good luck
in my passage home the next autumn, to fall in with the very French frigate
I wanted.  I brought her into Plymouth; and here another instance of luck.
We had not been six hours in the Sound, when a gale came on,
which lasted four days and nights, and which would have done for
poor old Asp in half the time; our touch with the Great Nation
not having much improved our condition.  Four-and-twenty hours later,
and I should only have been a gallant Captain Wentworth,
in a small paragraph at one corner of the newspapers; and being lost
in only a sloop, nobody would have thought about me.” Anne’s shudderings
were to herself alone; but the Miss Musgroves could be as open
as they were sincere, in their exclamations of pity and horror.

You might also wish to visit these resources for more information: 

Golden Harvest: The British Naval Prize System 1793-1815

Prize Money: Frigates, Treasure, Snobbery —and Jane Austen 

Half-Pay and Prize Money: Making a Living in Britain’s Navy

“Master and Commander’s” Prize Money

Naval Prize Manual 

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Pride and Pantiles: A Jaunt to Tunbridge Wells, a Guest Post from Corrie Garrett

This post first appeared on the Austen Authors’ blog on August 6, 2020. Enjoy! 

So, one of my favorite things about writing JAFF is researching new places for my characters to visit (new to me, that is.) I have only been to the UK once, when I was thirteen, and sadly I hadn’t yet fallen in love with Jane Austen. My older sister was doing watercolors of cottages and ecstatically pointing out literary connections to every location, and I… just didn’t quite get it. (It was before I discovered Austen and Heyer and so on.) We had a great time nonetheless–probably making every quintessential tourist mistake–but I hope to go back with more appreciation someday and make all those mistakes for myself!

The Pantiles, Royal Tunbridge Wells

Anyway, recently I was kicking off a story from Rosings Park during Lizzy’s stay with Charlotte, and I began to examine Kent for options. The whole area is full of connections to Jane Austen and to her stories, but one town that doesn’t appear much in the literature is Tunbridge Wells. Jane Austen’s brother Henry, her sometimes editor and frequent promoter, was buried there. The town is glancingly mentioned in Northanger Abbey, but only for vain Miss Thorpe to compare its balls to Bath’s. So, while I’d read a lot about Jane’s life in Tonbridge, here was a charming little town nearby ready to host some beloved characters.

Tunbridge Wells would be getting just a bit fusty by the Regency period. The seaside resorts were more popular, but Lady Catherine, in my opinion, is just the sort of person to appreciate the faded glory of Tunbridge Wells. Its prime was back in the mid-1700s when Beau Nash, by then a well-known older man, took over with the same ruthless but effective management he’d brought to Bath years before. Lady Catherine’s father could very well have been a contemporary of Nash, on the younger side, and I suspect that what her father admired she considered quality for the rest of her life.

Furthermore, Anne de Bourgh was never in good health, and where better to let Anne “take the waters” than Tunbridge Wells? A mere 16 or 17 miles from Rosings Park (which was “near Westerham”), high class, and probably full of Lady Catherine’s contemporaries. And when better to go than when she might reasonably demand Darcy’s escort to the spa town?

And now I had a wonderful location for my story. For walks along the Pantiles, a columned, Georgian walk still popular today, where an old friend might ignorantly conclude that the pretty girl on Darcy’s arm was the reclusive cousin he was finally marrying. The perfect town for lounges where the gentry sipped cool, iron-rich water in the morning and Georgiana might meet a portraitist making the rounds of society after making a hit at Somerset House. The perfect town for rides to nearby ruins, where Lizzy might have a moment alone to clarify a few things with Darcy.

I also allowed Darcy to know Sir John Shelley-Sydney (Percy Byshe Shelley’s uncle) who was restoring an historic estate called Penshurst only about six miles away. A chance for Darcy to see Lizzy treated the same way he treated her sisters and to feel all the feelings we want him to have!

In short, I love allowing the settings to organically influence what these great characters might do. One tidbit which caught me off guard was that the original pantiles—the square clay tiles baked in a pan—were mostly replaced by plain flagstones in 1792! Alas for my pantiles. Not all research makes it into the story of course, but I decided that was a bit of lost romanticism that Lizzy would notice.

Excerpt from A Lively Companion

Queen Anne, and William, Duke of Gloucester. When he slipped on the slippery wet clay of the Upper Walk, she donated 100 pounds for it to be paved.

“I’ve heard of the Pantiles of Tunbridge,” Lizzy said, wanting to set the conversation firmly on neutral ground, “but I wasn’t sure this morning which tiles I should be admiring. I’m afraid all the paving stones look like plain rock to me.”

“The pantiles were almost all replaced,” Mr. Darcy explained, “about ten years ago. Perhaps fifteen. But there are still a few about. I’ll try to find a few to point out to you.”

“Please do! I know the story about Queen Anne, of course, paying for it to be paved after her son tripped and fell, but I need to see a few so that I can make the story at least partly about myself when I repeat it in Hertfordshire. That is the fun of sight-seeing, is it not?”

If you’d like a longer trip to Tunbridge Wells, check out my first Austen Ensemble novel, A Lively Companion. And let me know in the comments if you’ve ever been there!

Check out A Lively Companion (An Austen Ensemble, Book 1)  by Corrie Garrett

A Pride and Prejudice Variation

Lizzy Bennet is more insulted than flattered when Lady Catherine asks her to be a temporary companion to Miss de Bourgh. Yes, a visit to Tunbridge Wells would be an interesting diversion, but at what cost?

When her father unexpectedly supports the plan, wanting Lizzy to gain a wider acquaintance and knowing it won’t get easier than this, Lizzy reluctantly submits. Thus begins a springtime trip of misunderstandings, revelations, and unexpected proposals.

When Mr. Darcy realizes Lizzy is not going home as planned, he feels foolish for nearly proposing due to an arbitrary deadline. Determined to make up his mind one way or another, he accompanies the party to the Wells.

While Miss de Bourgh takes the famed waters, Lizzy stumbles feet first into a friendship with Darcy’s sister and cousins. Indeed, she enjoys nearly all Darcy’s friends and family. She almost likes him, when he’s around them.

But that only makes it more painful when she must resolutely reject the proud head of the family…

A Lively Companion is a traditional variation on Pride and Prejudice, celebrating the humor, poignancy, and surprising inconsistency of life.

Posted in Austen Authors, book excerpts, British history, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Guest Post, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, real life tales, Regency era, Vagary | 2 Comments

Frances “Fanny” Austen and the Character of Mrs. Croft in Jane Austen’s “Persuasion”

Before discussing Fanny Austen, we must, first, establish the lady’s relationship to the author Jane Austen by mentioning the lady’s husband, Rear Admiral Charles John Austen (23 June 1778 – 7 October 1852), who was the sixth and youngest son of the Reverend George Austen. Like his elder brother, Sir Francis Austen, Charles joined the Royal Navy Academy, eventually becoming a midshipman on HMS Daedalus and served throughout the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, and beyond, achieving the rank of Rear Admiral.  

Austen married Frances Palmer, the subject of this piece, in 1807. She was the youngest daughter of the late Attorney-General of Bermuda. Together, they had three children. [Please note: After the death of Frances in 1814, Charles married his late wife’s sister, Harriet Palmer in 1820, which was, at that time contrary to the law of the land and considered a Voidable Marriage. Charles and Harriet had 4 children. One of his sons by Harriet followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the British Royal Navy.]

Yet, this piece is designed to use Fanny Austen as the model for Mrs. Croft in Jane Austen’s novel, Persuasion. Do you recall this scene? 

“Oh! Frederick! But I cannot believe it of you. –All idle refinement! –Women may be as comfortable on board, as in the best house in England. I believe I have lived as much on board as most women, and I know nothing superior to the accommodations of a man-of-war. I declare I have not a comfort or an indulgence about me, even at Kellynch Hall,” (with a kind bow to Anne), “beyond what I always had in most of the ships I have lived in; and they have been five altogether.”

“Nothing to the purpose,” replied her brother. “You were living with your husband, and were the only woman on board.”

“But you, yourself, brought Mrs Harville, her sister, her cousin, and three children, round from Portsmouth to Plymouth. Where was this superfine, extraordinary sort of gallantry of yours then?”

“All merged in my friendship, Sophia. I would assist any brother officer’s wife that I could, and I would bring anything of Harville’s from the world’s end, if he wanted it. But do not imagine that I did not feel it an evil in itself.”

“Depend upon it, they were all perfectly comfortable.”

“I might not like them the better for that perhaps. Such a number of women and children have no right to be comfortable on board.”

“My dear Frederick, you are talking quite idly. Pray, what would become of us poor sailors’ wives, who often want to be conveyed to one port or another, after our husbands, if everybody had your feelings?”

“My feelings, you see, did not prevent my taking Mrs Harville and all her family to Plymouth.”

“But I hate to hear you talking so like a fine gentleman, and as if women were all fine ladies, instead of rational creatures. We none of us expect to be in smooth water all our days.”

“Ah! my dear,” said the Admiral, “when he had got a wife, he will sing a different tune. When he is married, if we have the good luck to live to another war, we shall see him do as you and I, and a great many others, have done. We shall have him very thankful to anybody that will bring him his wife.”

“Ay, that we shall.”

“Now I have done,” cried Captain Wentworth. “When once married people begin to attack me with,–`Oh! you will think very differently, when you are married.’ I can only say, `No, I shall not;’ and then they say again, `Yes, you will,’ and there is an end of it.”

He got up and moved away.

“What a great traveller you must have been, ma’am!” said Mrs Musgrove to Mrs Croft.

“Pretty well, ma’am in the fifteen years of my marriage; though many women have done more. I have crossed the Atlantic four times, and have been once to the East Indies, and back again, and only once; besides being in different places about home: Cork, and Lisbon, and Gibraltar. But I never went beyond the Streights, and never was in the West Indies. We do not call Bermuda or Bahama, you know, the West Indies.”

Mrs Musgrove had not a word to say in dissent; she could not accuse herself of having ever called them anything in the whole course of her life.

“And I do assure you, ma’am,” pursued Mrs Croft, “that nothing can exceed the accommodations of a man-of-war; I speak, you know, of the higher rates. When you come to a frigate, of course, you are more confined; though any reasonable woman may be perfectly happy in one of them; and I can safely say, that the happiest part of my life has been spent on board a ship. While we were together, you know, there was nothing to be feared. Thank God! I have always been blessed with excellent health, and no climate disagrees with me. A little disordered always the first twenty-four hours of going to sea, but never knew what sickness was afterwards. The only time I ever really suffered in body or mind, the only time that I ever fancied myself unwell, or had any ideas of danger, was the winter that I passed by myself at Deal, when the Admiral (Captain Croft then) was in the North Seas. I lived in perpetual fright at that time, and had all manner of imaginary complaints from not knowing what to do with myself, or when I should hear from him next; but as long as we could be together, nothing ever ailed me, and I never met with the smallest inconvenience.”

From Austen’s letters, as well as others in her family such as Caroline Austen (Fanny’s niece) and Fanny Knight who wrote in her diary in May 1807, “Uncle Charles and the lovely Fanny Palmer are married at Bermuda.” (Deidre Le Faye’s Chronology of Jane Austen and Her Family, page 339)

Charles Austen first met Frances Fitzwilliam Palmer when Fanny was but 15. Charles was twelve years her senior. They, however, reportedly fell deeply in love. Eventually, they were married in St. Peter’s Church, Bermuda on 19 May 1807. She was 17, at the time.

His land base during their early years of marriage was St. George’s, Bermuda, where Fanny tended to their daughters, Cassandra Esten (born in December 1808) and Harried Jane (who arrived in February 1810). We know something of her life with Charles in the letters she wrote to family during their years together. From those letters we know that Fanny looked up to her husband with much admiration. We know they appeared to be a happily married couple, who enjoyed each other’s company. They had an active social life together in Halifax, as his promotion to post captain and the command of the Swiftsure, the flagship of his commander-in-chief, Admiral Sir John Borlase Warren, placed him thusly.

As to the character of Mrs. Croft, like Fanny, Mrs. Croft was noticeably content in sharing her husband’s lifestyle. Mrs. Croft and the Admiral were a “particularly attached and happy” pairing. Austen allows the reader to view their relationship in some detail. For example, when the Crofts are out driving in a gig, we read: “But by coolly giving the reins a better direction herself, they happily passed the danger; and by once afterwards judiciously putting out her hand, they neither fell into a rut, nor ran foul of a dung-cart; and Anne, with some amusement at their style of driving, which she imagined no bad representation of the general guidance of their affairs, found herself safely deposited by them at the cottage.” Mrs. Croft does not criticize her husband, she simply assists him where needed.

As did Mrs. Croft when she said: The only time I ever really suffered in body or mind, the only time that I ever fancied myself unwell, or had any ideas of danger, was the winter that I passed by myself at Deal, when the Admiral (Captain Croft then) was in the North Seas. I lived in perpetual fright at that time, and had all manner of imaginary complaints from not knowing what to do with myself, or when I should hear from him next…, Fanny Austen wrote of her anguish when Captain Austen delivered troops close to the battle ground in Portugal during the Peninsular War. She wrote (summer 1810): “Captain Austen’s sudden departure, and the uncertainty of his returning…if he is not here by the middle of September, I shall give him up.” 

Later, in late 1813, Fanny wrote to her brother-in-law, James Christie Esten, who resided in Bermuda, at the time. “Charles is very anxious to be in active serve just now…should he be fortunate enough to get a frigate before the American War is over, he will certainly endeavor to go out to that station and has promised I shall accompany him.” 

We know that Fanny made several journeys with her husband, especially between Bermuda and Halifax on a variety of ships. She also made a transatlantic voyage back to England in June 1811. As noted above, Mrs. Croft lived on five of her husband’s ships and crossed the Atlantic four times. Also above, one must note how Mrs. Croft tells Mrs. Musgrove, “[W]e do not call Bermuda or Bahama, you know, the West Indies.” One can easily assume Jane Austen learned something of Bermuda from Frances Austen, her sister-in-law. 

Others have dared to compare Fanny Austen to the ill-fated Fanny Harville, also in Persuasion. If one recalls, Captain Benwick, Captain Wentworth’s lieutenant when they were sailing on the Laconia, had been engaged to Captain Harivlle’s sister, Fanny. Benwick was attempting to win enough prize money so they might marry. Unfortunately, Fanny Harville dies while Benwick is away at sea. He goes into a deep depression. Ironically, Fanny Austen died early also (at age 24) from complications of child birth, Charles Austen’s short-lived daughter, Elizabeth. This event happened in September 1814, before Jane wrote Persuasion. Many wonder if Charles Austen grief was recorded in the character of Captain Benwick. 





Posted in America, American History, British history, British Navy, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, Persuasion, real life tales | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Surprising Pre-Regency Era Inventions, a Guest Post from Sharon Lathan

This post originally appeared on the Austen Authors’ blog on 14 April 2020. Enjoy! 

As all historical novelists are aware, even though writing fiction with “creative license” as an important aspect of the story telling, we must be careful with facts. This begins with diligently researching the historical period in which our stories are set, but also researching all the previous eras. Accuracy in history is critical, not just for our own sense of precision and pride in writing a quality novel, but because there will always be at least one person who will gleefully point out an error! When it comes to language, the historical timeline of when a word or phrase originated and then came into common usage is often a bit gray. This can give authors some latitude if desiring to use a catchy phrase or specific word that best fits the scene or will be easily understood by modern readers. Essentially, I believe readers for the most part will be forgiving for a not-quite-period-correct word as long as the story is awesome and the inaccuracies rare. Truth is, most people are not that aware of etymology so will probably never know if a word origin is ten, twenty, or even fifty years off the mark.

The same cannot be said for things, the generalized category covering a whole host of topics from locations, buildings, clothing, and objects. Authors joke of the obvious tossing in a cellphone or some other blatantly 21st century device as a clear boo-boo, but the jest is typically made in reference to the difficulty in ensuring every last teeny item is historically accurate. Luckily, for those of us who write historical fiction, it is fairly easy to pinpoint when something was invented and the research is super fun! The trick is to not take anything for granted, as it is easy to do when the muse hits and we are writing like crazy. Always double check because inventions can be quite surprising.

Here are just a few of the now commonplace inventions that were occurred before or around the Regency period, and therefore might have been seen around Pemberley.

TYPEWRITER: There were several very early prototypes of incremental designs by numerous inventors of machines that would impress letters onto paper. The first patent was obtained in Britain by Henry Mill in 1714 for a “Machine for Transcribing Letters.” Very little is known of Hill’s machine as it was never fully developed or mass produced, but according to the patent it was:

“…an artificial machine or method for impressing or transcribing of letters, one after another, as in writing, whereby all writing whatsoever may be engrossed in paper or parchment so neat and exact as not to be distinguished from print.”

Multiple variations were invented, some also patented, over the subsequent decades, including an 1808 version by Pellegrino Turri who also invented carbon paper for the machine’s ink source. It is unknown how widely distributed were any of these very early typing machines before American William Austin Burt patented his “Typographer” in 1829, the noted first “typewriter” in invention timelines. True commercial production of typewriters did not occur until 1870, but considering the wealth of printing or typing machines patented and created in Europe and America during the intervening forty-some years, could one have sat on Mr. Darcy’s desk at Pemberley?


John Spilsbury’s “Europe divided into its kingdoms, etc.” (1766) *click for full view

JIGSAW PUZZLE: To be fair, as the “jigsaw” cutting tool was not invented until 1880, the term itself would be historically inaccurate. However, tiling puzzles requiring the assembly of interlocking, oddly shaped pieces to form a complete picture date to 1760. The creation of engraver and cartographer John Spilsbury of London using a marquetry saw to cut the pieces, original “dissection puzzles” were teaching tools. Spilsbury mounted paper maps onto hardwood boards, the cuts along the boundary lines to then be reassembled as the children learned geography. The example to the right is from 1766, the “dissected maps” so popular they were used to teach the royal children of King George III, including the future Prince Regent.


HOT AIR BALLOON:  Invented by the French brothers Josef and Etienne Montgolfier in 1783.

MICROSCOPE:  Another complicated evolution of inventions dating back to the 13th century, but perfected as we envision the modern microscope (more or less) in 1590 by Zacharis Janssen in the Netherlands.

SUBMARINE:  There were multiple variations of submerged vessels dating back as far as Alexander the Great studying fish! Credit for the first propelled submarine with the ability to submerge and rise, and specifically invented to be an attack vessel, goes to American David Bushnell in 1776 for use in the War for Independence. Bushnell’s submarine, named Turtle, failed in its attack, but was instrumental in the future of submarine technology as we know it.

MERCURY THERMOMETER:  In 1714 Dutch scientist and inventor Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit invented the first reliable thermometer to use mercury instead of alcohol and water mixtures. In 1724 he created the temperature scale which now bears his name and is the standard (Celsius came along over 20 years later). These thermometers were large and not used for medical purposes. The first physician that put thermometer measurements to clinical practice was Herman Boerhaave (1668–1738), the device perfected and made smaller over the subsequent decades.

SEWING MACHINE:  A German-born inventor living in England named Charles Fredrick Wiesenthal obtained the first patent for a mechanical device consisting of a double pointed needle with an eye at each end to aid sewing. This was in 1755, and it is unknown what became of his invention or what it actually looked like. The idea was clearly out there, however, and in 1790 English inventor Thomas Saint is credited with the first working model. Unfortunately, Saint did not advertise or market his patented invention, and for nearly eighty years his design remained unknown. More on Saint’s sewing machine in a bit.

William Newton Wilson’s copy of Saint’s sewing machine.

Sewing machines were built, patented, and created for use by several inventors during the latter decade of the 18th century and first decade of the 19th century. Many working sewing machines were in use by professionals before French tailor Barthélemy Thimonnier invented the first practical sewing machine to be patented in 1830 and receive wide distribution. Additional advances in technology led to more efficient machines, the leaders in the industry being Elias Howe in 1845 and Isaac Merritt Singer in 1851.

As for Saint’s invention, in 1874 sewing machine manufacturer William Newton Wilson stumbled across Saint’s precise drawings and descriptions languishing in the UK Patent Office. The surprisingly advanced concepts of Saint’s sewing machine, as manufactured by Wilson, needed only a few adjustments to be a working machine of excellent quality. The image to the right is Wilson’s copy of Saint’s sewing machine, the device on display in the Science Museum of London.

BABY CARRIAGE/PERAMBULATOR:  The baby carriage was invented in 1733 by English architect William Kent, specifically for the 3rd Duke of Devonshire’s children. A shell-shaped basket for the child to sit inside was mounted atop a small, low-to-the-ground wheeled carriage designed to be pulled by a goat, dog, or pony. Later designs added handles for an adult human to push or pull the carriage, and the baskets/seats varied widely in shape, size, and direction the child faced. Numerous patents were granted as the baby carriage gained popularity, its zenith in the Victorian Era but definitely a common infant article for a long time prior. Called dozens of names, including buggy, stroller, pushchairs, and perambulator (or pram for short).

TIN CAN:  British merchant Peter Durand made an impact on food preservation with his 1810 patenting of the tin can. In 1813, John Hall and Bryan Dorkin opened the first commercial canning factory in England. These early tin cans were so thick they needed to be opened by pounding with a sharp knife and hammer! Clearly a problem to solve, Ezra Warner of Waterbury, Connecticut patented the first can opener in 1858, just in time for the U.S. military to use it during the Civil War.

BATTERY:  The first electric battery was invented in 1800 by Italian physicist Alessandro Volta. It consisted of copper and zinc plates stacked on top of each other and separated by paper disks soaked in brine. While Volta thought that his invention had inexhaustible energy, it actually could not provide energy for sustainable periods of time. Thirty-six years later, British chemist John Frederic Daniel improved the battery for practical use, although it still utilized liquid electrolytes and could be dangerous if handled incorrectly. The dry cell battery was not perfected until the end of the 19th century.

Henshall corkscrew

CORKSCREW:  It is unclear who actually invented the first corkscrew to open bottles and jugs of corked beer, wine, etc. In the 1676 publication Treatise on Cider by John Worlidge, there is a reference to a device with a “steel worm used for the drawing of Corks out of Bottles” but there are no drawings or surviving examples.

What is certain is that Reverend Samuell Henshall of England was the first to obtain a patent for the simple tool, in 1795. The clergyman’s design included a simple disk, now known as the Henshall Button, affixed between the steel worm and the shank. The disk prevents the worm from going too deep into the cork, forces the cork to turn with the turning of the crosspiece, and thus breaks the adhesion between the cork and the neck of the bottle. The added brush to the handle was for dusting off the cork top.

I could go on and on, but must leave some items for a later blog, right? I hope y’all enjoyed this informative post. Of course, those who have read my Darcy Saga sequel series to Pride and Prejudice know that my Fitzwilliam Darcy is fascinated by inventions and unusual devices. In fact, some of the above objects have shown up in my novels! I can easily imagine Elizabeth being given a sewing machine by her loving husband, can’t you? Comments are always welcome!

*click for Amazon


Posted in Austen Authors, commerce, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Guest Post, history, inventions, world history | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

The First Labor Day Celebration

New York City saw the celebration of the first Labor Day on 5 September 1882. The celebration marking the event was designed by the Central Labor Union. 

dolhistory-Father-Labor-Day.jpg  According to the Department of Labor, “While most sources, even the Department of Labor, credit Peter McGuire with the origination of Labor Day, recent evidence suggests that the true father of Labor Day may in fact be another famous union leader of the 19th Century, Matthew Maguire.

“According to legend, Peter McGuire stood before the New York Central Labor Union on May 12, 1882, to suggest the idea of setting aside one day a year to honor labor. McGuire believed that Labor Day should “be celebrated by a street parade which would publicly show the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations.”

“Peter McGuire was a young, though well-respected, union leader. A child of immigrants, he quit school at an early age to go to work. In 1881, he founded the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, which would become the largest trade union of the time. Later, McGuire would join with his friend, Samuel Gompers, to found the American Federation of Labor (AFL). Through the AFL and the Carpenters, McGuire led the great strikes of 1886 and 1890, which would eventually result in the adoption of the eight-hour workday on the nation’s agenda.

“Recently, however, evidence uncovered at the New Jersey Historical Society in Newark reveals that another respected union figure of the day, Matthew Maguire, may quite possibly be the man behind the creation of Labor Day.

“In the 1870s, Matthew Maguire led several strikes, most of which were intended to force the plight of manufacturing workers and their long hours into the public consciousness. By 1882, Maguire had become the secretary of and a leading figure in the Central Labor Union of New York.

“According to the New Jersey Historical Society, after President Cleveland signed into law the creation of a national Labor Day, The Paterson (N.J.) Morning Call published an opinion piece entitled, ‘Honor to Whom Honor is Due,’ which stated that ‘the souvenir pen should go to Alderman Matthew Maguire of this city, who is the undisputed author of Labor Day as a holiday.’ This editorial also referred to Maguire as the ‘Father of the Labor Day holiday.’

“So why has Matthew Maguire been overlooked as the ‘Father of Labor Day’? According to The First Labor Day Parade, by Ted Watts, Maguire held some political beliefs that were considered fairly radical for the day and also for Samuel Gompers and his American Federation of Labor. Allegedly, Gompers did not want Labor Day to become associated with the sort of “radical” politics of Matthew Maguire, so in a 1897 interview, Gompers’ close friend Peter J. McGuire was assigned the credit for the origination of Labor Day.”

So, what happened on that first Labor Day? In reality, a bit of mayhem occurred. 

AFL_certificate_1919_wiki_db_small.jpg Spectators for the event had arrived early to claim a spot to view the parade that was to pass near City Hall in Manhattan, along Broadway. A newspaper account of the day described “…men on horseback, men wearing regalia, men with society aprons, and men with flags, musical instruments, badges, and all the other paraphernalia of a procession.”

Worrying over what COULD occur, police were out in full force on horseback and on foot. They were in place to “control the crowd” by 9 A.M.

William McCabe served as the Grand Marshall for the parade, but when time came for them to step off, there were only a few marchers in place, and none of them had brought an instrument or music to play. Some even suggested that McCabe abandon his post, but he refused. Fortunately, Matthew Maguire of New York’s Central Labor Union hustled over to McCabe to inform the man that 200 marchers from Newark, New Jersey’s Jewelers Union were crossing over to Manhattan on the ferry, and thankfully, they had brought a band with them. 

Although McCabe and his aides and the police escort were a bit late stepping off, shortly after 10 A.M. the jewelers and their band turned onto lower Broadway. They played a tune from a popular Gilbert and Sullivan opera: “When I First Put This Uniform On.” The song seemed quite appropriate for the occasion. As the jewelers smartly marched past, McCabe and his aides followed. The police escort formed a line supposedly to keep the spectators back, but soon spectators were slipping through the police line and joining the marchers. Before long, there were 700 men in line in the first of three divisions of Labor Day marchers. Final reports of the total number of marchers ranged from 10,000 to 20,000 men and women.

The New York Tribune reported that, “The windows and roofs and even the lamp posts and awning frames were occupied by persons anxious to get a good view of the first parade in New York of workingmen of all trades united in one organization.”

The crowd arrived at Reservoir Park at noon. Here the parade was to end, but not necessarily the celebration, which was moved to Elm Park at 92nd Street and Ninth Avenue. The post-parade celebration included speeches, a picnic, and beer kegs galore. Nearly 25,000 union members and their families celebrated some eight hours, until around 9 P.M.

The second Labor Day was celebrated on 5 September 1883, but beginning in 1884, the first Monday in September became the official holiday. “The Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a “workingmen’s holiday” on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.” (United States Department of Labor)

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Educating England: The Importance of Sunday Schools, a Guest Post from Elaine Owen

This post first appeared on the Austen Authors’ blog on July 30, 2020. Enjoy!

In England during the 18th and 19th centuries there was no such thing as universal education for children. The government had no formal program for making sure the next generation knew how to read and write and perform basic math. Rather, it was up to every family to see that their children were properly educated and ready to take on the responsibilities of adulthood, starting with being able to read, write, and perform basic math.

Wealthy parents had no problems doing this; they could hire governesses and tutors and, eventually, send their sons off to university to finish their education. Middle class families might also hire tutors, or else they could send children to a private school, where the cost of the education was shared among many families. But poor families often lacked any way to educate their children at all. Children who never learned to read or write became adults who could not get good jobs, and so the cycle of illiteracy and poverty repeated itself from one generation to the next.


The gap between the educated and the illiterate became more pronounced with the arrival of the industrial revolution. Poor families from rural England flocked to cities to find work, and they usually found it in the new factories that were springing up all over the country. These factories typically operated Monday through Saturday and the workers in them, including children, often worked twelve or fourteen hour days. This mean that while the children of middle and upper class families had leisure time to spend on education, children who worked in factories did not. So as the industrial revolution progressed, the number of uneducated children grew along with it.

There was one man in England who saw the problem and had the means and determination to try to solve it. His name was Robert Raikes and he realized that on Sundays, the one day that the factory employees had no work, the children who worked in those factories had no structure or purpose to their day. While their parents attended church services the children were idle and often creating mischief in the town. He also knew that unless these children learned how to read and write, the poverty afflicting their families would continue indefinitely.

So Raikes solicited donations from wealthy families and used the money to start something we still have today: Sunday schools. But these were not schools solely for teaching religion. They did much more than that.

Children arrived at the school in the late morning, practiced reading and writing, had a short break and then worked on their catechism. Sometimes they also ate a meal at the school, had a lesson on hygiene, or received shoes and clothing that had been donated for them. Then it was time for more instruction before they left in the late afternoon. As time went by the Sunday schools offered more and more services to the people who needed them most. The schools became a hub of support for people who might never have received assistance otherwise.

How did children get into one of these schools? Students of all ages and both genders were welcome but there had to be some way of screening for the students most likely to benefit from the instruction. Often the wealthy patrons of the school recommended a student they thought would be a good fit. Poor parents also applied for their children to be admitted, and on occasion the children themselves applied directly. Everyone could see the value in knowing how to read and write, especially families whose members had never had a chance to learn before.

What Raikes did was not new, or even especially innovative. Other people had opened Sunday schools in both England and America in previous eras, but those schools had never developed into a widespread movement. Raikes had the advantage of operating during an age of tremendous social reform, and his ideas caught on quickly. He was also persistent, and thanks to his determination more schools, based on his principles, formed quickly. Within a generation Sunday school was almost a universal experience for working families. Nearly every family that could not afford a private education for their children sent their children to be educated through this system, even if the parents themselves never set foot in church. Without a doubt the education and other services provided through Sunday schools helped to break the cycle of poverty for thousands of families. At the time of Raikes’ death in 1811 half a million children across England were enrolled in Sunday school. It is considered one of the greatest reform movements of the industrial revolution.

The Sunday school movement took a new turn in 1850, when the English government mandated free education for all children at the expense of the public. After that the Sunday schools reduced or stopped their academic instruction and instead focused on religious topics. But they still provided social services and character training to students. Eventually they morphed into the Sunday schools we think of today.

Did Jane Austen have any connection to Sunday schools? Did she ever attend one?

Well, no. As a daughter in a middle class family she was privately educated. But she was definitely aware of Sunday schools. Her family had a strong interest in charitable work and iin literacy, and a charity that promoted education would have been near and dear to their heart. Moreover each Sunday school was overseen by the local Anglican church, so Jane’s father, being an Anglican minister, would have been responsible for hiring teachers and helping select the curriculum for the Sunday school in his parish. He may also have recommended students to attend the school. Perhaps even helped solicit donations for it.

To me it is fascinating to see that ideas we think of as new and original today actually had their start in a much earlier time. Sunday schools have changed but In many ways modern day community centers, Boy’s and Girl’s Clubs, and other youth programs help carry out their original mission. It is also a testament to what can be accomplished by ordinary people who see a problem and decide to try to fix it. In a day when problems seem to abound on every side, perhaps we too can come together to help those who need it the most and make a profound difference in the lives of those around us.

For further reading:




Posted in Austen Authors, British history, Church of England, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Guest Post, Industrial Revolution, Living in the UK, real life tales, religion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Reporting Scandals in the Regency Era

Of late, I have read several Regency era romances that speak of the most recent scandal being published in the newsprints of the day. One even made reference to an entire newspaper that was devoted to the latest on dit.

Okay, I do not pretend to be an expert. Journalism was one of my minors in school, and during my long teaching career, I was often called upon to teach the journalism classes. I do not recall ever reading of scandal sheets during the time period we call “the Regency era.” As we moved into the latter part of the Georgian era, meaning relatively, the reign of George IV, there were more “titillating” stories found in the news prints. I have been privileged to read digital copies of the Times, the Morning Post, and the Morning Chronicle during the Regency era. There was the occasional mention of so-and-so that might be considered as gossip, but nothing of the line of what I have come to see of late in a few of the newer Regency romances.

I did once come across an earlier copy of The Morning Post, cannot recall the date for it, but around 1800 that had a column some might consider to be a “gossip column,” but, in truth, I did not have that feeling when I first read it. 

The Morning Chronicle possessed a column about the doings of the royals and the fashionable sect. Mainly, it spoke of  who had arrived in Town and who had left, along with whom was entertaining with a dinner or a ball, etc. The Morning Herald supposedly was an early form of a “scandal sheet,” but I have never viewed a copy of that particular newspaper to determine if it were so or not.

 One source of written gossip was the detailed prints of the Criminal Conversation cases (Crim.con), meaning adultery, and the Parliamentary divorces that were reported along with other legal  news. However, I know of no true tabloid written during the time period. To the best of my knowledge, these stories of the public break up of a marriage and the naming of those involved were printed as pamphlets, but snippets of the tale were, upon occasion, included in the newspapers of the day. I suppose the importance of the persons involved played a role in that decision.

Caricatures were often displayed in print shop windows rather than printed, initially, in the newspapers. 

One must remember that there were hundreds of known newspapers, and, so, absolutes were impossible.  

There were scandals sheet in the earlier part of the 1700s; therefore, some may transfer those ideas to the Regency era. Those in London during the first part of the 18th Century would visit their favorite coffee house to read periodicals full of the latest scandals.

Zoe Archer at Unusual Historicals tells us: “Newspapers were a relatively recent phenomenon, and expensive. Not many could afford to have them delivered to their homes. To catch up on the latest gossip, men went to public coffee houses and gaming clubs, and women visited India Houses (tea shops with a considerable amount [number of] female customers), and there, over revivifying beverages, they could chat with friends and read about the scandalous events amongst London’s elite.

“Just like today, when we have a huge range of tabloids to choose from, the Londoner in search of scandal had a range of rags and broadsheets, including The Tatler [sic], The Flying PostThe British ApolloThe Observator, and The Female Tatler. Some were published for years. Others folded within weeks or months. The periodicals were themselves the subject of scandal, such as The Female Tatler, whose authorship by ‘Mrs. Crackenthorpe’ was debated, and, for a time, there were two Female Tatlers, each claiming to be real.”

We must not assume that the early 1800s were identical to the early 1700s. Anyone with a sense of the differences in the novels of the time can determine that the morals and the way they saw themselves in the world changed. The late 17th, early 18th century (1689–1750) in English literature is known as the Augustan Age. Writers at this time “greatly admired their Roman counterparts, imitated their works and frequently drew parallels between” contemporary world and the age of the Roman emperor Augustus (27 AD – BC 14). The Union of the Parliaments of Scotland and England in 1707 to form a single Kingdom of Great Britain and the creation of a joint state by the Acts of Union had little impact on the literature of England nor on national consciousness among English writers. The situation in Scotland was different: the desire to maintain a cultural identity while partaking of the advantages offered by the English literary market and English literary standard language led to what has been described as the “invention of British literature” by Scottish writers. English writers, if they considered Britain at all, tended to assume it was merely England writ large; Scottish writers were more clearly aware of the new state as a “cultural amalgam comprising more than just England”. [Crawford, Robert (1992). Devolving English Literature. Oxford: Clarendon Press.]

Meanwhile, the Regency was influenced by the birth of Romanticism. We know Jane Austen, the most prominent author of the period, was highly influenced by the novels she read as a young woman. The sentimental novel or the novel of sensibility is a genre which developed during the second half of the 18th century. Novels of manners were also developed in this time period. An interest in ancient English poetic forms and folk poetry blossomed.

Wikipedia and the Norton Anthology of English Literature tells us: “Romanticism was an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century. Various dates are given for the Romantic period in British literature, but here the publishing of Lyrical Ballads in 1798 is taken as the beginning, and the crowning of Queen Victoria in 1837 as its end, even though, for example, William Wordsworth lived until 1850 and William Blake published before 1798. The writers of this period, however, ‘did not think of themselves as ‘Romantics’, and the term was first used by critics of the Victorian period.

“The Romantic period was one of major social change in England, because of the depopulation of the countryside and the rapid development of overcrowded industrial cities, that took place in the period roughly between 1785 and 1830. The movement of so many people in England was the result of two forces: the Agricultural Revolution, that involved the enclosure of the land, drove workers off the land, and the Industrial Revolution which provided them employment ‘in the factories and mills, operated by machines driven by steam-power’. Indeed, Romanticism may be seen in part as a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, though it was also a revolt against aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment, as well a reaction against the scientific rationalisation of nature. The French Revolution was an especially important influence on the political thinking of many of the Romantic poets.”

What I am saying about the Regency was the overall idea of “politeness” would keep a true scandal sheet from appearing. It was not the fact that the beau monde did not love repeating a scandal, but, rather, they preferred to “whisper” it than to “shout about” it. 

Entire newspapers devoted to gossip during the Regency period? From my reading of Roger Wilkes’ SCANDAL: A SCURRILOUS HISTORY OF GOSSIP, it seems newspapers focused only on reporting gossip and scandal did not begin to appear until the 1820s. The term “scandal sheet” did not come into the language until the 1890s. Pamphlets, yes. Columns in newspapers, yes. Broadsheets, yes, But entire newspapers, no.

Book Blurb: Newspaper and magazine gossip is a potent and sulphurous brew – much derided and much devoured – that long ago became part of the daily diet of millions. The raw ingredients are scandal, rumour, glamour and scurrility, and the best is shot through with (preferably illicit) sex, disclosure and danger. How and why has this happened, and where will this obsession lead us? “Scandal!” takes us from Regency London, where muck-raking scandal sheets were hawked in the streets, to the modern free-for-all where tabloid and internet gossip rule. From the madness of King George to the madness of Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica, this book goes behind the scenes to look at the mechanisms that disseminate gossip and the power and influence that it continues to exert.


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