Desired

Desired - USNicola here. My latest book, Desired, is officially out tomorrow although it has been sighted on the shelves a whole two weeks early. Desired is book 5 in my Scandalous Women of the Ton series and the heroine, Tess Darent, continues the tradition of doing something rather unusual for a woman in Regency England. Tess is an artist and cartoonist who secretly uses her skill to caricature the government and make the case for political reform. Tess's work brings her into serious conflict with the British government, which at the time sought to repress the radical reformers and philanthropists who called for changes in society. I based Tess's drawings on the work of real artists of the period so today I thought I would talk a little about satirical cartoons in the Regency.

A window onto society

The satirical and humorous prints of the Georgian and Regency era give a fascinating insight into thePitt and Napoleon attitudes and opinions of the time. Many of them addressed political issues including the wars with America and France and later the profligacy of the Regency period itself. Others show contemporary attitudes to sex and scandal, fashion and even the pleasures of London life. Over the 60 years from 1770 to 1830, more and more of the literate middle classes as well as the upper classes would be influenced by the debates raised in the satirical prints. At first their influence was felt mainly in London but as the 19th century moved on there was an insatiable appetite to follow what was happening in the capital and in government so the popularity of the satirical prints also spread to the provinces.

An interesting fact about the London prints was that until the 1820s they were largely focussed on life in the capital and did not reflect the wider issues of the Industrial Revolution such as conditions in the northern factories. They commented on the Napoleonic Wars at great length (the cartoon above shows William Pitt and Napoleon Bonaparte dividing up Europe between them) but seldom on the cost in terms of the numbers of men injured or killed. They were not particularly concerned with culture; few comments were made on the literature of the day or developments in science. The Prince of Wales’s patronage of the arts was generally seen as a something to be mocked as were most things about him. During the time that parliament sat, political prints were the most popular. Outside the parliamentary season the cartoonists tended to concentrate on social satire. The feud between George IV and Queen Caroline generated 601 prints in 1820 alone. 

Selling like hot cakes

There were various methods by which the cartoons were reproduced though most were engraved ontoGeorge IV copper plates. Print runs also varied. The most successful prints sold up to a couple of thousand sheets. The first caricature of the Prince of Wales’s marriage to Mrs Fitzherbert sold so well that Fore’s print shop was “crowded with servants of the beau monde for several days, demanding impressions faster than they could be printed.” (The Prince and his excesses were a prime target for the satirists, as seen in the picture on the right) If a shop was first with the latest news or gossip it could charge more, so Fore’s charged the high price of two shillings and sixpence for that particular exclusive. James Gillray’s Political-dreamings, published in 1801 was considered so sensational that it sold out in days. Sometimes demand was so high that the copperplate wore out and a new engraving had to be made. William Hogarth's pictures were constantly re-engraved and reissued and in the 1810s the print seller Thomas Tegg reprinted cartoons by Rowlandson and others.

It was the practice for print shops to display their wares in their windows and these often drew the crowds. It was also popular for purchasers to paste cartoons onto screens; Byron had a screen printed with famous boxers on one side and famous actresses on the other! There was an entire room devoted to framed caricatures at Calke Abbey in Derbyshire and a room wallpapered with prints at Rokeby Park in Durham.

Politics and scandal

Gillray - Charles James FoxThe upper classes perused the cartoons as avidly as other men and women but seldom went to purchase them themselves. Instead they would send a servant or have a standing order with a certain printmaker. Politicians frequently collected the cartoons in which they featured. Charles James Fox, one of the most caricatured politicians of the 1780s and 1790s had a special bound collection made of all the prints in which he had featured and invited his visitors to browse through them. (The cartoon above is by James Gillray and shows a political gathering at the house of Charles James Fox.) The Prince of Wales had the biggest collection; he was obsessed with keeping an eye on society’s opinion of him despite the fact that few of the cartoons were kind.

The idea of Tess Darent being a female cartoonist is based on fact. Women both consumed and drewPeterloo some of the popular cartoons, and many were print collectors. Surviving collections show a preference for gossip; like contemporary magazines the prints featured fashion and scandal, including cartoons about the Prince of Wales’s romantic entanglements and several high society marital scandals, but politics also featured as well. Drawing was a skill that many young ladies learned and some of them designed their own satires. This was a pleasing way for them to make fun of men; their pride, arrogance and absurdity. Tess is unusual as a female caricaturist in focussing entirely on domestic political issues but this was not unknown; after the Peterloo Massacre in 1819 there was a great deal of criticism of government policy, including the cartoon above.

As well as a caricaturist for a herione, Desired also features an American sea captain hero and a tour through some of the less well known parts of London from the Dulwich Picture Gallery to the Greenwich docks! I absolutely loved writing Tess's story and I hope anyone who picks it up will enjoy both her unusual talent for satire and her love story.

Are you artistic? What sort of creative talents do you have for drawing or music or designing things? Or what talent would you like to have? I have a print copy of Desired to give away to one commenter between now and midnight tomorrow.

Transports of Delight!

Nicola wenchmark Nicola here! I have a manuscript to get to my editor today (eek!) and so I hope you will forgive me for dusting down and updating a blog piece I wrote a few years ago for a different blog.

The book I’m sending in today is called Desired and it is the fifth book in my Scandalous Women of the Ton series. There has been a strong theme of travel throughout the series – in Whisper of Scandal the heroine travels to the Arctic on a ship, and in One Wicked Sin the hero and heroine escape in a balloon. (I had wanted them to escape on a canal barge but I thought it might be a bit slow!) Desired contains a great deal of travel in and around London, a sort of early sightseeing tour. What with all this jaunting around, plus the marvelous array of state carriages that featured at the recent Royal Wedding, I thought it might be nice to talk a little about coaches and horses. (Actually I thought the horses totally stole the show at the Royal Wedding. They were magnificent!) 

A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to go to an illustrated talk about the Wedding horses history of carriages, given by Colin Henderson, who had been the Queen’s Head Coachman. Not only did he have some wonderful anecdotes about the Golden Jubilee but he had also worked as a riding specialist and stuntman on a number of films and included the role of highwayman on his CV! He gave us a brisk trot through the early history and background of carriages – the word coach, for instance, comes from the Hungarian Kote – but it was when we got onto the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century that my note-taking went into overdrive because he had so many fascinating little details that I had never read in the books.

After explaining to us the difference between “the leaders” – the leading pair of horses – and the Postilion's uniform “wheelers,” the two closest to the carriage, he told us that to ride postilion meant riding one of the front horses and leading the other. This was a hazardous enterprise as it meant that one of your legs was between the two horses and was in danger of being crushed. Postilions wore a steel leg guard to protect them in this position. Here is a Russian postilion's uniform from 1825.

The provision of lighting on both the inside and outside of carriages has always Mail coach interested me so I asked if there was any illumination inside and was surprised to learn that there were candle-lamps inside a carriage as well as out. The smoke apparently made a mess of the upholstery! I had not quite appreciated what a hazardous business traveling at night could be, especially on the Mail Coach. The external lights carried no further than the first horse so you could not see the road ahead at all. Coachmen had to have extremely keen hearing to listen for the sound of approaching hooves. Since the mail carriages traveled at up to 10mph and some coachmen accelerated down the hills in order to gain momentum and make up time, the possibility of running into the back – or front – of another coach or hay wagon was very strong! I was also fascinated to hear that the coaches changed horses on average every 10 to 12 miles, or 15 on the flat, and that a change of horses took only 2 minutes, rather like changing the tires on a racing car! Mail Coaches were numbered like buses are now and 16 hands was the largest horse that could be used to pull a three and a half ton Mail Coach because anything taller didn’t fit under the coachman’s footboard. The picture is the Glasgow to London mail coach. Love the red livery!

There were also some fascinating facts about the Grand Tour. The Duke of Beaufort’s traveling carriage was decorated in Regency stripe and had secret lockers under the floor for his valuables. It was rather like a caravan; the cushions folded down to create a full-length bed! Other luxurious touches included silk-lined steps, which were folded up inside the carriage to protect them.

I enjoyed learning the derivation of a few other coaching-inspired words as well – the “fore-gone” was the carriage that you sent on a day ahead with your servants, linen and silver, so that when you arrived, everything was prepared (or concluded!) The phrase “cheerio” originally comes from calling for a sedan chair – chair ho!

Craven State carriage This picture is the Craven State Carriage, a Victorian coach said to rival in magnificence Queen Victoria’s royal carriage. It is painted with seven coats of yellow paint, the most expensive color used for livery. Queen Victoria would not have been amused to be outshone! My favorite anecdote from the Victorian period was that the footboards on ladies’ carriages were enormous because it was thought indelicate that a lady should have to sit looking at the horse’s posterior!

I hope you have enjoyed this quick gallop through a few coaching Notorious_350 anecdotes. What historical mode of transport would you choose for traveling? Would you like to drive a curricle or arrive in style in the Queen’s State Landau? I’m offering an advance copy of my next Scandalous Women of the Ton book, Notorious, to one commenter!