My Year with Miss Austen

The winter months can be rough. According to a New York Times article from a few years back, it is likely that four out of five of us won’t keep our New Year’s Resolutions through January. Forbes.com states that nine out of ten of us go about making a resolution in the wrong way, thus spelling trouble for achieving our goals in the new year. And alas, Health.com tells us that less than half of us (a mere 46%) will still be on target with our New Year’s Resolutions after the six month mark has passed.

One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to read a Regency Era novel each month in 2013. (Think “Kristy’s Regency Book Club” for one.) So with all of this gloom and doom predicted around resolutions in the first month of the year, what’s a gal to do? I’m following the advice from Forbes.com and will be looking for small lifestyle changes to add a little Regency into each day. Care to join?

Here’s how I plan to enjoy the Regency in 2013, one month at a time:

Austenland 2
Keri Russel (Jane Hayes) and JJ Field (Mr. Henry Nobley), in Austenland (2013)

JANUARY: Austenland

Based on the book of the same title by author Shannon Hale, Austenland has been generating a lot of buzz this month at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. While Sony Pictures Worldwide has yet to issue an official release date, publicity for the film has increased in the first month of the year. In fact, Sundance screenings of the film have completely sold out – indicating that Jane’s appeal is just as real today as it was when Pride and Prejudice was first published 200 years ago. [Austenland – Desertnews.com LINK]

FEBRUARY: The Other Kind of Romanticism

February, Valentine’s Day, and romance… they tend to all go together, right? But the romance we associate with this month isn’t the same Romanticism. The Regency Era fell in the middle of the Romanticism movement, which saw its high point from the end of the 18th century to the first part of the 19th century. The movement ushered in a renewed focus on the arts and sciences, particularly those of the natural world, and a moving away of classical (Greco-Roman) themes in art and literature. [Romanticism LINK]

MARCH:  What to Read… That is the Question.

If that’s the question, then we aim to answer it here at Regency Reflections.  We’ve compiled a list of current books available from our authors. And if you come back soon, we’ll have updates on upcoming releases posted throughout the year.  (You’re most welcome!) Ruth Axtell    Linore Rose Burkard    Laurie Alice Eakes   Sarah Ladd    Mary Moore    Naomi Rawlings

APRIL:  What Did She Just Say?

So you don’t know a ha’penny from a farthing? Is a livery a stable or a piece of clothing? And just where is Grosvenor Square? Never fear. We’re here to help. Particularly if you’re new to Regency Era fiction, you might find that some assistance with the language is in order. We cordially invite you to partake of the information in the links below, so that you might brush up on your skills with the language. (After all, who wants to be accused of being a ninny or a fop when it comes to Regency terminology? [Regency Glossary, JaneAusten.org  Glossary]

Regency dress
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

MAY: I’ll Take Season Etiquette for 100

It may sound a bit like Jeopardy, but there’s a lot to know about the Regency social season. From the ball to the proper time to call, one could certainly make a social faux pas if you’re not careful. That’s why it’s essential to know your stuff. The London Season coincided with what? Which month signaled the official start of the “season”? And low neck dresses and short sleeves were reserved for what time of day? If you want to make sure you fare well on the Marriage Mart then do your research, ladies! [The London Season – LINK, Jane Austen Centre – Regency Fashion LINK]

 

JUNE:  Inspiration, Please

Here at Regency Reflections, we live and breathe writing good stories that our readers will love. While similar to fiction you’ve probably read before, there’s one additional component woven into an inspirational book – a story steeped in a journey with Christ. When you’re looking for a good Regency story to read by a roaring fire, we hope you find comfort in knowing that your story will be encouraging to your Christian walk as well as entertaining to your heart. [For your reading pleasure: Amazon – LINK, Barnes and Noble – LINK]

JULY: The Jane Austen Festival, Your Hometown, USA

The Jane Austen Centre at Bath is set to celebrate their annual festival in honor of the authoress this April (and in which they’ll celebrate the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice). But if you don’t think you’ll make it to the UK this year, then The Jane Austen Society of North America may have a celebration you could attend a little closer to home. With over 70 regional groups across the continental US and Canada, chances are there is a chapter a stone’s throw from your back yard. [Find your local chapter here – LINK]

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The Jane Austen Centre, Bath (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

AUGUST: Happy Birthday, Georgette!

Born in this month in 1902 (d. 1974), British author Georgette Heyer is beloved by historical romance readers both for her charming characters and rich settings that are reminiscent of Miss Austen’s Regency world. But Georgette is not alone in her book writing genius! Other beloved authors of the genre: Marion Chesney (M.C. Beaton), Julia Quinn, Patricia Veryan, Dawn Lindsay and Debra Raleigh. So if you’ve not ventured far beyond Jane’s novels but you’re drawn to the genre, you might pick up a Regency romance written by one of these authors. [Georgette’s books – LINK]

SEPTEMBER:  Celebrate the Empire Waist!

Now that I know what to read, how to speak, and where to go to celebrate the Regency, this gal needs a dress! There are lots of resources out there to find the right period dress – whether you’re looking to buy or to make your own. A couple of sites that celebrate Regency fashion are listed below. [Elegance of Fashion blog – LINK; Sense and Sensibility PatternsLINK]

OCTOBER:  Write It Down

Whether you are an avid reader or a would-be author, journaling is a classic way to learn more about yourself (or in this case, the Regency). Find out what other writers have essayed on the subject in the annual Jane Austen Journal. [The Jane Austen JournalLINK]

NOVEMBER: It’s Cold. I Want a Warm Fire and a Good Movie.

Enough said, right? Here’s a list of must-see films. (Caution: This list may cause one to spend insane amounts of money on Regency entertainment. We are not responsible if your spouse questions your spending habits!) [Your fabulous link to classic romance: LINK ]

DECEMBER:  I’d Like to Thank the Academy…

For those of you that are fond of entertainment news, you’ll know that the start of a new year sparks excitement for the Hollywood awards season. But for writers, the new year ushers in a season of another kind, and that’s contest season. December is the perfect time to begin thinking about polishing that new manuscript, or even writing something new and submitting it for a contest. So put on your dinner dress or cravat, walk on stage and prepare to accept your award! [JASNA 2013 Essay Contest, Romance Writers of America (RWA) Contests, American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Contests]

And there you have it – a full year of super-simple (but  delightfully amiable) tips to incorporate your love of the Christian Regency into your daily routine. Because as we know, it’s a truth universally acknowledged that if you make New Year’s Resolutions next year, you’ll have a whole new outlook if you were able to conquer them the year before.

In His Love,

Kristy

 

The Mysterious Ms. Darcy

My first Regency was Charity Girl by Georgette Heyer and got me interested in the Regency time period. The book that really hooked me on the Regency romance, however, was Georgina by Clare Darcy.

Georgina has all the wonderful elements of a romance that absolutely delight me—delight me to the point that I think I have followed a little in her footsteps in my own romances—books that is, not life—a heroine being courted by just the right sort of gentleman when her heart demands she go after the exactly wrong gentleman. Ah, be still my beating heart for Shannon, a disreputable landowner with mystery and rumors swirling around him. Though I knew I would regret doing so in the morning, I stayed up late to finish this story and was delighted and saddened at the end—delighted with the outcome and saddened that the book was over.

Over the next several years, I read every Clare Darcy book I could find. These were what we now call traditional Regencies. Traditional Regencies are those in the true spirit of Georgette Heyer—comedies of manners with no sensuality other than a few subtle comments and maybe a kiss or two, no foul language, and generally appropriate for young women all the way up to old ladies.

All of Ms. Darcy’s books were named for the heroine, except for one named for two females, one I just learned of today, as I did some research on this post. They ranged from countryside frolics, to country house romps, to balls and adventures. The heroines usually had minds of their own without being anachronistic or too much alike, as far as I remember, and the heroes varied in temperament and social position, though all were at least gentry class.

When I started looking at writing Regencies myself, I asked a few people about Ms. Darcy. Who, exactly, was she and why didn’t she gain more acclaim in the genre? I discovered that Ms. Darcy was highly respected amongst true Regency devotees, but her person was  pretty much unknown. Some even hinted she might be a he.

According to Wikipedia now, ten years later, Ms. Darcy was an author from Ohio named Mary Deasy (1914-1978). Her papers are in the Boston University research library. This is the most information I’ve been able to find out about this author who, like Ms. Heyer, died before ever I read one of her books. Also like Ms. Heyer, Ms. Darcy was a powerful influence on me becoming a Regency writer.

If you haven’t yet picked up Georgina, Eugenia, Lydia, Cressida, Lady Pamela, or any of the other delightful books by Ms. Darcy, you are in for a treat when you do.

On Courtship

Authoress Amelia Opie

Whoever thinks romance and love matches didn’t exist before the 20th century ignores a lot of evidence to the contrary. If women of all strata of society from seamstresses to young ladies of the ton read novels which featured heroines pitted against alluring yet somewhat menacing men, where virtue and love triumphed in the end, this means they must have had a desire for romance. They not only took to reading but to writing novels themselves. Selina Davenport’s 1824 novel Preference, is a typical romance with a properly happy ending. She wrote 11 novels between 1814-1832. Other female authors of the period besides Jane Austen who wrote about love triumphing were Amelia Opie, Maria Edgeworth, and sisters Anna Maria and Jane Porter.

The evangelical writer Hannah More wrote, “Is a woman in low spirits? Let her console herself by writing a novel. Is she ill? Bored? Unhappily situated? Let her pour it all out into a novel.”* Do I detect a little sarcasm?

 

Almack's

Despite a young woman’s yearnings for love and romance, the regency period was governed by rules of etiquette. Numerous books were written to young men and women on the subject of how to behave in public—especially with the opposite sex. After the licentiousness of the Georgian era, the Regency period saw a rise of Evangelicalism, which stressed that women were the arbiters of morality, and it was part of their duty to make sure they didn’t tempt men, or fall victims to men’s baser instincts. Whereas in high society it was common for a man to have a mistress, an unmarried young lady must keep herself chaste and above any appearance of misbehavior. On the Marriage Mart, a woman’s purity was her highest asset.

For this reason courtship for a young lady meant being chaperoned whenever she went out (and, of course, never receiving a gentleman caller on her own). A gentleman had to ask for an introduction to meet a young lady he was interested in. After her official coming out into society, a young lady enjoyed the grown-up entertainments of balls, assemblies, concerts and other musical events, all to see and be seen. But everything was done in public. A young lady could never be alone with a young man who was not a family member or otherwise closely associated with the family.

Although parents desired a “suitable match” for their children, this did not mean strictly arranged marriages—for the most part. There is ample evidence in novels and correspondence of marriages based on love and mutual respect.

Princess and Prince at the opera National Portrait Gallery London

The most important love match of the era was that of the Prince Regent’s daughter Charlotte to a minor German prince, Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. Even though her father and the British government had been negotiating her marriage to Prince William of Orange (the future king of the Netherlands), Princess Charlotte met young Leopold in the Czar’s entourage when the czar and his sister came to London during the summer of 1814. Eventually, the princess broke off her official engagement to the Dutch royal prince, causing all kinds of diplomatic furor and married her German prince on May 2, 1816, to the enthusiasm of the British people. They understood a love match. From all accounts it was a happy—though brief—marriage, since she died shortly after giving birth to their first child after only a year of marital bliss.

Matchmaking as shown in Emma also shows that romance was alive and well in the regency era. Jane Austen wrote, “Anything is to be preferred or endured, rather than marrying without Affection.”

Vauxhall Gardens

 

 

* Our Tempestuous Day by Carolly Erickson, William Morrow and Co., 1986, New York