Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Gorgeous Men in Tight Breeches and Ruffled Shirts


Today we'll talk about men's clothes in the Regency era, which occurred about two hundred years ago in England. This post is a primer on the subject, because I'm no expert. But in order for my stories to ring true, I must know how to dress--and undress--my hero.

Our modern world began to take shape in the Regency. Many facets of the era are recognizable to our eyes, including men's clothes.

Here’s a list the Regency gentleman's wardrobe, and the modern equivalent, as close as I can find: (I apologize for the ragged table, but blogger is not cooperating.)

Modern--Regency

jacket--coat

shirt--shirt

undershirt--no equivalent

vest--waistcoat

suspenders--braces

tie--cravat

belt--no equivalent

boxer shorts--drawers

trousers--breeches, pantaloons, trousers (the Regency gentleman had 3 lengths)

socks--stockings (not quite the same)

boots--boots

shoes--shoes

Fabrics of choice were wool and linen because they were produced in the British Isles. Imported fabrics, like silk, and our everyday workhorse material, cotton, were luxury items and used mainly by the rich.

Here's a description of male attire from my Regency time travel, Lady of the Stars. The twenty-first century heroine, Caroline, gets her first good look at the Regency hero, Richard:

Good heavens, the aggravating man was gorgeous. Tall and slim, his broad shoulders tapered to narrow hips and long legs. But where had he found that outlandish outfit? He wore a top hat, out here in the middle of nowhere. His shirt collar was turned up and he wore a huge white tie. And his waist-length, double-breasted jacket had tails, like the one an orchestra conductor wore. Muddy black boots with the tops turned down came up to his knees. Skintight trousers, or were those breeches--of all things?--emphasized every well-formed muscle.

This passage illustrates another aspect of Regency men's clothes: they were tight. A man's coat often fit so closely he needed help putting it on, and then he might be unable to lift his arms as high as his shoulders. Form-fitting breeches literally left little to the imagination. Then, as now, such clothes could look good only on men with the best physiques, like romance novel heroes.

The Regency hero--a handsome man with a great physique and gorgeous clothes. What a fantasy.

Thank you all,
Linda

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Conference for Writers


The Historical Novel Society holds wonderful conferences, and not only for writers. I met readers at the 2009 conference in Illinois, devoted fans of historical fiction. It’s a real treat to go somewhere with historical fiction lovers—like a great big wine-and-chocolate-covered- strawberries party, where the talk centers around carriages and corsets and kings. The conference alternates between the U.S. and the UK, but this year I’ve seen nothing posted about one in the UK, so when I saw a message on the HNS digest about a writers’ conference in York, I followed the link HERE to see what it was. It looks really interesting and is held at the University of York, two hours by train from London. I’m thinking seriously about going. If any readers of the blog are interested, drop me a line at: joyce (at) joycemoorebooks(dot)com.
In the next several weeks we’ll be having some fabulous guests here on historical hussies who write historicals set in the Middle Ages, so keep checking back for more information and some great prizes.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Telescopes


Astronomy has always interested me. When I was a kid, I would take my little Golden Guide to the Stars and my flashlight to the back yard and gaze up at the constellations. Winter or summer, and winter in New England is pretty cold, on most clear nights I would go outside and look at the stars. Back then, I didn’t have a telescope, or even binoculars. When I was in college I received a small telescope as a gift. I still have it buried in the basement, but I haven't used it in years.

Maybe my childhood interest in the stars had something to do with the astronomy theme in Lady of the Stars, my Regency time travel novella (buy link here). I'm still not sure how the idea came about. Anyway, the telescope the hero, Richard, owns is a real one. I looked up antique telescopes on the web and found this Pallant: http://www.antiquetelescopes.org/19thc.html

This telescope is ideal for my story. It's a real, 19th century English telescope, perfect for Richard to own. The telescope is also small, less than a foot long, so Richard or Caroline, the heroine, could easily carry it to an observation position. It figures in Caroline’s and Richard’s courtship, as well as providing a link between past and present.

I rarely look at the stars now. Too many lights and too many trees obscure my view. I still remember most of the constellations’ names, and I always stay up and watch any lunar eclipses that are visible in my area. But, as Lady of the Stars shows, I haven’t completely forgotten my childhood interest. Maybe art does imitate life.

Thank you all,
Linda

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

SCOUNDREL'S KISS Winner!

Hi, everyone! It's me again, Carrie Lofty. Earlier this week I was here to talk about SCOUNDREL'S KISS and offer a free copy to a random commenter. I've chosen the winner, so the free copy of SCOUNDREL'S KISS goes to: iokijo!

Congratulations!

Please provide your mailing address: contact AT carrielofty DOT com. And thanks to everyone else for participating. Check out my blog tour roundup for other chances to win a copy of my newest release. And thanks to the Historical Hussies for letting me stop by!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Married Monks with Carrie Lofty

Hello! The lovely Hussies invited me here today to talk about...well, about whatever was on my mind! And as I celebrate the release of my latest medieval romance, SCOUNDREL'S KISS, I have only one thing on my mind: hot Spanish monks.

Monks? Really?

Yes, despite the Fabio-like tresses sported by the stud on the cover, the hero of SCOUNDREL'S KISS, Gavriel de Marqueda, is a monk--cropped hair and all. (Just don't mention that to the art department, who did such an amazing job on the cover!)

In particular, Gavriel is a Jacobean, which referred to members of the Order of Santiago. Jacobeans were not Templars, where warfare occasionally took precedent over faith; they were actual men of God.

So how does Gavriel get to, ahem, do what romance heroes do?

Turns out that the Jacobeans were a very particular type of monk, one that only could've arisen within a very specific political and religious climate. The Kingdom of Castile, along with other Christian kingdoms that make up modern-day Spain, were at war--both militarily and culturally--against Moorish tribes to the south, known as the Almohads. The Order of Santiago was founded in 1171 with a very specific mission in mind: succeed over Islam.

To continue the 500-year battle handed down to them by previous generations of Christian kings and churchmen, special dispensation was awarded to the Order of Santiago by Pope Alexander III. These provisions, it was hoped, would attract new followers who had been put off by the more rigorous standards set by Benedictine orders. First off, Jacobeans were given the right to maintain personal property--singular among monasteries, where property became part of the communal brotherhood. Second, they could live either in the monastery or in private homes of their own.

But the biggest concession, which was not afforded to other military orders until the end of the Middle Ages, was the right to marry.

Married monks!

Sure, they had to maintain conjugal chastity, but that was a provision of marriage itself: simply do not engage in intercourse with someone other than the spouse. The only other restriction was that married monks had to refrain from sexual relations during Lent and on certain religious holidays, when the men spent their nights within the cloistered bounds of the monastery.

They probably went to pray and give thanks for how lucky they were to wind up Jacobeans.

The leniency of their rule not only aided in the recapture of Almohad territories on behalf of the Christian kings, but swelled the Jacobeans' ranks and increased their holdings to include property in Portugal, Sicily, Palestine, Italy, Hungary, France, and even England!

If you'd like to read more about my take on Jacobeans and medieval Spanish culture, leave a comment or a question for the chance to win a signed copy of SCOUNDREL'S KISS! I'll choose a winner at random on Wednesday morning. Good luck! And thanks to the Hussies for inviting me here today.

Carrie Lofty is the author of sexy, adventurous historical romances, including her Robin Hood-themed debut, WHAT A SCOUNDREL WANTS. Her latest, SCOUNDREL'S KISS, in which a warrior monk must resist the troubled woman he's sworn to protect, hits the shelves this month.

This June, Carrie's Austrian-set tale of two lovelorn musicians will launch Harlequin's Carina Press. And coming soon from Penguin are three hot-n-dirty apocalyptic romances, co-written with Ann Aguirre under the name Ellen Connor.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Medieval Recipe for Travelers


Two days before Christmas, I got the final edit from the copy-editor at Five Star, for my upcoming book, The Tapestry Shop. At this stage, it has already been edited, and the last copy-editor gives it her nod. I was grateful that the changes were only a few commas and a word or two, so it turned out to be a nice gift after all. This is all to explain why my blog is a bit brief this time, what with being gone and the deadline to return the manuscript.
That said, I promised earlier I would blog from time to time about food, ancient and medieval, so after a nine-hour drive home from spending Christmas with my daughter, I thought this recipe, from a collection of recipes in a cookbook in the Public Domain, sounded like just what I needed. Besides, it’s supposed to work wonders, as the ancient cook promises, giving endurance and strength to a weary traveler.

Honey Refresher for Travelers
Conditum Melizonium1 Viatorium
The wayfarer's honey refresher (so called because it gives endurance and strength to pedestrians)2 with which travelers are refreshed by the wayside is made in this manner: flavor honey with ground pepper and skim. In the moment of serving put honey in a cup, as much as is desired to obtain the right degree of sweetness, and mix with spiced wine not more than a needed quantity; also add some wine to the spiced honey to facilitate its flow and the mixing.

Welcome Sharon Lathan--The Regency: A Time of Change


Linda Banche here. Historical Hussies is delighted to host guest blogger Sharon Lathan, author of My Dearest Mr. Darcy. Sharon writes best-selling stories that follow the Darcys of Pride And Prejudice after their marriage. Her newest book, My Dearest Mr. Darcy, is the third volume in her trilogy, after Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One, and Loving Mr. Darcy: Journeys Beyond Pemberley.

Today she shares with us her knowledge and love of the Regency era. Leave a comment with your email address for a chance to win a complete set of her books. Sharon will select the lucky winner. Please note that Sourcebooks can only mail to addresses in the USA and Canada.

Welcome, Sharon!

The Regency: A Time of Change

I am honored by the invitation to guest on Historical Hussies today! Thank you for allowing me to be here.

I was asked to share what drew me to writing during the Regency Era. The irony, as I look over Historical Hussies, is that I wasn’t drawn to the Regency per se, but to history.

I initially became inspired to write the continuing saga of Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice because I was enamored by their relationship and how it unfolded against the historical backdrop. If Jane had set her story in medieval England or Renaissance Italy I am sure I would have delved in with the identical enthusiasm. My passion was for this profound love story and the fact that it took place in a long ago world was a happy bonus.

I adore historical cultures and the intriguing events of the past. My love for history arose in high school, thanks to a marvelous teacher named Mrs. Magar, who brought ancient civilizations, dates and facts, and past events to vivid, gritty life as no other teacher previously had. I have been hooked ever since.

Yet, aside from a few movie adaptations of Austen, et al, I knew zip about the Regency! Talk about needing a crash course to successfully and authentically write my couple moving through their day-to-day life! Luckily a plethora of folks have blazed the trails before me so there are about ten zillion websites and books out there to glean information from. What I quickly discovered was an Era that, albeit short, was alive with promise. In no time at all I fell as much in love with the time period as I did all my characters.

I was also asked to talk about my favorite things during the Regency, but I am not sure if I can limit what my “favorites” are within a reasonable length blog essay! LOL!

First off, oh yeah, gotta say the clothes. The gowns are just exquisite. The flowing fabrics and minimal extras are not only easier to imagine fitting any possible scenario but perfectly lend themselves to writing romance. The gentlemen’s garments are divine. And quite delicious, if you know what I mean! Together the silhouette is elegant, refined, dashing, and romantic, literally from feathered-head to booted-toe.

Culturally I have been mesmerized by the architecture, art, literature, poetry, fashion, society, and so on. The Regency Era, thanks to the Prince Regent in large part, was a time of shifting sensibilities to a more frivolous, romantic, graceful air. We all know the excesses and political upheavals had a downside, but one cannot deny how beautiful and glamorous it all was.

As a person who often bemoans our present-day declining moral and ethical values, I really love the refinement and manners that pervaded the Georgian period. Granted, among some it was a fa├žade and extremely shallow, the lower classes lived in squalor and were rough, and the ostentatious Regency bordered on the obscene at times. Yet the general attitude of respectability and propriety was real, admirable, and refreshing.

But for me, the best part of writing in this setting has been the thrilling inventions and advancements in technology. The first decades of the 19-th century were also the beginning decades of the Industrial Revolution that began in England and would sweep through the entire world. What an exciting time! On purpose I set my sequel in 1816, a few years later than Austen wrote it, so that I could embrace the marvels daily appearing.

Right away I wanted Mr. Darcy to be a broad-minded, forward thinking business man who expanded his interests beyond his estate lands and horse breeding to foreign investments, trade, shipping ventures, and ownership of mills. I instilled a fascination with modern inventions so that I could write in steel-tipped pens, a kaleidoscope, music boxes, and telescopes to name but a few.

Within my most recent novel, My Dearest Mr. Darcy, I was able to explore a number of awesome wonders of the day. These include magic lantern shows, hot air balloons, seaside bathing machines, medical innovations like the stethoscope, and restaurants, among others.

So, yes, I love the Regency. It is a blessing to be able to travel with the Darcys through such an amazing period of history. I consider it an honor to present my vision of a fulfilled marriage and life while simultaneously educating and entertaining the reader.

For fun, answer this query: If you could be dropped temporarily into any place and time from the past, where and when would it be? Why?


MY DEAREST MR. DARCY—IN STORES JANUARY 2010
Married life is bringing out the best in the Darcys. Their mutual attentiveness brings readers into a magical world of love and wedded bliss.

Elizabeth is growing into her role as Mistress of Pemberley, and Darcy has mellowed under her gentle teasing and light-heartedness. Pemberley becomes a true home and a welcoming environment for loving family and friends. The Darcys travel to the seaside, welcome their firstborn, celebrate their anniversary and second Christmas, and at every moment embrace the love gifted to them.

“I love you, my Elizabeth. You are my soul, my blood and bone, my very life.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sharon Lathan is the author of the bestselling Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One, and Loving Mr. Darcy: Journeys Beyond Pemberley. In addition to her writing, she works as a Registered Nurse in a Neonatal ICU. She resides in Hanford, California in the sunny San Joaquin Valley. For more information on Sharon and her saga, come to her website at: www.darcysaga.net

Monday, January 4, 2010

History of Childbirth


While Childbirth itself hasn’t really changed over the years, those who care for women in childbirth and the techniques used has undergone many changes. There are significant differences between how male accoucheurs and midwives handled birth. One of them is that male accoucheurs were trained in the use of forceps. By the Regency period, the vast majority of midwives only used their hands. Midwives generally supported old traditions of giving birth (female friends and relatives being present at the birth, stopping up doors and windows, darkening the room, the drinking of caudle) and men were beginning the move away from these rituals and many of them went on at length about "dirty and ignorant midwives". There was a gradually escalating conflict between male-dominated medical institutions and the tradition of midwifery that started before the Regency period and extended to the Twilight Sleep of the early 20th century. Originally there were arguments that it was indelicate for men to preside at a birth, eventually it was argued that it was indelicate for women to do so. Whatever!

By the Regency, most women of the aristocracy and even the gentry were using a male accoucheur rather than a midwife. Women who were of lower classes or very old-fashioned might still use a midwife. The very wealthy sometimes had an accoucheur live with them in the weeks before the due date (the Duchess of Devonshire did so) or they went to London to give birth. They also employed a month nurse whose job it was to take care of the mother before and after the birth. Month nurses often knew how to deliver the baby in case the accoucheur couldn't get there in time.

An excellent book on this subject is IN THE FAMILY WAY by Judith Schneid Lewis.

The ladies in IN THE FAMILY WAY are all either royal or from aristocratic families (many well-known names like Lady Jersey and Princess Charlotte). Adrian Wilson's book indicates well-to-do tradesmen were starting to hire male doctors for their wives, following the trend started by the aristocracy. Remember, these ladies are ones about which a great deal is known because they were prominent, educated, and leaders in Society. These are ladies who would go the more expensive route. Your average middle class and gentry class lady would not have a doctor, especially not in the country. Doctors with skills were rare in the country, and most women were still uncomfortable with a man not their husband touching them so intimately.

The issue of cleanliness applied especially to hospital births. Most women gave birth at home before the 20th century but there were teaching hospitals and maternity wards for the poor. Until the advent of proper antiseptics, puerperal fever claimed many lives. Even those doctors who washed between cases (and a few were smart enough to advocate this) found it was not 100% effective. Midwives who carried a smaller case load were less likely to spread disease because they were more likely to have washed before seeing the next patient.

Even in Russia, they were using doctors amongst aristocrats. But these were few and far between in reality, so one can't conclude from a handful--relatively speaking--of women using doctors instead, that all women used doctors instead. Hospitals were not healthy for births. Doctors went from autopsies to deliveries without washing.

Language about childbirth was changing during the Regency, with "accoucheur" superseding "man-midwife" about the same time "in the family way" and "confinement" were replacing "breeding" and "lying-in". But midwives were still called midwives.

Giving birth is a natural act and, unless something goes wrong, women were able to manage this, even by herself. There are women even today who give birth unassisted, even some who do it on purpose. _http://www.unassistedchildbirth.com/_ (http://www.unassistedchildbirth.com/) although I, for one, was glad to have plenty of help!

A special room was designated for the birth that was not necessarily the bedchamber. The mother-to-be often had lots of visitors (female relatives and friends) during the birth and during the month or so period afterward might receive a bunch more, so the room might be chosen to suit that purpose. But some couples preferred to do things more privately in the country.

Birthing chairs they were popular with midwives but not with the male accoucheurs who were becoming fashionable by the late eighteenth century. My sources indicate aristocratic women were tending to go with male doctors by this period. They advocated birth in bed but Dr. Charles White also designed a "Lady's Ease Chair" that is semi-reclining. While giving birth to my six children, I have to say, semi reclining sure seemed to work better than flat on my back!

Midwives often had birthing chairs but some families owned chairs that were handed down between generations--presumably falling into disuse when male doctors advocated birth in bed. For more information regarding the midwife/birth chair I recommend Birth Chairs, Midwives and Medicine by Amanda Carson Banks. Lots of good pictures there.

For more information, I recommend http://www.elenagreene.com/childbirth.html. there are some rough sketches of birth chairs along with some notes and a bibliography on the history of childbirth.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Aachoo! Origin of the Sneeze

When someone nearby sneezes, it’s expected we’ll say “Bless you” or “God Bless!” Where and when did this practice begin? Are we trying to protect the sneezers from evil spirits? Are we warding off the Devil? Is this a remnant of an ancient recognition that sneezers aren’t long for this world, or are we congratulating them on their impending good luck?

Silly as all this sounds, there are several common explanations for the origin of blessing sneezers. Among them are:

* At one time people believed a man’s soul could be inadvertently thrust from his body by an explosive sneeze, thus “Bless you!” was a protective oath uttered to safeguard the temporarily expelled and vulnerable soul from being snatched up by Satan (who was believed to always be nearby.) the purpose of the oath was to cast a temporary shield over the flung-out soul which would protect it just long enough for it to regain the protection of the corporeal body.

* On the flip side, the sneeze itself was the expulsion of a demon or evil spirit which had taken up residence in a person. Therefore, although the “Bless you!” was again a protective charm meant to protect the sneezer from evil, in this version it was meant to ward off the re-entry of an evil spirit which a tormented soul had just ride itself of.

* The heart was believed to momentarily stop during a sneeze (it doesn’t), thus the ‘Bless you!” was uttered either as a supplication for life to return as congratulations upon the heart’s successful restart.

The earliest origins of blessing a sneeze date at least to the Middle Ages when it was thought that sneezing expelled evil spirits or was dangerous to a person’s soul. There is also the theory that it became popular as a prayer for the welfare of the sneezer during an outbreak of the bubonic plague. Regardless, over the centuries, it has become the socially acceptable etiquette to say, “(God) Bless you.” In Germany, one might hear, “Gesundheit,” Hispanic countries, “Salud,” Korea, “eichi.”

Such responses have become so deeply ingrained in us that we find it difficult to refrain from saying nothing at all—even when a stranger sneezes.


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