Have you ever started to write something and by the time you finished, it was something entirely different than you expected? Please say yes. Somebody say yes. Okay, my parrot said yes. Whew!
On Sunday I posted about hobbies, and I wanted to look at what people in Regency England would do to pass the no-TV-no-movies time. But my characters took over the computer, and I wrote more about The Bowman’s Inn Anthology than my original concept.
This time, I am trusting my Way-Back Machine to get us there and back again. Regency England. A time period detested by Victorians but loved by American women who don’t get out much. A time when Napoleon may or may not have bricked up fireplaces to stop ladies from wearing damp muslin dresses.
Men had boat loads of hobbies, as long as they had the money or the credit to pursue them. Gambling, either with cards or betting on races, or even on which debutant would accept which proposal of marriage from which young cork-brained Romeo. Going around at the clubs, having new suits made, new boots, buying new cattle (not the moo kind, this is a term used for most hoof stock at the time http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/cattle) and of course dancing with beautiful women were top pursuits. Some had affairs with widows or loose married women, and some frequented brothels. One just didn’t have sex in those days, at least not openly, with a woman of your own class unless you had married her.
Gentlemen could also go rowing, in teams or with a female passenger, or take some exercise with friends at a boxing establishment. All of this was outside of the day to day business, if the man was so inclined, of running the estate or farms or lands in their care. Poor dears!
Women usually learned needlework as girls. Not only did the decoration of embroidery add charm to their homes, they often made their own clothing and in hard times repaired everyone’s garments. They made sheets, towels, handkerchiefs, bonnets, stockings, and gloves. If they could knit or crochet, they made blankets, shawls, and lots of warm things. But maybe a delicate female just wanted to do something creative and fun. What could she do?
Reading was very popular, and often a person would read to a group or several friends would take turns reading. Plays were put on for special occasions. Poetry was written, especially in matters of the heart. Sketches and watercolors created, instruments played, singing now and again, and all manner of letters written. Without email or Facebook or even a cell phone, the only way to stay in touch lay in letters. Sadly, Jane Austin instructed her brother to burn all of her correspondences after her death. And he did as she asked, the bum.
What I have covered here are the basic pastimes entered into by delicate and well bred persons. At least, the ones they would admit to. This amazing article, by renowned Regency author Emily Hendrickson, explains other things women could do, like modeling wax flowers, or “drizzling.” Apparently one would pick out the metal threads, gold or silver, or what have you. These would be stashed in a “drizzling box” or work box of any type, to later be sold for a bit of the ready. http://emilyhendrickson.net/regency/regency-crafts-and-pastimes/
A little way down the social scale, of course, both men and women had to do a lot of daily chores, so their time went by engaged in regular tasks. Depending on the availability of money for servants, the amount of work done in the household would vary. If the ladies had maids, then they could do some gardening, flower arranging, and walking about the grounds or the countryside. Even taking a turn about the room was a popular event. Good friends who only saw each other at assemblies could move around without being overheard and gossip freely.
Gossip and rumors, of course, were hobbies of a sort, but more important was a person’s reaction to what they heard about someone else. Rumors are heart and soul to Regency novels, and can be more useful than a gentleman with deep pockets. All in all, characters have every chance of keeping busy and productive as their personality and finances allow. Good show!
Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Sunday.