Senses and History, Part Two: Touch

In a Romance novel, the sense of touch is important. The touch of his hand on her cheek, the touch of his breath as he leans in to kiss her, the touch of fire in her body as she recognizes her attraction to him. The touch of her satin gown as he slides it off her shoulders. The soft fur of the cat which insists on sitting on his lap.

Morals today do not restrict any public displays of affection. In most decades prior to the 1960s, a kiss could be considered a proposal of marriage. In Rome, the reaction toward public affection changed regularly. Laws were passed and ignored.


These days, we touch cement walls or stucco, we touch computer screens and iPhone buttons. We touch stainless steel utensils and polyester napkins. Corell glass can be found in many homes, along with fancy pottery table settings. Nothing as elegant as the Regency table.


In the Regency period, muslin was all the rage, but satin and silk also were used in formal wear. Furs were not blinked at, wool was commonly found in clothing, and weaving as a craft moved from small crofts to centralized guild buildings.

In Rome, simple tunics were made of linen, while over-garments were made of wool with leather being the armor of choice. They gripped metal knives and swords with often simple handles. Wooden shields with metalwork were also kept to hand, especially on campaign.

Modern times in cities have separated us from most animals. We might have a dog or cat in our lives, a bird or lizard more rarely, and fish which we don’t touch but the glass aquarium we do. In Regency London, we would be familiar with the feel of a hound or a lap dog, a barn cat in the mews, and horses kept for riding. We might keep goats and sheep in our country estate, but not touch them so much as look at them.


Romans probably kept cats, dogs, and birds as pets, with geese, goats, sheep, and rabbits as pets that also provided food or textiles. We suspect this from literature of the time and memorials to children who died young.

The grass and plants, no doubt, could be touched daily in the Roman Empire. The Regency era had equal opportunities, but varied by where you lived, town or country. Today, we have rediscovered the importance of having growing things around us, so we are back to green belts in housing areas and atriums in shopping malls and business complexes.


Leather is controversial currently, but furniture and car interiors are often upholstered in the material. Regency England used leather frequently, for shoes, carriages, horse equipment, books, and so much more. Romans had leather in many forms, as well. Especially in their footwear. However, there was a type of flip-flop worn by actors and intellectuals. Made from plant material, they were easy to make and therefore easy to replace.


Touch is a sense that seems to have changed little in varieties available to us. However you craft your story, be sure to use all five senses whenever possible. Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Thursday with Hearing.

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