Nicola on the Grand Tour!

Giovanni_Paolo_Panini_-_Interior_of_the_Pantheon _Rome_-_Google_Art_ProjectNicola here. Back in the 18th century it was considered part of a gentleman’s education to take the “Grand Tour,” a trip through Europe with Italy as the main destination. The young, upper-class man of means and rank would set out, accompanied by a long-suffering tutor or family member, on this educational rite of passage and would return home supposedly with a greater understanding of classical culture and often with some works of art tucked under their arm.  The phrase “bear-leader” that you come across in Georgette Heyer originated with the poor tutor/chaperon/guardian who had to try to keep the youth out of trouble and instill some knowledge in him!

With the advent of mass tourism in the nineteenth century, these itineraries were opened up to the rest of us; women, families and those without a title (!) who would take a guide book along rather than a tutor. So, when we (my husband and I, to quote the late Queen) planned a holiday to Italy to see the Roman ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, we decided to take in at least a few other elements of the Grand Tour on our way – a journey through the Alps, some shopping in Milan and a stopover in Paris!

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An English Breakfast (and one that isn’t)


Wench eggs

Breakfast … sometimes eggs are all you need

Joanna here.

I’m about to sit down to breakfast at the hotel. Nothing too fancy. Generally speaking it’ll be toast or a bagel, some kind of egg, and some bitty piece of meat which might come in the form of a bacon slice or two. Possibly some sausage. And coffee. Lots of coffee with a healthy leavening of half and half.


So I’m asking myself how this would be different for my Regency protagonist — assuming my Regency protagonist was a middling sort of person like a merchant’s daughter or a member of the petty gentry or the offspring of a prosperous yeoman farmer. The Vicar’s daughter. The apothecary’s kid.

 Picture my intrepid heroine sitting there, stoking the fires for a long day of being kidnapped and fighting her way free from some sordid den of thieves with nothing to aid her but a folding penknife and her native sneakiness.




Wench family breakfast 3

Family at breakfast with tea and what looks like scones maybe

My young woman’s probably eating at a table with a half dozen other folks. The solitary breakfast in bed would be less common for my middling sort than for richer, more leisured, aristocratic folks. Jane Austen (and her Elizabeth Bennet) probably ate breakfast in the dinning room with her family instead of sending the poor kitchen maid running about with trays.

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Buy that art!

Let’s say you’re a rich man in 1800. You own a house in town and have an estate in the country. Maybe you own manufacturies or mills. You buy expensive clothes and horses and carriages. You shower jewels upon your womenfolk. But at the end of the day, you still have more money than you know what to do with.
You could gamble, of course. Many men and women managed to subdue a rising fortune by gambling it away.

The Ritual of Tea …

One of the great ceremonies of Regency life, one that defined gentility, was the taking of tea.
The Regency is sorta midway in the story of tea in England. We’re past the Seventeenth and early Eighteenth Century with its careful, stingy measuring of tea by the mistress of the household, the leaves locked up safe in a decorative caddy. We haven’t reached the Victorian era where tea was the daily drink of every working man and city housewife.

The Persistence of Fireplace Tools

Wench a_cottage_interior_william_redmore 2

Pensive, with bellows.

I was cleaning ashes out the woodstove today and putting aside some of the fireplace tools to carry out onto the porch to polish and get ready for storage for the summer.

Not all of them. Just the ones I don’t use often. I’m mostly done with the wood heat for the year, but there’ll be one or two more fires to light on cool evenings. From here on out it’s just for enjoyment. Just for the beauty.

Anyhow, I was considering my woodstove which is fairly sophisticated as woodstoves go. It’s covered with pretty tile and has fancy corrugations inside that do something about fire efficiency. There’s flues. There's a trap in the bottom to remove ashes while the stove is in operation. There’s thermal insulating rope around the door that has to be replaced every couple of years which is why I know about it. It has a thermal glass door. Thermal glass!

Space age woodstove.

Wench shovel

Also pensive. Has shovel. See broom to the side.

But my array of fireplace tools would settle comfortably next to my Regency heroine’s bedroom hearth. Or Elizabeth Tudor’s hearth. There is a perfection of form and design that’s brought these humble implements through centuries unchanged.

So. What do I have? Leesee …

A poker. Actually I have two. No idea how I ended up with two but I can’t bring myself to throw out the extra one.

You see, if I were a Regency heroine and were menaced by the villain, I’d bop him over the head with a poker and be perfectly safe.
But what if there were two villains? Huh? What then?

Nobody ever thinks about that.

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