by BARBARA METZGER
read by PIPPA RATHBORNE
Regency Romance, screwball comedy, erotic thriller, gothic murder mystery – ‘Anything Goes’ in Barbara Metzger’s…
Source: Escape into Regency Romance
What explains the enduring appeal of the Regency Romance? (Question arises from the latest audio book I’ve narrated, already successfully released in USA 10 days ago, by a subsidiary of over-mighty Amazon).
Why has that period in history lent itself more than any other to our fantasies about courtship and social acceptance? The origins of its potency lie older and deeper than the comedies of manners written prolifically by Georgette Heyer, the doyenne of Regency Romance fiction, and the costume rom-coms of the film and movie industries of the last hundred years.
Regency Romance is written to a winning formula nowadays, some of it blissfully unconcerned with syntax or history, but millions of women had fallen in love with Classic Literature’s Mr Darcy for nearly two centuries before the BBC got him wet. Members of all sexes have obsessed over the period’s dead poets with a sense of connection that felt stronger than many real relationships. Many a girl and boy have thrilled to Byron’s “mad, bad and dangerous” celebrity, or pined to be the one to soothe Keats’ fevered forehead, rather than inadequate Fanny Brawne.
We are all touched by the Regency, even those of us who have never read a romantic novel or would know a pelisse if it arrested us.
John Arthur Douglas Bloomfield, 2nd Baron Bloomfield, already a career diplomat at the age of seventeen, a pillar of the Establishment trying desperately to look like poet, libertarian political writer and social outcast Lord Byron, painted at full Romantic throttle by Thomas Lawrence, 1819. (National Portrait Gallery. Image: Wikipedia).
The Regency created its own romantically sexy myth long before it was appropriated by later generations.
The Regency period looks more modern to us than either the preceding 18th century age or the following Victorian age. The style of clothes and short hairstyles are still around – even the men’s tight-fitting trousers have been revived as jeggings.
Regency architecture, interior and garden design still provide some of the most elegant home improvement options available today.
Edmund Leighton: On the Threshold (1900). Manchester Art Gallery. Image source: Wikipedia
Love the wrought iron and lead roofed porch. And his boots….
A late Victorian nostalgia for Regency style packaged the romance of consumerism, in which props and set dressing are more prominent than feelings. You’d never guess from later illustrations that there had been a war going on, in fact several wars, about ideology, trade, territory and ideas.
Women’s clothes in the neoclassical Regency period, for three decades after the French Revolution, were more comfortable, more symbolic of personal freedom, than later 19th and early 20th century fashions. By the late 1820s, tight lacing was back and got tighter. (Traditional stays had never really gone away for every woman in Regency times, and were superseded by the much-maligned corset which, correctly fitted, is far more comfortable and good for posture than its reputation allows. And some of us are comfortable and happier in high heels, just as some people have sea legs – but that’s for another battle at the Last Post.)
The female body of the following four generations was squeezed in and padded out, satisfying somebody or other’s fetishes, some of them as weird as Comic Con costumes.
At the time Edmund Leighton was turning out his chocolate box historical genre scenes, and C.E. Brock was producing his fairytale illustrations to Jane Austen, fashionable women’s bodies were trapped in S-shaped cages which they only started getting out of shortly before World War I. The Regency looked like a time of rationality and enlightenment in comparison.
One of the later (1907) watercolour versions of C.E. Brock’s original 1895 illustrations to Pride and Prejudice: the sugary colours signal the export of Jane Austen’s “two inches of ivory” world to the arch land of Regency Romance.
to be continued
“I’m not naughty – I’m autistic. Sometimes I get too much information. And if you only see a naughty kid, you haven’t got enough”
Watch this video to experience what sensory overl…
A limited number of Audible codes for free downloads of THE DRAGON AND THE UNICORN and THE WRONG SHADE OF YELLOW are available upon request – please leave a message in the comments section specifying Audible.co.uk or Audible.com and I will email you back.
Pippa Rathborne narrates Margaret Eleanor Leigh‘s recent picaresque adventures across three continents in search of personal Utopia which turns out to be….
Marathon by Carl Rottmann. Encaustic on stone, 1848. Neue Pinakothek, Munich. Image: WGA
The isles of Greece, the Isles of Greece!
Where burning Sappho loved and sung,
Where grew the arts of war and peace,
Where Delos rose, and Phoebus sprung!
(from “The Isles of Greece” by Byron)
If you would like a complimentary review copy, please leave a message in the comments section.
Nellie Bly, journalist, industrialist and inventor, on the eve of her journey around the world, 1889.
“FOR MY PART I KNOW NOTHING WITH ANY CERTAINTY BUT THE SIGHT OF THE STARS MAKES ME DREAM” (Vincent van Gogh)
It is easy to dream when we look at a starlit sky, more difficult to represent it, even harder to understand how it was made.
“IT SHOULD BE CLEAR THAT PUTTING LITTLE WHITE DOTS
ON A BLUE-BLACK SURFACE IS NOT ENOUGH””
(Vincent van Gogh)
The most comprehensive and authoritative site I know about dramatic and comedic arts in all media, from historic to present times, is Sarah Vernon’s Rogues and Vagabonds, rich in articles and illustrations, edited by someone who understands theatre through and through.
Another recommended site dedicated to classic movies, combining charm with informed criticism, is Silver Screenings.