How has your summer been so far? Mine has been amazing and exciting! We had an important milestone come up in our lives, one of those rites of passage that marks family history, and it made me think about a similar rite of passage that happened during regency times. I’d like to tell you about both these things, introduce you to my latest published book, and then have a giveaway!
Our family milestone this summer was this: one of our children living at home has officially flown the nest! Our son decided to go into a specialized training program an hour away from home as soon as he finished high school. And I do mean “as soon as!” He received his diploma on June 5th and then, just ten days later, we packed his things and helped him move into his first apartment. He is now away from our daily supervision, getting his own meals every day, making his way to and from work and school without us, and just generally being an adult. He will be in his new training program and apartment for fifteen months and after that, he may or may not come back home. He has launched!
Helping our son through this process made me think about young men in regency times and how they were “launched” into society. The capstone of a young man’s education was the grand tour, a lengthy sightseeing trip across Europe. The grand tour was an important event in the life of a young upper class gentleman. It typically marked the end of their minority and the beginning of their duties as an adult, whether nobleman, aristocrat, or gentry. It was undertaken as soon as the young man finished his studies at university, and it could last anywhere from several months to several years.
The purpose of a grand tour was to expose a young man to the culture and history of Europe, especially the renaissance. Since French was the common tongue of Europe, most Englishmen started their tour in France, getting some practice with the language before tackling the rest of the world.
From France the young man would usually travel to Switzerland and then cross into Italy, staying in Naples, Venice, or even Rome. While they were in each country or city, the young men soaked up the culture in every way possible. They frequently called on royalty or nobility in their host country. They toured castles and ruins, went to museums to view the great works of art, and attended concerts to hear the music of the masters in their original settings. Sometimes they enrolled in universities in their destination of choice. They also called on (and sometimes stayed in) the homes of the British envoy in whatever country they were in, becoming exposed to more cosmopolitan views than they would have experienced at home.
What adventures these young men must have had! This was before emails, texts and phone calls. Letters took weeks or months. The young men (and sometimes young women) had guides to smooth their way through each city or country, but they couldn’t rely on their parents for day to day decisions. They were entirely on their own. Memoirs of the time include stories about carriages breaking down and having to find lodgings for the night, meeting unknown travelers on the road, avoiding weather disasters, and getting into scrapes in general. Of course they made lots of friends along the way. There were also romantic liaisons, and surely not all of a young man’s adventures made it into the letters he wrote home!
One thing the young gentlemen typically did not worry about was money. The grand tour was a privilege of the very wealthy, and the young person generally carried letters of credit that he could present to banks in whatever country he went to. With the sky the limit, and being freed from supervision, many young men were probably reluctant to return home.
But of course they did eventually return. At the end of the grand tour the young gentleman’s education was complete. He was polished, sophisticated, and wise in the ways of the world. He came back to his family with trunks full of souvenirs and a head full of memories, ready to recall his adventures to anyone who would listen and prepared to take on his role as a leader in the next generation.
Our son’s launch into the world will not be nearly as dramatic (or expensive, I hope!) but I think it will likely be just as transformative. Hopefully he’ll come back to us after fifteen months away, ready and willing to tackle all the responsibilities of being an adult, with lots of good memories under his belt.
In the meantime I have kept up with my writing and publishing. I am working hard on Margaret of Milton, a story based on North and South, and hope to finish it by the end of this year. I’m also compiling a collection of four or five short stories, mostly based in Pride and Prejudice, and next year I will return to the Jane Austen world with a full length Darcy and Elizabeth story.
Also, I recently compiled the three stories from my Longbourn Unexpected trilogy into one volume. The three books are Mr. Darcy’s Persistent Pursuit; Love’s Fool: The Taming of Lydia Bennet; and An Unexpected Turn of Events. Any one of these books can be read separately but they are best read as a set, so putting them all together made sense. I hope you like it!
And now, a giveaway! If you’ve been wanting to read any of these three stories, this is your big chance! I will pick three people at random to receive a free copy of the Longbourn Unexpected Trilogy ebook. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment below by midnight EST on Friday, July 26th. I hope everybody will comment and enter! Good luck and see you next month!