Felt But Unseen in Pride and Prejudice, a Guest Post from Lelia Eye

This post originally appeared on the Austen Authors’ blog on 30 June 2022. I hope you find it as interesting as I did. Enjoy!

I thought I would touch upon five characters that each have a presence which is felt despite the fact that they are deceased. In novels, we often get caught up in the living characters who speak and act, but in Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen created such depth in her novel that there are numerous characters who have a presence despite their absence! Some of them are more in a wondering sense (like, “If X character is like this, then what were X’s parents like?”), and some are expressed with more details.

The Old Mr. Bingley

I am beginning with the Old Mr. Bingley. Since we are shown Mr. Bingley, his sisters, and his brother-in-law, the question of what his parents were like is brought to mind. We don’t really see any sort of real hint about the Old Mrs. Bingley, but we are given a glimpse of the Old Mr. Bingley even beyond the fact that his family was respectable and that their wealth was acquired in trade. The most descriptive information from the book is below:

They were of a respectable family in the north of England; a circumstance more deeply impressed on their memories than that their brother’s fortune and their own had been acquired by trade.

Mr. Bingley inherited property to the amount of nearly a hundred thousand pounds from his father, who had intended to purchase an estate, but did not live to do it. Mr. Bingley intended it likewise, and sometimes made choice of his county; but as he was now provided with a good house and the liberty of a manor, it was doubtful to many of those who best knew the easiness of his temper, whether he might not spend the remainder of his days at Netherfield, and leave the next generation to purchase.

His sisters were anxious for his having an estate of his own; but, though he was now only established as a tenant, Miss Bingley was by no means unwilling to preside at his table—nor was Mrs. Hurst, who had married a man of more fashion than fortune, less disposed to consider his house as her home when it suited her. Mr. Bingley had not been of age two years, when he was tempted by an accidental recommendation to look at Netherfield House. He did look at it, and into it for half-an-hour—was pleased with the situation and the principal rooms, satisfied with what the owner said in its praise, and took it immediately.

As you can see in the bolded portion, the first line tells us that the Old Mr. Bingley had money to buy an estate but died before he did it. The following line makes it sound as though perhaps the Old Mr. Bingley was like his son. As long as the family is comfortable and well off, why go to the trouble of buying an estate? Let someone else handle the work! Because of this portion, I think that the Old Mr. Bingley was much like his son. And perhaps the daughters took after their mother, but that can only be speculation!

Sir Lewis de Bourgh

I rather thought Sir Lewis de Bourgh would be mentioned quite a bit, but we really don’t see much about him:

  • [Quote from Mr. Collins:] My mind, however, is now made up on the subject, for having received ordination at Easter, I have been so fortunate as to be distinguished by the patronage of the Right Honourable Lady Catherine de Bourgh, widow of Sir Lewis de Bourgh, whose bounty and beneficence has preferred me to the valuable rectory of this parish, where it shall be my earnest endeavour to demean myself with grateful respect towards her ladyship, and be ever ready to perform those rites and ceremonies which are instituted by the Church of England.
  • Every park has its beauty and its prospects; and Elizabeth saw much to be pleased with, though she could not be in such raptures as Mr. Collins expected the scene to inspire, and was but slightly affected by his enumeration of the windows in front of the house, and his relation of what the glazing altogether had originally cost Sir Lewis de Bourgh.
  • “Your father’s estate is entailed on Mr. Collins, I think. For your sake,” turning to Charlotte, “I am glad of it; but otherwise I see no occasion for entailing estates from the female line. It was not thought necessary in Sir Lewis de Bourgh’s family. Do you play and sing, Miss Bennet?”

We basically see that Sir Lewis spent a lot to look good. (Presumably, it was his idea anyway.) Based on the officious nature of Lady Catherine, I rather think he was cowed by his wife and just did whatever she wished of him. Could you imagine a man who tried to dampen Lady Catherine’s enthusiasm? I cannot! I think the way Lady Catherine speaks of him seems to indicate that they were not at odds with one another, which in turn implies that she was in charge.

Lady Anne Darcy

We have a few different references to Lady Anne Darcy:

  • “You know of course that Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Lady Anne Darcy were sisters; consequently that she is aunt to the present Mr. Darcy.”
  • ” . . . When my niece Georgiana went to Ramsgate last summer, I made a point of her having two men-servants go with her. Miss Darcy, the daughter of Mr. Darcy, of Pemberley, and Lady Anne, could not have appeared with propriety in a different manner. . . . “
  • “The engagement between them is of a peculiar kind. From their infancy, they have been intended for each other. It was the favourite wish of his mother, as well as of her’s. While in their cradles, we planned the union: and now, at the moment when the wishes of both sisters would be accomplished in their marriage, to be prevented by a young woman of inferior birth, of no importance in the world, and wholly unallied to the family! Do you pay no regard to the wishes of his friends? To his tacit engagement with Miss de Bourgh? Are you lost to every feeling of propriety and delicacy? Have you not heard me say that from his earliest hours he was destined for his cousin?””Yes, and I had heard it before. But what is that to me? If there is no other objection to my marrying your nephew, I shall certainly not be kept from it by knowing that his mother and aunt wished him to marry Miss de Bourgh. You both did as much as you could in planning the marriage. Its completion depended on others. If Mr. Darcy is neither by honour nor inclination confined to his cousin, why is not he to make another choice? And if I am that choice, why may not I accept him?”
  • “I will not be interrupted. Hear me in silence. My daughter and my nephew are formed for each other. They are descended, on the maternal side, from the same noble line; and, on the father’s, from respectable, honourable, and ancient—though untitled—families. Their fortune on both sides is splendid. They are destined for each other by the voice of every member of their respective houses; and what is to divide them? The upstart pretensions of a young woman without family, connections, or fortune. Is this to be endured! But it must not, shall not be. If you were sensible of your own good, you would not wish to quit the sphere in which you have been brought up.”

Lady Catherine’s fondness for Lady Anne and the plans she made with Lady Anne seem to indicate that Lady Anne was probably much like her sister. Yet with what we have heard about the Old Mr. Darcy (and the fact that Fitzwilliam Darcy doesn’t appear to have received a dying wish about marrying Anne de Bourgh or anything like that), it also seems likely that Lady Anne was much less extreme in her concerns for proper matches. Regardless, if she did indeed hope to match Fitzwilliam Darcy with Anne de Bourgh, that means she either had leanings toward haughtiness or she had a fondness for her sister and simply wished to be made closer to her.

The Old Mr. Darcy and the Old Mr. Wickham

I attempted to break up the sections on the Old Mr. Darcy and the Old Mr. Wickham at first, but they would have been frequently repeated. Much of what we know about one is related to the other. A good chunk of what we hear is from a conversation between Elizabeth and Wickham that I have abbreviated below:

” . . . His father, Miss Bennet, the late Mr. Darcy, was one of the best men that ever breathed, and the truest friend I ever had; and I can never be in company with this Mr. Darcy without being grieved to the soul by a thousand tender recollections. His behaviour to myself has been scandalous; but I verily believe I could forgive him anything and everything, rather than his disappointing the hopes and disgracing the memory of his father.”

. . .

” . . . The church ought to have been my profession—I was brought up for the church, and I should at this time have been in possession of a most valuable living, had it pleased the gentleman we were speaking of just now.”


“Yes—the late Mr. Darcy bequeathed me the next presentation of the best living in his gift. He was my godfather, and excessively attached to me. I cannot do justice to his kindness. He meant to provide for me amply, and thought he had done it; but when the living fell, it was given elsewhere.”

. . .

“There was just such an informality in the terms of the bequest as to give me no hope from law. A man of honour could not have doubted the intention, but Mr. Darcy chose to doubt it—or to treat it as a merely conditional recommendation, and to assert that I had forfeited all claim to it by extravagance, imprudence—in short anything or nothing. Certain it is, that the living became vacant two years ago, exactly as I was of an age to hold it, and that it was given to another man; and no less certain is it, that I cannot accuse myself of having really done anything to deserve to lose it. I have a warm, unguarded temper, and I may have spoken my opinion of him, and to him, too freely. I can recall nothing worse. But the fact is, that we are very different sort of men, and that he hates me.”

“This is quite shocking! He deserves to be publicly disgraced.”

“Some time or other he will be—but it shall not be by me. Till I can forget his father, I can never defy or expose him.”

. . .

“But what,” said she, after a pause, “can have been his motive? What can have induced him to behave so cruelly?

“A thorough, determined dislike of me—a dislike which I cannot but attribute in some measure to jealousy. Had the late Mr. Darcy liked me less, his son might have borne with me better; but his father’s uncommon attachment to me irritated him, I believe, very early in life. He had not a temper to bear the sort of competition in which we stood—the sort of preference which was often given me.”

. . .

Elizabeth was again deep in thought, and after a time exclaimed, “To treat in such a manner the godson, the friend, the favourite of his father!” She could have added, “A young man, too, like you, whose very countenance may vouch for your being amiable”—but she contented herself with, “and one, too, who had probably been his companion from childhood, connected together, as I think you said, in the closest manner!”

“We were born in the same parish, within the same park; the greatest part of our youth was passed together; inmates of the same house, sharing the same amusements, objects of the same parental care. My father began life in the profession which your uncle, Mr. Phillips, appears to do so much credit to—but he gave up everything to be of use to the late Mr. Darcy and devoted all his time to the care of the Pemberley property. He was most highly esteemed by Mr. Darcy, a most intimate, confidential friend. Mr. Darcy often acknowledged himself to be under the greatest obligations to my father’s active superintendence, and when, immediately before my father’s death, Mr. Darcy gave him a voluntary promise of providing for me, I am convinced that he felt it to be as much a debt of gratitude to him, as of his affection to myself.

. . .

[About Georgiana Darcy:] “I wish I could call her amiable. It gives me pain to speak ill of a Darcy. But she is too much like her brother—very, very proud. As a child, she was affectionate and pleasing, and extremely fond of me; and I have devoted hours and hours to her amusement. But she is nothing to me now. She is a handsome girl, about fifteen or sixteen, and, I understand, highly accomplished. Since her father’s death, her home has been London, where a lady lives with her, and superintends her education.”

While we always have to look at Wickham’s words with suspicion, the fact that he sings the Old Mr. Darcy’s praises so highly (and the fact the Old Mr. Darcy treated the son of his steward so well) seems to indicate the Old Mr. Darcy was indeed kind. And we are told the Old Mr. Wickham was an intimate friend in addition to being a steward. It seems likely to me the Old Mr. Wickham was indeed a genuinely good person. Of course, Caroline doesn’t seem to think that was possible:

“So, Miss Eliza, I hear you are quite delighted with George Wickham! Your sister has been talking to me about him, and asking me a thousand questions; and I find that the young man quite forgot to tell you, among his other communication, that he was the son of old Wickham, the late Mr. Darcy’s steward. Let me recommend you, however, as a friend, not to give implicit confidence to all his assertions; for as to Mr. Darcy’s using him ill, it is perfectly false; for, on the contrary, he has always been remarkably kind to him, though George Wickham has treated Mr. Darcy in a most infamous manner. . . . His coming into the country at all is a most insolent thing, indeed, and I wonder how he could presume to do it. I pity you, Miss Eliza, for this discovery of your favourite’s guilt; but really, considering his descent, one could not expect much better.”

“His guilt and his descent appear by your account to be the same,” said Elizabeth angrily; “for I have heard you accuse him of nothing worse than of being the son of Mr. Darcy’s steward, and of that, I can assure you, he informed me himself.”

But Darcy himself, a more reliable source, supports the high opinions of both his father and the Old Mr. Wickham to Elizabeth:

“Mr. Wickham is the son of a very respectable man, who had for many years the management of all the Pemberley estates, and whose good conduct in the discharge of his trust naturally inclined my father to be of service to him; and on George Wickham, who was his godson, his kindness was therefore liberally bestowed. My father supported him at school, and afterwards at Cambridge—most important assistance, as his own father, always poor from the extravagance of his wife, would have been unable to give him a gentleman’s education. My father was not only fond of this young man’s society, whose manner were always engaging; he had also the highest opinion of him, and hoping the church would be his profession, intended to provide for him in it. As for myself, it is many, many years since I first began to think of him in a very different manner. The vicious propensities—the want of principle, which he was careful to guard from the knowledge of his best friend, could not escape the observation of a young man of nearly the same age with himself, and who had opportunities of seeing him in unguarded moments, which Mr. Darcy could not have. . . .

“My excellent father died about five years ago; and his attachment to Mr. Wickham was to the last so steady, that in his will he particularly recommended it to me, to promote his advancement in the best manner that his profession might allow—and if he took orders, desired that a valuable family living might be his as soon as it became vacant. There was also a legacy of one thousand pounds. His own father did not long survive mine, and within half a year from these events, Mr. Wickham wrote to inform me that, having finally resolved against taking orders, he hoped I should not think it unreasonable for him to expect some more immediate pecuniary advantage, in lieu of the preferment, by which he could not be benefited. . . . For about three years I heard little of him; but on the decease of the incumbent of the living which had been designed for him, he applied to me again by letter for the presentation. His circumstances, he assured me, and I had no difficulty in believing it, were exceedingly bad. He had found the law a most unprofitable study, and was now absolutely resolved on being ordained, if I would present him to the living in question—of which he trusted there could be little doubt, as he was well assured that I had no other person to provide for, and I could not have forgotten my revered father’s intentions. . . .

Of course, Mrs. Gardiner also seems to support that the Old Mr. Darcy was a good fellow:

To Mrs. Gardiner, Wickham had one means of affording pleasure, unconnected with his general powers. About ten or a dozen years ago, before her marriage, she had spent a considerable time in that very part of Derbyshire to which he belonged. They had, therefore, many acquaintances in common; and though Wickham had been little there since the death of Darcy’s father, it was yet in his power to give her fresher intelligence of her former friends than she had been in the way of procuring.

Mrs. Gardiner had seen Pemberley, and known the late Mr. Darcy by character perfectly well. Here consequently was an inexhaustible subject of discourse. In comparing her recollection of Pemberley with the minute description which Wickham could give, and in bestowing her tribute of praise on the character of its late possessor, she was delighting both him and herself.

Further, Elizabeth does seem to believe what Mr. Darcy says about his father:

The account of [Mr. Wickham’s] connection with the Pemberley family was exactly what he had related himself; and the kindness of the late Mr. Darcy, though she had not before known its extent, agreed equally well with his own words.

And here are just a couple more references to the whole steward issue, as it is brought up often:

  • Her aunt now called her to look at a picture. She approached and saw the likeness of Mr. Wickham, suspended, amongst several other miniatures, over the mantelpiece. Her aunt asked her, smilingly, how she liked it. The housekeeper came forward, and told them it was a picture of a young gentleman, the son of her late master’s steward, who had been brought up by him at his own expense. “He is now gone into the army,” she added; “but I am afraid he has turned out very wild.”
  • [Lady Catherine about Wickham and Lydia:] ” . . . Is her husband, is the son of his late father’s steward, to be his brother? Heaven and earth!—of what are you thinking? Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted?”

So, what are your thoughts about these unseen characters? I rather think the biggest presence is probably that of Darcy’s father, whose wishes and actions have a large effect on the story despite his death. Imagine how things would have been different if he hadn’t had any wishes with regard to helping Mr. Wickham out?

Do you disagree with any of my speculative characterizations? Do you have any unseen characters you feel have a major presence in the book?

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Criminal Conversation in the Regency Era + Excerpt from MR. DARCY’S BRIDEs

Several years back, I did a series for my blog, Every Woman Dreams, entitled “Eccentrics of the Regency.” One of the pieces I wrote was on Edward Hughes Ball Hughes. In it, I wrote: “Hughes’ older sister Catherine Ball was a socialite, journalist, and novelist who eventually styled herself the “Baroness de Calabrella” after acquiring property in Italy. She married an older man, Rev. Francis Lee, at the age of 16 in 1804, without her mother’s permission, and was separated from him in 1810 on charges of adultery; her lover, Captain George de Blaquiere, was successfully sued by Reverend Lee for criminal conversation.” When I read this, I wondered whether “criminal conversation” was anything like “alienation of affection.” So, I was determined to find out.

Criminal conversation is commonly known as crim. con. It is a tort arising from adultery.  For those of you who do not understand “legal speak,” tort law involves a situation where a person’s actions unfairly causes another to suffer harm or loss. The case is not based around an “illegal” action, but rather one of not thinking of the other person and causing some sort of harm. The law allows the harmed individual to recover his loss, generally by awarding monetary compensation. To prevail (win) in a tort law case the plaintiff (person suing) must show the actions or lack of action was the most likely cause of the harm.

Criminal Conversation is similar to breach of promise, a former tort involving a broken engagement against the betrothed, or alienation of affections, a tort action brought by a deserted spouse against a third party.

In 18th and 19th Century England, criminal conversation cases were common. It was not unheard of for the plaintiff to be awarded sums as high as £20,000. These cases were seen at the Court of King’s Bench in Westminster Hall. Not only did the plaintiff make money on the proceedings, but so did publishers such as Edmund Curll, whose name became synonymous, through the attacks on him by Alexander Pope, with unscrupulous publication and publicity.  

Although neither the plaintiff, defendant, or the wife accused of the adultery were permitted to take the stand, evidence of the adulterous behavior was presented by servants or observers. Awards of damages were based upon compensation for the husband’s loss of property rights in his wife, the wife being regarded as his chattel. Historically a wife could not sue her husband for adultery, as he could not be her chattel if she was already his. The criminal conversation tort was abolished in England in 1857, and the Republic of Ireland in 1976. It still exists in parts of the United States, although the application has changed. At least 29 states have abolished the tort by statute and another 4 have abolished it by common law. 

A number of very sensational cases were heard in the second half of the 18th century, including Grosvenor v. Cumberland in 1769, where Lord Grosvenor sued the King’s brother, the Duke of Cumberland for crim con with his wife, being awarded damages of £10,000; and Worsley v. Bisset in 1782, where Sir Richard Worsley lost his case against George Bisset, after it had been found that Sir Richard had colluded in his own dishonour, by showing his friend his wife Seymour Dorothy Fleming naked in a bath house. In 1796, the Earl of Westmeath was awarded £10,000 against his wife’s lover, Augustus Bradshaw.

The tort has seen particular use in North Carolina (my current home state). Criminal Conversation is one of the “Heart-Balm” Laws, which include breach of promise, wrongful seduction, and alienation of affection.” ‘Criminal conversation,’ in turn, was a civil cause of action that dated back at least to the Seventeenth Century in England. The name is oddly inappropriate, since there was nothing criminal about the claim, and it certainly was not about conversation. Rather, “Crim. Con.” allowed a man to bring suit against another man who had sex with his wife. It was a remedy for loss of the wife’s “consortium” (that is, of the companionship and sex she had provided before being seduced by another). Proof of a valid marriage and extramarital sex were all that was required for the husband to make out a successful claim against the interloper.” [Find Law] http://supreme.findlaw.com/legal-commentary/elizabeth-edwards-v-andrew-young-can-he-be-held-liable-for-contributing-to-the-failure-of-the-edwardses-marriage.html Our most famous Crim Con case in North Carolina in many years was when the late Elizabeth Edwards sued her husband’s, John Edwards’s, former Presidential candidate, “mistress,” Rielle Hunter.

MDF eBook Cover Introducing MR. DARCY’S BRIDEs…

I much prefer the sharpest criticism of a single intelligent man to the thoughtless approval of the masses.

ELIZABETH BENNET is determined that she will put a stop to her mother’s plans to marry off the eldest Bennet daughter to Mr. Collins, the Longbourn heir, but a man that Mr. Bennet considers an annoying dimwit. Hence, Elizabeth disguises herself as Jane and repeats her vows to the supercilious rector as if she is her sister, thereby voiding the nuptials and saving Jane from a life of drudgery. Yet, even the “best laid plans” can often go awry.

FITZWILLIAM DARCY is desperate to find a woman who will assist him in leading his sister back to Society after Georgiana’s failed elopement with Darcy’s old enemy George Wickham. He is so desperate that he agrees to Lady Catherine De Bourgh’s suggestion that Darcy marry her ladyship’s “sickly” daughter Anne. Unfortunately, as he waits for his bride to join him at the altar, he realizes he has made a terrible error in judgement, but there is no means to right the wrong without ruining his cousin’s reputation. Yet, even as he weighs his options, the touch of “Anne’s” hand upon his sends an unusual “zing” of awareness shooting up Darcy’s arm. It is only when he realizes the “zing” has arrived at the hand of a stranger, who has disrupted his nuptials, that he breathes both a sigh of relief and a groan of frustration, for the question remains: Is Darcy’s marriage to the woman legal?

What if Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet met under different circumstances than those we know from Jane Austen’s classic tale: Circumstances that did not include the voices of vanity and pride and prejudice and doubt that we find in the original story? Their road to happily ever after may not, even then, be an easy one, but with the expectations of others removed from their relationship, can they learn to trust each other long enough to carve out a path to true happiness?

Enjoy this excerpt from Chapter 5 of MR. DARCY’S BRIDEs in which Elizabeth first learns of Lady Catherine’s idea of having Anne sue Elizabeth for drawing off Darcy’s attentions.

“I am pleased to find you from your bed,” he said politely while eyeing her with interest.

Elizabeth did not address his attempt at consideration. Instead, she asked, “Could you explain to me, sir, how you thought it acceptable to remove my person from your home to your yacht without my permission?” She watched as a muscle along his jaw line twitched, but otherwise, his expression of indifference remained in place.

“It was necessary for you to depart Darcy House, and as you were in no condition to make that decision, I made it for you. As part of my wedding plans, I was set to sail on the day of our departure; therefore, I took advantage of the ship’s preparedness.”

“And why was it necessary for me to leave Darcy House? Could you not have sailed alone? I would have been up and moving about in a day or two, and then I could be gone from your society. No one would have known the difference.”

Other than a slight life of his eyebrow, he displayed no reaction to her tight lipped accusations. “My aunt learned of your presence under my roof. She planned to send a magistrate to my home to arrest you. I thought it best if we were removed from England until this matter can be settled.”

“Arrest me?” Elizabeth demanded. “Upon what charges? Certainly what I did was unconventional, but it was not a crime. It was a mistake. I have no desire to remain with you, and you, sir, should be glad to observe my exit. I have caused you nothing but grief and inconvenience. Needless to say, Miss De Bourgh would still accept a man of your consequence. Marry your cousin. Lady Catherine will be mollified, and I will return to my life in the country. All will be forgiven.”

“If you think my aunt will forgive or forget your perceived insult, you are sadly mistaken. Lady Catherine will make your life and the lives of your loved ones miserable. Only with my protection will you remain safe,” he argued.

Elizabeth swallowed hard against the trepidation filling her chest. “I shall…I shall assume my chances, sir. Surely a woman of Lady Catherine’s stature will extend her forgiveness once I explain the situation.” She lifted her chin in defiance.

“More likely she will force Anne to sue you for criminal conversation. I know my aunt, she will not be happy until she leaves you and your family in penury. Not only did you forestall her aspirations of having Anne at Pemberley, but you treated her cleric as if he were insignificant. She sees Mr. Collins’s character as a reflection of her condescension.”

Elizabeth fought the anxiety rising in her stomach. “Nevertheless, I insist that you set me down in the next port and provide me enough coins to claim passage home. I will have Mr. Bennet reimburse you as quickly as I make my way to Hertfordshire.”

“That might be difficult,” he said with a wry twist of his lips, “for you to make your way to Mr. Bennet’s estate in what you are wearing.”

Despite her best efforts, despair pooled in her eyes. “So you mean to keep me a prisoner by refusing me proper dress?” she accused. “I demand the return of the dress I wore for the wedding!”

He shrugged in indifference. “On the morning of our departure, Mrs. Guthrie and a maid dressed in your gown made a great show of leaving Darcy House. I am certain my neighbors will have taken notice of your exodus. My servants have been instructed that if anyone asks after me to tell them that I was so upset after the wedding that I departed for my estate. The servants will also inform those who wish to be apprised of my comings and goings that the poor soul I saw into my house was a distant relation who had been injured at the wedding, and that I instructed my staff to tend the young lady in my absence. When the magistrate calls upon Darcy House he will learn of your leave taking from more than Mrs. Guthrie, who is to explain that you fell into the street before Lord Haverton’s coach and was treated by Doctor Nott. Both my housekeeper and the good physician will confirm the story of your departure. They will tell the official that you asked to be returned to your home in Bath, and before I left Town upon personal business, I made the necessary arrangements.”

“No one will believe such a convoluted tale,” she argued.

“On the contrary, my dear. The ton is quite gullible. They will believe any tale that smacks of gossip, and they will add their own tidbits to it to make it more outrageous.”

“Then what am I to wear?” she insisted, although she wished her voice had not cracked upon the word “wear.” She suddenly felt like Mr. Darcy’s mistress, for she was dressed for the role.

His expression softened, as if he could read her thoughts. “We had little time to prepare, but Hannah, the maid you met earlier, has altered several of my sister’s gowns. Miss Darcy has sprouted up in the last year, but some of her former gowns will do nicely until we can have something specifically designed for you. Mrs. Guthrie suggest those items ordered as part of Anne’s trousseau, but I rejected the idea, for my Aunt Catherine could then label you a thief. It is best to do over some of my sister’s gowns, rather than to provide her ladyship with a reason to see you behind bars.”

Elizabeth wished to acknowledge his sensible actions, but it was her life in which he dabbled, and all of his decisions were simply too personal. She gritted out the words, “As I am at your disposal, how are we to proceed?”

“If you are agreeable, I thought we might have supper. I tire of eating alone.”

On the subject of Criminal Conversation, I thought you might enjoy William Makepeace Thackeray’s “Damages, Two Hundred Pounds.”

William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863)

                      DAMAGES, TWO HUNDRED POUNDS

Special Jurymen of England! who admire your country’s laws,

And proclaim a British Jury worthy of the realm’s applause;

Gaily compliment each other at the issue of the cause

Which was tried at Guildford ‘sizes, this day week as ever was.

Unto that august tribunal comes a gentleman in grief,

(Special was the British Jury, and the Judge, the Baron Chief),

Comes a British man and husband–asking of the law relief,

For his wife was stolen from him–he’d have vengeance on the thief.

Yes, his wife, the blessed treasure with which his life was crowned,

Wickedly ravished from him by a hypocrite profound.

And he comes before twelve Britons, men for sense and truth renowned.

To award  him for his damage, twenty hundred sterling pound.

He by counsel and attorney there at Guildford does appear,

Asking damages of the villain who seduced his lady dear;

But I can’t help asking, though the lady’s guilt was all too clear,

And though guilty the defendant, wasn’t the plaintiff rather queer?

First, the lady’s mother spoke, and she said she’d seen her daughter cry

But a fortnight after marriage: early times for piping eye.

Six months after, things were worse, and the piping eye was black,

And this gallant British husband caned his wife upon the back.

Three months after they were married, husband pushed her to the door,

Told her to be off and leave him, for he wanted her no more;

As she would not go, why  he went; thrice he left his lady dear,

Left her, too, without a penny, for more than quarter of a year.

Mrs. Frances Duncan knew the parties very well indeed,

She had seen him pull his lady’s nose, and make her lip to bleed;

If he chanced to sit at home not a single word he said;

Once she saw him throw the cover of a dish at his lady’s head.

Sarah Green, another witness, clear did to the Jury note

How she saw this honest fellow seize his lady by the throat,

How he cursed her and abused her, beating her into a fit,

Till the pitying next-door neighbors crossed the wall and witnessed it.

Next door to this injured Briton Mr. Owens, a butcher, dwelt;

Mrs. Owen’s foolish heart towards this erring dame did melt;

(Not that she had erred as yet, crime was not developed in her)

But being left without a penny, Mrs. Owens supplied her dinner–

God be merciful to Mrs. Owens, who was merciful to this sinner!

Caroline Naylor was their servant, said they lived a wretched life,

Saw this most distinguished Briton fling a teacup at his wife;

He went out to balls and pleasures, and never once, in ten-months’ space,

Sate with his wife, or spoke her kindly. This was the defendant’s case.

Pollock, C .B., charged the Jury, said the woman’s guilt was clear;

That was not the point, however, which the Jury came to hear

But the damage to determine which, as it should true appear,

This most tenderhearted husband, who so used his lady dear.

Beat her, kicked her, caned her, cursed her, left her starving, year by


Flung her from him, parted from her, wrung her neck, and boxed her ear–

What the reasonable damages this afflicted man could claim

By the loss of the affections of this guilty graceless dame?

Then the Honest Twelve, to each other turning round,

Laid their clever heads together with the wisdom most profound;

And towards his Lordship looking, spoke the foreman wise and sound;

`My Lord, we find for this here plaintiff damages two hundred pound.’

So, God bless the Special Jury! pride and joy of English ground,

And the happy land of England, where true justice does abound!

British Jurymen and husbands; let us hail this verdict proper;

If a British wife offends you, Britons, you’ve a right to whop her.

Though you promised to protect her, though you promised to defend her,

You are welcome to neglect her: to the devil you may send her;

You may strike her, curse her; so declares our law renowned;

And if after this you lose her– why you’re paid two hundred pound.

Posted in book release, British history, Church of England, giveaway, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, Pride and Prejudice, Regency romance, Scotland, Vagary, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Army Enlistment During the Regency Era

I recently received several questions from readers and other authors regarding a “favorite” book being passed around that appeared to have some odd facts in it. No, I will not tell you the name of the book because I do not believe in calling out a person on a public forum, but I will make the explanations to the best of my ability.

Question: Could a 15-year-old join the army.

Answer: If he did so, he would have had to pretend he was sixteen. I suppose it would have been possible, but, after 1795, the minimum age requirement was 16 for the army. Before that time, it was common for family to buy their sons commissions at young ages. John Cockrane of Navy fame found at fifteen his father had purchased a petty officer’s commission for him when he was twelve. His uncle had purchased an ensign’s commission in the army when he was thirteen. He earned pay from both positions, gaining seniority while never actually serving. This was 1790 though. Such practices were eventually eliminated in both the Navy and afterwards, in 1795, the Army.

Question: What does “Crying Out” mean?

Answer: “Crying out” is what an officer who did not pay for his commission would do. If he bought his commission, he would ‘sell out.’   In either case, giving up his commission means he is no longer in the army, making him a civilian again. And yes, he would have to be an officer to do that. If he has spent 14 years in the military as an officer, the odds are he would be a captain or better by then

Question: What does a “Life Enlistment” mean?  

Answer: If the man enlisted before 1809, it was a life sentence. He could be pensioned off when his battalion disbanded, when he was wounded and, therefore, pensioned off, or if he was placed in the invalid corp and remain in the army. But those were the only alternatives, and the enlisted man did not make the choice. After 1809, this was changed. The government finally realized a life enlistment could discourage volunteers. So enlistment could be for seven or twenty years. With the twenty year enlistment the man would receive a pension when he “retired.”  [I used this issue in my book “Captain Stanwick’s Bride.”]

Army Structure During the Napoleonic War ~ https://www.warlordgames.com/napoleonic-wars-army-structure/

Question: Could an enlisted man move up the ranks and become an officer?

Answer: There were very few opportunities for an enlisted man to ‘better’ himself, other than to gain a higher rank. Only a few men from the ranks became an officer, Richard Sharpe not withstanding. [Note: Sharpe is a series of historical fiction stories by Bernard Cornwell centered on the character of British soldier Richard Sharpe. The stories formed the basis for an ITV television series featuring Sean Bean in the title role.] From the Gazette, it looks like about 5% of officers came from the ranks. They could be identified in the Gazette because they were termed ‘a gentleman of private means,’ but officer records also identified their past occupations, such as laborer or dock worker.

So if the character in the story is looking to better himself, he is really playing the lottery. Not much chance of that. Achieving an officer’s rank, such as ensign or lieutenant was usually done with exemplary service, a sergeant’s rank, AND some act of heroism that was noticed by those who could do something about it. Conduct medals were reserved for officers. The other way a man might better himself was through war booty/prize money. Soldiers would be given a portion of the value of war materials or valuables just as sailors could gain prize money. [Remember Captain Wentworth in Jane Austen’s “Persuasion” won naval prize money during wartime.]

Anyway, becoming an officer was a better way of ‘bettering” himself’ if he was a gentleman at all. He could volunteer [at his own expense] and go with a regiment overseas in the hopes of filling a vacancy there, which was easier for the commander than waiting months for a possible replacement from home. 

Question: What does it mean to go on half-pay?

Answer: A man could go on half-pay, meaning he is theoretically “excused” from his duties, but he is still officially in the army and can be called up again, not that he would be necessarily. Pensions were for officers who did NOT buy their commissions [meaning about 65% of the officers throughout the wars] and such would occur when the man left the army and was not on half-pay. 

An officer who bought his commission, only received the price of his rank when he ‘cried out’, which could run from 400 pounds for a lieutenant to a thousand or more for a full colonel, depending on whether they were cavalry or infantry, guard or regulars. Artillery officers never bought a commission, but they had to go through Ordinance School to obtain a commission, so they always had a pension.

Posted in British history, British Navy, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Great Britain, history, Napoleonic Wars, real life tales, Regency era, research, war | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Influence of Screen Adaptations on New Generations of Jane Austen Fans, a Guest Post by Amanda Kai

(This post originally appeared on the Austen Authors’ Blog on June 24, 2022. Enjoy!)

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, there is no denying the powerful influence that screen adaptations of Jane Austen’s beloved novels have to inspire new generations of viewers to become fans of her works. Whether it’s seeing a six-hour miniseries that faithfully recreates one of the books, or a two-hour movie loosely based on one or more of her plots, seeing a Jane Austen story on screen can turn a Jane Austen neophyte into a lifelong fan.

I recall my own experience. Despite loving classic literature, I had never read any of Jane Austen’s books prior to seeing the 2005 feature film “Pride and Prejudice”, starring Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFayden. Nevertheless, after going to see the movie with my mom, I was instantly hooked. I went out and bought a copy of Pride and Prejudice that same week and within a year or so I had read all six of the main novels. It was a lifetime conversion for me, and one that I’ve never regretted. 

I’ve heard countless other stories just like mine, of fans who started out watching one of the many movies or series inspired by Austen, and became Jane Austen devotees as a result. 

In a recent survey of Jane Austen fans across several global Facebook groups, out of over 1200 fans who responded, 31% said that they were introduced to Jane Austen through a film or TV series, before they ever read one of the books. 

In another survey I conducted, I asked fans who had been introduced to Jane Austen through a film or series to share which film or series made them fall in love with Austen. The results were rather fascinating.

Late 1990s– the Golden Era of Jane Austen adaptations

I saw Mr Collins’ proposal scene from 95P&P in my HS English class (1998 grad) and then we read the scene from the book. One scene and I was hooked. My friend found the VCR set at the public library and we watched it together, then bought the set so that we could watch it on repeat. I watched it probably at least 10 times just in high-school. (Kellie F.)

The 1995 Sense and Sensibility, with its all-star cast including Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Kate Winslet, and Hugh Grant, drew lots of viewers to become Jane Austen fans.

1995 was a glorious year for Jane Austen fans. Three feature films, including Sense and Sensibility starring Emma Thompson, Persuasion starring Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root, and Clueless, a modern-take on Emma starring Alicia Silverstone, not to mention the king of Jane Austen adaptations, the 6-hour BBC miniseries of Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth, all premiered in this year. 

Following that, the rest of the decade saw the release of two more adaptations of Emma, one starring Gwyneth Paltrow and one with Kate Beckinsale, a Mansfield Park starring Frances O’Connor, and You’ve Got Mail, which is loosely based on Pride and Prejudice and features a heroine whose favorite book is Pride and Prejudice. 

To many people, Colin Firth is the definitive Mr. Darcy, and his stellar performance in the 1995 miniseries of Pride and Prejudice is the reason they fell in love with Jane Austen.

Out of my survey of over 200 responses, a whopping 62% of all participants credited one of the films that came out in the ‘90s as the reason they became a Jane Austen fan, with the 1995 Pride and Prejudice miniseries coming out on top with 39% of fans citing that as their introduction to Austen. A large number of fans also named the 1995 Sense and Sensibility as the film which led to their love of Austen. 

P&P – 1995 6 part tv series. Colin Firth to me is the one and only true Mr Darcy. I was 28, in the middle of a crappy divorce with a toddler in tow and so much needed something romantic and happy to give me some faith! (Janice M.)

Early 2000’s inspire more converts

Joe Wright’s artistic and imaginative adaptation of Pride and Prejudice in 2005 inspired many people to try Jane Austen for the first time.

I was around 15 in 2017, and I decided to watch Pride and Prejudice 2005 with four of my sisters. Immediately feel head over heels in love with it and the Regency world that Austen lived in. I went on to read all of her books and watch as many adaptations that I could get my hand on. She truly changed my life and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without her. (Lauren G.)

A second wave of new fans was triggered with the release of the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice. 15% of the fans who responded named this movie as the reason they became fans of Jane Austen. Other movies sprinkled throughout this time which inspired new fans included Bridget Jones’ Diary and Bride and Prejudice, both modern takes on Pride and Prejudice, and the 2007 versions of Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, and Persuasion. 

My first ever Austen experience was the 2005 Kiera Knightley Pride and Prejudice. I saw it in theaters twice, and then bought the book. I was 15. Now, I’m about to graduate with my PhD, and my secondary focus is 19th century feminist literature. All because of that trip to the movies (Sara G.)

Classic Film lovers to Austen lovers

In around 1966/67, I was 11. The 1940 P&P (Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson) was on TV one winter Sunday. I checked the book out of my school library the next day. The rest is history! (Angela D.)

Now considered a classic movie, the 1940 film of Pride and Prejudice starred Greer Garson as Elizabeth and Lawrence Olivier as Darcy

Surprisingly, the 1940 black and white version of Pride and Prejudice starring Greer Garson and Lawrence Olivier was named by 8% of fans as their first Austen film. Most of the fans mentioned that they watched this movie on TV or VHS at a much later date though, and not when it premiered in theaters in 1940. Several people mentioned that they were fans of classic movies, leading to their watching this film and becoming Jane Austen fans also. 

Pride and Prejudice with Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson. I was 10 and already had a huge crush on Olivier. This film just cemented it for me. I still prefer this version to the others. Edna May Oliver who played Lady Catherine is just genius! If you get the chance to see this version, definitely do so. (Kara C.)

Other adaptations

Elizabeth Garvie starred opposite David Rintoul in the 1980 BBC miniseries of Pride and Prejudice

I was 16, and the Elizabeth Garvie/David Rintoul version of P&P was being re-run on Masterpiece Theater. Must have been about 1982, I think. My mom talked me into watching it with her. I grumbled a bit, convinced it would be boring. But soon I was enchanted. I was aghast when the episode ended and I found out there would be no more until the next Sunday night. I told my mom I couldn’t wait that long to find out what happened to Elizabeth and Mr Darcy. (I didn’t realize at that point that it was based on a book.) My mom went to her bookshelf and pulled out her copy of P&P and said, “Here, read!” That was 40 years ago, and I have been hooked on Austen ever since! (Randi C.)

Wishbone as Mr. Darcy in the episode "Furst Impressions"
Wishbone made his appearance as Mr. Darcy in the episode titled “Furst Impressions”

Many other sources were named by fans as their gateway to Austen, including the 1980 Pride and Prejudice miniseries, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the web series Lizzie Bennet Diaries, an episode of the children’s show Wishbone, and even a Dutch version of Pride and Prejudice. One fan mentioned that she decided to try reading Pride and Prejudice because the book series she’d been reading at the time mentioned it specifically. 

Bridget Jones’ Diary is a modern take on Pride and Prejudice

Bridget Jones Diary, watched it in 2007 when I was going through a divorce. Swooned over Darcy, as one does. Read every Austen after, been obsessed with the books, Jane, and all adaptations ever since. (Megan F.)

A trail to literacy

Saw P&P 95 when I was in 4th grade (1996). I was hooked and wanted to read it as well… I wasn’t a good reader, pretty sure I had a learning disability back then (was always in the lowest reading groups in class and always referred for informal resource services at school ) but since I was obsessed with the movie and knew a lot of it by heart I was able to get through the book in 5th grade and in 6th grade I started tackling JA’s other novels. It gave me the will to keep pushing myself even though reading was really hard for me. In all honesty, I’d probably still be a low reader if I hadn’t been introduced to JA through P&P 95, which then in turn catapulted me into the world of JA and from there to all the other classics (Raquel M.)

Out of all the stories I collected, the vast majority of fans said that their viewing experience made them want to go and read the books, and only a few people said that they have only ever seen the movies/TV series and not read any of the books. There were also some stories of people who had read one of the books in high school and hated it or didn’t get it, but after seeing one of the screen adaptations, they were inspired to re-read the book and became fans after that. 

Another generation of fans?

Andrew Davies brought Jane Austen’s unfinished novel Sanditon to the screen for the first time, creating an original continuation of her story that continues to delight fans.

I saw Sanditon in 2020. That was my first Jane Austen experience. I loved it so much that I wanted to read the books and watch films. So I did. (Joelle R.)

The 2020’s are seeing a new round of Austen adaptations being made. The TV series Sanditon, which premiered in the later part of 2019, and 2020 version of Emma, both of which have enjoyed the viewership of a younger, streaming-driven audience in the face of a global pandemic, have paved the way for the next generation of fans. 

Persuasion 2022
Persuasion 2022 releases on Netflix on July 15.

Piggybacking off the success of the Regency-era show Bridgerton, Netflix is releasing a new adaptation of Persuasion next month (July 2022), which will star Dakota Johnson, Cosmo Jarvis, and Henry Golding. Persuasion hasn’t had a historical adaptation made in 15 years, so it’s high time we had another one. While some fans were not thrilled with the trailer for the film, which showed Anne Elliot “breaking the fourth wall” in talking to the audience, mocking Wentworth with a mustache made of jam, and using slightly anachronistic speech (I admit, I cringed when I heard her “worse than exes” line), many fans are also hopeful that the adaptation will rekindle the love for this novel and birth new Jane Austen fans from a generation that thrives on social media and binge-watching on streaming platforms. 

To wrap it up

Looking at how many new fans have been born across the decades just from watching Jane Austen film adaptations gives me hope. Hope that love for Jane Austen will never die, but keep being reborn with each new generation. 

In a world where most teens would rather scroll through TikTok than read a book, I hope that new adaptations of Jane Austen’s beloved stories continue to inspire new fans and readers and make Jane Austen seem “cool” and “trendy” against the ever-changing onslaught of media that’s being foisted on the young and impressionable minds of today’s generation. 

If my story and the stories shared by these fans are any indication, it’s clear that bringing Jane Austen to the screen is a vital way to keep this author’s works alive and encourage people to read them.

I hope you enjoyed my exploration of the influence of Jane Austen films on our generations of fans. Some housekeeping news, my website address has changed. Please visit my website here to check out all of my books!

Posted in Austen Authors, film, film adaptations, Guest Post, Jane Austen | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Almack’s, the Place to See and Be Seen During the Regency

Almack’s history is divided into two parts: one is from the inception to around 1815 and the other from 1815 on.

Willis’s Rooms ~ also called “Almack’s”
from Old and New London by E Walford (1878)

First opening on 12 February 1765 on King Street, St. James’s, Almack’s Assembly Rooms were situated immediately to the east of Pall Mall Place and comprised

… three very elegant new-built rooms, a ten-guinea subscription, for which you have a ball and supper once a week for twelve weeks. [written in a letter from Gilly Williams to George Selwyn, 22 February 1765, in Jesse, John Heneage, George Selwyn and his contemporaries (1843)].

Named after their founder, a Scotsman named William Almack, the rooms were initially home to a ladies’ club, designed to permit gambling in the smaller rooms and dancing in the great room. Unlike the entertainments hosted by Madame Cornelys at the Carlisle House, Almack’s developed an “exclusiveness” which set aside the more scandalous assemblies at Carlisle. On a side note, Almack also owned The Thatched House Tavern and founded a club for gentlemen that later became Brooks’s.

Almack’s lost a large portion of its popularity when the Pantheon opened in 1772. However, when the Pantheon burned down, Almack’s was still standing and grew again in popularity.

Though leading ladies of the Haut Ton were known as patronesses of Almacks, at first, both men and women were named to be patron.

The assemblies were held four or five times a season. They were held on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but not  every week. The patronesses were listed in the paper, and the notice gave the date of the first assembly.

We assume around 1815, after the war with Napoleon ended, Lady Jersey took over Almack’s. The announcements seem to have ceased, the assemblies changed to Wednesday nights, and they were held just about every week during the season. The patronesses greatly restricted its membership. A person could not simply show up at the door and expect admittance. To attend, the person had to procure a “voucher,” signed by one of the patronesses, who are said to have kept a list of whether a person was “good ton” or “bad ton.” This exclusivity element lasted until around 1824.

According to (Samuel Leigh) Leigh’s New Picture of London (1818):

The balls at Willis’s rooms, commonly called Almack’s, are held every Wednesday during the season. They are very splendid, and are very numerously and fashionably attended. Some ladies are styled lady patronesses of these balls; and in order to render them more select, (the price being only seven shillings,) it is necessary that a visitor’s name should be inserted in one of these ladies’ books, which of course makes the admission difficult.

By the 1790s, Almack’s no longer hosted gaming rooms. Instead, dances and assemblies were the entertainment. Eventually, Almack’s became the place for a young lady to “demonstrate” her suitability to members of the ton and for a gentleman to seek out a wife of good social standing. Therefore, it became informally known as “The Marriage Mart.’

The committee at Almack’s changed periodically, but, during the middle of the Regency period, as recorded by Gronow, the Patronesses were Lady Castlereagh, Lady Jersey, Lady Cowper, Mrs. Drummond Burrel, the Countess Esterhazy, and the Countess Lieven. As stated in Ticknor’s [Ticknor, George, Life, Letters, and Journals of George Ticknor (1876).] diaries: only one lady acted as patroness at a time on a rotation basis, but the members of the committee were referred to collectively as the “patronesses of Almack’s.”

Every Monday the Patronesses convened for the sole purpose of deciding who to drop from their membership and to whom to extend a voucher. The criteria for consideration to their hallowed halls was pretty much dependent upon one’s position in society, one’s address, one’s wealth (but being wealthy was not an automatic key to entrance), manners, how one behaved and treated others, and one’s general countenance. All considered acceptable young ladies were introduced to suitable partners by the patronesses, or suffer the consequences of being shunned by them and society, as a whole.

As mentioned above, Gronow, an army officer in London wrote:

the Ladies Castlereagh, Jersey, Cowper, and Sefton, Mrs Drummond Burrell, now Lady Willoughby, the Princess Esterhazy, and the Countess Lieven. [Gronow, Captain. The Reminiscences and Recollections of Captain Gronow (1862).] [Note: Other patronesses were the Marchioness of Salisbury and Lady Downshire.]

Posted in architecture, British history, buildings and structures, Georgian England, Georgian Era, history, real life tales, Regency era, research | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Consumption of Alcohol During the Regency Era

Alcohol consumption was somewhat “necessary” during the Regency Era, as well as before and after that particular time period. Water obtained from public sources was unsanitary. The Georgian England site tells us, “The growth of cities and towns during the 1700s placed enormous pressures on the availability of cheap housing. With many people coming to towns to find work, slum areas grew quickly. Living conditions in many towns consequently became unimaginable. Many families were forced to live in single rooms in ramshackle tenements or in damp cellars, with no sanitation or fresh air. Drinking water was often contaminated by raw sewage and garbage was left rotting in the street. Problems with the disposal of the dead often added to the stench and decay. Many London graveyards became full to capacity, and coffins were sometimes left partially uncovered in ‘poor holes’ close to local houses and businesses.”

Cholera and typhoid epidemics were common, both diseases caused by contaminated water. Therefore, many did not drink from a public water source or from any “fresh” water source. Waste and fecal matter still found their way into public streams, rivers, and water supplies.

Jane Austen’s World tells us, “Those who drank ale, beer, wine, or a fermented drink, since the fermentation process killed almost all bacteria. Until the 16th century, the most common choice of drink was ale. By the end of the century, beer had replaced ale in popularity. Housewives and cooks gathered their own recipes for making beer, wine, cordials, possets, punch, spirit waters, and other distilled spirits, although these drinks could also be bought commercially. Fermented beverages were stored in containers similar to those in the photo above. Hops were added to beer to make the beverage last longer in storage. Interestingly, hops acted as antibacterial agents, making the beverage safe. In addition, real ale, or un-pasteurized beer, rich in nutrients, vitamin Bs, and minerals, was as nutritious as food.”

People were known to drink ale with each meal of the day. Keep in mind these products were not as potent as those we consume today. “Small beer, a term used to describe a weaker second beer, averaged an alcoholic content of only 0.8%. This concoction was obtained after the first brewing had used up almost all the alcohol from the grain. The product from the second brewing was 99.2% water and tasted nothing like our beer today. Small beer was consumed by people of all ages and strata in society, even children. Recipes for stronger drinks existed, but they were too expensive for ordinary people, taking twice as much grain to produce.”

Other drinks included cider and mead. Wine was the drink of the wealthy. It was imported from France and Germany and so it was expensive. Wine was also imported from the Eastern Mediterranean. It was called Malmsey wine, which is a corruption of Monemvasia, a town famous for its wine.

Another popular drink in England was sherry, which was known as sack and as brandy. In Scotland, whisky was a popular drink. In the 17th century, new drinks were introduced to England. Gin was invented in Holland early in the 17th century. It was introduced into England in the late 17th century. Gin soon became a very popular drink. Drinking cheap gin became endemic in the early 18th century, causing many social problems as shown by the picture Gin Lane by William Hogarth. However, gin-drinking was curtailed after 1751 when a duty was charged. In the early 18th-century porter became a common drink in London and Guinness was first brewed in Dublin in 1759. Another drink, champagne was invented in England in the late 17th century. Drinking rum became common in Britain in the 18th century. The British navy gave sailors a daily rum ration. (A History of Drinks)

Gin Lane ~ February 1, 1751 ~ William Hogarth ~ British ~ Public Domain ~ https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/399847

Port became very popular in England after the Methuen Treaty of 1703, when merchants were permitted to import it at a low duty, while war with France deprived English wine drinkers of French wine. British importers could be credited for recognizing that a smooth, already fortified wine that would appeal to English palates would survive the trip to London. In 1678, a Liverpool wine merchant sent two new representatives to Viana do Castelo, north of Oporto, to learn the wine trade. While on a vacation in the Douro, the two gentlemen visited the Abbot of Lamego, who treated them to a “very agreeable, sweetish and extremely smooth” wine,” which had been fortified with a distilled spirit. The two Englishmen were so pleased with the product that they purchased the Abbot’s entire lot and shipped it home. The continued British involvement in the port trade can be seen in the names of many port shippers and brands: Broadbent, Cockburn, Croft, Dow, Gould Campbell, Graham, Osborne, Offley, Sandeman, Taylor, and Warre being amongst the best known. Shippers of Dutch and German origin are also prominent, such as Niepoort and Burmester. The British involvement grew so strong that they formed a trade association that became a gentlemen’s club. (Tom Stevenson, “The Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia,” The Fourth Edition, p. 334, DK Publishing, 2007)

Up until around 1802  all the wine from abroad had to be imported in casks to be bottled in England. Though the beverages were allowed to be imported in bottles after that, most importers continued  buying wine in casks. The smugglers usually brought in wine in casks and kegs. Bottles are much more difficult to handle. They were heavy and noisy when they rubbed against each other and were easily broken. Wine could not be drunk immediately, as it had to settle so it was delivered to a bottler who acted as wholesaler.

I can see how this might play out depending on an individual or family’s wealth. The wealthiest could afford to buy entire casks for their private cellars, whereas the not-as-wealthy might buy smaller quantities in individual bottles from a wine merchant to stock their cellars, and the not-wealthy might only be drinking their own home-made wines and beers, probably in bottles they cleaned and reused. I am relatively certain the variations would depend on the particular beverage. I know most of the champagne people drank in the Regency was made in England by adding extra sugar into imported French wine and then bottling (or re-bottling) it for additional fermentation. They used the “sparkling wines,” not the “bubbly kind,” generally imported through Portugal. Champagne does not do as well in casks as did other beverages.

Also, the wire cage and cork affair sealing champagne bottles had not been invented. It was known as “The Devil’s Wine” because of the frequency of explosions caused by the fizz.

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

Were Ambulances Available in the Regency Era?

I had a question from one of my readers recently. She had read a book set in the Regency era, and, in it, an ambulance was called for to fetch a patient to a hospital. Naturally, she wanted to know if this was possible for the early 1800s.

The answer is both yes and no. Ambulances, of sorts, were available for battlefield injuries, but not for civilian cases. An ambulance was necessary on a battlefield because the fighting (and, therefore, the injuries) was often a mile or more from the actual tents set up as as a field hospital. Obviously, some form of “transportation” for the injured had been used for centuries. We are aware that men who fell in battle during the Crusades, which were fought between 1095 and 1291, were transported by horse-drawn wagons for treatment.

Some say, ambulances were first used for emergency transport in 1487 by the Spanish forces during the siege of Málaga by the Catholic monarchs against the Emirate of Granada, and civilian variants were put into operation in the 1830s.

“The modern ambulance—at least the horse-driven version—was cre-ated by Frenchman Dominique-Jean Larrey (1766-1842) in 1792. Larrey, Napoleon’s private surgeon, wanted to improve battlefield treatment of wounded soldiers. He designed a horse-drawn “flying ambulance” to carry surgeons and medical supplies onto the field of battle during the Rhine campaign of 1792.

“For the Italian campaign of 1794, Larrey used light ambulance carriages with stretchers to carry the wounded. In Egypt in 1799, local camels powered Larrey’s ambulances. With fellow surgeon Pierre Percy (1754-1825), Larrey formed a battalion of ambulance soldiers, including stretcher bearers and surgeons. Larrey’s ambulances and the swift medical attention they brought significantly boosted the morale of Napoleon’s troops.

“Ambulance service was expanded from the military to the civilian world in 1869 by Bellevue Hospital in New York City. The Larrey “flying ambulance” remained standard until the first motorized ambulances appeared around the turn of the century. These motorized vehicles were pioneered by the Panhard-Levassor partnership of France.” (Medical Discoveries)

Read more: http://www.discoveriesinmedicine.com/A-An/Ambulance.html#ixzz7W6ltxQAd

Read more: http://www.discoveriesinmedicine.com/A-An/Ambulance.html#ixzz7W6kWnqMj

In the city, they would retrieve a cart and take the injured to a person’s home for treatment. The only people who went to hospitals were the very, very VERY poor and only in the major cities. Everyone else was treated at home no matter what the injury. Also, a doctor would not be summoned. A surgeon would be summoned. Doctors only gave out medicine (more in the nature of what we now think of as a pharmacist). Surgeons were the ones who dealt with wounds, cuts, etc. ,anything which had to do with “getting dirty” or doing “work” on a patient.



Larrey amputating the arm and leg of colonel Rebsomen at the Battle of Hanau, in 1813 ~ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominique_Jean_Larrey#/media/File:Larrey_amputation_06022.JPG

Larrey was made a Commander of the Légion d’honneur on 12 May 1807. He joined in the Battle of Aspern-Essling, where he operated on Marshall Jean Lannes and amputated one of his legs in two minutes. He became the favorite of the Emperor, who commented, “If the army ever erects a monument to express its gratitude, it should do so in honor of Larrey”, he was ennobled as a Baron on the field of Wagram in 1809. In 1811, Baron Larrey co-led the surgical team that performed a pre-anesthetic mastectomy on Frances Burney in Paris. Her detailed account of this operation gives insight into early 19th century doctor-patient relationships, and early surgical methods in the home of the patient. Larrey was involved in the French invasion of Russia.

When Napoleon was sent to Elba, Larrey proposed to join him, but the former Emperor refused. At Waterloo in 1815 his courage under fire was noticed by the Duke of Wellington who ordered his soldiers not to fire in his direction so as to “give the brave man time to gather up the wounded” and saluted “the courage and devotion of an age that is no longer ours”. Trying to escape to the French border, Larrey was taken prisoner by the Prussians who wanted to execute him on the spot. Larrey was recognized by one of the German surgeons, who pleaded for his life. Perhaps partly because he had saved the life of Blücher’s son when he was wounded near Dresden and taken prisoner by the French, he was pardoned, invited to Blücher’s dinner table as a guest and sent back to France with money and proper clothes.

Posted in British history, England, Georgian England, Georgian Era, history, Living in the Regency, medicine, Napoleonic Wars, real life tales, Regency era, research | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Amending a Will During the Regency Era

Recently, I had a reader write to me to ask about whether a man could amend a will during the Regency period, and, if so, what all was involved. The implication was the will was amended to subvert another from receiving his proper inheritance in a story the person read. She wanted to know whether someone would have taken note of the changes and whether this was a plot device acceptable for the time period.

My answer may shock some of you: Someone would need to come forward to protest a will for any notice to be taken. As long as it and any codicils are in proper form, the probate court would likely approve it for execution. Unless a will is contested, the probate court only looks at the form. Some one has to come forward and say that there is something wrong with the execution and even then one doesn’t always win.

That being said, any will could be contested or disputed, and might well be overturned if the will is drawn up under suspicious circumstance without witnesses who can be called to the court to testify the contents within are what the will maker wanted and he was of sound mind at the time. The mere fact that a man was always changing his will would not draw question to its validity at the time of its execution. However, the question of whether the man died before he made another change may be required before the will could be called “valid.”

The National Archives site is an excellent source for information on wills, inheritance, etc. You may find it at this link:


Wills were proved by a number of courts. The only probate court records held by The National Archives are those of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury up to 1858.

The Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC), which actually sat in London, was the senior church court, and dealt:

  • with the wills of relatively wealthy people living in the south of England and Wales
  • with the estates of people who died at sea or abroad leaving personal property in England or Wales

From 1653 to 1660, the PCC was the only court to deal with wills and administrations.

To locate records of wills or administration, first establish where they were proved. The National Archives Guide on Wills or administrations before 1858 can help a person determine which court proved a will or administration.

Disputes regarding wills and the settlement of estates could arise over the:

  • validity of a will
  • claims of people seeking letters of administration
  • disputes about the terms of a will

A single will may have led to lawsuits both in Chancery and the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. If there was litigation, additional records will have been created, such as:

  • the depositions of witnesses
  • pleadings
  • exhibits
Wills 1384 – 1858 ~ These records are Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC) wills in series PROB 11 made between 1384 and 12 January 1858.~ https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/wills-1384-1858/

Up to 1782 every executor or administrator was required to send the registry of the court an inventory of the deceased’s goods.

The inventory itemized the estate held by the deceased, including:

  • leases
  • chattels
  • debts owed and owing
  • cash
  • crops
  • stocks
  • slaves

Real estate (land) was not normally included in estimates and totals.

Only about 800 pre-1660 inventories have survived.

For the period 1660-1782, search The National Archives catalogue by name of deceased for records of inventories in:

For the period 1722-1858, they are mostly in PROB 31.

Other records that can indicate the value of a person’s estate are:

  • the bonds in PROB 46 (1713-1858) were entered into by administrators and some executors of estates. In the 16th and 17th centuries the bonds give a rough idea of the value of the estate. In the 18th and 19th centuries bonds are an unreliable measure of the valuation of an estate, although they are thought to be roughly double the value
  • probate and administration act books in PROB 8 and PROB 9 (from 1796)
  • warrants – estimates of servicemen’s estates and those under £40, £20 and £5, respectively, are noted on some of the 17th century warrants and most of the 18th and 19th century warrants in PROB 14
  • register books in PROB 12 for records of pauper estates
  • orders for the distribution of some intestates’ goods in PROB 16
  • orders of court books, 1816-1857 in PROB 38 contain orders for the revaluation of some 19th century estates
  • death duty registers which can give the value of estates. Read the National Archives guide on Death duties 1796-1903 for information

Other Sources:

The Contents of Eighteenth Century Wills

The Regency Estate

Singular Wills of the Regency Period

Strange and Curious Wills of the Georgian Era

Where There’s a Will There’s a Way

Wills and Devises

Posted in Act of Parliament, British history, Church of England, England, estates, Georgian England, Georgian Era, history, Inheritance, real life tales, Regency era, research | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Statute of Wills, Henry VIII’s Answer to Primogeniture


Caister Castle is a 15th-century moated castle situated in the parish of West Caister, some 5 kilometres (3 mi) north of the town of Great Yarmouth.

The Statute of Wills (32 Hen. 8, c. 1 – enacted in 1540) was an English Act of Parliament, which created a mechanism for landowners to name who would inherit their landed property. A written will was required. It permitted a land owner to leave two-thirds of his property to anyone as long as their was a written will and testament. Prior to the enactment of this statute, land could be passed by descent only if and when the landholder had competent living relatives who survived him, and it was subject to the rules of primogeniture. When a landholder died without any living relatives, his land would escheat (or revert) to the Crown. The statute was something of a political compromise between Henry VIII and English landowners, who were growing increasingly frustrated with primogeniture and royal control of land.

Ironically, the Statute of Wills was passed by Parliament only four years after the Statute of Uses banned the practice of splitting the title to land to avoid paying royal fee associated with the property. The state of law at the time pressed hardly on other classes than the owners of land. Unfortunately, the accepted conditions often defrauded creditors and intending purchasers of what was rightly theirs. The hereditary heir, unless bound by specialty, was free, according as his honour or his judgment dictated, to pay or to repudiate the debts which his ancestor had incurred; and it was not until the reign of Henry VIII that the heir to an entailed estate was rendered liable even to Crown debts, and then only to those secured by judgment. Until this Statute (and later the Wills Act), the personal estate of a deceased intestate was, if sufficient for the purpose, exclusively liable for the satisfaction for the purpose, exclusively liable for the satisfaction or his mortgage debts while the realty descended unincumbered to the heir-at-law.

572d0512517868eaffbcdf9f7a51aa24Purchasers of land in the period subsequent to de donis (De donis conditionalibus is the chapter of the English Statutes of Westminster (1285), which originated the law of entail.) were often cruelly wronged by the production of latent entails, which deprived them of land for which they had previously paid and for which they had “researched” the validity of the true owner. Francis Bacon’s Treatise on the Use of Land talks about how entailed estates were not liable to forfeiture, how personal offenses could not be addressed by the courts to the heir, how the Crown was prejudiced by the previous “laws,’ which greatly reduced its security for debts due from subjects whose property came under the Crown’s care, so “the King could not safely commit any office of account to such whose lands were entailed, nor other men trust them with loan of money.” 

The Statute of Wills created a number of requirements for the form of a will. Specifically, most jurisdictions still require that a will must be in writing, signed by the testator (the person making the will) and witnessed by at least two other persons. 

Some of the procedures created by the Statute of Wills remain effective in modern law. The statute required that wills be in writing, that they be signed by the person making the will, or testator, and that they be properly witnessed by other persons. If any of these requirements was not met, the will could not be enforced in court. These requirements exist today in state law and are intended to ensure that wills are not fabricated and that the testator’s intent is fulfilled.

A testamentary trust is one that becomes effective at the settlor’s death. To effectively create a testamentary trust, it must be created in a duly executed will. To comply with the Statute of Wills, all the elements of the testamentary trust must be ascertainable from the face of the will and any applicable documents incorporated by reference or facts of independent significance. These elements are:

  • Intention to create a trust;
  • Permissible purpose for the trust;
  • Identification of beneficiaries; and
  • Existence of trust res.
In England and Wales, the Statute of Wills was repealed and superseded by the Wills Act of 1837. 

The Law and Custom of Primogeniture by Sir Perceval Lawrence
Read more: Statute of Wills – Land, Law, Death, and Property – JRank Articles http://law.jrank.org/pages/10505/Statute-Wills.html#ixzz4IkgeFjcd


Posted in Act of Parliament, Anglo-Normans, castles, Living in the UK, primogenture | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Treatment of Typhus Upon the Russian Front During the Napoleonic Campaign

In the year 1817, a Prussian army physician by the name of Krantz published a medical history of the treatment of typhus during the Napoleonic campaign in Russia. It was entitled: Bemerkungen ueber den Gang der Krankheiten welche in der koniglich preussischen Armee vom Ausbruch des Krieges im Jahre 1812 bis zu Ende des Waffenstillstandes (im Aug.) 1813 geherrscht haben, which is translated as “Remarks on the course of the Diseases which have reigned in the Royal Prussian Army from the Beginning of the War in the Year 1812 until the End of the Armistice [in August] 1813.”


According to Krantz, the soldiers of the Grande Armée (Grand Army) had brought more than the destruction of war to the Russian front. Whole families, especially those with whom the French soldiers had dwelled, were stricken down by typhus. The Prussian soldiers of York’s corps supposedly did not know the disease until they followed the French’s retreat. Krantz reports that the Prussian army corps knew rapidly knew typhus. He also records another phenomenon: There was a certain uniformity among the different divisions. “On account of the overflowing of the rivers, the men had to march closely together on the road, at least until they passed the Vistula near Dirschau, Moeve, and Marienwerder. Of the rapid extent of the infection we can form an idea when we learn the following facts: In the first East Prussian regiment of infantry, when it came to the Vistula, there was not a single case of typhus, while after a march of 14 miles on the highway which the French had passed before them, there were 15 to 20 men sick in every company, every tenth or even every seventh man. In those divisions which had been exposed to infection while in former cantonments, the cases were much more numerous, 20 to 30 in every company.” (“The Treatment of Typhus,” Historion.net)

In addition to the typhus outbreak, epidemic ophthalmy spread through some of the divisions. A common “causal nexus” connected the two diseases. However, it was noted that the two ailments never attacked the same individual. It was as if typhus gave the patient an immunity against ophthalmy and vice versa. Ironically, Krantz and the other physicians discovered the diseases were often “cured” by the cold of the march. “We found confirmed, says Krantz, what had been asserted a long time before by experienced physicians, that cold air had the most beneficial effect during the inflammatory stage of contagious typhus.” (“The Treatment of Typhus,” Historion.net)

Those suffering from typhus were dressed in warm clothing to protect them from the cold and placed on a wagon to be covered completely by straw. The wagons followed the retreating troops, but they stopped frequently so the patients could be given a tea of “Infusum Chamomillae, species aromaticarum, etc., with or without wine or spiritus sulphuricus aetherius.” Those suffering from typhus were given several cupfuls of the mixture to warm them. The soldiers’ hands and feet were wrapped in rags to prevent frostbite.300px-Napoleons_retreat_from_moscow

At night, those infected were crowded into makeshift hospitals. Those with typhus were separated from those needing other medical treatments, often being placed in barns or larger homes – all filled to capacity and then some. “All the hospitals between the Vistula and Berlin, constantly overfilled, were thoroughly infected, and thus transformed into regular pest-houses exhaling perdition to everyone who entered, the physicians and attendants included. On the other hand, most of the patients who were treated on the march recovered. Of the 31 cases of typhus of the 2d. battalion of the infantry guards reported from Tilsit to Tuchel, only one died, while the remaining 30 regained their health completely, a statistical result as favorable as has hardly ever happened in the best regulated hospital and which is the more surprising on account of the severe form of the disease at that time.” (“The Treatment of Typhus,” Historion.net)

Krantz goes on to say that of 330 patients in the first East Prussian regiment of infantry, 300 recovered and 30 were sent to hospitals in Elbing, Maerkisch, Friedland, Conitz, and Berlin. None died. What was discovered was the cold prevented the spread of the disease. Keeping the patients in the wagons and moving about the countryside did not permit the disease to brew and develop into a death sentence. For most patients, three days after they had been free from fever for 24 hours they were fit to rejoin their units.

As opposed to the customary treatment of the time, which included the exclusion of fresh air and the hourly administration of medication, those treated on the march experienced a 2-3% mortality rate.1024px-Myrbach-Cossacks

Note: I used this research as part of my Regency era based novel, A Touch of Honor (Book 7 of the Realm Series).ATOHCrop2

Posted in British history, Georgian England, Georgian Era, history, medicine, military, Napoleonic Wars, real life tales, Realm series, Regency era, research, science | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments