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Friday, August 26, 2016

Gentlemen's Lodgings in Regency London

By Cheryl Bolen

While living in London around 1820, Polish scholar Krystyn Lach-Szyrma wrote in his journal—later published in his native country as a travel guide to Great Britain—that the best way for a gentleman to board in London was in what the French call pensions. These were private homes of impoverished widows of tradesmen, lawyers or clergymen.

Owners of these pensions advertised by posting signs in the windows or on doors of their establishments or on a wall at the Royal Exchange. Lach-Szyrma said it was even better if the establishment were recommended by someone. The boarder, too, had to come with recommendations.

In addition to a private bedchamber, the boarder had access to and could entertain in the public rooms, and he was able to take his meals with the proprietress and other guests.  

“Living in such a house is the cheapest way for a foreigner to live,” Lach-Syzrma wrote. He paid £7 a month, but this included “extras” such as servants, drinks and desserts that accounted for £2. He claims that there were households where one could live for £4, but such an establishment could not offer “the company of bright and intelligent people to further their social education.” 

Each bedroom was carpeted and provided all the necessary furniture. Sheets and bedding were changed every week. A room’s size and whether it was on the first or second floor influenced the price.  

Breakfast was served in the dining room every morning at nine. This consisted of tea, toast with butter, soft-boiled eggs and cold meat. Between breakfast and lunch, served at one, the gentlemen boarders read the newspapers which they subscribed to either individually or jointly. Few participated in the lunch of cold meat, cheese and bread because of pursuing their affairs. Unlike breakfast, lunch was served in the drawing room.

Dinner, served at five, consisted of five dishes, beginning with fish and ending with cheese. Desserts and drinks, except for beer, were the responsibility of the boarders. After dinner, men lingered with their wine.

After spending about four years in Great Britain, Lach-Szyrma published his observations on the country in Polish, but this rich resource was not published in English until 2009 when it was translated into English, annotated by Mona Kedslie McLeod of Edinburgh University, and published as London Observed. – Cheryl Bolen’s three Pride and Prejudice novellas have now been published in one volume, available in print or digital and titled Pride and Prejudice Sequels. Her Georgian novella Only You has just been released electronically and sells for $.99.

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