I own that the ever-present backpack over my shoulder holds an LED flashlight in the righthand pocket. It’s also true that I always have a flashlight next to the bed (mostly because I believe “It” is underneath waiting to catch me unawares) on the table. However, I still find my household to be incomplete without candles. And I refuse to place candles are strictly for decoration, though they often match the room.
Because of this propensity, I pay more attention to the backgrounds of a scene in a Regency-era film when depicting a room lit by candles, and I’ve often speculated on what kinds of candles were available. In researching for this blog, I found that the two cheapest options were tallow candles made from the fat of slaughtered animals and rush lights made from dipping wicks in leftover kitchen fat. Though these common candles were not particularly pleasant smelling, they provided light.
Some depictions of Mr. Collins in Jane Austen Fan Fiction (JAFF) include his beekeeping, which would allow his wife to make beeswax candles most could not afford. These candles must have smelled wonderful compared to rushlights and tallow candles. Charlotte Lucas’s choice of mate might have seemed even more practical, given his beekeeping and the fact that she would have candles that did not drip as often on her carpets.
Those of means could purchase candles for their pewter, wooden, and silver candlesticks. It is, however, essential to recognize that if one was not entertaining, only the most minimal number of candles were used. Firelight was often the primary light source, and the candlesticks were set opposite the fireplace.
Yes, candles were also the main source of light at balls. I posit that with the feather and ornate headdresses some ladies wore, why do we not hear of feathers catching fire as one walked too close to a sconce or low-hanging chandelier. I believe I shall write such a scene in one of my next books; it seems likely to have occurred on occasion! Now the question becomes who shall it be? Miss Bingley or Mrs. Bennet?
Sources for Candles for Late Night Reading?:
Jeffers, Regina “Lighting the House in the Regency Period” Every Woman Dreams… January 15, 2015, Lighting the House in the Regency Period | Every Woman Dreams… (reginajeffers.blog)
Vic “Lighting the darkness” Jane Austen’s World April 19, 2007, Lighting the darkness | Jane Austen’s World (janeaustensworld.com)