project: Labyrinth (period fell through)

I think of this for the standard Janeite Regency Romance, focused on London in the Season and perhaps Brighton or Bath off-season. At the very least, characters will have been to the spa-towns and ought to be able to discuss other characters in terms of where they stayed and how they behaved. Notice the contrast to the Napoleonic setting: 13 years and the same town, but Mr. Brummel and Lady Hester have both departed, Almack's and the Lady Patronesses rule, and there's a bunch of war veterans home, while travel to and from the Continent is open again. Even so, there are a lot of the same books in the lists.

However, this is meant for historical novels, not fantasies set in Regencyland.

Regencyland is that mythical place where most of the Regency Romances of the 1970s and 1980s took place, on up until the genre really killed itself off with readers in the 1990s. Present writers usually know to do things like research the period in more than other romance novels, but not always. They also tend to model themselves on Austen rather than Georgette Heyer or, worse, her would-be imitators. In Regencyland, Beau Brummell is a power in London Society when in reality he had abscounded to France by that year; the Lady Patronesses of Almack's reign in 1811, when we cannot date them before 1815; gentlemen wear cravats out of an 1840 list, or off one that was obviously satirical; people dance dances not brought into England yet; they speak a slang out of the 1780s; they duel like Frenchmen of the 1750s, gaining societal points thereby rather than becoming pariahs; and so on down the list of anachronisms.


This turned out to be the wrong period for what I wanted to do, but I didn't know that until I did so much research I could set something here.

 1). A general history of the time, not over 200 pages.
Encyclopedia Americana, "Nineteenth Century": it's quite an article. Look for similar on Wikipedia.

2.) An "everyday life" book of the period.
Age of Illusion: Manners and Morals, 1750-1848
by James Laver. The range is particularly good because it gives the era in which characters beyond debutantes grew up.

3.) General transportation
James Arnold; All Drawn by Horses 1979; David & Charles, Newton Abbot. Not only all sorts of carriages, but waggons, floats, and delivery vans to be found on the roads.

4.) General costume
Boucher, François 20,000 Years of Fashion: The History of Costume and Personal Adornment, Harry N. Abrams, NY, is always my first check because it's in the house. You may want Costumers Manifesto.

5.) Specific transportation
William Pitt, Lord Lennox, 1799-1881; Coaching: with Anecdotes of the Road; 1876; London: Hurst and Blackett. Actually, I got every book on period coaching that I could find. That and riding are so necessary.

6.) Etiquette, and I don't mean morals for maidens.
The Mirror of the Grace
s (1831) is deportment for maidens, not etiquette, and prissy at that - the author would never approve the the fast set I was aiming for: don't waste money on it. The Laws of Etiquette: or, Short Rules and Reflections for Conduct in Society of 1836 was a bit late and American, with mythical Brummelliana, but at least addressed British manners. I'm also not sure how seriously it is meant to be taken, as the author is openly arrogant on some points, like "Anyone with physical peculiarities should never go into society, or live with the unpleasant nicknames he will get," or "One only gives up a good seat in a public coach to a woman of the common class because otherwise you would be ejected by the men who are of her class." (I'm the one who contributed this to PG out of my etiquette book collection, so I know it well from keying it in.)
Early, but covering the standards: Gentlemen & Lady's Companion; Containing The Newest Cotillions and Country Dances; To Which is Added, Instances of Ill Manners, to Be Carefully Avoided by Youth of Both Sexes; 1798; Norwich;
Closer to the point might be Peacock, Francis, Sketches Relative to the History and Theory, But More Especially to the Practice of Dancing; as a Necessary Accomplishment to the Youth of Both Sexes; Together with Remarks on the Defects and Bad Habits They Are Liable to in Early Life; And the Best Means of Correcting or Preventing Them. Intended as Hints to the Young Teachers of the Art of Dancing; 1805, Aberdeen (notice that these last two give me social dancing).
Still relevant is Philip Dormer Stanhope, Lord Chesterfield; George Gregory, DD & Jedidiah Morse, DD, editors; The Elements of a Polite Education, Carefully Selected from the Letters of the Late Right Honorable Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield, to His Son; 1801; Boston: Joseph Bumstead. Sometimes you have to fake your way through the research gaps.
However, we can conduct a proper duel out of Wilson, Gov. John Lade; Code of Honor; 1833, 1848: That's another kind of etiquette book.

7.) Spectator entertainments
Williams, Michael; Some London Theatres Past and Present; 1883; London; Sampson, Low, Marston, Searl, & Rivington; theatres and actors in London, 1600-1880; somelondontheatr00willuoft.pdf. Also Shelley, Henry C.; Inns and Taverns of Old London: Setting Forth the Historical and Literary Associations of Those Ancient Hostelries, Together with an Account of the Most Notable Coffee-houses, Clubs, and Pleasure Gardens of the British Metropolis; 1909; PG. This covers inns, lodging, and entertainment, 1300-1850. Its greatest use will be to stave off the invasions of Regencyland, because it not only describes Vauxhall and Ranelagh Gardens, it tells you when they were fashionable, when they were beneath notice, and when they closed.

8.) Self-entertainments
A new improvement in source: Edmund Hoyle (rev. by Charles Jones); Hoyle's Games; (1814; W. Lowndes); cards, backgammon, dice, gambling, checkers, board games, chess. Hoyle starts in 1742 with A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist. These whist rules were superseded in 1864, so you have to watch dating if you are going to describe games in detail. All those "Hoyle" books are publisher's collections in constant update. Of course, you want to get the older ones you can find as a PDF on line, so as to be closer to your period. At Internet Archive, your search is "Hoyle's AND games NOT Sierra NOT magazine NOT Bondi NOT Lyttleton NOT 2012 AND mediatype:texts" which leads to 38 of various ages (1814 forward), though the newest are borrow only.

9.) Food and dining, including what sort of public dining was available.
Inns and Taverns of Old London: Setting Forth the Historical and Literary Associations of Those Ancient Hostelries, Together with an Account of the Most Notable Coffee-houses, Clubs, and Pleasure Gardens of the British Metropolis
was the real gem. I had and found a number in this genre, mostly repetitive of the same information about the Tabard and various country inns, or the names and locales of London inns, but not so much on what went on in them.

10.) Recipes for period food.
Farley, John, 18th cent; The London art of cookery and domestic housekeepers' complete assistant: uniting the principles of elegance, taste, and economy : and adapted to the use of servants, and families of every description ...; Containing every elegant and plain preparation in improved modern cookery -- 1811 London: Printed for Scatcherd and Letterman ...
Kitchiner, William, 1775?-1827 The Cook's oracle: containing receipts for plain cookery on the most economical plan for private families, also the art of composing the most simple, and most highly finished broths, gravies, soups, sauces, store sauces, and flavoring essences : the quantity of each article is accurately stated by weight and measure, the whole being the result of actual experiments instituted in the kitchen of a physician 1822 Edinburgh: A. Constable. You can actually cook out of this one.

11.) Marriage and family.
The Stones's books on marriage: Road to Divorce: England, 1530-1987 and Broken Lives: Separation and Divorce in England, 1660-1857. You can also look at Kitchin, S. B. , B.A., LL.B.; A History of Divorce ; 1912; London : Chapman & Hall, Ltd.

12.) Specific dress styles, for your decade
Julius M. (Julius Mendes) Price; Dame Fashion: Paris-London, 1786 - 1912; London: S. Low, Marston; 1913. Just a bit early, Thomas McLean, Picturesque Representations of the Dress and Manners of the English illustrated in 50 Coloured Engravings; 1813; London.

13.) Religion for the time and place.
The Age of Napoleon (The Story of Civilization, Vol. 11) by
Will & Ariel Durant (see below) because religion is one of the many things they cover. However, some of Timbs' books on eccentrics told me about the doomsday cults and charismatic cult leaders of the time.

14.) A fat history book of the area and century
Will & Ariel Durant; The Age of Napoleon (The Story of Civilization, Vol. 11); 1975; MJF Books, NY. It actually covers through 1840, because Napoleon was still influencing everyone's reactions by having existed.

15.) A history of the most influential country at the time
This we will now choose to be England. John Richard Green, MA; History of the English People, v. IV: The Revolution 1683-1760, Modern England 1760-1815; c. 1820; A. L. Burt, NY. I know, it's undigested, it's so close to the time, but it lets me see what they considered significant about their own events, no matter what later ages thought. I can get that out of Durant or Ashton or a zillion others.

16.) A history of its rival.
This could be Russia, as you may not realize, as the other stalwart against Napoleon, now that France is subdued. It could be Prussia. Wikipedia article crawl will probably do.

17.) A biography of the leader of country A
Melville, Lewis; The First Gentleman of Europe, 1906; London; Hutchinson & Co, For 1760-1840. This biography of the Prince Regent is rather necessary as, in the Regency, high society revolves around him to some extent.

18.) A biography of the leader of country B
One of the Lady Patronesses of Almack's was the wife of the Russian ambassador. So this isn't as irrelevant as you may think. It might be for a Bath tale of the lower gentry, but not anyone going to Almack's.

19.) A history of the country you are setting in, general.
John Ashton; Social England Under the Regency, v.2; 1899. Covers 1815-1820. If you want 1810-1815, that's v. 1.

20.) A history of the country you are setting in, that era.
In this case, I will substitute a book on the cult of exclusivity: Ellen Moers; The Dandy: Brummell to Beerbohm; 1960; Viking Press, NY. You cannot do the highlife unless you understand exclusivity of the time.

21.) A biography of the leader of the country of your setting.
Brummell is gone, but there are other dandies holding the whip over Society, like Raikes and Alvanley. Lewis Melville; The Beaux of the Regency, 1908; London, Hutchinson. 1790-18

22.) An everyday life for the commoner
Low, Donald A.; The Regency Underworld; 1982; Sutton Publishing, London

23) An everyday life for the upper classes of your time and place.

24.) An everyday life for the middle class
Ben Wilson; The Making of Victorian Values: Decency and Dissent in Britain: 1789-1837; 2007; Penguin press, NY. Dense information, well-written, on unusual subjects. This does for both 23 & 24.

25.) An everyday life for women
Grand Century of the Lady
by Arthur Calder-Marshall; all aspects of the life of an upper-class woman, 1720 to 1820. This has the advantage of covering the years when many of my characters grew up. Also Whalan, Pamela; Understanding the Society in which Jane Austen Sets Pride and Prejudice; 07 September 2003 online

26) An auto/biography of someone like your protagonist, or a book as much as possible focused on people like that.

27.) A book on houses and furnishings of the period, if possible.
Anonymous, The Regency, 1970, Murray Group of Companies, London; Covers furniture, ceramics, glassware, jewelry, 1790-1840. Also, Illustrated History of Furniture from the Earliest to the Present Time by Frederick Litchfield (1903; London: Truslove & Hanson Limited; New York:; illustrated by John Lane 1892-1903).

28.) A book about courting, romance, and sex of the time.
Ivan Bloch; Sexual Life in England Past and Present ; 1938; Alfred Aldor, London, which is all over the place and has to be mined out for nuggets here and there. Suffice that he takes porn way too seriously as an indicator of common behavior. X-rated, especially the illos.

29.) A book for naming historical characters properly.
Holly Ingraham, People's Names: A Cross-Cultural Reference Guide to the Proper Use of Over 40000personal and Familial Names in Over 100 Cultures, 1997, McFarland., as usual.

30.) Medicine of the time and place.
Thomson, Anthony Todd , M.D. F.L.S. G.S.;
The London Dispensatory, Containing I. The Elements of Pharmacy. II. The Botanical Description, Natural History, Chymical Analysis, and Medicinal Properties of the Substances of the Materia Medica. III, The Pharmaceutical Preparations and Compositions of the Pharmacopoeias of London, of Edinburgh, and of Dublin. the Whole Forming A Practical Synopsis of Materia Medica, Pharmacy, and Therapeutics: Illustrated with Many Useful Tables, and Wood-cuts of the Pharmaceutical Apparatus; 1837; London: Longmans, Orme, Brown, Green, & Longmans. This was a treasure of period medicine. I'd almost rather go to a witchdoctor.

A History of Medicine, 1945 Thomas Nelson & Sons Ltd;. London, Edinburgh, Paris, Melbourne, New York; it covers around 500 BC to 1940 CE.

31) Climate:
The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History, 1300-1850
by Brian M. Fagan (2001, Basic Books). This period is coming out of a Volcanic Winter, that bottomed out in 1816, The Year without a Summer. It's cold, it's rainy, crops are poor, famines threaten, but the sunsets are magnificent.

Period Maps

Town and City Maps of the British Isles 1800 - 1855 by Baynton-Williams, though here is one place the Perry-Casteñada Collection was pretty good.

Paterson, Daniel ; New and Accurate Description of All the Roads in Great Britain. Containing [yada-yada] The Whole on a Plan entirely new, and far preferable to any Work of the Kind Extant; 1796; London: T. Carnan, 5th ed.; Note that this is all characters will have as a road guide. It's done mostly as strip maps of the routes, which would be great while you walked, rode, or drove.

Darton, William; Darton's New miniature atlas containing a complete set of county maps, in which are carefully delineated all the principal direct & cross roads, cities, towns, villages, parks, seats, rivers & navigable canals, with a general map of England & Wales; 1820 c.; London: William Darton. A near-period atlas.

 32) Sidesaddle Riding: anonymous; Lady's Equestrian Manual, The Principles and Practice Are Thoroughly Explained, to Enable Every Lady to Ride With Comfort and Elegance.; 1854; Willis P. Hazard, Philadelphia. Modern sidesaddle books are not good for you, starting with their using the modern corrupt terminology, the result in the break of tradition in sidesaddle.

33) Driving; Badminton Library of Sports & Pastimes (1890), because we're bound to wind up in carriages, not just looking at them. Includes excellent articles on this period as recalled by elders, and how to drive a tandem.

34) Highlife: The Prince of Pleasure and His Regency, 1811-20 by J. B. Priestly (1969, Sphere Books, London).

35) Fashion & Behavior: Fischel, Oskar, 1870-1939, Boehn, Max von, 1860-1932; Modes & Manners of the Nineteenth Century, as Represented in the Pictures and Engravings of the Time: v. 1. 1790-1817.; 1909; London: Dent

36) Sub-Society: The Memoirs of Harriette Wilson, the highest-status courtesan of the day, to find out what the boys are doing when the ladies are not around. It is very uneven, and since we know that she let people buy their way out of appearing here, some really clever things may have been foisted on those who didn't. Unreliable but suggestive (and PG-13 rated).

37) London: Stella Margetson, Regency London, 1971, Praeger, London;; 1790-1830, but opens on a map of 1800. All sorts of buildings.

38) London: Bullock, William; A Companion to Mr. Bullock's Museum, Containing A Brief Description of Upwards of Ten Thousand Natural & Foreign Curiosities, Antiquities, &c; 1811. 10th edition; London: Bullock. This is rather a guide for visitors describing what they will be looking at in each room than a pictorial souvenir. But it looked a lovely place to drop in on!

39) London: Tweedie, Mrs. Alec (née Harley); Hyde Park, Its History and Romance; 1908; London; Eveleigh Nash, Fawside House. You will need to know Hyde Park at this time, and not just recycle the ignorance of other novelists, who often describe a Victorian park.

40) Archery: "An Old Toxophilite,"; The Archer's Guide, Containing Full Instructions for the Use of That Ancient and Noble Instrument the Bow; Directions for the Choice of Arrows; and All Information Essential to the Attainment of Theoretical Proficiency in the Graceful Manly and Fashionable Pastime of Archery. Accompanied by a Sketch of the History of the Long-bow, Whether as a Weapon of War or an Instrument of Amusement; 1833; London: T. Hurst. When the veterans returned from Waterloo, archery began reviving, but any character in 1817 will either be an old-timer or a bit of a pioneer.

41) London: Wheatley, Henry B. , F.S.A.; London Past and Present; Its History, Associations, and Traditions; 1891; London; John Murray; Based upon The Handbook Of London by the late Peter Cunningham

42) Autobiography; Gronow, Rees Howell, Capt.; Reminiscences of Captain Gronow; being Anecdotes of the camp, the court, and the clubs, at the close of the last war with France.; 1856; 1862; London: Smith, Elder and Co.;

43) London, Nature: Anonymous, "A Father and his Children."; Rustic Excursions to the Villages Round London.;1811; London: Richard Phillips. For one, it tells you what is a village outside London rather than a neighborhood of it. More importantly, it tells you what plants and birds and such you may find, when things bloom, and all that.

44) Life in General: Jackson, F. J. Foakes; Social Life in England 1750-1850; 1916; New York; Macmillan Company. Includes marriage and business,1750-1850.

45) Costume: Holt, Ardern; Fancy dresses described: or, What to wear at fancy balls; 1887; London: Debenham & Freebody: Wyman & Sons. No, it is absolutely not period. But when you have to populate a masquerade ball, it will keep you nearer to the authentic ideas and, frankly, let you costume all the extras without thinking much. Double-check all references to fictional characters to make sure the book they're based on wasn't out until 1843, hm?

46) The Law: Deans, R. Storry; The Student's Legal History; 1913; London; Stevens and Sons, Limited; 3rd Edition.

47) Surrey: Clinch, George, 1860-1921; Bygone Surrey; 1895; London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent, & co.; [etc., etc.]; - Historic Surrey. By G. Clinch.--A glance at primitive Surrey. By F. Lasham.-- Lambeth Palace. By Rev. J. Cave-Browne.--The dialect of Surrey. By G. Leveson-Gower.--Ancient roads and ways. By H. F. Napper; Folk-lore and local customs. By G. Clinch.--Southwark in the olden time. By Mrs. E. Boger.- Mediæval Croydon. By S. W. Kershaw.--Wanborough. By Lady West.--Battersea and Clapham, By P. M. Thornton.--Nonsuch. By S. W. Kershaw.--Notes on Guilford. By F. Lasham.--A forgotten borough. By G. Clinch--Early Surrey industries. By G. Clinch.--Bygone Merton. By Rev. E. A. Kempson.

48) Country Life: Austen-Leigh, William and Richard Arthur Austen-Leigh; Jane Austen, Her Life and Letters. A Family Record; 1913; London; Smith, Elder & Co., 22536.txt

49) Cussing: Because someone might do it seriously. Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing by Melissa Mohr, Oxford University Press, 2013.

50) London: Timbs, John , F.S.A.; The Romance of London. Strange Stories, Scenes and Remarkable Persons of the Great Town. ; 1901; London: Frederick Warne And Co. Bedford Street, Covent Garden. New York: Scribner, Welford, & Armstrong. Covers 1660-1900.

No one else give you the stuff Timbs does. I have all his books I can find.

 I researched this on my way to 1803. I simply found, after a good deal of work, the period wasn't quite right for the series I wanted to do. A great many of the historical persons I wanted to work with were gone, dead, or over the hill. This happens. If you really hate the idea of not striking gold immediately you sit down to a reading list -- just figure out what you can write that does suit the period, though if research is such a horror to you, I really suggest you set your story in a fantasy world of your own creation.

It is debated whether or not the writers of the Silver Fork novels (we'd call them the glitz novels of their day) ever went in upper society, so it's up to you to decide if they represent experience, second-hand info, hearsay, urban legend, or fantasy.

  • Hudson, Marianne Spencer; Almack's. A Novel; 1826. First Edition.; London: Saunders and Otley. For some reason, this is sometimes attributed to Lady Hester Stanhope, but the woman had been out of England for decades, and never saw a Lady Patroness. V1, V2, V3.
  • White, Charles; Almack's Revisited; 1828; London: Saunders & Otley. V1, V2, V3.
  • Yates, George; The Ball; or, A Glance at Almack's in 1829; 1829; London, Henry Colburn.

Notice how late these are, as well.

Another questionable source is

Grose, Francis, Hell-fire Dick, James Gordon, &c.; 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. A Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit, and Pickpocket Eloquence. Unabridged from the Original 1811 Edition with a Foreword by Robert Cromie. Compiled Originally by Captain Grose. and Now Considerably Altered and Enlarged, with the Modern Changes and Improvements, by a Member of the Whip Club. &c; 1811

Please note that we don't have any idea if Grose really had been updated since the original of 1780, or whether anyone really used this speech. This might be the equivalent of having your 1980s rocker using 1950s jazz beatnik slang. In any case, its overuse, to the point that everyone's heroine had learned this stuff from her brother, makes it way too Regencyland. As we see in something like Pelham, gentlemen, not wishing to be understood by the commoners around them in a public eatery, chatted in Classical Greek, not slang. Some editions call him Capt. John Grose, which makes the book seem all the smokier.

If you need something else for your particular story around this time, maybe Historical Novelists Center can help with their Regency pages.

copyright Holly Ingraham



50 Books for:

The Peloponnese, 396 BC 

 Early Viking, c. 850

The First Crusade, Outre-Mer 1098 

 The Hundred Years War, France1352

Richelieuan France, 1630

Pirate Caribbean, 1670 

 Napoleonic London Highlife 1803

Regency London Highlife 1817

Mexico, 1846-8

 London Low-Life 1870

 Gilded Age New York 1898

Check the Near History sample guides. There's more to read, but mostly lighter stuff, as well as lots more in video. A few appropriate movies from a year are much easier to get through than a detail biography of a president and will tell you more about ordinary life.

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