Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside! + Giveaway!

Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside! + Giveaway!

Jane Austen famously writes of the minutiae of life; her books often centred on a single house or area. Emma takes place exclusively in the Surrey village of Highbury and although a few characters travel outside its precincts Emma and the reader never do.

For my Highbury Trilogy, however, I had to venture further afield and my travels took me to two seaside resorts, Brighton and Weymouth. Whereas Austen’s Highbury is an imaginary place, these other locations are not, and I did a good deal of research about them, particularly about what they would have been like in the time frame of my novels. I’d like to share with you some of what I learned about Regency life in these seaside towns as I wrote The Other Miss Bates and my most recent book Dear Jane which are both based on Jane Austen’s Emma.

Seaside resorts became popular following the discovery that sea-bathing and – less convincingly – sea-drinking were beneficial for the health. People generally were more aware of their own well-being and apothecaries, physicians, doctors and charlatans all took advantage of the chance to make money by promising cures and administering treatments, many of which seem ridiculous or even barbaric today.
Brighton was a more popular resort than Weymouth, more accessible from London, and made fashionable by the Prince Regent who took a shine to the place and had an enormous residence built there. But, thankfully, that happened after the events of The Other Miss Bates were done. Weymouth was a quieter place, with only one Assembly room to Brighton’s two. In both cases I used historical reference books with maps and illustrations to discover their layouts, and to learn where genteel families would have stayed during their summer sojourn. All the streets and buildings I mention in my Highbury Trilogy are real places.

Normally, most people enjoyed society within the confines of their own homes, holding dinners, card-parties and, occasionally, balls. Naturally the participants in these entertainments were known to the hosts; the company was already ‘acquainted’ and enjoyed that degree of intercourse which familiarity brings. Not so in a seaside town. All the visitors were strangers to each other and some method of overcoming this boundary had to be devised so that orderly social interaction could take place. Newcomers to the town were required to announce their arrival in the society news sheet, printed and distributed daily. In order to attend the Assembly and the circulating library visitors had to pay a subscription which bought them access to the events which were held there. A Master of Ceremonies oversaw all entertainments, collected subscriptions and introduced people to one another. Without a proper introduction from him or a mutual acquaintance it was impossible for one person to ‘know’ another. A gentleman could not ask a lady to dance unless they had been introduced. Once that had occurred he could dance with her, request leave to call upon her and introduce her to his family and other associates.

Rather than taking place in private drawing and dining rooms, social interaction took place out of the home, at the Assembly, play, in cardrooms and in the circulating libraries, which were much more than just places to borrow books. Refreshments were served there and there were often musical recitals.

People walked, on the grassy area known as the Steyne in Brighton, and along the promenade in Weymouth. They went out in their carriages, enjoying excursions to nearby beauty-spots. The idea was to be seen, to encounter others, to enjoy society in a much wider and freer way than could be managed at home.

Freer indeed. Seaside resorts were an absolute hotbed for illicit romance, giving young men and women a much wider reservoir of potential suitors and many more opportunities to steal away from prying eyes. Lydia Bennet eloped from Brighton and my character, Louisa Churchill, also arranged assignations there.

The daily routine at a seaside place consisted of rising early to bathe before returning home or going to a coffee house to breakfast. Ladies might then dress and have their hair repaired before setting out for morning promenades or shopping. Gentlemen might go riding, sailing, fishing, or enjoy the sporting contests often arranged for their entertainment. In the mid to late afternoon people returned home to dress, dined, and then went out again to the Assembly or play. It was a social whirl indeed, a far cry from the sedentary lives they knew at home.

How Emma Woodhouse would have enjoyed it.

As this will be my last post before Christmas I am offering a Giveaway. I HAVE A COPY OF ONE OF MY HIGHBURY TITLES FOR A PERSON WHO COMMENTS BELOW: THE WINNER MAY CHOOSE ONE BOOK TITLE FROM THE HIGHBURY BOOKS IN EITHER PRINT OR DIGITAL FORMAT. THE GIVEAWAY ENDS AT MIDNIGHT EST ON THURSDAY, DECEMBER 19. THE WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED ON SUNDAY, DECEMBER 22.

Good Luck!

 

 

 

13 Responses to Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside! + Giveaway!

  1. Thank you for the giveaway. We now live 3.5 miles from the ocean! Very exciting for us after living in Wyoming for 18 years.

  2. Thank you for this fascinating post! I grew up in a small coastal town along the Texas Gulf. I love the sounds of the waves.

  3. Thank you for your post. I learned a lot about the area. I miss the beach/seaside. I live inlands and it is at least 11 hours to get to it , so my don;t get to see it very often.

    Thank you so much for this chance to win a copy of your books.

  4. I used to live in a Pacific coast town. It was nice, beautiful, but expensive. I wonder if it was the same during Regency times: if you had money you enjoyed what the town had to offer, otherwise, you were part of the working class and too busy to take part. Thank you for the chance to win a copy!

    • I am sure all the actual inhabitants of the town had to live in garrets or go and stay with family outside town while the wealthy and their servants, grooms etc occupied every house. Thanks for commenting and good luck with the giveaway.

    • You are very welcome. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be transported back in time, to stroll along the promenade with the Regency folk? Good luck with the giveaway.

  5. Don’t include me in the drawing as I already have these books. This was an interesting post. One of those pictures was horrid. Shudder! The others were very interesting. I appreciate all the research that you did to use in these books. Blessings on all you hard work. Since we won’t hear from you again this year… Merry Christmas and Happy all the Holidays in the manner in which you celebrate.

  6. The ocean is my home away from home. I travel hours to visit as often as possible. It has crossed my mind many times how I would have been lucky to see the sea in a lifetime then that I go per year now.

    • You are quite right, Becky. Remember, Emma Woodhouse had never seen the sea! I am so lucky to live near the sea. Good luck with the giveaway.

  7. We go to the beach every year! It is nice to be by the seaside!lol Thanks for the giveaway and Happy Holidays!

    • Lovely! But would you ever consider drinking seawater for the good of your health? I think not! Thank you for commenting and good luck with the giveaway.

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