Wednesday, May 24, 2006

More on travel

I came across this which I hadn't posted. It's from Felix LeClerc again about his voyage from France to America in 1816. The service received looks pretty good, even to modern eyes!

"I profit by this opportunity to speak of our steward and cook; and when I shall have spoken of the first, I shall speak of the second. Our steward is named Joseph Sexton. He is a young man, very intelligent, diligent, laborious, dexterous, civil, complaisant, obliging and all that we could wish. When we are up in the morning, he presents to us some water to wash our faces and our hands. When we are yet in bed and sleepy, he never forgets to awake us and to tell us that breakfast is soon to be ready. At breakfast he takes care that we want nothing. At dinner he is very watchful and changes our plates, knives and forks in proportion to the number of courses served, and at supper he is not less provident. Besides all that he makes our beds well every day and sweeps our rooms and cabin as neatly as possible.

Our cook is also a young man but taller and stronger. He is a negro man and a very skillful cook. In the morning he makes us good coffee and serves us with fresh eggs or an omelet. At noon he prepares for us a well-seasoned thigh or side of a hog, an excellent dish of rice pudding, another of choice victuals, another of fine beans, another of exquisite fish, another of rare cabbages, another of choice potatoes. He dresses and roasts every day two admirable ducks or hens or cocks. In the evening he prepares good tea. Indeed, our cook is an excellent man, and I do not doubt that if any lord knew him, his lordship would entice him away."

Of course I was reading LeClerc as research for my novel The Rogue's Return, which was out in March.

I'm now involved in another blog with some of my favorite authors.
Check out


Sunday, May 21, 2006

London Houses in the Regency

More from Louis Simond, traveller. He is describing London houses in general, but this applies to most of the houses owned by upper class characters in Regency novels, for in this period, London town houses weren't large. The elite, however, did sometimes live in mansions.

(I'd add some pictures, but Blogger seems to be having a problem with this right now. But you can go here to see a typical terrace of houses., and here for a two-storey terrace in Cheltenham.

"It may be a matter or curiosity in France to know how the people of
London are lodged. Each family occupy a whole house, unless very poor.
There are advantages and disadvantages attending this custom. Among the first,
the being more independent of noise, the dirt, the contagious disorders, or the
danger or your neighbour's fires, and having a more complete home. On the
other hand, a suite of apartments all on one floor, even of a few rooms
only, looks much better, and is more convenient.

These narrow houses, three or four stories high,--one for eating, one for sleeping, a third for company, a fourth under ground for the kitchen, a fifth perhaps at top for
the servants,--and the agility, the ease, the quickness with which the
individuals of the family run up and down, and perch on different stories,
give the idea of a cage with sticks and birds.

The plan of these houses is very simple, two rooms on each story; one in the front, with two or three windows looking on the street, the other on a yard behind, often very
small; the stairs generally taken out of the breadth of the back-room. The
ground-floor is usually elevated a few feet above the level of the street,
and separated from it by an area, a sort of ditch, a few feet wide,
generally from three to eight, and six to eight feet deep, inclosed by an
iron railing; the windows of the kitchen are in this area.

A bridge of stone or brick leads to the door of the house. The front of these houses is about twenty or twenty-five feet wide; they certainly have rather a paltry
appearance;--but you cannot pass the threshold without being struck with
the look of order and neatness of the interior. Instead of the abominable filth
of the common entrance and common stairs of a French house, here you step
from the very street on a neat floor-cloth or carpet, the wall painted or
papered, a lamp in its glass bell hanging from the ceiling, and every
apartment in the same style:--all is neat, compact, and independent, or, as
it is best expressed here, snug and comfortable,--a familiar expression,
rather vulgar perhaps, from the thing itself being too common.

On the foot pavement before each house is a round hole, fifteen or
eighteen inches in diameter, covered with an iron grate; through that hole
the coal-cellar is filled without endangering the neatness of the house.
The streets have all common sewers, which drain the filth of every house. The
drains preclude that awkward process by which necessaries are emptied at
Paris, poisoning the air of whole streets, during the night, with effluvia,
hurtful and sometimes fatal to the inhabitants.

Rich houses have what are called water-closets; a cistern in the upper story, filled with water,communicates by a pipe and cock to a vessel of earthen ware, which it washes. This is a toilet, I assume.

Jo :)

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Sports hooligans

Yes, I'm back after a long visit to England and recovery therefrom.

If I were a true-blue blogger I'd have posted day by day and yes, I would have had interesting things to pass on about history. But though I had the laptop with me, I never connected it to the internet while I was there.

And of course I've forgotten most of the tid-bits I stumbled over on my travels. Which is why true-blue bloggers post every day.

But even though I'm writing a Regency set book that doesn't require much research at the moment, I'm still digging through medieval stuff in preparation for writing that book or books one day set in the mid 13th century Barons' War.

Where I found out that the British tendency to be unruly sports fans is nothing new.

In 1222, London defeated Westminster in an annual wrestling match.

Pause for note. The City of London is still a separate area within what people think of as London. Back then, London was a distinct place with its own walls. Which was to prove important during the Baron's War.

Westminster started out as an Abbey. (Westminster Abbey, remember?) In time it was chosen to be a royal enclave separate and a good distance from the troublesome city, with a palace and a center of administration.

So in 1222, they were like two separate towns. Rivalry was obviously keen, because when Westminster lost, their supporters rioted.

There, however, the similarities end.

The leaders were hanged and many of the others had their hands and feet chopped off.

I found no record of what happened at future matches, or whether there even were any.