Regency Glossary: G - H - I
gentleman - in strictly financial terms, a gentleman was someone who did not have to work for a living because he and his family had sufficient assets (savings land holdings) that they could live comfortably off the interest and/or rents. But the moral dimension of this word imparted the highest compliment one could give a Regency man. It had to do with being chivalrous, educated, reliable, kind, polite, helpful, respectable, intelligent, kind, and above all, always ready to do one’s duty without complaint.
Gentleman Jackson - boxing, also known as pugilism, was wildly popular in the Regency period with all classes of men, both as a spectator sport and an athletic hobby. Professional boxers fought until one of the contenders couldn’t get up off the ground anymore, and they didn’t wear gloves. Gentleman Jackson was the reigning champ of Regency prizefighting from 1795 to 1818 and opened a boxing studio, where he taught Regency bucks including the poet Lord Byron “the manly art of self-defense.”
Gentry - the gentry is the class of country landowners just below the aristocrats, such as baronets, knights, and non-titled squires. Unlike the aristocrats above them, they did not migrate to London for the Season each year. They tended to stay out in the country. Unlike the “backbone of England” yeoman farmers below them, they did not get their hands dirty in the actual work of farming. Most of Jane Austen’s protagonists are gentry people. In contrast with the stereotype of the day that painted aristocrats as decadent hedonists and the merchant class as greedy vulgarians, the gentry viewed themselves as the keepers of gentility and decent Christian morality. Gentry folk and old landed families gained prestige from their long association with the soil they owned, and this placed them above the new money of the often richer middle class. Gentry men could work in respectable professions if they chose, for example, as physicians and barristers. They were also active volunteers in their local communities with church associations and civil service, for example, as unsalaried country magistrates or justices of the peace.
glim - an old word for a candle, as in “glimmer.”
governess - basically a babysitter for a teenage girl, who was supposed to keep her out of trouble, educate her in “accomplishments,” and teach her how to behave like a refined lady.
Gretna Green - famous town just over the border in Scotland, where eloping lovers could procure a legal marriage even if one of the parties was underage. (In England, parental consent was required for a legal marriage for anyone under twenty-one.)}
grouse - a game bird similar to a pheasant or quail that lives on the moors and is a favorite target of shooting enthusiasts along with their well-trained dogs whose job it is to retrieve the bird once it’s been shot. (You can watch Lady Jacinda participating in this sport in Lady of Desire.) The “Glorious Twelfth of August” marks the opening of grouse season. Like it or not, blood sports were and are a staple of aristocratic country life.
Grumbletonian - someone who always complains. (I love this word.)
gull - to trick someone, especially out of money.
guineas - the standard gold coin minted in England until 1813, when the government began phasing them out in favor of gold sovereigns, which came onto the scene in 1817. The guinea was worth twenty-one shillings, the sovereign twenty, so the new coin must have made the math easier when shopping, anyway! Even after sovereigns had replaced them, however, luxury goods were still usually expressed in guineas.
Gunter’s - a fashionable Regency ice-cream shop in Berkeley Square.
hackney coach - the Regency version of a taxi cab, drawn by four horses. Often it was an old, beat-up carriage of the nobility. If no hackney was in sight to be flagged down, there were hackney stands all over London where you could count on finding one for hire. Hackney drivers were affectionately known as “jarveys.” Hackneys preceded by several decades the hansom cabs and growlers of Victorian times.
ha-ha - a popular landscaping device around great country houses, a “ha-ha” was a steep trench dug to keep the sheep and other livestock in their pastures without the need for unsightly fences that would spoil the view. It was called a “ha-ha” because if someone unfamiliar with the land came galloping by on horseback, they tended to end up sprawled in the ditch!
half-boots - ankle boots for ladies. (They existed for men, too, but we usually think of them as women’s footwear.) Half boots could be of kid leather for outdoor wear or of cloth for indoors. Fancy varieties also existed, made of velvet or silk and decorated with beads or embroidery, for wearing with formal clothes.
Hanover - Hanover is a region of northern Germany. Germany, at the time of the Regency, was a collection of miniature kingdoms similar to tiny Liechtenstein today. (In fact, Liechtenstein is the only autonomous little principality that has survived to modern times.) Each of these little segments of Germany had its own royal family. The family line of “Mad” King George and “Prinny” (Prince George, the Regent, for whom “the Regency” was named) was called the House of Hanover because the English royals were close cousins to the rulers of Hanover. That is why all of King George’s sons married German princesses, and how Queen Charlotte (wife to Mad King George), brought the German tradition of the Christmas tree to England. As a side note, Germany supplied nearly every throne in Europe with a ruler at one point or another. The Tsars of Russia and the Habsburg Emperors of Austria frequently wed German princesses, as well.
Hessians - a new style of mid-calf boots for men that brought about the invention of pantaloons. (See “The Gentleman’s Wardrobe” article in my History archives, link at bottom of page.) This fashionable boot style again underscores England’s German connection. Hesse was another of these little German mini-nations, and along with Prussia, was noted for breeding warriors of particular skill and ferocity. (In fact, trying to hold on to his American colonies, King George III sent legions of Hessian mercenaries to try to skewer the rebel colonists. But I digress.) Fashionable London dandies, in their unending quest for something different and new, loved adopting foreign clothing styles, especially from England’s international allies in the war against Napoleon. (Another example of foreign fashion influences were the baggy “Cossacks trousers” derived from Russia’s particularly scary cavalrymen, the Cossacks—whom you’ll meet in One Night of Sin!) Hessian soldiers wore this mid-calf, tasseled boot style as part of their uniform; the fashionable boot-makers of London took note, reproduced it, and got rich selling it to their lordly customers.
Holland cloth - a plain, low-cost, usually brown, linen-based fabric mainly used to drape household furniture to protect it from dust while the owners were away for a long period of time.
honor or "honour" - the all-important guiding principle and ideal behind gentlemanly or ladylike behavior. It had to do with a committed, self-disciplined adherence to exemplary behavior, especially honesty, fairness, and chivalry. The just reward of a stainless honor was a healthy level of pride and self-respect. Honor included a clean conscience and a spotless reputation. For women, especially unmarried ones, honor was also tied to chastity and prudence, and prudent behavior was necessary because without it, you could quickly get your brother, father, or boyfriend killed. Why? Because the standard method of dealing with blows to one’s honor was through dueling. For example, a man accused of cheating at cards had to duel to defend his honor. If one of his kinswomen were accused of being unchaste, then he must duel again to defend her honor. To fail to issue a challenge to duel after such an insult was the same as admitting guilt to the charge, and honor would be lost. To lose one’s honor was also to lose one’s place as an accepted member of Society and to be ostracized. Once lost, honor generally could not be regained. This was the meaning of being “ruined.” Moreover, by disgracing oneself through foolish, dishonorable conduct, one damaged the honor/reputation of one’s entire family. All of these potential hazards for honor contributed to the prevailing sense that a young lady had better behave with decorum and a young man had better learn early how to fight, fence, and shoot. By the Regency period, most duels were fought with pistols at twenty paces. (See “Duels.”)
housekeeper - top-ranking female servant responsible for everything in a great house except the cooking, including all cleaning, laundry, household maintenance, and supervising the army of maids. The triumvirate of butler, housekeeper, and cook were the top dogs in the servant hierarchy, and equal to each other. Around her neck or waist, the housekeeper wore a ‘chatelaine’ as a mark of office; a cluster of keys to every room in the house.
hoyden - a mischievous, spunky girl who is viewed to lack decorum.
Hyde Park - a nearly 400-acre park located in London’s ultra-fashionable West End. Five o’clock P.M. was the fashionable hour to see and be seen promenading in Hyde Park along its manmade ornamental pond called the Serpentine, or driving one’s fanciest carriage around the graveled pleasure-driving roads known as the Ring. Rotten Row was the famous stretch of road in the park notorious for speed demons either on horseback or in carriages. For the fair sex, there was the Ladies’ Mile.
in a trice – quickly.
Incomparable - an Incomparable was a young lady admired by all.
Inexpressibles - a genteel euphemism for trousers or any other garment that covered an impolite region of the body.
ivories - teeth.
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