Category: History

Jane Austen’s Road to Publishing and A Chance to Win

Jane Austen
Jane Austen

When one mentions Jane Austen, the majority of people think Pride and Prejudice and the movies, not necessarily the book, who’s bicentennial of it’s publication we are celebrating this month. Miss Austen, however, wrote several other works, including an epistolary novel in the 1790s. Like the majority of authors nowadays, Austen faced rejection and publishers who did not fulfill their promises.

One of Austen’s biographers, Claire Tomalin, writes of Lady Susan, “in letters, it is as neatly plotted as a play, and as cynical in tone as any of the most outrageous of the Restoration dramatists who may have provided some of her inspiration … It stands alone in Austen’s work as a study of an adult woman whose intelligence and force of character are greater than those of anyone she encounters.” This is impressive when one considers she was less than twenty years old.

In 1811, Sense and Sensibility was published, though she probably began it much earlier. We don’t know if the original story known as Elinor and Marianne, which she read to her family in the 1790s, survived in this novel.

Still in the 1790s, Austen attempted a third novel, which was a satire of the popular Gothic novel. That manuscript, which we know as Northanger Abbey, ended up the first one for which she received any money.

One of Austen's early works, The History of England. Photo by wikimedia commons
One of Austen’s early works, The History of England. Photo by wikimedia commons

Her father attempted to get her published, but that manuscript, First Impressions, later published as Pride and Prejudice, was rejected. But in 1803, a London publisher paid Austen ten pounds for the copyright on Northanger Abbey. It was not published until Austen bought back the copyright more than ten years later.

After the family moved to Bath, she may have suffered from a depression that kept her from writing, or she may have revised her already created works. We aren’t certain. We do know she worked on The Watsons, but never finished it after her father died. Her own situation as an unmarried woman without independent means, closely reflected the ladies in the story.

Finally, in 1811, Sense and Sensibility was published and well-received, nearly twenty years after we believe she began work on her first novel. Pride  and Prejudice was published in 1813, which we are celebrating this month as it is her most famous work today.

Mansfield Park was her best selling novel and published in 1814. Reviewers ignored it, but the public did not.

Although the books were published anonymously, and I’ve always been told that no one knew who wrote the books, I scarcely think this is true, at least for those able to worm information from perhaps the publisher, as the Prince Regent’s librarian  invited her to visit and she was given the suggestion that she dedicate Emma to him in 1815. She didn’t like him, but she couldn’t refuse. This was her last book published during her lifetime.

After her death, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey were published as a set in 1817. Sanditon was published, though unfinished, in 1825. Her books remained out of print until a set of her works were published in 1833. They have been in print ever since.

notecardsThis week we’re giving away a lovely set of Jane Austen notecards. For a chance to win, please leave a comment on any of the posts this week. winner will be drawn Monday, August 12. Winner must have a mailing address within the United States.

Originally posted 2013-08-07 10:00:00.

A Scientist By Any Other Name ~ Guest Post by Regina Scott

Regina Scott
Regency Reflections is pleased to welcome Regina Scott to the blog.

I’ve had several careers over the years, one of which involved supporting scientists at a major national laboratory.  I love the way their minds work, probing gaps in knowledge, pushing the boundaries of understanding.  While the scientific process we know today–question, research, hypothesis, testing, and conclusion–existed during the Regency, the idea of a career as a scientist was in its infancy.  Those interested in observing natural phenomenon and developing and testing theories were more often called natural philosophers.  That’s why the journal of the Royal Society, Britain’s oldest chartered scientific association, is called Philosophical Transactions.

My favorite brand of natural philosopher is the Grand Amateur.  A Grand Amateur was a man or woman who, by interest, ability, and fortune, made major contributions to the sciences. There was something noble about discovering something new, whether it was a planet or the internal workings of a combustion engine.

Humphry Davy at the Royal Institution
Humphry Davy at the Royal Institution

On the other hand, if you wanted to make a living at science, you had two choices. One was to lecture or run a laboratory at an established institution. The premier of these was the Royal Institution in London. It began operations in early 1800 to bring attention to advances in science and technology among the public. Lecturers brought in a large audience, some of which, it was hoped, might advance funds for future research that tickled their fancies.  Sir Humphry Davy, the famed chemist, used to pack them in when he demonstrated the use of galvanic electricity and laughing gas.

Your other choice was to discover something noteworthy like a new element or unknown planet or build up such a body of knowledge that the Royal Society would take note and elect you as a Fellow. The Royal Society was nearly 200 years old by the mid-nineteenth century. At the beginning of the century, it comprised both scientists and wealthy peers those scientists hoped would pay to sponsor their work. By 1847, however, Fellows were elected based on their scientific prowess alone.

And if someone in power, like one of those Grand Amateurs who happened to be a baron or duke, took note of your work, you might be referred to the ruler for a knighthood and even offered an annual salary. Often the salary came with the appointment as an officer of the Sovereign, such as in the case of the Astronomer Royal. Even if you weren’t officially appointed to a position, there was the expectation that you would use that salary to allow you to continue working for the betterment of the nation.

Ada Byron
Ada Byron

Women as well as men pursued scientific interests, although no woman was elected to Britain’s scientific bodies during the Regency.  Even Caroline Herschel, who had been awarded a salary by King George for her discoveries in astronomy, was not granted membership in the Royal Society until 1835, when she was 85, and then it was an honorary membership only.  But even without royal patronage or recognition, women such as Ada Byron (now noted as the world’s first computer programmer) and Mary Anning (who discovered one of Britain’s first dinosaur skeletons) would make their mark on science, and history.

reginascott-courtingcampaign-webRegina Scott is the author of 25 works of Regency-set romantic fiction.  Her most recent release, The Courting Campaign, features a hero who is a natural philosopher.  You can learn more about her at www.reginascott.com, discover more about the Regency at www.nineteenteen.blogspot.com, or connect with her on Facebook at facebook.com/authorreginascott.  

Originally posted 2013-07-31 10:00:00.

William Wilberforce: Abolitionist and Friend, Politician and Evangelical

“If this be madness, I hope that it will bite us all!” said one of William Wilberforce’s friends after the young politician became an evangelical Christian. His other friends thought his newfound beliefs and life changes madness, and they still counted him friend and so much more.

Photo and link to William Wilberforce article on Christianity Today
William Wilberforce

Born in 1759, William was a sickly young man with poor eyesight, slight stature, and a quick mind. He sang and conversed in ways that pleased his interlocutors to the point the writer and socialite Madame de Staël described him as the “wittiest man in England”. And the Prince of Wales said he would go anywhere to hear Wilberforce sing.

Wilberforce was born to a wealthy merchant family. After his father died when the lad was young, he went to live with an uncle. But other relatives thought that evangelical Christian branch of his family was not a good influence, so brought William back to Hull, where he’d been born. He attended Cambridge and, though became quite a college partier (not a term that would have been used during the Georgian era of course), he managed to pass the exams and receive undergraduate and graduate degrees from that august institution.

Still interested in gaming and other less savory pursuits, William became a politician, using his great voice to persuade listeners. Never did he choose a party. He voted his conscience. It, or perhaps his poor eyesight and health, cost Wilberforce a post in William Pitt’s ministry. When Mr. Pitt became prime minister, whatever the reason, they remained friends.

Especially after his conversion, Wilberforce took up the subject of slavery. By the late 1780s, he was working toward the abolition of the trade. Opposition was fierce. Many Englishmen were getting rich taking trade goods from England to Africa to purchase slaves. These men and women were transported to the West Indies under horrendous conditions. From the West Indies, the English ships brought back sugar and rum.

Hannah More, link to her poetry
Hannah More, poet and abolitionist

In 1802, Wilberforce engaged in other important issues of the day such as the Society for the Suppression of Vice, working with Hannah More and the Association for the Better Observance of Sunday, and also Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. He also married and became the father of six children, to whom he was devoted. The abolition of slavery, however, was his life’s most important goal.

1833 Abolitionist Act photo and link to U.K. educational site.
1833 Abolitionist Act succeeds in Britain

In 1807, the slave trade ended in England greatly because of Wilberforce’s work. Slavery, however, continued for those already enslaved in British colonies. All through the Regency, Wilberforce fought for the complete freedom of those enslaved.

In the early 1820s, he retired from politics due to poor health. He did not stop fighting for the abolition of slavery. Three days before he died in 1833, Parliament passed the act to abolition slavery in British colonies.

Originally posted 2013-07-29 03:21:02.

British Rights: Habeas Corpus and the Bill of Rights

On Wednesday, we started looking at the different rights that Regency Era subjects had in relation to their government. We talked specifically about the Magna Carta and Petition of Right of 1628. Today we’re going to continue that discussion and further analyze what protections, if any, the people of Regency England had from their king and his government.

Habeas Corpus

Habeas Corpus is the next major political document that further helped protect the British. If you recall, the Petition of Right declared that a British subject living in England could not be “detained or imprisoned without cause.” While that in and of itself is an excellent protection, it left the actual aspect of imprisonment free for abuse. Say the government had a cause to imprison you. Great. (Well, not really, but it works for our purposes). So you get thrown into prison because you were suspected of stealing a loaf of bread or some such. How long until you appear before a magistrate or a jury of your peers?

Possibly never. Because while the Petition of Right protected you from being wrongfully imprisoned, it didn’t guarantee you a trial. Habeas Corpus guarantees that a person can be take before a court if they so wish.

So did Habeas Corpus protect the average English man and woman? Definitely! In fact, most countries today have their own form of Habeas Corpus (which is still very much alive in the United Kingdom as well).

Habeas Corpus

Bill of Rights

Our last piece of legislation to look at is the Bill of Rights of 1689 (and yes, this is different from the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution). This bill limited the power of English sovereigns by guaranteeing the king or queen could not:

  • Interfere with the law.
  • Establish a tax by him or herself and without an act of Parliament.
  • Maintain a standing army during peace times.
  • Limit firearms for citizens.
  • Interfere in parliamentary elections.
  • Question the freedom of speech used in parliament.
  • Use excessive bail or cruel and unusual punishment.

King-William-Queen-Mary

So yes, the Bill of Rights did protect your average Regency subject, and furthermore, the Bill of Rights of 1689 has been considered a forerunner of similar documents in France, the United States, Canada, the United Nations, and the European Union.

Evidently the British hit on something very important when they came up with the first ever Bill of Rights. I’m certainly glad that people during the Regency Era were afforded such protections. At the same time, my heart goes out the the French and American people for having to fight so hard to secure similar freedoms for themselves in the century that followed.

Okay, thank you for joining me as we explored British rights for the past two day. I certainly hope you enjoyed the discussion.

Originally posted 2013-07-19 10:00:54.

British Rights: What Protected Regency Subjects from the Government?

Hi Everyone,

It’s July, and with this month every summer comes national celebratory days in several countries. Canada celebrates Canada Day on July 1. The United States celebrates their Independence Day on July 4. And France celebrated its Bastille Day earlier this week on July 14. So all the celebrations of the past few weeks (as well as some research I’ve been doing on the Napoleonic Wars) led me to ask a few questions about our Regency men and women.

The Americans had their Constitution and Bill of Rights by this point, and the French had their Declaration of the Rights of Man as well as Napoleon’s Civil Code to help protect its citizens from the government. But did England have anything? If so, what? The entire social class structure that so dominated the Regency Era has never really struck me as fair or liberating, nor does the concept of a hereditary monarchy and peerage. So I did some homework, and it turns out England did indeed have civil rights protection for it’s subjects during the Regency Era (at least those subjects residing in England itself). In fact, England was really one of the first countries to start implementing these protections. We’re going to spend both today and Friday looking at them.

Magna Carta

The first of these documents  is the Magna Carta, signed by King John of England on June 15, 1215. The Magna Carta established rights of English barons and large land owners–rights that the king could not take away for any reason. In so doing, the Magna Carta also limited the power of the king. It is almost a prophetical document of the constitutional monarchy that was to come in the 1600s, and is known for “bringing the king under the law.”

So did the Magna Carta protect the every day commoner? The short answer is “No, it did not.” It protected the already wealthy and powerful from the more wealthy and more powerful king. But it was a start, a very good start, at recognizing the innate value of each and every human being, not just the king.

Petition of Right of 1628

The next major political act protecting the rights of men and women was the Petition of Right of 1628. This document delineates certain liberties that the king could not infringe upon. It says no person would be:

  • Forced to provide a gift, loan, or tax without an act of Parliament.
  • Detained and imprisoned without cause.
  • Forced to house soldiers or members of the navy.
  • Made subject to martial law unless under circumstances of war or direct rebellion.

This petition was passed by Parliament in 1628 and then again in 1641, though it still had a rather rough road ahead of it and would eventually be one of the causes of the English Civil War. But it was a start in affording the common citizen with liberties. And unlike the Magna Carta, the Petition of Right protected the common Englishman and Englishwoman.

The more I study British history, the more I see how its ruling class took actions to protect the lower classes earlier in history that the rest of the world.  Did England have a ruling class that often took advantage of the lower classes? Certainly. But at the same time, the British peerage didn’t shamelessly use the commoner the way the French aristocracy and monarchy did the peasant. They didn’t even extort the average commoner the way they did the colonists across the Atlantic Ocean.

Do any of the rights mentioned above surprise you? I was a little shocked–not that the rights existed, but that some of them existed so early.  Do you feel one of the rights delineated above stands out above the others and is more important in some way? I’d love to hear which one and why in the comments below.

And don’t forget, I’ll be back on Friday to finish this discussion.

Originally posted 2013-07-17 10:00:59.

Our Favorite Regency Figures

In our poll a few weeks ago, several of you indicated you’d like to see more profiles of historic Regency figures. That got us talking about various people we could feature. So this month we asked our authors who they thought was one of the most intriguing figures from the Regency era.

Lord byron
Lord Byron. Photo: wikimedia commons

Ruth Axtell

Lord Byron, for me, I think.

Susan Karsten

Neither of my most-intriguing Regency figures is very “cool” noble-character-wise, but I am interested in Hariette Wilson and Beau Brummel. Though I suppose she, with her loose morals and fly-in-the-face of society’s mores attitude, and he, with his obsession with surface and image, would be considered cool in the world of today. I intend to do a blog post on Wilson in a few days — so watch for it.

(We’ve mentioned Beau Brummel on this blog before. Check out Mary Moore’s post about Brummel and his influence on society.)

Jane Austen
Jane Austen

Kristy Cambron

I love Jane Austen – she will always be in my heart as my first introduction to British wit and brooding heroes. : )

Vanessa Riley

That would be Jane Austen.  Her wit and turn of phrase still haunts my dreams, but in a good way.

(Do you love Jane Austen? Keep an eye on this blog! August is Austen month here at Regency Reflections and we’ll be celebrating Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice.)

Laurie Alice Eakes

Mrs. Radcliffe. I want to meet one of the hottest selling authors of the Regency. (Mysteries of Udolpho)

Lady Jersey
Sarah Villiers, Countess of Jersey

Kristi Ann Hunter

I’m going to go with Lady Jersey and the others of her ilk. The whole idea of the Queen Bee fascinates me. I love looking at them and trying to figure out what about them made them the one who got to dictate what was right and proper to everyone else. While we have the rankings to make some sense of certain women’s rise to social power, there are certainly other factors to consider.

 

What about you? Who do you find fascinating from the Regency Era? Anyone in particular you’d like to see us do a post on?

Originally posted 2013-07-10 10:00:00.