Studying a past place or era is a challenge to be sure, but also lots of fun. One has to immerse into the atmosphere as much as possible. Luckily for those of us who write in the Regency – that 9 year span of time encompassed by the far longer Georgian Era – we have hundreds of website resources to help us get it right. Everything from the clothing to the language to the lifestyle to the places and more can be found somewhere if you dig far enough.
My newest novel, Loving Mr. Darcy: Journeys Beyond Pemberley, does as the subtitle implies; that is, takes the reader away from the confines of their honeymoon country Manor house to the broader world of England. My first chore was to tackle learning about London of the day. May sound tough, but it really wasn’t. This city – simply called “Town” - was the European hub for the Industrial Revolution. She was a city on the move, and because of that and so many other realities, life in Town was thrilling. And it was wonderful to write in a few of the star places that my Society couple visited. Allow me to share a few of my favs……
The Salon of Countess de Lieven: Both the infamous Countess and her Salon were central to the social life of London. I wrote an essay on Salon history and Countess de Lieven at my website if intrigued. Many Society ladies held Salons, these intimate gatherings of artists and aristocrats alike not always free of scandal nor the intellectual meeting of minds as intended, but an invitation to one was prized. And none more than the Countess’ Salon, as the Darcys discover.
Theatre Royal, Covent Gardens: London boasted several theaters, but the Royal Theatres of Covent Garden and Drury Lane were the very best. Operas, plays, ballet, pantomime, and more were performed on the several times rebuilt stage from the early 1700s to today. The greatest actors of the day became celebrities. The lavish box seats were owned by the wealthy at an astronomical cost. Performances here were the highlight of social interaction and in my story the place were Mrs. Darcy makes her first public appearance.
The British Museum: Established at Montagu House in 1753, the British Museum of the early 1800s was already a world-renowned marvel. Darcy takes Lizzy to the museum as part of her birthday extravaganza and among the wonders that she would have seen are the Rosetta Stone, the only surviving copy of Beowulf among a library collection that was the largest of rare documents in the entire world, classical Egyptian, Greek, and Roman antiquities and sculptures including a number from the Parthenon, and thousands of treasures from literally all parts of the world.
Astley’s Ampitheatre: Every wonder where the modern circus comes from? You can thank Phillip Astley. Astley was a master equestrian and skilled trick rider. He desired to teach others how to ride and perform as he did, and the concept caught on. Astley quickly became a wealthy man, but did not stop there. He created the circular ring we now associate with all circuses so that the paying customers could view the horses and other marvels being performed. Those marvels included acrobats, clowns, jugglers, tightrope walkers, and all the other now typical circus entertainments. His theatre opened by royal decree and grant in 1773, and the rest is history! Astley’s innovative brilliance spread throughout Europe and to the Americas, and it also gave Lizzy her ideas for Pemberley’s Summer Festival!
Man, it is hard to stop! I could talk about Gentlemen’s Clubs such as White’s, the pinnacle of Society matchmaking that was Almack’s Assembly, Hyde Park, St. James’s Palace, Pall Mall, and… OK, I’ll stop! London is replete with exciting historical places to set a story. I had to limit myself this time around or the Darcys never would have left to embark on other adventures away from Town. If your interest is piqued, be sure to grab a copy of my saga. The first book is easy to find already and Loving Mr. Darcy will be released in 14 days!!