Reporting Scandals in the Regency Era

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Posted in British history, Georgian England, Georgian Era, history, Industrial Revolution, Living in the Regency, reading habits, real life tales, Regency era, Regency romance, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

During the Regency, Could a Female Run an Estate in the Absence of the Male Heir?

Recently, one of my author friends sent me her Work in Progress manuscript for me to comment on what she had written to that point. She and I often bounce ideas off each other. Although beautifully written, making me sorry not to be more eloquent in my word choices, the initial plot possessed a major flaw from an historical standpoint. Her heroine runs the family estate in the absence of her father, who has passed, and the notion that her brother has gone missing—or, rather, the military cannot account for him being absent, after a major battle. The story takes place some two years after the end of the Napoleonic War, and she has heard nothing of her brother’s demise or a possible act of cowardice.

My friend’s story is one I have read “before,” meaning this is a relatively common plot line in Regency-based novels. I used something similar in one of my JAFF (Jane Austen Fan Fiction) vagaries. In Where There’s a FitzWILLiam Darcy, There’s a Way, Elizabeth Bennet returns earlier to Longbourn from Rosings Park, than in the original novel, because she has received a letter announcing the death of her dear father, Mr. Bennet. Having often imagined that Mr. Bennet’s love of his second daughter had him sharing something of the running of Longbourn with Elizabeth, I have her struggling to keep the estate afloat until Mr. Collins arrives to assume control of the property. Even so, I was cognizant that such a situation would not be accepted in the Regency. Quite quickly, Darcy arrives, having been pressed into service by his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, to act in Mr. Collins’s stead until she can employ a new clergyman for the living at Rosings. If you are interested, that particular plot line discusses what can and cannot be inherited by the females of the family. Moreover there is a WILL (notice the title) that provides some solace for the Bennet females.

However, that is not the subject of this piece. What was incorrect about my friend’s plot line? 

Generally speaking, a woman would not have been left to manage an entailed estate. Instead, a group of predetermined trustees would have assumed that role. In the running of any estate, there were many legal documents, contracts, tenant agreements, purchases for the running of the estate, selling goods produced upon the estate (wheat, wool, etc.), paying taxes, paying tithes, etc., which required a male to sign the papers. (Some of you may recall that in my novel, A Touch of Scandal: Book 1 of the Realm Series, Lady Eleanor Fowler had her father, in the month’s leading up to his demise, sign blank pages when he was conscious enough to do so. Therefore, she could create the necessary documents to keep the estate running until she could convince her brother, Brantley, to return home and assume the dukedom. Please note, be that as it may, I added a cousin who would inherit if Brantley Fowler did not return to claim the peerage, which would keep everything legal. In fact, Eleanor knows where to discover her brother. It is simply a matter of convincing him to return to a place he despises.)


If a peerage is in question, as it was in my example above,  it would go dormant, if there was a question as to whether the one to inherit was dead or not. The property could not go to another until it could be proven that the one to inherit, as in the case above, Brantley Fowler, was dead. Bran was the former duke’s only son. If no such proof existed, a “committee” of trustees would run the property and its subsidiaries with the next male in line (the cousin mentioned above) in charge, but always it was with the understanding that the property had to be turned over to the legal son, if said son made an appearance.

Nowadays, we think a person is presumed dead if he cannot be located within seven years, but that was not the case during the Regency. Much of the court’s rulings over such a matter was determined by the efforts to locate the lost/missing person. It could be a year or two or go on indefinitely. Even if there was a younger brother and the lady was acting in his stead until he reached his majority, the situation would not be a go. Once the father died, an estate descended to the oldest son, unless a will said otherwise. If that oldest son was declared dead, the question would exist as to whether or no he had time to sire a legitimate son before he died. The younger might be allowed to assume the responsibilities, but he would not be the “owner” until the eldest is proven dead beyond a reasonable doubt, and it is proven the eldest did not sire a legitimate male child.

A property, like that of Mr. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, which was under an entailment, was different from a peerage. Someone could be named to assume charge of the property as manager for the “supposed” owner, but only as a life tenant (meaning the property could not be inherited by that “manager’s” sons) and only until the court decided that the current occupant could continue in that role, even if a legitimate heir of the other man shows up. The peerage (dukedom, earldom, barony, etc.) stayed dormant until it could be proven the oldest son was dead. The peerage could remain dormant forever. 

Are you confused? Could not a woman be able to assume the estate? Here is part of the gobbledygook that makes this even more bewildering.

Though the lady being female had a definable impact on her ineligibility to run the estate, the main reason for her not being permitted to do so was the lack of legal authority to act in her brother’s stead, whether her older brother is declared dead or not. Even if there was a younger brother who had reached his majority, he would also lack the legal authority to run the estate. Her being female was both a Society-restrictive (frowned upon) problem and a legal one. If she had had the legal authority to act in her brother’s place, she could have hired a good manager who could execute the necessary transactions in her name. 

Except for the fact that as quickly as the father dies, the executor has the legal right to see to the legal matters associated with the estate, and her land steward no longer can assist in that matter unless employed by the new executor. The woman could have the right to remain at the estate until she marries, but, without the oversight of an executor, she had no legal right to to sell anything, not even the crops or goods produced by the cottagers, nor could she pay anyone from estate funds (servants) if she did not hold some sort of power of attorney.

Last Will and Testament document with quill pen and handwriting

Are there other scenarios that could work in this plot line? Keep in mind the property cannot be entailed upon the eldest for any of these situations to work. 

  1. If the eldest son made a will naming his younger brother as his heir, this might work. Even then, the eldest would have likely added restrictions to the inheritance. First and foremost, the youngest must be 21 years of age before he inherits. If the youngest is less than 21, the eldest could have appointed a friend or business associate as a co-trustee along with the sister. Perhaps, then that male trustee could have died or could have ignored his responsibilities, and then the sister could have acted in her younger brother’s stead. 
  2. Or it might be stipulated in the eldest brother’s will that the younger could not touch the capital produced by the estate until he reaches an age, of say, 25. Then the sister could still be a trustee. 
  3. The eldest could not have a will, but he did grant power of attorney to his sister. This would work, perhaps, if his leaving was a planned absence, such as accepting a commission in the war. This would only work if there was a power of attorney (letter of attorney). She could be running the estate under a constructive trust for the eldest brother’s benefit. If the eldest were to be declared dead, she would not have the authority to continue running it for the youngest unless the eldest brother appointed her as his steward or power of attorney. 
  4. If the eldest brother stormed off years ago and the father recently died (as is what happened in A Touch of Scandal above), the father could have named her executor of his will and his estate if she were 21. Then she would have had the right to handle the estate for a specific period of time. [Nevertheless, in my story A Touch of Scandal, not all those restrictions were available. Lady Eleanor is but 20 when the story begins, and her father was a duke, not a member of the gentry. Those properties involved with the peerage play by different rules than say one owned by a country gentleman.]
  5. If the property was not entailed, her father could have left it to her to handle until the eldest son returned. Such would provide her the legal authority for contracts, etc., likely with the assistance of a good man of business, and it would also provide her many suitors hoping to assume the position of her husband, who would legally take those tasks off her hands.
  6. Again, if the property is not entailed, the father could have made her the executor of his will. The will could also state that she could own the property if the eldest brother did not return within a specific period of time, say 10 years or 20 years. Then the younger son would inherit after her death. Such a legal stipulation would keep the property out of the hands of her husband, if she chose to marry. If it were just she and her older brother, who had gone missing, even with the will presenting her the property, if she married, the property comes to her husband. 
Posted in British history, family, Georgian England, Georgian Era, history, Inheritance, Living in the Regency, marriage, Napoleonic Wars, Pride and Prejudice, Realm series, research, titles of aristocracy, Vagary, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Real Life Influences Upon Jane Austen’s Novels

As authors of historical fiction, we take great pleasure in a research “tidbit,” which introduces our fictional characters to historical figures. I, for example, have introduced John Loudon McAdam, the father of the modern road, to the readers of A Touch of Honor: Book 7 of the Realm Series. The founder of Bournemouth (UK), Lewis Tregonwell, makes an appearance in The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy, a Pride and Prejudice Mystery, while William Hulton and James Nadin, key players in the Peterloo Massacre, play out in a pivotal plot point in His Irish Eve.

jane-austenHowever, Jane Austen was NOT writing historical fiction. Our Miss Austen wrote contemporary fiction; yet, we today hope to find historical figures in her work.

In our search for those who influenced Austen, we know her own reading played a role in Austen’s works. We see bits of Shakespeare, for example. She cites the Bard as a “source” of her mock History of England. We find references to Shakespeare’s plays in Emma (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Sense and Sensibility (Romeo and Juliet), and Mansfield Park (Henry the VIII, as well as Julius Caesar).

The conversations between Darcy and Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice are reminiscent of Mirabell and Millamant in William Congreve’s The Way of the World. Most Austen scholars believe the plays of Richard Brinsley Sheridan and Henry Fielding had a great influence on her writing. One must remember that acting out plays, an activity in which the Austen brood gladly participated, was a common pastime for evening entertainments of the time. In Mansfield Park, the play’s performance is a key point in Fanny Price’s development.

The latter part of the 1700s saw the rise of the Age of Sensibility in England, meaning the dramas of the period were more a reflection of real life than previously. Feelings prompted behavior, not reason and logic. People were encouraged to act with empathy for the trials of others. Austen’s juvenile pieces are known to ridicule sentimental novels. In Love and Freindship (spelled as such by Austen), her characters sentimentality borders on the absurd.

richardsonOne of Austen’s favorite novels was Samuel Richardson’s The History of Sir Charles Grandison. It was from Richardson that Austen modeled her early novels in the epistolary style (letters form the plot). One of my favorite things for my students to do when I taught Pride and Prejudice was to keep a record of letters, notes, etc., in the story line. Both Elinor and Marianne (later to Sense and Sensibility) and First Impressions (later to become Pride and Prejudice) heavily employed the epistolary style.

Another point Austen mastered was Richardson’s use of writing from the point of view of a young woman. In his Pamela; or; Virtue Rewarded, Richardson brings life to Pamela in letters, which record her feelings and emotions. Richardson called this style “writing to the moment,” a technique in which Austen excelled. Austen, however, wrote from the familiar.

We also cannot forget the influence of John Milton or that of Fanny Burney upon Austen. A Miltonian temptation motif can be found in most of Austen’s novels: Isabella Thorpe’s pursuit of Frederick Tilney in Northanger Abbey; Elizabeth Bennet’s preference for George Wickham over Darcy; Lucy Steele’s ensnaring Edward Ferras’s affections when he is her father’s pupil, and her dumping of Edward for his older brother Robert, etc. And then we find in Mansfield Park how Henry Crawford purposely misquotes Milton’s Paradise Lost when he calls marriage “Heavens last best gift.”john-milton-4

The title of Pride and Prejudice comes from the final chapter of Fanny Burney’s Cecilia. The phrase is in all caps three times on one page. Burney also influence Austen’s work by bringing realistic contemporary women to her readers. She presented intelligent young women operating in Society. Burney transformed the comedy of manners found upon the stage to the novel. She also made novel writing a respectable occupation for women.burney

Yet, I have strayed from my original premise. Did real people influence Austen? For example, in an account of the Battle of Trafalgar in The Times (7 November 1805) there is the report of a midshipman by the name of William Price, and many wonder if Jane Austen had read the account and had created her “William Price” for Mansfield Park.

What do we know of the real William Price? We know he was wounded. The article from The Times includes Price in the tales of heroes of Trafalgar. It says, “A midshipman, of the name PRICE was brought into the cockpit, with his leg cut at the calf; he was an heroic youth of 17. The Surgeons could not attend him at the moment. He drew out a knife, and cut off a piece of flesh and the splinter of bone with great composure. ‘I can stay,’ said he, ‘let me doctor myself.’ When the surgeon attended him, it was found necessary to amputate above the knee. He submitted to the operation without a groan. ‘It is nothing at all, I thought it had been ten times worse.’”

So did this account of William Price influence Austen’s tale of William Price in MP? The William Price in Austen’s novel is “heroic,” but he is also sound of body. Do you recall how he loves to dance? So, although Miss Austen might have been star struck by the tales of such valor, I personally doubt she based her character upon the real William Price. Most Austen scholars look more to her brother Francis Austen as the model for Mansfield Park character.

Likewise, Jane’s French cousin, Eliza, Comtesse de Feuillide (the daughter of Philadelphia Austen Hancock) can be found in both the self-absorbed Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, as well as the more overly flirtatious Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park.

We can observe from Austen’s letters how she delved into character traits from some of her acquaintances. Lydia Bennet’s impetuousness can be seen in Austen’s seventeen-year-old neighbor Lucy Lefroy. Austen wrote of Lucy: “By Everyone, I suppose [she] means that a new set of Officers have arrived there…”

In an October 1813 letter, we read how at breakfast with her brother, an acquaintance, Robert Mascall covers his toast with thick butter. Likewise, Arthur Parker does the same in Sandition.

In the same letter, Austen describes the perfect Mrs. Elton from Emma, based on a Mrs. Britton: an “ungenteel woman with self-satisfied and would-be elegant manners.”


Posted in British history, Georgian Era, Great Britain, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, Living in the UK, Pride and Prejudice, real life tales, Regency era, Regency personalities, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Georgette Heyer, Queen of the Regency Genre, a Guest Post from Elaine Owen

This post first appeared on the Austen Authors’ blog on 19 June 2020. Enjoy! 

Over the years I’ve heard Georgette Heyer’s name come up in lots of different places, usually in a highly complimentary way: “This story is so good, it reminds me of one of Georgette Heyer’s!” Or, “This sounds like a plot in a Georgette Heyer novel!” It was always assumed that I knew exactly who Georgette Heyer is.

Plot twist: I really didn’t! I had a vague idea that she was a regency type author, and I thought I must have read some of her stories at some point. I read a LOT so I figured I must have come across one of her books at some point. But I finally decided to look her up and find out why she is famous and what makes her so well loved. Also, to figure out if I have ever read one of her stories!!!

Heyer was born in a middle class family in London in 1902 to parents who were educated and cultured. Heyer’s father was in the military and the family lived in Paris for a time before returning to London. Heyer’s parents encouraged a love of reading, and as a teenager Georgette and her friends would get together to discuss stories and, later, to write them. It wasn’t long before Heyer stumbled into her life’s work.

At the age of seventeen Georgette wrote a novel called The Black Moth. Her father urged her to prepare it for publication and helped her have it commercially published when she was just nineteen years old. From then on Heyer would write prolifically, in multiple genres.For the rest of her life she typically wrote and  published at least one novel a year.

The overdressed Regency man

Although Georgette wrote mysteries and other types of fiction, she really made her mark in the regency fiction genre. Some people claim that she single-handedly defined the genre for modern times. She was no Jane Austen – nobody can match our girl! – but she took what Austen did and built on it. Scholars agree that she popularized a number of common elements of regency fiction used even today. Raise your hand if you’ve run across any of the following tropes in Jane Austen fan fiction:

  • A dark and brooding hero who is misunderstood by the woman who loves him
  • A silly, foppish regency gentleman with a flair for dressing well
  • Fashion and the ways of high society
  • Regency slang and figures of speech
  • Forced marriage scenario
  • Arranged marriages
  • Sarcasm and irony
  • Poking gentle fun at people, especially the upper class
  • Murder and intrigue
  • Marrying for love rather than money
  • Detailed descriptions of the time or setting

Of all these elements, Heyer is best known for the level of historical detail in her stories. To achieve this detail she didn’t just keep pages of notes for her novels. She kept whole notebooks. She had more than a thousand historical reference books in her library (pre-Kindle!!!!), and she had a collection of antiques from the regency period. Her level of detail and minutiae allow readers to be utterly immersed in the time period, or at least that’s what some readers say. Other readers claim to be annoyed and distracted by so much description.

Heyer’s first published novel. At 19!

How detailed did Heyer get? How meticulous was her research? According to critic A.S. Beyer, Heyer claimed that every word attributed to General Wellington in her novel An Infamous Army was actually spoken or written by him in real life. Now that takes dedication!!!

How I wish we could know what went on in Heyer’s mind as she wrote. Did she plan out her plots ahead of time, or was there any element of making it up as she went? How did she come up with her plot ideas? Were any of the silent, brooding heroes in her novels based on someone she knew? We may never know because Heyer was notoriously private and did not give interviews. She didn’t need to. Her books sold well even without her doing a lot of publicity. Most of them are still in print today.

Heyer died in 1974 in London and left behind a body of work (at least forty-five novels!) that seems to become more popular as time goes by. Every regency writer today owes something to Georgette Heyer, and to be compared to Heyer as a writer is a tremendous compliment. It’s almost as good as being compared to Jane Austen!

As for me, in looking over her list of novels I discovered that I have never read a Georgette Heyer book!!! Obviously this is a fault that must be remedied at once. I downloaded The Black Moth, and I’ve enjoyed it so far although Heyer’s writing can be . . . dense. Very dense. Still, if I could fall in love with Jane Austen when I was fifteen, I can totally handle Heyer at the age of fifty something, right? Those of you who are familiar with her stories, which one is your favorite, and why? And how do you think she stacks up to Jane Austen? Please let me know in your comments below.

Posted in Austen Authors, Guest Post, historical fiction, reading habits, Regency era, Regency romance, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Playing Cards in Jane Austen’s England, Pleasant Pastime, as Well as Gambling

… the undeniably romantic allure of the richly decorated gaming clubs or the reckless gambling of dynastic fortunes [which] rather trump[s] the dingy and dull penny games played against street walls or in alehouses. (Arthur Pitt, MA dissertation, A Study Of Gamblers And Gaming Culture In London, c. 1780-1844)


The idea of playing cards is one often explored in Regency Era-based books and novels. What type of games? Were these purely for passing time in pleasurable company? Or were they more for those, like Mr. George Wickham in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, who attempted to win his fortune? Or foolishly lose one’s inheritance? We hear mention of playing cards after suffer within families and playing cards at balls, a separate room set aside for those who wish to indulge in sometime more sedate than dancing a country dance. Card parties were a common way to while away an evening. Whether as a small group in a private home, or as an alternative to dancing at an assembly or ball, they were an acceptable pastime for anyone in any station. 

First, let us address the playing of cards outside the home. Many who indulged in this activity were serious gamesters, often times placing their families in ruin and “putting a period to his existence.” Naturally, such is not to say all men lost their fortunes, nor does the idea of “gaming hells” eliminate the fact that men (and some women) regularly bet on cock fights, bear baiting, horse races, fisticuffs, etc. Moreover, it was not necessary for the gentleman to go to a “gaming hell” to place his bet, for every gentleman’s club (White’s Brooks’s, Boodle’s, Watier’s, etc.) had a card room, and as mentioned above, every ball and house party hosted a game room. In those, the player could have reasonable hopes of an honest game of cards. The gaming hells were not so reputable as that. There, “Captain Sharps” often won huge fortunes. 

[For more on Gentlemen Clubs in the Regency England, visit this post on Historical Hussies.]

Charles James Fox from Historical and Posthumous Memoirs of Wraxall 1884 1a.jpg Supposedly, Charles James Fox, Whig MP and leader of the Opposition to William Pitt the Younger’s Tory government, and close personal friend of George, Prince of Wales and Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire and his brother lost large sums even at supposedly staid places like Brooks’s. Please note that some accounts of Fox’s losses refer to his doing so at Almack’s. However, we must remember that Brooks’s, at one time was called “Almack’s,” in the late 18th century. So the place where Fox lost a large fortune was the gentleman’s club Almack’s, later called Brooks’s. (Absolutely confusing for those of us who are trying to keep our facts straight!!!) [The establishment most of us read about in Regency romances— Almack’s—was where couples met in the “Marriage Mart” [although this idea appears to be more of a early Victorian concept than Regency]. It was run by the four Patronesses and was later called Willis’s Rooms. 

However, I will say that Almack’s was not as staid as Heyer and most Regency romances make out: it was not just a “marriage mart,” but also a club where the wheelers and dealers of Parliament made political alliances, etc., and where one could meet everyone of importance on a Wednesday night.  So I expect there was some significant money lost and won at our Almack’s, too, upon occasion. Almack’s also sometimes served as a gambling house that rented  out rooms for private events and the assembly.

So, what card games were popular during the Regency? 

Whist was very popular. If you know something of “Contract Bridge,” you likely will recognize whist as a precursor of that game. The game requires four players (2 sets of partners). A trump suit is chosen and tricks are won. 

When the card tables were placed, he had an opportunity of obliging her in return, by sitting down to whist.

“I know little of the game, at present,” said he, “but I shall be glad to improve myself, for in my situation of life –” Mrs. Philips was very thankful for his compliance, but could not wait for his reason.

Mr. Wickham did not play at whist, and with ready delight was he received at the other table between Elizabeth and Lydia. At first there seemed danger of Lydia’s engrossing him entirely for she was a most determined talker; but being likewise extremely fond of lottery tickets, she soon grew too much interested in the game, too eager in making bets and exclaiming after prizes, to have attention for any one in particular. Allowing for the common demands of the game, Mr. Wickham was therefore at leisure to talk to Elizabeth, and she was very willing to hear him… – Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 16

Piquet is another popular Regency card game. Piquet is not easy to master for a strong memory of which cards have been played is important. Moreover, the game has a complicated scoring system and possibilities of huge bonus points. Skill and strategy are necessary to play well. I imagine Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, working as partners, would be hard to beat in this game. 

Here, however, the kindness of Mrs. Jennings interposed most acceptably; for to send the Colonel away while his love was in so much uneasiness on her sister’s account would be to deprive them both, she thought, of every comfort; and, therefore, telling him at once that his stay at Cleveland was necessary to herself that she should want him to play at piquet of an evening… – Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 43 

In the five-card version of loo, a permanent high trump is selected, called “Pam.” The players play for tricks. However, “at the beginning of the hand, they may choose to play, fold, or pick up and play an extra hand dealt, called a ‘miss.’ A player who wins no tricks  is ‘looed.'” [Gambling in Regency England]

What we called “Twenty-One” was called “Vingt-et-un” during the Regency. The idea is to earn 21 points or reach a higher number than the dealer. Going over 21 points means a person loses that hand. 

Vingt-un is the game at Osborne Castle. I have played nothing but vingt-un of late. You would be astonished to hear the noise we make there — the fine old lofty drawing-room rings again. Lady Osborne sometimes declares she cannot hear herself speak. Lord Osborne enjoys it famously, and he makes the best dealer without exception that I ever beheld, — such quickness and spirit, he lets nobody dream over their cards. I wish you could see him overdraw himself on both his own cards. It is worth anything in the world!” – The Watsons

In Georgette Heyer’s Faro’s Daughter, the family has a gambling house where Faro [or Pharoah – or Basset] was played. It was a game with a bank that people played against the house. They had a bouncer and usually had people learned of the game and its location by word-of-mouth, because it was illegal to have a Faro bank. In other words, faro is not really a card game, but a game of chance using cards. Nowadays, it is played at a green baize table displaying pictures of playing cards. However, during the Regency, the dealer takes cards from a special wooden box and lays them face up on the table. One suit of the cards is pasted to the table in numerical order, and players place their bets by putting what they want to stake on one or more cards. Various rules decide whether a card drawn from the box wins for a player with a stake on the same number, or loses. Basically though, the player bets on whether a certain card will be dealt from the wooden box.

In the late 1700s, fashionable ladies set up Faro banks in their homes, but this practice fell out of favor by the Regency. That did not mean it stopped completely. Some ladies supplemented their income by ‘holding the bank’ in private card parties held in their houses. As long as they retained the appearance of merely being a hostess, and not in business, such a venture would dent their reputation but might not ruin it.

Hazard, another game often mentioned, is not a card game at all but a dice game. The player must roll a certain number on the dice. There is some strategy involved in which numbers the player selects to roll, but Hazard is essentially a game of chance.

The Jane Austen Centre provides us these instructions for the game of “Commerce.” 

“Catherine was disturbed and out of spirits; but Isabella seemed to find a pool of commerce, in the fate of which she shared, by private partnership with Morland, a very good equivalent for the quiet and country air of an inn at Clifton. – Northanger Abbey, Chapter 11

How to Play Commerce:  Deck: 52 card deck with Aces high; Players: 3 to 12: Object: To finish with the best hand

Highest: 3 of a kind, called a Tricon 
Next: 3 Cards of a suit and sequence 
Last: The greatest pip-value of 2 or 3 cards of the same suit, counting Acesa s 11, Court Cards as 10 and others at numerical value. If equal, a 3 card flush beats a 2 card one. If still equal, the tied player nearest in turn after the dealer wins.

Preliminaries: Each player contributes to the pot. The dealer deals 3 cards to each player.

English playing cards from about 1750Play: The player to the left of the dealer bids to buy or trade. To buy, she gives a chip to the dealer for a card from the deck and discards a card which is placed at the bottom of the deck. To trade, she offers to pass a card to the player on her left in exchange for one given to her. If the player agrees to trade, the exchange is made without looking at the cards being received. No chip is paid. If a player does not buy or trade on the first opportunity, she cannot do it during the remaining play of the hand. If she buys or trades, she may buy or trade on a later turn. Trading can only occur to the left. Play continues with each in turn having the opportunity to buy or trade until a player ‘knocks.’ A player knocks when she is content with her hand. All hands must then be shown and the winner determined.”

Instructions for the Game of Whist from the Jane Austen Centre

“Whist and speculation; which will amuse me most?”
Mansfield Park, Chapter 25

“Deck: 52 card deck; Players: 4 players, as partners (2 and 2); Object: To take tricks and score the most points
Preliminaries:All 52 cards are dealt facedown except for the final card, which is turned up to establish the trump suit.

“Whist was one of the first card games to use the trump-suit concept. It developed in the 18th century from the French game of triomphe, which began in the 16th century. This game was replaced at the end of the 19th century by bridge and is very similar to hearts. When playing, the dealer adds that card to his hand when it is his turn to play. The player to his left starts play by leading a card and the other players follow suit, if possible. The trick is won by the highest card of the suit or by a trump card played form a hand with no cards in the suit that was led. The winner of each trick leads next. Six tricks are called a book and each additional trick counts as one point. The first partnership to score seven points wins.”

In the evening it was found, according to the predetermination of Mrs Grant and her sister, that after making up the whist-table there would remain sufficient for a round game, and everybody being as perfectly complying and without a choice as on such occasions they always are, speculation was decided on almost as soon as whist; and Lady Bertram soon found herself in the critical situation of being applied to for her own choice between the games, and being required either to draw a card for whist or not. – Mansfield Park, Chapter 25


Instructions for the Game of Loo

“On entering the drawing-room she found the whole party at loo, and was immediately invited to join them; but making her sister the excuse, said she would amuse herself for the short time she could stay below with a book.” – Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 8

Instructions on How to Win at Speculation

“What shall I do, Sir Thomas? Whist and speculation; which will amuse me most?”

Sir Thomas, after a moment’s thought, recommended speculation. He was a whist player himself, and perhaps might feel that it would not much amuse him to have her for a partner. – Mansfield Park, Chapter 25 

Instruction on How to Play Quadrille

Lady Catherine, Sir William, and Mr. and Mrs. Collins sat down to quadrille; and as Miss De Bourgh chose to play at cassino, the two girls had the honour of assisting Mrs. Jenkinson to make up her party. Their table was superlatively stupid. Scarcely a syllable was uttered that did not relate to the game, except when Mrs. Jenkinson expressed her fears of Miss De Bourgh’s being too hot or too cold, or having too much or too little light. A great deal more passed at the other table, Lady Catherine was generally speaking — stating the mistakes of the three others, or relating some anecdote of herself. Mr. Collins was employed in agreeing to every thing her Ladyship said, thanking her for every fish he won, and apologising if he thought he won too many. Sir William did not say much. He was storing his memory with anecdotes and noble names. – Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 29

How to Play Casino 

After some time spent in saying little or doing less, Lady Middleton sat down to cassino; and as Marianne was not in spirits for moving about, she and Elinor luckily succeeding to chairs, placed themselves at no great distance from the table. – Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 28

Other Sources: 

This blog post on Jane Austen’s World has a list of further links at the end.

Posted in British history, customs and tradiitons, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, quotes, Regency era, Regency romance, research, Sense & Sensibility, Whigs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Rose By Any Other Name (or) The Naming of Characters in Novels (Mine and Austen’s)

Recently, one of my friends noted I had used a familiar name or two from where I once lived in Ohio. She thought it quite clever of me, but I explained this was a common practice with authors. In fact, most of my “author” friends have told me of their naming characters and places after people they know.

I, for example, named Chadwick Harrison from Darcy’s Temptation after Chad Pennington, the former NFL quarterback. Pennington showed a great kindness to my son while my mother lay dying. Clayton Ashford from the same book comes from Clay Aiken and my former principal at one of the schools I taught. Kim Withey, a regular follower on this site, found her name used for the villain in The Phantom of Pemberley. My son’s godmother was once married to a man named Epperly. In The First Wives’ Club, Nathaniel Epperly is Lord Eggleston. While I was writing The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy, I was watching Tamara Drewe on a cable channel. A character I introduced in the chapter therefore became Nicholas Drewe. I met a young man at an Enterprise Rental Car outlet in Monroe, North Carolina. His name was Brantley Fowler. I told him I intended to “steal” his name for one of my characters. Bran is matched with Velvet Aldridge in A Touch of Velvet. Velvet is named for a former student – a young lady who was beautiful on the outside, as well as being a compassionate and loving individual.

ATOGraceCrop1-150x189 In The Scandal of Lady Eleanor, James Kerrington is Lord Worthing. My son attended school in Worthington, Ohio. Gabriel Crowden, the hero of my Regency romance, A Touch of Grace, is the Marquis of Godown. In the Worthington area, Godown Road is a regular cut through between major thoroughfares. (We often called it “God own”-ed.) I have been known to open the newspaper or to switch to a news channel in search of an interesting name for my characters.

From my local news stations, I have had minor characters named Wickersham, McGinthy, and Troutman. 

hiethumbnail Occasionally, I choose a name that is indicative of the name’s meaning. “Aoife,” the heroine of His Irish Eve, is so named because “Aoife” is the Anglicized version of “Eve.” She is the “Eve” to “Adam” Lawrence, one of the main characters in The Phantom of Pemberley. This novel is a continuation of Adam’s life after Phantom.

CaPThumbnail.jpg Likewise, in my Christmas tale, Christmas at Pemberley, “Mary Joseph” is a major influence on Elizabeth Darcy’s life. She is the “Mary” from the Biblical tale. From The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy, one finds such names as “Dolina,” which comes from the Scottish Gaelic Dolag, which means “world ruler,” an apt name for the villain of the tale. Even the last name “MacBethan” was chosen to meet several requirements of the story line. First, “MacBethan” is a derivative of “MacBean.” As I wished the MacBethans to be related to the infamous Sawney Bean, that was important. Secondly, “MacBean” is a patronymic name that comes from the Gaelic and means “life.” As “life” is in short supply in the MacBethan household, it seemed more than appropriate.DofGD-150x203

So, based on my assumption from above, what is the possibility that our beloved Jane Austen used famous names or those she parlayed from the local newspapers in her stories? Could Mrs. Reynolds in Pride and Prejudice have come about because Jane read a piece about the famous artist Joshua Reynolds?

220px-George_Morland_by_Henry_Robert_Morland.jpg There was, for example, a real life George Morland, a man known for his paintings of rustic scenes. Was he the source for Catherine Morland’s name? Could William Hodges have lent his name to Emma Woodhouse’s housekeeper? Hodges is best known for his paintings of exotic locales, especially those he visited while accompanying James Cook on the captain’s second voyage to the Pacific Ocean.

220px-Charles_Hayter_by_John_Hayter_1811_v3.jpg Charles Hayter was a painter who specialized in portraits of navy men. Is there any wonder Hayter gives his name to a character in Austen’s book of seafaring men, that of Persuasion? (By the way, the real-life Hayter taught Princess Charlotte about perspective and was later given the title of Professor in Perspective and Drawing.)

Also in Persuasion, one finds Sir Walter openly declaring that Frederick Wentworth was “[q]uite unconnected; nothing to do with the Strafford family.” One must recall in her early History of England, Austen defended Thomas Wentworth, the first Earl of Strafford and the architect of Charles I’s design for absolute government. In fact, scholars have traced the Strafford connection to Austen’s novels. It shows that in the 13th Century Robert Wentworth married an heiress named Emma Wodehous. Coincidence? Also, when Austen and her family stayed at Stoneleigh Abbey, after her father’s death, she used what she learned from the journey in her novels. Stoneleigh and its ancestral history does resurface in her novels. Some of her characters are named after Leigh family connections, such as Willoughby, Woodhouse, Wentworth and Osborne. In Mansfield Park the description of the fictitious Sotherton Court has many resonances of Stoneleigh Abbey, including details of the chapel, grounds and nearby village with almshouses, and Northanger Abbey is set in an old abbey which has become a country home, like Stoneleigh which was founded in 1154 by Cistercian monks.

One of the things that I often found ironic in Austen’s novels is the number of “Whig” names she used: D’Arcy, Fitzwilliam, Dashwood, Wentworth, Woodhouse, Watson, Brandon, Churchill, Russell, Steele, and Bertram. Could our dear Jane have spent time with her nose buried in the Peerage of England? For a Tory daughter, she certain gave the Whigs prominence!

For a more in-depth study of these names, please visit, Janine Barchas’ “Artistic Names in Austen’s Fiction: Cameo Appearances by Prominent Painters,” Persuasion. 2009. Volume 31.


Reinbold, Amanda Katherine, “Jane Austen and the Significance of Names.” (2009). University of Tennessee Honors Thesis Projects.

Posted in Ulysses Press, White Soup Press, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Grave Matters, or Death and Dying in 19th Century England

In The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy (originally released in 2013), multiple deaths occur. What were some of the “customs” associated with death and dying in the 19th Century?

In the country, “ringing of the passing bell” signaled to all those in the local parish that a member of the community was near death. Six tolls of the bell indicated the person was a woman; nine foretold of a man.

Women prepared the body for the funeral, but did not attend. Women were considered too weak to withstand the ceremony without succumbing to the “vapors.” Wearing black in remembrance of the departed was an important symbol of one’s grief, unless the deceased was a child or a young, unmarried girl. Then the mourners wore white. Occasionally, special mourners known as “mutes” were hired to stand about and look solemn. Other special mourners carried staves draped in black cloth.

Men wore black armbands as a sign of mourning. Women, however, were expected to dress completely in black. Their dresses were generally made from bombazine. No jewelry, except jet pearls, made from coal, was worn.  A widow was expected to mourn her husband for two years, wearing all black for one year and “half mourning” after that. One mourned his parents or children for a year. Six months was the period for a sibling or a grandparent. Three months for an aunt or uncle and six weeks for a first cousin. Queen Victoria wore mourning for Albert from his death in 1861 to her passing in 1901.

The carriage bearing the coffin was drawn by black horses with black feathers in their  harnesses. People wore mourning for one full year. Social invitations were declined and the mourners maintained an “unsociable” appearance.

When the body arrived at the gravesite, a death knell was rung by the sexton, who likely dug the grave for the deceased. By law, if the person died by suicide, he was buried at a crossroads with a stake in his heart to prevent his ghost from walking about. The crossroads diluted the evil of the suicide by sending the mayhem in four directions. This “custom” continued until it was outlawed in 1823.  The personal property of someone who committed suicide was forfeited to the Crown. That tradition ended in 1870. Until 1832, a suicide corpse had to be buried between 9 P.M. and midnight. It was only after the 1830s that a suicide corpse could be buried in the cemetery of a Church of England parish, but no service could be conducted over the body.

Unfortunately, resurrectionists made a tidy fortune through body snatching. Medical schools could only use a body donated to them through the courts for dissection and anatomy lessons. Those who committed major crimes might be appointed for dissection by the courts. It is estimated that the courts averaged between 50-60 “donations” each year, but that the schools required, at least, 500 cadavers. Therefore, an “industry” arose where body were prematurely resurrected by body snatchers. The resurrectionists earned an average of two guineas per cadaver.

Families hired watchers and set traps to try to stop this custom. The “snatchers” sometimes sent a “pretend mourner” to the gravesite to spot the traps and to report back to them. The body snatchers would dig close to the site’s head, tear open the top part of the coffin, and drag the body out. Normally, the grave clothes were left behind because it was a punishment of seven years’ transportation to be caught with a clothed body. A naked one was a different story. Laws for “naked corpses” imposed only minor fines.

The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice Mystery 


Fitzwilliam Darcy is devastated. The joy of his recent wedding has been cut short by the news of the sudden death of his father’s beloved cousin, Samuel Darcy. Elizabeth and Darcy travel to Dorset, a popular Regency resort area, to pay their respects to the well-traveled and eccentric Samuel. But this is no summer holiday. Danger bubbles beneath Dorset’s peaceful surface as strange and foreboding events begin to occur. Several of Samuel’s ancient treasures go missing, and then his body itself disappears. As Darcy and Elizabeth investigate this mystery and unravel its tangled ties to the haunting legends of Dark Dorset, the legendary couple’s love is put to the test when sinister forces strike close to home. Some secrets should remain secrets, but Darcy will do all he can to find answers—even if it means meeting his own end in the damp depths of a newly dug grave.

With malicious villains, dramatic revelations and heroic gestures, The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy will keep Austen fans turning the pages right up until its dramatic conclusion.

Posted in book excerpts, book release, British history, Church of England, excerpt, Georgian England, Georgian Era, historical fiction, history, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, mystery, Pride and Prejudice, publishing, reading habits, real life tales, Regency era, Regency romance, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Body Snatchers, Part II – the Release of “The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy”

On Friday, we looked at Resurrectionists. Today, we will make a slight distinction with Body Snatchers. 

Like what resurrectionists did, body snatching is the secret removal of a corpse from its burial site. As was explained in Friday’s piece the body snatchers sold the corpses to medical schools fro anatomy lessons. Some also refer to this practice as grave robbing, but with grave robbing, the culprits are customarily seeking the personal effects of the deceased. A grave robber finds no value in the body itself where body snatchers and resurrectionists do.

Before Britain’s Anatomy Act of 1832, the only legal supply of corpses fro anatomical purposes were those condemned to death and dissection by the courts. Those who committed the more heinous crimes were generally those who were candidates for dissection. One must recall medicine in the early 19th Century was making great strides, and private anatomical schools did not require a license up until the Anatomy Act of 1832. In the 18th Century, hundreds were executed, providing a ready supply, but by the 19th Century, the number was reduced to only 50 – 70 per year. Yet, medical school breakthroughs and growth in number required 10 times that many cadavers annually. 

Body snatching was a crime that many authorities overlooked. It was considered a misdemeanour, not a felony. One would be fined for the act and imprisoned for a short period of time, but the fear of transportation or execution was removed. The trade was lucrative and very appealing to those returning from the Napoleonic War and accustomed to viewing death. With no ready means to make a living, men were easily lured into the trade. 

In fact, body snatching was so commonplace that relatives and friends of the deceased often watched over the body before and after burial to prevent it being taken. Some went so far as to use a framework of iron bars called mortsafes to protect the grave. A few opted for iron coffins. Later in the century, mort houses were used to store bodies until decomposition, making the bodies useless for medical school dissection.

Udny Mort House – Aberdeen ~ built 1832 ~

“One method the body snatchers used was to dig at the head end of a recent burial, digging with a wooden spade (quieter than metal). When they reached the coffin (in London the graves were quite shallow), they broke open the coffin, put a rope around the corpse and dragged it out. They were often careful not to steal anything such as jewellery or clothes as this would cause them to be liable to a felony charge. Again, the body had value only if it could be sold to the medical school. 

The Lancet reported another method. A manhole-sized square of turf was removed 15 to 20 feet (5 to 6 m) away from the head of the grave, and a tunnel dug to intercept the coffin, which would be about 4 feet (1.2 m) down. The end of the coffin would be pulled off, and the corpse pulled up through the tunnel. The turf was then replaced, and any relatives watching the graves would not notice the small, remote disturbance. The article suggests that the number of empty coffins that have been discovered ‘proves beyond a doubt that at this time body snatching was frequent’.” [Bodysnatching]

The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice Mystery 


Fitzwilliam Darcy is devastated. The joy of his recent wedding has been cut short by the news of the sudden death of his father’s beloved cousin, Samuel Darcy. Elizabeth and Darcy travel to Dorset, a popular Regency resort area, to pay their respects to the well-traveled and eccentric Samuel. But this is no summer holiday. Danger bubbles beneath Dorset’s peaceful surface as strange and foreboding events begin to occur. Several of Samuel’s ancient treasures go missing, and then his body itself disappears. As Darcy and Elizabeth investigate this mystery and unravel its tangled ties to the haunting legends of Dark Dorset, the legendary couple’s love is put to the test when sinister forces strike close to home. Some secrets should remain secrets, but Darcy will do all he can to find answers—even if it means meeting his own end in the damp depths of a newly dug grave.

With malicious villains, dramatic revelations and heroic gestures, The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy will keep Austen fans turning the pages right up until its dramatic conclusion.


Posted in book release, British history, Georgian England, Georgian Era, historical fiction, history, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, Living in the UK, medicine, mystery, Pride and Prejudice, real life tales, Regency era, Regency romance, research, suspense, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Resurrectionists in the UK – Supplying Bodies for the Teaching Hospitals, Part I – the Release of “The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy”

In THE MYSTERIOUS DEATH OF MR. DARCY, my research brought me to the value of the human body to teaching hospitals. Below, you will find part one of an interesting look at the “business” and the history of recovering bodies for medical research.

Resurrectionists (1847), by Hablot Knight Browne. This illustration accompanies an account of John Holmes and Peter Williams who, for unearthing cadavers in 1777, were publicly whipped from Holborn to St Giles. ~

Employed as anatomists during the 18th and 19th Centuries, resurrectionists disinterred the bodies of recently deceased individuals. Then they delivered said bodies to their clients, generally the medical schools, for those schools were allotted fifty or less bodies to study, when they customarily required 5 times as many. 

In 1752, Parliament created what was called the Murder Act. “The new law allowed judges to substitute gibbeting with dissection—a fate generally viewed with horror—and significantly increased the number of bodies anatomists could legally access. But it proved insufficient to meet the needs of the hospitals and teaching centres that opened during the 18th century. Corpses and their component parts became a commodity, but although the practice of disinterment was hated by the general public, bodies were not legally anyone’s property. The role of the resurrectionists therefore occupied a legal grey area.

Nevertheless, resurrectionists caught plying their trade ran the risk of physical attack. Measures taken to stop them included the use of increased security at graveyards. Night watches patrolled grave sites, the rich placed their dead in secure coffins, and physical barriers such as mortsafes and heavy stone slabs made extraction more difficult. Body snatchers were not the only people to come under attack; in the public’s view, the 1752 Act made anatomists agents of the law, enforcers of the death penalty. Riots at execution sites, wherefrom anatomists collected legal corpses, were commonplace.

“Matters came to a head following the Burke and Hare murders of 1828. Parliament responded with the 1828 Select Committee on anatomy, whose report emphasised the importance of anatomical science and recommended that the bodies of paupers be given over to anatomy. Following the discovery in 1831 of Burking in London, a bill submitted by Henry Warburton, author of the Select Committee’s report, was debated in Parliament. Although it did not make body snatching illegal, the resulting Act of Parliament effectively put an end to the work of the resurrectionists by allowing anatomists access to the workhouse dead.” [Resurrectionists in the United Kingdom]

Henry VIII and the Barber Surgeons (1543), by Hans Holbein the Younger. Anatomical research on human cadavers was legalised in England in 1540. ~,_by_Hans_Holbein_the_Younger,_Richard_Greenbury,_and_others.jpg

1506 – King James IV of Scotland presented the Barber-Surgeons of Edinburgh the rigt to dissect “bodies of certain executed criminals.”

1491 – 1547 – During Henry VIII’s reign presented the Company of Barber-Surgeons four executed felons per year.

1564 – Elizabeth I granted the College of Physicians the right to anatomise four felons annually.

1630 – 1685 – During the reign of Charles II the number was raised to  six felons each year. Elizabeth I granted the College of Physicians the right to anatomise four felons annually in 1564.

1694 – Edinburgh permitted anatomists to dissect corpses of those found dead in the streets, as well as the bodies of those dying a violent death and whose body no one claimed.

Suicide victims were given over, as were infants who had died while being born and also the unclaimed bodies of abandoned children. But even though they were supported by the common law, anatomists occasionally found it difficult to collect what was granted to them; fueled by resentment of how readily the death penalty was used, and imbued with superstitious beliefs, crowds sometimes sought to keep the bodies of executed felons away from the authorities. Riots at execution sites were commonplace. Worried about possible disorder, in 1749 the Sheriff of London ignored the surgeons and gave the dead to their relatives.

While the Murder Act gave anatomists statutory access to many more cadavers than were previously available, it proved insufficient. Attempting to bolster the supply, some surgeons offered money to pay the prison expenses and funeral clothing costs of condemned prisoners, while bribes were paid to officials present at the gallows, sometimes leading to an unfortunate situation in which corpses not legally given over for dissection were taken anyway.



Fitzwilliam Darcy is devastated. The joy of his recent wedding has been cut short by the news of the sudden death of his father’s beloved cousin, Samuel Darcy. Elizabeth and Darcy travel to Dorset, a popular Regency resort area, to pay their respects to the well-traveled and eccentric Samuel. But this is no summer holiday. Danger bubbles beneath Dorset’s peaceful surface as strange and foreboding events begin to occur. Several of Samuel’s ancient treasures go missing, and then his body itself disappears. As Darcy and Elizabeth investigate this mystery and unravel its tangled ties to the haunting legends of Dark Dorset, the legendary couple’s love is put to the test when sinister forces strike close to home. Some secrets should remain secrets, but Darcy will do all he can to find answers—even if it means meeting his own end in the damp depths of a newly dug grave.

With malicious villains, dramatic revelations and heroic gestures, The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy will keep Austen fans turning the pages right up until its dramatic conclusion.


Posted in British history, Georgian Era, legends and myths, Living in the Regency, real life tales, Regency era, Scotland, Victorian era | Tagged , , , ,

Mudeford, an English Spa Favored by King George III + an Excerpt from “The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy”

With the onset of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, the idea of a European Grand Tour for English aristocratic class lost its appeal. Instead, English men and women turned their sights on popular British destinations, such as Brighton, Margate, Lyme, and Weymouth. In England, inland spas, such as Bath, were the models of health spas. Among the early fashionable Georgian-Regency resorts (from approximately 1789 – 1815) was one favored by King George III, but Mudeford never achieved the popularity of the other tourist destinations.

Some believe the negative idea of “mud” used for health and medicinal purpose for the lack of development to the Christchurch district’s name. Mudeford was then part of southwest Hampshire. Also to the area’s detriment, Highcliffe was not adopted as a village name until 1892. Before that time, the local hamlets were known as Chuton, Newtown, and Slop Pond. The district’s other name was Sandhills.

In the summer of 1789, George III arrived in Weymouth to partake of the healing waters, a good sign for a concerned English population, which saw its King as a man going slowly mad. Each day, during his visit, as the King partook of his royal plunge into the salt waters, a band played “God Save the King.” Dips in the “curative waters” at Weymouth helped popularize the idea of “spa” towns.

At the time, Mudeford had caught the attention of other members of the aristocracy when a former British Museum curator and retired director of the Bank of England purchased large tracts of land in the area and began to invite members of the aristocracy to visit the area. Gustavus Brander (1720-1787) built a house on the grounds of Christchurch Priory and a summerhouse on Hengistbury Head. Later, the Brander family sold High Cliff estate to Pitt’s retiring Prime Minister, John Stuart, Lord Bute.

Bute retired to High Cliff in 1770. A botanist (co-founder of Kew Gardens), Bute hired the most famous landscape designer of the time, Capability Brown, to redesign the parkland on the High Cliff estate. The original house, built in a mediaevalist style to a Robert Adam design, set upon the cliff top “to command the finest outlook in England.” In fact, the house was so close to the cliff that it was necessary to dismantle it brick by brick when the cliff side crumbled away. Most of the estate was sold off following Bute’s death.

Bute Homage was the only house remaining on the estate. Lord Stuart de Rothesay, the 4thEarl of Bute, bought back the much of the estate in 1807 and began to build a grander manor than the former High Cliff. Not completed until 1835, the restored Highcliffe Castle sported stained glass windows from Rouen and other French art treasures “rescued” from the aftermath of the French Revolution.

In 1790, George Rose (1744-1818) became a MP for Christchurch. First, Rose, who owned Cuffnells Park in the New Forest near Lyndhurst, had been a Member of Parliament for Lymington (1788). He was a strong supporter of William Pitt the Younger. His youngest son, William Stewart Rose, became the second MP to serve Christchurch. George Rose resided at Cuffnells, where he wrote books on finance and policy and from where he attempted to run his cabinet post of Treasurer of the Navy. He also entertained both Pitt and King George in his home. George III stayed at Cuffnells in 1789, 1801, and 1803.

In 1785, Rose built a seaside house just east of Mudeford Quay, which he named Sandhills. The two Roses used Sandhills as their summer residences when not serving in Parliament.  Rose’s eldest son, Sir George Henry Rose, lived at Sandhills House while George Rose occupied Cuffnells, and William Stewart Rose lived in a row of seaside cottages (completed in 1796 on the Sandhills estate and just east of the main house). The house and the row of whitewashed seafront cottages would be named “Gundimore.”

The house sported one room designed to resemble a Persian tent and another room in Arabian Nights style because many of the Romantic poets of the time used exotic Eastern references in their poems. WS Rose was an amateur poet and translator. Robert Southey was among the many poets who visited the area and stayed in the cottages. So, while George Rose invited Pitt, Nelson, and the King to Gundimore, WS Rose held an interest in art and literature. Sir Walter Scott worked on “Marmion” while visiting at Gundimore, as well as on Waverley, Scott’s first historical novel. Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Southey’s brother-in-law) visited in 1816. Coleridge planned a poem about the house, but his various ailments prevented him from working on it. Instead, WS Rose wrote a poem commemorating the visits of these writers, appropriately entitled “Gundimore.”

From “Our Forgotten English Resort,” we learn, “When Southey later became Poet Laureate, his mandatory memorial poem for his late patron George III was ridiculed by Byron and others, who felt Southey might just as well depict the King entering Heaven in a bathing machine. While George III’s favourite seaside resort had been Weymouth, he did visit Sandhills en route at George Rose’s bidding. Rose had him stop over at Cuffnells on his first journey to Weymouth, on 29 June 1789, and some sources say he also stopped at Sandhills. He also visited Sandhills on 3 July 1801, but better known is his 1803 official visit. In 1803 Rose arranged an official Royal ‘inspection’ style visit to Mudeford, complete with military parade, on another stopover by the royal yacht en route to Weymouth. The Christchurch Artillery fired a 3-volley salute echoed by another on Wight opposite, while detachments of the Scots Greys and the local Volunteers stood lined up on the beach. So that the King should not get his feet wet as he re-embarked on the royal barge, the pier-less resort’s three new bathing machines were laid end to end in the shallows. Sir Arthur Mee adds in his The King’s England guidebook series, ‘After that Mudeford brightened and increased the number of its bathing machines’ (apparently from three to seven). ‘…A picturesque little story which will, no doubt, ever be told of Mudeford,’ commented theBournemouth Times & Directory.

“Despite these claims, that was the end of George’s public patronage. The Prince Regent seems not to have visited either: generally, he tended to steer clear of anywhere his disapproving father might be found. The Prince had privately married the Catholic widow of the owner of Lulworth Castle, but in 1795 he had to put aside his secret Catholic wife and remarry to help pay off his debts. This arranged marriage was disastrously unhappy for both parties. His new Princess Of Wales, Caroline Of Brunswick, did stay at Sandhills in 1796 before she moved back to the Continent. The King’s brother, HRH Duke of Cumberland, also stayed with Rose on New Year’s Eve 1803 to inspect, and thank for their service, the Christchurch Volunteers who had lined up for his brother, although in the event rain cancelled the official parade. However after he became King, the former Regent did visit Gundimore and Mudeford, in the 1820s.

“An early Cooke’s guidebook of circa 1835 refers to this visit: ‘the admired spot, the favourite summer residence of numerous families of distinction … Muddiford, a beautiful village on the sea-shore, possessing every convenience for a watering-place, having good bathing machines, and a fine sandy beach. His late Majesty, George IV, honoured this spot with a visit, and his admiration of its scenery. The air here is salubrious…. These qualities were appreciated and emphatically remarked on by his Majesty George III, who with the royal family honoured Mr Rose with a visit at Sandhills.’”

Additional Sources: 

Highcliffe Castle     Highcliffe and Mudeford

Mudeford         Mudeford Quay


The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy

by Regina Jeffers

A thrilling story of murder and betrayal filled with the scandal, wit and intrigue characteristic of Austen’s classic novels

Fitzwilliam Darcy is devastated. The joy of his recent wedding has been cut short by the news of the sudden death of his father’s beloved cousin, Samuel Darcy. Elizabeth and Darcy travel to Dorset, a popular Regency resort area, to pay their respects to the well-traveled and eccentric Samuel. But this is no summer holiday. Danger bubbles beneath Dorset’s peaceful surface as strange and foreboding events begin to occur. Several of Samuel’s ancient treasures go missing, and then his body itself disappears. As Darcy and Elizabeth investigate this mystery and unravel its tangled ties to the haunting legends of Dark Dorset, the legendary couple’s love is put to the test when sinister forces strike close to home. Some secrets should remain secrets, but Darcy will do all he can to find answers—even if it means meeting his own end in the damp depths of a newly dug grave.

With malicious villains, dramatic revelations and heroic gestures, The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy will keep Austen fans turning the pages right up until its dramatic conclusion.


Excerpt from Chapter 7 of The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy

Elizabeth shivered involuntarily. As Darcy had directed, she had met with the Woodvine cook regarding the weekly menu. They had finished their task when dread had physically rocked Elizabeth’s spine. Despite the feeling of dizziness drowning her senses in its sweep, she desperately pushed the swirling sensation away.

“Is something amiss, Mrs. Darcy?” the cook asked with what sounded of true concern.

Elizabeth shook her head in denial. “Just one of those intuitive moments we women experience daily. Likely, Mr. Darcy has turned his ankle or one of my sisters have has spotted a snake along the road to Meryton.” She laughed at her foolish nature.

The gray-haired woman with the sparkling, equally gray, eyes pushed her spectacles further up her nose. “It be the way of women,” she said sympathetically. “Me boy, Arnie, be one of Mr. Darcy’s grooms. We both have served the old master for many years. Whenever Arnie gets himself kicked by one of them ‘ornery beasts, I knows before he ever shows himself on me doorstep and looking for some of my herbs to ease the pain.”

Elizabeth again wondered if something had happened to Darcy. Her husband had spoken of the possibility that the gypsy band had posed an unknown threat. At home, at Pemberley, she had often sensed Darcy’s presence before he appeared on the threshold of her sitting room, but this was different. The lingering dread which currently wrapped itself about her shoulders had nothing to do with the pleasant anticipation she often experienced when her husband surprised her in the middle of the day. This was a warning of danger. Bravely, she said, “I am certain it is nothing. Mr. Darcy’s cousin, a seasoned military commander, as well as Mr. Cowan, accompanied my husband. I am being foolish.”

Mrs. Holbrook’s eyebrow rose in sharp denial, but the lady wisely said, “If that be all, Mrs. Darcy, I’s best return to me duties.”

Elizabeth gathered her notes. “Remember, Mrs. Holbrook, no sauces on the meats. The colonel prefers his dishes plain. Serve the dressings in a separate dish.”

“Yes, Ma’am. I understand.”

Elizabeth stood slowly to follow the woman to the door. “I expected Mrs. Ridgeway to join us,” she said as nonchalantly as she could muster. In reality, the housekeeper’s absence had irritated Elizabeth. It was another affront to Darcy’s authority, and she planned to express her anger over the woman’s slight.

Mrs. Holbrook paused in her speech, as well as her step. The woman looked about quickly—as if she suspected someone could be eavesdropping on their conversation. “Mrs. Ridgeway sent word, Ma’am, that she be experiencing a megrim.”

“I see,” Elizabeth said knowingly. “I suppose a headache might keep Mrs. Ridgeway from her duties.”

Mrs. Holbrook smiled wryly. “I suspect that be true, Mrs. Darcy.” The woman disappeared into Woodvine’s apparently empty halls.

Elizabeth stood silently by the still open door and listened carefully to what were obviously exchanged whispers. Someone, or several people, concealed themselves in Woodvine’s late afternoon shadows. The thought of others watching her every move, on one hand, shook her resolve, but on the other, it irritated her. She would permit no one to intimidate her. After all, had she not withstood the imperious Lady Catherine De Bourgh? “We shall see how they perceive their positions when I have my say,” she said privately to fortify her resolve.

Then she was on the move, climbing to the house’s third level again. As she turned the corner, Elizabeth declared boldly aloud, “I know you have hidden yourself from my view, but I am aware of your presence. If you have any sense of self-preservation, you will disperse immediately and attend to your duties.” As she climbed, Elizabeth did not turn her head to observe which of Woodvine’s staff broke from his hidden security, but she was well aware of the sound of scrambling feet and the quick opening and closing of doors. “They have chosen to make me their enemy,” she declared. “But they do not know that I am well seasoned in the comings and goings of servants.”

She thought immediately of how Darcy had early on complimented her on her quick assimilation into the role of Pemberley’s mistress. Little had her husband known that at Longbourn, Elizabeth and Jane had equally shared in the running of their parents’ estate. Their mother had taught all her daughters of the responsibilities of an estate’s mistress. As she and Jane had matured, Mrs. Bennet had relinquished more and more of her duties to her eldest children.

Elizabeth had arrived on Pemberley’s threshold well versed in preparing menus, balancing expenses, and settling service disputes. Her transition into the role of Pemberley’s mistress had come easily.

She paused at the top of the stairs and set her shoulders in a stubborn slant. “You mean to frighten me, but I will not be alarmed. There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises with every attempt to intimidate me,” she declared to the empty passageway.

With renewed determination, Elizabeth entered Mrs. Ridgeway’s quarters unannounced. “I believe I requested to speak to you this morning,” she said tersely.

It did not surprise Elizabeth to find the woman dressed and working on an embroidery pattern. The housekeeper sprang to her feet. “Mrs. Darcy, I…I had…I had a severe headache,” she stammered. She tucked her sewing hoop behind her, but Elizabeth had observed the meticulous work of the pattern.

Taking a satisfyingly slow breath, Elizabeth’s mouth set in a tight line. “Evidently, you have recovered remarkably.” She gestured to the tea set upon a low table. “That being said, I will see you in my chambers in a quarter hour.” Elizabeth turned on her heels to leave.

However, Mrs. Ridgeway’s offer slowed Elizabeth’s retreat. “Why do we not share tea here?”

Elizabeth turned haltingly to the woman. “I think not. You will attend me. It is not acceptable for the mistress to attend those she employs. You did understand my husband has assumed control of this household?”

“Yes, Ma’am.” Mrs. Ridgeway dropped her eyes.

The act infuriated Elizabeth. “Do not offer me a false face.” She turned again for the door. “A quarter hour, Mrs. Ridgeway.” To emphasize her indignation, Elizabeth launched the door against the wall. The sound echoed throughout the dark passageway.

Returning to her quarters, Elizabeth fought hard to rein in her temper. “It would not do to permit Mrs. Ridgeway to know how much I dread this interview,” she declared as she punched one of the pillows decorating the bed. “Concentrate, Elizabeth,” she chastised her image in the cheval mirror. “You must see this through for Fitzwilliam’s sake.” The thought of her husband brought an immediate smile to Elizabeth’s lips. “Everything he has done he had has done for me,” she thought.

When Lydia had inadvertently disclosed Mr. Darcy’s part in bringing about her sister’s match to Mr. Wickham, Elizabeth could not fathom how his regard for her had allowed him to act without pride. The vague and unsettled suspicions which uncertainty had produced of what Mr. Darcy might have been doing to forward her sister’s match, which Elizabeth had feared to encourage as an exertion of goodness too great to be probably, and at the same time dreaded to be just, from the pain of obligation, were proved beyond their greatest extent to be true: Darcy had followed Lydia and Mr. Wickham purposely to Town; he had taken on himself all the trouble and mortification attendant on such a research; in supplication had been necessary to a woman whom he abominated and despised, and where he was reduced to meet—frequently meet, reason with, persuade, and finally bribe—the man whom he always most wished to avoid, and whose very name it was punishment to Darcy to pronounce. He had done it for her. For a woman who had already refused him.

Even as she considered her husband’s benevolence in the matter, Elizabeth blushed with embarrassment. Every kind of pride must have revolted from the connection. She was ashamed to think how much. Though, at the time, she could not place herself as his principal inducement, she had perhaps believed in Darcy’s remaining partiality for her might have assisted his endeavors in a cause where her peace of mind must be materially concerned. “If Fitzwilliam could place his qualms aside, then I will follow his lead.” Darcy’s ability to overcome a sentiment so natural as abhorrence would serve as her model.

When Mrs. Ridgeway arrived, Elizabeth bade the woman’s entrance in a perfectly calm voice. She motioned the woman to a chair across from where she sat at the small desk before setting the ledger, which she had used as a “stage prop” to make herself appear not to be awaiting the housekeeper’s appearance, aside. In reality, to compose her erratic heart and to soften her anger, Elizabeth had retrieved several of the notes, which Darcy had left for her over their few months of marriage. Beginning with the morning following their first night as man and wife, her husband had periodically presented her an eloquent reminder of their time together: a reminder of their one month anniversary and again to mark their first half year of marital bliss; one for the night they would spent apart when Darcy had been called away on business; and the one where he consoled her during the loss of the child she had not known she carried. Her magnificent husband had grieved silently for their lost child while she openly nursed her broken heart. Today, Elizabeth had read the two “anniversary” letters. They were full of love’s awe, and they had bolstered her spirits immensely.

Elizabeth did not permit Mrs. Ridgeway to speak. Instead, she had assumed the offensive. “I had expected better of you, Ma’am. When we first met, I presumed you to be a woman possessed of kindness, but also a woman well aware of her place in the world. I thought you possessed of an independent nature and capable of overcoming adversity.”

Mrs. Ridgeway asked earnestly, “And you no longer hold the same opinion, Mrs. Darcy?”

Elizabeth’s forthright nature never faltered. “You have proven yourself, Ma’am, to be a coward.”

“Do not think ill of me, Mrs. Darcy,” the woman challenged.

“How may I not?” Elizabeth asked aristocratically. She considered the possibility that Darcy’s air had found a new home in her. “Mr. Darcy gave specific orders for you to present yourself in the role of Woodvine’s housekeeper; yet, last evening, you made no appearance after our arrival, nor did you sit with me and Mrs. Holbrook this morning.”

“And did you find something lacking in your quarters? In Mrs. Holbrook’s attention to your needs?” Mrs. Ridgeway asked confidently.

Elizabeth’s chin rose with the challenge. This was her first real test as Darcy’s wife. Her transition at Pemberley had gone smoothly: partly because of her mother’s training, but partly because of Mrs. Reynolds’ guidance. Pemberley’s long-time housekeeper had brought Elizabeth along and had instilled the confidence of a fine lady in a country miss. “Do you dare claim to be the source of efficiency I have observed from certain members of the late Mr. Darcy’s staff?” Elizabeth would not mention those she suspected had found hiding places to shirk their duties.

Mrs. Ridgeway’s countenance betrayed a momentary lapse of confidence, but the woman quickly schooled her features. “And why should I not? Mr. Darcy blamed me for the deficiencies he discovered among those Mr. Samuel had hired. Why should I not glory in the household’s successes?”

If the older woman thought Elizabeth’s age would provide the housekeeper an advantage, Mrs. Ridgeway would discover otherwise. Elizabeth’s shoulders shifted, and she presented the Woodvine housekeeper with a look of scorn she had once seen displayed upon the countenance of Lady Catherine De Bourgh when the grand lady had instructed Mr. Collins on the state of the cleric’s gardens. “I am pleased to hear it, Mrs. Ridgeway.” The housekeeper’s forehead crinkled with disappointment, and Elizabeth knew satisfaction. She would definitely share her “disapproving” glower with Darcy when they were alone. She would ask her husband’s opinion of its effectiveness as compared to the one of his imperious aunt. “Then you will have no difficulty in overseeing a thorough cleaning of each of Woodvine’s rooms. I shall not have the Earl and Countess of Rardin finding Woodvine lacking. Lady Cynthia holds her uncle in loving regard. I will not tolerate having Her Ladyship’s memories of the late Mr. Darcy tarnished by finding Samuel Darcy’s home in anything but pristine condition.”

Elizabeth noted how the housekeeper recoiled, but the lady held her tongue. Elizabeth continued, “Every shelf will be dusted. Every rug beaten. Every piece of silver polished.” Elizabeth snarled her nose in disgust. “Cousin Samuel’s propensity for clutter will create additional responsibilities, but with your discipline, the staff shall rise to the challenge. You must inform me immediately if any of our current employees choose to seek other positions. As I have noted several among the staff who appear less than enthusiastic about fulfilling their duties, I assume we shall need to replace them. If you do not feel comfortable in making those decisions, I assure you I hold no such qualms. At home in Hertfordshire, I often dispensed with the servants.” That was a stretch of the truth, but Elizabeth would never permit the woman an advantage.

She stood to end the conversation. “I am pleased that we have had the opportunity to address Mr. Darcy’s perceived grievances. It shall make our stay more agreeable. Now, as I know you have many duties to which to attend, I shall excuse you.” Mrs. Ridgeway looked on dismay, but she managed a proper curtsy. Elizabeth led the way to the door. “Is this not more pleasant?” she asked sweetly. “To have a complete understanding between us?”

Mrs. Ridgeway spoke through tight lips, “As you say, Mrs. Darcy.”

* * *

Darcy had resumed his seat in the chariot. His cousin had pocketed the shell fragment, and they had reluctantly returned to their ride. Silence reigned as Mr. Stalling set the horses in motion.

Edward’s cross expression spoke of his cousin’s frustration. “Could the gypsy leader be sending you a message, Darcy? That if he cannot have the horse then neither can you.”

Darcy rubbed a weary hand across his face to clear his thinking. “Obviously, we should examine the American connection?” They did not speak for several minutes, each man lost in his thoughts. Finally, Darcy cautioned, “I would prefer Mrs. Darcy possessed no knowledge of today’s events. I would not worry my wife with news of this attack.” Another elongated silence followed. “I am thankful no one was hurt in this folly,” Darcy said sadly.

Cowan warned, “You must not permit your guard to become lax, Mr. Darcy.”

Darcy frowned noticeably. “I do not understand. Surely, you do not think this was more than a dispute about a horse’s ownership.”

The former Runner’s eyes scanned the passing countryside. “I believe, Mr. Darcy, that your insistence on discovering the disposition of your cousin’s estate has brought a warning. We might think the shooter made an unfortunate shot, but the bullet was placed in the animal’s neck. It was a admonition that a skilled marksman could easily achieve a smaller target. Say a man’s head.”

“You are saying someone wants me dead!” Darcy said incredulously. He felt the air rush from his lungs.

“I am saying, Sir, that someone knows desperation, and he holds no reservations about exercising mayhem in order to relieve himself of your interference.”

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