Friday, October 30, 2020

A word From Your Master of Ceremonies

 Launcelot William Penn writes…

I am pleased to announce that Lord Joseph Farnsworth, the 14th Viscount Comely, our very generous Amberleigh patron, has encouraged and succeeded in gaining the company of a fleet of sailors & theatre performers, the odd author, inventor and optical magician to spend a season within our village assembly. Thereby travelling onward a month long with a tour of our fair county of Gloucestershire, thereafter.

The time & venue is to be this very season at the Rose and Crown Inn Assembly rooms! A special service provided for our enjoyment by the proprietors of The Rose & Crown Inn, Mr Bryan and Mrs Leandrea Wallis.

You shall be highly entertained with the nuances and tonal inclinations of the operatic, Miss Nancy Storace, once again right here in our county! A particular friend of Lady Elizabeth Marlowe. Sink Me! I had to get it off me chest. It is rumoured this fine songbird has been ‘noticed’ by the great Joseph II of Vienna for his own Opera Company, and shall be leaving our shores soon to take up a residence. Me thinks, our connexions to the lady, and a recent visit from the Count and Countess of that fair city, may have something to do with this progression of career opportunity, purely speculation, purely speculation. We are fortunate indeed.

My word, this era of ours is afloat with new discoveries, inventions and thematical demonstrations and theoretical thesis on the most foxing officious subjects! Odds Fish! One is oft surprised by the sophistic intelligence that come up with such perspicacious notions & clever devices!

Take the world of the optical medic for example. We are fortunate to have three doctors of optical science to share their new found knowledge with us.

British physician John Ayrton Paris will start us off, I hear tell, with a demonstration lecture on a fascinating device, that when spun mysteriously creates an optical illusion! Called a ‘Thaumatrope’ it helps the doctor define the state of the view of a patients eyesight, whereby how a picture is refracted within his eye orb. So intriguing in construction and execution that even a child can work it, it is said. But do not dismiss this invention as a mere trifle, it shall become a most prized toy indeed, as a boxed set of 12 hand coloured/engraved discs will be selling for a mere 150 pounds. Egad!

On a more serious level of intrigue, via the famed Marylebone street shop, we have Mr. James Simons of London, who will be providing us with, a detailed workings of the latest inventions of Philosophical, Mathmatical and Optical inventions, we have it on good authority. Mr Simons will impart the findings of an up and coming famed French Scientist colleague, on the wave theory of light, after explaining to us, Huygens 1678 “Treatise on Light” from whom which is the source of all this curiosity in light refraction’s and optical fascinations. If you have the temerity to sit through the 3 hour lecture, you will find yourself well versed in the workings of the eye. I have been assured a particularly exemplary coffee shall be provided at table, awaiting the patrons to this event.

In addition, Mr Simons will be providing a multitude of optical tools for your perusal situated at the Great Hall.

Still in this optical field, we can look forward to a triple delight. A most informed lecture on Sir Isaac Newton, by the leading Scottish scientist & philosopher, Reverend David Brewster. The good Rev’d prides his current work due to the studies of his predecessor. The good Reverend will in addition, be the staying guest of our own Reverend Thomas, and will conduct a special Scottish sermon at church that Sunday at St. Hildegards, here in Amberleigh. This shall certainly not be missed! Thirdly later in the week, Mr Brewster shall reveal the marvels of his latest invention of the magical “kaleidoscope” by a means which has its direct link to our beloved Greek forebears – quite ala mode currently, whom in which provided the key to how to capture ‘beauty’ within a wee telescope! We lucky audience may have the pleasure of experiencing this incredible discovery in person, when we can peer into the blessed contraption, with a tail of eager beavers a mile long behind thee, in the Manor’s Great Hall. By Jove! I shall find it hard to resist this remarkable feat of science, me self.

For those of us with cousins in the Americas, and yes, for the ladies ~ he is in want of a wife, we have the auspicious presence of the young devilishly handsome Naval officer, Lord Thomas Wyndlecombe 5thEarl of Yewbridge. In support of his grace, we have on hand, the famed  botanist, Sir Joseph Banks, from the good ship Endeavour. Guests of our own celebrated Admiral Endicott, recently returned to us from such travels that took him so far abroad. A six months to get there, By Jove. Between this trio of fine naval officers we can expect to be entertained with champion tales of battle and politics, and the magnificent flora in vast foreign lands, with chivalrous wit and wisdom dappled aboard His Majesty’s vessels; And a subtle nudge to encourage our youth, as to why our young men ought consider a vocation upon the high seas, in the British Navy. Due to the aura of such dashing adventures, Mrs Leandrea Wallis, will naturally have on hand, in her keeping, a good supply of smelling salts. (sic)

To supplement the curiosity of the younger ladies and gentlefolk, who may be overawed with the high brow facts & findings of the great scientists, physicians and politicians.

We have the wonders of the Astley Performers who have set up outside the Great Hall at Comely Park, who will delight their audience daily with spellbinding plate spinning and juggling with balls and batons, magical acts of great magnificence and clever tricks with the common deck of cards! Odds Fish?!

We are honoured to have the presence of England’s Merry Widow gracing our neighbourhood for a one week only! Miss Sarah Sidons, in person! This fine actress will be performing some of her longer stanzas through the character ‘Isabella’ from Thomas Selbournes’ “The Fatal Marriage” (that it has only recently whispered to be unveiled with “a season of Garrick’ booked in Drury Lane, London, later in the year). We are most blessed indeed to have a preview, with such illustrious connexions of our own Lady Caroline’s Thespian links! Sink Me!

And finally …

‘Some of us’ shall be entertained with a demonstration and a talk with a complimentary morning tea in the fine sitting room at the R&C Inn, on the brewing and making of cosmetics for the ladies at home – by our very own Mrs Henrietta Cole. Lately from London, Mrs Cole has come to live within our midst, and is greatly enjoying the cleaner air of our fair country paradise, of Amberleigh. Her concoctions are gaining popularity with our villagers, and it was put forth to her by Lady Caroline Farnsworth, to explain more fully, how to create the marvels of outer beauty to her sisters in kind. Mrs Cole asks, may she have the pleasure of your company. This is a “Ladies Only” lecture, sorry gentlemen!

And so on that note, I shall officially open the doors to the Assembly season at the Rose and Crown Inn, for 1782-3.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Letter Writing in the 18th Century


Letter writing in the 18th century was the only way of communicating with friends and family when you wanted to share your news or simply converse with someone long distance. Without having the luxury of enclosing a snapshot or sharing a web link, in order to convey your message you had to hone your power of description.

To begin a letter, the date, and the place you are staying, be it your home or the home of someone your are visiting was always written at the top of your letter to give the recipient an idea of when and where you are when you write. This may seem unimportant to us, but mail delivery was not so efficient back in Georgian/Regency England as it is today, so marking the place in time you are gives the reader of your letter an idea of how much time has elapsed since you put pen to paper. It will also allow them to enquire about those your are visiting or your family if you are at home.

The body of your letter would be filled with your news, but keeping in mind there is no social media to rely upon, if you are speaking of someone your reader has not had the pleasure of meeting, a short description of that person was necessary to give a full picture to the item you are relating. Pen portraits were very important aspects of the 18th century letter adding depth. They consisted of a physical description of the subject as well as any mannerisms that are observed, their personality and their situation in life. If your reader has no idea who you are speaking of, the item you are writing about will not have relevance to them and quite frankly will be a bore to read. It was important to give a full view of your situation so that it will impact your reader as it has impacted you.

Saying you enjoyed an outing is a fine topic for your letter, but who accompanied you on this outing, what was the general mood of the outing and was it enjoyed by all? These are the things letter writers of the Georgian Era expanded upon. What was the tone of the conversation? Did you learn something new about an acquaintance that may be of interest to your recipient? Nothing was left to the imagination so that you could give the full scope of your experience in your letter.

Often times those you are with would ask to be remembered to the person you are writing to and vice versa. It was good manners to be cordial and remember those who have extended invitations to your correspondent, especially if you are on friendly terms. Letters were things of import and often shared with one’s family or friends so that on replying to a letter you may include all the sentiments offered after the reading giving it the feel of a shared conversation.

When closing your letter, the use of flowery endearments were not uncommon. These little flourishes are very much like the hugs and kisses we add to our modern day letters. Some are very direct, such as “Your devoted sister,” while others were more metaphoric “I am Madame, your most humble and obedient servant.” Still others, elude to a flowery sign off by beginning as the examples above but after two or three words trailing off with “etc, etc” which was also acceptable. One usually signed their full name at the end of a letter. Jane Austen often would use her given and surname when writing to her beloved sister, Cassandra. It was just the form of the times.

And so we have a simple formula for writing an interesting letter, something the Georgians didn’t think twice about but for those of us who don’t put pen to paper regularly, a frustrating dilemma of what to write. Hopefully armed with a little information about letter writing in the 18th century it won’t be such a chore to sit down and dash a letter off to your swap partner. After a time, you will be sending off missives without even thinking of what to write.

After reading this you may be worrying that you have to give a full scale account of your day or week but this is not necessary for our purposes. This is just to give you an idea of the form a letter took in the 18th century. You may choose your own content or refer to the blog where there is information about some of the characters, events and places in the village which you may want to remark upon.

Friday, October 9, 2020

A Closer Look into Our Residents' Lives, Part six

Captain Venning

Captain Alexander Venning is the second son of Joseph and Margaret Venning of Quigley, a village north of Cheltenham. His father, Joseph, a fine furniture maker, has made a name for himself creating bespoke furniture for his customers. Alexander’s older brother, Edward, now runs the shop and although Alexander was trained in the fine art of furniture making, he chose to join the army. With the help of his father, a commission was purchased and Alexander joined the army with the rank of Captain.

 Army life suits Captain Venning and has given him the opportunity to see more of life and broaden his perception of the world. He is well liked by his men and is a fair but firm leader, leading always by example. He upholds the dignity wearing a uniform affords him and always proceeds with manners and politeness which garner admiration from those he comes in contact with.   

Calvin Spafford, one of the men in his troop asked him to help him write to his betrothed, one Miss Jenny Wrey of Amberleigh, for Calvin is illiterate. Captain Venning was happy to do this, and also tried to help Calvin learn to read and write to fulfil his dream of promotion but succeeded only insofar as getting Calving to learn to write his name, so Captain Venning continued to help Calvin write to Jenny, and found he enjoyed writing to her and reading her letters to Calvin.

When Calvin began seeing one of the women who followed the camp he was promptly taken to task and told to honour his promise to Jenny and desist in seeing this woman. For a time, Captain Venning thought Calvin was in earnest, but then discovered Calvin had married this woman. When he confronted Calvin about this and asked how he would break the news to Miss Wrey, Calvin pertly told him to do it since he wrote to Jenny. Livid with Calvin and concerned for Miss Wrey who may see Calvin with his wife when they encamped at Cheltenham, he took on the responsibility of informing Jenny of Calvin’s treachery.

Captain Venning, had asked to call upon Miss Wrey to ensure she was okay after hearing such shocking news. He’d wondered what she would be like, feeling as if he knew her already from her letters. He imagined a plain, courteous girl but found a lovely young woman who was educated and had fine manners. He immediately asked when he may call upon her again for he wanted to know Miss Wrey, Jenny Wren, as she was affectionately called by all, much better.

After several meetings with Miss Wrey, he realizes she is all to him but on the day of the fete, when he planned to ask Jenny to marry him, everything seemed to go wrong. Now that the regiment has moved on and will most assuredly go to war with France, will he ever see Jenny again?

Thursday, October 1, 2020

The Assembly Rooms


The assembly rooms were the heart of towns and villages for they provided a place for people to gather. Not every village had an inn with assembly rooms so it was common for several villages to make use of a central location. There was order behind all that was done at the assembly rooms to preserve propriety.

The Master of Ceremonies would oversee events, as a host would do at his own party, ensuring everyone behaved sensibly and those who did not would be briskly escorted to the door. He would introduce people to one another who were not acquainted, for it was simply bad form to introduce oneself to others. Pomp and ceremony were key; manners mattered above all in such polite society. Many assembly rooms such as those at the City of Bath had a list of rules one must follow, including no gossiping and certainly no sour grapes if someone else was asked to dance before you. Rules of this kind as well as those that governed whose footman may attend whom and when so that order may be maintained at all times, especially once the ball ended, assured that things proceeded smoothly throughout an event.

Dress code was enforced by The Master of Ceremonies, which again, ensured that everyone dressed accordingly. Ladies who wore gloves of a colour other than white were not admitted; likewise, gentlemen were not permitted to wear gloves. Rules on dress did vary from venue to venue so one must be well advised before entering the assembly rooms in another village or town to assure no offence was given and admittance was not denied.

The most common use for the assembly rooms was to host balls. These were held each month when the light of the full moon made travel easy for carriages. A ball would make use of several rooms for different purposes. There was, of course, the ball room for dancing, a dining room as supper would be served half way through the evening and there would also be a room where card tables were set up for those who did not dance. Cloak rooms were used so that dancers may change into their dancing slippers as well as leave their coats and cloaks in a safe location while they attended the ball.

Musical evenings would be hosted, either by the inn or by private parties. Things such as light opera, which was becoming very popular, instrumental evenings as well as travelling orchestras who would perform, all entertained the localities. There may also be recitals for local musician.

The assembly rooms may also be used as a venue for lectures and talks, as well as public meetings where a number of people were invited. Private patrons hosted card playing or gambling events and there were Salons which were social gatherings where intellectual discussion was offered.

In a town or village, the assembly rooms played an important roll in allowing the community to gather for special or private events. Rules ensured order and decorum were maintained and all benefited from the diverse events offered.

Foraging with Old Mary

  Hello, My Dears, As you know, I like nothing better than to meander around the Ackley Wood, foraging for herbs and wild flowers to use i...