Regency shop windows

“Folkstone Strawberries or more carraway comfits for Mary Ann,” showing Samuel William Fores’s at the corner of Sackville Street and Piccadilly, c.1810, attrib. Isaac and George Cruikshank. Via Wikimedia Commons.

The above caricature shows a printseller/publisher’s shop window with what mostly appears to be books on display. Windows with lots of small panes were popular in Regency storefronts for at least two reasons (maybe more—I’m not sure how good the technology was for making large sheets of glass at the time):

1. Glass was still taxed by weight. A larger pane requires a thicker weight of glass. (This applied to greenhouses as well, by the way. You see them with lots of little panes.)

2. Shoplifting and property crime was endemic, and a small pane of glass was easier and cheaper to replace if someone broke it to steal your goods. (This was called “starring the glaze” by those in the biz, and here is how it was done, from a 1839 Commissioners Report:

One or two parties divert attention while another “stars.” This is either done by a diamond, or by inserting a small pen-knife through the putty near the corner of a pane and cracking it; the wet finger carries the crack in any direction; an angle is generally formed. The piece is wrought to and fro, and removed; if necessary, another piece is starred, to allow of the free ingress of the hand.

Read the full report to learn more about different theft techniques.)

Small panes also presumably meant it would take a lot more effort and time for thieves to access everything in the store window—and provided a convenient way to display more small wares, because as you can see in the above engraving, they built the windows with lots of tiny shelves to display items in every pane!

Here’s a still of a sweet shop in Bath from the 1995 Persuasion, from this excellent blog post at Jane Austen’s World. I looked at their screencaps a lot while creating the Honey Moon confectionary in my Lively St. Lemeston series.

More Georgian and Regency shop windows:

A much fancier confectionery.

A printseller. Crowds looking at the prints in printsellers’ windows seem to be a popular caricuture topic because I found LOTS of them. I especially love these dandies picking pockets from this wonderful post on dandy caricatures.

A cobbler/shoemaker.

This tavern in colonial America has ivy leaves in the window for Christmas!

A haberdasher.

A circulating library.

“Night,” from the Hogarth series “Four Times of the Day,” 1736. Via Wikimedia Commons.

The dentist/barbershop to the right of this Hogarth painting has a candle in every window pane, probably because at night the windows would reflect and amplify the light back into the room, serving as sconces.

Rundell & Bridge’s in 1822. (For those of you, like me, who are curious about the subject of the caricature: it looks like Lady Conyngham was a mistress of the Prince Regent and involved in political maneuvering about the Privy Purse, i.e. the Regent’s publicly funded allowance from Parliament.)

And here is one of my very favorite things in the Metropolitan Museum, an actual 1775-7 fancy Parisian storefront, carved from oak and stunningly beautiful.

Do you have a favorite shop whose window you like to look in when you go by? There’s a wedding dress store in downtown Seattle that I’m very fond of…

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Visiting Sotterley Plantation, MD

sotterleyI went on a field trip yesterday with a bunch of museum/history geeks to Sotterley Plantation, in Hollywood. (No, not that Hollywood. The one in Maryland.) It’s on the Patuxent River and is the only tidewater plantation open to the public, and is over four hundred years old.

Did I mention how old it is? I did. The land was first colonized by James Bowles in 1699, who built a modest two room a few redyears after, which forms the core of the house. It’s possible to date it so accurately because dendochronology has determined that the cypress posts used in construction date to 1703. This extremely red room, apparently a highly popular color in the period, is the oldest part of the house. There’s a dark rectangle to the right of the notice on the door which is actually a hole cut in the woodwork to reveal the original cypress post.

chinesestaircaseNaturally subsequent owners began to make expansions and improvements, and suddenly,  later in the century, Chinoiserie became all the rage. Hence this extraordinary staircase in the expansion of the house undertaken by George Plater III (lots of Georges in this family). He also became a governor of the State of Maryland, and, eew, I cannot get this out of my head: he married a 13 year old who had their first baby when she was 14, and who became, according to the Sotterly website, “a political and social asset to her husband.” Gawd.

yellowA pretty yellow parlor was added in this period and the shell alcoves in the room are original (built with help from Mt. Vernon’s slaves).

Note the picture over the mantelpiece. This is an amazing bit of Colonial Revival kitsch. Colonial Revival was a big hit in the second half of the nineteenth century. There was a sudden burst of interest in the noble patriots of the revolution, gentlemen and landowners (and that meant slave owners. Mr. Bowles bought over 200 slaves when he arrived in 1799, and so it continued). Given Maryland’s geographical location, the division during the Civil War, and the reluctance of the state to free its slaves, the colonial period seemed a lot safer. The Colonial Revival movement presented an imaginary version of the good old days, in terms not only of interior design and decoration, but also in interpreting uncomfortable history. So a late 19th century artist was moved to paint this (pardon my assymetry):

painting

Wow. Is it Tara? Is it … well goodness only knows, but the artist had apparently never visited this house in Suffolk, Sotterley Hall, which it’s meant to depict:

sotterleysuffolk

The Platers believed they were descended from a Thomas Playter who owned Sotterley Hall in the fifteenth century (they weren’t), hence the name of the plantation.

And here’s a pic of a view from the gardens of the house, looking out over the Patuxent:

patuxent

Are you planning to visit any historical sites, or have you been to any recently? Plans for the summer?

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Morning Gowns and Walking Costumes

One of the topics under recent discussion was all the different types of gowns a Regency lady would have worn and how people could possibly have told the difference. Morning Gown, Domestic Costume, Walking Dress, Promenade Costume, Carriage Dress, all of these appear somewhat similar when you look at the period fashion plates, and you’re not wrong to be confused (and there’s a LOT of crossover).

The first thing to understand is that the name used for the fashion plates describes the activity being undertaken more than the garment being worn. The second thing to note is that often the most distinguishing factors are the accessories rather than the gown itself. The same basic white gown might have been worn for morning activities around the house and then with a quick change of accessories, been transformed into something to wear on a walk into the village or out to pay morning calls (which are more like afternoon calls in real life) if one was in Town.

So let’s look at the prints themselves (these are all from Ackermann’s):

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Very informal Morning Gown with a little pelerine over the shoulders.

A domestic costume is exactly what it sounds like. Something informal and meant to be worn strictly indoors when at home. These are pretty much universally made of white linen fabrics and they’re gussied up with some kind of robe, pelerine, mantle, or shawl for warmth. These tend to be on the loose side, and were probably worn with jumps rather than stays. They’re also invariably shown with caps (roll out of bed, hair not done, probably still in curling rags, put your cap on). While your hero is having breakfast downstairs in his banyan, your heroine is having breakfast (probably in her room) in her Domestic Costume. In a family situation, the mother and elder girls might also be eating downstairs in this attire. And they might wear it all morning while they wrote letters, went over menus, etc.

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Morning Gown. Note the gloves and the very high collar. She has a loose, open robe over the gown.

When it came time to receive guests or to leave the house, she would change into a morning gown. Morning gowns are just a tad more formal than domestic costumes. So she’d likely put on her stays and have her hair arranged (though still in a cap!). Most of these outfits are shown with some kind of over garment, usually in the same fabric as the gown), and sometimes with gloves. This is the state in which she could come downstairs for a meal if there were guests or if she were a guest.

Screenshot_2016-06-15-08-21-25
Walking Dress. She now has a bonnet and a colorful mantle on, as well as a parasol.

If she were walking into the village or going out to pay morning calls, she would swap out the simple over garment for a cloak, coat, spencer, etc., put a bonnet or hat over her cap, and maybe grab a muff or parasol depending on the time of year.

Screenshot_2016-06-15-08-18-44
Promenade Dress. Note the halfboots, the veil, the watch and chain, the ridicule. She’s out to see and be SEEN! (and quite interestingly, NO HAT!)

A promenade costume is usually just a fancier update to accessories. It’s meant to be showy because you’re wearing it in the afternoon at the park or other location where fashionables went to see and be seen (you even see in the descriptions in Ackermann’s that the gown part of the “costume” is called a “morning gown”). And you pretty commonly see halfboots instead of slippers in the description and illustration.

So there you have it, your heroine might have changed costume four times today, or she might have just swapped around her accessories if she were frugal or not wealthy enough to have brought 50 gowns with her to a house party.

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Head Down Revising and Something Odd About Names

I’ve been busy on the last revisions of Surrender to Ruin before I send it to a trusted reader. The hero of this book owns a gaming hell and some brothels which he continues to operate despite having inherited a title.  As I wrote the book, I gave him a partner in the business. This was due to a number of things having to do with plot and research that indicated hells were frequently run by more than one person.

Without spoilers, his partner is from India, a man who came to England as the servant of an Englishman and then found himself without a job because his former employer’s new bride objected to his presence in the house.  He and my hero meet as near destitute young men in London and embark upon their life skirting the edges of legality. They make a lot of money in the process. The life of boxer Bill Richmond (I interviewed Richmond’s biographer in that post) made it clear some of our notions of diversity in the Regency are very wrong. If you haven’t read the biography, I urge you to do so. It’s a wonderful book. Richmond clearly earned social distinction. He was a participant in George IV’s coronation ceremony. Not someone who watched. He participated in ceremony.

My hero’s partner, therefore, is an Indian man living in England, who is wealthy and a businessman in his own right. And he needed a name. I could have made one up. Instead I asked one of my former colleagues from India if I could use his name. He and I worked very closely together in a fast, tense environment. I did indeed explain that the character would own a gambling hell and brothel. And he graciously agreed to let me use his name for the character.

And now, as I write and flesh out this character, I keep thinking of my friend and colleague who lent his name. And, well, if this character seems super smart and really, really nice, it’s because the person whose name I’m using is both those things. He was always going to be awesome, since he’s my hero’s buddy, but now he’s really awesome.

Other News

I have a boxed set of three of my historical romances just now out. Three full length novels for less than $5.00.

Fancy 3-D cover for Historical Jewels, 3 Regency Romances
Three Books!

The three books include The Spare, Scandal, and Indiscreet. It’s a bargain, so if you don’t have these books, here’s your chance to get three for essentially the price of one.

All Romance | Amazon | Barnes&Noble | iBooks | Google Play | Kobo

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A Visit To Chatsworth

My friend Kristine Hughes and I spent three days at Chatsworth on our May England trip and it was not enough time!

Chatsworth is the Derbyshire country house of the Duke of Devonshire, one of the first of the great country houses to be open to the public in order to raise enough money to save the place. The rescue of Chatsworth was the work of the late Duke and Duchess and what they achieved was a remarkable gift to their countrymen and the world.

Much of the success of Chatsworth must be given to the late Duchess of Devonshire, the former Deborah Mitford, youngest of the Mitford sisters, so captivating and/or scandalous that we are still talking of them today. Debo, as her sisters called her, had the imagination and drive to make Chatsworth the successful enterprise it is today, employing some 600 workers. In doing so she preserved a place of great beauty, both inside and out.

Here’s what we came upon that first day, after closing time, so there were no cars and very few people. It must have been close to what our Regency characters would have seen had they visited the house.

The beauty of the landscape was the work of Capability Brown, the famous landscape architect who popularized the naturalistic style in the mid-1700s. To enhance the beauty of the views from the front of Chatsworth House, Capability Brown required the 4th Duke of Devonshire to have the village of Edensor moved to a more picturesque location.

The next day we took the house tour and walked into the Painted Hall. The 4th Earl and 1st Duke of Devonshire was responsible for the Painted Hall. The artist was Louis Laguerre and the mural depicts the allegorical ascension of Julius Caesar. The upper walls show scenes from Caesar’s life. IMG_0457
The 1st Duke had been one of the Immortal Seven who signed the invitation for William III of Orange to take the English throne, receiving the titles of Duke of Devonshire and Marquess of Hartington for his service. He rebuilt Chatsworth House and decorated it with symbolism celebrating King William’s monarchy. In the murals Julius Caesar sympbolizes William. Unfortunately William never saw the beautiful murals painted in his honor. He never visited Chatsworth.

In every hall and room there is something of interest to see. I took dozens of photos but didn’t cover a fraction of the beautiful art and furnishings of the house. In the music room there is a door ajar, revealing another door–and a violin.
IMG_0615
Look closely at the violin. Bet you can’t tell that it isn’t real. It is the painting of a violin, so realistic-looking that one must take it on faith because they don’t allow you to walk up to it and touch it.

Of course, there is homage to perhaps the most famous Duchess of Devonshire, Georgiana Cavendish. Georgiana, a celebrated beauty, married the Duke when she was a mere seventeen years old. She went on to be a successful political hostess, friend of the then Prince of Wales, campaigned for Charles James Fox. She was also a fashion icon. She was banished to the Continent for a while when she became pregnant by Charles Grey, but she filled her time there collecting minerals and gems. Her collection is on display in Chatsworth House.
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Not much was said on the tour of Georgiana’s friendship with Lady Elizabeth Foster, who became the Duke’s mistress and bore him two children raised a Chatsworth with Georgiana’s children and another of the Duke’s out-of-wedlock children. After Georgiana’s death in 1806, Lady Elizabeth Foster became the next Duchess of Devonshire.

The house tour ends at the sculpture gallery. Most of the works exhibited there were commissioned by Georgiana’s son, “Hart,” who became the 6th Duke of Devonshire and who was responsible for much of the art and improvements to the house and grounds.IMG_0637

After our tour of the house, we visited the farm, which was more like a petting zoo for children, but Chatsworth is a working farm with its very successful farm shop, a place we, unfortunately, did not see.

The next day we took the garden tour and returned to the house again to walk through at our own speed. Here’s a snippet of what we saw on the garden tour.

There was so much more to see and more to see again. I would go back in a minute and do this all over again!

If you have a chance to visit Chatsworth, give yourself more than one day. You’ll be happy you did!

(My thanks to Denise Costello who helped me figure out how to appropriately size the videos to fit the blog!)

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Straw Work, Bone Work and Other Curiosities

Straw work case w drawers -POW 1800 Research rabbit holes are so much fun! Rose’s foray into Regency material culture (May 23) inspired me to share one that fascinated me back when I was writing the original edition of The Captain’s Dilemma (1995). The hero of that story is a French prisoner of war who has escaped (for good reason) into the English countryside, and of course, thereby hangs the tale. But he is an engineer, and actually an artist of sorts, and objects that he makes out of straw (and other materials) to while away time when he is restricted are based at least in part on real POW works made during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

I had known that country people in Britain at that time often made “corn dollies” out of the last sheaves of grain at harvest time, as part of the superstitions that surround the important harvest ritual. Pictured here is one that graces the bulletin board in my writing office as a souvenir of sorts corn dolly (my office has at least one object that represents each of the books I have written). But it was my research into Regency-era prisoners-of-war that led to my discovery of ornamental “straw work” and its popularity (which continued throughout the 19th century), along with bone objects and other things the prisoners made.

Straw work Noah's ark w animals Prisoners had nothing but time on their hands, and boredom sometimes led to disciplinary problems. The prison administrators had a vested interest in keeping the men occupied. Selling the items they made at the weekly prison market also gave these men a way to supplement their rations and make other purchases –so it was a win for everyone. The heroine and her family visit one of these prison markets in my book, at a key turning point in the story.

Work boxes were probably the most commonly made item decorated with straw, and according to some sources were sometimes given as courting gifts, with messages and promises incorporated into the decorations through the choice oPOW straw work marquetry work boxf flowers and symbolic ornamentation ( for example, roses for remembrance or lilies for faith in love).  Pictures, frames, toys and many other types of items were made and decorated with straw, with amazing intricacy. Straw embroidered fan 1740

There’s an American museum devoted to straw work (http://www.strawartmuseum.org), and they divide their holdings into five categories: straw appliqué (which includes the type of marquetry most often seen in POW work), straw weaving (which is how corn dollies are made, and how I imagined Alex made his little bridges), straw lace, coiled straw, and straw hats and bonnets. Their website “tours” are worth checking out! If you want to see pictures of modern straw work, just type “wheat weaving” or “straw art” into Google or Pinterest!!

PPOW bone work ship model-2OWs also made things out of bone, which was another plentiful material available to them. (Mutton bones, NOT human ones –what were you thinking?? <g>) . The first prisoner-of-war artworks I came across in my research were ship models made from bone. Look at how amazing they can be!

The men also made bone toys, gaming sets, boxes –again, all sorts of items, in addition to the ships. The most amazing of all may be the model guillotines!  I have a bPOW bonework guillotineeautiful book on POW ship models, which helped me identify museums in Britain that had collections of POW artworks I was able to visit. Research is so much easier now that we have the Internet! But of course, seeing the real thing in person is a fabulous experience nothing else can equal.

Have you been sidetracked by anything in your research that has become a permanent interest? Or, do you manage not to fall down any rabbit holes when you do research? I would love to hear about it in the comments. If you have any pictures, I think you might be able to post them on the Facebook page. Let’s share!

POW bone work jackstraws spillikins set

 

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So you want to review books? (The 1816 edition)

Reviewing Books in 1816, by Sandra Schwab

Are you a reader with a most impressive number of reviews on Goodreads? Do you run a book blog or write for a review site? Do you LOVE talking about books? But do you worry what would happen if you traveled to Scotland, admired some pretty stone circle, and quite accidentally tumbled 200 years into the past?

Never fear! I have a few most excellent tips for you so you won’t have to forgo reviewing books even while trxing to navigate the delicate politics of Regency ballrooms! In the growing bookmarket of the early 19th century yours will be a welcome new voice!

You are a woman and you fear reviewing books might forever ruin your reputation and destroy all your chances of Mr. Darcy ever sparing you a glance? Rest assured, there is no need to worry as reviews are published anonymously in the periodical press.

Now let’s see what kind of magazine would suit your reviewing style best.

Do you like to write really long (REALLY long) reviews? Then I suggest you try a literary quarterly. You’ve got three months between issues so be prepared to really delve into a book. Reviews of potentially popular books by eminent authors should not be shorter than 30 pages (for new novels by Britain’s most beloved authors such as the author of Waverley, consider 50 pages a bare minimum – though reviews can be published in installments). You may insert large chunks of text and may summarize the rest of the novel to allow people who don’t have the patience to read a complete three-decker (that’s three-volume) novel (or who don’t have the money to buy all three volumes) may still form an opinion on the novel and discourse freely about the plot and the principal characters.

If you prefer slightly shorter reviews, a monthly magazine might suit you better. Monthly magazines are also most suitable for those of you who’d like to review musical publications, including sheet music. The June 1816 issue of The Gentleman’s Magazine includes reviews on Complete Instructions for the Harp (by J.B. Msyer, Professor of the harp), A Dictionary of Musick (by J. Bottomly) (what a most delightful name!), and The Comet Waltz, “arranged as a Rondo for the Pianoforte or Harp. pp. 4”:

“This rather pleasing Air is eked out into a rondo with little skill, forming a lesson that may interest learners, and requiring very little power of execution.”

Oh dear. I guess that is a case of damned with faint praise…

If you must criticize a work, this is an acceptable way of doing so. However, in general it is adviceable to refrain from writing too critical a review. After all, your main aim is to suggest to your readers wbich books they ought to read. If you timetravel to 1817 or a later year, this advice is no longer valid: When William Blackwood launched his Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine in 1817, he introduced the snark to literary criticism. Consider the following snippet from the review of Harold the Dauntless: A Poem:

“This is an elegant, sprightly, and delightful little poem, written apparently by a person of taste and genius,but who either possesses not the art of forming and combining a plot, or regards it only as a secondary and subordinate object. In this we do not widely differ from him, but are sensible, meantime, that many others will; and that the rambling and uncertain nature of the story, will be the principal objection urged against the poem before us, as well as the greatest bar to its extensive popularity.”

Ouch.

That kind of snark, combined with attacks  on such literary icons as Byron, proved to be a most excellent marketing strategy and made the reputation of the magazine across the English-spesking world. Indeed during the early years of its existence, Blsckwood’s paid a small fortune in libel damages. Ooops.

But evidently, this kind of notoriety served its purpose: everybody was talking about Blackwood’s, and it ran until 1980. Not too bad, eh?

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Regency material culture, part 2

GambledAway-220Hey y’all! Gambled Away, my anthology with Molly O’Keefe, Jeannie Lin, Isabel Cooper and Joanna Bourne, releases in just a few days. So I thought I’d do another installment on nifty items I came across during the research for it! (You may remember part 1, featuring guillotine earrings, E.O. wheels, season tickets carved out of ivory, and more.)

1. This beautiful seal fob of a bird flying out of a cage with the words “LA LIBERTÉ”. I would give anything to know the story behind commissioning it. It could be a mourning seal, because of the clouds, but I’d like to believe that it belonged to someone who got out of a bad situation and had it made to celebrate. I like to imagine that my heroine Maggie, who loves pawnshops and secondhand markets and French Revolution-y stuff (she and her best friend run a 1780s and 90s-themed gambling den), bought this somewhere and uses it as her seal.

Continue reading

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Drawers and Pantalettes, Oh My!

One of the questions that seems to come up a lot when I ask what people want me to blog about is underpants. Did they? Didn’t they? Didn’t they feel naked without them? When I asked on FaceBook what topics I should think about covering in the next few months, this one again floated to the top, so here we go …

comfort 1815 no drawers
“Comfort”, 1815. No drawers.

 

The earliest depictions I’ve seen of drawers on women are 14thC German allegorical images on the topic of the woman “wearing the pants” in the family. In all of them, a man is usually also reaching for them, clearly desperate to reclaim the “power” they represent or is being beaten with a distaff or stool (or both). Clearly these images cannot be taken as documentation for women wearing underpants. In Textiler Hausrat, by Dr. Jutta Zander-Seidel, she states: “Underpants were not a usual component of women’s clothing in the 16th and 17th century [the eras of study in her book]. . . for the general populace, the use of these garments are not known before the beginning of the 19th century.”

1820lawndrawers
Extant linen women’s drawer’s, c. 1820

 

The earliest drawers that I can document for women are from the 16thC and are Italian. They are documented in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 4. They are voluminous, split-crotch drawers with embroidery all over them. Clearly not mere “underwear” and not a fashion that I’ve seen outside of Italy. It should be noted that these are commonly depicted as the fashion of Venetian courtesans, who wore open gowns that displayed them.

Gilray, 1810. Woman in drawers.
Gilray, 1810. Woman in drawers.

 

So when DID women start wearing drawers of some kind? As Dr. Jutta Zander-Seidel states, the early 19thC. Knee-length drawers of peach coloured stockinette are reported to have been worn as early as 1806, but they were considered fast and unladylike, and from everything I’ve see and read, were not commonly adopted until later. They had a split crotch, usually being made up of two entirely separate legs on a drawstring waistband. An illustration from 1810 shows a lady wearing them, so it can be construed that they were becoming more accepted by then, but given the numerous examples of women NOT wearing them, they were clearly not universal. I see more frequent examples from the 1820s onward though.

1834pantalettes
Extant pantalettes, c. 1830s

 

Another thing that crops up in the 1820s is pantalettes. Unlike drawers, these were meant to show just below the hem of the skirt. You see them first in the teens (there’s a report of Princess Charlotte scandalizing people by wearing them). Again, their adoption does not seem to be anywhere near universal, and they were gone by the 40s, relegated to children’s wardrobes. Like drawers, they were made up of two separate legs. I see very little representation of these in art, but if you look REALLY closely you will occasaionly spot them peeking out from under a skirt here and there.

1822 pantalettes
Street scene, 1822 (you can just make out pantalettes under the skirt).

 

A note of warning for Regency authors: Beware of Bloomers. This garment was named after the famous suffragette Amelia Bloomer, and she is Victorian. So don’t use the term “bloomers” when you mean drawers or pantalettes.

Ok, now on to the good stuff: wearing them.

In my personal experience, they’re completely unnecessary. You’re wearing at least three layers of skirt (chemise, petticoat, gown) and all the fabric does a pretty good job of keeping you covered and discreet. All drawers really are is a major challenge when you need to pee? TMI? Sure. Here’s some more: when you can’t bend at the waist and you can’t pull them on and off, having to pee through a slit you need to hold apart while also holding up your skirt is a royal PITA (suddenly those sawhorse-looking stands for a lady’s chamber pot make a lot of sense!). Also, can we talk about chaffing? A bunch of loose fabric between your thighs combined with a little perspiration equals major chaffing. So yeah, in period garb I’m a fan of going commando and I won’t be putting my heroines into drawers.

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Simplify*

For many readers I suspect that one of the most appealing aspects of Regency life is its simplicity. In fact the day-to-day life of the well born may have been annoyingly busy but, in the fantasy world that most of us write, the characters live a life at a leisure pace the 21st century reader can only dream about. Or maybe enjoy on a solo vacation or a religious retreat.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately as I try to find a way to simplify a life that involves a lot of travel, mentoring some promising writers, welcoming spring with gardening, taking care of the endless threatening health issues and, oh yes, trying to work in writing and exercise

Believing in baby steps I no longer answer the phone and rely on people to leave messages which I can return at my convenience. Dinner is on the table as a finished meal only two or three nights a week thanks to a spouse who is okay with peanut butter and crackers (or occasionally will cook for both of us)

But I need to simplify not just eliminate. I could cancel our cable. That would end the distraction of TV but would not be fair to the rest of the household who depend on it for evening entertainment. Maybe I could reduce email to twice a day. But even that would take a good bit of time. Move to a less convivial neighborhood where neighbors do not stop in? Not an option if I want to stay married.

As I typed this I remembered the solution. I read it in the Washington Post years ago. A woman came to a therapist asking what she could do about a life that was out of control. His answer is THE ANSWER and I’m relieved that writing this post reminded me: IF YOU TAKE CARE OF YOUR INNER LIFE YOUR OUTER LIFE WILL TAKE CARE OF ITSLEF.

Did that advice work for the patient? I have no idea but I will tell you it has always worked for me. Until I lose sight of it.  So it’s back to evening meditation and extra time at church to just sit and absorb the silence. I KNOW it will work because it has in the past.

Tell me what is the beas advice you ever absorbed, acted on and discovered was the truth?

*In the pursuit of simplicity I have no pictures. Far from home and access to my photos!

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