Authors reveal the images that inspired 100,000 words
About the author...
After taking early retirement Catherine Kullman was finally able to fulfil her life-long ambition to write. Her novels are set in England during the extended Regency— that fascinating period between the demise of hoops and the invention of crinolines- the end of the Georgian era but before the stultifying age of Victoria.
Her debut novel, The Murmur of Masks, was honoured with a Chill with a Book Readers Award. Perception & Illusion, was published in March 2017.
Catherine Kullmann is represented by A for Authors
One of the joys of writing historical novels is that you have an unimpeachable excuse to rummage in flea-markets, second-hand book shops, antique fairs and curiosity shops. My books are set in the extended Regency period from 1800 to 1830 and I was amazed to discover the wealth of coloured contemporary illustrations of the period over and above the portraits and architectural prints I had expected. Print shops selling cartoons and caricatures thrived and ladies’ journals published fashion plates and engravings of eminent persons in each issued. In addition, publishers had progressed beyond the usual frontispiece to produce lavishly illustrated books that are the forerunners of today’s graphic novels. I have chosen four of these illustrations to take you on a tour of London from the lowest dive to the Prince Regent’s court.
Here we meet Bob Tallyho Esq. and his cousin the Hon. Tom Dashall blowing a cloud & taking their heavy wet at the Black diamond merchants free & easy King Charles's crib, Scotland Yard.
Blowing a cloud - Smoking
Heavy - wet Beer, especially porter and stout
Black Diamond - Merchant Coalman
Crib Here - a public house
Free & easy - A social gathering (gen. at a public house) where smoking, drinking and singing are allowed.
Bang-up - first-rate
While Tom and Bob were well-born young men about town, Dr Syntax, the hapless protagonist of at least four volumes by different authors was a not- so-young curate whose outings tended to end in disaster of some kind. We encounter him and his wife at Vauxhall
Gardens, holding up a slice of the ham that was famous, or infamous, for its thinness which inevitably led to a steep bill at the end of the night.
"Before them soon was laid a slice
which some might think was very nice,
But through whose thin, transparent fold,
You might the distant stars behold,
Was not much better than a jelly;
Another, and another still,
Must feed the craving ivory mill,
And still to every keen performer
“The last is welcome as the former”.
We next visit a fashionable ball. You can just see the dancers in the background at the top left, but all attention is focussed on the pink sofa where a handsome officer woos his lady, ignoring the envious glances of others less favoured. I have not been able to discover the source of this wonderful print. The text beneath it reads:
The maiden listen’d, blush’d and look’d,
As she would have the words rebuk’d
But there was something in her eye.
Which seem’d to give the words the lie.
Finally we attend a levée at Carlton House, seat of the Prince Regent, where Johnny Newcome fresh from the Campaign in the Peninsula presents him with the Trophies of Battle. Although our hero is fictional, this scene alludes to the retrieval of the baton of the French Marshal Jourdan from the abandoned coach of Napoleon’s elder brother Joseph Bonaparte whom Napoleon installed as King of Spain in 1808. Joseph made a desperate attempt to escape Wellington’s advancing army in 1813, losing almost all his baggage in his headlong flight. The baton was given to Wellington, who sent it to the Prince Regent.
To me, these prints and their accompanying text open a window on the real Regency. Perhaps it is because they were created with no thought to posterity that they are so appealing two hundred years later. Their vitality and immediacy invite us to step into their world and I, for one, cannot resist.