Thursday, 8 June 2017

Exciting News!



I am thrilled finally to be able to announce my new project, which has just gone up on Amazon for pre-order!


Honoured I am to be able to reveal I am joining a group of wonderful Regency authors in a fantastic series of full-length novels, called the Heart of a Hero Series!

"What if your favourite superheroes had Regency-era doppelgangers? And what if a group of them were recruited by the Duke of Wellington to gather intelligence for him during the Napoleonic Wars while they protected their own parts of the realm?
You'd get The Heart of a Hero series."


The Missing Duke


 


Blurb

When his father dies, Lord Adam Bateman refuses to succeed to the dukedom which rightly belongs to his missing elder brother. Whilst performing secret and sensitive missions for the Duke of Wellington, he continues his efforts to find his twin. The search has become Adam’s all-consuming passion, leaving no time for affairs of the heart. 

Miss Lucy Mercier is also seeking answers. Her father, a tailor, had been used to make hot air balloons for various noble patrons, including Lord Adam’s sire. Believing the deceased Duke of Wardley had been involved in her papa’s failure to return from the Continent, she takes employment in Lord Adam’s household in order to discover the truth. Then she accompanies him on an important commission for the Allied Army, and finds herself having to guard against a growing attraction for a man she knows she can never have. 

Are the two disappearances connected and will two heads prove better than one in the pursuit of answers? Will Adam and Lucy find true happiness together or will the past – and their different stations – rise to keep them apart?





Sunday, 14 May 2017

A Minstrel's Ballad



Lady Penrhyn
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons


THE Minstrel came from beyond the sea,
And weary with his toil was he;
But wearied more, that in one long year
No news of his lady he could hear.
By land and sea he had wander'd far,
With Hope alone for a guiding star;
Yet had he been so tempest lost,
That oft the guiding star was lost.


Safe from the land, safe from the main,
Again he has reached his native Spain;
And he feels of its sun the blessed glow,
And inhales new life, as its breezes blow.
Yet he will not stop, nor he will not stay,
But onward goes, by night and by day;
Till at length he has reach'd that fateful spot,
Ne'er from the parting hour forgot.


There—and he dare no farther go
To seek what he dies, yet dreads, to know;
And he lingers till the moonlight hour,
When that lady lov'd to sing in her bower.
Oh! will this dazzling sun ne'er fade,
This sky ne'er soften into shade;
Longer than all that came before,
Will never this joyless day be o'er:


Faded, at last the sun's red ray
Softened the sky to cloudless gray;
The longest noon must have its night,—
And o'er the bower the moon rose bright.
Roses are wavering in its beam,
As thro' their foliage zephyrs stream;
Perfumes are floating on the air,
But no sweet song is singing there.


He listens—listens—but in vain,
From that low bower there breathes no strain:
“Yet may she come"—for Hope will stay,
Even till her last star fades away.
“Yet may she come”—no more—no more,—
The dreamings of thy heart be o'er:
Who slumbers the long sleep of rest,
Is dull to the voice she once lov'd best.


A ray within the green bower shone,
It danced upon a funeral stone;
There sculptured was a well-known name,
The name most dear—the same—the same!
That night, and o'er lost hope he mourn'd;
But ere again the hour return'd,
Had parted from his native shore
An exile—to return no more.


Yet, as he left that bower of woe,
That all of his constancy might know,
A ringlet of hair on that grave he bound,
A chain of gold round that pillar he wound.


lsabel D.

From The Literary Gazette, January 1818, Public Domain

Friday, 21 April 2017

Tea ~ The Best Drink of the Day





“Tea – the best drink of the day.” Taken from a 1978 advert, this quote echoes this author’s sentiments very nicely. I suspect a large majority of the UK population, and possibly that of America too, fall into one of two camps – tea drinkers or coffee drinkers (unless they are vampires, of course, because Vampires Don’t Drink Coffee!)


Fresh tea


As a nation, the English are traditionally tea drinkers. It is as much a part of our heritage as roast beef, sausages (bangers) and mash and apple pie. The Chinese have drunk tea for centuries, so we were comparatively late to cotton on, but now we have… it is frequently the turn-to beverage for all occasions, whether celebratory (where a glass of bubbly is not feasible!), consoling or re-energising.


In the sixteenth century, Portuguese traders followed by the Dutch, came across tea in the East Indies. An agent in the East India Company, one ‘Mr. Wickham’ (I am smiling as I type) wrote to an officer of the company, a ‘Mr. Eaton’, asking for ‘a pot of the best Chaw’. (Clarissa Dickson-Wright, A History of English Food). I wonder if this is where the expression ‘char’ comes from, to then be appropriated by those sterling purveyors of our favourite British refreshment, the char lady. Tea was inordinately expensive then and in the reign of James I one pound of leaves was sold for anything from £6-£10, which was a lot of money in those times. By the sixteen-fifties, the healthful properties of Chinese tea ‘…called… by other nations Tay, alias Tee,’ became recognized and was advertised for sale at ‘…the Sultaness Head, a coffee house… by the Royal Exchange, London.’ Meanwhile, at the celebrated Garraway’s Coffee House, situated directly opposite the Exchange in ‘Change Alley, Thomas Garraway, ‘…Tobacconist and Seller and Retailer of tea and coffee…’ was quick to extol the benefits of leaf tea in a pamphlet thought to have been printed in 1660. He stocked various qualities of teas, ranging between sixteen and fifty shillings per pound. (The Mirror of Literature, Amusement and Instruction, 1840.)


Chinese teas


Although it would most likely have been plain wood, Thomas Garraway may well have stocked his shop in a manner not dissimilar to this.

Clarissa Dickson-Wright suggests that Catherine of Braganza, wife of Charles II, being familiar with tea in her native Portugal, was instrumental in popularizing our national drink. Clarissa also gives it as her opinion that the custard tarts to be found in Portuguese cafes are of English origin, since London at the time was famous for both custard and custard tarts. However that may be, tea was here to stay.

An English Tea Party, Van Aken
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The first tea, popular in Queen Anne’s reign, was Bohea, a black tea from the Wuiy Hills, Fukien province in China. This term came to mean black teas grown elsewhere. Bohea was generally served in a dish rather than a tea-cup. Originally of the finest quality, it is now considered the lowest. It was soon to be superseded by Hyson tea (a kind of Chinese green tea and the same which was dumped in Boston Harbour).


Boston Tea Party, Nathaniel Currier
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons


Due to its popularity, in 1717 Thomas Twining opened a tea-shop for ladies, the first of its kind, since the coffee houses were strictly the domain of the male half of the population. Not to be outdone, Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens opened a tea-garden in 1720. An English institution was truly born and tea drinking became all the rage. Twinings developed the blend of black teas with added oil of bergamot, now known as Earl Grey, and named for Charles Grey, the 2nd Earl, who was Prime Minister from November 1830 to July 1834.




Black, green and fruit teas








The aristocracy demanded beautiful vessels in which to serve this by-now fashionable drink and that led to the development of the renowned English bone china. Pewter had neither elegance nor refinement enough to suit the wealthy beau monde. Josiah Wedgewood (1730 – 1795) and others began to produce beautiful fine porcelain tea services, as well as novelty items – not much changes, when you think about it. Wedgewood even produced a teapot representing the new modish vegetable, the humble cauliflower. Famous manufactories sprang up, in places such as Derby and Worcester.


Worcester porcelain at Hanbury Hall, Author
To begin with, tea was drunk sweetened and without milk. However, therein began a dilemma which continues to this very day. Fine porcelain cracks under the heat of freshly brewed tea and it is possible this led to the discovery that a little milk poured into the cup first (thus cooling the liquid) reduced this occurrence. When the stronger, less refined teas started appearing in the nineteenth century, the addition of milk became ever more popular. Nevertheless, during Georgian and Regency times, tea was still ridiculously expensive. The duty was astronomical, which led to it being an oft-smuggled commodity along with the (perhaps) more familiar brandy, rum, spices, coffee and silks.






Regency Breakfast Tea Caddy, mahogany


Due to this inordinate cost, China tea was kept in a caddy, locked with a key, so the servants could not either drink it or steal it to sell, although it must be remembered that the sale of used tea leaves was one of the perks. Such items as coffee, tea, sugar and spices were kept in a dry storeroom, usually situated off the housekeeper’s room and under her sole charge. Sugar came in large loaves and had to be cut into cubes or ground with a mortar; this was then kept in a covered bowl in a drawer to prevent spoiling by mice. We really do not know we are born nowadays!

Tea, then, was originally drunk at breakfast or in the drawing room after dinner, when a tray was brought in. This also included coffee and various cakes. Afternoon tea was thought to have been started by Anna, Duchess of Bedford, in the early 1800s. She is said to have been prone to ‘a hollow feeling’ midway through the afternoon. One day, therefore, she invited friends to Woburn Abbey at five o’clock, for a meal which included bread and butter, sandwiches, various sweetmeats and small cakes. Continuing through the summer, the engagement proved so well-attended, on her return to Town she sent out cards for ‘tea and a walking the fields’. Meadows still abounded close to the City in those days. The idea took off, was copied by other hostesses and thus ‘tea time’ was established.

Low or Afternoon tea was traditionally taken by the aristocracy at four o’clock, before the fashionable hour for taking the air in Hyde Park. It consisted of sandwiches with the crusts removed, biscuits and cakes. High tea was more substantial and eaten by those lower down the social scale, between five and six pm. It was more like dinner, with additional bread, scones and cake.


All images public domain unless otherwise stated. 

© Heather King



 

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

HORSES IN ART ~ FREEDOM VERSUS SAFETY





FULL TITLE: THE STABLES AND TWO FAMOUS RUNNING HORSES BELONGING TO HIS GRACE THE DUKE OF BOLTON

Also by James Seymour (1702 – 1752), this well-known picture was painted in 1747. An oil on canvas, it measures 24½” x 29¼” (2’ ½” x 2’ 5¼”) or 62 x 74cm. It is part of the Paul Mellon Collection and currently hangs in the Yale Center for British Art.

The Stables and Two Running Horses
James Seymour

I am lucky enough to possess a print of this painting, given to me by a good friend. It tells us so much about the way horses were kept in Georgian times, but I will get to that later.

From London, James Seymour was the son of James Seymour Snr., a banker, diamond merchant, goldsmith, artist and art dealer. Through him, James Jnr. came into contact with all the foremost artists of the day at the Virtuosi Club of Saint Luke, a gentlemen’s club for the lovers or portrayers of art. Seymour Snr. traded in Mitre Court, Fleet Street, under the sign of the Flower-de-Luce. Seymour Jnr. was basically self-taught, learning from the study of various works in his father’s possession. There are drawings in the British Museum of horses’ heads, which he produced in the style of Van Dyck and Tempesta.

When his father died, James Seymour inherited a fortune and was thus able to indulge his favourite pursuits. He adored horses and racing. He enjoyed the high life… and he enjoyed gambling. In the words of George Vertue, art diarist of the time (Tate website):

Jimmy Seymor... from his infancy had a genius to drawing of Horses (this he pursued with great Spirit set out with all sorts... The darling of his Father run thro some thousands - livd gay high and loosely - horse raceing gameing women &c. country houses. never studied enough to colour or paint well but his necessityes - obliged him to work or starve thus his time passd the latter part of his life in baseness and want of all necessaries and dyed in Town in the lowest circumstances & in debt - Southwark June - 1752. aged about or under 50.

Seymour spent more and more time on his passion for horses. He owned and bred them; he raced them; he drew and painted them. Many sporting and aristocratic gentlemen found his work appealing and he began to be patronized by such men as the Duke of Bolton, Charles Seymour, the 6th Duke of Somerset, and Sir William Jolliffe. James Seymour was renowned for his accurate representations of horses (although, in this painting, the groom is rather less well observed), unlike John Wootton, who was born twenty years earlier, who was often cited as flattering his patrons by exaggerating the size of their equine partners. In some ways, there was a progression of equestrian art, since George Stubbs, born twenty years after Seymour, used scientific research (by dissecting horse carcases) to further his knowledge and professional standing as an artist. Unfortunately, Seymour’s taste for gambling bankrupted him and he was forced to work, yet still died in penury in spite of being well paid by his aristocratic subjects. Nevertheless, he became celebrated in Europe and America and is considered one of the most influential artists of the early sporting school.

There is often a misconception in modern historical fiction, that horses were kept in stables as we would recognize them today – that is, a loose box with half doors. This is not the case. As so beautifully depicted by James Seymour, horses – even ‘famous running [race] horses’ were kept in stalls. They are tethered by log and rope, a simple mechanism of a weight on the end of the lead rein, which passes through a hole in the manger. This allows the horse a certain amount of freedom to move and lie down, but not to turn around or leave the stall. Sometimes, a chain is hooked across the end posts.

Horses have been domesticated for hundreds of years. Their natural habitat is wild, open grassland, where they can see the approach of predators from miles away. It is therefore a testament to their wonderful, giving nature, that they allow us to incarcerate them in small boxes for long periods of time. Yet they are also wise creatures. In the wild, they must forage for food, sometimes travelling miles in the process; suffer extremes of weather; fall prey to predators, disease, malnutrition, lack of water… While not disputing for a moment those dreadful cases of neglect the various animal charities work so hard to prevent, for the most part the domesticated horse is far better off than his wild counterpart.

Consider the shine on the quarters of these two running horses. That is the result of thorough grooming, good feed and exercise. As these two turn towards the groom bringing feed, their eyes are bright; they are alert. The chestnut (the one on the right) would seem to be nickering – making a soft sound of greeting and anticipation. They are rugged up, to keep them warm and protect them from draughts. The stalls are well banked with clean bedding. They have a human servant to provide their every need. As any horse owner knows, if the care is lacking, it shows in the horse’s coat and demeanour. These two are quite content with their lot, even if, like most of us, they have to work for it.
 


© Heather King

Monday, 20 March 2017

High Jinks At Hanbury Hall







For me, one of the joys of being an historical author is visiting stately homes. We are so lucky in the United Kingdom in the number of properties run by the National Trust, English Heritage and other such organizations and thus open to the public. If I can visit a country house in the company of another author or a good friend, then even better. I love first to go for a walk around the grounds with my dog and then take my time absorbing details of architecture, furniture and furnishings.

I write Regency romance and am proud to do so, but I also like to weave real historical detail into the fabric of my stories. If, therefore, I can come across real-life romance and true scandal I can use, then all the better! In few places could you find a more newsworthy and juicy story than at Hanbury Hall.

On St. Patrick’s Day, I met up with lovely Regency author Elizabeth Johns and we spent the afternoon at Hanbury. We went first to view the Ice House, which is set in the grounds of a cottage a short walk from the Hall. Ice Houses vary in design; this one is approached via a low, dark tunnel which I confess I found somewhat claustrophobic even though it was only a few yards long. At the end is a railing, because the tunnel opens into a circular chamber which drops three metres below ground level. It was rather disorientating, looking down into the shaft and with the air temperature considerably cooler than outside, even though it was quite a cold day. Water from a pool was drained into the ice house via a sluice gate and when it had frozen, was removed via the tunnel. It was used all the year round, for drinks, cooling foods, ices, sorbets etcetera. Having seen the base of the chamber, where there is a drainage hole for meltwater, I am very glad I have a fridge!

We then returned to the house for a guided tour, something I had always missed on previous visits. The house dates from 1701, according to the date on the stone plinth over the doorway, but this may be disputed. The house was built by wealthy lawyer Thomas Vernon, although the estate was bought by his grandfather Edward Vernon in 1631. Somehow, Thomas persuaded Court painter Sir James Thornhill (the first English artist to be knighted) to travel into Worcestershire and execute various paintings in the house. Hanbury Hall is justifiably proud of the works, particularly the staircase murals. According to Nikolaus Pevsner, the staircase dates from c. 1710 and can be compared with those at Hampton Court, Drayton and Boughton, both in Northants. This then dates the paintings to that time. The main mural depicts Achilles being found by Odysseus.


Finding of Achilles
Attribution Sjwells53


Intriguingly, although this is ostensibly a painting of classical mythology, Sir James Thornhill was the Court painter and one piece of salacious gossip is wickedly referred to by the artist. The two ladies to the rear and right of the painting were ‘bosom buddies’, you might say. The lady in turquoise, who looks enceinte, is Queen Anne. The little boy peering behind her is Prince William, who suffered from Water on the Brain (Hydrocephalus). The lady on the left is Abigail Masham (née Hill, cousin of Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough). A former servant, Abigail was brought to Court by Lady Sarah.

Brought up together in the household of the Duke of York, Princess Anne and Sarah Jennings (Jenyns) became the most devoted of friends and companions. They even coined the names Mrs. Morley (Anne) and Mrs. Freeman (Sarah) in order to exchange letters and converse freely on an equal footing. Anne was a bit of a dull, easily coerced personality, while Sarah was forceful, blunt and opinionated. Sarah’s close friendship with and influence over Princess, and later, Queen Anne led to her becoming a most powerful figure of the Court, with a meteoric rise to fame and fortune. She was made Lady of the Bedchamber, among several other titles. This success was in no way hindered by her marriage to John Churchill, Earl of Marlborough and later 1st Duke of Marlborough, a soldier and statesman who rose to Captain-General of the British Army. The Queen described her relationship with Sarah as a ‘most sincere and tender passion’. Unfortunately for their Graces, however, Sarah’s political manoeuvrings eventually tried the patience of even her close friend the Queen and they drifted apart. When she discovered that not only was Abigail occupying apartments in Kensington Palace Sarah considered hers, she was spending two hours a day in privacy with Anne, Sarah was furious. It is suggested she may have instructed her secretary, Arthur Maynwaring, to produce satirical pamphlets and poems proclaiming the ‘sweet service’ and ‘dark Deeds at Night’ that Abigail allegedly provided to Anne the ‘sweet service’ and ‘dark Deeds at Night’ that Abigail allegedly provided to Anne.

Whether or not there was a ‘romantic friendship’ between Anne and Abigail, a rift occurred between the Queen and the Duchess which was never repaired. Sarah was made to resign her offices and the Churchills were dismissed from Court.

So, to return to the painting at Hanbury, Abigail is pointing towards Achilles (centre, with the spear) and smirking. Achilles has the face of Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, and is depicted looking away. Sir James was having a little laugh at their expense. If you now cast your eye to the foreground, dear reader, you will espy two more tongue-in-cheek inclusions. The lady in green is holding a hand glass and in the arms of the seated lady behind her is a King Charles spaniel. Of course, neither of those things existed in Achilles’ time!

No matter her personal preferences, Queen Anne conceived eighteen children. For those of us who love the Georgian and Regency eras, it is perhaps as well none of them lived beyond infancy, or we would not have had the Hanoverian rule which has given us so much in the way of architecture, furniture and literature, not least Jane Austen. Without her, Sir Walter Scott and others, Georgette Heyer would not have created the Regency genre, so loved by readers across the globe, nor would the many wordsmiths writing now have been inspired to bring their own Regency stories to life.

We continued our tour of the ground floor, progressing via the Smoking Room to the Dining Room, once part of Thomas Vernon’s own apartments. In about 1830, a wall was removed and the ceiling aligned to conjoin his withdrawing room and lobby. On the ceiling of the Dining Room (Withdrawing Room) are two more Thornhill paintings, one of the North Wind, Boreas; the second of Apollo and his chariot. My apologies for the quality of the photo.






The pies in the centre of the table are mutton ‘Kit-Kat pyes’, so named for the Kit-Kat Club and the pieman who made them, Christopher Catt. Thomas Vernon was a member of the Kit-Kat Club. (See blog post on the Gentlemen’s Clubs.)





 
Thus we come to the true high jinks associated with Hanbury Hall. It is a piece of Georgian scandal which rocked the higher echelons of Society and is a cracker. Thomas Vernon (1654-1721) had no children and bequeathed the Hall to his second cousin, Bowater Vernon (1683-1735). Although the Will was unsuccessfully disputed by Richard Acherley, husband of Thomas’ sister, Elizabeth and himself a lawyer, Bowater enjoyed the benefits of his inheritance. He spent some of his time at his London residence in New Bond Street and some at Holt Castle in Worcestershire, taking his place at Hanbury in 1733 after the death of Thomas’ widow, Mary Vernon. Bowater died only two years later, following a stroke. He was succeeded by his son, Thomas (1724-71) who also died young and from a stroke. He left one daughter, Emma, who was brought up in London by her mother.


Emma made the acquaintance of one Henry Cecil (1754-1804), both nephew and heir of the 9th Earl of Exeter, incumbent of one of the great stately homes, Burghley House. One cannot help wondering if Lady Vernon had a hand in the marriage, for it was certainly not a love match. How many were in those days? The bride had a portion of £6,000 a year and the groom £3,000.They married in 1776 at St. George’s Chapel, Hanover Square and on removing to Hanbury, set about landscaping the gardens in the style of Capability Brown, who had completed the sweeping vistas of Croome Court, near Pershore (also in Worcestershire) for the Earl of Coventry. They did away with the formal parterre, but thanks to the detailed plans commissioned by Bowater, the National Trust has been able to restore the original gardens. The interior was also substantially remodelled.




Nevertheless, despite a combined fortune of £9,000, the marriage ran into debt and disillusionment. Emma had a mind of her own and was inclined towards wilfulness, while Henry was, on the whole, disinterested and detached. The one child of the union died when but a few weeks old. Possibly as a result of this loss, Emma began to imbibe Madeira and Norris’ Drops, a Georgian cure-all. The latter contained opium, but she may have taken them to combat early symptoms of Consumption.

Then, in 1785, just weeks after his arrival to assist the rector, she fell in love with the new curate from Lichfield, William Sneyd,. They had a passionate affair, conducted over four years. William also suffered from tuberculosis, so did they share the Norris’ Drops along with billets doux? In May1789, with her lover convalescing in Lichfield, Emma finally confessed to her husband. The marriage was in disarray. Henry had had no idea, but it would appear he was more bemused than irate. Emma was deeply in love with William and after much soul-searching, eloped with him whilst on a business trip with Henry to Birmingham. In an ironic twist, the lovers travelled first to Exeter, followed by Devon and thence to London. The Countess acquired lodgings and was visited there by William. Cecil sued Sneyd in 1790 and was awarded £1,000 in compensation.

Deep in debt, Henry shut up Hanbury and assuming a new identity, departed to a village in a remote part of Shropshire to lick his wounds. A year later, he had a nine day sale and sold the contents of Hanbury Hall. While in Shropshire, he met and bigamously married (albeit under his false name of John Jones) the sixteen-year-old daughter of Thomas Hoggins, a local farmer. This was a serious matter at the time and he and Sarah had to undertake a second wedding ceremony in London in October 1791. Known as the Cottage Countess, Sarah never quite settled into her role as the mistress of a large house when Henry succeeded to his uncle’s estates in 1793 and they moved to Burghley.

Following an Act of Parliament, Emma and Henry were divorced in 1791, enabling Emma to marry William. Since he was in poor health, they moved to Lisbon, but he died only two years later. Distraught, Emma came back to England, but she could not mourn for long. A further two years on, in 1795, she married for the third time, to John Phillips, a friend and executor of her second husband. They moved to a house near Bewdley to live retired from Society. However, Fate had not finished with Emma. In 1804 she once more took up residence at Hanbury Hall, following Henry Cecil’s death. Much work on the estate then had to be undertaken, in the way of repairs and rebuilding work to the farms, due to neglect. She had returned to where she belonged and the Vernon name to the family seat.

Emma herself lived at Hanbury until her death in 1818. Whether or not she was happy with John Phillips, we shall never know, but it is said she refused to be buried in the Vernon family vault, instead choosing to be wrapped in a sheet which had once covered William Sneyd, thence to be buried near the Hanbury churchyard wall.

Life is often stranger than fiction, but love did at least triumph in the end!



With ideas buzzing in our heads, Elizabeth and I toured the rooms upstairs, viewing some Worcester and Meissen porcelain, before returning to the car and a rather late picnic lunch!

We didn’t get to the Orangery on this occasion, but one of these days I will post some pictures of that. However, here is a view towards the house along the Cedar Avenue. You can imagine what it must have been like in the house's heyday!





Unless otherwise stated, all images are the property of the author and may not be copied or republished without expressed permission.
 


© Heather King

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Lemon & Sugar or Something Else?



Pancakes


According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word pancake comes from late Middle English, a thin, flat cake made of batter, fried in a pan. This suggests the flat batter rounds we still enjoy today were known in the Middle Ages. Further, according to an article in the National Geographic, prehistoric man may well have eaten pancakes. Research suggests, from remains of starchy compounds found on grinding tools from 30,000 years ago, that flour was made from such items as cattails. It further seems possible, from educated guesswork, this flour was mixed with water and baked, perhaps on a hot rock, with or without fat.

“The ancient Greeks and Romans ate pancakes, sweetened with honey; the Elizabethans ate them flavoured with spices, rosewater, sherry, and apples.”

It has long been the tradition in Great Britain to eat several pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, partly to use up foods such as eggs, butter and milk (which would not keep in the days before fridges and freezers!) and partly as a last feast before the fasting decreed by Lent.



In Georgian and Regency times, pancakes were enjoyed by all members of society, from the royal table, where cream-filled crêpes prepared by His Majesty’s French chef tantalized the guests, to the poor road sweeper filling his stomach on flour and water cakes.

There were a host of instructional tomes written for housewives and domestic cooks by retired chefs and housekeepers. In 1774, Hannah Glasse published The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy (Which far exceeds any Thing of the kind yet Published).

To make pancakes
TAKE a quart of milk, heat in six or eight eggs, leaving half the whites out; mix it well till your batter is of a fine thickness. You must observe to mix your flour first with a little milk then' add the rest by degrees; put in two spoonfuls of beaten ginger, a glass of brandy, a little salt; stir all together, make your stew-pan very clean, put in a piece of butter as big as a walnut, then pour in a ladleful of batter, which will make a pancake, moving the pan round that the batter be all over the pan; shake the pan, and when you think that side is enough, toss it; if you can't, tum it cleverly, and when both sides are done, lay it in a dish before the fire, and so do the rest. You must take care they are dry; when you send them to table strew a little sugar over them.

Hannah also gives four recipes (or receipts) ‘To make fine pancakes’. Here are two of them.

TAKE half a pint of cream, half a pint of sack, the yolks of eighteen eggs beat fine, a little salt, half a pound of fine sugar, a little beaten cinnamon, mace, and nutmeg; then put in as much flour as will run thin over the pan, and fry them in fresh butter. -This sort of pancake will not be crisp, but very good.

A quire of paper.
TAKE a pint of cream, six eggs, three spoonfuls of fine flour, three of sack, one of orange-flower water, a little sugar and half a nutmeg grated, half a pound of melted butter almost cold; mingle all well together, and butter the pan for the first pancake; let them run as thin as possible; when they are just coloured they are enough and so do with all the fine pancakes.

The Experienced English Housekeeper, Elizabeth Raffald, gave some different recipes in 1782.

To make Wafer Pancakes:
BEAT four eggs well with two spoonfuls of fine flour, and two of cream, one ounce of loaf sugar, beat and sifted, half a nutmeg grated, put a little cold butter in a clean cloth, and rub your pan well with it, pour in your batter and make it as thin as a wafer, fry it only on one side, put them on a dish, and grate sugar betwixt every pancake, and send them hot to the table.

To make Clary Pancakes
BEAT three eggs with three spoonfuls of fine flour, and a little salt, exceeding well, mix them with a pint of milk, and put lard into your pan; when it is hot, pour in your batter as thin as possible, then lay in your clary leaves, and pour a little more batter thin over them, fry them a fine brown, and serve them up.

To make Tansey Pancakes.
BEAT four eggs, and put to them half a pint of cream, four spoonfuls of flour, and two of fine sugar, beat them a quarter of an hour, then put in one spoonful of the juice of tansey, and two of the juice of spinage with a little grated nutmeg, beat all well together, and fry them in fresh butter: garnish them with quarters of Seville oranges, grate double refined sugar over them, and send them up hot.

To make a pink-coloured Pancake.
BOIL a large beet root tender, and beat it fine in a marble mortar, then add the yolks of four eggs, two spoonfuls of flour, and three spoonfuls of good cream, sweeten it to your taste, and grate in half a nutmeg, and put in a glass of brandy; beat them all together half an hour, fry them in butter, and garnish them with green sweetmeats, preserved apricots, or green sprigs of myrtle.—It is a pretty corner dish for either dinner or supper.

Writing in The Art of Cookery in 1802, John Molland had some interesting advice.

Pancakes.
To half a pound of best white flour sifted add a little salt, grated nutmeg, cream or new milk, and mix them well together; then whisk eight eggs, put them to the above, and beat the mixture for ten minutes till perfectly smooth and light, and let it be of a moderate thickness. When the cakes are to be fried, put a little piece of lard or fresh butter in each frying-pan over a regular fire, and when hot put in the mixture, a sufficient quantity just to cover the bottom of each pan, fry them of a nice colour, and serve them up very hot. Serve with them, likewise, some sifted loaf sugar, pounded cinnamon, and Seville orange, on separate plates.
N. B. Before the frying pans are used let them be prepared with a bit of butter put into each and ' burnt; then wipe them very clean with a dry cloth, as this method prevents the batter from sticking to the pan when frying.

In 1811, John Farley, ‘formerly principal cook at the London Tavern’ published The London Cook and Domestic Housekeepers’ Complete Assistant. It is interesting to note that his recipe for Milk Pancakes would appear to be the same as quoted above from Hannah Glasse, almost word for word. He also includes a recipe for A quire of paper. Guess what? Yes, not quite word for word, but today it would be considered plagiarism without a doubt! However, I have included his rice pancakes as I did not include Hannah’s.

Rice Pancakes
TAKE three spoonsful of flour of rice, and a quart of cream; set it on a slow fire, and keep stirring it till as thick as pap: pour into it half a pound of butter and a nutmeg grated: pour it into an earthern pan, and when cold, stir in three or four spoonsful of flour, a little salt, some sugar, and nine eggs well beaten; mix all well together, and fry them nicely. When cream is not to be had, use new milk, and a spoonful more of the flour of rice.

Happy Pancake Day!


© Heather King

Thursday, 16 February 2017

HORSES IN ART ~ FLYING CHILDERS





THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE’S FLYING CHILDERS


One of the most famous racehorses of a generation, this portrait is an oil on canvas, painted by James Seymour (1702 – 1752) circa 1742 and measures 40” x 50” (101.6 x 127 cm). It is part of the Paul Mellon Collection and hangs in the Yale Center for British Art.



The Duke of Devonshire's Flying Childers
 
Flying Childers was a Thoroughbred stallion belonging to the 4th Duke of Devonshire. He was bred in 1715 by Colonel Leonard Childers of Carr House near Doncaster, and sold to the Duke when still young. The colt was sometimes known as the Devonshire Childers or simply Childers. He was by the Darley Arabian out of a mare called Betty Leedes by Careless. Careless (sometimes called Old or Wharton’s Careless) was by the famous grey stallion, Spanker and out of Sister to Leedes by the Leedes' Arabian. The Darley Arabian was, in the main, kept as a private stallion and Betty Leedes was one of the few visiting mares accepted. Flying Childers was – and is still regarded as – one of the fastest horses ever raced. In the History of the British Turf by James Christie Whyte has this to say:


“About the year 1721, Childers ran a trial against Almanzor and the Duke of Rutland's Brown Betty, carrying 9st. 21b. over the Round Course* at Newmarket in six minutes, and 40 seconds; and it was thought that he moved 82 feet and a half in one second of time, which is nearly at the rate of one mile in a minute, a degree of velocity, which no horse has been known to exceed.”

* The Round Course is 3 miles 4 furlongs, and 93 yards in length.

In 2011, the unbeaten Frankel won the 2000 Guineas Classic over the Rowley Mile at Newmarket in a time more than thirty seconds faster than the then course record. This was forty seconds slower than Flying Childers.

He is described by James Whyte as a chestnut horse with part white on his nose and four white socks, although the General Stud Book states he is a bay with a white blaze. If James Seymour’s portrait is accurate, he would certainly appear to have a bay coat. Although the Duke of Devonshire received several offers for the colt, including, it is reputed, one of the horse’s weight in gold, he remained in the Cavendish ownership until his death aged twenty-six and stood at his Grace’s stud at Chatsworth.

The painting shows Flying Childers held by a groom, on Newmarket Heath or a racecourse. The post behind the horse is probably the ‘Rubbing Post’, so-called because after a race, the horses gathered at this point to be rubbed down. The horse has his ears back and is showing the whites of his eyes. This could be taken as a sign of bad temper, but given the surroundings, and the fact that he appears ‘tucked up’ (the line of his belly rises sharply from behind the girth to his hind leg), it suggests to me that he is still ‘wound up’ with the excitement of either racing or training.

Flying Childers’ Arabian heritage is clear for the knowledgeable to see. The painting shows the fine legs, tapered nose, dished face and, although docked after the custom of the time, his tail is raised, suggesting the characteristic high carriage of the Arab. Standing 15.2 hands at the withers, he was tall, not only for a racehorse of the time but also the Arabian breed in general. Purebreds usually stand between 14 and 14.2 hands. He did, however match the height of his sire, himself unusually tall for his breed. 

Although the style of painting could be described as naïve, Seymour has captured the horse’s tension and also a certain wariness on the part of the groom – shown in the way he is holding the reins and the slightly defensive stance, as if he is ready for trouble – although his expression is calm. His charge was a stallion and they can be notoriously difficult to handle. His sire’s original name was ‘Ras el Fedowi’, which translates as ‘The Headstrong One’.

Flying Childers was himself successful at stud, but he was eclipsed (if you will excuse the pun) by his generally-accepted full brother, Bartlett’s Childers, owned by Mr. Bartlett of Nuttle Court near Masham in Yorkshire. Young or Bartlett’s Childers did not race, due to his propensity to bleed from the nose. This gave rise to his other name, Bleeding Childers. However, he was extremely successful at stud, siring several influential horses, not least Marske, sire of the mighty Eclipse, whose top speed, it is claimed, was matched only by Flying Childers.




© Heather King

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

The English Country House ~ The Library




Those of us who love books very often have our own collections, carefully arranged on bookcases and shelves, or, in this modern age, stored in electronic devices. We correlate them by type (paperback or hardback), by author, by fiction or non-fiction, by subject. We caress them lovingly, re-read favourites over and over and admire glossy pictures in educational tomes.
 

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, books were also a sign of status and wealth. A leather-bound volume was an expensive item – a far cry from the digital e-book of today. Many landowners gathered together large collections of books, sometimes from all over the world, just for the distinction of possession and with little interest in their contents. That said, there were many scholars who collected rare manuscripts, and a classical education – including, of course, the Grand Tour – were a pre requisite of the English gentleman. It was considered of enormous importance that a Regency gentleman had a sound knowledge of the Antiquities, of politics, philosophy, literature and science, so a wide a range of subjects as possible was collected by most. The owner could thus converse with authority at his Club, at House Parties and other social occasions. Even the bruising rider to hounds could turn his mind to more elevated concerns when in the company of such notables of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as Sir Robert Walpole, John Locke, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Oliver Goldsmith, Charles James Fox and Thomas Charles Bunbury, to say nothing of the esteem conferred by ‘hob-nobbing’ with the Duke of Wellington, William Wilberforce, Lord George Byron and Beau Brummell.
 

The library was often a place of sanctuary for the master of the house, where he could smoke his pipe, indulge in a glass or two of brandy and contemplate upon his next speech in the Lords or how to persuade his lady not to bankrupt him during the course of his daughters’ comings out. It was usually furnished in a masculine style, with comfortable armchairs, robust cabinets and tables and a solid library table, the correct term for a flat-topped desk with drawers and knee space. As all aficionados of Georgette Heyer will know, a young lady desirous to ‘cut a dash’ in Society did not wish to be thought ‘bookish’. Too much book learning was not considered pleasing unless one was immensely wealthy, in which case one was likely to be indulgently deemed eccentric.
 

Sometimes, books were housed in specially constructed oak or walnut stepped units, such as at Boughton, where they were installed for the 1st Duke of Montagu. In earlier centuries, however, it was frequently the case that books were stored randomly and not placed with spines facing the observer as they are nowadays. At Charlecote Park in Warwickshire, early seventeenth century volumes are titled across the leaves between the opening edges of the covers. Furthermore, in Charlecote church, the marble tomb of Sir Thomas Lacy shows them carved in this way. By the Regency era, and the resurgence of classicism, many libraries became designed specifically to display the owner’s book collection. Pedimented bookcases to reflect the architecture can be seen at Holkham Hall in Norfolk, where they were a revolutionary introduction by William Kent. At Holkham, the fifty-four foot long library is part of Lord Leicester’s private apartments and is still used as a family room. I find it hard to imagine children and dogs rampaging around this elegance, though, as in the 1732 painting by William Hogarth of The Cholmondeley Family in a similar book room.
 

The painting belongs to a private collection and is currently on display in the Tate (Gallery).



The long library at Holkham Hall by John Chapman
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons





The original design for above the fireplace was an oval painting of Apollo with his lyre, but the lion depicted is an antique mosaic, brought back from his Grand Tour by Lord Leicester.


The pedimented feature on the bookcases was recreated at Berrington Hall in Herefordshire. Berrington was built by Thomas Harley, who inherited his library from his great-grandfather, Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford, who died in 1724. He was succeeded by his son Edward, who left this world in 1741. Sadly, much of the collection was sold in 1744. Edward Harley was ‘a close friend of Pope, Swift and Matthew Prior’ and was one of the first to instigate the practice of keeping large collections of books in the country, where there was greater opportunity to peruse and appreciate them. Unfortunately, those books enjoyed by Thomas Harley were sold by the 7th Lord Rodney, who turned the library into a billiard room.


Library, Berrington Hall



The library at Berrington has several interesting features for the historical author. The picture above (apologies for the quality) does not show the pediment on the fitted bookcases designed by Henry Holland, but it is reflected on the pier-table and over the fireplace, as are the narrow Ionic pilasters. A ‘Greek key’ decoration, embellished with mistletoe berries, links the various features. The frieze above has some lovely classical plasterwork to reflect the origins of the architecture, and on the ceiling there are ‘portrait medallions’, attributed to Biagio Rebecca, according to the guidebook, commemorating various famous authors. These are, clockwise from the fireplace, Matthew Prior (poet, political ally of Robert Harley), John Milton, Alexander Pope, William Shakespeare, Geoffrey Chaucer, Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon and Joseph Addison.


Frieze, Berrington Hall


Fireplace, showing pediment and Ionic pilasters
Berrington Hall


Portrait Medallions, Library, Berrington Hall



On Wednesday 27 September 1826, diarist William Cobbett visited Stanford Court, the Worcestershire seat of Sir Thomas Winnington, while on one of his Rural Rides. He arrived on the previous day, and had time ‘…to see the place, to look at trees, and the like, and I wished to get away early this morning; but being prevailed on to stay to breakfast, here I am, at six o’clock in the morning, in one of the best and best-stocked private libraries that I ever saw; and, what is more, the owner, from what passed yesterday, when he brought me hither, convinced me that he was acquainted with the insides of the books. I asked, and shall ask, no questions about who got these books together; but the collection is such as, I am sure, I never saw before in a private house.’

In his Guide to Worcestershire of 1868, John Noakes wrote: ‘The Court is delightfully situated, and contains some good paintings and an extensive modern library, with also an ancient one, with panel paintings of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, in the attics, where Sir Thomas frequently brings to light MSS. of great value and interest.’
 

The house was almost destroyed on 5 December 1882, with only the ashlar-faced North Front surviving. The collection of manuscripts and books was sadly lost.
 

Indeed, by the close of the eighteenth century and into the nineteenth, the library reached its height as a book room. It seems that Robert Adam was ahead of the game when he designed a library-sitting room combined at Kenwood House for Lord Mansfield. This was in a side wing, but was nevertheless designed to be a gathering place for guests as well as close members of the family. There are various allusions, in literature of the time, to rooms of this type containing such amusements as billiard tables, piano fortes, paintings, card tables and even French windows leading to gardens and/or conservatories. Paintings show groups of people conversing or engaged in other occupations. Lovers of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice will recall the scene where Lizzie and Miss Bingley patrol the room when Mr. Darcy is writing a letter.
 

In his Fragments, Humphrey Repton is said to have considered this switch of use of the library to a ‘general living-room’ and ‘the best-parlour… of late years the drawing-room, is now generally found a melancholy apartment, when entirely shut up and opened to give the visitors a formal cold reception’ an occurrence of fairly recent usage. However, this might not be the case. At Houghton Hall, Sir Robert Walpole installed his library next to his bedchamber and dressing room, while at Petworth in 1774, the King of Spain’s Bedchamber on the ground floor was converted by the 3rd Earl of Egremont into the present White Library.


The Drawing Room, Calke Abbey
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons



Comfortable clutter was, at times, overshadowed by architectural importance in the form of statuary, literary busts and portraits of men of letters and learning. This was often a conscious reflection of the philosophers, poets, playwrights and scientists whose works adorned the shelves. The Georgians had ever an eye for placement and design. Already mentioned in this article are the plaques on the ceiling at Berrington Hall. At Chesterfield House, a set of literary portraits, beginning with Chaucer and finishing with Dr. Johnson, were displayed in the library, while at Hagley Hall in Worcestershire, there are busts by Peter Scheemakers of Dryden, Milton, Shakespeare and Spenser, as well as a portrait of Pope by Jonathan Richardson.
 

Henry Holland’s library at Woburn Abbey is a warm, inviting room, in direct contrast to the austere and grand proportions of the same room at Sledmere Hall in Yorkshire, which looks more like a ballroom, especially since the carpet (lost in a fire that gutted the room in the first years of the twentieth century) was replaced with parquet. The bookshelves here are recessed into the wall, almost forgotten, whereas at Woburn they are proudly a part of the room’s architecture. Alongside the dry reports of parliamentary proceedings and matters of law, one-time necessaries in an Englishman’s library, march the 6th Duke of Bedford’s own volumes about the wildlife and plants to be found on the estates. Such tomes were surely far more inviting reads!
 

As remarked at the beginning of this piece, the library was considered a male preserve, as was also the case with the dining room. Lady Bessborough, a visitor to Woburn in 1797, is quoted as being very taken with the furnishings, describing the ‘…finest Editions magnificently bound…’, ‘…some very fine pictures…’, ‘…three great looking glasses, all the ornaments white and golden, and the furniture blue leather.’ Leather was often chosen as the upholstery for the library, since it would, in the way of a saddle or a fine pair of Hoby’s boots, mature and be the better for use, unlike the fragile velvet and silk fabrics employed in the saloons and drawing room. Not only would they speedily show signs of wear, they would need to be replaced according to the dictates of fashion.
 

Very little changes, it seems. Beautiful Georgian furniture can be picked up for a few pounds nowadays, while modern ‘designer’ suites will cost the purchaser a small fortune and last a quarter of the time – perhaps. I know which I would prefer.


 

Unless otherwise stated, photographs are the property of the author and may not be copied without the owner’s expressed permission.

 

© Heather King

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Twelfth Night Cake





Last year, I wrote a post about the celebrations traditionally associated with Twelfth Night and the now almost forgotten Twelfth-Day, which you can find here:


Twelfth Night Revels


The fifth of January is ‘the eve of the Epiphany, or Twelfth-night eve, arid is a night of preparation in some parts of England for the merriments which, to the present hour, distinguish Twelfth-day,’ states William Hone in his Every-day Book of 1825. Twelfth-Day, the sixth of January, is the Epiphany and commemorates the arrival in Bethlehem of the Three Wise Men with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. It is on this night (Twelfth Night) that decorations are taken down and the King and Queen of the Bean are elected through the auspices of the Twelfth Cake. On the eve of the Epiphany, it is still the custom in parts of the country to toast the apple orchards with pitchers of cider, usually by forming a circle around one of the most fruitful trees and drinking ‘the following toast three times.’


“Here's to thee, old apple-tree,
hence thou mayst bud, and whence thou mayst blow!
And whence thou mayst bear apples enow!
Hats full! caps full!
Bushel—bushel—sacks full,
And my pockets full too! Huzza!”

In days of yore, itinerant minstrels were given to taking a bowl of spiced wine from house to house, especially those of the gentry, where they expected the best of hospitality and to be toasted for their musical endeavours from the wassail bowl. It is a night for games, singing joyous songs and much merriment.

On Twelfth-Day, the confectioners pulled out all the stops to create fabulous displays in their shop windows, of a wide range of cakes and delicacies to suit all purses. These ranged from the most exotically decorated and iced confections – the largest on an enormous salver – to simple buns.

Scarcely a shop in London that offers a halfpenny plain bun to the purchase of a
hungry boy, is without Twelfth-cakes and finery in the windows on Twelfth-day.
The gingerbread-bakers—there are not many, compared with their number when
the writer was a consumer of their manufactured goods,—even the reduced
gingerbread-bakers periwig a few plum-buns with sugar-frost to-day, and coaxingly
interpolate them among their new made sixes, bath-cakes, parliament, and ladies’
fingers. Their staple-ware has leaves of untarnished dutch-gilt stuck on; their
 upright cylinder-shaped show-glasses, containing peppermint-drops, elecampane,
sugar-sticks, hard-bake, brandy-balls, and bulls'-eyes, are carefully polished; their
lolly-pops are fresh encased, and look as white as the stems of tobacco-pipes;
and their candlesticks are ornamented with fillets and bosses of writing paper;
or, if the candles rise from the bottom of inverted glass cones, they shine more
sparkling for the thorough cleaning of their receivers in the morning.


 


Such are the scenes, that, at the front and side
Of the Twelfth cake-shops, scatter wild dismay;
As up the slipp'ry curl), or pavement wide,
We seek the pastrycooks, to keep Twelfth-day;
While ladies stand aghast, in speechless trance,
Look round—dare not go back—and yet dare not advance.

One of the most celebrated, and possibly oldest, confectioners was at 15, Cornhill, established during George I’s reign by Mr. Horton. It was taken over by Lucas Birch, who was succeeded by his son Samuel, who was born in 1757 and among other offices, was Lord Mayor in 1815.


15, Cornhill

Traditionally, the Twelfth Cake was a very large fruit cake, iced and decorated. By the nineteenth century it was often garlanded with gilded paper and dressed with figures made out of marzipan, sugar-paste or Plaster of Paris. These could be crowns, coronets, swans, horses or people etc. 


…all are decorated with all imaginable images of things animate and inanimate.
Stars, castles, kings, cottages, dragons, trees, fish, palaces, cats, dogs, churches, lions,
milk maids, knights, serpents, and innumerable other forms in snow-white confectionary,
painted with variegated colours, glitter by ‘excess of light’ from mirrors against the walls
festooned with artificial ‘wonders of Flora.’

Over time, this cake has evolved into what we know today as Christmas Cake. Twelfth Cake was baked with a dried bean and a dried pea in the mixture, one in each half of the cake. On Twelfth Night it was cut into slices and everyone in the household had a slice, no matter how lowly their position. Ladies were served from the left and gentlemen from the right. The man who got the bean became King for the night and the woman or girl who claimed the pea became Queen. Their rule lasted until midnight and it was an excuse for all kinds of jests, foolish commands and silliness. At house parties, sometimes a coin was put in the cake instead of the bean or another alternative was the drawing of tickets or characters (often produced by the confectioners).


Traditional Twelfth Cake


There is no standard recipe for Twelfth Cake. It can be a fruit cake or even a sponge cake (all you need to do is put ‘Twelfth Cake recipes’ into your search engine and many possibilities come up!) I have therefore searched Cookery books of the Regency era for those listed below.

This is possibly the first printed recipe for Twelfth Cake and comes from The Art of Cookery by John Mollard, published in 1802. It is somewhat large!

Take seven pounds of flour, make a cavity in the centre, set a sponge with a gill and a half of yest and a little warm milk; then put round it one pound of fresh butter broke into small lumps, one pound and a quarter of sifted sugar, four pounds and a half of currants washed and picked, half an ounce of sifted cinnamon, a quarter of an ounce of pounded cloves, mace, and nutmeg mixed, sliced candied orange or lemon peel and citron. When the sponge is risen mix all the ingredients together with a little warm milk; let the hoops be well papered and buttered, then fill them with the mixture and bake them, and when nearly cold ice them over with sugar prepared for that purpose as per receipt; or they may be plain.

Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery quotes three recipes for Twelfth Cake, one of which is Morrell’s, above. This is also a massive cake.


Before beginning to mix the cake all the ingredients should be pre-pared, the flour dried and sifted, the currants washed, di-ied, and picked, the nutmegs grated, the spices pounded, the candied fruit cut into thin slices, the almonds bruised with orange-flower or rose water, but not to a paste, the sugar sifted, and the eggs thoroughly whisked, yolks and whites separately. Care should be taken to make the cake and to keep the fruit in a warm place, and, unless the weather is very warm, to whisk the eggs in a pan set in another containing hot water. To make the cake, put two pounds of fresh butter into a large bowl, and beat it with the hand to a smooth cream: then add two pounds of powdered sugar, a large nutmeg grated, and a quarter of an ounce each of powdered cinnamon, powdered mace, powdered ginger, and powdered allspice. Beat the mixture for ten minutes, add gradually twenty eggs, and beat the cake for twenty minutes. Work in two pounds of flour, four pounds of currants, half a pound of bruised almonds, half a pound each of candied orange, candied lemon, and candied citron, and, last of all, a claret-glassful of brandy, and beat the cake lightly between every addition. Line a baking-hoop with doubled paper well buttered, pour in the mixture, and be careful that it does no more than three-parts fill it, that there may be room for the cake to rise. Cover the top with paper, set the tin on an inverted plate in the oven to keep it from burning at the bottom, and bake in a slow but well-heated oven. When it is nearly cold, cover it as smoothly as possible with sugar-icing three-quarters of an inch thick (see Frost or Icing for Cakes). Ornament with fancy articles of any kind, with a high ornament in the centre : these may frequently be hired of the confectioner. In order to ascertain whether the cake is done enough, plunge a bright knife into the centre of it, and if it comes out bright and clear the cake is done. A cake of this description will, if properly made, and kept in a cool dry place, keep for twelve months. If cut too soon it will crumble and fall to pieces. It will be at its best when it has been kept four months. Time to bake, four hours and a half. Probable cost, 12s. for this quantity.





Then this recipe is of great interest to Regency aficionados. It is of rather more modest size. 


Twelfth Cake, Lady Caroline Lamb's. —

 Quarter of a peck of pure flour carefully dried, three pounds of cui-rants, a quarter of a pound of raisins, half a pound of refined sugar, quarter of a pound of sweet and half an ounce of bitter almonds blanched and sliced, two ounces of orange and two ounces of candied lemon-peel, and spices according to taste, mix all thoroughly; then take one pint of cream, and put to it three-quarters of a pound of fresh butter washed first in pure and afterwards in rose-water; place in a gentle heat. Beat up the white and yolks, separately, of six eggs, and the yolks only of six more. Add to them a little rose-water, two table- spoonfuls of cardamom brandy, half a glassful of old Rhenish, hock, or champagne, quarter of a pint of fresh yeast, and a little fine salt. Mix the liquids together, strain them, add the dry materials warm, and mix the whole into a light smooth batter. Place it before a fire for twenty minutes to rise, butter your hoop, and use what flour is necessary to make the cake sufficiently stiff. Set it in the oven with some sheets of brown paper well floured to prevent its burning. In about a couple of hours it will be done. Ice it in the usual manner, and stick any ornaments you choose upon the icing before it is dry. 


In his Book of Christmas of 1888, Thomas Hervey quotes an account from an earlier work, the Cook and Confectioner’s Dictionary, edited by one Nutt. According to Mr. Nutt, the nursery rhyme ‘Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pye,’ who ‘When the pye was opened all began to sing,’ was based on fact. It seems there were ‘two great pies, made of coarse paste and bran, into one of which, after it was baked, live frogs were introduced, and into the other, live birds; which, upon some curious persons lifting up the covers, would jump and fly about the room, causing ‘a surprising and diverting hurly-burly among the guests.’

Thomas Hervey continues to describe Victorian Twelfth Cakes:

What feeble imitations are the castles, ships, and animals that now adorn our Twelfth-night cakes, to the performances of Nutt! How much, every way, inferior are the specimens of art produced, even by the renowned author of the ‘Italian Confectioner,’ the illustrious Jarrin!

On the battlements of the castles of former days were planted ‘kexes,’ or pop-guns, charged with gunpowder, to be fired upon a pastry ship, with ‘masts,’ ropes, we doubt not of spun sugar, ‘sails, flags, and streamers.’ Nor was the naval power of England lost sight of; for the ‘kexes’ of this delicious ship were, also, charged with gunpowder, and, when she was fired upon from the castle, her guns were able to return the salute.

In order to get rid of the smell of the powder, eggshells were prepared, filled with rose water, which guests then threw at each other! Finally, there was ‘a stag of pastry filled with claret…’ ‘…which, when wounded, poured forth its blood, free and sparkling as a ruby, for those whose nerves were delicate and needed the refreshment of a glass of wine.’

How modest in comparison are our celebrations today, but then, the Georgians really knew how to feast and make merry!





 A very merry Twelfth Night to you all!


Images from non-copyright books quoted unless otherwise stated. 


© Heather King