Jun 132017

This post originally appeared on Clare Alexander‘s blog on March 15, 2017. Reposted with permission from the author.

The Explorers Club

When I was six years old or so, I wanted to be a naturalist. I pictured myself studying the world of Nature to learn her secrets. Nurtured by children’s picture books with lush watercolors of forests and seashores, this desire was fed later by the kinds of detailed illustrations of birds and plants that today become stylish wall art.

A local nature preserve within bicycling distance became one of my favorite (and secret) hangouts. I walked the familiar paths noticing how flowers and birds changed through the seasons. I poured over exhibits in the nature center to learn about turtles, frogs, snakes, and owls, mice, and voles.

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Aug 202015

A cross-post from The Regency Redingote:

Truth, as usual, is always stranger than fiction. The machines that wove all those lovely French silks which were so often smuggled into England during the war with Napoleon did indeed provide the key to issuing commands to computers shortly after the Regency. This same method continued in use for several decades, only falling out of favor at the end of the last century.

How holes made patterned silks and talked to computers …

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Dec 082014

Sally OrrSally Orr is today’s featured Beau Monde Author

After her graduate education at the University of California Irvine and Caltech, Sally worked for thirty years as a Ph.D. scientist specializing in the discovery of gene function. Several years ago, she joined an English message board, where she posted many, many examples of absolute tomfoolery. As a result, a cyber-friend challenged her to write a novel. Since she’s a hopeless Anglophile, it’s not surprising that her first book is a Regency-era romance. Today she’s writing three novels for Sourcebooks. The first one, The Rake’s Handbook: Including Field Guide, was published on November 4, 2014. The second, When a Rake Falls, will be published on April 7, 2015. She lives with her husband in San Diego, surrounded by too many books and not enough old English cars.Sally Orr book

What do you love best/interests you most about the Regency Era? Continue reading »

Sep 192014

A cross-post from The Regency Redingote:

Though I have not yet read a Regency novel in which an orrery has been introduced, these complex and often exquisite objects were very popular during that decade. Many cultured gentlemen, or gentlemen with pretensions to culture, would have had an orrery on display in their library or book room, often alongside a terrestrial globe, usually paired with a celestial globe.

A brief history of the orrery and some personal recollections of these elegant devices …

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May 272014

Regina Scott, whose latest print book is The Husband Campaign, shares with us some fads in medicine which held sway during the Regency. As she points out, the more things change, the more they seem to stay the same. Regina’s article makes an interesting follow-up to Angelyn Schmid’s article on Sir Henry Halford, a fashionable Regency doctor, posted last week.

After reading this article, do you think you prefer medical fads from the Regency or those from modern times?

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Feb 112014

A cross-post from The Regency Redingote:

Stones and dust hardly seem the things of romance. And yet the behaviour of these particular stones and this special "dust" is frequently used as a metaphor for the power of romantic attraction. However, that may not be immediately obvious to those of us living in the twenty-first century, because these are the names which would have been used in the Regency for naturally occuring elements. Today’s romance authors tend to use the modern-day names for similar, but man-made, versions of these objects.

Of lodestones and smith’s dust …

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Nov 072013

A cross-post from The Regency Redingote:

Perhaps abandoned is a more appropriate description of the fate of this live-saving practice by the medical community in the early years of the Regency.

Surely I must be mistaken, as mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, that which the English call mouth-to-mouth ventilation, was not known until the mid-twentieth century? Sadly, there is no mistake. How this happened …

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Dec 142012

Many of us have run across references to the famed herbal by Nicholas Culpeper in the course of our research into various aspects of Regency medicine and horticulture. Though it was originally published in the mid-seventeenth century, it was still in print during the Regency. Not only was it still considered an important medical reference, many gardeners relied upon it to determine which plants to cultivate in their kitchen gardens. In today’s article, Cheryl Bolen reviews a more recent reprint of Culpeper’s best-selling herbal, in which you will learn which plant "stirs up bodily lust" and which plant is a "gallant expeller of wind."

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Mar 152012

Railways in the Regency era?

Linda Banche explains how Regency Railways did exist.

1808 Richard Trevethick's Steam Engine

1808 Richard Trevethick's Steam Engine


Linda Banche says….. We think of the railroad as a Victorian invention, but railroads as we know them today got their start during the Regency.

Goods and people have always traveled from one place to another. But such movement was limited to what animal power could provide (hence the term “horsepower”) until the invention of the steam engine.

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Mar 102012

Laughing Gas at Landsdowne House  by Angelyn Schmid


Lansdowne House

The third Marquess of Lansdowne was no stranger to the rich and famous that came to the great London house. His father had hosted Benjamin Franklin (1706 – 1790) when the latter came to negotiate the terms for American independence.

One who was credited with the discovery of oxygen, Joseph Priestley (1733 – 1804) ran tame at Lansdowne House as well, living off the largess of the first marquess when he was still Lord Shelburne.

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Feb 072012
Old St. Thomas's Hospital, Southwark

Old St. Thomas's Hospital, Southwark

Doctors in the Regency By Alicia Rasley

 The first realization about medicine in the Regency era is that it bears almost no resemblance to modern medicine. The great discoveries that have helped most of our great-grandparents live long enough to create our grandparents were yet to be discovered.

What historian Roy Porter calls “The Three A’s” were developed later in the 19th Century and into the 20th:

❖ Anaesthesia

❖ Antiseptics (and antisepsis)

❖ Antibiotics (ultimately)

So when you imagine a medical practice without those three, well, you’ll probably think of Regency-era physicians as not much advanced since the Middle Age alchemists and astrologers.

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Mar 202011

William Herschell Looking to the Stars

A while ago on my ongoing series about nineteenth century heroines, we talked about Caroline Herschel, who learned astronomy from her famous brother, William Herschel (he discovered the planet Uranus, though he wanted to name it George), and went on to make many discoveries of her own. The nineteenth century was the time of the Grand Amateur—men and women who, by interest, ability, and fortune, made major contributions to the sciences like astronomy. There was something noble about discovering something new, whether it was a planet or the internal workings of a combustion engine.

Discovery wasn’t, however, easy.

In astronomy in particular, the tools were still plagued with difficulties. Many astronomers still studied the heavens through little more than spy glasses. Most available telescopes involved refracting light through carefully crafted glass lenses rather than reflecting it through mirrors. These lenses sometimes gave their images a colored glow about the edges, making it hard to observe some celestial phenomena. Telescopes that did reflect the light used speculum, metal made from bronze and silver to create a mirror-like substance. Unfortunately, it tarnished easily and distorted the image.William Herschel Telescope

In his quest for better viewing equipment, William Herschel learned to grind his own lenses,  coat his own mirrors, and make his own telescopes.  He started with smaller scopes, like this 7-footer . . .
then graduated to larger ones like this 20-foot goliath.

His skill was so great that other amateurs, including the King of Spain, commissioned scopes from him. Through a grant from King George III, he built a 40-foot-long telescope with a 49-inch mirror at his home in Slough, near Windsor, in what would be called Observatory House. It was the largest telescope in the world at the time, and a source of many visitors, until the Earl of Roth, an Irish peer, build a larger scope in 1845.

But even these mammoth scopes had problems. They were often mounted in such a way that turning them was difficult. If you were lucky, the dais on which they were built could be hand-cranked to swivel the telescope both horizontally and vertically, but this positioning could take hours or days. So basically you could watch a single slice of sky on a given night with a larger scope, which was not conducive to scanning the skies for anomalies or hunting comets.

And why would you want to hunt comets, you ask? That was one of the most exciting aspects of astronomy, your chance to make a name for yourself, to go down in history. All comets discovered during the early nineteenth century were first sighted with the naked eye, so anyone could get into the game.

Posted with permission of the author.