Diana jolted awake. A cacophony of shouts and neighs sounded just outside the coach, made by what must be an inordinate amount of horses and men calling their greetings to one another. The coach had stopped, presumably in the ostlers’ yard at the Maiden’s Crown, but the racketing around by jingling harnesses and stomping hooves did not call to mind the exclusive inn’s normally quiet order.
Diana told Selby and Margaret to remain where they were while she investigated. As soon as she stepped outside, it seemed as though she were the only female left on earth amid males of every description from country yokels to London dandies. Nigel had all six sets of reins bunched in one fist while directing the Northam outriders to hold the excited team.
Nigel called to her from his box. “’Tis a blasted—begging your pardon, my lady—there’s a mill going on between the Black and Quentin Fosonby less than a mile from here. Every inn and hostelry is crammed full with gawkers to watch the match.”
Selby and Margaret alighted, the former fixing an icy stare on one unfortunate who gaped at them with a straw hanging out of his mouth. At the dresser’s glare, the man took himself off.
“No matter,” Diana replied, “our rooms were bespoken in advance. Have the horses seen too and I shall sort this out.”
She thought briefly of Griffin. If he were here, it would be his province to deal with travelling upsets. But as he was not, she would. God knows she had enough experience. She briefly wondered if he might have stopped to watch the boxing match, leaving his horses with some boy to look after for a guinea. Men liked that sort of thing, the blood and violence of a good fistfight. They also liked to ride their horses or curricles on the open road, without female companionship.
Poor Diana, my heroine in Notorious Match, had run smack-dab into the middle of a sport that was all the rage in the Regency. Called the “sweet science” by noted sportswriter Pierce Egan, pugilism seemed a Godsend to males everywhere in the early nineteenth century. .
The Jane Austen Centre does a lovely overview of the sport as it is confined to the early eighteenth century, including a nice excerpt from the movie Becoming Jane.
More specifically, pugilism, along with men’s only clubs, are examples of male homosociality during the Regency.
Homosociality. Like the more recent term bromance. A distinction, mind you, from those relationships that are of a romantic, or sexual nature.
One of the things my heroine wrestles with is the prodigious desire on the part of men to socialize with other men.
Why should it matter that men do things together?
Because Diana was curious. As am I.