Fashionable Society, or the fashion. From the French bon ton, meaning good form, ie good manners, good breeding, etc. A person could be a member of the ton, attend ton events, or be said to have good ton (or bad ton).
titles and forms of address
The British peerage, in order of precedence is:
duke/duchess: the Duke/Duchess of Somewhere, both addressed as Your Grace.
marquess/marchioness: the Marquess/Marchioness of Somewhere, addressed as Lord/Lady Somewhere. Note that sometimes the French form Marquis is used (though never the feminine French title of Marquise). Marquess is an older and purely English form.
earl/countess: the Earl/Countess [of] Titlename, addressed as Lord/Lady Titlename
viscount/viscountess: the Viscount/Viscountess [of] Titlename, addressed as Lord/Lady Titlename.
baron/baroness: Baron/Baroness Titlename, addressed as Lord/Lady Titlename.
The titles of duke and marquess are almost invariably territorial, eg Duke of Devonshire, Marquess of Salisbury, etc. The titles of earl, viscount, and baron are most often associated with a territory, eg Earl of Pembroke, but can also be based on a family name, in which case the “of” is dropped, eg Earl Spencer. A baron’s wife is not typically titled a baroness, though she is addressed as Lady Titlename. Only a woman who is a baroness in her own right uses that title.
The next two ranks are not peers, ie they do not sit in the House of Lords:
baronet: addressed as Sir Firstname, his wife as Lady Surname.
knight: addressed as Sir Firstname, his wife as Lady Surname; a knighted female is addressed as Dame Firstname, her husband as Mr. Surname, ie he does not share the distinction of his wife.
Whereas a baronet title is hereditary, a knighthood is not inherited.
For details on each rank as well as correct forms of address, these sites are recommended: http://www.debretts.com/forms-of-address/titles.aspx
A liveried groom, generally small, generally young. An owner-driven curricle or phaeton typically had a groom’s seat between the springs on which the tiger sat. The single-horse cabriolet had a platform at the rear on which the tiger stood. He also managed the horses when his master ascended to or descended from the seat, and sometimes took the reins to exercise the horses while his master temporarily left the vehicle. A small, lightweight tiger was preferred in order to maintain the proper balance. In fact, it was something of a status symbol to have the smallest possible tiger.
The print shows a curricle with a tiger in the groom’s seat. “The Marquis of Anglesey Driving his Curricle” – lithograph after Henry Graves. From the book The English Carriage by Hugh McCausland.
A license obtained from the Archbishop of Canterbury or his office in Doctor’s Commons in London, that granted the right to marry at any convenient time or place. They were valid for 3 months. Without a special license, marriages could only take place between 8:00am and noon in a parish in which one of the parties has resided for a minimum of 4 weeks, and only after the banns had been read in that parish on three consecutive Sundays.
The social “Season” is generally described as beginning in early spring and lasting until the end of June. The season had some relation to the sitting of Parliament. It convened each January, so those involved in the government would head back to town at that time. No doubt their ladies spent the next couple of months updating their wardrobes and planning their social calendars for the spring. As for the term “Little Season”, supposedly in the fall — I have never seen any mention of a Little Season anywhere in a primary source. It is only referenced in books by Georgette Heyer and other writers of fiction. It makes sense that there might have been such a thing, as the upper classes who had left London for the seaside or the country might have returned to town in the fall, especially those involved in Parliament, which was still in session until November. But I have never come across the term Little Season anywhere outside of novels.
A crowded party, akin to a modern cocktail party. An American visitor to London in 1810 described it like this: “Great assemblies are called routs or parties … The house in which this takes place is frequently stripped from top to bottom; beds, drawers, and all but ornamental furniture is carried out of sight to make room for a crowd of well-dressed people, received at the door of the principal apartment by the mistress of the house, who smiles at every new comer with a look of acquaintance. Nobody sits; there is no conversation, no cards, no music; only elbowing, turning, and winding from room to room; then, at the end of a quarter of an hour, escaping to the hall door to wait for the carriage, spending more time upon the threshold among footmen than you had done above stairs with their masters. From this rout you drive to another where, after waiting your turn to arrive at the door, perhaps half an hour, the street being full of carriages, you alight, begin the same round, and end it in the same manner.”
The post chaise or traveling chariot was a small carriage pulled by two or four horses, and was owned or hired by those wishing to travel privately, that is not on a large public conveyance like a stage coach or mail coach. Hired post chaises were most often traveling chariots that had been discarded by gentlemen — sort of like a fleet of used rental cars. The hired chaises were generally painted yellow, hence the nickname Yellow Bounder. They were quite small, usually with only one forward seat facing a large glass window. There was often an outside bench seat in the back, over the rear wheel, where servants rode. Luggage was carried on a little forward platform between the front springs, and could also be strapped on the roof. The post chaise was “steered” by postilions, or post boys, seated upon the horses. There was no seat for a driver, and none was needed. One post boy was engaged to drive each pair of horses, ie a team of four horses was driven by two post boys, a lead-boy and a wheel-boy. Each rode on the left side of a pair, and wore iron guards on his right leg and foot to protect against injury from the center pole. The wheel-boy was generally the more experienced of the two. New post boys were trained by riding the lead team with the wheel-boy calling out instructions from behind. When the horses were changed along the route, new post boys were hired with them. Boys in name only, these riders were generally small, hardy little men, like jockeys, and were often colorful characters nattily dressed in “uniforms” associated with specific posting inns. They almost always wore white leather breeches and short jackets with large brass buttons, and tall beaver hats in which they kept their possessions. Private postilions were kept by those who traveled frequently and used their own traveling chariots. But these drivers often posted only to the first stop on a long journey, driving the owner’s team back home after new horses and post boys were hired.
The print shows a post chaise: “The Elected M.P. on His Way to the House of Commons” by James Pollard, 1817. From the book The Regency Road by N. C. Selway.
An early incarnation of the piano, developed in about 1730. Keyboard instruments prior to that time could be played with precision but without variation of volume. The pianoforte allowed more versatility by producing notes at different volumes depending on the amount of force used to press the keys. It could be played softly (piano) or loudly (forte) — the full Italian term for the original instrument was gravicèmbalo col piano e forte (literally harpsichord with soft and loud).
The pianoforte shown is a Broadwood, 1791, from Kenwood House in London.
Any open-air four-wheeled sporting vehicle with seating for two is classified as a phaeton. Phaetons could accommodate one, two, or four horses. There were many variations of the phaeton. A popular version was the high-perch or highflyer phaeton, made fashionable by the Prince Regent. Its exaggerated elevation often made it dangerously unstable, which, naturally, made it popular among sportsmen.
The print, showing a high-perch phaeton, is from the magazine Gallery of Fashion, August 1794. (It’s so high off the ground, one has to wonder how the ladies got up into it!)
The most desirable residential neighborhood in Regency London. Its unofficial boundaries are Picadilly on the south, Oxford on the north, Park Lane on the west, and Regent Street on the east. It includes Berkeley Square, Grosvenor Square, and Hanover Square.