Years of researching Regency era stories made me familiar with England's coaching roads, along which the mails sped. To get to France, one generally traveled the road to Dover. From there, sailing packets crossed the Channel to Calais, France, a distance of approximately 30 miles.
Though I knew my hero and heroine in 1835 would travel under steam power, I hadn’t realized, until I studied travel guides for the period, that it was possible to go from Calais to London by boat.
~~~ ROUTE BY STEAM PACKETS. The route by the London Steam Boats from the Tower Stairs, is less expensive, and, during the summer months, preferred by many. Those who are not subject to sea-sickness, will find this route, in fine weather, a most delightful voyage ; the vast variety of objects it affords, the crowds of shipping through which you imperceptibly glide, castles, barges, trees, in short, every object calculated to excite admiration and heighten enjoyment, present themselves, during your passage through the Thames. The Steam Company usually print monthly lists, stating the time of their leaving both London and Calais . . . In favourable weather, the passage is made in about twelve hours, but sometimes they are from sixteen to eighteen; the fare for best cabin passengers, is 33s.; fore cabin, 1£. 2s. 6d.; refreshment may be had on board at the following prices: breakfast consisting of cold meat, eggs, tea and coffee, 2s. dinner of plain roast and boiled, with vegetables, &c. 2s.; tea, 1s.; bottled porter, 1s.; wine, spirits, &c. equally reasonable, and of the first quality; there are beds on board, and every accommodation for ladies . . . Gentlemen who prefer travelling in white hats, will do well to wear either a hat cover, or a travelling cap, whilst on board the packets, as the smoke from the funnel of the vessel will discolour it.
__ Francis Coghlan, A guide to France, explaining every form and expense from London to Paris, 1830.
Print illustration: The steam ship President in gale, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Photo: Detail of an image from the Illustrated London News (10 May 1851), a cutaway of a packet ship, displayed at the Smithsonian; photo courtesy me.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.