The Role of Servants in Jane Austen’s Novels, a Guest Post from Eliza Shearer

To complement my series on Life Below Stairs, I thought you might enjoy this piece from Eliza Shearer which first appeared on Austen Authors on 7 January 2020. 

One of the things I love about Jane Austen is that nothing is wasted in her books. Even the tiniest of details is used to convey information of some kind or as a plot device. This includes the servants, who are ubiquitous in her novels. Let’s look at the role they play in a bit more detail. 

Servants as a Mark of Gentility 

In Jane Austen’s novels, we meet characters in very different financial circumstances, but even most of those bordering on poverty manage to have servants of some kind. In Emma, Mrs and Miss Bates have a tiny income, but it is enough to pay for a servant, Patty. In Mansfield Park, the impoverished Mr and Mrs Price employ an “upper servant,” Rebecca, and “an attendant girl”, Sally, described as of “inferior appearance.” 

Not having at least a girl to help around the house is the Regency equivalent of near-destitution. In fact, only Mrs Smith, as a “poor, infirm, helpless widow” in Persuasion, is “unable to afford herself the comfort of a servant,” which shows the extent of her desperation.  

Servants as Proof of Personal Wealth

No surprise here: the larger the fortune of the master, the more numerous the servants working for him or her. Stately homes such as Rosings, Pemberley or Mansfield Park came with a small army of servants to keep them ticking like clockwork. However, in Longbourn, the Bennets have to make do with five servants (butler, cook, housekeeper, maid and scullery maid) for a household of seven.  

Likewise, in Austen’s novels, a decrease in the number of servants indicates a change in financial circumstances. In Sense and Sensibility, the Dashwoods have to move to a cottage in Devonshire with only “two maids and a man” to attend to them. In Persuasion, the Elliots move to Bath in part because they will need to keep fewer servants. 

Servants as a Source of Information about the Household

Servants knew a lot about the families they worked for. Anything done or discussed in the house was at risk of being talked about. In Pride and Prejudice, Mrs Reynolds, the housekeeper, gives plenty of information about Mr Darcy and Georgiana, and “had evidently great pleasure in talking of her master and his sister.” Mrs Reynolds’ praise contributes to changing Elizabeth’s perception of Darcy.

The characters in Jane Austen’s stories know that one needs to be careful with what one discusses in front of the help, although this can be difficult at times. Also in Pride and Prejudice, when Elizabeth returns to Longbourn from Hunsford, she is in despair when she realises that all the servants must know about Lydia’s escape with Wickham. She knows the town gossips will soon know all about it. 

Servants as a Reflection on Their Masters

Whenever Austen shows us how someone treats a servant, she is also conveying a wealth of information about that character. Take Fanny Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility, when she is discussing annuities with her husband. Annuities were similar to pensions and were paid by masters to reward the loyalty of former servants unable to work because of advanced age or poor health. Fanny makes it clear that she dislikes annuities very much:

“An annuity is a very serious business; it comes over and over every year, and there is no getting rid of it. (…) My mother was clogged with the payment of three to old superannuated servants by my father’s will, and it is amazing how disagreeable she found it. (…) My mother was quite sick of it.”

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 2

In contrast, Colonel Brandon’s kindness and sense of duty towards his dependents are shown through how he acts towards a previous servant who has “fallen into misfortune”. His concern leads him to “visit him in a spunging-house, where he was confined for debt.” There, Brandon finds Eliza, his disgraced sister-in-law and former love, who is dying of consumption, which brings me nicely to my last point. 

Servants as a Plot Device 

In some occasions, Austen uses servants to advance or alter the course of the story or even deliver the odd red herring. In Sense and Sensibility, a servant unwittingly causes a fair deal of despair amongst his mistresses when he tells the Dashwood ladies that Mr Ferrars is married. As well as sowing confusion, the man’s words show Lucy Steele’s maliciousness when the situation is cleared up soon afterwards. 

In Mansfield Park, when the family visits Sotherton, Mrs Norris behaviour has severe implications. She acts selfishly, associating with the servants to obtain some cream cheese and pheasants’ eggs. As a result, Julia Bertram is forced to keep Mrs Rushworth’s company, Henry Crawford and Maria Bertram are left unchaperoned for quite some time, and we all know what happens next. 

The Grey Areas

Austen also shows us some grey areas in the relationships between master or mistress and servant. In Mansfield Park, Fanny Price’s position in the Bertram household is unclear. She is quiet and accepting of her fluctuating status, but how would someone with more spirit react to the way she is sometimes treated by the Bertrams and Aunt Norris in particular?

Enter Susan Price, Fanny’s spirited little sister, who eventually replaces her as Lady Bertram’s companion. Is she to be considered a relative, or little more than a servant? In Miss Price’s Decision, the implications of this question are apparent when she goes into society in London and Bath, where her position is challenged by both her superiors and her inferiors.

Susan, like all members of Regency society, wants to know her place in the world. Will she find it?

Miss Price’s Decision is available in the leading online bookstores.

Can you think of other examples of the role of servants in Jane Austen’s novels? 

Posted in Austen Authors, book excerpts, Emma, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Guest Post, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, Mansfield Park, Pride and Prejudice, reading habits, Regency era, servant life, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sadie Hawkins’ Day, not a Leap Year Event + a Giveaway

114000a(Image from Sadie Hawkins’ cards at

When I was a teen girl, I enjoyed the school sponsored Sadie Hawkins’ dances. We didn’t exactly go for the girl asking the boy to the dance (like a date). But we did follow some of the tradition. It was my chance to claim a dance with whichever boy was my fancy at the time. But from where does the tradition come? First, let me say there’s a misconception that February 29 is Sadie Hawkins’ Day.

Sadie Hawkins was a character created by Al Capp as part of the Li’l Abner comic strip. She made her debut on 15 November 1937. Reportedly, Sadie was “homely” and unable to get a date. Her father Hezekiah Hawkins, a prominent and wealthy citizen of the fictional mountain town of Dogpatch, Kentucky, decided he’d help his 35-year-old daughter out. So, he created a day specifically for Sadie (i.e., Sadie Hawkins Day). On that particular day, the women of Dogpatch matched speed with the town’s eligible bachelors in a footrace. According to Capp, Sadie Hawkins Day was celebrated in November (NOT February). November was when we had our school dances, but at the time, I didn’t understand the significance. (Women’s Issues

capture-1This image from Women You Should Know Fills in the blanks about Capp and the Sadie Hawkins’ tradition. “Calling all the bachelors in town, Hezekiah declared it ‘Sadie Hawkins Day’ and ordered a race of eligible bachelors with Sadie chasing after them… when a man was caught, he would be legally bound to marry her. The other town spinsters loved this idea so much that they declared Sadie Hawkins Day a mandatory annual event, which was recreated in the comic strip by Capp every November… for FORTY years!

“Sadie Hawkins Day wasn’t just a hit with the fictional spinsters of Dogpatch, it was also a hit with Capp’s real life readers. In 1939, two years after Sadie’s introduction, Life magazine reported over 200 colleges holding Sadie Hawkins Day events. It became a rite for girls at high schools and college campuses across the country.

“Understanding that Sadie Hawkins was a craze during a very different time in history helps to put its popularity into perspective, at least a little bit. As for the man who dreamed up this idea, Al Capp was apparently a known womanizer and misogynist, as well as an accused rapist. His reputation for ‘seducing and even sexually assaulting aspiring actresses, including a young Goldie Hawn and a distraught and disheveled Grace Kelly,’ along with sleeping with the college girls he met on his Sadie Hawkins Day tours preceded him.” (Women You Should Know)

AFKbKipl (Image via Celebrate the History of Sadie Hawkins

Wikipedia provides us a summary to of the story: I”n Li’l Abner, Sadie Hawkins was the daughter of one of Dogpatch‘s earliest settlers, Hekzebiah Hawkins. The ‘homeliest gal in all them hills,’ she grew frantic waiting for suitors to come a-courtin’. When she reached the age of 35, still a spinster, her father was even more frantic—about Sadie living at home for the rest of her life. In desperation, he called together all the unmarried men of Dogpatch and declared it ‘Sadie Hawkins Day.’ A foot race was decreed, with Sadie in hot pursuit of the town’s eligible bachelors. She specifically had her eye on a boy who was already in a courtship with the cute farmers daughter, Theresa. She was the daughter of the area’s largest potato farmer, Bill Richmand, and, unlike Sadie, had a lot of courtship offers. Stud-muffin Adam Olis was her target, and because the engagement of Miss Theresa and Adam wasn’t official he was included in the race. With matrimony as the consequence of losing the foot race, the men of the town were running for their freedom. Turned out Adam Olis was in 4th place out of 10th leaving John Jonston as Sadie’s catch of the day. It seems likely that the concept’s origins lie in an inversion of the myth of Atalanta, who, reluctant to marry, agreed to wed whoever could outrun her in a footrace.

“When ah fires [my gun], all o’ yo’ kin start a-runnin! When ah fires agin—after givin’ yo’ a fair start—Sadie starts a runnin’. Th’ one she ketches’ll be her husbin.”

bio.sadie_ (Image from Women You Should Know) “The town spinsters decided that this was such a good idea, they made Sadie Hawkins Day a mandatory yearly event, much to the chagrin of Dogpatch bachelors. In the satirical spirit that drove the strip, many sequences revolved around the dreaded Sadie Hawkins Day race. If a woman caught a bachelor and dragged him, kicking and screaming, across the finish line before sundown—by law he had to marry her.

“Sadie Hawkins Day was first mentioned in the November 15, 1937 Li’l Abner daily strip, with the race actually taking place between November 19 and November 30 in the continuity. It would prove to be a popular annual feature in Li’l Abner, and a cultural phenomenon outside the strip. (see Schreiner, Dave; “Sadie’s First Run”, Li’l Abner Dailies Volume 3: 1937, Kitchen Sink Press, Princeton, WI, pg. 8.)” 

Sadie Hawkins’ Day is different (but in many ways the same) as Lady’s Privilege Day, an Irish and Scottish tradition, which I’m discussing on Austen Authors today. You may read it HERE.

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY. I HAVE A COPY OF THE 2010 FILM “LEAP YEAR,” starring Amy Adams and Matthew Goode to be given away. The Giveaway will end at midnight, EST, Friday, 28 February 2020. Comment below to be part of the giveaway. ONE COPY OF THE DVD IS AVAILABLE HERE, WHILE THE OTHER IS AVAILABLE ON MY POST ON “Leap Year: Lady’s Privilege,” on Austen Authors. COMMENT HERE TO BE ENTERED FOR A COPY. COMMENT ON FOR A SECOND CHANCE TO WIN. 

MV5BMTgzMTQ2MDQxMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODEzOTg5Mg@@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_AL_.jpgThe Story: When Anna’s (Amy Adams) four-year anniversary to her boyfriend passes without an engagement ring, she decides to take matters into her own hands. Inspired by an Irish tradition that allows women to propose to men on Leap Day, Anna follows Jeremy (Adam Scott) to Dublin to propose to him. But after landing on the wrong side of Ireland, she must enlist the help of the handsome and carefree local Declan (Matthew Goode) to get her across the country. Along the way, they discover that the road to love can take you to very unexpected places.

Posted in America, American History, Appalachia, Austen Authors, customs and tradiitons, dancing, film, giveaway, history, holidays, legends and myths, marriage, marriage customs, Pop Culture, romance, tradtions | Tagged , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Life Below Stairs: Rising with the Sun in Victorian England ~ Part I

Servants needed to be up and about their business long before the Master and the Mistress. For example, lower servants were up at 5 A.M. and at work minutes later. Most did not waste time in their rooms for they were cold and draughty. Customarily, a half hour deferment was presented to the servants during the winter months, allowing them not to rise until 5:30. They would work some two hours before they sat to their own breakfast. 

The kitchenmaid was usually the first downstairs. Her first job was to clean or to blacklead the range and whiten the hearth and build a fire before a kettle could be set to boil. Ranges of the time were either “bright” or “black.” To keep the bright range “bright,” one had to polish it was liberal application of rotten-stone and sweet oil until it shine like a mirror. This mixture was applied by rubbing it on with a leather strip. A bright range had a alternate set of fire-bars for summer use. These cast iron bars were rubbed with mutton fat and wrapped in brown paper during the winter months. 

closed-range The closed range was introduced and was widely available by the 1840’s. A metal hot-plate covered the fire box and had rings for pans and kettles to rest upon.

A black range was one made of cast-iron. The maid placed a cloth before the stove before she raked out the cinders and then swept the dust off the bars, the hobs and the hearth. She would take a piece of black lead (which came in solid block) and mix it with water in a small pan. Then she would apply it with a round-headed brush to all insides of the range. When the black lead dried, it was rubbed until it shined with a special polishing brush, with a little splay of bristles at the top for getting to tight ornamental work. The flues were swept clean once a week. This maid between two and eight shillings per week for her trouble.

images.jpgKaren Foy in Life in the Victorian Kitchen (©2014)tells us, “Cooking on a kitchen range was hard work, but those with a range were much more fortunate than the poorer classes, who still cooked over an open grate, but easier options had to be found. By the mid 1800s, kitchen ranges changed dramatically and the graft involved in both using and cleaning them was reduced, greatly improving the everyday life of the cook and the kitchen staff…. Like many other new and innovative creations, a glimpse of what the future might hold for Victorian cooks was witnessed at the Great Exhibition of 1851, where early versions of gas-powered were showcased.”

Servant precedence required that the upper servants rose around 6. The cook was required to prepare four different meals, each of separate dishes – those for the family, those for the servants, and those for the children. Parlourmaids (the Victorian substitute for a butler) set the table for the meal and often cleaned the room. The place setting contained knives, forks, and folded serviette. Rolls, bread, and toast were on platters. There were jars of jam, whole honeycombs, and butter dishes. A jug of cream and a sugar basin was in the middle of the table. Additional cups and saucers were kept at hand. Breakfast included bacon, eggs, kidneys, cutlets, fish, omelettes, and broiled chicken. Some households also served cold meats, such as tongue and ham. Game pies and potted meats might also be served. If no lady’s maid was employed in the household, tending the mistress was an additional duty. 

The children’s nurse provided the child/children two to seven mandatory meals/feedings Not all middle class mothers breast fed their babies. Wet nurses filled that duty. Nannies raised the children, who were often “out of sight – out of mind.” The mistress of the house customarily saw their children only during a thirty minutes or so meeting in mid afternoon, around tea time. The nurse’s duties included bathing the babies each morning, administering prescribed medicine and feeding the children. Usually, the child was given a mixture of milk and barley water. Older children also received a bath and nurses assisted in dressing them. Until the age of 7 or 8 boys were laced into stays. Girls wore them throughout their lives. Children customarily ate at 8 A.M. The meal was quite sparse: porridge or break and milk. Perhaps they would receive an egg on Sunday. Their parents had extensive choices for breakfast, and they ate at 9. 

For the remainder of the family, maids brought hot water for washing and tea with bread and butter for consumption to tide them over until breakfast. Lady’s maids laced up their mistresses. Then they assisted the women of the household with multiple petticoats, steel-hooped crinolines or horsehair bustles, long drawers or tight pantaloons, and dresses which contained 20 to 40 yards of material. Some parlourmaids even acted as valet for the master of the house. 

At 8, the servants (except the children’s nurse) sat to breakfast. The meal was often left overs from the previous evening’s meal. It was not extensive. At about 8:45, the family was summoned to the morning room/dining room. Often beforehand, the family and the servants prayed together or read the Bible together before they went about their days. 


Posted in British history, history, Living in the UK, servant life, Victorian era | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Stagecoach Travel During the Regency

It was the late 1700s before the roads were in good enough shape to support coach travel. People until that time were of the nature to ride a horse or walk. Goods were placed upon pack horses. The roads were often muddy and full of ruts. Road surfaces were expensive to maintain and became the “option” of the local gentry or the aristocracy. It was nearly impossible to travel during the rainy seasons. 

The first stage coach company established a route between London and York in the first decade of the 1700s. It would take about 10-14 days to travel from Edinburgh, Scotland to London by the mid 1700s. By the mid 1800s, one could make the same journey in 3-4 days. 


Coach Stop on the Place de Passy, and change of horses, by Edmond Georges Grandjean via Wikipedia

According to Wikipedia, “A stagecoach is a type of covered wagon used to carry passengers and goods inside. It is strongly sprung and generally drawn by four horses, usually four-in-hand. Widely used before the introduction of railway transport, it made regular trips between stages or stations, which were places of rest provided for stagecoach travelers. The business of running stagecoaches or the act of journeying in them was known as staging. Originating in England, familiar images of the stagecoach are that of a Royal Mail coach passing through a turnpike gate, a Dickensian passenger coach covered in snow pulling up at a coaching inn, and a highwayman demanding a coach to ‘stand and deliver.'” The coach traveled in segments or “stages,” thus the name. The coach traveled at 5-7 miles per hour. They changed out hours at the “stages,” meaning about every 2-3 hours. At a staging inn, the travelers could find a bit to eat or take care of their personal needs. He could also spend the night at the inn and take a different coach the following day. 

According to the Georgian Index, “The coach body was suspended on leather straps, called thorough braces, to absorb some of the road shock, but the hanging vehicle body must have swayed terribly. Passenger were expected to get out and walk up steep hills to spare the horses and were even expected to help push the coach when the wheels became mired in mud holes. Worse yet, robberies by highwaymen were so common that paste jewelry was usually carried on trips. Progress on the poor roads was slow and coaching inns were busy, noisy places where uninterrupted sleep was almost impossible. Travelers arrived at their destinations motion sick, muddy, and exhausted.

“The coaching inns provided a support structure for coach routes. Fresh teams of horses were kept in readiness for changing out the exhausted team that had just run the previous stage of the journey. These teams were contracted to stage lines or the Royal Mail. Other horses were available to be leased by individuals. Crack teams of hostlers prided themselves in changing mail coach teams in as little as three minutes. Passengers could get a meal at an appropriately timed stop at a coaching inn. Many inns were famous for house recipes. Others were know for taking advantage of passengers by providing undercooked food or slow service. Inns were generally built around a central cobbled courtyard that gave some protection from the weather and made it easy to watch for coaches coming in. However, the convenience was offset by the difficulty in sleeping in a place where servants and passengers constantly came and went, horns were blown to announce arrivals and departures, and teams of horses created a constant clatter on the cobblestones. Travel guides generally advised coach passengers who were spending the night to stay at an inn rather than the main coaching inn.”

Mail coaches traveled much faster than a private coach owned by a member of the gentry would do. They were not required to wait for changes, did not spend the night anywhere, and had relief drivers. 

Stage coaches used their own horses, or horses under contract purely to the stage company.  They had their own drivers, not postilions, so it was not necessary for them to adhere to the speed limits put on private hires.  Stage coaches did stop at night, unless they were express routes, which operated only between a few large towns.  There were night coach routes, too, that operated only at night, but theses employed the worst vehicles, worst horses, and worst drivers, so passengers customarily avoided them.  They mostly carried packages between towns without going through London. 

stagecoach.jpg Stage coaches averaged about 7 miles per hour on the turnpikes, but much slower on secondary roads, which they traversed often since they were the only real public transportation connecting smaller towns. They also operated across the country instead of always radiating from London like the mail coaches did. They pushed their horses hard and carried LOTS of passengers, so the horses rarely lasted even three years of service, often being sold to farmers as plow horses afterwards.    

Mail coaches were the fastest form of transportation, averaging 9 miles per hour, but they only operated on the turnpikes and only on turnpikes in good condition.  Unless the roads were properly maintained, the mail route would be dropped. They did not stop for anything except changes of horses, which happened very quickly.  Again, the horses were under contract strictly to the post office, so they were unavailable to travelers.  Mail coaches carried, at most, 7 passengers: 4 inside, three outside.  Their coaches were smaller and lighter than the stage coaches, which added to their speed.

claudeduval A traveler would hire horses every 15-20 miles if he wanted to make any time. But the coach was required to stop at all toll gates, slow for all the numerous villages, and give way whenever a mail coach came up behind them. By the 1830s, that speed was doubled due to macadamization, which started in 1814.

Historic UK tells us, “The Regency period saw great improvements in coach design and road construction, leading to greater speed and comfort for passengers. For example, in 1750 it took around 2 days to travel from Cambridge to London, but by 1820 the journey time had been slashed to under 7 hours. This was the golden age of the stagecoach. Coaches now travelled at around 12 miles per hour, with four coaches per route, two going in each direction with two spare coaches in case of a breakdown. However the development of the railways in the 1830s had a huge impact on the stagecoach. Stage and mail coaches could not compete with the speed of the new railways. Soon the post was traveling by rail and by the mid 19th century, most coaches traveling to and from London had been withdrawn from service.”

Posted in British history, business, Industrial Revolution, Living in the Regency, Regency era, travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Traveling by Coach During the Regency, an Overview

When writing a scene where my characters travel by coach, many issues must be taken into consideration before the scene is complete. Type of coach? Miles between point A and point B? Time of the year? Country roads or turnpikes? Number of hours/days required? How often to change horses? Weather conditions? 

Stage and mail coaches traveled much faster than a private coach would do. There was no reason for them to wait for changes, nor did they spend the night anywhere. Moreover, they had relief drivers. 

Stage coaches also used their own horses, or horses under contract purely to them.  They had their own drivers, not postilions, so they did not have to adhere to the speed limits put on private hires. Stage coaches did stop at night unless they were express routes, which operated only between a few large towns.  There were night coach routes, too, that operated only at night, but theses used the worst vehicles, worst horses, and worst drivers so passengers typically avoided them. They carried mostly packages between towns without going through London. Stage coaches averaged about 7 miles per hour on the turnpikes, much slower on secondary roads, which they traversed often since they were the only real public transportation connecting smaller towns or that operated across the country instead of always radiating from London like the mail coaches did. They pushed their horses hard and carried a LOT of passengers, so the horses rarely lasted even three years in service, being sold to farmers as plow horses afterwards. Stage coaches did have to stop at tollgates, but their horses were ready at each stop so changes were fast. They used a shorter stage for changes than private job horses did — 10-15 miles. 

Mail coaches were the fastest form of transportation, averaging 9 miles per hour. But they only operated on the turnpikes and only on turnpikes in good condition. They did not stop for anything except changes of horses, which happened very quickly and very often, usually every 2 hours. Again, the horses were under contract strictly to the post office, so were unavailable to travelers. Mail coaches carried, at most, 7 passengers—4 inside, three outside. Their coaches were smaller and lighter than the stage coaches, which added to their speed.

Mail coaches averaged 5 miles per hour on the turnpikes, less on secondary roads. One needed to hire horses every 15-20 miles if one wanted to make any time. They generally averaged 7 miles per hour. They were often slowed, for they had to stop at all toll gates, slow for the numerous villages, and give way whenever another coach came up behind them. Also, traveling after dark was not a good idea unless a huge emergency necessitated it. By the 1830s, that speed was doubled due to macadamization of the roads, but that had not even started in 1814.

The men who changed the horses for the mail or stage coaches were as fast as the team that changes tires  at a NASCAR race. Reportedly, they could do the job in under 5 minutes.

From Jane Austen’s World we have a different perspective of the mail coach. “They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and how true it is in this instanceGeorge Scharf the elder, a popular genre painter of the early 19th century, was also a prolific drawer of ordinary scenes in his adopted city of London. One can study his drawing of the Mail Coach Bound for the West County, 1829, endlessly, imagining many tales while thinking back on the history of coach travel. This mail coach is being readied at the Gloucester Coffee House on Piccadilly, where so many mail coaches left at night. The horses are waiting to pull this heavily laden wagon. They will pull it for 15 miles before they will need to be changed. Even with improved roads, the coach will not be going much faster than 7-8 miles per hour. Scharf drew this scene in 1829, a year before the first passenger train would be introduced. By the mid-18th century this scene in Piccadilly would have changed dramatically.

“I count 9 people on top the wagon, one passenger sitting next to the coachman, seven on top of the wagon (one is definitely a porter), and two passengers inside.  I imagine there are two more people seated inside that we cannot see, for the interior holds four passengers, and that the gentleman putting on the great coat is waiting for the porters to finish loading the packages before he takes his seat on top of the coach. The woman and child standing next to him must be waiting to see him off, for, if the rest of the mail bags, packages, and luggage are to be loaded, there won’t be room for them as well. If they are waiting to board, then I pity the four horses who will be pulling 13 people along with the mail.

“Travel was quite costly back then.

Costs of travel:  [estimates for 1800]

  • Stage Coach:  2-3 pence / mile = 1.25 pounds from London to Bath / half-price if up top / outside [but remember the average income was about £30 / year
  • Hired post-chaise =  estimate about £1 / mile [i.e @1 shilling / horse / mile, to include the postillion] – Jane Austen in Vermont

“For a family living on  £25 – £30 per year, such costs were prohibitive. The cheapest seats were on top and on the outside. One can see a woman holding her child wedged between straw baskets. Should the coach take a turn too fast or be involved in an accident, she and her babe could be flung off the vehicle or trapped underneath should it overturn. At best, they felt the wind and rain and arrived at their destination disheveled and covered in road dust if the weather was dry, or soaking wet with rain. One shudders at the thought of what it felt like to be an outdoor passenger in the winter.”

Some Stage Coaches timed the change of horses to a meal time and gave the passengers twenty minutes to eat, stretch their legs, and tend to personal needs.

Some stage coaches and mail coaches ran 365. Some never ran on Sunday. Whether there was more than one stage or mail going out a day depended on the route. Then there were various stages owned by private companies. These ran on their own schedules and were more or less dependable, and also often more crowded. They, too, were not supposed to run on Sundays or religious holidays, but some did–it was about a profit. Times to change horses might be a touch more relaxed in that some stops were worked into their schedules, including changes of horses. Some of these coaches might have a team of six, and so a change would take longer (more horses = more time). They would also generally run only once a day in one direction–or possibly even less. But it all depends on the route and traffic.

Travel was delayed and the coaches stopped during blizzards and when the snow blocked the roads. In a couple of cases, outside passengers froze to death because of the cold. Torrential rain did not necessarily stop the coach from completing its route, but more than one road had been known to wash away or the ditches to overflow and the paving stones to become loose or misplaced. Do you recall the scene in “Becoming Jane” where James McAvoy’s character of Tom Lefroy must carry “Jane Austen” across the muddy road and assist the other gentlemen in removing the carriage from the muck. It is a pivotal scene that broke many Austenites’ hearts. 

The destination determined whether the next coach would be in two hours or the next day. Cary printed a schedule.

There is the Royal Mail. This ran over specific routes, usually only once a day in either direction. They did not travel on Sundays or religious holidays, so no Christmas Day travel. Their schedules were very tight, and horses were changed in about 15 to 20 minutes, or less–a person barely had time to use the facilities or get some tea. Their purpose was to deliver the mail and passengers were secondary, and the coachman very strict on times.

Frequency of coaches was daily, at best. There were never several coaches going all the same way with the same exact destination. The needs of the populous determined the  the frequency. We are talking about a much less populous world than the one we live in. Between large cities, more need would be obvious, and less need the further one was removed from London. One might see several coaches all using the same road, for example, they are all using the London to Bristol road, but they split off for various end destinations.

To purchase a seat on a coach could be quite difficult, for most tended to be packed and sold out, so not easy to “catch” a ride. One purchased his ticket at the origin point for the mail or stage. One might be able to bribe a coachman on a stage to fit you inside or on an outside seat, but it was not always possible. Horses can only pull so much weight.

What a writer of Regencies requires is to research the route the characters are taking. I recommend Cary’s Itinerary or Patterson’s. Look up your route and you will discover what coaches go through the setting of the story (from Point A to Point B). These travel guides are possible to find online, and as used books, and are not that expensive.

Another trick I use is to calculate the distance using Google maps, and then I determine how long it would take a modern day person to bike from Point A to Point B. That provides me a rough idea of how many hours my characters would spend in a coach. Google also provides the “bike” information with a few simple clicks.

Other Sources:

Carriages and Coaches in Regency England

Regency Posting Inns and Post Coaches

Transport – Stage Coaches and Mail Coaches

Here’s the online link to Cary’s (second edition, 1802). I keep it bookmarked. Cary’s New Itinerary…

Posted in British history, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, real life tales, Regency era, travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Love Is in the Air…

love-6.jpgOne of my author friends recently posted her top ten “love” quotes from movies. In response, I have chosen some of my favorites (in no particular order). I had a great time doing this, but I ran out of space. I think I will revisit the idea again soon. (P.S. Tell me some of your favorites. Perhaps we can start a trend and post them on imbd.) Now, I must pull several of these from my collection and have a “love fest” of my own making. A great film and a glass of wine. Enjoy! 

515Ze8T5jWL._SX940_.jpg Pride & Prejudice (2005)

“…If, however, your feelings have changed, I will have to tell you: you have bewitched me, body and soul, and I love … I love … I love you. I never wish to be parted from you from this day on.”
—Darcy (Matthew MacFadyen) to Elizabeth Bennet (Keira Knightley)

images.jpg Dirty Dancing (1987)
“Me? I’m scared of everything. I’m scared of what I saw, I’m scared of what I did, of who I am, and most of all I’m scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my whole life the way I feel when I’m with you.” Baby (Jennifer Grey) to Johnny (Patrick Swayze).

love+actually+main.jpg Love Actually (2003)
“But for now, let me say — without hope or agenda, just because it’s Christmas and at Christmas you tell the truth — to me, you are perfect. And my wasted heart will love you. Until you look like this [picture of a mummy]. Merry Christmas.” Mark (Andrew Lincoln) to Juliet (Keira Knightley)

NottingHillRobertsGrant.jpg Notting Hill (1999)
“Don’t forget I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.”
— Anna (Julia Roberts) to William (Hugh Grant)

ngrmfuht.jpg Titanic (1997)

“Winning that ticket, Rose, was the best thing that ever happened to me… it brought me to you … You must do me this honor, Rose. Promise me you’ll survive. That you won’t give up, no matter what happens, no matter how hopeless. Promise me now, Rose, and never let go of that promise.”
— Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) to Rose (Kate Winslet)

Mohicansposter.jpg The Last of the Mohicans (1992)
“…You stay alive, no matter what occurs! I will find you. No matter how long it takes, no matter how far, I will find you.”
— Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis) to Cora (Madeleine Stowe)

images-1.jpg When Harry Met Sally (1989)
“I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle in your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”
— Harry (Billy Crystal) to Sally (Meg Ryan)

1438124471-the-notebook-2004-copy.jpg The Notebook (2004)

“So it’s not gonna be easy. It’s gonna be really hard. We’re gonna have to work at this every day, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, you and me, every day. Will you do something for me, please? Just picture your life for me? 30 years from now, 40 years from now? What does it look like? If it’s with him, go. Go! I lost you once, I think I can do it again. If I thought that’s what you really wanted. But don’t you take the easy way out.”
— Noah (Ryan Gosling) to Allie (Rachel McAdams)

imgres.jpg Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
“It was a million tiny little things that, when you added them all up, they meant we were supposed to be together … and I knew it. I knew it the very first time I touched her. It was like coming home… only to no home I’d ever known … I was just taking her hand to help her out of a car and I knew. It was like … magic.”
— Sam (Tom Hanks) speaking of his deceased wife to the radio show

search.jpg Gone with the Wind (1939)

“No, I don’t think I will kiss you, although you need kissing, badly. That’s what’s wrong with you. You should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how.”

— Rhett (Clark Gable) to Scarlett (Vivien Leigh)

homepage_eb19960915reviews08401010308ar  Casablanca (1942)
“Here’s looking at you, kid.”
—Rick (Humphrey Bogart) to Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman)

Love_Story_(1970_film).jpg Love Story (1970)
“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”
—Jennifer (Ali MacGraw) to Oliver (Ryan O’Neal)

jerry-maguire-05.jpg Jerry Maguire (1996)
“You had me at hello.”
— Dorothy (Renée Zellweger) to Jerry (Tom Cruise)

imgres.jpg Sense and Sensibility (1995)
“But wait, there’s more! My heart is, and always will be, yours.” — Edward Ferrars (Hugh Grant) to Elinor Dashwood (Emma Thompson)

214751 On Golden Pond (1981)

“Listen to me, mister. You’re my knight in shining armor. Don’t forget it.”
— Ethel (Katharine Hepburn) to Norman (Henry Fonda)

imgres.jpg An Affair to Remember (1957)
“Oh, it’s nobody’s fault but my own! I was looking up… it was the nearest thing to heaven! You were there…” — Terry McKay (Deborah Kerr) to Nick Ferrante (Cary Grant)

images.jpg Doctor Zhivago (1965)
Lara (Julie Christie): “Wouldn’t it have been lovely if we had met before?”
Zhivago (Omar Sharif): “Before we did? Yes.”
Lara: “We’d have got married, had a house and children. If we’d had children, Yuri, would you like a boy or girl?”
Zhivago: “I think we may go mad if we think about all that.”
Lara: “I shall always think about it.”

imgres-1.jpg Wuthering Heights (1939)

“Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest so long as I live on! I killed you. Haunt me, then! Haunt your murderer! I know that ghosts have wandered on the Earth. Be with me always. Take any form, drive me mad, only do not leave me in this dark alone where I cannot find you. I cannot live without my life! I cannot die without my soul.” — Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier)

imgres-2.jpg A Room with a View (1985)
“He’s the sort who can’t know anyone intimately, least of all a woman. He doesn’t know what a woman is. He wants you for a possession, something to look at, like a painting or an ivory box. Something to own and to display. He doesn’t want you to be real, and to think and to live. He doesn’t love you. But I love you. I want you to have your own thoughts and ideas and feelings, even when I hold you in my arms. It’s our last chance.” — George Emerson (Julian Sands)

imgres-3.jpg The Way We Were (1973)
Katie (Barbra Streisand): “Wouldn’t it be lovely if we were old? We’d have survived all this. Everything thing would be easy and uncomplicated; the way it was when we were young.”
Hubbell (Robert Redford): “Katie, it was never uncomplicated.”

imgres-4.jpg The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009)
“I want to tell you, again, I love you. Our love has been the thread through the labyrinth, the net under the high-wire walker, the only real thing in this strange life of mine that I could ever trust. Tonight I feel that my love for you has more density in this world than I do, myself: as though it could linger on after me and surround you, keep you, hold you.” Henry DeTamble (Eric Bana) to Claire Abshire (Rachel McAdams)

imgres-5.jpg Ten Things I Hate About You (1996)
“I hate the way you talk to me, and the way you cut your hair. I hate the way you drive my car. I hate it when you stare. I hate your big dumb combat boots, and the way you read my mind. I hate you so much it makes me sick; it even makes me rhyme. I hate it, I hate the way you’re always right. I hate it when you lie. I hate it when you make me laugh, even worse when you make me cry. I hate it that you’re not around, and the fact that you didn’t call. But mostly I hate the way I don’t hate you. Not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all.” Kat Stratford (Julia Stiles) speaking of Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger)

imgres-6.jpg The Bridges of Madison County (1995)

Francesca (Meryl Streep): Robert, please. You don’t understand, no-one does. When a woman makes the choice to marry, to have children; in one way her life begins, but in another way it stops. You build a life of details. You become a mother, a wife, and you stop and stay steady so that your children can move. And when they leave, they take your life of details with them. And then you’re expected to move again, only you don’t remember what moves you because no-one has asked in so long. Not even yourself. You never in your life think that love like this can happen to you.
Robert Kincaid (Clint Eastwood): But now that you have it…
Francesca: I want to keep it forever. I want to love you the way I do now the rest of my life. Don’t you understand… we’ll lose it if we leave. I can’t make an entire life disappear to start a new one. All I can do is try to hold onto to both. Help me. Help me not lose loving you.

The Bridges of Madison County (1995)
Robert Kincaid: This kind of certainty comes but once in a lifetime.

The Bridges of Madison County (1995)
Francesca: And in that moment, everything I knew to be true about myself up until then was gone. I was acting like another woman, yet I was more myself than ever before.

imgres-7.jpg Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)
Frances (Diane Lane): Do you know the most surprising thing about divorce? It doesn’t actually kill you. Like a bullet to the heart or a head-on car wreck. It should. When someone you’ve promised to cherish till death do you part says “I never loved you,” it should kill you instantly. You shouldn’t have to wake up day after day after that, trying to understand how in the world you didn’t know. The light just never went on, you know. I must have known, of course, but I was too scared to see the truth. Then fear just makes you so stupid.
Martini(Vincent Riotta): No, it’s not stupid, Signora Mayes. L’amore e cieco.
Frances: Oh, love is blind. Yeah, we have that saying too.
Martini: Everybody has that saying because it’s true everywhere.

736_DVD_box_348x490_original.jpg It Happened One Night (1934)
Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert): Have you ever been in love, Peter?
Peter Warne (Clark Gable): Me?
Ellie Andrews: Yes. Haven’t you ever thought about it at all? It seems to me you, you could make some girl wonderfully happy.
Peter Warne: Sure I’ve thought about it. Who hasn’t? If I could ever meet the right sort of girl. Aw, where you gonna find her? Somebody that’s real. Somebody that’s alive. They don’t come that way anymore. Have I ever thought about it? I’ve even been sucker enough to make plans. You know, I saw an island in the Pacific once. I’ve never been able to forget it. That’s where I’d like to take her. She’d have to be the sort of a girl who’d… well, who’d jump in the surf with me and love it as much as I did. You know, nights when you and the moon and the water all become one. You feel you’re part of something big and marvelous. That’s the only place to live… where the stars are so close over your head you feel you could reach up and stir them around. Certainly, I’ve been thinking about it. Boy, if I could ever find a girl who was hungry for those things…
[she comes around the blanket “Walls of Jericho” and kneels by his bed]
Ellie Andrews: Take me with you, Peter. Take me to your island. I want to do all those things you talked about.
Peter Warne: You’d better go back to your bed.
Ellie Andrews: I love you. Nothing else matters. We can run away. Everything will take care of itself. Please, Peter, I can’t let you out of my life now. I couldn’t live without you.
[she cries in his arms]
Peter Warne: [firmly] You’d better go back to your bed.
Ellie Andrews: I’m sorry.
[she returns to her bed still crying]

imgres-8.jpg Up Close & Personal (1996)
Tally Atwater (Michelle Pfeiffer): Do you want to be with me?
Warren Justice (Robert Redford): So much it hurts.

images-1.jpg Charade (1963)

Adam Canfield (Cary Grant) Well, what did you expect me to say? That a pretty girl with an outrageous manner means more to an old pro like me than a quarter of a million dollars?
Reggie Lampert (Audrey Hepburn): I don’t suppose so.
Adam Canfield: Well, it’s a toss-up, I can tell you that.
Reggie Lampert: What did you say?
Adam Canfield: Hasn’t it occurred to you that I’m having a tough time keeping my hands off you?
[Regina is stunned]
Adam Canfield: Oh, you should see your face.
Reggie Lampert: What’s the matter with it?
Adam Canfield: It’s lovely.
[Regina drops her knife and fork]
Adam Canfield: What’s the matter now?
Reggie Lampert: I’m not hungry anymore; isn’t it glorious?

imgres-9.jpg Two Weeks’ Notice (2003)
George Wade (Hugh Grant): I need your advice on one last thing, then I promise you will never hear from me again. You see, I’ve just delivered the first speech I’ve written entirely by myself since we met, and I think I may have blown it. I want to ask your thoughts. Okay? Then I will read it to you. I’d like to welcome everyone on this special day. Island Towers will bring glamour and prestige to the neighborhood and become part of Brooklyn’s renaissance. And I’m very pleased and proud to be here. Unfortunately, there is one fly in the ointment. You see, I gave my word to someone that we wouldn’t knock down this building behind me. And normally, and those of you who know me or were married to me can attest to this, my word wouldn’t mean very much. So why does it this time? Well, partly because this building is an architectural gem and deserves to be landmarked and partly because people really do need a place to do senior’s water ballet and CPR. Preferably not together. But mainly because this person, despite being unusually stubborn and unwilling to compromise and a very poor dresser, is… she’s rather like the building she loves so much. A little rough around the edges but, when you look closely, absolutely beautiful. And the only one of her kind. And even though I’ve said cruel things and driven her away, she’s become the voice in my head. And I can’t seem to drown her out. And I don’t want to drown her out. So, we are going to keep the community center. Because I gave my word to her and because we gave our word to the community. And I didn’t sleep with June. That’s not in the speech, that’s just me letting you know that important fact. What do you think?
Lucy Kelson (Sandra Bullock): I have to get back to work.
George Wade: Right. Right, yes. Sorry to disturb you. Congratulations, again, Polly.
Lucy Kelson: Aside from the split infinitive that was somewhere in the middle, that speech was actually quite perfect, wasn’t it?
Polly St. Clair: Yeah. I don’t know what the hell you’re still doing sitting here. And I don’t even like him.
Lucy Kelson: [runs after George]

imgres-10.jpg Notting Hill (1999)
P.R. Chief (John Shrapnel): Next question? Yes. You in the pink shirt.
William (Hugh Grant): Uh, right. Miss Scott, are there any circumstances that you and he might be more than just friends.
Anna Scott (Julia Roberts): I hoped that there would be but I’ve been assured that there’s not.
William: Yes, but what if…
P.R. Chief: I’m sorry. Just the one question.
Anna Scott: No. It’s all right. You were saying?
William: I was just wondering what if this person…
Journalist: Thacker. His name is Thacker.
William: Right. Thanks. What if, uh, Mr. Thacker realized that he had been a daft prick and got down on his knees and begged you to reconsider if you would… indeed… reconsider.
Anna Scott: [pause] Yes. I believe I would.
William: That’s wonderful news. The readers of Horse and Hound will be relieved.

Posted in acting, film | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Life Below Stairs: Compensation Beyond Salary for Work Done

Despite the sometimes less than desirable conditions under which many of those below stairs endured in service, there were other compensations. Servants learned their deference. They were “invisible,” while remaining upon display throughout most of their work days. As such, the learned to anticipate the likely imposition of an unwelcome task or an unpleasant task. Amazingly, they would often disappear into the bowels of the house or they would become engaged in a more pressing duty. 

51YYg7-R8uL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_Beyond their wages, many upper servants found means to line their pockets without their masters’ knowing. House stewards would secretly give tradesmen a “cash discount” for the privilege of continued business with the household. The butler, cook, and housekeeper customarily found similar compensations in the purchases made for the household over which they saw. A butler, for example, could claim his share of the wine purchased for the master’s use. A cook might claim the meat drippings to be sold. In Cooking with Jane Austen by Kirstin Owen (page 90), we find, “Emma’s father was a bit daft about one thing though, and that is the frying of anything in the Regency period ‘without the smallest of grease.’ Steaks of all kinds were fried in large quantities of butter – partly to keep them from sticking to the pan, partly for the sake of the flavor, and partly for the sake of the cook, whose perquisites included the right to sell the dripping fat. The more butter she used, the more was ‘left over’ in the pan, and the richer she got.” The groom of the chamber could claim the ends of the candles to resell. Moreover, the taking of “vails” (or tips from guests) became a common practice. 

A guest at a country house could expect to leave a variety of tips for his host’s servants. The housemaid (several silver coins), the groom of the chamber (several silver coins), the butler (sovereign), the footman (sovereign), the gamekeeper (a couple of guineas), etc. In English Notebooks, Nathaniel Hawthorne (page 439, Paul Kegan, 1894) complained of parting with several shillings to compensate the housekeeper of Lord Byron’s home of Newstead Abbey in 1857. In some houses in the early 1800s, servants actually lined up expecting their due upon the guest’s departure. 

The guests who were less forthcoming “paid” in other ways. A dog cart might be sent to retrieve a guest from a public conveyance. Their requests were ignored or were delayed. A less desirable room might be set aside for the person or at a “shoot,” he would be ill-placed. 


Posted in British history, customs and tradiitons, Georgian Era, history, Living in the Regency, Living in the UK, servant life, Victorian era | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments