Today, Monday, October 15, is Blog Action Day, with over 11,000 blogs discussing the environment. I’ve been sitting at my computer, in the light of my reprodcution light fixture recently refitted with energy efficient compact fluorescent bulbs, trying to think of how to relate the environment to my books and the Regency era.
The Regency London Charles and Mélanie live in has its own environmental issues. In the Prologue to “Beneath a Silent Moon”, a character returning to London after a long absense comes face to face with the reality. “The river stretched behind him, a smooth dark expanse, shimmreing where it caught the fitful moonlight. But the freeze off the water was choked with the stench of sewage and offal and remnants from the knackers’ yards. The air was heavy with soot from thousands of fireplace grates and coal-oil lamps. It clogged his throat and clung to his skin and no doubt was turning his cravat and shirt cuffs more grimy by the minute.”
Even in Mayfair, a house that looks out on the greenery of a square rather than a narrow expanse of street is a rare luxury. One of the reasons Charles has kept his parents’ Berkeley Square house, despite some less than pleasant memories.
The smoke and soot were worse in the north, where industrialization was beginning to take hold. Lung disease from the smoke was one of the many hazards faced by the increasing numbers who went to work in factories. Though there wasn’t anything one could precisely call an environmental movement, industrialization and conditions in the factories led to a great deal of social unrest and social action (some of which forms the backdrop for “The Mask of Night” and which I’d like to explore further in future books).
On the other hand, Regency society was remarkably efficient when it came to recycling everything from cast off clothing to dust and ashes, as Diane Gaston discusses in her excellent blog today on Risky Regencies. And as I learned early on reading Jane Austen, they made careful use of paper (which was expensive) by turning the paper and crossing their lines when they wrote letters.
Speaking of letters, I’ve just posted a new one from Lady Frances to Mélanie in the Fraser Correspondence. Lady Frances updates Mélanie on the latest developments between Byron and Lady Caroline Lamb, including the incident at Lady Heathcote’s ball. Be sure to check back later this week, when I’ll post a new video clip.