Regency Glossary: P - Q - R
Packet – a ship running regular, usually short-distance routes to carry mail and passengers.
Pantomime – theatre entertainment heavy on spectacle. The pantomime could include singing, dancing, plays - either comic or spooky/gothic, elaborate costumes, and the best special effects of the day. This was rollicking popular fare in contrast to the more prestigious, serious stage dramas, not unlike the summer blockbuster movies of today!
Paragon – an exemplary person, a model of correct behavior and integrity.
Parasol – a dainty fabric umbrella used as a fashion accessory to shade a woman from the sun.
Parliament – the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
Pattens – ladies footwear for inclement weather. They were rings strapped onto the bottom of a woman’s shoes or boots to elevate her a couple of inches above the mud or slush.
Peer – a nobleman with a hereditary seat in the House of Lords: duke, marquess, earl, viscount, or baron.
Pelisse – a light coat, with or without sleeves, buttoning down the front, and hanging to about shin level. (See my article under the History section, Photos of Real Regency Clothing.)
Phaeton – the Regency version of a sports car, a light, fast, fashionable four-wheeled carriage for one or two horses, usually driven by the owner rather than a coachman.
Physician – as distinguished from a Surgeon, the main difference was that a physician had gentleman status because he did not do manual labor, i.e. did not touch the patient. The physician treated patients by questioning them on their symptoms and then writing out prescriptions to be brewed up by the local Apothecary. The Surgeon, also known as the barber, was the hands-on guy for everything from amputations to pulling teeth. Physicians were considered as white-collar educated professionals whereas surgeons had a much lower status.
“Physick” – an antique term referring to medicine in general.
Pianoforte – the forerunner of the piano. Before the pianoforte came along, there was the harpsichord, which excelled in showing off precision, technical brilliance, texture, and virtuosity, but was limited in emotional expressivity because the player had no control over volume. By using new technological advances, the pianoforte allowed greater emotional expression because it could play softly (“piano”) or more loudly (“forte”), depending on the mood the musician wished to create. This innovation fed into the Regency and early Romantic era’s preference for increasingly emotional music, as in the works of Beethoven.
Pin-money – a woman’s allowance given for personal purchases. Emily Hendrickson’s Regency Reference Book (p. 115) lists the average sum given to a lady of the upper class or peerage as being around 400-500 pounds sterling annually. In today’s money, that would come in somewhere between $20,000-$25,000 U.S. This sum could be written into her marriage settlement (as in a pre-nup), or just informally agreed to by her husband.
Pluck – courage, spirit.
Poaching – hunting game animals on a landowner’s property, a crime punishable by transportation to a penal colony. Landowners were permitted to ward off poachers by severe means, such as setting man-traps or even shooting at them.
Poppet – a term of endearment.
Port – sweet heavy red wine fortified with brandy, most frequently imbibed by Regency gentlemen at dinner parties after the ladies had withdrawn to the drawing room for tea. Port gets its name from the country of Portugal. England had sworn off French wine during the war years, and instead began importing wine from this allied country instead.
Portmanteau – 19th century term for a suitcase, traveling bag.
Prime Minister – in England, the head of the government; it’s always the leader of whichever political party has the most seats in the House of Commons.
Primogeniture – the traditional system of inheritance whereby the eldest male offspring was the sole legal recipient of the deceased’s title and entailed lands. Money, possessions, and non-entailed properties could be divided up among the various children of the deceased, but these dispensations to younger sons and daughters were usually modest. It was found that family fortunes did not last as long once they started dividing up the money. Instead, the preferred system was to put the male firstborn in charge, educate him for that position, and assume that he would look out for his younger siblings responsibly. Younger sons of wealthy families were expected to make their own way in the world; in the 19th century, it was common to send younger sons into the military and into the Church.
Quadrille – a genteel, slowed-down square dance for four couples, first introduced at Almack’s by Lady Jersey in 1815. (Emily Hendrickson, The Regency Reference Book, p. 117.)
Quality, the – the upper classes.
Quid – slang term for money in British pounds sterling.
Quill-pen – most commonly made from a goose-feather. The tip or “nib” of the quill was sharpened and carefully split with a pen-knife (thus the name) to better hold the ink.
Quinsy, the – tonsillitis.
Quiz– (n) 1. someone or something odd or strange, 2. a jest or hoax, 3. (v) to peer at someone through a quizzing glass.
Quizzing glass – a monocle, must-have accessory for the Regency London dandy.
Quorn, the – “One of the oldest and most prestigious of the fox-hunting packs in England. Named for Quorn Hall in the Midlands where the pack was first bred in the mid-1700’s.” (Daniel Pool, What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew, 1993.)
Ready, the – a general slang term for money.
Reel – a Scottish dance for two or more couples with figure-eight patterns.
Regent – one who rules on behalf of the rightful monarch.
Regiment – a military unit in the British Army with a common uniform, commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel. In the Infantry, the regiment is made up of one or more battalions (the fighting unit, of about 800 men, divided into companies and commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel). Typically, the first battalion served on the front lines while the second was stationed at home tasked with recruitment and training. In the Cavalry, the regiment is the fighting unit, again of about 800 men, divided into squadrons.
Resurrection men – body snatchers who robbed graves to provide medical colleges with cadavers for dissection.
Reticule – a lady’s small purse, either a clutch or worn over the wrist.
Robin Redbreast – nickname for Bow Street Runners because of the red vest that was part of their uniform.
Romanticism – a literary and philosophical movement owing much to French and German influences. Lasting into the 1840’s, it also impacted design as a reaction against the orderly symmetry of classicism, as evident in the development of landscape gardens, as well as the neo-Gothic and exotic trends like Orientalism in architecture. It also effected social life with a new interest in solitary man and wild nature, as exemplified in the Lake Poets. Also worked its way into clothing styles in the “naked fashions” of the Empire and early Regency costume. Emotional expression in music was emphasized over the earlier preference for texture and brilliant virtuosity. Another manifestation of Romanticism were the gothic novels so popular in the 19th c.
Rookery – a dangerous city slum inhabited by criminals.
Rotten Row – a bridle path in Hyde Park favored by the fashionable.
Rout –a crowded fashionable party, can also mean a card party.
Row – British slang for a fight, brawl, or argument (pronounced to rhyme with cow).
Rudesby – a rude person.
Rushlights – simple tallow candles used by poorer people, especially in country cottages.
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