Know your Phaeton from your Curricle, Part 2: Guest Post by Hazel Mills — 25 Comments

  1. This is fascinating, thank you!

    Isn’t there reference to a chair in Persuasion? I am thinking that someone talks about calling a chair for Anne to take her home from somewhere…

    • Thank you Imelda. You are quite right, there is indeed a reference to a chair in Persuasion. It is when Anne is in Molland’s when it is raining and there is not enough room for her in Lady Dalrymple’s barouche. Captain Wentworth gallantly offers to get her a chair, but in this situation I think he is referring to a sedan chair. A chair carriage did not have a top so would not have offered her no protection from the rain. She of course refuses as she is waiting for Mr Elliot.

  2. Love the post. I now know more about the different types of vehicles. When I read I will understand what is being referred to.

  3. Thank you, Hazel. Very enlightening. Sadly for me, all the pictures look similar and I still can’t tell what makes one different than the other, as far as implication is concerned. However, I really appreciate the explanation, because I agree with you that JA was making a judgment about the person whose vehicle she described. I suppose books written today would lose that same meaning for far-in-the-future readers, in the same way. If you were to describe Darcy driving a convertible or a minivan, one would get completely different images of him. But for readers not of our time, that distinction would be lost; the reader would probably realize that it meant something, but not know exactly what. Actually, the same thing could be said for clothes, too. If a book taking place in the eighties described someone wearing bell bottoms and a suede vest, one would know that that person was old fashioned, late to the picture, or just dorky. I wonder how well the term “high waters” will retain its meaning in the future!

    • I agree Ginna, that some of the pictures look very similar, such as the curricle and gig. Images are quite difficult to find especially those that are in the public domain. I am also sure there were many who couldn’t tell the difference in those days as there are now those you can’t tell one car from another! It’s very interesting what you say about the clothes too, I can imagine people in the future being flummoxed by fashions and terms we use today!

  4. They all look lovely though some of the smaller versions might be considered dangerous with little protection from the elements or bouncing on ruts in the road, not to mention the horses kicking up the dust. Yet, on a pleasant day, who wouldn’t want to take a drive with Mr. Darcy!

  5. I guess things weren’t all that different in the Regency Era than they are today. Some people drive Jaguars and others drive VW Beetles. I always liked the quote about someone driving a “knowing rig.” Thanks for the info. Very interesting.

  6. Now add to that the speed horses can travel at what gait, and you will realize that going further than 10 miles via horse and carriage was why people stayed at distant friends homes for months when visiting.

    A horse can only trot at 6 – 8 miles per hour, but they can’t sustain that for lengthy periods of time. You wouldn’t canter or gallop them for any length of time without killing them. Canter is about 10-17 MPH, and a gallop is 25 to 30 MPH (race horses gallop) they can only sustain the pace for about 2 miles. Hence the many changes of horses to make a trip of 150 miles, and the fact that it took two or three days to cover that much distance, with over night stops.

    The wheel horses pulling a carriage (4, 6 or 8 horse hitch) are larger than the lead horses. Carriage horses are smaller than the really large draft horses used for delivery wagons and farming, but larger and heavier than typical riding horses, although many of them are able to be ridden and pull a carriage. Large draft horses walk or trot typically, think the 8 horse Budweiser hitch pulling the beer wagon for deliveries. If you get a chance to see them perform please do. There is some video on YouTube. The coach men are fabulous, they can back up the wagon and move an 8 horse hitch out of the way as if they were doing a delivery on a narrow street, in the blink of an eye. The coachman of an 8 horse hitch is holding 4 lines per hand that weigh 40 lbs., with minimum pressure from the horses that increases to 75 lbs.

    I couldn’t imagine traveling in cold, wet weather in a carriage as a passenger or the driver. It would be quite miserable. The roads we have now were invented for horses, Macadam roads were built to make it easier for the horses to pull the vehicles over the roads. Fewer ruts make for less broken wheels and axles.

    Thanks for this article. Even though I have friends who drive their horses I never really paid attention to what the vehicles were called.

    • Thank you for more brilliant insight into the difficulties of travel. in the Regency era.
      As a child in a six person car-less family from London’s East End in the 50s, I well remember our rare Sunday (when else?) Visits to grandparents to the wildest(!) parts of Rainham. The dreary journey, necessitatng three bus changes, and much waiting at bus stops, each way, exceeded visiting time by hours,., there being too many of us to stay the night . Fast backwards our family to the time of two feet or four, and we might, as children, have been unable to visit our grandparents for years…if ever?

  7. Pingback: Regency Carriages and Coaching | Nancy Lawrence

  8. Fascinating! I stopped to check E-post before a very late bedtime, saw this article and just had to read both parts immediately.. Colourful, enlightening;. Such an easy journey. I loved it. Thank you, Hazel.
    In light of your research I wonder how well Mrs Gaskell makes use of her vehicles as equippages for character? Thackeray?.. just thought of him… .and centuries later, vehicle for character, how is Georgette Heyer shaping up?
    I am resisting reference to you taking the reins, but if you were so minded, it seems that a great many of us would be happy to be transported back and forth along any distance of literary history..


  9. Queen Victoria drove a low phaeton – it was a good way for an older or infirm person to get around, whereas you took your life in your hands with some of the high phaetons.

    Have you read Jane Austen’s childhood effort, Memoirs of Mr Clifford? It’s an amusing story of a man with many vehicles who takes a journey. In fact, it’s so short that I can paste it in here. Anyone who plots the journey on a map will notice how short the distances travelled become with each successive leg of the journey:

    Memoirs of Mr. Clifford: An Unfinished Tale

    by Jane Austen

    To Charles John Austen Esqre


    Your generous patronage of the unfinished tale, I have already taken the Liberty of dedicating to you, encourages me to dedicate to you a second, as unfinished as the first.

    I am Sir with every expression

    of regard for you and yr noble

    Family, your most obedt

    &c. &c. . . .

    The Author

    Mr Clifford lived at Bath; and having never seen London, set off one Monday morning determined to feast his eyes with a sight of that great Metropolis. He travelled in his Coach and Four, for he was a very rich young Man and kept a great many Carriages of which I do not recollect half. I can only remember that he had a Coach, a Chariot, a Chaise, a Landeau, a Landeaulet, a Phaeton, a Gig, a Whisky, an Italian Chair, a Buggy, a Curricle & a wheelbarrow. He had likewise an amazing fine stud of Horses. To my knowledge he had six Greys, 4 Bays, eight Blacks and a poney.

    In his Coach & 4 Bays Mr Clifford sate forward about 5 o’clock on Monday Morning the 1st of May for London. He always travelled remarkably expeditiously and contrived therefore to get to Devizes from Bath, which is no less than nineteen miles, the first Day. To be sure he did not Set in till eleven at night and pretty tight work, it was as you may imagine.

    However when he was once got to Devizes he was determined to comfort himself with a good hot Supper and therefore ordered a whole Egg to be boiled for him and his Servants. The next morning he pursued his Journey and in the course of 3 days hard labour reached Overton. where he was seized with a dangerous fever the Consequence of too violent Excercise.

    Five months did our Hero remain in this celebratcd City under the care of its no less celebrated Physician, who at length compleatly cured him of his troublesome Desease.

    As Mr Clifford still continued very weak, his first Day’s Journey carried him only to Dean Gate. where he remained a few Days and found himself much benefited by the change of Air.

    In easy Stages he proceeded to Basingstoke. One day Carrying him to Clarkengreen, the next to Worting, the 3d to the bottom of Basingstoke Hill, and the fourth, to Mr Robins’s. …


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