Thursday, November 7, 2013

An Elegant Phaeton for 1819

Thursday, November 7, 2013
View online here
Loretta reports:

I've thought of phaetons as sporting vehicles, which would be driven by the owner, but this looks like a coachman-driven vehicle.  It's hard to be sure, since we're dealing with a drawing rather than a photograph, but the cushioned seat at the back with its overhead covering indicates that this was not intended for servants or luggage, as is the case in the demi-mail phaeton in which my characters travel in Scandal Wears Satin.  This is a good reminder that carriages were not built on an assembly line, and different coach builders had their own distinctive style, which would also incorporate the customer's particular wishes.  In this case, it seems the climate was taken into account as well.

From Ackermann's Repository for November 1819.

Read online here


Helena said...

Before I read the text, I looked at the drawing and thought: that can't be a phaeton because there's a seat for a driver in front of the main seat. I'm listening to The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer, and her perch phaeton and how she drives it in key to the story! So then I read your text and thought: yes - but if not having a separate driving seat isn't key to the definition of "what is a phaeton", then what is? What makes a carriage a phaeton (as opposed to a curricle or gig or landaulet)?

Anonymous said...

Why 1811 when the magazine was published in 1819? Was the vehicle built 8 eyars earlier? If so, shouldn't there have been more about the axle?
It is an elegant vehi cle and quite suitable for Jamaica.
I think you find the most intesting things.

Lil said...

I have no idea what a moveable axel is, or why it should be desirable, but that certainly is an attractive vehicle. So light and airy. I'm not sure I would care to ride in it on a dark and stormy night, but on a warm summer day it would be perfect.

LorettaChase said...

Helena, good question, and I do not know the answer. As my comments indicate, this vehicle puzzles me, too. As readers may have noticed before, the magazines and newspapers and books of the time sometimes contradict what we find in history books as well as fiction. IIRC (I don't have access to them at the moment) the phaetons in my carriage books are all owner-driven. Anonymous, 1811 was a typo, which I've now corrected.

GSGreatEscaper said...

I believe that the answer is that phaeton refers to the openness of the vehicle, rather than who drives it or how many horses were used. The carriage could be high or low, have a separate seat for a coachman or not, and be driven in three ways; by the owner/user, by a coachman, or by an outrider. Go to the wikipedia page for phaetons and you will see an example of QEII in a phaeton being driven by an outrider (a driver riding on one of the horses....)

Helena said...

Maybe the simple answer is that the person at the magazine simply wasn't sufficiently interested in carriages! Presumably some people were and others weren't, just like with cars today.

I've been looking at the Encyclopaedia Britannica (which I prefer to Wikipedia), because I don't think the defining feature of a phaeton can be that it is open, given that so is a curricle, and a gig, and a landaulet.

EB says: "phaeton, open, four-wheeled, doorless carriage, popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. It contained one or two seats, usually had a folding, or falling, top, and was owner-driven (i.e., it had no outside driver’s seat)."

The key feature of a curricle is that it "was pulled by two matched horses yoked abreast and was therefore equipped with a pole, rather than shaft". It was also owner-driven.

"The landaulet ... was a landau coupé, appearing as if the front were cut away, with a forward-facing seat for two people. It had an elevated coach seat for the coachman, and a folding, or falling, top."

LorettaChase said...

Gs Great Escaper, I'm seeing only owner-driven vehicles on the Wikipedia page. The one for the queen has a postilion, it looks like. Helena, since they spelled Phaeton wrong in the illustration, maybe they made a mistake with the vehicle name--the way I put the wrong year in the title of the blog originally... Readers, you might want to check out one of my sources online: http://google.com

Anonymous said...

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