Fiction Vixen is pleased to welcome author Lecia Cornwall today.
THE BEST (AND WORST) REASONS TO LIVE IN REGENCY ENGLAND
By Lecia Cornwall
I have had so many questions about my biography on my website. I mention to readers that I think I was born in the wrong century. I don’t blame anyone for the mistake. I’m here now, and I’m making the best of it.
Each morning I walk into my 21st century office, and sit down in my hydraulic office chair behind my IKEA desk. I turn on my computer, and I’m instantly connected with the world.
From there, I’m glad to say, it’s a short, magical commute into the past.
Today, my latest Regency hero stole into a lady’s bedchamber in the dead of night and stole her diary and a valuable pair of earrings. He’s a broad-shouldered, handsome Scot who has no business being in lady’s boudoir amid the lace, the perfumes and the feminine fripperies, but there he is. If she wakes up and he smiles at her…well, there’s any number of possibilities to explore.
I spend some days in a candlelit ballroom, watching elegant ladies blush and flirt with a hero who looks a lot like Colin Firth in that scene from A&E’s Pride & Prejudice. You know the one, where he’s standing in front of Pemberlay watching Elizabeth drive away, his declaration of love unspoken, his yearning for her clear in his eyes.
While I’m absorbed in the lovely mists of history and imagination, there are no e-mails, no texting, no reality TV, no ringing phones, and no worries about what to make for dinner back here in the real world.
But alas, dinner must be made, e-mails answered, dogs walked and cats fed. The real world beckons me back.
Just between you and me, even amid all the fascinating history of the Regency period, I must admit that there are things I’d miss if I were truly transported back into the past. I’ve made a list, in fact, that I’d like to share with you, of the best and worst things about living in the Regency.
The Best of the Regency:
• The Season Who wouldn’t want to dress in beautiful gowns, sip champagne, and dance the night away? Or attend the theatre, or ride along Rotten Row, or take tea with a duchess? The start of the London Season coincided with the opening of parliament. Things began in earnest in May with court balls, private parties, concerts, dinners, and sporting events like the Henley Regatta and the Derby. The social whirl continued on until August 12, when parliament was officially adjourned for the start of grouse hunting season. In one Season a debutante might attend as many as 50 balls.
• Ladies’ Fashions Remember the movie ‘Emma’ with Gwyneth Paltrow? Who wouldn’t love a feminine, elegant wardrobe like hers, with high waisted-gowns just made to show off a lady’s delicacy of form? And then there are the fans, the cashmere shawls, and the lovely bonnets. And imagine the jewels, something stunning to go with every outfit! Style was an endless and very important occupation. A lady would be expected to change her costume several times a day to accommodate her activities, from riding or walking, to taking tea, dining in our out, or attending a ball.
• Men’s fashions Top boots and tight breeches! Those tousled locks! And a set of broad shoulders tucked into a form-fitting coat. Every garment was designed to accentuate the masculine form to perfection. And on horseback, too—be still my heart! Beau Brummel, a friend of the Prince Regent, is credited with introducing the style of wearing tailored, understated dark clothing, finished with a white shirt and an elaborately tied cravat. The look established the suit as modern menswear. Apparently, it took Mr. Brummel five hours to dress, and he polished his boots to a perfect gloss using champagne.
Of course, where there are delights, there are drawbacks, too.
The Worst of the Regency:
• No flush toilets Although the first flush toilet was actually invented in 1596, it didn’t gain popularity until the late nineteenth century, when it started to appear in upper class English homes.
•No central heating Just how close to a fire can a girl get without scorching her morning gown? Drafty houses were no doubt a trial to many Regency heroines. Especially given the next point…
• No underwear! This is the final straw that keeps me in this century. How did ladies manage to feel, well, safe, under those delicate gowns and chemises with nothing between them and the cold March wind or a drafty drawing room? Although drawers were introduced in 1806, they were considered slightly scandalous because they resembled men’s trousers. They were still optional as late as 1820, and perhaps even a bit beyond. It wasn’t until those unpredictable hooped skirts were introduced in the 1850s that under drawers became an essential component of fashion.
Before I leave you to drift back into the elegant, romantic, dangerous world of the Regency to write about the moment when my heroine first locks eyes with her true love across a crowded ballroom, you must admit, dear reader, that it would, if only for an hour or two, be fun to be able to step out of the hustle, hurry and chaos of modern life and go back…
Thank heavens we have books (and our imaginations) to carry us out of the mayhem, and take us back to a time where we can be the heroines of our own Regency love story. Maybe someday we’ll invent a time machine and we can truly go to the ball in person. I hope I’ll see you there!
Thank you for the lovely post Lecia! While I’d like go back in time to the Regency era, I’m pretty sure it would only be short stay. I need modern plumbing and central heat.
Lecia would like to offer a copy of her debut Historical romance, Secrets of a Proper Countess to one lucky reader. She has generously offered to make this giveaway open to everyone. To enter, tell Lecia what you think the best and/or worst thing about the regency era is. Personally, I like the rakes.
Giveaway is open until April 8, winner announced soon after.