Welcome Ella Quinn - guest blogging about "What Did A Regency Lady Know?"
Most readers who love the genre can come away with a mixed idea of what a lady during the Regency era actually did. Not only books, but movies, and TV as well can give one the impression that they went to parties, shopped, and sat around the house doing needle work. The answer is a bit more complicated.
Most girls were taught, reading, maths, art, literature, at a minimum, French and some Italian. It was more unusual for them to have learned Latin or Greek, which most men studied, but it did happen, and yes, needlework, which amounted to everything from embroidering slippers and handkerchiefs, to the beautiful whitework.
Also pianoforte, and singing. Can you imagine preforming for your future husband and,
Jane Austen describes it. “after dinner families and friends were obligated to entertain each other with conversation, musical performances, parlor games and cards, or reading aloud.”
Let’s not forget horseback riding, and driving a carriage.
However, they also had to have knowledge of how to run a large house and possibly the estate, or estates, as well. Depending on size of her husband’s holdings, that job was the equivalent of running a small to large business.
For an idea on how many servants it took to manage a small place one can look to Georgette Heyer’s Friday’s Child, where the young couple decided to lease a small townhouse, and the number of servants needed to “ensure a moderate degree of comfort” amounted to a cook, butler, two maids, a page boy, groom, tiger, coachman, a lady’s maid, and valet. Since there was no housekeeper, that left the job of directing the maids to the lady of the house. If any of them were ill, it was her job to have the doctor called and pay for the expenses. Not to mention keeping the household accounts.
This was especially true of estates, where it was your responsibility to see to the health and welfare of your dependents, both in the house and tenants who rented plots for farming.
Which leads us to planning social events. There was no buying wine and beer, and throwing out some chips and dip here. Many events had hundreds of guests. If you hosted a house party, that could go on for up to a month, you had to plan the entertainment.
Are you tired yet? Let’s not forget, there is no phone, text or email. In order to keep in touch with family and friends, you have to sit down and write a letter. Unless your husband was a peer and could frank your letters, in which case you could go on for pages, you would make use of one sheet of paper and cross your lines, or even write across again diagonally so that the person receiving your correspondence didn’t have to pay as much. Try reading that.
When does your day end? Generally after dinner, when the men rejoin the ladies and tea has been served.