Thursday, August 26, 2010

A BUSMAN'S HOLIDAY - Sarah Mallory enjoys a little Regency Recreation

I spend my days writing historical romantic adventures, recreating the Georgian or Regency world with words, so when I wanted a break last weekend, what better than to indulge in a Regency Day?
Kedleston Hall is a lovely old house in Derbyshire,often used by TV and film companies for costume drama (including the recent films of Pride & Prejudice and The Duchess). They were staging a special Regency Day in the beautiful pleasure gardens, so we had a chance to enjoy some real Regency entertainments. There were the redcoats giving a display of drill and exercise, including firing their muskets and explaining how they routed the French at Waterloo), plus we could wander through their encampment and talk to the soldiers (eat your heart out, Lydia Bennett!). There was a re-enactment of the Battle of the Nile with a life-size figure of Nelson looking on while miniature English and French navies manoevred on a blue cloth.
We also listened to a hurdy-gurdy man playing popular songs of the day such as The Lass of Richmond Hill and other hits from Vauxhall pleasure gardens. As befits a successful entertainer he had a very pretty companion, an accomplished young lady who sang, played the harp and even the trumpet for the more military songs! Before the advent of radio and the i-pod this is the way most people heard and learned new songs at fairs and in the public pleasure gardens.

Then we wandered over to see Mr Punch getting the better of the dastardly Napoleon Bonaparte: it was such a treat to see a modern day audience of children enjoying Punch's antics – shouts of "wake up, Punch!" and "He's there behind you!" rang out at regular intervals. It may not be politically correct (Punch had started by burying his wife in the garden) but it was great fun.

The weather was lovely, so we could wander through the pleasure gardens and see Regency ladies and gentlemen taking refreshments in the orangery – and I think I even spotted one couple heading off for a tryst in the summer house!

This is all grist to the historical novelist's mill and even the weather was kind and a beautifully warm, sunny day showed the gardens at their best.
All novelists need inspiration, and while the Regency Day didn't fire my imagination with any plots, it did help to bring the settings alive – and showed the difficulties for ladies of trying to walk up a flight of stairs whilst carrying a fan and a reticule, holding up a parasol and lifting ones' skirts enough to clear the steps without exposing more than a glimpse of an ankle!

Great stuff! If you want to see pictures of the day, you can visit my website at



Vince said...

Hi Sarah:

As I read this post, I could just see you walking into that summer house and coming out in 1811. Have you done a paranormal? I’d love to read about a Regency author going back in time and comparing what she thinks she knows of the period to how it really was. Perhaps it could be a romantic comedy. It might also be fun if you met characters with the same names as characters you used in your books and you had trouble keeping them apart. I’m ready to pre-order the book now!

Loved your pictures.


Sarah Mallory said...

Hi Vince, thanks for dropping by - love the premise for your paranormal, but not sure it hasn't been done! Sounds a very good plot, so I might investigate it a bit further.

While we were walking around the grounds I did think you could imagine a re-enactor suddenly finding that they were not acting any more, but had been transported back to the real thing.

Vince said...

Hi Sharon:

I’m sure that story has been done but I had in mind a real Regency author using real characters from her books and using her real name. I even see it written in the first person POV. I think fans who have read past books would go crazy over the book. Especially when the author meets a character that she tormented in one of her books. It probably should be short -- perhaps just 160 pages long. I see it as the perfect Christmas gift for fans to receive.

I did outline and write part of a re-enactor story about a woman Latin teacher who was so in love with the early 19th century she moved to Ft. Gibson in Oklahoma and took a job in the old Fort. One night she goes to a re-enactor ball. Zactory Taylor is the commandant at the time. She is totally authentic. She weaves her own clothes, and keeps only coins from the period in her pockets. At the ball she starts complimenting all the actors for the authenticity of their clothing. They think she is kidding but she finds out she really is back in 1832.

When she says she’s from the future she can’t prove it. Her outfit is authentic and in her purse are only coins minted no later than 1830. She has no fillings in her teeth. She tells them about electricity but she can’t explain how it works. She tells them about computers and TV but she has no idea how they work.

Finally she takes a job as a Latin teacher and adapts just fine. Zachery Taylor thinks she cute telling him he would become President of the US. “Lady, this is one of the worst posts in the Army. I am a complete nobody.”


Sarah Mallory said...

Fascinating, Vince, your re-enactors story made me chuckle - there are such a wealth of stories one can weave about the past, aren't there?

And who knows, I might even write up the author meeting up with her characters at some stage (it might even end up as a crime novel!)