Way back when I was writing my first Regencies, there was no Internet, and I didn’t know much beyond Jane Austen and Byron (I hadn’t even read Georgette Heyer yet). I heard debates among Regency authors about whether ladies did or didn’t wear drawers/knickers/panties. In the course of a video project (I was writing scripts in those days, along with having a day job), a historian at either Old Sturbridge Village or Plimoth Plantation
showed me some Rowlandson prints, and suggested I hunt for The Tour of Dr. Syntax. I never managed to get a copy of Dr. Syntax, but I have, over the years, collected books of Regency-era prints. Rowlandson is about my favorite pictorial resource. Take a look at Exhibition Stare Case.
Clearly, the ladies aren’t wearing drawers. But also notice how far up their stockings go. And how crowded the staircase was. And what this part of the interior of Somerset House looked like. Absolutely worth a thousand words. There’s more about the print here.
Fire at the Inn, which was one of his illustrations for Smollet’s
The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, is a terrific source of information. I’ve referred to it often when writing inn scenes. It gives me a sense of the layout of a coaching in--the galleries overlooking the courtyard were a common feature--and what people wore to bed, and what some of the room furnishings looked like. It was from a gallery like this that Jessica watched Dain fight Ainswood in Lord of Scoundrels.
In other words, Rowlandson isn’t just naughty fun--though that would certainly be sufficient--but he opens a window on his time for us.