Bonomi – Architect to the Regency

” ‘I am excessively fond of a cottage; there is always so much comfort, so much elegance about them.’ ”

Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen (1811)

So says Mr. Robert Ferrers, a secondary character in Austen’s novel. His oft-quoted ode, following a discourse on Gray’s toothpick cases, forms a particularly odious lecture given to Elinor, the heroine. Odious because he clearly imagines his patronizing speech will inspire her to feel fortunate in her much-reduced circumstances after his sister forces her and her family to move out of their home, Norland Park.

“..a cottage… calculated for the convenience of persons of moderate income.” Designs for Elegant Cottages and Small Villas, E. Gyffard (1806)

He positively presses Elinor on the advantages of building a cottage, going so far as to relate to her, in his self-important way, that he advised no less a personage than Lord Courtland on the matter.

” ‘Lord Courtland came to me the other day on purpose to ask my advice, and laid before me three different plans of Bonomi’s. I was to decide on the best of them.’ “

 

Rear view of cottage showing servants’ entrance to the kitchen and extension of a veranda

Joseph (born Giuseppe) Bonomi came to England in 1767 at age twenty-eight, to work as a draftsman at the invitation of the Adam brothers, innovators of Neo-classicism in Georgian design and architecture. Bonomi also worked with Thomas Leverton, the famed English architect who had the distinction of executing a triumphal arch commemorating American independence for a British nobleman.

From these connections, Bonomi took his native foundation in Roman antiquity to design country residences for the ton. He was known for adapting classicism to suit practical needs. As an example, classicism demands an even number of columns, but Bonomi would made their number odd, if that suited the proportion and function of a building. He took the classical portico and extended it, to protect arriving and departing carriages from inclement weather.

The Royal Institute of British Architects calls Bonomi the creator of the porte-cochère.

Roseneath House, designed by Bonomi for the Duke of Argyll. Note the fifth column, put there so folks wouldn’t confuse the carriage way with a grand entrance. — from Papers Read at the Royal Institute of British Architects (1869)

A Bonomi-designed country house was the sign of marked distinction during the Regency. Even his drawings were on display at the Royal Academy. Yet Robert Ferrers destroyed Lord Courtland’s set, boasting:

” ‘My dear Courtland,’ said I, immediately throwing them all into the fire, ‘do not adopt either of them, but by all means build a cottage.’ And that, I fancy, will be the end of it.”

One must surely choose a cottage over a mansion, after such a masterful demonstration of preference (and destruction!) We do not learn of Lord Courtland’s eventual course of action, but Robert Ferrers lives on as perhaps the most-quoted person on the desirability of cottage-living.

I daresay his brilliance has quite cast poor Elinor in the shade. Her reaction to his conceit, ever sublime, can scarcely be remembered:

“Elinor agreed to it all, for she did not think he deserved the compliment of rational opposition.”

 

 

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Regency-Era Electrical Resuscitation

Jane Austen’s Character Falls at Lyme Regis

During the Regency era, electrical shock was beginning to be used at various times to revive persons knocked unconscious from blows to the head. I’m not sure this would have benefited Louisa Musgrove, but it brings up interesting notions about the advances of resuscitation in the late Georgian era.

“…but no, he reasoned and talked in vain, she smiled and said, “I am determined I will:” he put out his hands; she was too precipitate by half a second, she fell on the pavement on the Lower Cobb, and was taken up lifeless!” — Persuasion, Jane Austen

Persuasion’s Anne Elliot is my favorite of all Jane Austen’s characters–mostly because she is quite useful in an emergency. When calm is required, she remains practical and wholly free from the hysterical outbursts that characterize her sister’s behavior. Such excellent qualities are demonstrated not only when her young nephew suffers a fall from a tree, but after Louisa Musgrove’s dreadful fall, as she is knocked out cold.

Dr. James Curry notes that falls often stun the victim into a state of apparent lifelessness. The heart stops and does not restart until the brain is roused sufficiently so as to direct it to begin beating again. Many times this occurs without intervention; however, stimulation must be employed when the victim does not rouse on her own:

Stimulants of every kind have this tendency in a greater or less degree, but none so much as Electricity.”

Observations on Apparent Death from Drowning, Hanging, Suffocation: &c. by James Curry, MD (1815)

Dr. Curry cites two examples of children rendered unconscious from falls down steps. Fortunately, in both cases, neighbors with the right apparatus were able to apply electricity to the chests of each boy, with the happy result of reviving both. Apparently assembling a machine to generate mild electric shocks was something that could be done with readily available materials, but only by knowledgeable persons:

“..jar of twenty-four inches, or thirty inches coated surface, and the discharging electrometer placed about one-third or one-half of an inch from the knob of the jar, or from the prime conductor; accordingly as it is applied from one to the other, in the machine used.”

Dr. Curry goes on to relate that from this machine discharging rods may be connected (and he goes into some detail about their assembly) which when applied to the body can be made to pass electricity through it.

The effect of reading Persuasion is much the same–electrifying the heart with such simple stimulation.

Collecting fossils at Lyme Regis, a subject visited previously in this blog, regarding those Paleontologists to the Regency – photo by John Cummings via Wikicommons

 

Regency – era Valentine

clustered red hearts

Valentine exchanges in the early nineteenth century took a good deal of thought and effort. No pre-printed cards with mass-produced verse, thank you very much. Instead, the Valentine greeting must be penned from scratch, the sentiment entirely the sender’s own.

But for those who require inspiration, and perhaps even a good push, there is the New And Complete Valentine Writer, by B. Mace (1806).

The Reluctant Widow 1950 film adapted from Georgette Heyer's novel of the same title

The author worked in New Round Court, in the Strand. I like a bit of information about the business end of London, and New Round Court was apparently an area of shops adjacent to houses of the lesser gentry erected on church lands after the Dissolution. One victualler there in 1781 served on the City of Westminster’s Coroner’s Jury for Inquests into Suspicious Deaths (LondonLives.org). Matthias Darly was an engraver and printmaker there in the late eighteenth century, at No. 39 (British Museum).

From his address in New Round Court, Mace provided a variety of Valentines composed for a variety of senders, including those of certain occupations such as printing and fishmongering (!) As a bonus, answers to such declarations are included, specifically tailored responses to notes sent by masons, turners, malters, seamen and even stay-makers.

“His film scores in Britain were playfully eclectic in style, alternating between haunting romanticism, catchy melodies, and occasional stark modernist touches.” Encyclopedia of British Film

One in particular appeals to the female who might, at first blush, appear unapproachable. Surprisingly, the offering of love was not at all modest, but bold, with patent desire to go all the way:

And though Death twice has broken your marriage chain,

If you have patience to be bound again;

Your lover here profest, behold here I stand,

And dare you to join in the marriage band.

And the answer? It seems a bit obscure. I can’t decide if she will be his Valentine or not:

No need that you should take me for a wife,

As well without you I can lead my life;

So keep your courage for some new essay,

may it not suit you in the needful day;

Your love rejected for the Valentine,

Just as you please it shall be yours or mine.

What do you think?

Regency-era Infant Suffocation

A bonnet can’t hurt, can it?

Recently, there have been reports of a troubling rise of infant suffocation in bed, even as the rate of SIDS has been decreasing. Researching this post, I’ve just learned that infant sleep positioners are no longer recommended, having been discredited by the FDA. 

In the Regency, infant suffocation was a real problem:

“Sometimes from accident but oftener from culpable inattention, young children are not infrequently smothered in beds and cradles.”

Observations on Apparent Death from Drowning, Hanging, Suffocation: and an Account of the Means to be Employed for Recovery. To which are Added, the Treatment Proper in Cases of Poison; with Cautions and Suggestions Respecting Circumstances of Sudden Danger (whew!) by James Curry M.D. (1815)

Dr. Curry is careful to distinguish infant smothering from “bruising by overlaying,” a condition caused when a child is crushed by others, often the parents, they sleep with.

Suffocation occurs when there is no other air to consume in the vacuum created by bedclothing. Yet there may be time to save the child, Dr. Curry notes, if the body is still warm. As in the case of drowning, respiration by artificial means may be implemented. Also, the body should be exposed to a current of fresh air and sprinkled with water, as a stimulus.

Dr. Curry reserves special condemnation of parents and cats (!) who contribute to the dangers of infant suffocation, noting:

“..a very improper habit of cats lying in the bed or cradle of young children; as these animals, from their love of Warmth, almost always lay themselves across the Child’s neck, and often either cover the Mouth with their bodies, or press the bedclothes over it, so as to impede or stop the breathing.”

 

sleeping girl, pouncing cat
I think we’re fine here, but it’s still advised to keep the cat out of the cradle.

 

Regency-Era CPR

“The trouble with writing history comes from suspending knowledge in what we know now, to what was known then.”

— an author of historical fiction

The understanding between absolute and apparent death was just beginning in the Georgian period. In his remarkable volume, Observations on Apparent Death (1815), Dr. James Curry informs the reader that though the victim appears lifeless, there is still a chance she may be saved.

All persons should know how to properly resuscitate a victim of drowning, he declares, deploring the general state of ignorance in this regard:

“..the practice of holding up the bodies of drowned persons by the heels. or rolling them over a cask (!) … is highly dangerous; as the violence attending it may even burst some of the Vessels which are already overcharged with blood, and thus convert what was only Suspended Animation, into Absolute and Permanent Death.”

“Thus it appears a pond of Water may prove an instrument of Slaughter.” –Thomas Rowlandson

In the case of suffocation, stimulating the lungs through artificial means was already a known procedure. In 1732, a collier was recovered from a coal pit not breathing. He had been overcome by fumes but was eventually revived by inflating his lungs. Various instruments could be used for this, but, as Dr. Curry complains, these are only in the possession of ‘medical men’ who know how to use them.

Instead, he urges readers to use whatever may be at hand about the house to artificially inflate the lungs–horns, air-filled bladders, even bellows. He advises the body be kept warm, the temples of the head rubbed with hartshorn, stomach stimulated by negus (awful stuff) and such efforts must be made for an extended period of time, if necessary.

He relates the heroism of Mrs. Page of Hornsey in this regard. With the assistance of her servants and an instructional card distributed by the Royal Humane Society,  she resuscitated a girl that had drowned in the New River.

Tipton’s Mrs. Caddick also managed to do the same, reviving a boy who drowned in a nearby pond. In this case, it took nearly two and a half hours to coax life back into the child’s lifeless body.

 

A receiving house for the purpose of rendering aid to drowned or injured persons in Hyde Park – erected by the Royal Humane Society. Image via WellcomeImages.org

Today’s post is yet another example of the advantages afforded by rising literacy during the Regency. Mrs. Page’s card highlights such a benefit–the Royal Humane Society is one of several institutions founded for the betterment of society, disseminating information to the masses on ways to revive victims of accidents, particularly drownings.

Dr. Curry dedicates his volume to George III, widely credited for sponsoring such endeavors:

“..(his) benevolence of heart, uniformly displayed throughout a long reign, has not only secured the lasting veneration of the wise and good..but the rare and enviable appellation of–A Patriot Sovereign, the Father of His People.”

 


George III: What of the colonies, Mr. Pitt?
Pitt: America is now a nation, sir.
George III: Is it? Well. We must try and get used to it. I have known stranger things. I once saw a sheep with five legs…

 

Christmas Gifts for the Regency Nursery

From the Advertisement Section of Ackermann’s, December 1813–Christmas gift ideas for Young Persons:

The History of Cinderella, Or, the Little Glass Slipper – elegantly versified and beautifully illustrated with Figures which dress and undress.

Images of this book and the paper dolls are best viewed at Jane Austen World here.

According to the University of North Texas Rare Library collection commentary, novelty books like these were rather expensive for the time. The Cinderella offering was 6 shillings and 6 pence.  One imagines the book was a must-have item for a nursery library of the ton.

Little Fanny was another Christmas offering for children

S and J Fuller, the publishers of Cinderella and other novelty books, printed the stories in verse. As the story progressed, the child changed the doll-character’s attire to match the scene. The doll itself was only the head and neck–a tab below the neck slid into a corresponding slot on the outfit.

Cinderella joined a wide variety of books published by Fuller including Little Ellen, or Naughty (!) Girl Redeemed; Frank Feignwell’s Attempts to Amuse his Friends; Laurette, or the Little Savoyard; and Metastases, or Transformation of Cards “a pleasing or laughable amusement.”

Merry Christmas!

Not as fun as paper dolls, but definitely vintage!

 

A Regency Harvest

Checking back two hundred years, it appears the English crop production was very good.  I even learned some new agricultural terms.

“Return from the Market,” by George Morland (1763 – 1804). His paintings documented much of Regency-era rural life.

The New Monthly edition of September, 1818 reports it had been a dry, warm August and so an early harvest of many crops was permitted. Wheat, barley and oats production was high, particularly in the North. The by-product of these grains–straw–was therefore abundant as well, benefiting other industries like thatching.

Turnips, apples and hops were also in abundance. One observation of the potato harvest noted the singular appearance of the tuber in that year–“rough on the coat from being randed.” Near as I can figure, this means they grew so numerous in the ground as to be practically woven together. Once dug up, the potatoes appeared rough, or randed by such close growing conditions.

There were many Regency-era recipes devised from potatoes. If you had enough, Cook might be persuaded to make that attractive side dish of mashed potatoes formed into a collar surrounded by balls. After baking,  a sauce would be added:

“..half a pint of white wine, sugared to taste, add the yolks of three eggs beat, and a little nutmeg; set it on the fire and when thickish, pour it on the dish.”

The Frugal Housekeeper’s Companion, Elizabeth Alcock (1812)

 

Baked Mashed Potato Balls Recipe & VIDEO | Healthy Recipes

Mashed potato balls covered with bread crumbs and baked  healthyrecipesblogs.com

The harvest of beans and peas did not fare as well, however. The stems of this produce, called the halm, and used for thatching and bedding, was also lessened as a result.

Summer fallow, that is, those fields that were deliberately rested in 1818, were seen to be “more forward in their culture.” A fallow field is one allowed to rest for the year–a feature of crop rotation farming since medieval times. The ‘culture’ that takes place during the rest period is the process of breaking down left-over vegetation, especially in ideal weather conditions, which renews the soil’s nutrients. The more forward the process is, the more ready the field is for growing a new crop the next year.

And next year will be here before you know it.

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