What a delight to have Catherine Kullmann stop by and bring us the flavors of Regency England. Settle in with a proper cup of tea and enjoy!
Perception & Illusion charts Lallie’s and Hugo’s voyage through a sea of confusion and misunderstanding. Can they successfully negotiate the Rocks of Jealousy and the Shoals of Perplexity to arrive at the Bay of Delight or will they drift inexorably towards Cat & Dog Harbour or the Dead Lake of Indifference?
Cast out by her father for refusing the suitor of his choice, Lallie Grey accepts Hugo Tamrisk’s proposal, confident that he loves her as she loves him. But Hugo’s past throws long shadows as does his recent liaison with Sabina Albright. All too soon, Lallie must question Hugo’s reasons for marriage and wonder what he really wants of his bride.
A Brief Overview of the Regency, by Catherine Kullmann
The first quarter of the nineteenth century was one of the most significant periods of European and American history whose events still resonate after two hundred years. The Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland of 1800, the Anglo-American war of 1812 and the final defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 all still shape our modern world. But the aristocracy-led society that drove these events was already under attack from those who saw the need for social and political reform, while the industrial revolution saw the beginning of the transfer of wealth and ultimately power to those who knew how to exploit the new technologies.
It was still a patriarchal world where women had few or no rights but they lived and loved and died, making the best lives they could for themselves and their families, often with their husbands away for years with the army or at sea. And they began to raise their voices, demanding equality and emancipation.
Strictly speaking, the Regency refers to the period from February 1811 when the then Prince of Wales became Prince Regent due to the mental incapacity of his father, King George III until the King’s death January 1820 when the Prince succeeded him as George IV. But long before he became Regent, the Prince’s extravagant lifestyle and love of pleasure and the arts had begun to shape British society, a society that had already been shaken by two revolutions. The first resulted in the loss of the American colonies while the second led the royalty and aristocracy of France to the guillotine. In 1781, British forces marched out of Yorktown to the tune of The World Turned Upside Down and in the succeeding decades, it must have seemed to the British that nothing was the same again. And if nothing is the same, why not try something new?
Like the sixties of the twentieth century, the Regency was a period of great change made immediately visible by a revolution in fashion. Wide hooped skirts gave way first to less voluminous gowns and then to skimpy white muslin dresses that looked almost like shifts or petticoats. Elaborate hairstyles were abandoned in favour of short curls or classical, Grecian styles. Men abandoned their ornate silk and satins in peacock colours for garments based on a country-gentleman’s riding clothes.
In literature, the romantic poets reigned, at their head Wordsworth and Coleridge, not to mention the notorious Lord Byron who said after the publication of Childe Harold in 1812 ‘I awoke one morning to find myself famous’ and who, after their first meeting, was described by his later lover Lady Caroline Lamb as ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’, although this was certainly a case of the pot calling the kettle black! Unable to compete with Byron, Walter Scott turned to writing novels and Jane Austen’s six novels, all published during the Regency, enthralled discerning readers.
Country dances gave way to quadrilles and, scandalously to the waltz where, instead of making up sets of dancers, a couple could revolve in close proximity to each other unhindered by the other dancers in a set (think of the difference between square-dancing and jive). The lyrics of Thomas Moore introduced traditional Irish melodies to the wider world. Architecture moved from neo-classicism to neo-gothic, via a few exotic detours such as the Egyptian style – crocodile-footed furniture anybody?—and the exotic orientalism of the Regent’s Pavilion at Brighton.
But the Regency had its dark side too. It was a very unequal society. At the top of the pyramid sat royalty, the nobility and gentry i.e. those wealthy enough to maintain their families, including servants from unearned income. These households amounted to just over 5% of the population. The small, glittering world of the haut ton was made possible by the labour of the poorly paid lower classes. Fortunes were won and lost gambling and the gentleman’s code of honour required him to pay his gambling debts, even if this meant that tradespeople and other creditors went unpaid.
A series of enclosure acts reduced the rights of the peasants and reinforced the dominance of the land-owners. The Corn Laws, by imposing restrictions and tariffs on imported grain, also benefited the landowners but kept the price of bread artificially high. Poor harvests and a downturn in the economy after the end of the Napoleonic Wars, together with increasing resentment at the lack of parliamentary representation led to unrest and public protest, culminating in 1819 in what when cavalry charged a demonstration at St Peter’s Field, Manchester, killing fifteen and injuring four hundred to seven hundred people. This became known as Peterloo in an ironic reference to the Battle of Waterloo.
There was constant unrest in Ireland where the Catholic majority were barred from sitting in either house of Parliament and forced to pay tithes to an alien church. Progress was slow. In 1829, parliament finally passed the Roman Catholic Relief Act, enabling Catholics to take seats in both houses of parliament and a reluctant George IV signed it. He died in 1830 and the resulting general election was fought on the need for parliamentary reform. In 1832, the Great Reform Act was passed, which redrew constituency boundaries to take account of population shifts, abolished rotten boroughs (constituencies where a handful of votes sufficed to return a member to parliament and which were generally controlled by a powerful patron, usually—you guessed it—a land-owner) and increased the electorate from about 500,000 to 813,00. The franchise was tied to property ownership and this meant that about 20% of the adult male population now had the right to vote.
By now the Regency and King George IV were dead. George IV’s successor, his brother William IV, died in 1837 and the Victorian age dawned with the ascension of their eighteen-year-old niece Princess Alexandrina Victoria to the throne.
Catherine Kullmann was born and educated in Dublin. Following a three-year courtship conducted mostly by letter, she moved to Germany where she lived for twenty-six years before returning to Ireland. She has worked in the Irish and New Zealand public services and in the private sector. After taking early retirement Catherine 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, published in 2016, is a warm and engaging story of a young woman’s struggle to survive and find love in an era of violence and uncertainty. It takes us from the ballrooms of the Regency to the battlefield of Waterloo. In November 2016, it was honoured with a Chill with a Book Readers Award.
“I loved your protagonists and the depth you gave to their emotional journeys and to the rest of the characters and story. Bravo! It was a lovely read, deliciously romantic with wonderful characters, elegant writing and perfect period detail. Hugely enjoyable!“ Nicola Cornick
Visit her website HERE.