Hi! Edith here. I really liked Erica Tsang’s question (and not just because she’s a former fabulous editor of mine) about whether or not readers like semi-nakedy heroes and heroines clutching each other on book covers. And I thought I knew the answer, because I confess I’m not crazy about them. But after considering the question, I begin to think that the Regency era public would have loved them.
The Regency era had Jane Austin, as well as a flock of some of the best caricaturists that ever brought pen to paper. As Jo pointed out in her last post, it also had the wildly popular books about Society’s young men slumming in various thieve’s dens, at cockfights, breaking the peace. drinking with criminals and consorting with prostitutes.
Caricatures were cheap, scandalous and popular. Print shops in the heart of London had their floor to ceiling windows in front papered with the latest of them, hot off the press every day: the more scurrilous, the better Some were political, some social commentary. And some were downright feelthy. (I won’t show those here. But trust me on this.)
The Prince Regent loved Jane Austen’s books. He also had a pretty hefty collection of pornographic prints.Caricatures were wonderful for those who couldn’t read, although the commentary penned on each one also tickled the literate. Those unfortunates who appeared in the cartoons could try to buy out the whole printing, but that wouldn’t stop the shops from reprinting .The politicians of the day, war heroes, princes, and the elite of the ton – none could silence the commentary or the laughter.
Regency society saw what it wanted to – literally.The greatest caricaturists: James Gilray, George Cruickshank and Thomas Rowlandson, were witty as well as being skillful artists. Their illustrated commentary co-existed with the works of Jane Austin, Blake, Shelly, Keats and great romantic poets.
There was a highly proper, polite world during the Regency. And there was an alternate world filled with poverty and crime as well. They were just like us. Maybe that’s why we love the Regency era so well. It’s too bad that Time has erased the wit and wisdom of the best jesters and wandering minstrels of the Middle Ages. I’d bet they’d show another face of that era as well. So having more graphic sex in a romance novel set in the Regency on the cover or in the text, isn’t really being untrue to the spirit of the period.
So should we be squeamish about it? What do you think?