Popularity of the Regency period

Under Mary Jo’s recent post, Michelle asked why the Regency is so very popular, and I thought it was worth its own starter message.

I really don’t know the answer, though, being me, I have some theories. I always have theories.

The English Regency is a tight period. Strictly speaking, it’s about a decade, and even though it spreads a bit, it’s not like the Georgian (about a century) or, for heavens sake, the medieval, which is anything from 500 years to a millennium, depending. Therefore, it is almost a shared world fantasy in which readers know the rules. I think that gives a comfort level, because most romance readers, including me, read for the romance story. I love historical settings, but I don’t want to keep having to wade through lessons on politics, economics, or social mores to understand the dynamics of the story.

Also, for reasons that befuddle me, many modern romance readers, especially in North America, are squeamish about life in the past. The Regency period is far enough back to be romantically historical, but it also has reasonably safe streets, fairly slick transportation, the basics of modern hygiene, and if the author wants to go there, indoor plumbing.

Though I love the Regency and it’s where I start out, I find the high Georgian I use in my Malloren novels far more romantic in the classic sense. Everything’s bigger and bolder then. And the medieval (in my case to date, about 1100) is a better setting for high drama, life and death struggles, and those great warrior males.

So I don’t know, and I’d love to hear what you all think.

Jo 🙂
My Web Page.

33 thoughts on “Popularity of the Regency period”

  1. I love your Malloren novels, but other than that I tend to like Regency, and I’m not sure why? I thought of a few possibilities- for example, in contrasting midieval with Regency- I wonder what the differences were in the availabilty of books, and how that shapes the way the characters think and talk-
    Or– is there something about the coexistance of the remnants of the old feudal system and the breakdown of rigid class distinctions. -the decreasing power of the aristocracy and the increasing power of commerce.
    And, of course, there is the issue of what kinds of possibilities were open to women and how that might shape a womens sense of herself.
    I find myself wondering what areas you ended up researching for your books. Can you tell us more about your research?

    Reply
  2. I love your Malloren novels, but other than that I tend to like Regency, and I’m not sure why? I thought of a few possibilities- for example, in contrasting midieval with Regency- I wonder what the differences were in the availabilty of books, and how that shapes the way the characters think and talk-
    Or– is there something about the coexistance of the remnants of the old feudal system and the breakdown of rigid class distinctions. -the decreasing power of the aristocracy and the increasing power of commerce.
    And, of course, there is the issue of what kinds of possibilities were open to women and how that might shape a womens sense of herself.
    I find myself wondering what areas you ended up researching for your books. Can you tell us more about your research?

    Reply
  3. I love your Malloren novels, but other than that I tend to like Regency, and I’m not sure why? I thought of a few possibilities- for example, in contrasting midieval with Regency- I wonder what the differences were in the availabilty of books, and how that shapes the way the characters think and talk-
    Or– is there something about the coexistance of the remnants of the old feudal system and the breakdown of rigid class distinctions. -the decreasing power of the aristocracy and the increasing power of commerce.
    And, of course, there is the issue of what kinds of possibilities were open to women and how that might shape a womens sense of herself.
    I find myself wondering what areas you ended up researching for your books. Can you tell us more about your research?

    Reply
  4. Oh- I forgot to add, I am, and always have been an Anglophile re: literature, thus I find myself having very little interest in American settings. Why? I don’t know. But I do know that it is a very strong preference.

    Reply
  5. Oh- I forgot to add, I am, and always have been an Anglophile re: literature, thus I find myself having very little interest in American settings. Why? I don’t know. But I do know that it is a very strong preference.

    Reply
  6. Oh- I forgot to add, I am, and always have been an Anglophile re: literature, thus I find myself having very little interest in American settings. Why? I don’t know. But I do know that it is a very strong preference.

    Reply
  7. The first Georgette Heyer I read was a Georgian, The Convenient Marriage, and all of your Mallorens, Jo, have a home on my keeper shelves–tattered originals and shiny reissues side-by-side. But my favorite Heyers and my favorite Beverleys are regencies. Before I ever read a Regency romance, I knew and loved Austen and the Romantic poets, and I also had great affection for the novel of manners. A reader’s love affair with regencies seemed natural. After reading all of Heyer, I was delighted to discover the regencies of Clare Darcy, Sheila Walsh, and Patricia Veryan in the 70s, and, of course, the 80s brought a regency banquet of books. It was then I started reading Wenches Beverley, Chase, Layton, and Putney.
    So–I know why I love the Regencies, but I don’t understand why the reverse happened with Medievals. I regularly teach with enthusiasm Beowulf, Chaucer, Dante, and various Arthurian tales, but I just cannot read Medieval romances–not even when they are written by my favorite writers.

    Reply
  8. The first Georgette Heyer I read was a Georgian, The Convenient Marriage, and all of your Mallorens, Jo, have a home on my keeper shelves–tattered originals and shiny reissues side-by-side. But my favorite Heyers and my favorite Beverleys are regencies. Before I ever read a Regency romance, I knew and loved Austen and the Romantic poets, and I also had great affection for the novel of manners. A reader’s love affair with regencies seemed natural. After reading all of Heyer, I was delighted to discover the regencies of Clare Darcy, Sheila Walsh, and Patricia Veryan in the 70s, and, of course, the 80s brought a regency banquet of books. It was then I started reading Wenches Beverley, Chase, Layton, and Putney.
    So–I know why I love the Regencies, but I don’t understand why the reverse happened with Medievals. I regularly teach with enthusiasm Beowulf, Chaucer, Dante, and various Arthurian tales, but I just cannot read Medieval romances–not even when they are written by my favorite writers.

    Reply
  9. The first Georgette Heyer I read was a Georgian, The Convenient Marriage, and all of your Mallorens, Jo, have a home on my keeper shelves–tattered originals and shiny reissues side-by-side. But my favorite Heyers and my favorite Beverleys are regencies. Before I ever read a Regency romance, I knew and loved Austen and the Romantic poets, and I also had great affection for the novel of manners. A reader’s love affair with regencies seemed natural. After reading all of Heyer, I was delighted to discover the regencies of Clare Darcy, Sheila Walsh, and Patricia Veryan in the 70s, and, of course, the 80s brought a regency banquet of books. It was then I started reading Wenches Beverley, Chase, Layton, and Putney.
    So–I know why I love the Regencies, but I don’t understand why the reverse happened with Medievals. I regularly teach with enthusiasm Beowulf, Chaucer, Dante, and various Arthurian tales, but I just cannot read Medieval romances–not even when they are written by my favorite writers.

    Reply
  10. Good points, Merry and Wylene. The medieval mind definitely was different to the more modern mind, even though most human situations probably played out the same. To me, that’s part of the appeal, but not to most, I gather.
    Yet medieval-type stories are popular in fantasy. To me, that means it’s something to do with people’s ideas of the real middle ages that blocks them.
    I blame in all on Monty Python And The Holy Grail, myself.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  11. Good points, Merry and Wylene. The medieval mind definitely was different to the more modern mind, even though most human situations probably played out the same. To me, that’s part of the appeal, but not to most, I gather.
    Yet medieval-type stories are popular in fantasy. To me, that means it’s something to do with people’s ideas of the real middle ages that blocks them.
    I blame in all on Monty Python And The Holy Grail, myself.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  12. Good points, Merry and Wylene. The medieval mind definitely was different to the more modern mind, even though most human situations probably played out the same. To me, that’s part of the appeal, but not to most, I gather.
    Yet medieval-type stories are popular in fantasy. To me, that means it’s something to do with people’s ideas of the real middle ages that blocks them.
    I blame in all on Monty Python And The Holy Grail, myself.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  13. I should add that I may not have responded to messages earlier on. For some reason the system wasn’t alerting me to responses and I don’t have time to read everything every day.
    It seems to be working now.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  14. I should add that I may not have responded to messages earlier on. For some reason the system wasn’t alerting me to responses and I don’t have time to read everything every day.
    It seems to be working now.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  15. I should add that I may not have responded to messages earlier on. For some reason the system wasn’t alerting me to responses and I don’t have time to read everything every day.
    It seems to be working now.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  16. I should add that I may not have responded to messages earlier on. For some reason the system wasn’t alerting me to responses and I don’t have time to read everything every day.
    It seems to be working now.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  17. I should add that I may not have responded to messages earlier on. For some reason the system wasn’t alerting me to responses and I don’t have time to read everything every day.
    It seems to be working now.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  18. I should add that I may not have responded to messages earlier on. For some reason the system wasn’t alerting me to responses and I don’t have time to read everything every day.
    It seems to be working now.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  19. I think a lot of the popularity of the Regency is due to Jane Austen and especially Georgette Heyer. I know some readers don’t know about GH, but I have heard so many authors claim her as an influence that there’s an indirect effect going on, too.
    My mother loved GH, and I started reading her tattered old copies in 3rd grade and got in trouble when the principal found them in my bookbag.
    Needless to say, it didn’t stop me. 🙂

    Reply
  20. I think a lot of the popularity of the Regency is due to Jane Austen and especially Georgette Heyer. I know some readers don’t know about GH, but I have heard so many authors claim her as an influence that there’s an indirect effect going on, too.
    My mother loved GH, and I started reading her tattered old copies in 3rd grade and got in trouble when the principal found them in my bookbag.
    Needless to say, it didn’t stop me. 🙂

    Reply
  21. I think a lot of the popularity of the Regency is due to Jane Austen and especially Georgette Heyer. I know some readers don’t know about GH, but I have heard so many authors claim her as an influence that there’s an indirect effect going on, too.
    My mother loved GH, and I started reading her tattered old copies in 3rd grade and got in trouble when the principal found them in my bookbag.
    Needless to say, it didn’t stop me. 🙂

    Reply
  22. Assuming that the biggest market for historical romances is the U.S. so its tastes kind of dictate a lot of what is published – could it be partly caused by people’s love affair with the titled – e.g. their fascination with Princess Di (even though this betrays their “republican” roots.)? They can fantasize about marrying that title?
    At one point, I thought about being a history professor and spent some time in grad. school. In the original research I did, I was surprised by how much “closer” the nineteenth century primary documents seemed to today than even the 18th century documents did. It was so much easier to read and understand the 19th century letters than the 18th century ones. This was not just the style of cursive – but also they way they arranged the words and their ideas.
    And the regency may “win” over the victorian time period because of what you pointed out as being distasteful about the period.
    I used to think Jane Austen had a lot to do with it and then someone who wrote a dissertation on her told me she was not nearly as popular in the 70’s or 80’s as she is today. I know this is blasphemy, but I’ve not read a lot of G.H., and the one or two I did read did not inspire me to read more, but I suppose she may have inspired all the first regency authors
    -Michelle.

    Reply
  23. Assuming that the biggest market for historical romances is the U.S. so its tastes kind of dictate a lot of what is published – could it be partly caused by people’s love affair with the titled – e.g. their fascination with Princess Di (even though this betrays their “republican” roots.)? They can fantasize about marrying that title?
    At one point, I thought about being a history professor and spent some time in grad. school. In the original research I did, I was surprised by how much “closer” the nineteenth century primary documents seemed to today than even the 18th century documents did. It was so much easier to read and understand the 19th century letters than the 18th century ones. This was not just the style of cursive – but also they way they arranged the words and their ideas.
    And the regency may “win” over the victorian time period because of what you pointed out as being distasteful about the period.
    I used to think Jane Austen had a lot to do with it and then someone who wrote a dissertation on her told me she was not nearly as popular in the 70’s or 80’s as she is today. I know this is blasphemy, but I’ve not read a lot of G.H., and the one or two I did read did not inspire me to read more, but I suppose she may have inspired all the first regency authors
    -Michelle.

    Reply
  24. Assuming that the biggest market for historical romances is the U.S. so its tastes kind of dictate a lot of what is published – could it be partly caused by people’s love affair with the titled – e.g. their fascination with Princess Di (even though this betrays their “republican” roots.)? They can fantasize about marrying that title?
    At one point, I thought about being a history professor and spent some time in grad. school. In the original research I did, I was surprised by how much “closer” the nineteenth century primary documents seemed to today than even the 18th century documents did. It was so much easier to read and understand the 19th century letters than the 18th century ones. This was not just the style of cursive – but also they way they arranged the words and their ideas.
    And the regency may “win” over the victorian time period because of what you pointed out as being distasteful about the period.
    I used to think Jane Austen had a lot to do with it and then someone who wrote a dissertation on her told me she was not nearly as popular in the 70’s or 80’s as she is today. I know this is blasphemy, but I’ve not read a lot of G.H., and the one or two I did read did not inspire me to read more, but I suppose she may have inspired all the first regency authors
    -Michelle.

    Reply
  25. I have always bought into the theory Jo mentioned: that the Regency is recent enough to still be an accessible period (ie we can understand Regency life more than, say, life in 1100), and yet it is still far enough removed to be a fantasy.
    Personally, I fell in love with Regency fashion before any other aspect of the era. (And by “Regency” I mean, of course, the stylistic period, not the literal political Regency.) I have always been intrigued at how the lovely vertical lines of Regency dress were squashed in between two periods of wide skirts, hoops, etc. Just this short period of time, 25 years or so, when fashion was seriously different from what came before and what followed after. I have sometimes wondered if the more natural lines of female dress during the Regency contributes in some way to the overall appeal of the period to readers. Again, we can imagine ourselves in such a dress, whereas it is more difficult to imagine wearing hoops or paniers or bustles. Just a thought.
    Candice

    Reply
  26. I have always bought into the theory Jo mentioned: that the Regency is recent enough to still be an accessible period (ie we can understand Regency life more than, say, life in 1100), and yet it is still far enough removed to be a fantasy.
    Personally, I fell in love with Regency fashion before any other aspect of the era. (And by “Regency” I mean, of course, the stylistic period, not the literal political Regency.) I have always been intrigued at how the lovely vertical lines of Regency dress were squashed in between two periods of wide skirts, hoops, etc. Just this short period of time, 25 years or so, when fashion was seriously different from what came before and what followed after. I have sometimes wondered if the more natural lines of female dress during the Regency contributes in some way to the overall appeal of the period to readers. Again, we can imagine ourselves in such a dress, whereas it is more difficult to imagine wearing hoops or paniers or bustles. Just a thought.
    Candice

    Reply
  27. I have always bought into the theory Jo mentioned: that the Regency is recent enough to still be an accessible period (ie we can understand Regency life more than, say, life in 1100), and yet it is still far enough removed to be a fantasy.
    Personally, I fell in love with Regency fashion before any other aspect of the era. (And by “Regency” I mean, of course, the stylistic period, not the literal political Regency.) I have always been intrigued at how the lovely vertical lines of Regency dress were squashed in between two periods of wide skirts, hoops, etc. Just this short period of time, 25 years or so, when fashion was seriously different from what came before and what followed after. I have sometimes wondered if the more natural lines of female dress during the Regency contributes in some way to the overall appeal of the period to readers. Again, we can imagine ourselves in such a dress, whereas it is more difficult to imagine wearing hoops or paniers or bustles. Just a thought.
    Candice

    Reply
  28. That’s a point, Candice, about the fashions,and it is interesting that the high waist was only in fashion for a while.
    Personally I think the Georgian fashions are more sensual and romantic, but I wouldn’t want to be wearing either day to day.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  29. That’s a point, Candice, about the fashions,and it is interesting that the high waist was only in fashion for a while.
    Personally I think the Georgian fashions are more sensual and romantic, but I wouldn’t want to be wearing either day to day.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  30. That’s a point, Candice, about the fashions,and it is interesting that the high waist was only in fashion for a while.
    Personally I think the Georgian fashions are more sensual and romantic, but I wouldn’t want to be wearing either day to day.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  31. Elena, I nearly got kicked out of geometry class for reading THE GRAND SOPHY under my desk on the third day the teacher was explaining something I’d grasped the first time around. Somehow she guessed I wasn’t chortling at Thales of Miletus…

    Reply
  32. Elena, I nearly got kicked out of geometry class for reading THE GRAND SOPHY under my desk on the third day the teacher was explaining something I’d grasped the first time around. Somehow she guessed I wasn’t chortling at Thales of Miletus…

    Reply
  33. Elena, I nearly got kicked out of geometry class for reading THE GRAND SOPHY under my desk on the third day the teacher was explaining something I’d grasped the first time around. Somehow she guessed I wasn’t chortling at Thales of Miletus…

    Reply

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