The Grand Tour – Seeing The World Outside Britain

Actually Charles, I came by to tell you I’ve decided to go away for a bit. I’m sick to death of town, and I’m sick to death of the country. I’ve a mind to explore Italy. What with Bonaparte’s antics, our generation never got the opportunity to do the grand tour. Now that he’s safely defanged and tucked away I want to see a bit of the world before I’m too old to enjoy it.” (Recompromising Amanda)

Starting in the seventeenth century and lasting until the mid-1800s the Grand Tour was somewhat of a rite of passage in England. It consisted of heading off to the continent, i.e., Europe, which England didn’t really consider itself part of (and, arguably, still doesn’t) and drinking in the sights, sounds and culture of a new place. It was thought to put the finishing touches on an education and was usually undertaken after completing school.

The tour started by taking a boat to Calais, spending time in Paris to pick up a little polish and sophistication, and then slowly making one’s way towards Italy, where visits to Rome and Venice at the very least were de rigeur. This was considered the highlight of the trip because of the admiration of the classical world that was all the rage at the time. After that the tourist would generally wend his way back through northern Europe before returning home. Of course not everyone followed the same path. Lord Byron, naturally, carried on to Greece where he had a raging and passionate affair with his landlord’s wife.

Pompeo Batoni was an Italian artist based in Rome who had a lucrative career painting the portraits of young men in classical surroundings to showcase their Grand Tour experience.

Pompeo Girolamo Batoni Portrait of Richard Milles about 1759 Oil on canvas, 134.6 x 96.3 cm Bought, 1980 NG6459

It goes without saying that in the quote above when Jason talks about his generation never getting the opportunity to do the Grand Tour he really means a very small segment of his generation – the upper class and male part. Although some women did manage to do a little travel on the Continent, especially if they were escaping scandal or looking for a discreet spot to give birth to an inappropriately conceived child (I’m looking at you, Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire) the overwhelming majority of Grand Tourists were young men.

And travelling on the continent wasn’t cheap. You couldn’t just save up for it; you needed considerable financial resources. Not only were there accommodations and food fit for a gentleman to purchase, there was also the expense of several servants, the cost of an appropriate means of transportation – generally horses and a carriage (which would have to be taken apart for transport across the Alps) – and money for all the souvenirs and mementos one was expected to bring back. Added to that was the expense of providing for a bear-leader, or someone to serve as a kind of chaperone cum guardian cum tutor who took care of all the arrangements. Then there was the cost of having a little fun whilst being subjected to all this culture and learning. Finally a properly done Grand Tour could easily last upwards of three years. Even the most minimal expenditure could add up to a goodly sum over such a period. So there weren’t a lot of shopkeepers sons or farm labourers doing the grand tour. It was strictly the scions of the upper class who indulged.

Why was it so popular? According to historian Jeremy Black, who has written two books about the Grand Tour, “it fulfilled a major social need, namely the necessity of finding young men…something to do between school and the inheritance of family wealth. It allowed the young to sow their wild oats abroad and it kept them out of trouble…at home.”

Naturally, just like travellers today, Grand Tourists made sure to bring back plenty of souvenirs. To this day if you tour an English manor house or stately home you’ll likely see items that were brought back from a Grand Tour taken by a long deceased ancestor: finely tooled books on shelves, classical paintings on walls, snuff boxes in display cases and perhaps even some marble statues and fountains in the formal ‘Italian’ garden outside. For the ultimate memento some young men had their portrait painted in an exotic setting as a constant reminder of their once-in-a-lifetime journey.

Although they had been popular for two centuries Grand Tours fell out of favour in the mid-nineteenth century, falling victim to the advent of mass transport and the declining obsession with classical culture. Really what happened was probably that with more people able to indulge in travel it was no longer a special privilege only available to a select few people. They probably still went. They just didn’t brag about it any more.

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Rotten Row – the place to see and be seen during the Regency

“Caroline and Christopher were not the only ones to take advantage of the fine weather. Despite the early hour, the bridle path in Hyde Park was packed. Groups, men alone and women, either with escorts or grooms trailing discreetly behind them, walked, trotted and cantered up and down Rotten Row, paying small heed to the grooms out exercising the horses of those members of the ton too slugabed to ride their own horses, but paying very careful attention to each other.” (Counterfeit Viscountess)

A day in Hyde Park was like a day in the country for most Londoners as this illustration from 1804 shows. Members of the ton paraded on horseback and in carriages, hoping to see and be seen.

During the Regency most of the aristocracy and gentry had their principal home in the country and only came to London for ‘the season’, which corresponded with when Parliament was in session. Some came every year; others only managed a single season to launch a daughter into society. In either case it was a social whirl from beginning to end. And one of the places to see and be seen was Rotten Row in Hyde Park.

The park had originally belonged to the Catholic Church but Henry VIII managed to nab it for himself when he dissolved the monasteries and it’s been a royal park ever since (except for a few brief years in Cromwell’s time). When William III decided he needed somewhere to get away from the hustle and bustle of London he established himself in Kensington Palace, which in those days was not in the middle of the city the way it is today. Unfortunately the drive from there to the Palace of St. James, where the actual business of running a country was carried out, proved to be a little taxing. He had a long straight road cut right through Hyde Park between the two palaces and, to forestall the all too frequent attacks from highway men his couriers were subjected to, had 300 gas lights installed across its 1,384-metre length, making it the first artificially lit highway in England.

It was often called the Lamp Road because of this but it also became known as Rotten Row. There are a few possible reasons for this designation. The most commonly vaunted is that the term is from the French for Route du Roi, or King’s Road, which makes perfect sense. Another possibility is that the road is named for the surface of which it was comprised: gravel and tan, a kind of crushed tree bark. Rotten, in this instance, is used as another word for soft, rather than decayed. Three or four other possibilities also exist.

Whatever the reason for the name, Rotten Row had one overwhelming reason for its popularity. Its location simulated the country and the soft surface of its wide road meant good footing for the finest of horses. Anyone who knows anything about horses knows how delicate their feet are. An entire profession has sprung up for the sole purpose of taking care of those delicate parts of their anatomy. As a result farrier’s fees are a big part of the expense of owning a horse – a horse with bad feet or legs won’t last long. The surface of Rotten Row was perfect for both riding and carriage horses and a welcome change from the inhospitable roads that were the norm in London.

Every afternoon horses and carriages paraded sedately along so everyone could see everyone else. Commoners and lesser folk were welcome to stand and admire ‘their betters’ from the sidelines and might as easily catch a glimpse of the Prince Regent or the Duke of Wellington as the most minor member of the gentry.

The early morning was a time for horses to be exercised on the row, either by their owners or by their grooms and the pace at which they moved increased substantially. It was at this time that those who longed to feel the wind in their hair (or at least passing beside their stylish Shako hats) would go for a hack, a ride with no purpose except pleasure. Although riding ventre a terre, or flat out, would have been going a bit too far, even ladies could enjoy a good gallop when most of society was still safely at home recovering from the dissipation of the night before.

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St. Valentine’s Day

“Those are Sweethearts. A very special girl gave them to me for Valentine’s Day.”
“Of course,” Molly said. “Although I would have thought you’d be the type to prefer something a little less sweet and a little more liquid.”
“Well, generally speaking that’s true. But not when the person who wants to be my Valentine is five years old.” (Not2Nite)

The Romans get blamed for everything. Popular report has it that Valentine’s Day started out as the Roman festival Lupercalia, which included such randy elements as fertility rites and a lottery to pair up men and women. When the Christian church came along they were said to have hijacked the festival and turned it into a day to celebrate lovers. That assumption has been brought into question, however, and now Geoffrey Chaucer is being blamed for initiating the connection between St. Valentine and romance. Whatever story is true, Valentine’s Day and romance are now firmly linked together in the canon of love.

Whitefriars Street Church in Dublin is the resting place of the relics of St. Valentine. They were given to the church in 1836 and, it seems, basically hung out in a storage cupboard until the church was renovated in the

The Shrine of St. Valentine in the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Whitefriars Street Church, Dublin. There are also bits of the saint in a church in Poland and in a church in Rome, but the Carmelites, who run this one, say they have problem sharing.

1960s or ’70s. At that point a shrine was built for them. Nowadays the shrine is visited by thousands of couples every year looking to get his blessing. On February 14 he comes out for a special display and service. Needless to say, there’s a very long line up to catch a glimpse of his earthly remains every year.

The custom of giving someone a Valentine’s Day card arose in England in the early 1800s. They became very popular and really took off after the introduction of the penny black, a cheap postage stamp, in 1840. Human nature being what it is, the anonymity of being able to mail a Valentine card rather than deliver it personally led to the rise of ‘racy’ verses. So much for those puritanical Victorians!

The nineteenth century also gave rise to another Valentine’s Day tradition. In 1868 Cadbury’s introduced boxes of chocolate in the shape of a heart to mark the occasion. It proved very popular – chocolate is considered an aphrodisiac, after all – and chocolates have been a huge part of the celebration ever since.

Although Bing Crosby will always be associated with Christmas (as long as it’s a White Christmas) that’s not the only special day he conquered. In 1948 Decca Records released a compilation album of some of his songs under the title “St. Valentine’s Day”. The album reached #8 on the Billboard charts even if very few people remember it today.

Whilst Valentine’s Day may have started in Europe it has managed to permeate the rest of the world, where various spins are put on the tradition. In Japan only women give chocolate and only to the men in their lives, including all their co-workers. The better the chocolate, the more they like you. Getting cheap stuff from the corner store probably means don’t bother asking her out on a date. Men return the favour with white chocolate on the appropriately named White Chocolate Day, March 14. That sounds nice but it’s not so great if, like me, you prefer dark chocolate. Maybe that’s why the tradition has been falling out of favour in recent years.

Whether Valentine’s Day began as a Roman festival or a conceit of a writer from the middle ages I think we can all agree that a day dedicated to love, with chocolate and flowers thrown in, is a worthy one to celebrate.

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The Rise of the Circulating Library

“I see you found what you were looking for. I’m afraid all the copies of Caro’s book are still out on loan. Honestly, it makes me wonder why I waste my pin money on a first-class subscription when they don’t have the only book I really want to read available.”(Counterfeit Viscountess)

A typical subscription library was for socializing as much as for reading
A typical subscription library was for socializing as much as for reading

Nowadays when we use the word library we’re generally referring to a public lending library where anyone, or at least any citizen of a community, is allowed to go in and, after browsing the collection, borrow a book (or movie, or game or even, where I live, a musical instrument). Even people who don’t have a library card can come in and sit and read the books or use the computers to surf the net. However, a library in the past was usually something a wealthy individual maintained in a private residence for personal use. Literacy levels were generally low and books were extremely expensive, precluding most people from owning them or even wanting them.

But with the beginning of the rise of the middle class and the consequent expansion of both money, literacy and free time for people who had never had such a thing in the past, reading books became more widespread. In order to fulfill the need for more and more books, subscription or circulating libraries sprang up. The first one we know of was opened in 1735 by Samuel Fancourt. It was full of religious tracts and other worthy tomes. For a fee anyone could become a subscriber and borrow the available works. The trend soon caught on and libraries opened all across Britain, most with the same kind of enriching volumes.

At one or two guineas a year (about 100 modern dollars) a subscription wasn’t cheap. Rates varied depending on how much one was willing to pay to get the very latest books. Thus Eleanor, in the quote above, bemoans the fact that she still cannot get the book she wants even though she pays for a first-class subscription. Nonetheless, by 1801 there were 1000 subscription libraries across England and most books published were sold to libraries because books themselves were so pricey – about the same as a library subscription.

However, there was another factor contributing to the growth of circulating libraries and that was their appeal to women. Upper class men had their clubs to hang out in as well as boxing saloons and gambling dens. Without a Starbucks on every corner women really only had each other’s’ houses to visit. But what could be more respectable than a library? By the beginning of the nineteenth century upper class women were flocking to them. Not only were they the place to get the latest books, but their reading rooms, with comfortable tables and chairs as well as refreshments available for the asking, were wonderful places to run into friends and sit down for a lively chat.

This in turn led to an expansion of the kinds of books libraries offered. Branching out beyond learned works of religion, science and philosophy, libraries started stocking more novels and other kinds of escapist literature. Many libraries were also publishers. One of the biggest success stories of the era was that of Minerva Press, which was established in 1790. On the one hand Minerva provided a home for many women writers who would otherwise not have been published, but on the other they became well known for their lurid, gothic stories. Although Jane Austen decried the scorn with which many novels were viewed there was some justification for thinking them less than meritorious. For example, Minerva’s titles included such never-to-be-forgotten gems as The Animated Skeleton (1798), The Mysterious Hand, or, Subterranean Horrours (1801), The Phantom of the Castle (1798), The Castle of Ollada (1795), The Mystery of the Black Tower (1796) and The Necromancer; or, The Tale of the Black Forest (1794). Minerva Press finally closed its doors for good in 2002.

Subscription libraries were slowly taken over by local governments or simply disappeared as free libraries became more common. However, there are still a few of them kicking around. The most expensive is the Liverpool Athenaeum, opened in 1797, where a Category A membership will set you back £795 a year. Unlike the early days of subscription libraries that amount of money could buy enough books to start your own library in no time at all. And unlike the early days the library provides its members with free wifi. I wonder what the latte’s like.

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Regency Best Sellers

By the time the ladies had made their way back to the house they were not only in possession of Lady Caroline Lamb’s scandalous book, and of course, The Black Dwarf, but Caroline clutched the latest edition of Weatherby’s General Stud Book as well as Kubla Khan, which she purchased over Eleanor’s objections . (Counterfeit Viscountess)

Sir Walter Scott - Elshie, The Black Dwarf.jpg
Though he’s better known nowadays for works such as Ivanhoe and Kenilworth, Sir Walter Scott’s The Black Dwarf was a melodramatic best seller in Regency days

When we think about best sellers we probably imagine something like a book by Stephen King or J K Rowling. But best sellers have been around as long as books have themselves. That’s how the bible has managed to sell six billion copies (give or take a few million). So it’s no surprise that during the Regency there were books that everyone had to read and then talk about with all their friends.

Lady Caroline Lamb’s first novel, Glenarvon, was one of them. Glenarvon was a satire populated by real people thinly disguised in a very melodramatic roman a clef. It was dismissed as an overwrought work of revenge against many of the members of the ton in general and the titular character, based on Lord Byron, in particular, with little literary merit. But that didn’t stop people from reading it. Quite the contrary. Interestingly, that view is now coming under renewed scrutiny and Glenarvon is starting to be hailed as a quite well-written early work of feminism. Whether Lamb would have appreciated that or not is anyone’s guess.

Sir Walter Scott, unlike Lady Caroline Lamb, was renowned for his writing, rather than his personal life. He pretty much invented the historical novel, but he also wrote plays, poetry, short stories and non-fiction and was well-respected for his literary efforts. That didn’t stop him from writing stories every bit as lurid as anything Lady Caro could come up with. Facing dire financial straits he made no bones about the fact that he wrote for money. A story like The Black Dwarf, full of mystery, magic and melodrama, was guaranteed to sell boatloads of copies and he didn’t hesitate in writing to suit less than exalted public tastes. Even a sensible young woman like Caroline Saxon couldn’t resist.

Unlike modern times, poetry was as likely to achieve best seller status as prose was – hence Lord Byron’s contention that he woke up famous the morning after the publication of his epic Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem Kubla Khan was also published in 1816, many years after its composition, at the urging of Byron (literary people all seemed to hang around together back then, too) and became as famous for the story behind its composition as for its strange construction. Coleridge said he wrote it after waking up from a drug induced dream. He was interrupted part way through and completely lost the story, so it remained unfinished.

The final book mentioned above, Weatherby’s General Stud Book, was a breed registry for thoroughbreds in England and Ireland. It was started by James Weatherby in 1791 and continues to this day. It is still owned by the Weatherby family and is published every four years. The 48th volume was published in 2015 and it remains the go-to book for registering horses to this day.

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Dressing for success in Regency England

“Surely I could make do with fewer dresses. Must I truly have one dress for morning and another for afternoon? One for walking in and one for riding in a carriage? It seems vaguely ridiculous,” she was finally moved to protest.
“Of course it’s ridiculous,” was Eleanor’s immediate response. “Who ever heard of having only one walking dress or one morning dress? My dear, when you’re changing your dress four or five times a day it would be simple cruelty to expect your maid to maintain a single one of each style, not to mention what the other ladies on the strut would think.”
(Counterfeit Viscountess)

regency period costume | Regency Era Clothing: Regency Era Fashion Plate - February 1815 Ladies ...
Fashionable ladies of the Regency Era. These are probably walking or promenading dresses, but they could be carriage dresses. It’s all very complicated

The turn of the nineteenth century brought some pretty radical changes to women’s fashions. Whereas before it was all ‘powder and patch’ with enormous skirts and plenty of hoopla (and actual hoops), the early part of the 1800s saw a real simplification in what women wore. The most recognizable feature of Regency dresses is the high waistline and relatively straight skirt of what is now known as an Empire style, named after the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte and made popular by his fashion leading wife, the Empress Josephine. Fabrics were simple muslins, cambrics and lawn in the summer and satin, silk and velvet for dressing up in the winter. The yards and yards of underclothing needed to keep the skirts of earlier dresses wide enough to practically fill a room were replaced by a simple chemise that mostly served to lend a modest opaqueness to the thin material Regency dresses were made of.

Perhaps it was this simplicity that dictated a constant change of clothing. Instead of one or two fabulous dresses to show off their wealth and good taste, women now used a myriad of them to serve the same function.While poorer people wore the same items day in and day out women of the upper classes were expected to spend their whole lives changing their clothes. Or at least that’s how it seems when you think about all the different styles of dresses there were.

And knowing the difference between all these dresses was crucial. According to Jennifer Kloester in Georgette Heyer’s Regency World:

The differences between a walking dress, promenade dress, afternoon dress or carriage dress were not always obvious…There were also subtle distinctions between an evening dress and a ball dress or between a walking dress and a day dress, and it is likely that knowing the differences was one of the marks of a well-bred woman.

Well, never having ever pretended to be a well-bred woman I’m not sure I’d be able to tell the difference despite all my research on the subject. However, it seems to break down into how fancy the clothes were and how much of the body they covered. A morning dress, designed for hanging around at home, was fairly simple with long sleeves and a high neckline. Walking dresses were worn to go shopping or walking in the park and were a little fancier, but as daytime wear they also didn’t expose a lot of skin. Dressing for dinner, which was de rigueur, involved donning an evening dress whether one dined en famille or with guests. It was much fancier than something worn in the daytime and was cut lower and had short sleeves. A ball gown was the fanciest dress in the closet and showed the most amount of skin by far. Other dresses were mostly variations on these themes. Whatever the case, dressing properly was not for the faint of heart.

According to there’s one feature of modern day clothing that exasperates a lot of women that can be blamed on the Regency: a lack of pockets. Before this period pockets in women’s clothing were both common and quite large. If dresses didn’t have them sewn in, women wore drawbags around their waists under their clothes that were accessible through slits in side seams. However, when big skirts and petticoats fell out of favour there was no longer room for pockets in a dress. It would ruin the line! So reticules, which women had to carry around with them, became popular. To my mind, if the Victorians had reverted to pockets when wide skirts came back into fashion our lives would be a lot easier today.

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The Foxtrot – Another racy dance

“Miss Bristol, there’s a dance tonight. Are you staying for it?”
“A dance? I wouldn’t miss it for all the wine in Italy and a chance to personally punch Hitler in the nose,” she told him with a smile. “You must promise to save a foxtrot for me.” (Not2Nite)

Image result for foxtrot fred giner cheek to cheek

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers had the smoothest moves on the dance floor. Their Foxtrot was something others could only dream of. Ginger doing the same moves as Fred only backwards and in high heels has become a trope but it’s not strictly true. In a dance like this the follower actually has a lot more moves to make than the lead. So she actually did more than Fred – backwards and in high heels.

When I was growing up I remember dances at wedding receptions when the floor would fill up with people of all ages. A wedding was probably the only social event where that kind of mingling took place. My father had no time for the way the younger generation would just sort of hang onto each other and sway back and forth when a slow song was played. Not when a Foxtrot beckoned.

The Foxtrot was supposedly invented by a vaudeville performer named Harry Fox in 1914, but its origins are a little bit tangly. It’s related to the Bunny Hug and the Kangaroo Hop – clearly dances with animal names were a thing even if the Foxtrot was actually named after a person.

It’s also been suggested that the Foxtrot was invented by the famous dancer and choreographer Vernon Castle (who Fred Astaire played in the 1939 film The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, who was played, of course, by Ginger Rogers). Castle apparently saw a version of the dance while visiting a club that catered mainly to a black clientele.

Dance instructor Arthur Murray printed the basic Foxtrot steps and sold them by mail for ten cents each – it was the first time anyone had done this and the start of his success.

In the beginning the Foxtrot was a lot faster and more energetic with lots of kicking the feet up in the air. Now it’s a very smooth, graceful dance, almost like a waltz. However, it has a much closer hold than a waltz and the music is quite different. The big draw of the Foxtrot has always been its simplicity. Everyone could get out on the floor and dance when the band struck up a Foxtrot.

The Foxtrot maintained its popularity right into the 1950s. Early rock and roll records, including Rock Around the Clock, were billed as Foxtrots. Nowadays, when people hear the term Foxtrot they’re just as likely to think of the popular American cartoon as they are of the dance. But during World War II the Foxtrot was all about gliding along the floor to the strain of a melody played by a big band.

Well, except for one other usage. The word Foxtrot (along with fellow dance Tango) is part of the NATO phonetic alphabet, also known as the ICAO phonetic alphabet, which assigns a word to every letter of the alphabet. Foxtrot was chosen to represent F. Since this blog is all about romance it might be worth noting that the the letters J and R are represented by Juliett and Romeo. Yes, that spelling of Juliett is correct in this context. It’s so that French users don’t pronounce the word Juli-ay, which they might do if there were only one t at the end.

I’ve recently heard the phrase Whiskey Tango Foxtrot used to refer in a more polite manner to the exclamation What The Fu…well you get the idea. I’m not sure my father would approve. But you never know.

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The Waltz – The Original Forbidden Dance

A waltz was in progress, and the edges of the dance floor were packed as everyone from eagle-eyed mothers to envious young debutantes watched couples in colourful swirls of every imaginable fabric twirling about. (Recompromising Amanda)


When we think of the waltz the image that often comes to mind is that of perfectly coordinated dancers twirling energetically around a ballroom to the music of Strauss. But it wasn’t always that way. The term ‘waltz’ originally meant a turning dance so there were many variations to it. Even a polka could be considered a waltz and early examples were not confined to the 3/4 or 7/8 time that marks the beat of contemporary waltz music.

The dance got its beginnings in the sixteenth century as a country dance enjoyed by peasants in Austria, Germany and Bohemia. It was all the rage with the higher levels of society in Vienna by the 1780s and was introduced into English society by the King’s German Legion during the Napoleonic Wars.

From the very beginning the waltz was considered scandalous. Men and women were dancing together with their arms around each other! They were dancing face to face! Who could tell what such violations of proper behaviour would lead to? Not surprisingly, despite the horror of their elders, the young men and women who did most of the dancing loved it. It was easy to learn and twirling around the dance floor was just plain fun.

The march of the waltz towards the upper reaches of society was inevitable. In July 1816 the Prince Regent held a ball in London at which the waltz was danced. Prinny might have been a little behind the times. Both the waltz and the quadrille had been introduced as permissible at Almack’s, that bastion of upper class dancing and decorum, in 1814 (although woe betide the frivolous young debutante who dared to waltz without the express permission of the patronesses – that was a one-way ticket to having her voucher revoked).

And the fascination with the strange new dance wasn’t confined to the capital. Jane Austen’s novel, Emma, was published in 1815 and contains a scene wherein the heroine dances the waltz with the dashing and carefree Frank Churchill. Austen wasn’t exactly known for her wild and wicked lifestyle, so it seems clear that by this point just about everybody was dancing the waltz, if only at private balls and local assemblies.

However, that didn’t mean the scandalous dance was instantly granted general acceptance, even if it had now been publicly favoured by royalty. A blistering editorial in the rather staid Times a few days after the Regent’s ball on July 16 1816 lamented:

We remarked with pain that the indecent foreign dance called the Waltz was introduced (we believe for the first time) at the English court on Friday last … it is quite sufficient to cast one’s eyes on the voluptuous intertwining of the limbs and close compressure on the bodies in their dance, to see that it is indeed far removed from the modest reserve which has hitherto been considered distinctive of English females.

So long as this obscene display was confined to prostitutes and adulteresses, we did not think it deserving of notice; but now that it is attempted to be forced on the respectable classes of society by the civil examples of their superiors, we feel it a duty to warn every parent against exposing his daughter to so fatal a contagion.

Alas for him, the Times editor was left to take what comfort he could in having done his duty by sounding the alarm. It didn’t do any good.  Parents would just have to lump it. And lump it they did. The only thing worse for an ambitious mother watching in mortification as her daughter was swept up onto the dance floor so indecorously, was watching her daughter sit on the sidelines while other young women waltzed. The waltz just kept growing in popularity. Long after the Regency had faded into memory, Queen Victoria was unabashedly being twirled around the dance floor as she enjoyed her favourite dance. And you can’t get more respectable than that.


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Conversation candies – sweethearts for Valentine’s Day

She reached into the package and pulled out a yellow candy shaped like a heart.
“It’s got something written on it,” she said.
“That’s the message. Some people live their lives based on what’s written on a Sweetheart candy. It’s kind of like a fortune cookie from a Chinese restaurant or those creepy fortune telling machines at the carnival, only you get to eat the words. (Not2Nite)

Long before the concept of something trending online came into being, people followed fads or capricious trends that ‘everyone’ was caught up in for a short while. The word fad has an unknown origin, although it might be from the term fiddle-faddle, but its first known usage was in 1867. As a good little patriot I don’t like to think its invention had anything to do with Canadian Confederation, so I propose another reasoned it was coined: Sweetheart candies, which, in 1860s America, were all the rage.
Originally they were called motto candies or conversation candies and had sayings written on paper rolled inside them. The sayings could be quite long, as in “Married in pink, he will take a drink”. Daniel Chase, who was the brother of the New England Candy Company’s (NECCO) founder, got the bright idea of printing the saying directly onto the candy and they never looked back. The heart-shaped candies were introduced in 1902. They weren’t alone. Other shapes like postcards, baseballs, horseshoes and watches were also made, though they were eventually abandoned.
In the six weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day NECCO sells two billion candy hearts. It takes 11 months of production at 45,000 kilograms of candy a day to meet the demand. Mottos, considerably shorter now that they have to fit on a tiny candy, have come and gone (so long, FAX ME, you’re no BE MINE, which has been around since the beginning) and the general public now suggests most of the sayings.
When Guy offered Molly a candy heart she wasn’t familiar with the concept. It wasn’t until 1954 that a British candy company, Swizzels, came out with a similar product called Love Hearts. The mottoes on Swizzel candies are pretty much the same as those on NECCO candies with a few notable exceptions. In the 1970s they launched Hippy Bits that were like Love Hearts, but with Flower Power messages. They didn’t last long. In recent years Swizzels hasn’t been afraid to branch into specialty candies. In 2003 they put out a special Love Heart to celebrate Prince William’s coming-of-age that was stamped Happy 21 Wills. In 2011 they released a Love Hearts gift box to commemorate his marriage to Catherine Middleton.
It’s fun to imagine that Molly had something to do with the introduction of candy hearts to Britain after the war. Perhaps she and Guy became Love Hearts tycoons. What a great outcome for a Valentine’s Day story.

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Christmas blog tour

Once again Bob the Elf is taking part in the Highway Café Christmas Blog tour. This year he’s eager to show off his wreath building talents:
You can build a wreath from scratch, but I find it easier to start with a willow circle that I use as the base for everything else. I go for a walk outside with a basket and a pair of clippers and grab whatever takes my fancy. I start with boughs of evergreens – some balsam, some spruce, maybe some pine – and cover the willow base, using green wire to attach the boughs. Then I add whatever else I’ve found. I’ve got a big holly bush that always has beautiful berries on it and there are usually apples and dogberries and rosehips on the trees and bushes, which add lovely, festive colour to the wreath. Sometimes I’ll find different mosses I can incorporate into the mix; other times the snow’s too deep! Maybe a little bit of juniper and a touch of Euonymus, definitely a few pine cones, and the wreath is ready to hang.
The important part is to just use natural things found in your own environment.  If I ever leave the great white north maybe I’ll be making wreaths out of palm leaves and magnolias! And if I do I’ll listen to one of the greatest hits ever produced in the Great White North, Bob and Doug McKenzie’s Twelve Days of Christmas.
Here’s last year’s model with a very special member of the elf family posing coyly (She thinks she’s one of Santa’s helpers. She isn’t!):

This year my story The Key To His Heart: A Steampunk Christmas Fairy Tale has been released as a stand alone. You can buy it here:

or leave a comment to be entered in a draw to win a copy.

Meanwhile, don’t forget to visit all the other elves taking part in this year’s tour:

December 4
Holland Rae –
Susanne Matthews –
Sorchia DuBois –
Mariah Lynne –

December 5
Tena Stetler –
Maureen Bonatch –
Peggy Jaeger –
Barbara Burke (ha, that’s me; you’re already visiting here) – 

December 6
Kelly Kalmanson –
M.S. Spencer –
Hywela Lyn –
Reggi Allder –

December 7
Denyse Bridger –
Clair de Lune –
Karen Blake-Hall –
Casi McLean –

December 8
Darlene Fredette –
Daryl Devore –
Gini Rifkin –
Linda Carroll-Bradd –


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