Over the past three decades, an immense interest has been taken in novels that take place during the Regency period, i.e. the early 1800s in England. Today, iUniverse provides guidance on how to write these types of novels.
The Regency period owes much of its current popularity to the works of Jane Austen. Her novels take place among the gentry, or landowning classes, and focus on marriage and family. The worlds of cinema, books, and universities have embraced Austen’s works as interesting and also lucrative. So, seeing that these types of books make money, iUniverse here gives some tips on how to write them.
Know the social hierarchy: This was the age of the Beau Monde, or Le Bon Ton (high society), and one’s social class was of critical importance. The social hierarchy, which was based on birth and family, ran as follows:
- King: the two main kings during this period were George III and George IV, though you can stretch it to include George IV’s successor, William IV
- Royal family: the Hanovers
- Aristocracy: this would include all people with titles, such as lord, lady, duke, etc
Gentry: this social class is central to the story, and will include wealthy people without titles who own land. The character Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice is at the upper levels of the gentry, as his aunt has the title of “Lady”
- Middle Class: England’s middle class at this time was small, and included educated people such as lawyers and bankers. They had money – sometimes more than members of the gentry — but they still had to work.
- House servants
- Common labourers
- Poor and destitute
Social mores: manners of speaking were very elegant, prim, and proper, and all actions had to fit into an acceptable code of conduct. Reading Austen’s novels will give you a strong insight into what was acceptable, but the key thing to remember is that people were painfully polite at all times and rarely showed emotion.
Sexuality: related to the above, novels about this era tend to be conservative about matters of the bedroom. Unless you are trying to be particularly different, love scenes stop at a kiss. Among the gentry – at least for the women – there is no sex before marriage. Walking in the garden together after sunset is essentially a prelude to an engagement.
We’ll be back shortly with Part Two. In the meantime, who is your favorite historical character from this period?