Pork was an everyday staple for middle and upper-class diners of the Regency period. Little of the animal went to waste, with the pancreas, called sweetmeats, and head being common delicacies of the age. At dances, finger foods were highly prized as they allowed revelers to mingle and continue dancing while eating. This was much preferable over a massive, multi-course seated dinner that would surely get boring quickly to the young attendees with courtship on their mind. One tasty finger food was chicken stuffed with pigs’ tongues. Pig’s tongues were, in general, considered a delicacy to be savored when served a whole pig’s head.
Beef was another favorite food during the era, taking on a primarily political air during the war against the French. Dining clubs sprung up that focused heavily on eating beef, as it was unpopular in France at the time and considered by the British to be an unpretentious patriotic food that set them apart from continental Europeans. Eating specific foods or renaming them for political purposes is an old tradition that persists into our time, with hamburgers being renamed “liberty steaks” during World War I and french fries being called “Freedom Fries” in the early 2000s when France refused to support the United States’ war with Iraq.
Anyone who has ever had to sport shapewear or an elaborate dress knows that it isn’t always convenient, or even possible, to remove your garments in a way that facilitates using the bathroom. Regency Era women certainly knew this, given the layers of slips, dresses, and outerwear that would have comprised their daily attire. It should be a little surprise, then, that the clever women of the era had ways of using the bathroom while hardly having to adjust their clothing at all. Starting in the 18th century, women used fanciful gravy-boat like vessels called bourdaloues to do their business.
The bourdaloues were typically made of porcelain or metal and genuinely do look like small gravy boats minus a spout. They had a handle on one end and were curved inwards in the middle to rest comfortably against the user. For wealthy women, a maid would be waiting nearby to enter the pot after use. A painting by Francois Boucher shows a woman in full dress preparing to use a bourdaloue. Reportedly, women would use them in public, merely standing in a dark hallway or behind a curtain to relieve themselves. The advent of water closets in the 19th century put an end to the practice of using bourdaloues.
If you thought the folk songs of the Regency Era were tawdry, just wait until you hear about the cartoons. In an era before formal pornography, people needed some material to excite the imagination. This was accomplished with widely available cartoons that depicted countless carnal acts in full color. Surprisingly, in an era of purportedly chaste Christian morals, nothing was taboo in erotic artwork including gay people, interracial acts featuring Africans, oral, orgies, and acts depicting transvestites. Oddly enough, one erotic graving of the era describes putting a trumpet in a woman’s backside. Whether this was a peculiarity of the artist or an actual practice at the time is (thankfully) unknown.
The artist Thomas Rowlandson, who was active during the Regency period, created dozens of erotic engraving and illustrations that still survive today. They depict interracial acts, voyeurism, bestiality and more. Rowlandson is also famed for his satirical and political cartoons, implying that he must not have had his reputation damaged by the publication of erotic artwork. It is unclear what publications published Rowlandson’s erotic artwork during the era, but shortly after the Regency Era, the Victorian Era had several widely distributed erotic magazines called The Pearl and The Oyster that featured erotic stories and images.
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