Courtesy of the Chester Courant, below is a foolproof guide to the Regency rake’s perfect night out… Ladies, if you’re looking for Mr Darcy, you’re in the wrong place.
Gentlemen, if you fancy recreating such a ‘glorious frolic’ yourself:
1) Impress your friends by drinking too much, loudly singing rude songs and telling obscene stories
2) Impress the ladies by staring markedly at them before debauching them (and then their friends) at the earliest opportunity
3) Go to a brothel, and cause mischief by jumping around and snuffing out the candles
4) As day breaks, march around the streets hurling abuse at passersby and pushing over old ladies
5) Knock back a few more drinks before hailing a cab and promptly passing out in it
It all seems a bit woefully familiar…
“You must very often drink very much; and when you have drank very much, you must appear very great; that is, you must swear a very good round hand, and sing a very good bawdy song. You must be expert and ready in giving an ingenious toast or sentiment; by ingenious, I mean, that it must be smart and witty; by smart and witty, I mean, that it must be smutty and fulsome…
You must be a buck; that is, you must be impious in your morals, wanton in your debaucheries, and horrid in your imprecations: in every thing that has the least alliance with obscenity and lewdness, or in short with any kind of wickedness, you must be learned; in every thing else, you may be as ignorant as you please. A Blood is just such another empty-headed fellow. – Whenever you go to church, (as you may now and then, when you have no where else to go) you must try every means means to let the congregation see that it is not devotion, but curiosity, that brings you there: Never look at the parson, but at all the fine girls; and to make yourself the more remarkable, pull on your glass, and stare at them.
You must know, or pretend to know, all the young ladies in town; and should you discover any one, two, or three of them to have conceived an affection for you, you must endeavour to debauch them all; and if you are so happy as to succeed, you must then forsake and expose them, by way of gratitude for their kindnesses.
You must often go to the playhouses, and there always distinguish yourself as highly as possible in assuming every freakish air and saucy attitude… You must go to taverns and coffee-houses, and jelly-houses and bawdy-houses, where you must commit every kind of tumult and disorder, such as jumping about the rooms, and putting out the candles, spilling the liquors, breaking the glasses, kicking the waters &c &c.
… When fair noon-day makes her approach, you must heroically sally forth into the streets, reel about like a rake of the first magnitude, insult all you meet, knock down an old woman or two, break a few windows, stagger to another tavern, where you must get a fresh quantity of the right old sort, and finish your glorious frolic in being carried home triumphantly in a chair, senseless, speechless, and motionless.”
– From the Chester Courant, 26 September 1809
Image (top): ‘A Society of Distinguished Painters’ by R. Ackermann (1837). Refers to the ‘Spree at Melton Mowbray’ during which the Marquis of Waterford and friends entertained themselves after an evening of drinking by literally painting the town red – including this disgruntled toll keeper’s house.
Image (bottom): Detail from ‘The Harmonic Society’ by T. Rowlandson (1811).