Monday, December 21, 2015

Cerise asks, What do gin, smuggling, shoes and London docks have in common during #Regency period?

Women's slippers, circa 1829
During the Regency, all was not serene decorum in this bustling, growing city. While the ton dined and danced and courted especially in our Regency romances, the commerce that kept them on their toes and money in their pockets could be a raw and nasty business on the east end of town where the ships from all ports docked.

I doubt anyone would want to walk in these dockland areas if they could help it. Or even try because to walk the approximate 4+ miles from the docks to (for example) Mayfair would be dangerous. Plus the general challenge of walking over cobbles and uneven surfaces in what were (I cringe every time I see them) terrible shoes or boots seems daunting. And for a refined lady to walk in these rough and tumble dock areas would be unthinkable.

West India completed docks, 1802.
Public domain.
West India Docks, East India docks and London docks were areas inhabited by shipwrights, seamen of merchant marine and Royal navies. With men and goods of all kinds going in and out, it was a bustling area and, except for the demands of the Customs officials, largely unregulated. So you have ships coming in, being unloaded, goods stored in warehouses and transported from there. The nature of the activities there would inspire much criminal activity. Smuggling was the biggest problem and the private companies employed their own watchmen (later maritime police) to try to deal with it. Lawlessness of all types occured, including theft, avoidance of import taxes, prostitution and gaming. Add to this drunkenness, brawling and general poverty, and this area is not a safe place.

East India dock looking south towards the River Thames, 1806.
Public domain.
Indeed in 1824 when the bill for the building of St. Katherine's Dock (next to the Tower) was introduced in Parliament, much of the debate discussed not just commercial need for another dock (and its destruction of thousands of homes and displacement of people there to make way for it) but also the fact that those who remained would be subject to similar disastrous social conditions. Years later, when Parliament later debated the bills for establishing a police force, they'd cite not only love of gin among laboring classes, but also the lawlessness of those in the dock areas as justification for a group for regular law enforcement.
To view a map of London's docks, plus other sections of the city, see this 1830 map in high resolution:

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A #Regency lady must dress for breakfast, lunch, dinner in, dinner out, more. Cost of that is...?

Opera Dress, left. Promenade Dress, right.
From: 1811 Ackermann's Repository. Google books
     Readers of Regencies love their fashions. In an age marked by the simplicity of line, the simplicity of the look of the cloth, plus the growth of types of cloth available to dressmakers in Great Britain, women regarded their fashion as the key to their success socially.
     Fashion has always signaled status. The decrees of kings (think Louis XIV) and queens (think of Elizabeth I) and various injunctions of parliaments (think sumptuary laws during war times) have limited supply of types of fabrics and inspired protection of home-grown markets.
     But in Britain during the Regency, despite the harassment of a few French frigates and the Barbary pirates, those in Britain enjoyed the variety of fabrics shipped to their shores. Ladies adorned themselves in muslins and silks, satins and laces of all types from many ports of call.
     Here, for your enjoyment, I list a few types of garments and their accompanying costs. My aim is to show you what it might have cost a family to dress their darling girl or cost a lady to dress herself.

(Note well: I take these prices from Cunnington, C. Willett, English Women's Clothing in the Ninetheenth Century. 1990, pp. 34-73. These pages describe women's clothing during 1800-1821. In other words, this is the period of the Napoleonic Wars ending in 1821, the crowning of the Prince Regent in summer of 1821 as George the Fourth, and therefore by strict accounts, the end of the Regency. Also note as Cunnington says, that the costs he found here were ones he could find in advertisements and therefore, they may be the norm, not the most expensive nor least.)

Nightgown: cambric muslin, 1+ pounds per yard (2-3 yards necessary)
Morning dress: 15-21 pounds each (ready made)

Corset: 18+ pounds each
Drawers: cotton, at 3+ pounds each
Pantaloons: worsted, from 14+ pounds each
Petticoat: muslin, 3 pounds
Silk stockings with cotton feet: 7+ pounds a pair

Day gowns, at home:
A gown, muslin, 20+ pounds ready made
shoes: satin or kid, 4+ pounds a pair

Dinner attire, at home:
A gown, merino crepe at 5 pounds per yard
               sarcenet at 7/6 per yard
Dinner attire, party, full dress:
Gown:  5-7 pounds per yard  x 3 yards      
Hat/headdress: 4-7+ pounds each
Gloves: long over the elbow, 1+ pound per pair
Shoes: satin, silk, embroidered, 4+ pounds a pair
Cape/redingote: velvet at 7 pounds per yard

And to dress well, other accoutrements are necessary. They would include reticules, fans, parasols, handkerchiefs, and that final bit of embellishment, jewelry.

Now, at minimum of one each of these, we see that our lady's wardrobe costs 123+ pound sterling.
Note my summary here does not address the needs of a young gel making her first Season. Nor does it talk about levels of dress for different types of affairs each of which requires a degree of refinement, all translating to higher costs.
In today's money, how much does that translate to?
If the pound sterling in 1811 is now equal to 70+, then 123 is now equal to:
GBP = 8,622
And that amount in current USD = $13,081.00
With this kind of outlay, one can readily see why conserving fabric was not only a very good practice in all households, but protecting dresses with scarfs and collars and removable cuffs was sound financially. Then too, cutting down dresses to fit not only young girls in the household but also servants was a very practical matter.
Evening dress, left.  Promenade Costume, right.
1812 Ackermann's Repository. Google Books
Descriptions of above fashions, 1812 Ackermann's Repository.
Google books.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Cerise asks, With 10,000 a year, is Mr. Darcy really a rich #Regency man?

Darcy fans ask the burning question: How well would Lizzie Bennet really live after she married Mr. Darcy?

That leading statement that he had “ten thousand a year” sounds rich…but it’s enlightening to learn the facts.

To help you savor the possibilities of stepping into Lizzie’s shoes, I found a wonderful website that translates previous years’ British pounds into current British pounds. So for your titilation, here’s a sample of the real cost of living for Mr. Darcy and his bride. I’ve added to the cost of a hired carriage ride and the cost of paying his servants’ salaries. (Yes, all costs are those I took from original sources of the period, give or take a few years on the publication date of Jane’s PRIDE AND PREJUDICE which is 1813.)

A London carriage ride, hired hackney, 1-2 miles
(ex: Charing Cross to Hyde Park Corner)                                    1-2 pounds

Ladies hat, chip straw                                                                 18 pounds

Lace trim, 6 shillings per yard

Gown: Fine India Muslin, white, 13 per yard*                        39-65 pounds
(3-5 needed for full length dress)
*Sewing extra
(Alternate fabric: chintz 7-8 pounds per yard)

Dinner party, food and wine, for 16-20                                         20 pounds
Dinner for family of 4, 3-4 courses                                                  5 pounds

To educate (a daughter) at boarding school, including
Transportation to, from                                                                   43 per year

Recommended expenditure for running complete household:
This from one current expert in the period...and the category that breaks the bank. Watch and see!
33% of all income should go to household expenses                              3300
20% to servants’ salaries, equipage (i.e. horse, carriage)                        2000
TOTAL:                                                                                                  5300

So, let’s do the math!
Darcy has income of 10,000 pounds a year.
To run his country home, he spends 55% a year of 10,000 =  5300. pounds

He gives one dinner party a month x 12 =  240.
1 ball for 100 = (equivalent of 5 dinners) = 200
Total entertainment of others per year     =                                        440.

5 new dresses for his wife, Lizzie = 65 x 5= 325
5 new hats for Lizzie,                              18 x 5=   90
Total for Lizzie:                                                                                       415.

What remains for him to expense:
·      Clothing for himself, rest of family
·      Education for children
·      Books, entertainment, etc.
·      His club dues, social responsibilities
·      Etc.
And of course, the total to run his London townhouse is not listed here. That amount would be approximate to that of running his country estate. So add another 5300 pounds to his annual expenses as a gentleman.

And by that rule of thumb alone, he would already be in debt by several thousand pounds.

And what does 10,000 pounds in 1813 equal in British pounds today?
638,000 pounds
Converting that into American dollars at today’s inflation rate, we get

Darcy is a millionaire. But if he’s running two households, I hate to say this, he’s in financial trouble.
My Regency gentlemen are not broke. And I hope you will read all of the novels in which they star...and lavishly spend their riches on new wives!
Do anticipate my newest release, MASQUERADE WITH A MARQUESS, #3 in my REGENCY ROMP series! Soon, my dahlinks, soon!