Saturday, 11 May 2013

The Regency Ball - plus a chance to share Regency romances

It's 200 years since the publication of Pride and Prejudice. To celebrate this, the BBC recreated the ball that was held in the novel at Netherfield, in an attempt to better understand the world and society of Jane Austen.  The ball was recreated at Chawton House, one of the homes of Jane Austen's brother Edward Austen and a house she knew well. (BBC IPlayer link here.)

Watching it was fascinating. To begin with, the ball was a private one, by invitation only. Public balls during the Regency were public assembly balls, where everyone could come and therefore possibly more vulgar than the quality could wish for. Private balls were more exclusive.

A private ball was a sign of status and rank. After the dancers put on their dancing shoes and lined up to start, the guests of highest rank were closest to the orchestra. Costumes were hand-made, bespoke, and the cut, fabric, fitting and details would reveal class. The way the ball was lit with expensive beeswax candles, fine mirrors reflecting their light, showed status. The food served in the dinning room was expensive, with white soup being a popular choice and game seen as a symbol of the aristocracy. When everyone was seated at the dinner table, people helped themselves and each other, so this was a chance to show off fine or not-so-good manners.

Whether public or private, the ball was a chance to shine. For young women it was a rare opportunity to flirt, to see and be seen. A girl could show off her talents in sewing by hand-making her gown and her skill in dancing and music through dances such as the cotillion. The Regency's stress on accomplishments for young ladies might seem a little irrelevant to us, but at the time these were practical skills. In an age before supermarkets and chainstores, clothes were often made or remade at home. Sewing was therefore important. Reading, dancing, singing and making music were all useful social skills in a time before the movies, radio or television. Reading was also important in the management of the household.

For young men, too, a ball could be a vital meeting place. In the Regency, a young man wanted above all to pass on his estate. He wanted to secure a good marriage for himself in order to produce heirs. So the dancing and the clothes were designed to show off male virility. A young lady might be able to have a cheat-sheet at a ball by using a fan with the dance steps printed on it. A young man had to know the steps.

Not surprisingly both sexes had dancing masters.

Balls were also pure fun for the participants. The dances - such as the Savage Dance and the Boulanger - were saucy, with lots of chances for touching and looking. The supper was always eagerly anticipated. The Roman Punch and other drinks served at breaks through the ball made everyone rather giddy.

A Regency ball was a place of romance and for romance.

Writers! Does your historical romance have a Regency ball in it? Is it a Regency or Georgian romance? If so, please feel free to give details of such stories in the comments section of this blog.

If you like historical romance outside the Regency - medievals, ancient world, Western, Japanese, whatever you choose - come over to my other blog and share your favourites there.

[Illustration from Wikimedia Commons.]

11 comments:

Lindsay Townsend said...

Have a ball!

Lindsay Townsend

Susana Ellis said...

Here's an excerpt from my Regency short story, Treasuring Theresa, an Ellora's Cave Blush Cotillion release:

The dancing had already begun when they arrived. Damian stayed close at Theresa’s side, his arm lightly around her so that his fingers pressed into the small of her back, while she introduced him to her friends and acquaintances. They shared a set of country dances, and when he returned to her side after fetching a glass of lemonade, she was chatting merrily with a cluster of her friends, so he danced a trio of sets with some of the other young ladies. He managed to get back to her in time for the supper dance, just ahead of a tall, fresh-faced youth in a poorly tied Mathematical and a waistcoat that went out of style years ago.

“When does the waltzing begin?” he whispered as they performed the elaborate steps of the country dance. “I must claim the first waltz.”

“We do not waltz here,” she whispered back. “It’s considered far too scandalous. Besides,” she added when they came back together, “we have already danced twice. A third would make us the talk of the shire.”

He chuckled. “Isn’t that what you were aiming for at the Sedgely ball? A juicy scandal to divert the gossips’ attention?”

She looked up at him in surprise. “You know,” she said, “I just realized I don’t care about that anymore. I’m glad Reese is happy with Eugenia.”

“Indeed,” he managed, wondering why he suddenly felt so relieved.

She did condescend to dance another set with him, and Damian hoped all of the old biddy gossips had noticed.

On the return trip, Mrs. Noble babbled on incessantly about gowns and stale cakes while Damian found his eyes lingering over the curvaceous form of the young lady on the seat across from him, the light of the moon being thankfully dim enough to conceal his bold appraisal.

She was silent, in a reflective mood, her head turned toward the window and the shadowed images of the scenery outside.

“Imagine that scamp Dickie Fielding enticing the Hampton chit to meet him in the garden!” Mrs. Noble exclaimed indignantly. “Why I thought her father would explode when they were discovered.” She lowered her voice. “I have it on good authority that they were embracing,” she revealed. “A dreadful scandal indeed should they not marry post-haste.”

Theresa’s head shot around to face him, and he knew she was recalling that night at the betrothal ball when she’d tried to lure him out to the terrace and he’d made a hasty escape. He rather thought now that he would enjoy a pleasant interlude alone in the moonlight with her. He would hold her against him, her head on his chest, while his hands swept over her curves. When he felt her pulse rising, he would draw her chin toward him and take her lips in a long kiss while his other hand would cup her breast, already pebbling with her desire.

Damian froze. What was he thinking? Cousin Theresa was no strumpet. The only way he could indulge in such carnal delights with her would include an obligatory wedding first. And that was out of the question.

Wasn’t it?

Maggi Andersen said...

Great excerpt, Susana! This is from A Baron in her Bed - The Spies of Mayfair Series.
Lord Fortescue bowed. “May I have the pleasure of this dance, Miss Cavendish?”
Horatia baulked at the thought. When news of the waltz had first reached them, lessons had been held at the assembly rooms in St Albans.
Despite Henry partnering her and treading heavily on her toes, she had enjoyed the dance but felt far from confident that she’d mastered it with any degree of grace. Manners dictated she must accept. She murmured a polite response and accompanied him onto the floor. This close, it followed that she would know whether or not he recognized her. She almost welcomed it, for she wished to bring the whole charade to an end.
“This is a dance with which I’m familiar,” he said, drawing her close in his arms. “We danced it in Paris long before it came to England.”
She supposed he considered England far behind Paris in most things fashionable. Finding herself pressed up against his hard chest produced the memory of how it looked unclothed. Her breath caught, and she wriggled within his arm. “We do not dance this close in England, my lord.”
He let her go in surprise then took up the pose again, leaving space between them. “Merci. I did not know. You have saved me from making a faux pas.”
She suspected he knew quite well, for the devilry in his eyes betrayed him. “You might learn by observing others, my lord,” she admonished him.
At least now she could breathe. But this was unlike the night they had spent together, when her disguise had protected her. Did he find her attractive?
She had no idea if his charm was merely part of his personality. It shouldn’t matter, for he would choose a bride from the aristocracy, but somehow it did.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

It was a great programme, Lindsay, and this is one of the reasonss I like the period.

This is from my first Regency novel: Dangerous Deceit.

For answer, he squeezed her hand slightly as he let her go to stand across from him. As he bowed, Lydia could see why Elizabeth had thought him handsome, for he was head and shoulders above the men on either side of him.
Although his pantaloons and jacket fitted him perfectly in a style that would rival Mr Brummell himself, the whole was rather spoiled by his excessive use of lace and a cravat that was in an exaggerated waterfall style, proclaiming him more of a dandy than the perfectly understated Beau Brummell.
Lydia wondered again at Lord Sheldon’s true nature as they met in the centre of the dance, and she glanced briefly into dark grey eyes. She smiled more warmly than she’d meant for she was grateful to him for allowing her a little more respite from Lord Merton’s unwelcome attention. This time she was amused when he raised one fine eyebrow in reply as he guided her in the intricate steps.

Grace Elliot said...

From HOPE'S BETRAYAL -
As she waited in line, clapping in time to the music, she felt eyes boring into her back. She turned and her heart jolted, for Captain Huntley was watching her with a thunderous black look. But then the line of dancers moved up one, and she lost sight of him. Soon it was her turn to promenade with Oswald, and amidst concentrating on the steps and the muddle of couples, she forgot about Huntley, until the final cord struck and Oswald escorted her back to her seat. Surreptisouly she studied the Captain, outwardly he had regained his composure but for an angry vein, ticking at his temple.
"My compliments, Miss Tyler, a most enchanting partner." Oswald placed a lingering kiss on Hope's fingertips.
Huntley grew dangerously still.
"A shame you cannot join the fun," Oswald caste a pitying glance at him, "Watching must be so tedious, especially for a man like yourself, who lived for action."
Hope suppressed a gasp.
"I am not the invalid you presume, Mr. Oswald." Huntley rose to his feet. "Miss. Tyler, would you do me the honour of this next dance?"
Hope found herself trapped between the two men.
"Actually, I am a little hot and would prefer not." The idea of dancing with Huntley did indeed make her feel flushed.
"It seems Miss Tyler prefers my company." Oswald said, nonchalantly, as if taunting Huntley. With the two men almost nose to nose, Hope squeaked.
"Actually, I feel better now. I'd be delighted to dance." She slipped her arm through Huntley's and discretely nudged him away.



From the first few steps George knew this was a mistake; his injured leg made him clumsy as he staggered and limped around the floor. Several times he trod on Hope's feet which she took with good grace and ignored.
"Do you want to sit down? Because if you do, truly, I'm feeling rather hot." She whispered after he nearly fell a second time.
"No, of course not." George hated being petulant and yet he couldn’t help it. Hope was dazzling, her hair bobbing round her glowing cheeks, and yet all he wanted was for the dance to be at an end to sit down like an old man. Well he wouldn’t give in.

Linda Banche said...

Thanks for the opportunity, Lindsay.

Here's the blurb and excerpt from A SIMILAR TASTE IN BOOKS. Pride and Prejudice in the Regency!

BLURB:
Pride and Prejudice has always brought lovers together, even in the Regency.

Justin has a deep, dark secret—he likes that most despised form of literature, the novel. His favorite novel is Pride and Prejudice, and, especially, Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Intelligent, lively, fiercely loyal Miss Elizabeth. How he would love to meet a lady like her.

Clara's favorite novel is Pride and Prejudice and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. Intelligent, steadfast and willing to admit when he is wrong. Can a man as splendid as he exist? And can she find him?

One day in the library, they both check out copies of their favorite book. When Justin bumps into Clara, the magic of their similar taste in books just might make their wishes come true.

A sweet, traditional Regency romance. Book 1 of Love and the Library.

EXCERPT:
With a curt nod to the officious clerk, Justin gathered up his package and stepped back. He collided with the person next in the queue. "I beg your par—"

Before him stood the loveliest lady he had ever seen. She was short and willowy, her dark pink muslin walking dress emphasizing every slender curve. Deep brown curls peeped from the sides of a gauzy matching pink bonnet to frame an oval face. Her skin was creamy, her nose straight and proud.

Miss Elizabeth Bennet! The lady of his dreams! His jaw sagged.

"No harm done, sir." The vision lifted a shapely dark eyebrow. "If I may reach the clerk?" Merry chocolate-colored eyes twinkled up at him and sweet rosy lips dimpled in an amused arch of a grin. A whiff of lilac perfume, delicate as the lady, wafted toward him.

He snapped his mouth shut with an audible click. "Oh, sorry." Damn him for gaping like the veriest fool. Hugging his package to his chest, he stumbled away from the young lady and the plainly dressed woman, most likely her maid, who stood beside her. The maid flashed a grin as if she knew every one of his admiring thoughts.

He bumped into the table by the counter, and pain lanced through his elbow. Cradling his bundle with one arm while rubbing his throbbing forearm, he pretended to study the list of new books on the table, but kept his gaze fixed on the young lady. She was exactly as he had imagined Miss Elizabeth Bennet.

Who was she? And how could he make her acquaintance?

Linda Banche
http://www.lindabanche.com
http://lindabanche.blogspot.com

Killarney said...

Dance on! Here is an excerpt from my latest Crimson Romance release Through Gypsy Eyes. The heroine here is blind.
The overpowering stench of the baron's cologne made her eyes water. His arms were like iron bars, imprisoning her against his bony chest. She fought the urge to revolt and flee.
    "Excuse me, may I cut in?”
Relief flooded her limbs at the earl's request.
The baron stiffened beneath her hand.
As if sensing the baron's displeasure the earl added, “I would have this dance with my charge before I return to Westpoint to pack.”
    Her partner released her. “By all means, Lord Frost. You must of course have the honor before you leave.”
    "Very considerate of you, sir. Miss Daysland, I beg your pardon, baroness, will you do me the honor?”
    Left with little choice in a room crowded with onlookers, she tipped her head in an acquiescent nod. “Of course, my lord.” His sleeve slipped beneath her fingertips, warm and soft. He rested his hand at the juncture of her waist, his other cupping her fingers in a gentle grip. Together they picked up the strains of the fanciful waltz, he leading and her gliding along with more grace at the earl's direction.
    "Are you well pleased with the baron, Delilah?”
    She pursed her lips in annoyance at his too familiar use of her given name. “As pleased as one who is forced to wed can be, my lord.”
    "Hum. You seemed to be in a hurry to attend your nuptials for one so reluctant to marry.”
    In response to his observation her steps became unsure and she faltered. “You were the one in a hurry to marry me off and return to London, my lord.”
    "I only sought to do the right thing by you, nothing more.” His gruff answer didn't quite cover the remorse in his words.
    Tipping her nose with an arrogant sniff she rebuffed him. "And who are you to decide what is the right thing? I was content to go on as I was before you.” If it wouldn't have drawn undo attention she would have left him standing there in the middle of the floor, though in truth she was at a loss as to the way back to her chair.
    He sighed as if dealing with a naughty child. “And allow you go on fooling yourself into believing all was well? Once those blasted servants of yours drained every asset from beneath your nose what would you have done?”
    She bowed her head in defeat. What would she have done? There was nothing she could do in fact. Her total loss at the situation was not something she cared to admit to him, or anyone else. Fumbling for anything to satisfy him, she lifted her chin and scowled. “I would have fired the lot of them and hired ones whom I could trust to be loyal.” His snort of disbelief didn't help bolster her flagging self esteem.
    "It is hard to instill loyalty and trust in servants when they know they have the undeniable advantage, my dear.” His observation was neither mocking nor sympathetic.
    Tears welled up despite her resolve to face him with distance and she blinked them away lest he see. “How dare you! I existed just fine in my own world, until you came along. You forced me to see more than a mere existence, pretended I was desirable with your teasing lips, then dashed my confidence with rejection.” She wrenched from his grasp.
When she would have struck out on her own through the crush of warm bodies he stayed her with his hand. "Forgive me, Delilah. I had no intention of promising you anything with a few misplaced kisses. It was unfair of me. I regret misleading you.”
    "I was a game, nothing but an amusement to you. You are no better than any other man I have met, my lord.” Jerking her arm from his she fled through the varied textured maze of people. Somehow she found herself in a quiet corridor, the sounds of the ballroom faint, but still present. Soft footsteps approached.

Fenella Miller said...

This is from my book Miss Bennet & Mr Bingley - just relaunched with a lovely new cover. It is just as the ball is about to start.
I've not had a chance to see muhc of the P&P ball programme -but will watch it tomorrow.From what I saw it looks wonderful.

Mr Bingley stared with dismay at the row of guests still waiting to be greeted. He glanced towards the ballroom but could not see his Jane amongst the swirling crowd. The orchestra were already tuning up, no doubt they would play something or other until he was free to open the occasion with his chosen partner.
He had no idea that Caroline had invited so many to the event. He had left matters to her, the only party he had been intent on inviting had been those from Longbourn and the officers. He bowed and smiled and nodded for a further twenty minutes and then the queue had gone. He could still hear the sound of carriage wheels on the gravel outside, but there was no one waiting for his attention.
‘Caroline, I have done with standing here. Anyone who arrives after this must find their own way to the ballroom.’
‘Charles, there are still at least ten more couples to arrive. It will look decidedly odd if you, as the host, are not at your station to greet them.’
He grinned, unrepentant. ‘In which case, my dear Caroline, you must make my excuses. The orchestra is ready to play and I am ready to dance.’
He heard her sniff of disapproval as he threaded his way through the throng and into the ballroom. He wished he was as tall as Darcy, then he could see over the heads of his guests and immediately locate his partner. Now, where would she stand? He remembered that the Longbourn party had
gathered near the orchestra at the Meryton assembly he had attended.
Perhaps that would be the best place to start his search.
Several hopeful matrons, no doubt with marriageable daughters, attempted to intercept him but he was fixed in his determination to find his love. He emerged on to the dance floor, and stared down the long room. His smile widened when he saw his quarry.
He had always known that she was the most beautiful young woman he had ever met. Tonight his opinion was doubly confirmed. Jane stood next to Elizabeth, her head erect, her nut brown hair piled up in a complicated arrangement. Her gown, of an unusual blue green colour, moved around her figure like water in a pool.
Elizabeth saw him first and touched her sister’s arm. Immediately Jane turned and the smile that lit her face made him clumsy, almost stopping him in his tracks. He recovered swiftly and strode towards her, bowing
deeply.
‘I believe this is my dance, Miss Bennet, allow me to lead you out.’
She rested her gloved hand on his arm and he was the happiest man alive to have this lovely creature at his side. The conductor waved his baton and the opening chords echoed around the room.
Thanks for hosting this excellent idea.
Fenella J Miller

Vonnie said...

Thank you for the opportunity Lindsay. Because I've written a bunch of Regencies, I'll just give you my links to my Amazon page and my webpage:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Vonnie+Hughes&x=18&y=20

and

www.vonniehughes.com

Take your pick between a middle class convent trained nurse fresh back from the Peninsula who turns to a soldier for help; a crippled lady who helps a returned soldier out of a blue funk; a marriage of convenience between an earl's daughter and a down-to-earth businessman or a young lady who finds romance after her totty-headed sister captures an interesting young man for her!


Vonnie
www.vonniehughes.com

Shereen Vedam said...

Great article, Lindsay.

Balls were very important during the Regency era. It was THE place to be, and be seen.

This excerpt is from - A Beastly Scandal, a Regency romance, where the hero is interacting with his aunt, whom he has had a hard time getting along with.

-------------
His glance was immediately drawn to his aunt where she was busy whispering behind her fan to one of her cronies. The music stopped. He left Susie with Phillip and made his way toward Henrietta Jones. Was it his imagination, or did the level of noise in her vicinity suddenly drop?

She turned to greet him.
“Terrance.”

“Aunt,” he said and bowed.

Her eyebrow rose in inquiry. “Is Susie in trouble? She seemed happy a moment ago.” She gazed anxiously around the ballroom in search of her niece.

“She is with Phillip,” he said. “I came to beg a favor.”

“Of me?” She blinked several times as if to control some discomforting emotion.

“Yes.” He kept his gaze firmly on her and hoped his friends watched him. “I wondered if you would do me the honor of dancing with me.”

The closest old biddy gasped.

Rufus ignored her and everyone else and held out his hand, palm down.

After the briefest hesitation, she placed her hand on the back of his, and they walked to the room’s center. A country tune began, and they joined in.

The second time they came closer, his aunt’s gaze, which had followed his movements throughout, faltered and flickered away. Then she looked at him again and asked, “Do you have something you wish to say to me?”

They took a turn round before the four dancers met and then stepped apart. When next they drew close, he said, “Merely to comment on how well you dance, Aunt.” He gave her the first genuine smile he had since he was a child. “I hope you will invite me to one of your London events this coming Season. I am sorry I missed so many in the past.”

The dance had almost finished before Henrietta spoke again. When they drew close, she whispered, “Thank you, Rufus. You will get the first invite.”

At the tune’s end, he returned her to the midst of her astonished friends and bowed deeply before departing.

-------------

So much can be said without saying a word during a dance. :)

www.rosemarymorris.co.uk said...

Two of my Regency romances have been published as e-books by MuseItupPublishing.

Sunday's Child explores the effects of the Peninsula War on an officer badly affected by a shocking event, at a period in history when post traumatic stress was unheard of.

It also examines the changed attitude of a young woman who wanted to marry an officer,but changes her mind after her father and brothers died in battle fighting against Napoleon's troops.

False Pretences is the tale of Annabelle who, since early childhood spoke French and English fluently. Educated in a boarding school, more than anything else she wants to discover her parents' identity. The novel opens when her unknown guardian ordered to make an arranged marriage to an older Frenchman she has never met, Annabelle runs away, afraid of being forced into marriage and meets a charismatic, mysterious gentleman, who rescues her from a footpad.

You can read the first chapters of thse novels on my website. www.rosemarymorris.co.uk