Now that Lady B is out in the countryside, recovering (ahem) from a rather arduous Season of staring debutantes out of countenance, how exactly is she entertaining herself while the good weather lasts?
For me, the long hot days of summer bring back memories of barbecues, badminton, croquet (invariably someone will have squashed the wickets, leaving them to be put back up in strange, ageometrical shapes through which the ball can only, with great difficulty, pass), and lots of lying around on the grass with a book.
Not all of these would be strangers to our Regency friends. Barbecues, certainly, aren’t Regency fare, but eating al fresco was. You can find many illustrations of elaborate picnics, from the blanket on the grass variety all the way to “let’s get the footmen to put the dining room on the lawn!” (Okay, maybe not quite the whole dining room, but you get the idea.) Lady B, however, might well engage in a spirited game of badminton. This picture, from 1804, shows the ladies going at it with battledore and shuttlecock:
Several of our other outdoor entertainments would also be familiar to Lady B and her cronies. When I drag out the battered old family croquet set, I don’t know about you, but I certainly think about Bridgerton Pall Mall and the Mallet of Death.
A few years ago, when I was writing The Mischief of the Mistletoe, I wrote in a plot-essential game of Blind Man’s Buff (and we can have the usual debate about whether it’s Blind Man’s Buff or Blind Man’s Bluff later). As I was writing the scene, I had one of those panic attacks impossible to explain to anyone but another writer of historical fiction: the horrible fear that Blind Man’s Buff might be one of those insidious Victorian additions that we blindly believe has been around longer. There are lots of those. They’re sneaky little devils, those Victorian additions. My book was set in 1803. That would not have been good.
I hastily looked up Blind Man’s Buff (I confess, such was the extent of my deadline-driven anxiety that I did exactly what I always told my history students not to do and googled it, instead of hauling myself out of my desk chair to walk the big ten feet to the research books on my shelf), prepared, if necessary, to grit my teeth and find another party game. The first thing to come up? This picture, from 1803:
Pretty neat, no? Not 1802 shall you count, or 1804, but exactly the year I needed. Although my book was set in winter, so my heroine wasn’t quite so diaphanously garbed– but as Lady B is out there with her cronies in August, this might not be so far off the mark for them, depending on which year in the Ballroom Time Space Continuum she happens to be inhabiting at this particular moment. If she’s currently on the 1816-ish side of Regency-land, her garments would be a great deal less diaphanous. And I imagine Albert would be there with her, squawking his own unique commentary.
But I digress.
What are your favorite outdoor August pasttimes?