Pall Mall, the Street
If you’re like me, you’ve probably seen references to Pall Mall in regency romances and you may even know that it is a street in the St.James region of London, near Westminster, and that it was known for being a haunt of gentlemen. White’s Club could be found in St.James, for instance, probably the most exclusive private club in London, and there were many on Pall Mall as well– though a little less exclusive. In 1814, it was also an artistic center with the Royal Academy, National Gallery, and Christie’s auction house, though those all moved on to other locations pretty quickly.
The idea of a “mall” became so ubiquitous as a shopping center that the word is still used commonly in the U.S., as in “Let’s meet up at the mall!” And I think it’s still used in the U.K., though I’ve heard they tend to use the proper name for a shopping center more than we do. (Somebody from the U.K., let me know!)
But why was the street called Pall Mall at all?
Pall Mall, the Game
The word apparently comes from a Italian game which came to the UK through France. It was called pale-maille, and similar to croquet, with mallets, 6-inch wood balls, and little arches to aim for.
In The Sports and Pastimes of the People of England, written in 1810, it is described like this:
“a game wherein a round bowle is with a mallet struck through a high arch of iron (standing at either end of an alley) which he that can do at the fewest blows, or at the number agreed on, wins. This game was heretofore used in the long alley near St. James’s and vulgarly called Pell-Mell.”
Pall mall was originally brought to London in the mid-1600s, and though the street had moved on and become a high-end stop, a regency lady or family might still play it. Then, of course, it morphed or got overtaken by the more colorful and better known croquet, as in the above picture, painted in 1871.
So, of course, I wanted to use this new tidbit, so in my Emma/P&P crossover, Mrs. Goddard’s students (including Harriet Smith) get to play Pall Mall. It’s been so fun to write in Highbury with all the Emma-related characters! Here’s a brief excerpt from my new story, which will release in April. Keep a lookout for the GIVEAWAY in my next post!
From Highbury, with Love
It was two days later, when Lizzy was executing several small errands for Miss Bates, that she stumbled upon Harriet Smith in a most excited state.
The day was less windy than before, but damper and colder; each cobblestone in town seemed to harbor its own tiny heart of ice, freezing the toes within boots and stockings. The sky was overcast and ruffled gray. One of the small errands—which Miss Bates repeatedly urged Lizzy to ignore if she did not feel like it—was to return a book that Mrs. Goddard had loaned her some weeks ago. Lizzy was happy for the short walk to the school where Mrs. Goddard and Harriet lived, and had all but wrested the book out of Miss Bates’s apologetic hands.
The day may have been cold and dim, but Miss Smith alone seemed to bring the sunshine.
She stumbled out of the front door as Lizzy was coming up the road. Her shawl was askew and she was hastily adjusting it, while keeping firm fingers on her reticule, as if it held something precious. The school was a modern, tan sandstone affair, looking rather worn with cloudy windowpanes, and iron loops pounded into the lawn where the female students played Pall Mall. The wooden ball and mallets were gathered tidily on the steps to the front door.
Lizzy had made Harriet’s acquaintance nearly immediately upon arrival, as Harriet was often with Emma at Hartfield. And since Mr. Woodhouse’s gloomy nature demanded daily updates on Miss Bates’s health, Lizzy also found herself often at Hartfield on Emma’s invitation.
While Jane Fairfax might never consider Lizzy a friend, Lizzy felt that Harriet already did.
Harriet’s cheeks were glowing and her mouth wanting to curve up. “Oh, Miss Bennet! I am just off to Hartfield. I must see Emma. The most amazing thing!”
“Is the good news such that you can share it with me? I should much like a reason to smile as you are doing.”
Harriet pressed small hands to her round, pink cheeks. “Oh, I am distracted. I must gain composure before I see Miss Woodhouse. She is always teaching me how to be ladylike.”
Lizzy smoothed the rumpled shawl over Harriet’s shoulder. “I daresay she will not mind.” She was still quite curious what had occurred, but if it involved a man, which seemed possible, perhaps it would be best if Harriet were discrete.
On the other hand, Lizzy had spent two very dull days in quietness with Jane and Miss Bates. “Perhaps if you tell me it will settle your nerves.”
“I think it might only make it more real to me, and thus more agitating.” Harriet ducked her head shyly. “Mr. Martin—of the Martin family I was speaking to you about, the ones I spent the summer with?—he has written to me. He has written me a proposal.” Harriet raised her reticule, in which the tip of a white letter protruded.
“I must say,” Lizzy said, rather struck. “I think writing a letter a very good way to go about it, if the gentlemen is uncertain. It avoids so much potential unpleasantness or awkwardness.” She laughed grimly in remembrance of Mr. Collins. His letter would have been interminable, but at least she would have been spared the most ignoble interview of her life.
Thanks for reading!