Regency Glossary: V
Vaccination - first introduced into England by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu after learning of the practice in Constantinople, where her husband served as ambassador, 1716-18. The medical profession looked askance on it, though “quacks” picked it up quickly. A breakthrough came in 1769 when country doctor Edward Jenner noticed that dairymaids who caught the non-life-threatening cowpox were never taken with the more dangerous smallpox. Free vaccination was offered in 1840 and made compulsory for babies in 1853; compulsory vaccination ended 1946.
Vails – a tip (of money) to a servant.
Valentine’s Day – the first printed valentines appeared in stationers’ shops in 1761. By the Regency they were folded sheets of paper with bright hand-colored engraving with printed verses, embossing, and paper lace. The advent of the penny post greatly increased the sending of valentines. As their popularity increased, comic valentines, sentimental valentines, and extra-fancy ones were also produced with silk ribbon, sachets of perfume, three-dimensional effects, even circular cards. Originally based on an ancient pagan custom of drawing lots for lovers or husbands in springtime mock betrothals, valentines were sent mainly by women to men until later in the 19th c. (Victorian). Men, unsurprisingly, had to be urged by the manufacturers to send them to their ladies. (Duh.)
Valet – the gentleman’s gentleman is a man’s personal servant, male equivalent of a ladies’ maid. Assists with clothes and hair, as well as modern “personal assistant” type duties.
Vandyke – a border of pointed, tooth-like lace named after the ruffs seen in portraits by the Dutch Old Master, Van Dyke.
Varlet - insult term for a low scoundrel.
Vauxhall – the most famous of the many London pleasure gardens, this one located on the south bank of the Thames. Served food, offered various amusements and entertainments, including fireworks nightly. Famous for its scandalous garden walks. One of the rare places where different social classes mixed. Flourished until mid-century.
Vehicle tax – first introduced in 1747, all horse-drawn vehicles were taxed until WWII. Two wheeled vehicles taxed less than four-wheeled ones.
Vellum – parchment made of sheep or goat skin used as extra fine writing paper.
Venerable pile – a great family’s ancient stately home.
Verandahs – common features of Georgian and Regency town houses. Balconies made of fancifully ornate cast-iron, with a lead or copper roof, supported by slender iron columns.
Vestry – room in a church where sacred vessels were kept, where the clergyman dressed for services, also where the bride and groom signed the parish register immediately after the wedding.
Vicar – parish priest appointed to a living owned by someone else. Of less status than a rector.
Vinaigrette - a small box or bottle of silver, gold or glass that contained the smelling salts!
Vinget-et-un – the card game “twenty-one” aka blackjack.
Viscount – peer ranking under an earl and above a baron. His wife was a viscountess. A fairly rare title compared to the number of earls and barons, etc. and unlike them, usually did not have “of” in the middle of the title. (Ex. Viscount Castlereagh, versus Duke of Wellington.)
Visiting Card – a calling card with one’s name on it that one left when paying a call.
Voucher – Almack’s desirable ticket for the subscription balls, hard to obtain.
Vowels – “I.O.U.” Accepted temporarily when one owed a debt of honor.