Monday, January 24, 2011
Guest Mary Lydon Simonsen: Fun in Regency England
Linda Banche here. Today I welcome Mary Lydon Simonsen, whose latest book is the Pride and Prejudice retelling, The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy. Here she talks about what Regency ladies did for fun.
Leave a comment with your email address for a chance to win one of the two copies of The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy which Sourcebooks has generously provided. Mary will select the winners. Check the comments to see who won, and how to contact me to claim your book. If I cannot contact the winners within a week of their selection, I will award the books to alternates. Note, Sourcebooks can mail to USA and Canada addresses only.
And the winners Mary selected are Judy and Dee! Judy, I've already sent you an email. Dee, please contact me at email@example.com by February 3 or the book goes to an alternate.
Thank you for inviting me to join you on your blog today. I was so pleased when my publicist told me that you wanted me to write about Regency Era books and what women did for fun—two nice, juicy subjects. Since The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy is a Jane Austen re-imagining, I thought I would try to give you a feel for Austen’s world (1775-1817), give or take a decade.
So what books did Austen read? We know that she read Henry Fielding’s rather risqué Tom Jones, Samuel Richard’s Pamela, and the writings of Dr. Johnson. She was also familiar with Ann Radcliff’s gothic novels, and not being a fan of that genre, she parodied the author’s The Mysteries of Udolpho in Northanger Abbey. By the way, Northanger Abbey was published posthumously in 1817. But by that time, the gothic novel craze had run its course, and Austen’s first written and last published novel was already dated by the time it was released.
Austen was an admirer of the novelist, Fanny Burney, who penned Evelina, Cecilia, and Camilla. Evelina is a witty epistolary novel about the unacknowledged daughter of a spendthrift English aristocrat. It is likely that Austen borrowed the title to her most famous novel from Miss Burney as the final chapter of Cecilia is titled “Pride and Prejudice.”
Sir Walter Scott’s novels were just appearing in print at the time of Austen’s death in 1817. She may have had an opportunity to read Waverly, but not his later novel, Ivanhoe. Scott was a giant of the later Regency Era, but two American authors were having their impact as well. James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales, including The Last of the Mohicans, were bestsellers in Britain as was Washington Irving’s Sketchbook that included his two most famous stories, The Headless Horseman and Rip Van Winkle.
Your second question was what did Regency Era ladies do for fun. Like our famous couple, Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, let us assume that we are speaking of the middle and upper classes. Although ladies did not run, they did walk and walk and walk. They might choose to visit the seaside and go sea bathing, changing into appropriate bathing attire before being pushed into the sea in a bathing machine. On a sunny day, two friends might engage in a battledore, the precursor of badminton, or play lawn bowls. In the winter, they could strap on their ice skates and go out on a frozen pond, most likely on the arm of a male relation or suitor. Riding was a year-round pursuit, but because horses were expensive to keep, this tended to be a sport for the upper class.
On a visit to London, a lady may choose to attend one of Sheridan’s plays at the Royal Theater on Drury Lane, purchase a ticket to the opera, enjoy an afternoon stroll in one of London’s pleasure gardens, or witness a balloon launch.
In a world lit only by fire, at home, Elizabeth and Darcy would have played cards, and there were so many games to choose from, including whist, casino, faro, just to name three. Charades, staging plays, and guessing at riddles were popular entertainments as was reading out loud. Furniture could be pushed to the perimeter of the room to permit a game of blind man’s bluff. But the preferred activity of most people of this era was dancing. This was one of the few opportunities where unmarried ladies and gents had the opportunity to actually touch, if only a gloved hand, as well as to engage in a conversation without their chaperones overhearing them. But even for those not looking for a marriage partner, it was a favorite pastime and the reason why an assembly hall could be found in any town of a goodly size throughout the kingdom.
Thank you so much for inviting me. This was a pleasure.
THE PERFECT BRIDE FOR MR. DARCY BY MARY LYDON SIMONSEN – IN STORES JANUARY 2011
If the two of them weren’t so stubborn…
It’s obvious to Georgiana Darcy that the lovely Elizabeth Bennet is her brother’s perfect match, but Darcy’s pigheadedness and Elizabeth’s wounded pride are going to keep them both from the loves of their lives.
Georgiana can’t let that happen, so she readily agrees to help her accommodating cousin, Anne de Bourgh, do everything within their power to assure her beloved brother’s happiness.
But the path of matchmaking never runs smoothly…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mary Lydon Simonsen’s first book, Searching for Pemberley, was acclaimed by Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and RT Book Reviews. She is well loved and widely followed on all the Jane Austen fanfic sites, with tens of thousands of hits and hundreds of reviews whenever she posts. She lives in Peoria, Arizona where she is working on her next Jane Austen novel. For more information, please visit http://marysimonsenfanfiction.blogspot.com/ and http://www.austenauthors.com/, where she regularly contributes.