Posts Tagged ‘Regency’

Midshipman Michael Daintry (1813), painted by Thomas Lawrence.

Midshipman Michael Daintry (1813), painted by Thomas Lawrence.

Since my 9-year-old son asked to come to the Jane Austen Festival, I have become inspired to make him a midshipman uniform for the occasion. He also seems rather keen to go to “Book Week” as “Mr Midshipman Hornblower”, which could be interesting for him!

There was no sign of anything brewing while dinner was being eaten in the great cabin of the Indefatigable. Pellew was a courtly host at the head of the table. Conversation flowed freely and along indifferent channels among the senior officers present – the two lieutenants, Eccles and Chadd, and the sailing master, Soames. Hornblower and the other junior officer – Mallory, a midshipman of over two years’ seniority – kept silent, as midshipmen should, thereby being able to devote their undivided attention to the food, so vastly superior to what was served in the midshipmen’s berth. 

Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, by C.S. Forester

For the second post in this series, I will be making an 18th century boys shirt and stock.


Generally speaking, men’s 18th century shirts were all made along the same lines. They were made from rectangles and squares, neatly cut as to have little offcuts, and rather roomy in the body, only fitting closely around the neck and the wrist cuffs.

18th century linen shirts, from

Late 18th century linen shirts, from Germanisches National Museum. The front ruffle and the wrist frills can be easily seen.

In addition to this, midshipmen from this Regency period all seemed to have a front frill on their 18th century shirts, which is often seen peeking out from below their neckstocks. However, they do not seem to have the corresponding frill around their wrists, which was so popular during the 18th century.

Using this information, I made my-little-midshipman a shirt. I last made an 18th century shirt when I was making a Regency costume for my husband, so I simply referred back to my post and followed the same process using the smaller measurements.

There is a basic pattern for a shirt in Norah Waugh’s The Cut of Men’s Clothes, or there are various places online to look for making an 18th century shirt.

I made this shirt from white cotton broadcloth. It has a front frill and a dorset button on each wrist cuff and the collar. It is rather roomy, but I am hopeful that it will still fit if he grows before April next year.

A little dorset button on the cuff.

A little dorset button on the cuff.

Showing a midshipman, master and commander, and a cabin boy.

Showing a midshipman, master and commander, and a cabin boy. The midshipman’s stock appears knotted here.


A black stock was considered the general sign of a military man in this period. Sometimes they were made into a short straight strip, laid on the front of the neck and then attached at the back with ties. Other times they appear to be a longer strip of fabric that crosses at the back and is knotted at the front.

Bush felt the perspiration prickling under his uniform, and his stock constricted his thick neck so that every now and again he put two fingers into it and tugged, without relief. It would have been the simplest matter in the world to take off his heavy uniform coat and unhook his stock, but it never crossed his mind that he should do so. Bodily discomfort was something that one bore without a complaint in the world; habit and pride both helped.

Lieutenant Hornblower, by C.S. Forester

I have previously made a variety of cravats for my husband, but this time I particularly wanted a stock that knotted in front, similar to the painting of Midshipman Michael Daintry above.

From the pictures I have seen, this type of stock appeared to be a long triangular piece that was folded, laid on the front of the neck, crossed at the back and then neatly knotted (with short ends) at the front.

I used black cotton broadcloth and cut it with the long straight edge on the selvedge. The neckcloth is folded lengthways before being put around the neck.

A black neckcloth for a midshipman. The long flat edge is cut on the selvedge (measuring 41 inches), and the depth at the midpoint measures 7.5 inches.

A black neckcloth for a midshipman. The long flat edge is cut on the selvedge, measuring 41 inches long, and the depth at the midpoint of the triangle measures 7.5 inches.

All finished! And looking good so far.

The shirt and stock of a little midshipman

The shirt and stock of a little midshipman

Next up, making a little midshipman’s breeches.

Related Posts

The Making of a Midshipman

MY Mr Knightley: Making a Shirt

MY Mr Knightley: Making a Neckcloth

Sources and Relevant Links

Portrait of Midshipman Michael Daintry (1813) – painted by Thomas Lawrence

18th century shirts – from Germanisches National Museum

The Cut of Men’s Clothes, by Norah Waugh – buy on Amazon

Making an 18th Century shirt – the cutting and sewing instructions from 1760

Image (Drawing) Source – from Osprey Men-at-Arms 65: Royal Navy 1790-1970

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One of the workshops I took at the Jane Austen Festival in April was on making a Regency day cap. Generally speaking, I don’t really like the look of historical caps but I thought that being married and having attained a much more “mature” age I probably should consider wearing one occasionally with my costumes. The other benefit of them is that it stops your hair getting stuck in straw bonnets!

At the workshop, we were provided with all the materials and instructions to make this cap but only really had time to learn the stitches and begin the first few edges of hemming. So this was one of the first projects I took out to finish once I arrived home.

Stitches Used

Rolled Hem

A rolled hem is a common stitch used in historical sewing, particularly for hemming the edges of ruffles and fine linens. There are many tutorials online for handsewing a rolled hem, so I will not repeat one here except to include a helpful photo.

Doing a rolled hem; by Hub Pages

Doing a rolled hem; on Hub Pages (link below)

Whipped Gather

This is a useful stitch for both neatening and gathering an edge of fabric at the same time. Here is a useful tutorial:


This is a great stitch for seams and is often used in historical stitching. Once again, there are many tutorials online for this, but I have just included a photo for demonstration.

A whipstitch; from

Stitching a whipstitch; from Holiday Crafts and Creations (link below)

Patterns for caps; from The Workwoman's Guide to

Patterns for caps; from The Workwoman’s Guide (1840). Whilst these are Victorian caps, Figure 13 is the most similar to mine, using a horseshoe shaped capote.

Pattern and Construction Tips

The pattern I have used for my cap was supplied at the workshop, but there are patterns for many sorts of historical day caps online (such as the pattern from Kanniks Korner) or you could make up your own pattern.

There are basically four pieces to my cap:

  • the capote (the head piece) – mine is an “arch” or “horseshoe” shaped piece and needs to be large enough to fit your head when gathered up,
  • the head band – which needs to fit from ear to ear over the top of your head,
  • the frill – which (as a good gathering guide) needs to be at least 2.5 times the length of the head band,
  • the ties – cut two for tying under the chin.

My cap also had a small casing at the centre back (at the nape of the neck) to accommodate a cotton-tape tie. This made it adjustable around the back of the neck.

All the raw edges of each piece of my cap were neatened first, either by using the whipped gather (for any gathered edges) or the rolled hem (for all other edges). Then the pieces were sewn together with a whipstitch. This method is a good one because it means that there are no fraying edges on the inside.

A close up of the stitches attaching the frill to the band. This is the right side and you can see how the gathering looks when finished.

A close up of the stitches attaching the frill to the band. This is the right side and you can see how the gathering looks when finished.

Front of cap: my daughter is modelling it for me.

Front view of cap: my daughter is modelling it for me.

Back view of cap

Back view of cap

I really enjoyed handstitching this cap, and I think it looks really cute! (My husband wasn’t as enthusiastic and I think the kids just said it looked good to be encouraging…) I found it so therapeutic to sit and handsew in the evenings that I am now busy trying to decide what else I could make fully handstitched.

Related Posts

A Late Regency Bonnet

Sources and Relevant Links

How to sew a rolled hem – tutorial on Hub Pages

How to sew a rolled whipped gather – Youtube tutorial

How to sew a whipstitch – tutorial on Holiday Crafts and Creations

“Madame Novice” using the pattern from Kanniks Korner: Women’s and Girl’s Caps (1740-1820)

Kanniks Korner: Pattern for Women’s and Girl’s Caps – scroll down a little to find the relevant pattern.

The Workwoman’s Guide (1840) – read online

Jane Austen Festival Australia – website

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Thursday night's gown

Thursday night’s gown

On the 18th of April I travelled to Canberra, Australia, for the annual Regency event, the Jane Austen Festival!

Day One

The Festival began with a casual evening of eating, last minute sewing and chatting at the Director’s house. I also got the opportunity to peruse some old dancing books, gaze at beautiful paintings of ballroom dancers and handle some extant garments.

Friday's gown

Friday’s gown

Day Two

On Friday the day began at St Johns Church with a dancing session to learn the basics of the Country Dance. In the next session I also learnt the rudiments of the Cotillion and the Quadrille. The Cotillion was the forerunner of the Quadrille and, as I have done a lot of Quadrille dancing in Australian Colonial dancing, it was interesting to find out how the dance had developed.

In the next session I had my first proper millinery lesson, making a late Regency bonnet out of buckram and wire. I am really excited about finishing this project now that I am home, as then I will be able to extend my previously meagre hat-making skills to the much more complicated Victorian hats!

Later in the afternoon I managed to view some more extant garments; a cotton day dress, a bib-front silk ballgown, a spencer, and chemise. I find examining the construction techniques of dresses of this era fascinating and I wished that I had more time to take some notes.

For my last workshop of the afternoon I learnt to make Dorset Buttons. I have been wanting to learn this technique for a while and I am really pleased with my first attempt!

The Fashion Parade

The Stars of the Fashion Parade

The evening session – the “Dinner with Darcy” Variety night – began with a lovely traditional English roast dinner. We were entertained with delightfully humorous Regency-themed plays and lovely opera-style singing. A fashion parade, truly a feast for the eyes, illustrated the main shifts of fashion from 1780 through to 1820 and even featured one of my own garments! There were even some fancy French dances beautifully performed for us. The night finished with a fine British sing-a-long, featuring The British Grenadiers, Greensleeves, and Rule Britannia.

Muskets were notoriously unreliable in hitting targets, so in order to improve their effectiveness as weapons, the company were required to shoot in unison at the command of their leader.

Muskets were notoriously unreliable in hitting targets so in order to improve their effectiveness as weapons, the company were required to shoot in unison at the command of their leader.

Day Three

Saturday began with some more dancing workshops to teach the Essentials for Capital Dancing for the coming ball that night, and I also managed to learn some Finishing Dances that were often danced to conclude a Regency evening.

Over lunch we were able to view a company of Grenadiers loading (or pretending to load…) and firing their muskets! They also did a demonstration of how bayonets were attached to the end of the musket in order to use the firearm as a hand-to-hand combat weapon.

A Death Head button; blue cotton thread wrapped around a disc.

A Death Head button; blue cotton thread wrapped around a disc.

I spent the afternoon running a Chemisette Making workshop and then learnt how to make Death Head buttons, which are discs of wood or horn wrapped in thread. Whilst my example is fairly plain, different coloured threads can be used to create a contrast in the weaving pattern and the result can be extremely decorative. I am planning to use this new skill to adorn an eighteenth century frock coat for my husband.

I also managed to view a study table of extant examples of Regency accessories during the course of the afternoon, examining coin purses, reticules, fans, jewellery boxes, and shoes.

My sister and I dancing on Saturday night's Grand Napoleonic Ball!

My sister and I dancing at Saturday night’s Grand Napoleonic Ball!

In the evening we all donned our ballgowns and jewels and attended the Grand Napoleonic Ball, dancing until midnight! It was great to see a completely full hall of enthusiastic dancers and costumers. Aside from a quick trip upstairs for a photo shoot, I think I danced every dance and I was VERY stiff and sore the next morning!

Day Four

My sister and I in the horse and carriage.

My sister and I in the horse and carriage.

On Sunday we met at the historic grounds of Lanyon Homestead for a “Picnic at Pemberley”. We were all conducted on a tour of the homestead, gardens and outbuildings, and then had a lovely lunch and a horse and carriage ride. The day was gloriously sunny and provided me with the perfect occasion to use my new parasol!

The afternoon was spent back at St Johns Church with a Country Fayre, including various stalls, maypole dancing, a fencing display, more dancing and a concert.

My latest ballgown and my entry into the 1813 Costume Competition.

My latest ballgown and my entry into the JAFA 1813 Costume Competition.

The Jane Austen Cotillion Ball was held in the evening and was a great conclusion to the festival. The entrants in the 1813 Costume Competition paraded in their garments and the winners were announced – a three-way win of which I was one! There was also a Regency Gentleman’s Costume Competition this year, with entrants falling under the sub-categories of Mr Darcy, Mr Wickham, Colonel Fitzwilliam or Mr Collins. As part of the competition, the entrants had to pretend to be single, and the “Mr Collins” entry was particularly entertaining!

I really have loved attending this festival over the last two years, and I would highly recommend it! It is full of friendly people who are all eager to try new things and learn from each other. This year we even had visitors from as far as France and America! The festival also offers a great opportunity for people who are interested in learning about a variety of topics relevant to the Regency era, such as history, fashion, dancing, sewing, Regency entertainments and even war. My only lament is that there is not enough time to do all the things I want to do. Even so, I am looking forward to next year already!

Related Posts

My Regency Journey: The Destination – a post on the Jane Austen Festival (Australia) for 2012

Sources and Relevant Links

Jane Austen Festival Australia – website

More photos of JAFA online – from The Canberra Times

A report on the Today Show about this years JAFA – (I am on TV!!! If you can’t see me, I am to the very right of screen in the dancing scenes, with my back to the camera.)

Another person’s Impression of the 2013 Jane Austen Festival Australia – by the Tailor’s Apprentice

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My tenth stop in my Regency Journey is to look at some of the various Regency accessories that will complement my Regency ensemble.

Accessories for a Regency costume

Once you have your appropriate undergarments and outer garments, consider searching for some of the following items. This is what I will be taking to the Jane Austen Festival.

  • Reticules – I made mine!
  • A fan or two or three – I have a bit of a collection going.

Some of my fan collection. The plainer ones are probably more strictly Regency.

  • Elbow length gloves for evening wear – Regency ones are a little baggy around the elbows.

A few of my vintage glove collection. The shorter ones will do for daywear if it is cold, but the longer ones reach to my elbow and have pearl buttons on them, which will match my gown nicely.

  • Jewellery – Little crucifixes on necklaces were very popular. I am also taking some pearls for the ball.

Some pretty pearls! I have yet to find a crucifix that looks right for Regency.

  • Headwear – I have made two bonnets which will match my day dresses. Evening headwear includes ostrich plums or turbans, but instead of making these I decided to dress my hair with ribbon or a length of pearls for the ball.

My two bonnets, for day wear

  • Shoes  – For during the day, half boots or ankle length leather boots were worn. For the evening, flat slippers or ballet flats can be used for dancing.
  • Parasol – Whilst lovely and elegant for a Regency picnic, this is more of a desirable extra!
The final stop on my Regency Journey will be to practise some Regency hairstyles. – coming soon!

You can follow all of these posts in order at My Regency Journey.

Related Posts

My Regency Journey: Making Reticules

How to Make a Regency Poke Bonnet in Ten Steps

Sources and Relevant Links

Regency Costume Accessories – Jessamyn’s Costume Companion has useful links and suggestions for costume accessories, as well as some ‘How to’ links.

Regency Hairstyles – Locks of Elegance has a few really simple but pretty Regency hairstyles to try.

Jane Austen Festival, Australia – website

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A reticule to match my ball gown, with tassels, pearls and white embroidery.

The ninth stop on my Regency Journey is to make a reticule, the Regency version of a handbag.

In the 18th century, women had carried their various personal effects in pockets worn underneath their wide dresses, but with the introduction of the long slim dresses of the Regency, pockets were discarded. Instead, women began to carry small bags, called reticules.

There was no “common” type of reticule in the Regency era, much like there is no “common” handbag today, but instead there was a wide range of designs, colours and embellishments used. There were knitted ones, netted ones, and others made out of fabric. They were decorated with embroidery, sequins, lace, tassels, ribbon and beads.

I wanted to make several reticules to match the different outfits I had made for the Jane Austen Festival. This meant that I could experiment with several different designs.

A round-shaped reticule to match one of my day dresses. It has a decorative strip of pin-tucked material sewn around the bottom half.

Making a Regency Reticule

There are many online tutorials and free patterns and instructions for making Regency reticules, so rather than repeat what has already been done, I will outline the basics.

The basics to making a reticule:

  • To make a reticule, make sure your material is at least 10-12 inches deep and, if you are doing a round-shaped reticule, 20 inches across. You need to have it big enough to put your hand in, as well as a fan, gloves and maybe a purse, car keys or mobile phone. (Mobile phones are DEFINITELY Regency! *wink*)
  • Regardless of your design, lining your reticule is preferable, as it gives a nicer finish because there are no raw seams showing. If you are gathering the bottom edge of the reticule (as you do for a round-shaped one), the lining will stop items falling out the bottom, as there is a small hole around the bottom gathers in the outer fabric.
  • Gather the top with a two-way drawstring, that way it is easier to close. It also means you have two nice handles to hold it by.

A reticule with matching bonnet. I embroidered my initial on the bag and did some ribbon embroidery flowers to decorate it. The pattern for this shape is pictured below.

My reticule pattern, on 1/4 inch grid paper

Other ideas:

  • There are quite a few different shapes that a reticule can take, so experiment with different patterns.
  • Embroidery on reticules was very common in Regency times. If you are not very confident doing your own embroidery, try and find some fabric that is already embroidered.
  • It is a good idea to finish decorating the outer bag before attaching the lining! I was amazed how difficult it was to attach tassels once the bag was made!
Whilst reticules did not always match the dress worn by a lady, making matching ones is a great way to use up left-over material! It’s my cup of tea!

The next stop on My Regency Journey is looking at Regency accessories.

You can read all of my posts in order at My Regency Journey.

Related Posts

My Regency Journey: In the beginning…

My Regency Journey: Making a ball gown

How to make a Regency Poke Bonnet in Ten Steps

Sources and Relevant Links

Different types of reticules – this site has links to quite a variety of period museum examples of Regency reticules

Free pattern for a reticule – I used this to make my ballgown reticule.

Video Tutorial for making a round drawstring bag

Regency Embroidery Patterns

Jane Austen Festival Australia – website


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A Regency chemisette from the Snowsill Collection

The seventh stop on my Regency Journey is to make a chemisette to go underneath my day dresses.

In the Regency era, a chemisette was commonly worn underneath a morning dress to fill in the neckline. It covered the visible shoulders and chest to make the outfit appear more modest. They were usually made of a fine lawn or cambric, or a thin muslin.

Other acceptable garments to properly cover the exposed neck and chest included a fichu or neck scarf.

In contrast, evening gowns were much more revealing, with the dresses cut very low around the bust and the sleeves worn quite short.

Making a Chemisette

I used the pattern for a chemisette (dated from 1800-1825) in Patterns of Fashion 1, by Janet Arnold.

Two chemisettes; pictured in Patterns of Fashion 1, by Janet Arnold.

First, I traced and cut out the pattern on 1/4 inch grid paper.

The front and back sections traced on grid paper.

Then I made small vertical tucks to the front panel, from the shoulder seam to the bottom edge. Unfortunately Janet Arnold does not show exactly how these were done in this example, so I made them up myself! I did ten 1/8″ tucks, spaced 1 inch apart.

Once the front panel fitted the back panel smoothly, I sewed the shoulder seam, using a flat felled seam.

The shoulder seams sewn, with the vertical tucks in the front panels.

I hemmed the side seams (where the arms go) and the centre front opening, and then sewed a casing along the bottom edge for a drawstring or ribbon to go through. Once the ribbon was threaded through the casing, I sewed a stitch in the casing at the centre back to anchor the drawstring.

I cheated a little for the mushroom-pleated frill, using a mushroom-pleated length of organza lace I had in my lace stash. I attached two lines of the lace to a piece of ribbon (1cm wide). One line of the lace was sewn to one edge of the ribbon, and the other line of lace to the other edge, so that one layer nicely overlapped the other. Then the “lace collar” was attached to the bodice so that the right side of the lace was on visible to the outside when the frill was folded down.

A close-up of the lace frill, with the one layer peeping out beneath the other layer.

Janet Arnold has instructions on how to make the frill if you are not inclined to cheat like me! Use a 90 inch length of material cut on the straight grain (2 and 1/4″ wide at the centre back graduating to 1 and 1/2″ wide at the centre front). There are three layers of frill in her left-hand picture and two layers in the right-hand sketch. These layers are then mushroom-pleated onto tapes which are then fitted onto the collar. Mushroom-pleating is a very fine tight pleat that resembles the underside of a mushroom.

To finish it off, I added two lengths of cord at the top of the centre front to do up the chemisette.

The finished chemisette!

Looking very Regency!

The next stop on my Regency Journey will be to make a ball gown.

To read all my posts in order, go to My Regency Journey.

Related Posts

My Regency Journey: In the beginning…

My Regency Journey: Making a Dress for Daywear

My Regency Journey: Making a Morning Negligee

Sources and Relevant Links

Patterns of Fashion 1: Englishwomen’s dresses and their construction c. 1660-1860, by Janet Arnold – buy through Amazon

The pictured Regency chemisette, from the Snowsill Wade Collection

Sewing Pin Tucks

How to do flat-felled seams

Mushroom pleating

Jane Austen Festival – website

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This week I received a special gift in the mail from a friend. It was a little children’s board book, but what got me most was the title!

Pride and Prejudice; a BabyLit book

It is a basic baby’s counting book, using some common items mentioned in Jane Austen’s novel, Pride and Prejudice.

2 Rich Gentlemen

It is so cute!

4 Marriage Proposals: My favourite page!

My favourite page is the one showing four marriage proposals!

Mr Collins to Lizzy: “We Shall Marry!” “No Way!”

Mr Darcy to Lizzy (first time): “Marry Me?” “NO!”

Mr Darcy to Lizzy (second time): “Please Marry Me?” “YES!”

Mr Bingley to Jane: “Will You Marry Me?” “Oh Sure!”

This book is one of the BabyLit series, by Jennifer Adams, which tailors literature classics for pre-reading young children. Some of the other books in this series are: Jane Eyre, Romeo and Juliet, and Alice in Wonderland. They are published by Gibbs Smith and illustrated by Alison Oliver.

My two angels, having their first introduction to good literature!

Baby’s literature! This is my cup of tea!

Related Posts

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Sources and Relevant Links

BabyLit website

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Ackermann’s Repository was a publication dedicated to, according to its title, the Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions and Politics. In 1818 there appeared in its pages a letter from a reader concerning the path to a happy marriage (entitled, Rules and Maxims for Matrimonial Happiness).

Its contents could initially be supposed, by a person – like myself – distant to the time period, to be an adequate reflection of the ideals of marriage in the early nineteenth century, however a reply in the next issue of the journal leads me to suppose that this man’s conservative opinion was truly conservative.

The opening paragraph of Miss Sophia Stickelfort's letter

This reply, written by a lady called Sophia Stickelfort, contains much admonishment to the Editor for his insertion of such a letter. She goes on to exclaim that “no woman possessing an atom of feeling or spirit, could ever live happily with a man who would observe the rules laid down by him.” (Which I can readily believe!)

She criticises the creator of ‘Rules and Maxims’, wondering how his married life could have been so miserable when he has been in possession of such rules that he claims could have improved the happiness of any who would follow them. She does acknowledge that women do promise “to love, cherish and to obey” when they repeat after the clergyman their Anglican marriage vows, but she points out that the writer seems to have forgotten his own part in the ceremony, that is, his pledge to “love and to cherish”.

I found it rather funny to hear her relate the manner in which women found their own type of “power” in this type of marriage.

You know, Mr Editor, or at least if you are a married man you ought to know, that in most families the nominal supremacy is vested in the husband, but the real power is in the hands of the wife; that is to say, she is contented to let her husband appear to rule, provided she rules him.

It was also interesting to hear her admit that it is not an ideal way for women to have power, but that a husband’s authority should hold sway. However, she does follow with an important point about the rights of women to self-govern their behaviour.

Now I am willing to admit, that this is wrong on the part of the wife, for in certain points I think the husband’s authority ought to be undisputed; but I should like to know, has the wife no rights of her own to defend? Are her time, her occupations, even her amusements, to be at the mercy of an arbitrary master – who will undervalue her talents, be a spy upon her conduct, and refuse her even the liberty of reading such authors as she may prefer; for what else can be meant by the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth articles?

Husbands might benefit from their own advice!

She goes on to express her desire that men should also read the sermons of “the fathers of the church” in order to provide themselves with instruction, which is not all that unreasonable. It is unfortunate that, while men have told women for centuries that they should obey their husbands (which it never actually says in the Bible, though it does say “submit”), the sentence where St Paul declares that husbands should love their wives as Christ loves the church and gave Himself for her, is less often quoted (Ephesians 5:25). I am sure that if all women were loved like this, they would have had a lot less trouble obeying!

I find that more light is shed on the actual state of marriage in the Regency period when this lady states, “I have no objection to make to those [rules] which he has added for the use of wives: on the contrary, I think that the observance of them would essentially promote matrimonial happiness.” These rules, which are reprinted in full in my former post, cluster around issues of respect for the husband and, whilst they are still quite conservative, they may merely be the way in which Regency wives demonstrated their love and respect for their husbands.

A new principle for happiness in marriage...

Sophia Sticklefort’s main contention seems to be with this man’s view of the manner in which a husband should deal with his wife. The author of ‘Rules and Maxims’ seems to represent the view that no reciprocal love or respect from the husband to the wife is necessary in a marriage, which is clearly (in my mind, and even in a Regency woman’s mind) not conducive to marital happiness!

In her conclusion, she quotes a poem by Matthew Prior (1664-1721) and suggests that any such rules for connubial felicity need to be set on “a different principle”; in short, a principle of love, forgiveness, and gentleness. What good advice!

Whilst the beginning of the nineteenth century was a time where women did not have most (or any) of the same rights as men, there was still the prevailing opinion – according to contemporary sources – that men and women were equal (if not in the sight of the law, in the sight of God at least!).

In addition, the prevailing opinion was changing as to the acceptable reasons for marrying. The decision of whom to marry, whilst still a financial decision, was changing so that love and affection could also form part of the choice.

Jane Austen, in her letters to her niece (1814), encouraged her to choose a husband for whom she felt affection.

Nothing can be compared to the misery of being bound without love.

Jane still maintained the importance of marrying someone who had the means to live, but equal to that was her conviction that love was something to be desired in a marriage.

There are such beings in the world, perhaps one in a thousand, as the creature you and I should think perfection, where grace and spirit are united to worth, where the manners are equal to the heart and understanding, but such a person may not come in your way, or, is he does, he may not be the eldest son of a man of fortune, the near relation of your particular friend and belonging to your own country. […] Anything is to be preferred or endured rather than marrying without affection…

I find it reassuring that, regardless of the state of women’s rights in the nineteenth century, it did seem to be recognised that in order to have a happy marriage both parties needed to love and respect each other! Good advice in any century!

Related Posts

Advice to Avoid Matrimonial Misery

Sources and Relevant Links

Ackermann’s Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions and Politics (1818) – This letter was printed on page 86-87.

The Solemnisation of Matrimony, The Book of Common Prayer (for the Anglican Church)

Ephesians, Chapter 5, King James Version

Matthew Prior’s poems

Letters of Jane Austen to her niece, Fanny Knight

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The benefits of marriage have been long understood, and were even pronounced solemnly during the wedding service!

First, It was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.

Secondly, It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ’s body.

Thirdly, It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.

The Solemnisation of Matrimony, from The Book of Common Prayer (1662)

However, despite such a long and glorious tradition, one continues to wonder at the key to a happy marriage! Unfortunately, it is not just in the modern era that we wonder such things. They also did in 1818, with one reader of Ackermann’s Repository (1818) composing a rather extensive set of directives “for producing connubial felicity” for the betterment of his fellow man.

The Editor, in accepting this letter for publication, acknowledged that the author of it had also related his tales of woe concerning his own marriage and the misery that it had caused him. Undoubtedly, you will not find it hard to imagine him in misery upon reading his advice to husbands and wives.

Rules and Maxims for Matrimonial Happiness

  1. When courting your mistress [future wife], never miscall her by the name of angel or goddess, lest she mistake it for truth, and forget that she is mortal and a woman.
  2. When putting the question (as it is termed), be careful not to allow her to suppose that your happiness, or even comfort, depends on her assent: recollect that you are making a proposal, not begging a boon.
  3. Teach her beforehand, that the marriage ceremony is not a mere matter of form, and explain fully the meaning of the word obey.
  4. Be careful. at church, that she repeats every word distinctly after the clergyman, that she may afterwards have no excuse for acting in opposition.
  5. When you take her home, tell her that she is to command your servants, but that you are to command her. On placing in her hands the household sceptre, make her understand, that she is only a tributary sovereign, and that you are her liege lord.
  6. Be not imperious, but decided, and always speak as if it were a matter of course to be obeyed.
  7. Be not backward to blame, lest she attribute it to fear: if once she knows that you are afraid of her, your authority is at an end, and you become a poor, degraded, dependant, miserable creature.
  8. If pleasure or business take you from home, expect cheerful looks on your return; the surest way to secure them is to give them: a wife, like the moon, should shine by reflection, and her brightness should arise from the glory of her husband. Be sure, however, to guard against the variableness of your moon, and allow no one to eclipse her in your eyes.
  9. If she be of an obstinate or sulky temper, do not proceed to extremities, lest you fail, but shew he that you do not mind it: treat her as if you did not perceive it, and her own mortification will be her cure.
  10. If she be passionate and violent, be you cool and collected in proportion: if she irritates you, she has mounted one step of her throne and you descended one step of yours.
  11. Treat her as the mistress of your family before the servants, owning you only as her superior and lord paramount.
  12. If she be fond of reading (which itself is a misfortune, and to be discouraged), let her have no novels: if she must read, give her the memoirs of Roman wives and matrons: if she prefer light reading, put before her the words of the fathers of the church.
  13. Be careful that she do not think too well of herself in point of learning, lest she soon fancy herself superior.
  14. If she be witty, teach her that the best mode of shewing it is to conceal it.
  15. If you take her to places of public amusement, make her know that it is the reward of, and not a bribe to, good conduct.
  16. Let her be as little as possible along: if a man, according to the philosopher, is not to be trusted by himself, ought we to have more confidence in a woman?
  17. Finally, love her, but do not shew it too much, lest she take advantage of it: as all wives desire power, it should be the business of all husbands to prevent their obtaining it.

But wait! There’s more! This gentleman also furnished the Editor with a second set of maxims to which wives should adhere to.

Rules to be Observed by Wives

  1. When a young gentleman makes you an offer, hold yourself flattered by his preference, and be proportionately grateful.
  2. If you accept him (which we will suppose of course), study his temper and inclinations, that you may better accommodate your own to them.
  3. After marriage obey him cheerfully, even though you think him in error: it is better that he should do wrong in what he commands, than that you should do wrong in objecting to it.
  4. If he flatters you, do not forget that it is but flattery: think lowly of yourself and highly of him, or at least make him believe so.
  5. If you see any imperfections in your husband (which there may be), do not pride yourself of your penetration in discovering them, but on your forbearance in not pointing them out: strive shew no superiority, but in good temper.
  6. Bear in mind continually, that you are weak and dependant; and even if you are beautiful, that it adds to your weakness and dependance.
  7. If you displease him, be the first to conciliate and to mend: there is no degradation in seeking peace, or in shewing that you love your husband better than your triumph.
  8. If misfortunes assail you, remember that you ought to sustain you share of the burden: imitate your husband’s fortitude, or shew your own for his imitation.
  9. When you rise in the morning, resolve to be cheerful for the day: let your smiles dispel his frowns.
  10. Take pride in concealing your husband’s infirmities from others, rather than in proclaiming them: you will only be laughed at by all your acquaintances if you tell his faults to one.
  11. Endeavour rather to save than to spend your husband’s money: if his fortune be large, strive to preserve it; if small, to increase it.
  12. Be not importunate or obtrusive in your fondness, and choose proper occasions for your caresses, lest they prove wearisome.
  13. Finally, recollect always that God has made yon subject to him, and that he is your natural guardian and protector; that you owe your husband not less honour than love, and not less love than obedience.

Now, it needs to be said that this view of matrimony, even in 1818, was a little conservative. Even James Forsythe, an Anglican clergyman, was not so conservative when he wrote his Sermons to Young Women (1766) and his Addresses to Young Men (1777).

Jane Austen (1775-1817), whose father was a devout clergyman (as was two of her brothers) and was herself also considered to be very religious, would hardly have condoned this view of matrimony. The Austen family (both women and men) certainly ALL read novels!

This article was also written considerably before the stricter Victorian ideals about female behaviour had entered English society. This leads me to consider that this gentleman occupies the conservative side of the debate in his day. It also makes me wonder what sort of woman he married!

I have written a subsequent post about the response the Editor received in the next issue of Ackermann’s Repository, after the publication of this advice.

Related Posts

A Reply to Rules and Maxims for Matrimonial Happiness

Sources and Relevant Links

Ackermann’s Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions and Politics (1818) – this letter was printed on page 29-32.

The (Anglican) Book of Common Prayer

The Solemnisation of Matrimony, The Book of Common Prayer

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I love Jane Austen! She is one of my favourite authors. I am therefore very excited to announce that, in April 2012, I am travelling to Canberra, Australia, for the Jane Austen Festival!

From Pride and Prejudice (BBC)

The Jane Austen Festival is an annual festival held in Canberra, Australia, to celebrate the Regency era. The three day program includes a Country Fayre, a Festival Ball, and a promenade around Lake Burley Griffin. The weekend is filled with dance classes, sewing classes, an archery competition, and a number of talks on a variety of Regency topics.

The other wonderfully exciting thing about this festival is that Regency costumes are worn by the participants almost all the time!

Whilst I love sewing historical costumes, I have never actually made any from the Regency era, so I am about to embark on three months of mad drafting and sewing in order to finish some costumes for the festival. During this time, I will blog my progress, linking each post to the items below.

I will need to make:

A Regency-style chemise

A Regency-style corset

A chemisette – for daywear

A bodiced petticoat

A Morning dress for day wear

An embroidered dress for day wear

A Regency ball gown

Several matching reticules

As well as:

Regency Accessories

Regency Hairstyles

Or you can go to My Regency Journey page to view all the posts in order.

I look forward to posting more about my exciting Regency Journey soon. I hope you enjoy following my progress!

There are similar festivals to celebrate the Regency era and Jane Austen all over the world. Check out the one nearest you!

Dressing up! My cup of tea!

Relevant Posts

How to make a Regency Poke Bonnet in Ten Steps

My Regency Journey: The Destination! – see what I did at the Jane Austen Festival, Australia, in 2012.

Relevant Links

Jane Austen Festival in Canberra, Australia – website

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