Period Film Review: Garrow’s Law

Sir William Garrow (13 April 1760 – 24 September 1840) was a British barrister, politician and judge known for his indirect reform of the advocacy system, which helped usher in the adversarial court system used in most common law nations today. He introduced the phrase “innocent until proven guilty”, insisting that defendants’ accusers and their evidence be thoroughly tested in court.

Law & Order: Georgian London

I finished watching the 4-hour long series Garrow’s Law. It’s an intriguing courtroom drama that offers insight on how crimes were dealt with during the Georgian era. Also, we are given a new hero to drool over. Though Garrow is not the best looking gentleman I’ve seen onscreen, he is certainly not without his charm. His wit, intelligence, and hunger to reform the legal system makes him all the more endearing.

It was interesting to observe how heavily influenced the legal system was by politics (rather than law and principle).

It was also fascinating to learn about how outdated the legal system itself was. So outdated that it will shock and amuse you.

For example, lawyers would actually make a case by reaching back “hundreds of years” to “twist a law to their particular use” (says Garrow in a episode 2).

In one episode, a key defense used in a case was a strange statute from 1721 which “protects the damage of clothes by disgruntled weavers angry at the importation of cloth from abroad. The punishment for this crime is hanging”. So Renwick, a man accused of having slashed a woman with a dagger, could be sentenced to death for “damaging” her “clothe”. But when Garrow proves that his client Renwick attempted murder rather than merely trying to damage her clothes, the statute makes the attack a “misdemeanour” and therefore not a hanging offense.

The last episode was my favourite. It was filled with such drama and suspense! All the best legal minds are against Garrow in the case that will determine his rise or fall, as he chooses to defend a man charged for high treason.

I was at the edge of my seat throughout! And the outcome of this trial was just….just…AMAZING!

For anyone further interested (and morbidly curious, like myself) with the legal system during the Georgian era, in 1765 the judge could hand out the death penalty for the following offences:

Murder; treason; coining money; arson; rape; sodomy; piracy; forgery; destroying ships; bankrupts concealing their possessions; highway robbery; house breaking; pick pocketing or stealing over one shilling; shoplifting over five shillings; stealing bonds or bills; stealing above 40 shillings in any house; stealing linen; maiming cattle; shooting at a revenue officer; pulling down houses or churches; destroying a fishpond, causing the loss of fish; cutting down trees in an avenue or garden; cutting down river banks; cutting hop binds; setting fire to corn or coal mines; concealing stolen goods; returning from transportation; stabbing an unarmed person; concealing the death of a bastard child; maiming a person; sending threatening letters; riots by 12 or more persons; stealing from a ship in distress; stealing horses, cattle or sheep; servants stealing more than 40 shillings from their master; breaking bail or escaping from prison; attempting to kill privy councillors; sacrilege; armed smuggling; robbery of the mail; destruction of turnpikes or bridges (Steve Jones, Capital Punishment, 1992).

While researching, I also came across a passage that shocked me. While it takes place in the period after the Georgian era, which is the focus of this entry, I wanted to share it anyway, knowing as there are many Regency Era-fanatics out there:

The scaffold was surrounded by a great force of cavalry with drawn swords. The crowd gaped as if in a stupor. It was November 1, 1817, and it was time for Jeremiah Brandreth to be executed for having taken part in a conspiracy to overthrow the government of England. The infamous executioner Calcraft slipped the noose around Brandreth’s neck, then quickly sent him swinging.

That was not the end of it.

Brandreth was cut down after half an hour, still not dead, since in those days hanging caused death through strangulation, not through breaking the neck as is the case today. He was carried to the block, where the executioner took one mighty swipe with an ax which had been ordered specially for the job. But his aim was not true, and he only partly severed the head. His assistant finished the job with a butcher’s knife. Then Calcraft laid hold of the hair of Brandreth’s bloody head and raised it high, first to the right, then to the left, crying out as was required by law, “Behold, the head of a traitor, Jeremiah Brandreth! ”

The crowd went wild, running hysterically in all directions.

(Sir Leon Radzinowicz, History of English Criminal Law I, 1948).

Ehm, I thought I was reading about the Medieval era here. But nope.


Listening to:

I’ve always been a Loreena McKennitt fan. Recently, I was listening through my old playlists and rediscovered my love for her songs. Her voice always draws me back to the days of old; her lyrics never fail to move my heart. Here are two of my fav pieces by her:

(This piece is heartbreaking and romantic):

P.S. Check out my writer friend & editor’s blog: KayMcCrae

P.S.S. And also be sure to drop by Kim’s blog. She’s a fantastic writer who has been a big encouragement to me throughout the years I’ve been working on TRC.

Austen rolls in her grave…

I’m currently M.I.A in the blogsphere and will be catching up on all the other blog articles I’ve missed soon ❤ But I just wanted drop-by and quickly share with everyone, especially the Austenites, these videos….

I remember that P&P&Z was one of the reading requirements for my Jane Austen seminar. Our class (an all-female class, mind you. There was one guy at the beginning of the course who sat alone at the far corner of the room. He dropped out the next week) was outraged. The concept of this book itself is pretty brilliant. But, as my friend said, it’s a downward spiral from paragraph one.

What could be the meaning of this? Why are people unable to leave Jane Austen alone? Not that I’m insulted. But why Austen?

A Report on Byronic-Tea-Drinking Experience

I was talking with Cristina about my writing and she asked me: Why do you write in the Regency era? Why not try writing a book set in our present? I wasn’t able to answer her. I couldn’t really think of why. So I thought and thought about it, and weeks later, I finally realized why I loved writing in the Regency era:

My reasons all boil down to: England’s culture during the Regency offers me a wide range of opportunities to spin up stories of high drama. And I thrive off of high drama and high emotions. “In early nineteenth-century London there was a striking contrast between the brittle politesse of social life and the violence that so frequently and suddenly impinged on it. This was the more obvious because of the then relatively small scale of the city.” MacCarthy captures my feelings exactly in Byron: Life and Legend. The “frequent clash of moods” exhilerates me as an author writing in this period.

I could swoon from all the ideas that flood into me, all the great scenarios that can stir to life in such a flamboyant and elegant high society that was itself full of so much drama. Captain Gronow writing of 1814 said: “At the present time one can hardly conceive the importance which was attached to getting admission to Almack’s, the seventh heaven of the fashionable world. Of the three hundred officers of the Foot Guards, not more than half-a-dozen were honored with vouchers of admission to this exclusive temple of the beau monde; the gates were guarded by lady patronesses, whose smiles or frowns consigned men and women to happiness or despair.”   

According to The Regency Companion: “Exclusivity was Almack’s trademark. The Ladies Committee ruled with arrogant thoroughness. Every name scrutinized for membership was put to a grueling test of social suitability. Only the socially perfect need apply. Many peers of the realm were excluded, and though members had the privilege of taking a guest to the balls, their invited visitor had to pass rigid social tests too. These Patronesses issued a voucher to the chosen that entitled one to purchase a ticket.”  

What also fascinates me when I read biographies is how similar their world was to ours in terms of celebrities and tabloids. Newspapers in the Regency era reported celebrity gossip. For example, this is an excerpt from the Morning Post; it’s dated May 3, 1785, so it isn’t one from the Regency era, but similar enough to the other articles I read from the early nineteenth century:

Two presidencies have been of late given up, Lady Bridget Tollemache and the Duchess of Devonshire. The former over wit, and the latter of fashion and bon ton. Lady Bridget is succeeded by the Duchess of Gorden, and her Grace of Devon by the Countess of Salisbury, who is now supreme not only in article of dress, but in everything that depends on guste

And, ehm, just looking at the fashion of that time makes me want to write in the Regency era. The men in cravats and tight trousers. *Swoon*

To write in this era much research is needed. I can never be too sure of anything I write unless I’ve read it from a creditable resource. I usually have to double check things I’m unsure of with historians like M.M. Bennetts or my critique partner V.R. Christensen. So usually research is through books. But this time, I decided to do first hand research. Out of curiosity, after reading about how the poet Lord Byron had raw egg with his tea, I wanted to try it out myself

I tried it myself after much hesitation. It tasted creamy and a bit thick. It wasn’t all together bad until the yolk slipped into my mouth. I thought it had melted in the piping hot tea, but apparently not. Luckily I was by the sink by then and was able to spit it out. I have only one experience to summarize the finale of the Byronic-tea experience: Gross. Gross because of the yolk. And GROSS because of the aftereffect—it was only after I drank it that my sister tells me drinking raw egg for the first time will likely result in a stomach ache. It also makes you want to vomit, which, I deduce, is why Byron had this drink daily. He’s bulimic and an anorexic who also drank tons of water and vinegar every day in order to vomit. So maybe drinking Byronic-tea was not a very good idea. Ichk. But it was an interesting experience.

If anyone has any other research experiences I try out, feel free to leave a suggestion in your comment. And I would also like to ask the writers reading this post why you write in a certain time period, be it the medieval or the present era.

P.S. A shout out to our dear fellow blogger, Dr. Tom Bibey for the publication of his book, The Mandolin Case.

Brummell & Byron: The Two heartthrobs of the Regency Era

BEAU BRUMMELL: This Charming Man

The wickedly handsome James Purefoy stars in this drama about the notorious dandy Beau Brummell. Forerunner of today’s celebrity culture, Brummell became famous for his impeccable dress sense and connections with the right people, including the Prince Regent.

Credited with making a less flashy and more elegant style of dress fashionable, the beautifully cut clothing that he made popular is seen as an early version of the suit. Having risen to a height of popularity, however, descent was swift. Brummell died penniless in France, having lost the favour of the Prince.

I am no history buff and yet was able to pick up on many glaring historical inaccuracies. However, as I watched this period movie knowing it would be pretty bad, I was able to enjoy it. After all, I watched this movie only to admire James Purefoy. Gorgeous, and a great actor, I am all bewilderment that he hasn’t been casted in every single period drama.

I could NOT enjoy this period movie to the fullest because of Matthew Rhys who played Lord Byron, a close friend of Brummells (or so it seems to be, according to the movie). He gave me the creepers.


GEORGE GORDEN BYRON: Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know

I think my dislike for Rhys as Byron is due to my having already watched BYRON (2003) in which Jonny Lee Miller played the role of Lord Byron. The movie was very entertaining! Don’t let the movie’s poster frighten you; I was at first put off by it. But intense boredom led me to watch it and I was amazed by how intriguing the movie was.

Byron was considered to be an alcoholic, a sex-addict, a pedophile, and an adulterer who had an affair with his half-sister. Despite the rumours, whether they be true or false, he wrote exquisite poems:

SHE walks in beauty, like the nightOf cloudless climes and starry skies;And all that’s best of dark and brightMeet in her aspect and her eyes:Thus mellow’d to that tender lightWhich heaven to gaudy day denies. One shade the more, one ray the less,Had half impair’d the nameless graceWhich waves in every raven tress,Or softly lightens o’er her face;Where thoughts serenely sweet expressHow pure, how dear their dwelling-place. And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,The smiles that win, the tints that glow,But tell of days in goodness spent,A mind at peace with all below,A heart whose love is innocent!

On another note, Byron inspired for us writers the BYRONIC FIGURE. Maria described the figure as thus: “For Byronic hero we intend the literary type G.G. Byron created in his works: Lara, The Corsair, Manfred and even Don Juan. His literary hero is restless, moody, rebellious, wild in manners but of noble birth, haunted by a secret from his past, loved by women and envied by men. This is what Byronic hero means in literary criticism. You can recognize the same type in Charlotte Bronte’s Mr Rochester or Emily Bronte’s Heathcliffs. They are not pedofiles nor incestuous creatures but they are Byronic heroes. G.G. Byron , the man is not to be confused with his heroes nor with the poet who lives in his beautiful lines. These is what I learnt at university. A literary masterpiece has its own independent life, independent from the life of its author.

Ok. I’ll wrap it up. James Purefoy is gorgeoussss. If you want to drool, watch Beau Brummell. If you’re curious about Byron watch the 2003 movie directed by Julian Farino or buy the biography by MacCarthy and read along with me.

Period Movie Collection


The deadline by which I will finish my revision and send back to Agent#1: May 13th

What did Mr Darcy eat?

And what did the wealthy barons, viscounts, earls, marquises, and dukes in Regency England eat? Below is an episode of Supersizers Go on Regency era food! As much as I love the fashion and custom of its time, I don’t think this diet would suit me too well…Thus, I wouldn’t mind living in Regency England for a week, but no longer than that.

(I’ve posted all six videos for your convenience. And while you watch, imagine, this is the sort of food those tall, dark, brooding heroes in historical romances ate…):