Hackneys were the 19th century equivalent of the black cabs you see in London today. There were rules for passengers wishing to travel in Hackney Coaches. No more than four adults were allowed inside and one servant on the outside, with the exception of a child held in an adult’s arms. If the coachman agreed to take more, he charged one shilling for each extra person. Passengers who used abusive language were fined, and if they defaulted on the payment, they were sent to a house of correction for seven days!
The Morning Toilet
Servants brought jugs of hot water to the lord and lady’s bedrooms and poured the water into a wash-hand stand. Squares of violet scented soap were used, although I found a reference to a more manly military cake. Shaving was done with a cut-throat razor (eek!) and sharpened on a strop or strip of leather. Readers, you may rest easier knowing your favorite Regency heroes and heroines would use toothbrushes and tooth-powder. Speaking of toilets…in case you were wondering, chamber pots were still used well into the Victorian era. I took photos of one at Warwick Castle. (My family is now certain I’m certifiably nuts). Our Regency lords and ladies also had water closets. By the way, a man by the name of John Harrington invented the first flush toilet in 1596 (Holy Shakespeare!), but apparently it was not as practical as the one invented by Joseph Bramah of Yorkshire who patented his water closet in England in 1778.
How to Write a Letter in Regency England in Eight (Relatively) Easy Steps
Before the invention of texting, our lords and ladies were reduced to using pen, ink, and paper (one step above the chisel and stone tablet). There were no envelopes, however, and paper was considered ‘dear.’ Here is the proper way to write and send a letter in Regency England.
- Using a large sheet of paper, write the date and your current address at the top of the sheet. Be sure to write neatly on one side of the paper and fill it up.
- Turn the paper 180 degrees and write upside down between the lines you previously wrote.
- Now turn the paper 90 degrees (your choice of direction) and scribble at a right angle across the lines already written. Pray the recipient can read it.
- The paper serves as the envelope. Fold the paper lengthwise on both sides so that the two sides meet in the middle.
- Now fold this hot mess into three or four sections and leave some room at the top for a flap.
- This is the tricky part. Heat some wax over a candle (be careful not to burn yourself) and let a few drops fall onto the flap. Now you press a seal onto the wax–we’re high tech now!
- On the unsealed side, write the address. If in London, put a street address. If in the country, just use the person’s name and county as the letter will go to the village post office.
- No stamps! The recipient pays for the letter!
Regency Beauty Treatments
Most beauty aids were home-made as imported French cosmetics were highly taxed. The juice of a green pineapple supposedly erased wrinkles, but if no pineapples were available, an onion could be substituted (Oh, dear, the aroma!). Another remedy for the complexion involved mixing rye bread crumbs, hot from the oven (I’m not making this up, I swear!) with the whites of four eggs, and a pint of white vinegar used as a face mask! To get rid of freckles, a desperate lady might add shredded horseradish to sour milk (these must have been some odoriferous concoctions!). For the gentlemen, powdered parsley seed was recommended to prevent baldness.
Here are the lovely names of some Regency cosmetics.
- Royal Tincture of Peach Kernals
- Carnation of Lilies
- Liquid Bloom of Roses (rouge)
- Powder of Pearl of India
- Olympian Dew
Readers, I hope you enjoyed my edition of Regency Trivia. May the Magic Romance Fairies be with you!
An Elegant Madness: High Society in Regency England, Venetia Murray, Penguin Books 1998
The Jane Austen Handbook: A Sensible Yet Elegant Guide to Her World, Margaret Sullivan, Chronicle Books, 2007
The Soanes at Home: Domestic Life at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Susan Palmer, Sir John Soane’s Museum 2002