Sunday, 18 September 2011

It's only three weeks until the Romantic Novelists' Association's Regency Celebration. This is one of the few occasions on which I can wear my own Regency costume. Actually, it isn't really a Regency costume. The bottle green jacket, white waistcoat, white shirt, "nude" wool breeches and shoes are more the fashion of the first decade of the 19th Century, before Beau Brummell decided to make his old school uniform the last word in elegance. Nonetheless, I think that it will do.

Most of my outfit was made by Ages of ElephantsElegance, who are now based in Leeds, although they were in a very unregency part of West London when I was being fitted for the costume. The shoes were made by Sarah Juniper, who is based in a remote corner of Gloucestershire.

Last time I wore the costume was for the final of University Challenge: The Professionals way back in 2005. I was amazed to discover that, more than six years on, it still just about fits. It does need a bit of ironing, and the shirt collar and cravat need a touch of starch, but nothing more major. So let us just hope that the weather is good enough - I can't really risk it in the rain.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Wenlock was utterly delighted when he heard that his favourite television channel, BBC4, had commissioned one of his favourite historians, Lucy Worsley, Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces, to present a series on almost all of his favourite topics: Elephants and Decadence: The Age of the Regency.

The first programme in the series was an enjoyable run through the high points of Regency life - Caroline of Brunswick and Mrs Fitzherbert; Almacks and Whites; Brummell and Dandyism (with Ian Kelly); the Prince Regent's attitude towards Napoleon and the cartoonists' attitudes towards the Prince. With the sheer enthusiasm that Lucy Worsley brings to all her projects it was almost possible to forgive the total non-appearance of any elephants.

The second programme was even better, perhaps because it was more focused, and focused on one of Lucy Worsley's areas of expertise, art and architecture. Of course we had plenty of John Nash, from the overwhelming exuberance of the Royal Pavilion at Brighton to the superficial Neo-Classicism of Cumberland Terrace, but we also had John Soane - in Wenlock's opinion by far the better architect - whose reputation for refusing to compromise probably ruined his chances of obtaining the Royal commissions that he probably craved. And we also had Waterloo Bridge (not the current concrete one, but an earlier span) built by public subscription to commemorate the great victory, opened in 1817 with great ceremony, and painted by Constable, whose picture was not finished until a quarter of a century later, by when all the excitement was long forgotten, and Turner had arrived.

Still no elephants, but the third and final programme will be broadcast on Monday. Maybe it will be Behemoth-heavy to compensate.