Research reading: December 2017 edition

Regency Topics

On Historical and Regency Romance UK, you can take a look at a lady’s watercolors of Regency life.


There are a great many outdoor scenes which show how the countryside must have looked then, and Diana has drawn her family and acquaintances riding, driving, walking, fishing, skating and a great many other activities, in all kinds of weather.

From Word Wenches, the deep disappointment of Regency towels. Looking to have a steamy bath scene for your characters? Skip the thick terry cloth, because that weaving technique wasn’t invented until the 1850s!

But the towels were flat woven. No loops sucking up the excess water. No fluffiness.. Even the best of Turkish toweling of 1810 would be the texture of the tea towels you may have hanging in the kitchen.

No soft thick terrycloth for my Regency heroine.


Victorian Topics

Victorian Web has a great article on the contemporary context of Bertha Mason-Rochester’s madness:

Many critics have decried Brontë’s delineation of Bertha as both a racist and insensitive portrayal of insanity. Her sensationalistic approach to describing a character suffering from mental illness during the Victorian era, while lending the gothic elements of suspense and intrigue to her cleverly crafted and brilliantly executed novel, nevertheless remains rather unsettling for modern readers, who may often wonder whether her views toward mental illness reflect the prevalent attitudes of her day. An examination of articles contemporary with the initial publication of Jane Eyre in 1847 surprisingly reveals that awareness of mental illness and sensitivity towards the care of suffering patients were remarkably acute, and these issues were being actively discussed in the press, as well as by politicians.

On my personal blog, I’ve been sharing research reading from the late Victorian era in America.

The first woman in the New Yacht Club was Lucy Carnegie, widowed sister-in-law of Andrew Carnegie.

When Mrs. Lucy C. Carnegie, of Pittsburg[sic], Pa., ordered her new steam yacht Dungeness, she thought it would be a capital thing if she could prevail upon the New York Yacht Club to grant her permission to fly the club burgee and to use the club floats and stations. With this ended in view she opened diplomatic negotiations, and caused as much consternation among the “old barnacles” just alluded to as a hungry hawk in a chicken walk.

The superintendent of New York’s Central Park Menagerie wrote about it in The Epoch in 1888.

It is not, I think, unjust to say that the Menagerie is the most attractive feature of Central Park. Nine out of every ten persons who enter the Park by the lower entrances wend their way to the Menagerie, and strangers visiting the city from all parts of the world are sure to pay the animals a visit. People take great pleasure in looking at live animals–very few care for the stuffed collections.

It doesn’t appear that the collection of animals was more generally called the Zoo until into the 1890s. By that time artist F.S. Church was a regular at the zoo, painting the animals. He wrote about his zoo experiences for Scribners in 1893.

I paint the lioness much more than I do the lion. Probably few notice the difference, but I use the tigress in all my pictures in preference to the male. There is something in the female of the cat species, particularly, that appeals to much more than the male.

And for a bit of very concrete romantic research, here’s an article I found on Victorian wedding and engagement rings, from 1884.

The clerk laughed, and said he could tell when a young man wanted a wedding or engagement ring every time; though sometimes they ask to be shown clocks, bracelets, or anything rather than what they come for. Very many come right to the point, though they stammer and falter about it quite painfully. Others again ask frankly and boldly to see what they want. “There never has been a change int he fashion of wedding rings,” said the clerk; “the plain round gold ring has always been the only correct thing. Men sometimes choose other kinds, but women never make that mistake.”