Saturday, August 24, 2019

Travel in the Regency Era

Our Round Robin blog for August is to post an excerpt from one of my books dealing with travel or vacation.  

In the Regency era most people did not go on vacation as we know it today. Young men might be sent on a Grand Tour of Europe for them to gain a bit of sophistication and polish in much the same way as young ladies were sent off to finishing school in more recent history. Once Parliament closed for the summer recess, London was almost deserted as families headed out to their country estates or prepared for a round of house parties.

This socializing caused a great deal of stress for the host as it was not only their guests that had to be entertained and housed but their servants, too. It could also be an expensive time for the guests, as they would want to show off their finery which might require as many as six changes of outfits in a day.

My character, Emmaline, in His Dark Enchantress, had done her fair share of travelling for a variety of reasons, but one of her trips was to get home to her grandfather as fast as she could. The place names in the narrative were all coaching stops on what was known as The Trafalgar Way.

This was the route taken by Lieutenant John Richards Lapenotiere of HMS Pickle, who carried dispatches containing the news of Lord Nelson’s victory and death in the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805. Lapenotiere began his journey on 4th November 1805 and covered the 271-mile route in 38 hours with 21 changes of horses. Emmaline didn’t have to make her trip at that speed and broke her journey at Dorchester to make her way home from there. Here is the excerpt:

Emmaline rested her head against the window frame, thankful for the corner seat she had managed to claim in the crowded stagecoach. Dressed in her shabbiest clothes, her cheeks dirtied a little and a wide-brimmed bonnet pulled down as much as possible to hide her face, no one paid much attention to her.
Pressed on her left by a large farmer, she sank further into her corner and remained mostly unseen by her fellow passengers. The gentleman sitting opposite her tried to draw her into a conversation but, after being subjected to her mute nods and one-syllable answers soon left her alone.
If not for her thoughts of Baymoor House, her grandfather and Lucius, Emmaline would possibly have slept a little. Baymoor itself would not have changed, its grey stone walls withstanding all winds and weather as it had done for a century and more. Her grandfather, she knew, had been in decline for some time before he’d insisted that she go to London. How much worse might his condition be now? And then there was Lucius. Did he have any regrets? Might he miss her just a little? Her heart weighed heavy just thinking of him.
She remained awake through Staines, Bagshot, and Hertford-bridge. Basingstoke, Overton, Andover all slipped by in a blur. At each stop, with passengers clambering in and out of the coach, Emmaline avoided being jostled by sitting firmly in her seat. But, with the unsavoury smell of unwashed bodies and stale clothing, the constant noise of clattering hooves and rumbling wheels, she was almost comatose with fatigue.
She endured the changes at Salisbury, Woodyates and Blandford, but at Dorchester she knew she must stop and rest. She had not eaten since she and Noble had racked up at the inn at Epsom. Then she had barely managed a small piece of cheese and a crust of bread and the tea she had drunk in Juliana’s room was a distant memory to her parched throat.

Now let’s take a look at at what these fine authors have to say.