When doing research I like primary sources, and I often glance at newspapers of the time of my books. If you wonder how, my local library has a subscription to the Times Archive online, which includes other papers, including a database of 19th century British ones. Check out your own library's online resources. They're wonderful and accessible from at home.
Though most of the content of these papers is of little interest they do give a flavour of the time and occasional items are enlightening. I've been particularly intrigued lately as the calendar for 1817, the year of my work in hand, The Viscount Needs a Wife, was the same as 2015. So recently I was reading and writing about events in December 1817 whilst living through the same days in 2015.
My book is still in December and we're now into 2016, but the days are marching in sync, so I thought I'd look at today, Friday January 8th, 1818 in the Morning Post. The Morning Post was published in London from 1772 onwards. It changed over time, but it was fairly lightweight. Most of the content was advertisements, some British news, and social gossip. Sometimes the list of fashionable parties was long, but on this date there are only a few, some connected to Twelfth Night on the 6th. (As always, click to enlarge.)
It was common for gentlemen to host men-only dinners, largely for business/political purposes, and we can assume the first was of that sort, and probably the last. Some of the ladies' parties might have been women-only.
The papers also recorded who came and went. Again this is a small entry. Probably most people were settled at their destination for the time being, it being winter.
You've probably read about Tatt's — Tattersall's, where horses and carriages were auctioned. Here's a notice of a large sale and some single horses, including race horses. This was the time of the post-war depression and a lot of people were selling off luxuries. Generally sold prices were low, as you'd expect.
It was also the time of the lingering mourning for Princess Charlotte, who'd died in childbirth in November. Her father the Regent was powerfully affected, and her birthday, 7th of January, affected him deeply as we read below.
The death didn't only cause sorrow but additional hardship. Everyone of all station took to some kind of mourning wear and that continued. Most people already had mourning, for death was not uncommon, so they bought no new clothes. It was seen as unfeeling to even purchase brighter fabric or trimming for future use and tradespeople were suffering. Entertainment did go on, as we've seen, but clothing remained sober. I have an account of a Black Ball during Christmas, with everything black, yet a good time was had by all.
Smaller tragedies happened all the time, as with this case of carbon monoxide poisoning, which can still happen today. A carbon monoxide detector is a small but worthwhile investment.
The following item interested me because it showed how someone changed their name upon inheritance to fit with the name of the previous owners. There seem some rules attached. Never know when a similar situation might turn up in a book!
And lastly a nod to last year's book, A Shocking Delight, which involved smugglers. Clearly the worthies of Deal in Kent weren't about to side with the law against the smugglers, whether from fear or approval. Quite likely it was approval.
A few slices of life back then, for your enjoyment.