Do you know the difference between a "Pelisse" and a "Phaeton"? Use this glossary to better understand the Regency era and enjoy Linore's books. Click on a letter below to jump to that alphabetical section:

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

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A

Abigail - A lady's maid.
Ague - Malaria and the chills that went with it. Later generalized to include any similar fever or chills.

Almshouse - Lodgings for the poor supported by private rather than public charity. Publicly funded lodgings were called poorhouses or workhouses.

Apoplexy - A stroke. Oftentimes fatal, sometimes resulting in recovery with partial paralysis.

Archbishop - Perhaps his most important function for the time of the Regency was his ability to grant a 'special license' which permitted you to be married anywhere and at any time, as opposed to the restrictions required by a regular license or by having the banns published.

Armoire - A big clothes cupboard that was either freestanding or set into the wall.

Assemblies - Large scale evening gatherings for the gentry or aristocracy. Popular in the early part of the century, the most famous was Almack's in London. For a ten-guinea subscription, one got twelve weeks of a ball and supper each week, a highly prestigious event initially, with top members of the aristocracy attending and tickets (or, vouchers) almost impossible to get.

 

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B

Ball - A dance, usually of some size and grandeur. Public balls, notably those given by hunt clubs and the like, required tickets of admission.

Bank Notes - Promissory notes of a bank, that is, a promise by a bank to pay. They were the only form of paper currency in England. They were circulated by numerous banks in England in the early part of the century before the bank acquired a monopoly on their issue.

Banns - Inexpensive, public way to get permission to marry. To 'publish the banns' required the parish rector or vicar to announce an impending wedding during the service on three consecutive Sunday mornings. If no one arose to forbid the banns in the course of the reading, the couple could get married within the succeeding three months.

Baron - In the 1800s the baron was the lowest of the five ranks of the peerage.

Baronet - The title of the first rank below the peerage. A baronet ranked just below a baron and just above a knight and was considered a member of the gentry, not the nobility.

Barouche - A four wheel fancy carriage with a fold up hood at the back and with two inside seats facing each other. It was the fancy carriage of the first half of the century.

Beau Monde, the - Mostly the upper - class, the rich and the ennobled; but anyone accepted into their circles could qualify as part of this.

Beeswax -The favorite material for making the best quality candles (tallow, by comparison, had to be snuffed constantly) Also sometimes recommended for application to floors before balls.

Belgrave Square - A ritzy area of London, in the West End, but south of Hyde Park, newer and slightly less fashionable than Mayfair.

Bond Street - A fashionable shopping street in the West End of London, located in the Mayfair district.

Bonnet - An obligatory outdoor head covering for all women in the first part of the century.

Borough - A town that had been granted certain rights of self-government by the Crown so that typically, it had a mayor, aldermen, and council elected by the freeman or burgesses.

Breakfast Room - A room likely to be found in somewhat grander homes, which was used for the morning meal instead of the dining room, which was saved for the more formal dinners. Lunch, perhaps because only the ladies usually dined at home, had no room of its own.

Breeches - Pants that descended only to the knee and were worn with stockings.

Butler - The servant in charge of the wines and of officiating at dinner. He also looked after the family 'plate' sometimes sleeping in a room next to the safe in which it was locked at night. In the absence of a steward, he was the senior member of the male household staff, with power to fire the footmen. He also sometimes warmed and ironed the newspapers before the master's breakfast.

 

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C

Carriage - A generic term for a vehicle that carried people rather than goods, with the additional connotation of being used by the well-to-do. Having a carriage, a proper parlour and at least one "man-servant," was absolutely necessary if one had pretensions!

Chaise - A two to four wheel vehicle that carried a maximum of two and had a top.

Chamber - In a dwelling, it was a private room; generally a bedroom as opposed to the public rooms like the dining room or drawing room.

Chaperon - The servant, mother, or married female family friend who supervised eligible young girls in public.

Chemise - The fancy term for a woman's long undergarment. Basically like a nightgown which was the only female undergarment other than the corset for much of the century. The term replaced the word 'shift' which was felt to be too indelicate and which had itself replaced the term 'smock'.

Chintz - A many colored cloth, often floral, and with a pleasingly smooth "shine" for texture.

Clubs - The great refuge of the middle and upper class male in London in the 1800's. Originating in the gatherings of men in certain coffeehouses in the 1700's, clubs acquired more permanent and exclusive quarters on Pall Mall and St. James's Street. Among the more prominent were the Carlton Club, Boodles's, Whites, and Brooke's.

Cook - A fancy household preferred a male French chef. During the Regency people favoured all things French, a stark irony considering they were at war with that country. Less wealthy families made do with a woman for a cook, usually addressed simply as 'cook' who might by origin be a scullery maid or kitchen maid who had worked her way up.

Consumption - That old killer, pulmonary tuberculosis (TB).

Corset - The fashionable size for a waist in the 1800's was alleged to be eighteen inches. A corset was the device used to attain this width or something close to it. It consisted of two halves, reinforced with whalebone that got hooked together in front and then laced up in back. Compressing all that flesh into a small area was not always an easy job. The corset was one reason women needed a lady's maid - someone to stand behind them to pull the laces tight.

Countess - The wife of an earl in England. The Saxon earl who, along with the sheriff, ran the shire in pre Norman England kept his title when the Normans changed the 'shires' to 'counties'. His wife, however, became a countess.

Court - The sovereign and the people surrounding him or her.

Courtier - A member of the court, usually of high rank or office.

Cravat - A loose kind of cloth that was tied around the neck in a bow, for which gentlemen sometimes labored over to achieve a number of different, much-coveted, effects. Watching Beau Brummel tie his cravat was an experience that even the Regent underwent; and Mr. Brummel was known to spend up to three hours in pursuit of the perfect knot! By the time he finished, there was a large pile of discarded cloths in the dressing room, which his valet referred to as, "our failures."

Curricle - A two wheeled carriage that was fashionable in the early 1800's. It was like a gig except it was pulled by two horses rather than one and it was evidently deemed rather sporty by the younger set.

Curtsey - An approved way of showing respect, perhaps not much in evidence after the turn of the mid century except when made by social inferiors like maids to the better off or when made by the better off during presentation at court.

Cut - Form of social discouragement that involved pretending not to know or see a person who was trying to be acknowledged. Etiquette books said it should only be used by young ladies trying to discourage unwelcome attentions from gentlemen, but many others 'cut' people too. (Getting the "cut direct" from a social superior could shatter a wanna-be's hopes for improving his social standing.)

 

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D

Debrett - An annually published guide to the peerage, sometimes called simply, "the Society Book."

Dinner Dress - The dinner hour during the first part of the century was an afternoon rather than an evening function, five or six o'clock, at which a hat was worn with low dress.

Dowager - The name given to a widow of rank.

Draper - (Or, linen draper) Man who sold cloth.

Drawing Room - A drawing room,or formal parlour,was used in polite society to receive visitors who came to pay formal calls during the afternoon.

Duel - Killing a man in a duel was murder in England but until the 1840's it was a rarely convicted crime. Receiving a challenge to duel was considered an affair of honor and following through with it was mandatory.

 

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E

Entail - Entail was a legal term meaning that a landed estate was tied up in such a way that the person inheriting it would have only its income and could not sell or mortgage it. Along with primogeniture, it was the legal basis of the British aristocracy's ability to transmit their great estates intact down through the centuries.

Esquire - Title conferring no rights or privileges but simply an intangible sort of dignity and theoretically membership in the landed gentry of one who had no other title.

 

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F

Farthing - A coin worth one quarter of a penny.

Fire Screen - A screen used to shield people from the heat of a fireplace. Especially useful at dinner parties in rooms heated only by a fire when one wanted to warm guests on the other side of the room yet not scorch those sitting closest to the fire. Also used to keep sparks off the floor.

First floor - What the English called the 'first floor' is the 'second floor' in the USA. The English called the floor level on which one entered from the street the 'ground floor' rather than the 'first floor'. Entertaining was never done on the ground floor.

Foolscap - Paper, generally about thirteen by seventeen inches in dimensions, some varieties of which at one time bore a watermark of a fool's cap and bells.

Footboard - Board that footmen stood on when riding at the rear of a carriage. Also a board to step on when one got into a carriage or a board for the driver or coachman to rest his feet on while driving.

Footman - The indoor male servant beneath the butler and superior in rank to the boy or page. "Typically he cleaned and trimmed the lamps, waited at table at fancy dinner parties and went out with the ladies of the house when they went to pay calls, where it was his job to dash up the steps with a calling card and inquire if anyone was at home while his mistress waited in the carriage. He often wore old fashioned livery consisting of knee breeches and silk stockings. Footmen were accordingly evaluated quite seriously by the appearance of their calves." If one had more than one footman, one was supposed to make sure they matched in height.

Fortnight - Two weeks.

Frock - The standard term for a woman's ordinary or fancy dress until well into the century and applied particularly to dresses made of muslin and other light materials. A frock generally buttoned up the back.

Full Dress - Was reserved for evening functions and was always 'lowneck' for important affairs.

 

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G

Gaming - Gambling. Nothing to do with the word 'game' in the sense of hunted animals.

Gentleman's gentleman - A valet.

Gig - A one horse carriage, light with only two wheels that became fashionable in the early 1800's as a modest all purpose country cart, sort of the Model T Ford of its day.

Grate - The coal used in English fireplaces needed air underneath to burn. Consequently, fireplaces were built with little iron latticework's of bars in them to hold the coal, frequently with a raised area or hob on the side where kettles and other things could be set. This whole apparatus was the grate.

Groom - The servant in a household who looked after the horses.

Grosvenor Square - A part of Mayfair that was considered the most fashionable square in London, and where Mr. Mornay resided when in Town.

 

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H

Hack - A hack was a general purpose riding horse, but a "Hackney Coach" might be called simply a hack as an abbreviated form of the name.

Hackney Coach - A hackney coach was one that could be hired. In London, they served as taxicabs in the early part of the century. Usually they were discarded vehicles of the nobility, sometimes with the family coat of arms still on them.

Half Dress - ('demi-toilette') The nearest modern equivalent would be a dress for an afternoon social function. Unlike 'full dress,' the sleeves were often 3/4 length.

Ha'penny - Halfpenny.

Hessian Boots - Long boots worn by the German mercenaries who came over and fought the colonists during the American Revolution. The boots had a tassel on the top. They were wildly popular in England in the early part of the 1800's.

Housekeeper - The top ranking female servant in a household. She typically hired and fired all the housemaids and made sure they did their work, in addition to which she made household preserves and often supervised the ordering of food. The housekeeper kept the "keys," and the jangling of the heavy chain of metal might be heard, signalling her approach.

Hyde Park - Located in the West End, the 388-acre park was the most fashionable in London and was where the cream of London society promenaded on their horses to see, to be seen and gossip. Park Lane, the street on its eastern border was the most fashionable address in London.

 

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I

 

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J

Jarvis- A hackney coachman; a stand-in.

 

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K

Kerseymere - A fancy kind of wool cloth.

Kitchenmaid - The maid who helped the cook prepare meals, made the cooking fire, etc. Within the household she ranked just above the scullerymaid.

 

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L

La Belle Assemblee - A ladies' magazine; possibly the most popular women's periodical during the Regency. It included fashion plates showing the latest new styles from Paris, and other things of feminine interest.

Ladies' Mile - A riding road in Hyde Park for women.

Lady's Maid - The woman who took care of her mistress's clothes and grooming, dressing her, packing and laying out her clothes, and mending them with small repairs if necessary. She was considered an 'upper servant' and could not be fired by the housekeeper. Often better educated than the average maid, she was also resented by the housemaids who viewed her lot as easy. Lady's maids were supposed to be young, and a french lady's maid was a feather in the hat.

Landau - A kind of open, fancy carriage with four wheels popular in the first part of the century. It had a hood at each end and two seats opposite each other. Lorgnette Used only by ladies, the lorgnette was eyeglasses -- or more commonly, a monocle -- held to the eyes with a long handle. Men, on the other hand, used "quizzing glasses".

Laudanum - Opium in a solution of alcohol. It was both the "valium" and the ether of its day.

Linen - A generic term for fine shirts and underwear, since linen was the material generally used to make them before cotton became popular. The material had the advantages of being cool and strong. There were different kinds. Lawn and cambric - the latter favored for handkerchiefs, were fine varieties used by the rich. The poor used coarser types of linen.

Livery - A distinctive uniform worn by the male servants in the service of a particular master, including such things as knee breeches, powdered wigs, waistcoat, and coat.

 

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M

Mayfair - The fanciest residential area of London, about a half a mile square in size. It was located in the West end and bounded by Oxford Street on the north, Bond Street on the east, Piccadilly on the south, and Hyde Park on the west. Within it were located Pall Mall and Grosvenor and Berkeley Squares. The district was so named because of an annual fair held there at one time each May.

Mews - Mew comes from the Latin mutare, meaning 'to change' and the mews were the place in London where the king's hawks were at one time confined while they molted or 'changed.' The royal stables then replaced the hawk's lair and thereafter any lane or open area where a group of stables was situated was referred to as a mews.

Milliner - Maker of women's hats and sometimes other items of dress.

Morning Room - A place used by a family as a sitting room in the morning.

Muslin - One of the finest kinds of cotton. It was very thin and was the favorite material for dresses. A fine thin semi-transparent cotton textile.

 

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O

 

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N

Nobility - Somewhat of a loose term used generally to refer to the peerage.

 

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P

Pall Mall - A fancy street in the West End of London, notable for being the site of many fashionable clubs. It was named after a French game resembling croquet that was at one time played on Pall Mall.

Pantaloon - The name for the pants that were worn, beginning in the early 1800's in competition first with breeches and then with tights.

Parisian mob(cap) - A full round cap of fine linen or cotton with a puffed crown and a ruffled border.

Park Lane- The ritziest street address in London. Park Lane was the street in Mayfair that ran along the eastern border of Hyde Park.

Parlor - The formal or best room in a modest home. In a grander home, it seems to have been either a sitting room or a formal room for company, a little more impressive than a sitting room, perhaps not as grand as a drawing room.

Parlormaid - A sort of substitute for the butler, she was hired in families that couldn't afford or didn't want such a male servant. Often hired for her appearance and therefore reputedly quite pretty. She answered the door and waited on table as a butler would have in a grander household.

Peer - A nobleman that is a duke, marquis, earl, viscount, or baron, all such titles being hereditary and entitling the owner to a seat in the House of Lords.
Peeress - Either the wife of a peer or a woman who had noble status in her own right.

Pelisse - An outdoor fitted garment for women, ankle-length, and often with a collar and cuffs at the wrist.

Phaeton - Any light four wheel carriage with open sides drawn by one or two horse. Sometimes, the term was applied to a carriage that was driven by its owner rather than by a coachman.

Pianoforte - The piano. Many young ladies were taught to play it, music being thought to be suitable feminine accomplishment, although it was not considered gentlemanly for a man to know how to play.

Pin Money - An allowance given to a woman upon her marriage frequently bargained for explicitly as part of the marriage settlement between the families of a prospective husband and wife to be spent on small household items or for personal adornment.

Pleurisy - An inflammation of two sacs in the chest called the pleura that could produce a hacking cough or sometimes a sharp pain.

Portmanteau - Traveling bag, usually of a rich tapestried, coarse fabric.

 

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R

Regent - A person who reigned on behalf of a monarch who for some reason could not. George III went permanently insane in 1810.* His son, the Prince of Wales, later George IV thereupon became the prince regent. *A condition which we now know was due to porphyria.

The Regency - The Prince of Wales was Regent from January 1811 to the King's death in 1820. So the actual Regency was only nine years long. The Stylistic Regency begins before the actual political regency of the Prince of Wales, and extends past it to include his reign as King. It ends with the death of George IV, then, in 1830. The Stylistic regency is concerned with changes and developments that are peculiar to the period in the arts, costume, and architecture, as well as manufacturing, textiles, and imports. (Things like empire-waisted gowns; classical themes in architecture; manners and mores, to name a few.)

Reticule - Little bag in which ladies carried their personal toilet articles and the like when the tight, thin muslin dresses with no pockets made it impossible to carry any personal effects actually on their person.

Rotten Row - A walkway for horses in the southern part of Hyde Park much favored by the fashionable elite. The time to catch the fashionable in action was from noon to two or five to seven in May through July.

Rubber - In games like whist, a rubber was a set of three or more games, where the idea was to win the best two out of three or three out of five.

 

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S

Salver - One of those little silver trays that people put their visiting cards on in the hallway or that the servants used for handing around biscuits at various private social gatherings.

Sconce - A candlestick with a screen hung from a wall.

Scullerymaid - The girl who washed dishes and who was at the very bottom of the servant hierarchy. The generic term for male or female scullery workers was 'scullion' - it was a term of abuse.

Sealing Wax - Beeswax and later a mixture that included shellac and turpentine, used for sealing letters. Red was to be used only for business letter, other colors for social correspondence, and black for mourning.

Seals - Small ornaments, worn on a watch chain, and including a seal used to seal letters plus similarly shaped items.

Season - The London social season, in which the fashionable high life of the nobility dominated the city. Although families returned from their country houses to London in February, the real season, of balls, parties, sporting events like Ascot and so on, ran only from March through June.

Sennight - A contraction of 'seven night,' meaning a week.

Servant's Hall - The place where the servants ate and congregated in a household when they were given a special room for the purpose.

Set - A group of dancers. When country dances were performed, if there were too many couples to fit in the two long straight parallel lines which the dance demanded, the dancers would be divided up into several sets. The term could also mean the figures in a quadrille.

Shades - A popular parlour game, played by drawing the outline of a person's head. The person would sit in profile, with a light pointing so that their image was cast in shadow on a wall or blank space by candlelight or lamplight. Somebody else would then "draw" the outline of this image, and color it in with shadow.

Shawl - A favorite accompaniment to dresses and frocks for a good portion of the century. There was an art to how it was to be draped.

Shift - The basic item of women's underwear, a long kind of nightgownlike garment which, except for the corset, was all the underwear women wore until the advent of drawers in the 1860's. (Also called the chemise.)

Silhouette - An outline drawing of a person, usually in profile and filled in with shadow. Most silhouettes were made of the head only, but these were by no means the only sort made.

Sitting Room - The room where family members sat and were comfortable as opposed to a drawing room, for example where visitors would typically be received or entertained more formally after dinner. Rented apartments seem generally to have consisted at a minimum of a bedroom and a sitting room.

Smelling Bottle - A bottle filled with smelling salts (usually a compound containing ammonia) to be used in case of fainting.

Snuffers - Scissors like instruments used for periodically trimming the wicks on tallow candles, which would otherwise start burning poorly. To 'snuff' a candle was to trim its wick to make it burn better. To extinguish it was to 'snuff it out.' The snuff was the burning or burnt part of the wick.

Spencer - For women, a kind of short jacket. For men, an overcoat without tails, also on the short side.

Squire - In the 19th century, simply a term of courtesy for a member of the gentry whose family had lived for generations in an area and who had tenant farmers on his property.

Stay - A stay was one of the two halves of a corset.

 

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T

Tilbury - A two wheel rather light carriage with no top, popular before 1850.

Ton - (pronounced 'tone') High society; the elite; generally the wealthiest and those of rank, with royalty at the top; in today's terms, the 'in' crowd, such as Hollywood stars. To be "good ton" was paramount, and opened most any door in fashionable society. Occasionally, those without either fortune or pedigree could become a member of the 'ton,' if they were an Original (such as Beau Brummell--although he did,in fact, start out in society with an inheritance of 30,000 pounds--nothing to sneeze at)or could amuse or entertain the rich to a high degree.

Turbot - A big flatfish. One mid century etiquette advisor lauded the changeover from dinner service a la francaise (putting all the plates on the table so the guest could serve themselves to dinner a la russe (footmen handing everything around discreetly form diner to diner) because it meant one didn't have to eat turbot so much anymore. It had been served frequently before because it looked more impressive on the table than a lot of silly fish.

 

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U

Upper - In a large household the upper servants had more seniority than the servants below them and in the case of the butler and the housekeeper the right to order all the other around. Upper servants included the butler, the housekeeper and the lady's maid. Unlike the other servants, the butler and housekeeper generally each had their own room, the butler his pantry and the housekeeper her own room from which to direct the affairs of the household and they were entitled to respect.

 

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V

Valet - Called the gentleman's gentleman; a not inappropriate title in view of his status as an upper servant. His job was to get his master's clothes out, to keep his shoes and hats in good shape, to stand behind him at dinner if required and accompany him on his travels, the male equivalent of a lady's maid.

Vauxhall - A cheerful, eleven acre pleasure garden across the Thames from London that flourished until the mid 1800's.

Viscount - The peer who ranked just under an earl and just above a baron.

Visiting Card - The calling card with one's name on it that one left when paying a call.

 

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W

Wainscoting - Wainscot was a kind of fancy oak imported from Russia, Holland or Germany. The term 'wainscoting' was applied to panels that were originally made out of such oak.

Waistcoat - Vest.

Wardrobe - Big wooden cupboard either for hanging clothes in or else with shelves or drawers for putting them in. It usually stood in a bedroom.

West End - The western and fancy part of London

White ewe,a-Slang for a blond-haired woman.