Object of Interest: The Devil Among the Tailors

Playing with a top and skittles was popular in the 18th century. Children and grown-ups alike tested their skills at a game called “The devil among the tailors”. The 18th-century game is different from today’s version that is still around in some pubs in Britain. It is much larger, and you need more skills to score points. How was it played? And what’s in a name?

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From Education to War Gaming: The Craze for Tin Toys in the Long 18th Century

Miniature figures or miniature soldiers in general have been around as talismans or devotional objects for many centuries. However, the ‘modern’ toy soldier – a product explicitly marketed to children to play with – was created in the 18th century in Prussia. The first tin toys were flat, two-dimensional figures. They started as a by-product of the tin-ware production.

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Sleigh Rides: An 18th-Century Winter Pleasure

Hard winters were common in the 18th century, especially on the Continent. Snow and ice made roads impossible to pass by carriages. They were, however, still manageable by mule-drawn sleighs. Actually, in the Alps, frozen roads were easier to travel in the winter than in the summer, and bridges made of snow allowed people to cross many rivers otherwise impassable. Thus, the beginning of the winter did not mark the time to stay at home but to start traveling. Famous poet Goethe, e.g., crossed the St. Gotthard pass, enjoying the winter scenery.

“A great train of mules brought the place to life with the sound of their bells. … The way led up over the rocks of the ever-cascading Reuss and the waterfalls here form the most beautiful shapes.”

Traveling in the winter

Many travelers from England discovered the delights of the picturesque winter scenery while on the Grand Tour.   Continue reading

How to cheat at Whist in the 18th century

Gaming table in a country house. Would you hve dared to play Whist with strangers?

Whist was one of the most popular card games in Georgian England. It began its career as a plain game for common men. With the rise of the coffee houses in London, the gentry picked up the game. Reputedly it was Lord Folkestone who brought the game into fashion in high society around 1728, when he adopted it as a challenging strategic card game requiring good memory, sympathetic partnering and psychological acumen.

The rules of Whist were written down in Edward Hoyle’s “ A short treatise on the game of whist” in 1742. As early as this, methods of cheating were discussed. While Hoyle advocated fair play, the stakes at Whist could be high, and thus tempt many to force luck their way. Besides, cheating at whist is very easy. Continue reading

Temptations for Regency Gentlemen: The Most Dashing Sports Vehicle

Cockingcart1

A dashing vehicle for the sportive gentleman: the Cocking Cart (click to enlarge)

A notable whip and hero of a Regency Novel inevitably drives a Phaeton – or does he have more choices for selecting his racy vehicle? A couple of weeks ago, a vehicle caught my eye at a historical hunting and carriage gala: it was slim, light and high-perched.

Being drawn by three horses and featuring two wheels, it had an air of sportiness and elegance as it drove across the park. Next to the conservative carriages like Britzkas and Victorias, it looked decidedly dashing. I spoke to the owner and learned that the striking vehicle was a Cocking Cart. – A what? I had never heard of it before.

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Adventures for Regency Enthusiasts: Handling a Bird of Prey

In my post “Falconry in the Romantic Age”, I described that falconry was still practiced in the Regency period by gentlemen and ladies alike. Just as scriptwriter Andrew Davies, who used falconry in the movie adaptation of “Sense and Sensibility” to characterize Colonel Brandon, you might want to include falconry in your novel. You could create a thrilling hunting scene or have your heroine impress your hero with her falconry skills.

In the Romantic Age, Falconry was called hawking. To get an idea of how a character of a Regency novel would experience hawking, I took a discovery course in this noble sport myself when I went to England last year. I had pre-booked a half-day experience at The Birds of Prey & Conservation Centre at Sion Hill Hall, near Thirsk, Yorkshire. There are of course many other falconry centers in the UK, and also some country hotels that have similar offers.

A Falconry Experience

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Falconry in the Romantic Age

Falconry is sooo Henry VIII, right? It is difficult to imagine any self-respecting Regency dandy with a bird of prey on his fist. It might ruin his perfectly cut jacket!

FalconryFor sure, the noble art of falconry was not a typical sport in the Regency period. It had suffered in popularity ever since the Puritans had frowned upon it in the 17th century. Furthermore, modern weaponry had made it easier to hunt birds and small mammals with a gun than with birds of prey. But falconry hadn’t died out.

If you have watched the 2008 adaptation of “Sense and Sensibility”, you will remember that Colonel Brandon was portrayed as a gentleman who practiced falconry. Even if this is not in accordance with Jane Austen’s novel, scriptwriter Andrew Davies may have chosen to do so because it allowed him to show that Colonel Brandon was a gentleman able to tame the wild and passionate (i.e. Marianne). But it is also true that falconry was revived in the late 18th century. The sport owes its survival in the Romantic age to a handful of gentlemen. They were fascinating characters, if not to say famed-famous. One of them used to live in a place the avid Austen fan knows as “Rosings Park” in the mini-series “Lost in Austen”.
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Adventures for Regency Enthusiasts: Driving a Carriage

Many readers of Regency novels are fascinated by driving a carriage: It’s partly romantic, partly adventurous and in our accelerated times comfortingly nostalgic. Most people of the Regency period would shake their heads at such attitudes. To them, driving a carriage was mainly a means of transport and not even a convenient one: Stage coaches were crammed with passengers, accidents happened frequently, and to become sick in a carriage wasn’t unusual.

To find out how travelling in a coach felt like 200 years ago, you can visit the museum of travel and traffic, “Deutsches Museum Verkehrszentrum”, if you happen to come to Munich, Germany. There is a simulator of a historical coach waiting in Hall II. Climb in and experience the Regency period.

If you are really serious about researching carriages and carriage driving in the Regency period, there is a more hands-on option.
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