Friday, 14 April 2017

The long S of Georgian England & Myth Busting.

Given there is much talk about formal address - in the verbal context as well as the written word - within the Regency era, it is a shame when readers accuse authors of having followed true to form with archaic dialogue. For it is true to say, modern dialogue and prose rarely affords sense of real time and place aka Historical settings. 

Thus, for die-hard lovers of historical novels in the vein of Jane Austen and the Queen of the Regency genre Georgette Heyer, modernism is viewed as lack of research on the part of the author, which implies little or no interest in portraying the era within a true light, yes, or no? To an extent the latter is fair comment, at the same time there are readers and Regency enthusiasts who prefer easy read prose and short sentence structure, quite unlike Jane Austen prose where sentences run to long paragraphs. And it is well-known the convoluted sentence structures of Georgette Heyer novels have proven to be unpopular with many modern-day readers. 

But that said, there are die-hard (or supposed die-hard) readers who profess all sorts of claims to this and that, and in doing so oft show their ignorance of England, London, and the English countryside of the Georgian age. London, yes, was quite large, but many well known London boroughs of today were isolated villages with vast green spaces betwixt, not least commons and heaths, and cobbled streets were few and far between excepting close to ecclesiastical buildings, specific precincts, castles, coaching inns, and The Tower et al. 

Windmills were a common sight, water mills too. There are many deep sea inlets around the coast where three masted sailing ships entered, manoeuvred and anchored even where no docks were situated, and ships could traverse (still do) and travel as far as a mile or more inland - off the cuff on quick count Southern England: The Thames up to London, The River Dart (Devon), St Germans Creek Plymouth, Fowey Creek (Cornwall), The Severn, Bristol/Gloucester. The Avon to Bath, yes, coastal ships and sea barges navigated on high tide to Bath early Georgian era.   

This painting is Bath circa early 1700s  

Below you will notice the long S was still in use in 1800, a form of writing that was long thought of as abandoned back in the 18th century (1700s).  

Although I love penning Georgian and Regency romance novels I refuse to abide to a rose-tinted perspective of historical periods in which men of means acquired mistresses at will, and libertines were rife. Nor do I ignore the facts of parish church registers relating to marriages and births, which declare six and seven month pregnancies were higher during the period of the Napoleonic Wars than the post-Restoration years of Charles II and his libertine reign. Whilst it is true to say, it takes two to tango, by that maxim a lot of young Georgian and Regency misses lost their virginity long before they were marched down the aisle by a father who may, or may not have held a pistol to the bridegroom’s back afore hand. Thus I am bold enough to present stories of a realistic bent in which passions of a romantic nature oft start innocently enough, until a potent kiss stirs feelings and needs that override good sense in the heat of the moment. Hence my novels and novellas range from sensual to steamy; as and when the characters feel the need to express more than mere sentiments with spoken words.

It is also a myth inspired and perpetuated by authors of Regency romances that most, if not all young ladies of good breeding had chaperones. Jane Austen frequently walked alone in places where she lived, not least in the City of Bath, thus her heroines' reflect that same freedom to come and go as they wished and without parental supervision or companionship of a maid, maiden aunt, or other. The reason adult females accompanied a young miss on her first outing to Almack’s/Almacks – either form of the latter is correct, if one looks at differing time-frames on invitations signed and dispatched by the patronesses – the same rule applied to the opera or the theatre, all places where it was considered unseemly for unsupervised young ladies to attend in the company of adult gentlemen.

A secondary myth abounds to do with Almack’s/Almacks, in which young gentlemen could secure an invitation for a young lady to attend at functions. No, that is utterly incorrect – not even if the young gentleman was her brother or cousin could he obtain an invitation: the only exception being if that gentleman was her legal guardian. Aunts and married female cousins could elicit an invitation from the patronesses if the aunt or cousin had access to or a close connection to a patron of Almack’s/Almacks inner circle.