This might constitute a typical day in the country, but
every day would have its differences and its own varieties.
household of the mythical Lord Dervish of Dervish
am – the kitchen servants rise, ready to build up the fires and prepare for
am – the indoor servants are all up and about their duties, cleaning, laying
fires and preparing clothes etc.
am – the family begin to rise. Most people rise early in the country. The maids
bring trays to the rooms, with tea, chocolate and bread and butter. Some family
members and guests are up for an early morning ride. They may have sent
instructions to the stables the night before to that effect. Occasionally, they
might hunt, though for the most part hunting was a pastime of county families,
not the aristocracy.
am – the family are mostly up, dressed in simpler clothes than they’d wear in
town. Lady Dervish is in her office, which might be her private sitting room, a
morning room or a study, reviewing the menus for the day and attending to the
business of the house. The housekeeper and the head cook will usually attend.
Lady Dervish reviews all the household accounts herself, initialling every
page. Many servants, as well as taking full advantage of the ‘perks’ which are
part of their office, may also try to take advantage of a lax mistress, and
‘cook’ the books.
am. Lord Dervish is in the estate office, attending to estate matters.
Depending on his preference, he will either approve the action his steward has
decided to take, or supervise it all himself. This will include everyday
maintenance of the estate, the home farm, which provides some of the food for
the house, and legal disputes. Most large landowners had something running in
am. Breakfast. This is held after the family has been up for a few hours, and
not first thing. It’s typically a running buffet, served in one of the more
informal dining rooms. The family and their guests attend. The post is brought
in, and the papers which have been delivered by Mail Coach to the nearest town
and picked up by a footman earlier in the morning.
am. If it’s a designated At Home day, the family are at home to visitors.
Dressed in something a little more formal then their everyday country wear,
Lord and Lady Dervish, and perhaps their older children, will receive visitors
in one of the lesser drawing rooms. Refreshments, in the form of tea, or a
light wine, with bread and butter will be served. The practice of offering
little cakes tended to be later, though Lady Dervish is fond of a fruit scone,
and usually has them served.
There might be a light meal served, especially for the guests or family who
have been out and missed breakfast. However, it is equally likely that they
will return and ring for something to be brought to them.
pm The family go about their usual daily business. This might be going out to
visit, if it isn’t an At Home day, visits to the poor, or even a shopping trip
to the nearest town. Country houses tend to have set times for certain events
like meals, and then the family and visitors would go their own way and only
meet up at dinner.
pm. Dinner. The family and guests will have gone to their rooms to change
perhaps an hour before. This is the time when they will ‘dress.’ Although the
Regency styles of dress were less elaborate than their forebears, this still
involves hair-teasing, goffering, discreet cosmetics and careful selection of
clothes. The men might have elaborate folds for their neck-cloths, which a gentleman
(according to Brummel) always executed himself.
would be served in one of the grander dining rooms, but not necessarily in the
state dining room. The table would be laid with the first course, which often
meant cold food, and a footman stood behind each chair to serve the guests. By
this period (the beginning of the nineteenth century), most guests were seated
continental style, man-woman-man-woman. The most senior guest in rank usually
led the way into the meal, and the guests would know automatically which order
they came in. I suspect the servants may have made enquiries beforehand to
prevent embarrassment, especially for the larger house parties!
goes on for quite some time, perhaps a couple of hours. It consists of three
courses, each of several removes (the dishes placed in a pre-ordained pattern
on the table). Afterwards, the hostess, seated at the foot of the table, would
stand up and lead the ladies out, to one of the grander drawing rooms. There
tea and light refreshments would be served. The gentlemen remained behind. The
servants clear the table and serve port and other wines, while the gentlemen
settle to after-dinner chat.
Dervish eventually leads the way to the drawing room to join the ladies. Some
gentlemen might decide to go to the billiard room, others, the ones too drunk
to be presentable, might be escorted upstairs by the servants.
evening consists of card-games, piano playing, and general chat, unless this is
the night of a ball. Bedtime is much earlier than in town, except on special
and Lady Dervish know which of their guests are having affairs, and provide
bedrooms conveniently close, so a game of musical bedrooms ensues, with guests
moving about until they are all settled in their bed of choice!