While my historical romances (like my latest, When the Duke Found Love) are firmly set in 18th c. London, I'll freely admit that there are aspects of that place and time that don't turn up in my books. Romances are meant to be fine escapist fare where love conquers all with a happy ending, not grim reminders of the darker sides of the past. It's not that I'm squeamish or prudish – remember, I subjected the heroine in my historical novel The French Mistress to mercury-bath treatments for the venereal disease she'd contracted from her royal lover – but there are certain places I'm just not going to take my romance characters.
All of which is why none of my romance heroes will be attending that favorite 18th c. pastime, the cockfight. Today cockfighting is illegal in America, but most Georgian-era males (and more than a few females) would have regarded the fights and the accompanying drinking and betting as a good night's entertainment, equal to watching Monday Night Football with friends.
A night of cockfighting inevitably left a pile of dead and dying roosters, including many of the so-called winners. As William Hogarth observed in his engraving, right, the blood-lust fury wasn't confined to the birds, either – though those wagering on the fights (usually) survived.
Just don't look for my heroes in the crowd.
Left: Box, made by Samuel Toulmin, London, England, 1765-83. Wood, shagreen. Inscribed under the lid: "Samuel Toulmin/Silver Cockspur Maker/Successor to Smith & Gatesfield/at the Deal & Crown in Burleigh Street/near Exeter Change in the Strand/LONDON."
Cockfighting Spurs, Made in England, 1765-1800, iron and leather. Winterthur Museum.
Right: Royal sport pit ticket design'd and engrav'd by Willm. Hogarth, by William Hogarth, 1759, London. Lewis Walpole Digital Museum, Yale University.