Tag Archives: Men

A Dealer in Wives: An Unlucky French Commoner or a Henry VIII?

Bluebeard – Gustav Dore (1862)

An account of a Frenchman who made a sport of marrying and dispatching–or was tragically unlucky.  He took seven wives in 36 years.  Busy man!  They had the misfortune of being widows and, after marrying him, lived 5, 13 , 5 , 2, 4,  2, and (at least) 8 years respectively.  

Source:  My Grandfather’s Pocketbook, From A.D. 1701-1796.

“There never existed in the world such an admirer of widows as a poor French labouring man who, after having buried so many women who had buried their husbands, is to the astonishment of the world, in the full enjoyment of his life and health at this moment in the 66th year of his age.

The name of this singular man is Leonard Coudert; he is a native and an inhabitant of the parish of St Martin de Vicq, in the province of Limousin in France. On the 19th of January 1745 he married Leonarda Dumont, widow of John Mouret; she died on the 3rd of February 1750. He took to his second wife on the 3rd of April of the same year, Mary Bayle, widow of Blaize Pauliat. She died on the second of February 1763. On the 14th of June following, he married his third wife, Jane Noaillet, widow of Malesond, and she died the 12th of May 1768. On the 6th of February 1769, he took for his fourth wife Catharine Valade, widow of Pradeau; she lived with him till the 25th of October 1771 when she died. He entered for the fifth time into the holy state of wedlock on the 1st of July 1773 with Anne Barget, widow of Lajoie. She died on the 11th of January 1777; and on the 27th of May following he married his sixth wife Frances Belarbre, widow of Albin, and buried her on the 16th of July 1779. But he did not remain long a widower, for on the 3rd of July 1781, being then 58 years of age, he took to his seventh wife Frances Lapeyre, widow of Leonard Faure.

Whether he has buried her or not we cannot tell as we have not had any tidings of her since her marriage, but we know that she has not buried him, as by a letter which was lately received from Limorges, we understand that he is alive and in good health.”

Handsome Devils and their Deeds: Banastre Tarleton


In the eternal bad guy versus good guy debate, Banastre Tarleton was the original Byronic hero before the actual Byron existed.  To the patriots of the American Revolution, he was a villain, “mad, bad, and dangerous to know” in the truest sense.  Along with Benedict Arnold, no other soldier treading on American soil was more hated than Tarleton.  His youth and the robust traits that sprung for it–recklessness, daring, and outright aggression on the field–made the commander of the British Legion a formidable opponent.  So formidable, in fact, that Americans used him as propaganda.

“Join, or Die” by Benjamin Franklin, 1754 (otherise known as Join and Die to the likes of Tarleton)

“Join, or Die” was the motto of the revolutionaries.  Tarleton, an upstart in the eyes of his elder superiors, spawned a reply of his own.  “Tarleton’s quarter”, which ironically meant “give no quarter”, became the rallying cry for the Battle of Cowpens where the Americans gained a decisive victory against the British.  Capitalizing on Tarleton’s signature style of rushing brutal attacks, William Washington, the commander of the light dragoons, flanked the British troops and ushered in a defeat.  That he engaged in vicious hand to hand combat with the fleeing Tarleton earned him a silver medal and only served to bolster Tarleton’s reputation.  Ignominious, would be the word.

Lieutenant-Colonel Banastre Tarleton, Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1782

Tarleton was no gentleman’s war hero.  Although European convention dictated that acts of war occur strictly on the field, Tarleton took his cue from the guerilla fighters he opposed.  He fought dirty, burning down houses, razings crops and livestock.  Upon one occasion, he is reputed to have unearthed a widow’s husband from the grave—a hateful act presumably to terrorize the local populace and to illustrate that those resisting British rule would be punished by any means possible.  Later he dined at the widow’s table, undoubtedly enjoying his meal with gusto.  He was, after all, making a point.

Five years after sailing to America, the commander best known for massacring the surrendered patriots at Waxhaws was doing pretty well for himself.  In England, Tarleton had been the third eldest son of an upper middle class merchant and slaver from Liverpool.  As befit his station, he prepared for a perfectly staid career in law at Middle Temple in London and University College in Oxford.  His father’s death in 1773 changed all that.

With a £5,000 inheritance to burn, Tarleton squandered a small fortune on gaming and prostitutes.  By 1775, he was desperate for a change of pace.  Faced with penury and his family’s disapproval, he did what younger sons normally did: He joined the cavalry with the lowest purchased rank of cornet.  Despite his eventual rise to general in 1812, he never had to purchase another rank again.  The man who was hopeless to live within his means had finally found something he excelled at.

Engraving depicting fight against Tarleton’s cavalry

Tarleton, if anything, was an aggressive military strategist.  On a scouting trip, he captured General Charles Lee by threatening to burn down the tavern the general was staying in.  This feat was accomplished in 15 minutes, no less.  As the story goes,  the unlucky Lee was taken hatless in his dressing gown.  One for Team George!  (Boo, says this American)

Later, Tarleton would lead a raid to capture the then govenor Thomas Jefferson.  History might have played out differently if he had succeeded in more than disrupting the Virginia legislature.  Jefferson, alerted by Jack Jouette, the “Paul Revere of the South”, slipped quietly out of reach and that was the end of that.

Tarleton would evenutally write a book about his experiences during the American Revolution.  A History of the Campaigns of 1780 and 1781 in the Southern Provinces of North America was more than an eyewitness account, it was a self-congratulatory nod in the braggart’s favor.  Not that he needed any help in that department.  He killed with almost as much fanfare as he bedded women.

And did he have a favorite lady, you ask?  None other than Mrs. Robinson, the actress and woman of letters.   I’ll post their story tomorrow in anticipation of February, the month of romance blogging.  To those of you who scorn Valentine’s Day, not to worry; I’ve got something planned for you, too.   It’s called the anti-romance tag.


Handsome Devils and Their Digs: 4th Earl of Aberdeen

George Hamilton-Gordon was not only a hottie, he had a big heart.  Upon visiting his Scottish estate of Haddo house in 1805 for the first time since childhood,  he was stunned by the impoverished conditions surrounding his tenants.  His father and grandfather had accrued large debts during their lifetimes and instead of squandering what little money he had, George invested his inheritance in agriculture and husbandry to improve the welfare of those under his protection.   Impressive for a man who ascended to the earldom at age 17.

George also appeared to be a softie in the love department.  At age 21 he married Lady Catherine Elizabeth Hamilton, daughter of 1st Marquess of Abercorn.  She died of tuberculosis in 1812, their heir and only son having died two years prior.  Without issue, George did marry his widowed sister-in-law Harriet Douglas in 1815 at the insistence of his father-in-law.  The marriage was a disaster.  George remained in love with his previous wife and had a strong dislike for Harriet saying she was one of the stupidest persons he had ever met.  Ouch!  Harriet hated Haddo house, the Aberdeen ancestral seat, and was unkind to his daughters from his first marriage.  By 1819 they were already living apart.

Marital difficulties aside, George’s life had its satisfactions.  After the death of his parents, he appointed William Pitt the younger as his guardian, a relationship with evolved into a close friendship.  As promissed by Pitt, he gained an English peerage in 1814, allowing him access to the House of Lords (Scottish peers did not have rights to a seat) and a secure, if ultimately rocky, future in politics.  He was also a devoted father, a fellow of the Royal Society, a scholar with interest in archaeology and Greece from his Grand Tours days, and Prime Minister from 1852 to 1855.

For more on today’s handsome devil:

How a Yank Doodles his Dandy, or London’s Macaroni Clubs

Yankee Doodle went to town
A-riding on a pony
Stuck a feather in his hat
And called it macaroni

When I was a little girl, I always thought this song sort of silly.  Yankee Doodle.  First of all, ridiculous name.  Split it into a noun and a verb and it becomes positively mystifying.  Yank was how my Georgia-born grandfather referred to me when I asked him about the “aggressor” in the American Civil War and doodle was what I did when I absolutely, for the dozenth time, feigned total lack of spelling comprehension so I wouldn’t have to partake in the spelling bee.   

Then there’s the “A-riding on a pony” part which is just as confusing as the first bit.  I mean, come on!  What man in his right mind a-rides on a pony without losing all sense of dignity?   Exactly my point.  And feathers?  Mortifying.  Feathers belonged not to a hat but to boa wrappers and old ladies who wore magenta lipstick that smeared on their teeth when they smiled.  Calling “it” macaroni (whatever “it” was) merely exacted the mortal blow that prevented me from singing this ditty.  After all, a little girl who likes to roll unfamiliar words off her tongue can only be so careless before she’s kicking her heels against the naughty chair in detention.

But back to how Yankee Doodle gets equated with macaroni.  Late in the 18th century, an establishment called the Macaroni Club was formed wherein a London dandy could nosh on pasta, strut his affected airs, and in general, be fabulous.  Card carrying members (okay, I don’t really think there was a card) consisted of gentlemen who had gone on a continental Grand Tour and returned with a passion for all things Italian. 

Given their outrageous sartorial choices including the much caricatured club wigs with shruken Nivernois hats, the French-style red heels and striped stockings, not to mention the occasional thrown in parasol and sword garlanded with ribbons, “macaroni” quickly became a choice insult for unmanly behavior.  Homoerotic connotations abounded and gender boundaries blurred.  If a fellow was proclaimed a Macaroni, he was not only a peacock of fashion, but weak, effeminate, and altogether contrary to stereotypical masculine authority.  Perhaps worst of all, in the insular minds of proper Georgian Englishmen, he was a xenophile.  

At a time when France and Spain were aggressively encroaching on British territory and the American colonials were stirring in their breeches, possessing continental sympathies was akin to being unpatriotic. Britain didn’t become an empire by imitating Italy.  Well, actually they did.  It’s called the Roman Empire, but that’s ancient history, long forgotten, rubbish, rubbish.  Point is, stiff upper lips shuddered at what these fancy poodles were doing to their country’s reputation.

Fortunately, a solution soon arrived where dandified Londoners weren’t the lone targets of mockery.  Enter the Americans. During the Revolutionary War, British soliders ridiculed the unkempt colonials who thought it the height of fashion to stick feathers in their hats and how better to unman the enemy, I ask, than by breaking out into song? 

Yankee Doodle keep it up

Yankee Doodle dandy

Mind the music and the step

And with the girls be handy


P.S. Still wondering how a Yank doodles his dandy? Doodle, as used in the ditty, refers to a fool or simpleton. In the early 18th century, however, doodle was also a verb, as in “to swindle or make a fool of”. A derivation of the German word, dudeln, it is possibly the root for the modern American “dude”.

The Dashing David Lyon

Sir Thomas Lawrence’s portrait of David Lyon, 1825

I couldn’t help but pause upon seeing this picture of the dashing David Lyon and thinking there was a bit of Mr. Darcy in him.  He has the refined air, the pride instilled down to his slender musculature and elegant, chiseled face.  His richly nuanced clothes, from the fur lining his coat to the ever so slight cane and dandyish hankerchief, speak of high position and wealth in society.  And yet, David Lyon is no peer.  He is part of the landed gentry.

Hailing from Goring Hall, Sussex and Balintore Castle in Forfarshire, Scotland, David Lyon’s family descends from one of the sons of Patrick Lyon, 1st Lord Glamis, a Scottish nobleman whose origins date back to the mid-fifteenth century.  The last of the Goring branch of Lyons died in 1934.  David’s father, Lyon senior, was reportedly worth around £600,000 at the time of his death.  Although a second son, upon his elder brother’s demise, he inherited a family fortune rich in Jamaican sugar plantations, including exports of  rum, and business investments closer to home.  David Lyon junior (our portrait sitter and a third son) possessed business savvy of his own accord, however, amassing a fortune as a merchant in the Antilles.

A considerable marriage prize, if I may be at the liberty to call him so, Lyon remained a bachelor well into middle age.  Before his marriage, he was an MP of Beeralston from 1831-2.  Afterwards, in 1851, he was High Sheriff of Sussex.  At around age 55 in 1848, he married the 29 year old Blanche Augusta Bury (b. 1819), daughter of Rev. Edward and the well-known novelist Lady Charlotte Bury.  Lady Bury had numerous daughters from two marriages, all of them considered talented and beautiful, Blanche being “not less handsome than the daughters of her first marriage.”1  From Mrs. Grant Laggan’s Memoirs and Correspondence, Mrs. Laggan recalls of the young Blanche:

As niece to the Duke of Argyle on her mother’s side, her dowry likely substantial given her father’s “very superior endowments and worth,”2 it seems Blanche was no Elizabeth Bennett.  But Pride and Prejudice be damned; you still want hear the story, right?

The couple made their home at Lyon’s 600 acre estate Goring Hall in Sussex.  Rebuilt on the grounds of a tear down, the new Goring Hall (below) was completed in 1840, eight years prior to the wedding.  Lyon also kept a townhouse in London at 31 South Street, Grosvenor Square, a prestigious area of London near Hyde Park.

Wrought-iron gates stood at the eastern and western entries to the Goring property until 1940 when they were removed during the war.  The mediterranean holm oaks that still line the drive and road, known as Ilex Way or Avenue of Holm Oaks, were planted by David Lyon.

At the time of his death on April 8, 1872 at the age of 78, the Lyons had no children.  The estate passed to  David’s brother, William Lyon, and remained in the family until 1934.  David Lyon’s portrait now resides at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza  in Madrid Spain.


1 New Monthly Magazine, Volume 11

2 Memoirs and Correspondence of Mrs. Grant Laggan, Volume 3

Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid Spain

Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry…, Sir Bernard Burke

The Harrow School Register, 1801-1900, First Edition, 1894

How to Bankrupt an 18th Century Lord

1.  Gamble at your club.  Convinced of your superior understanding of mathematics and science, show off at whist.  When that fails, proceed to vignt-et-un, faro, and piquet.

2.  Drink while gambling.  Increases the odds, don’t you know!

3.  Have a gaggle of unmarriageable daughters and name them Imelda, Griselda, Hamelda, Gertrude, and Mildred.  Scrounge up portions to carry them through spinsterhood.

4.  Maintain your dowager mother on a hefty jointure.  The third wife of the Duke of Leeds outlived her husband by 63 years and siphoned £​190,000 from the estate! Ouch.

5.  Upstage your fellow peers by declaring palladian architecture de rigeur, formal gardens passé, and nude statuary a must.  Apply these prevailing fashions to your ALL of your sundry estates and renovate.  Hell, why not live the life of a collector?  It is for the benefit of your heir.

6.  Disregard the slavish fashion mindset of the women in your life.  Let’s see here: wife, daughters, mistress (or two) and the occassional prostitute.  Check and damnation!  After all that altruism and personal sacrifice, you deserve to splurge on some manly embellishments.  Think gemstone buttons, diamond buckled shoes, and painstaking embroidery on your waistcoats.  One must play the part, after all. 

Writing the opposite sex

Men are my favorite part of romance novels and hands down my preferred characters to write.  Why?  I grew up around men, never had any sisters, and because of that, tend to be bewildered when it comes to certain female behaviors.  For example, I take less than a minute to order off a restaurant menu. When I go to the hair salon, I’ll chop my hair off on a whim and not cry about it later.  And yes, handbags the size of houses are just plain odd. 

Stereotypes aside though, I do love romance novels (a decidedly feminine interest, or so I’m told).  In a well-written romance sexual tension and witty repartees cannot be beat and although the experience hinges on a relatable  heroine, the hero should tantalize the reader.  Otherwise we’d be reading chick-lit wherein bad boyfriends with bad teeth and bad manners reign and maybe, just cross your fingers, the heroine is slightly happier in the end.  (OK, chick-lit is not that bad.  BJD and the like were very, very good.)

More often than not, creating compelling male characters results from toeing the male pov line, which next to your complicated heroine’s brain should be refreshingly simple.   Heroes are action oriented beings, moving the plot along at a quickfire pace until confronted with the sole problem they cannot conquer and immediately solve: lust and subsequent love for the heroine.  Rationality doesn’t work in dismissing the hero’s interest just as flat out charm fails in gaining the heroine’s affection.   They must fight and fight dirty to end up happily ever after. 

This is where writing by gender (or switching it up) comes into play.  Vexing the heroine is a beloved sport and the hero often accomplishes this with masculine observations, i.e. vulgar and/or amusing honesty.   Although contemporary romance might be the exception, this direct manner of speech does not work so well with the historical heroine, no matter how feisty she may be.  Men can get away with so much more than women:  noncomittal grunts, the cliched pleated brow, the stalkerific yet somehow compelling stare.  They don’t even have to talk to get their point across!

Male characters also have freer license to act unreliably.  They can make demands without being regarded as high maintenance or bitchy.  They can be unbelievably rude, sexually frustrated, evasive, and dense without these flaws overshadowing their character.  Display this behavior in a woman and many readers are going to assume there’s something imbalanced about her. 

But the most rewarding aspect of male characters is that you, the writer, can forget using all adverbs and many adjectives, throw out vague modifiers, and stick with strong verbs.  “Would you kindly step aside?” becomes “Get out of my way!” and so on.   There’s also the fact that men get to bellow and bark, which is a minor cherry on top. 

Now Get Working:

Writer’s Digest has a great article to jump start your thinking on “How to Write Intriguing Male and Female Characters.”  For reference, I also like to read work by alpha dogs like Hemingway and then scale back degrees from there in terms of speech and observation.  His style is sparse and to the point, some may even argue masculine at its best.

Hope you enjoyed!

Molly Houses – 18th Century Subculture

Molly:  term for an 18th century gay man, usually effeminate, and especially one who frequented Molly Houses, private establishments where homosexuals and cross-dressing men could meet likeminded partners.  

Since sodomy remained a capital offense in England until 1828, Molly Houses sprang up all over large cities, a subculture in their own right when homosexuality was widely considered an unnatural act against God and man.  Here, gay men could gather, unmolested by the harsh opinions of a moralistic society, to express their sexuality, to sing and dance or merely find a partner.  Gatherings like these flourished in 18th century London,  with the most famous, Margaret (Mother) Clap’s Molly House in Holborn, London, reportedly entertaining around 40-50 men per night. A story concerning Mother Clap’s Molly House has also been made into the eponymous play by Mark Ravenhill.  The 2001 play was billed as a “black comedy with songs, is a celebration of the diversity of human sexuality, an exploration of our need to form families, and a fascinating insight into a hidden chapter in London’s history.”  I couldn’t find a recording of it, which is a bit disappointing, but you can buy the play on amazon.

Interested in learning more? Sodomite’s Walk – A cruising lane in Moorfield (see map here)

Rictor Norton’s book Mother Clap’s Molly House.    He also has a pretty exhaustive body of work on Gay History and Literature that is worth checking out.

Domestic Servants – Part 2 – Men

It’s not so much about the idealized “servant” above but really more about the stiff and serious, the proverbial butler.  Which isn’t so bad, mind you, but who wants to see a butler, looking all proper and superior, when you could have a man, getting down and dirty in the house?  Well, 18th century masters and mistresses for one.  Men simply did not do “women’s work”.  Unless their purview included luxuries, they did not clean, polish, mend, or launder anything.  They were considered skilled workers; having been apprenticed, they could rise to a greater position in the house, and in this way, they were far above women in regard to employment (although women could ascend to higher offices also).  Where a woman worked, a man managed and oversaw.  But lest this become a feminist treaty on sexual politics in the workplace, I’ll quit with the comparisions.  Just know that men, first and foremost, were skilled in their employ and within the domestic sphere, they ruled over household luxuries, or those of the most expense: land, horses, glass, china, and the like.  Boys, fixed on the path of men (we hope!), were somewhat more engaged in women’s work, but only until they gained the aptitude to abandon their current position in favor of a better one.

The Hierarchy – Male Servants

Land Steward – Managed estate in all forms: collected tenant dues, leased farms, surveyed the property, settled disputes over land and farming, detailing records of such affairs.  When master was not present or inclined, he supervised the cultivation of the land, lending his ear to tenant farmers and the sophistication of their agriculture practices.

If there is no land steward, the house steward is the highest position in the house.  He would manage all domestic affairs, including servants below him, and is answerable only to the master.

Master of the Horse/Clerk of the Stables – oversees all equine and groom activities, including inspecting feed and overall care of the horses; arranges travel; is responsible for checking the condition of roads and inns; manages details of carriages; boss to coachman, grooms, postilion, and those connected to the stables or coaches.   By around 1725, this position devolved to the clerk of the stables.  More often than not, the clerk of the stables was lower born than his predecessor, the master of the horse.

Clerk of the Kitchen – responsibilities include the realm of the kitchen, including the work of the female cook and her subordinates. He ordered table provisions, negotiated with the green grocer, baker, and butcher; disbursed funds allocated by house steward for payment of provisions and to tradesmen for their services; guardian of the larder(pantry); ensured that meals were served on time and properly prepared this type of food preparation.

  • Man Cook: may take the role of the clerk of kitchen if domestic is absent, or he may divide roles to assist the clerk of the kitchen.  He would be familiar with French cuisine, as the English preferred.
  • Confectioner – employed in larger households, usually trained outside the household in a shop.
  • Baker – likewise as confectioner

Bailiff – Either a free agent or employed under the land steward. He manages the farm on the master’s country estate; buys cattle and horses for the plow; is responsible for husbandry, the breeding and raising of livestock; also performs administrative duties for the estate, assisting the land steward in tenant and leased land issues. He may be called upon, on occassion, to assist in the dining room.

Valet de Chambre – or as we know, simply the valet.  For the  first quarter of the century, this position was called the gentleman in waiting, but like the master of the horse, it dissovled into its present form.  The valet is responsible for his master’s person: prepares the master’s toilette, including coiffure.  Before bed and upon awaking, the valet is at the master’s disposal and must undress and dress him.  This was such an important role that if the valet was indisposed, the master would not prepare for bed, or as in the case of morning, would not get out of bed until his valet appeared.  As a master of fashion, the valet’s primary role is to care after the master’s appearance, inlcuding the care and selection of clothing, as the valet is responsible for his master’s modish presentation to the world.

Butler – in some cases, when a butler possessed supreme skill in domestics, he would take over the role of the house steward, and as such, presided over all servants in the house.  This was more common in the 19th century and onward. Other household offices were often coupled with the butler’s so that in some instances he was house steward, valet and butler at the same time.  He is on par with the housekeeper, an office held by a female, but being male, he was her superior.  Common duties included supervising dining room affairs, managing the wine cellar and all spirits, decanting wine bottles and ales, and serving liqueur.  He also looked after the silver, polishing it and keeping it in pristine condition.  An underbutler assisted the butler but was considered a lower domestic.

Gardener – fairly self-explanatory but as grand country estates had impressive gardens and landscaping, the gardener required an extensive knowledge of flowers, vegetables, fruits, and matters of landscape design.  Most often, he occupied a cottage on the estate, but could possess an office in the house.  He was expected to serve as a guide, escorting visitors on the grounds.

Lower Manservants

One thing to be aware of: while uppermanservants wore their own clothes, subordinates dressed in livery, basically the formal uniform of the house.

Coachman:  When a master of the horse or clerk of stabes was employed, he simply drove the coach.  Otherwise, he managed those employed in the stables and ensured that the coach was in working order.  An undercoachman assists the coachman.

Footman: Performed duties both inside and outside the house.  When in house, he waited the table, laid out cloth and served tea, and cleaned knifes (may clean glass when no butler was employed).  Out of doors, he performed as an escort or messenger.  On occassion he may express his masters “how d’ye’s” paying respects to acquaintances and friends when the master was disobliged.  He would also inquire after the health of those he visited and hand deliver messages.  As an escort, he rode on the back of the coach, walked behind his master or mistress, opened doors and carried parcels.

On the same level with the footman and groom is the running footman.  The fourth Duke of Queensbury, who died in 1810, was the last to employ one.  The running footman would run ahead of the calvacade, prepare an inn for his master’s arrival, and for sport, engage in running contests to win wagers for his master, and while on city streets, prepare the path for the coach.

Groom:  Under the master of the horse, he cares for the horses, feeding and watering them, brushing them down and administering medicine when they take ill.

Porter: A guardian of the gate, the porter screens those who seek admission to the estate.  In London townhouses, he was positioned in the foyer and is responsible for opening the door, taking calling cards, and allowing entry into the house.

Park Keeper:  Cares for deer on a master’s country estate.

Game Keeper:  Monitors the estate, looking for poachers and trespassers; knows how to breed wild game and is familiar with game laws.   Both the park keeper and game keeper live in cottages on the estate.

The Youths (lowest positions)

Postilion – mounted on one of the drawn horses, aka postboy

Yard boy – there is very little documented about the yard boy of this time, but I can (un)safely assume he fetched wood and probably aided the gardener in utilitarian affairs.

Provision boy – likely assisted the kitchens in fetching supplies

Foot boy – an attendant in livery

The yard boy, provision boy, and foot boy are largely interchangeable.  They were most often lackeys assisting in various domestic affairs.

Page – apprentice footman, attends on a person of distinction

Hall boy – assistant to the lowest footman, he empties chamber pots and cleans boots.  On par with the scullery maid.

And that’s it! Whew, am I glad that’s done.  As much as I love research, I hate recording it in an organized, presentable manner.  It’s only fun when the fiction writing begins and those scribbled notes actually start to pay off.

Much thanks to the .02% of readers who actually finished the post!  When it comes to domestics, you are now more educated than those who groaned and thought their head might explode from digesting a little bit of period knowledge.  The information about servants may seem extranneous in our modern day life, but if you read anything about the 18th century (or prior/proceeding centuries), understanding the role of domestics is a prerequisite for truly understanding a story and its social implications.  The way a character interacts with a domestic reveals a lot about his/her quality, especially when considering the lower servants, but also vice versa.  And there are a thousand other interactions between the higher and lower classes that are very telling when you recognize their weight.

So, between my Female Domestic Servant post and this one, I hope you’ve learned something useful for when you’re reading the likes of Georgette Heyer or maybe just a historical romance novel.

Stripping the 18th Century English Male

How To Undress Your Hero

The basics:

Everyday Coat, Waistcoat, and Breeches on the 2nd Lord Vernon, 1767.  Note the stockings and the buckled shoes.

It was quite fashionable in the early 18th century to contruct the three piece suit out of monochromatics colors and one type of cloth.  Later on, each piece would be diffferent (and perhaps dandy) with the waistcoat made of the most expensive fabric, ususally velvet, silk, or satin.

Formal Coat & Waistcoat

The lavish embroidery on this three piece suit suggests court wear, although day wear for the rich would also include painstaking detail and the use of lush fabrics.   As a rule, the more extravagent the suit, the more costly, and the more likely to be worn by the aristocracy.   With great affluency came an abundance of ruffles and a freshly laundered state of dress not seen in the lower classes.

However, in a nod toward the simpler fashion plates produced during the French revolution (1789-1799)–not to mention the revolution’s ideals of equality–a pared down style was adopted by the gentlemen of England.  The jabot gave way to the cravat, the ruffled sleeves disappeared.  By 1785 wigs were already losing their popularity.  In 1795, the heavy tax on powders all but killed the trend that had lingered for the past 135 years.  The full bottomed wig of the early 1700’s at first gave way to a shorter style before disappearing completely in society (they were still, however, worn in the courts).

Men eventually started wearing their hair natural and shorter, which one can imagine was a godsend for the itchy scalp associated with the cumbersome hair-pieces  By the regency period (1810-ish to 1820, although some say it extends to 1790’s despite the fact that Mad George was still on the throne), short hair a la the handsome George Fiztroy, the 4th Duke of Grafton, became the norm.

The 18th century was an era of great upheaval, politically and fashion-wise.  Note the main changes in style:  the coat cuts more and more away from the waist until by the late 1780’s, men no longer button their coats.  The breeches get tighter, the hair becomes shorter, natural instead of powdered.  The waistcoat’s arms disappear entirely, the frock skirt shortens, the collar becomes more defined.  Near the late 1790’s, the jackboots we see in the Regency period are preffered over buckled shoes.  Overall, the trend leans toward streamlined cuts as seen on Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy.  Notice the lack of ornamentation, the abundance of black, the absence of lush fabrics.

Got the basics down?  Now for the fun part.  Let’s get on with stripping the 18th century man!

 Undressing the Neck:

Men during this period either wore a jabot, a ruffled neck piece, as below . . .

Or a cravat like this one shown on Ralph Fiennes in The Duchess.

Coats are collarless in the first half of 1700’s; revers abound in the second half.  During this period, fashion also saw the cut of the coat change, curving away from the midline until eventually we have the evolved Regency style, which is cut very high upon the waist.  Then we have the waistcoast, sleeveless or with sleeves. . .

followed by the simple linen shirt, worn by the masses, and breeches (no fly before 1730’s; after we find a drop front where the center flap buttonned near the waistband).  Later in the 18th century, the fit became tighter so as to seem completely fitted against the thighs, a second skin if you will.  Popular fabrics were nankeen and leather.

Lastly,  the stockings (we’ve already kicked off those dreadful buckled shoes, perhaps heels of red or black, perhaps not!) and the linen drawers similar to modern day boxers but longer.  The stockings would be gartered at the knee.

And then finally, voila!

(Attribution: By After Polykleitos (Ophelia2) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Or at least one can hope.

More on Men’s Fashions:  Wigs & Wig Curlers

Interested in Ladies’ Fashions?  Look at my post on Dressing the English Lady