The definitive guide for all fans of Georgette Heyer, Jane Austen, and the glittering Regency period
Laurel Ann Nattress
Paul Di Filippo
"Kloester's lively book will delight died-in-the-wool Regency readers and give those new to the genre a better understanding of the enduring appeal of Austen's world and Heyer's classic books." - Booklist
"An impressive compilation... A wonderful addition to any Regency lover's reference library" - Romance Reader at Heart
"A well-written, in-depth look into how people lived, worked, behaved, dressed and spoke during the Regency period and was thrilled at how much I learned" - Rundpinne
"A tremendous resource for authors trying to write in this time period." - Austenesque Reviews
"Immerse yourself in the resplendent glow of Regency England and the world of Georgette Heyer...." - Anna's Book Blog
"What elevates this book beyond a collection of historical facts is its organization and that the author places many of Heyer's novels and characters in context to the categories and descriptions within the text." - Austenprose.com
"Filled with tasty little nuggets of information." - Jane Austen's Wolrd
"Whether you are a Heyer fan, a general reader, a writer, or simply interested in the history of the Regency period, you will find this book useful and a pleasure to read." - Library of Clean Reads
"This is a handy dandy book to come to again and again for a quick Regency refresher course. " - Readin and Dreamin
- Publication date:
- Sales rank:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)
Read an Excerpt
From Chapter 1
The true Regency lasted only nine years. It began on 5 February 1811 when George, Prince of Wales, was officially sworn in as Regent and ended on 31 January 1820 when he was proclaimed King George IV. Yet the term 'Regency' is frequently used to describe the period of English history between the years 1780 and 1830, because the society and culture during these years were undeniably marked by the influence of the man who would become George IV. With the final years of the Napoleonic Wars and the enormous impact of industrialisation the Regency was an era of change and unrest as well as one of glittering social occasions, celebrations and extraordinary achievement in art and literature. Artists such as Thomas Lawrence, John Constable and Joseph Turner created iconic paintings which today constitute a tangible record of some of the people and places of the period, while many of England's greatest writers produced some of their most enduring works during the Regency. The writings of Jane Austen, Walter Scott, John Keats, Mary Shelley, Samuel Coleridge, William Wordsworth, Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley continue to stand as a testament to the romance, colour and vitality of the times. In many ways the Regency period was also a reflection of the character and personality of the Prince Regent himself who was one of the most flamboyant and cultured of all English monarchs. His passion for art, architecture, music, literature and hedonistic living set the tone for the era and caused his Regency to be for ever linked with the high-living, mayfly class that was the ton.
The Regency world was highly structured and the conventions attached to Regency life were so numerous and intricate that usually only those born and bred into upper-class circles knew and understood them. Above all, it was intensely class-conscious: the ton (from the French phrase le bon ton, meaning 'in the fashionable mode' and also known as Polite Society or the Upper Ten Thousand) lived a privileged, self-indulgent life; birth and family were vital to social acceptance, and social behaviour was determined by a complex set of rules of varying flexibility, with different codes of behaviour for men and women. It was an era of manners, fashion and propriety, and yet, for the upper class, it was also a time of extraordinary excess, extravagance and indulgence. By contrast the middle class was more interested in morality than manners and often found it difficult to follow the distinctive behaviour of the upper class.
The Social Ladder
During the Regency the social ladder had a fixed, inflexible hierarchy within the nobility and an almost equally rigid class structure within the rest of the population:
Artisans and Tradespeople
Class was defined primarily by birth, title, wealth, property and occupation, and there were many distinctions-some subtle, others obvious-within each level of society. While visiting his country seat of Stanyon in The Quiet Gentleman, Gervase Frant, seventh Earl of St Erth, met his near neighbour, Sir Thomas Bolderwood, and was at first unsure of this jovial gentleman's exact social standing. Although Sir Thomas's countenance, wealth, title, home and family all indicated good breeding, his manners lacked polish and there was a certain rough quality in his speech, the result-as he informed the Earl-of having spent most of his life in India. Discerning one's own place on the broader social scale was not all that difficult but knowing the exact position in relation to someone else of the same class was not always easy; although Mrs Bagshot in Friday's Child was in no doubt about the sudden (and infuriating) elevation in her young cousin Hero's social status after Hero's unexpected marriage to a peer. Ancestry was key, as were property and money (most obviously shown by the number of servants and carriages one had), although wealth became a less reliable guide to a person's breeding after industrialisation and the expansion of the Empire. Acceptance into the ton was often a question of degree, as discovered by the villainous Sir Montagu Revesby in Friday's Child when his elegant air and address were enough to see him admitted into some fashionable circles but he was still excluded by many of those at the heart of the ton who considered him 'a commoner'. During the Regency, the advent of the new rich-those industrialists, financiers, merchants, manufacturers, bankers, nabobs and even admirals of the fleet who had garnered enough wealth to buy their way into the upper echelons of society-created a new complication for the class-conscious aristocrat. An heiress was always an attractive prize but marriage between a member of the peerage and a female whose parents 'smelled of shop' had to be very carefully considered before any commitment was made. A scion of a noble house might find himself cut off from his inheritance if he persisted in marrying into a much lower social class, as Lord Darracott's son, Hugh, discovered after he married a weaver's daughter in The Unknown Ajax.
Members of the aristocracy and the gentry might be different in birth and title but between them they were the ruling class. A well-bred country squire of ancient lineage but with no more than a baronetcy or a knighthood to his name, if that, might meet a duke or an earl on equal terms (particularly if he was a neighbour) and show him deference only on formal occasions. In Sylvester, Squire Orde met the Duke of Salford on his home ground and, while being perfectly polite, did not hesitate to speak his mind or censure the Duke's actions. During the Regency the nobility was made up of members of the royal family, peers above the rank of baronet and their families, statesmen and the prelates of the Church of England such as the more powerful bishops and the Archbishop of Canterbury (who took precedence over all ranks after the royal family). The gentry included baronets, knights, country landowners (often incredibly wealthy) and gentlemen of property and good birth but no title. Robert Beaumaris of Arabella was plain Mister but his family's ancient lineage (his cousin was a duke and his grandmother the Dowager Duchess), his fortune, breeding and address amply compensated for his lack of title and made him one of the most eligible bachelors in England. Apart from manners and breeding, one of the main distinguishing factors between the upper class and the upper levels of the middle class was the need for the latter to actually earn their living.
The middle class was growing fast in Regency England as increasing numbers of financiers, merchants and industrialists were added to the wealthy doctors, lawyers, engineers, higher clergy and farmers who, among others, comprised the upper ranks of the class. To be in the middle ranks of society usually meant ownership of some kind of property-land, livestock or tools-and the ability to earn a regular and reliable income. The number of servants employed in a house and the type of carriage(s) and number of horses one owned were also useful class indicators, although some among the new middle class, such as the affluent merchant Jonathan Chawleigh in A Civil Contract, tended to mistake opulence for elegance and an excess of food or finery as a sign of wealth and status. But the middle class was a very large and diverse group and it also included shopkeepers, teachers, builders, the lesser clergy, members of the government administration, clerks, innkeepers and even some of the servant class. Property was really the main factor that separated the lowest level of the middle class from the better off among the labouring poor.
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >