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Horse drawn carriages in the Regency period
The Regency period is known as the golden age of coaching. All manner of carts, carriages and coaches proliferated during the years 1811 to 1820, filling streets and paths with the steady clip-clop of horse's hooves.
Train travel would not come into its own until nearly the 20th century, followed soon after by the automobile. Up to that time, if you wished to go somewhere, your options included foot, saddle or coach. This does not mean that there were few choices. There seemed to be nearly as many styles of carriage as there are makes of cars today.
If you wish to compare carriages to automobiles, the phaeton was definitely the sports car of the epoch. Phaetons were nimble carriages, lightly sprung and featuring exceptionally large wheels. The open carriage featured a small body, had no doors, and put the reins firmly in the hands of the owner, as there was no coachman's seat. A phaeton could be pulled by one or two horses.
If you happened to be the passenger in one of these two-seat carriages, you would have prayed the driver was not a reckless one. In the hands of a daredevil, the phaeton, particularly the sporty High Perch, could make for a dangerous ride.
This "high octane" carriage takes its name from a character in Greek mythology, Greek mythology, Phaeton, son of the sun-god Helios. Phaeton cajoled his reluctant father to let him drive his chariot, which of course was the sun itself. During this ill-fated spin, Phaeton lost control, alternately cooling and burning the earth. Zeus came to the rescue, stopping the runaway carriage with a thunderbolt and sending Phaeton plunging into the river Eridanos.
Though this story is a myth, it is likely that a few real-life drivers took a dunking due to heedless driving.
Regency-era travelers boarded many other kinds of carriages as well. These included one horse, two-wheeled gigs, which accommodated a single driver; the fashionable barouche, which featured facing seats and a collapsible hood to allow for changeable weather; and the speedy two-wheeled curricle, perfect for exhibiting a superbly matched pair of horses as well as your driving skills. There was also the luxurious landau, a roomy carriage with two folding hoods and pulled by four horses. With the hoods down, riders were able to show off the fashions of the mode, and to flaunt their ability to afford what some have called the "Lincoln Continental of carriages".
These are just a few of the vehicles used during the Regency period, in which Jane Austin set her timeless novels. Whether traveling to a country ball at a neighboring house or journeying to the resort town of Bath to take in the waters and a bit of society, Austin's perceptive heroines and heroes both dashing and arrogant regularly climbed into a horse drawn carriage.