One winter activity enjoyed by the Regency elite was ice-skating, which needed only a frozen body of water and skates. Regency men and women with the wherewithal to purchase skates could spend hours of leisure on the ice.
Skating has a 5000 year history as the discovery of bone skates in Finland revealed in 2008. Refinements led to the metal blade used by the Regency period.
Skating on the frozen lake provided an afternoon of fun when guests spend Christmas snowed-in at the Marquis of Dalton's estate. Jonathan announced that the ice on the lake had been checked for safety and old pairs of skates had been brought down from an upper storage room. With much excited chattering amongst Jane’s sisters, everyone put on their warmest clothes before walking to the lake, eager to try their skating legs.
The pastime was an ideal way for a gentleman to legitimately get close to his partner as he guided her around the ice. The Marquis of Dalton finds this to be true:
The lake was frozen white. Jonathan and Dr Logan helped the younger members of the party onto the ice then turned to assist their own partners. Jane couldn’t remember ever skating. She tied the skates onto her half boots and nervously stood grasping Jonathan’s hand in a death-grip as she did so. He slid his other arm around her waist and guided her further onto the ice, forcing her to glide rather than walk. She began to relax and enjoy the feeling of Jonathan’s warm, strong body aligned with hers, enabling her to move, if not with grace, then at least with some basic competence. It was exhilarating – the cold air nipping her cheeks, her legs straining to keep her upright and she was enveloped in Jonathan’s warm embrace. After a few large circuits around the lake in this manner, Jonathan pushed a little faster, increasing their speed and releasing his arm from her waist. She wobbled, gasped, then stumbled, sure that she was going to end in a heap on the cold ice, but before it could happen Jonathan had stopped and grasped her firmly to him, with a laugh, which he quickly stifled, leaving only his eyes crinkling in merriment.
Jane’s heart beat faster, whether it was from her near disaster on the ice or from his heady presence she didn’t know. Without thinking she drew his face to her own and tasted his sensual bottom lip before kissing him open mouthed. She felt him pull her even closer until the stood face-to-face on the ice, her legs between his, which were braced apart to keep them both upright. She felt the muscles of his legs straining to support them, his hard chest flattening her breasts, and clear evidence of his arousal, as his hand on her buttock anchored her to him while they kissed intensely. Gradually, the sounds of other skaters, whooshing and laughing, falling and shouting with surprise, reached Jane’s consciousness. She opened her eyes to see Jonathan’s brown eyes, darkened with passion, looking into her own in wonder. She blushed at her own forwardness and glanced away, realising they were obvious for all to see. Her sisters in their mourning clothes were skimming around the lake like ravens, stark against its white.
Jonathan took her hand again and stepped forward into their previous skating stance, sliding them slowly around the lake again. Jane felt strangely let down, wishing their kisses could continue, wanting something more.
Soon the weak sun sank across the crisp clear sky and a night-time chill crept forth, forcing even hardy, enthusiastic Katherine to yearn for the warmth of the house. One by one they slid to the edge of the lake, undid their skates and called to the others to come in. A chilled but chattering group walked home eagerly.
Heather Whipps, ‘The 5000-Year-Old Origin of Skating’, Live Science <http://www.livescience.com/2202-5-000-year-origin-ice-skating.html>, accessed 31 Mar 2015.
Isabella Hargreaves. The Persuasion of Miss Jane Brody, Steam eReads, ebook, 2011.
'Regency Illustrations', <http://www.pemberley.com/janeinfo/rgnclfil.html>, accessed 30 Mar 2015.
'Regency Winter', Jane Austen's World <https://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/tag/regency-winter/>, accessed 30 Mar 2015.
Image of 'Skating Lovers. 1800. After Adam Buck', from Jane Austen Today, <http://janitesonthejames.blogspot.com.au/2011_01_01_archive.html> accessed 23 Jan 2011.