On this day: Elizabeth Gaskell was born

1832 portrait of English writer and biographer Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-65)

Elizabeth Gaskell in 1832, the year of her marriage.

English author Elizabeth Gaskell, the Victorian era creator of stories such as Cranford and North and South, was born on the 29th of September, 1810.

Her first novel, Mary Barton, was published in 1848.

Miss Matty and her brother Peter from Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell 1917

A 1917 illustration of Cranford.

Cranford and North and South, both of which have recently been adapted into very popular television series, were published in the 1850s.

A Visitor’s Guide To Jane Austen’s England by Sue Wilkes

A Visitor's Guide To Jane Austen's England by Sue Wilkes

Discover Jane Austen’s England

Immerse yourself in the vanished world inhabited by Austen’s contemporaries. Packed with detail, and anecdotes, this is an intimate exploration of how the middle and upper classes lived from 1775, the year of Austen’s birth, to the coronation of George IV in 1820. Sue Wilkes skilfully conjures up all aspects of daily life within the period, drawing on contemporary diaries, illustrations, letters, novels, travel literature and archives.

•Were all unmarried affluent men really ‘in want of a wife’?
•Where would a young lady seek adventures?
•Would ‘taking the waters’ at Bath and other spas kill or cure you?
•Was Lizzy Bennet bitten by bed-bugs while travelling?
•What would you wear to a country ball, or a dance at Almack’s?
•Would Mr Darcy have worn a corset?
•What hidden horrors lurked in elegant Regency houses?

Put on your dancing gloves and embrace a lost era of corsets and courtship!

A Visitor’s Guide To Jane Austen’s England by Sue Wilkes

There are many books like this one, a “travel guide” of sorts through the day to day events of Georgian, Regency and Victorian England. However, there aren’t many that pack as much information in as this one does, and so I really enjoyed it.

The thing the author of A Visitor’s Guide To Jane Austen’s England does right is that she uses primary sources for her information, and quotes letters and journal entries of the time from all sorts of people. There’s no guessing about things here; everything we’re told comes from something recorded back in the day.

The anecdotes taken from day to day life in the Georgian and Regency days Jane Austen lived are interesting, taught me more than a few things, and painted a stronger picture from the era than pretty much any book I’ve read.

Any historical fiction reader worth their salt is going to know quite a bit of what is in here, especially so for fans of Jane Austen. However, there was so much I learnt that I even found the rehashing of more commonly-known facts interesting all over again.

If more authors consulted primary sources rather than learning the world of the Regency from other Regency romances, there would be far fewer mistakes (with language, for example) turning up in books, and there would be a much more historical “feel” to the stories.

An interesting read for fans of history and historical fiction.

On this day: Sarah Booth’s Covent Garden Debut

English Actress Sarah Booth. Early 19th Century.

Famous English actress Sarah Booth made her debut at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden on the 23rd of November, 1810. She played Amanthis in the play Child of Nature.

The Theatre Royal, Covent Garden in 1810.

The new Opera House, drawn in 1810.

At the time, the Opera House was brand new, as the previous one had been destroyed by fire.

Portrait_of_Sarah_Booth in 1815

An 1815 portrait.

Booth was born in 1793 in Birmingham, and had a sister who also performed on the stage. Both were dancers at the time they were discovered in Manchester. Small in stature and with hair that was tinged red, Sarah was often cast in roles like Juliet, roles that required her to look younger.

On this day: the burning of Drury Lane Theatre

The third theatre on London’s Drury Lane burnt to the ground on the 24th of February, 1809, after only standing for fifteen years.

The painting, circa 1809, depicts the sky on fire from Westminster Bridge as the building collapsed.

The Burning of Drury Lane Theatre from Westminster Bridge circa 1809

The theatre’s owner, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, was famously seen drinking a glass of wine as the building burnt. He is said to have responded to baffled onlookers: “A man may surely be allowed to take a glass of wine by his own fireside.”

401px-Richard_Brinsley_Sheridan_1751_-_1816The Dramatic Works of Richard Brinsley Sheridan

The present day Theatre Royal, Drury Lane opened in 1812 and is today one of London’s most important theatres.

On this day: the Battle of Cape St Vincent in 1780

The Battle of Cape St Vincent was fought at night – unusual for the time – on the 16th of January, 1780. Part of the American War of Independence, the battle was fought off the coast of Portugal, between Britain and Spain.

Britain defeated Spain, as seen in this painting by Francis Holman, created the same year.

800px-Holman,_Cape_St_VincentBattle of Cape St. Vincent 16th January 1780

On this day: St Katharine Docks opened in London in 1828

St Katharine Docks opened in London in 1828


In the 1820s, some 11300 low class Londoners lost their homes as they were cleared out to make way for the development of St Katharine Docks. The docks opened on the 25th of October, 1828.

Plan drawn up for the St. Katharine Dock Company showing the street and buildings which would need to be demolished to make way for the new dock. circa 1825

Circa 1825 plan showing what needed to be demolished to make way for the docks.

Badly damaged by German bombing in World War Two, the area is now home to offices and private residences.

On this day: Captain Cook in 1768

Captain James Cook

On the 26th of August, 1768, James Cook departed Plymouth, England for his first voyage around the world. There were ninety-four people on the ship the Earl of Pembroke, later renamed HMS Endeavour. In a voyage commissioned by King George III that lasted nearly three years, Cook and his crew stopped at many points on many continents. They became only the second Europeans to visit New Zealand, after Abel Tasman 127 years before, and the first Europeans to reach Australia’s east coast.

Painting of the Earl of Pembroke, later HMS Endeavour, leaving Whitby Harbour in 1768. Painted circa 1790.

Painting of the Earl of Pembroke, later HMS Endeavour, leaving Whitby Harbour in 1768. circa 1790

The route of the voyage.

Captain Cook's First Voayage 1700s