Jane Austen discussion

The Tea Tray > The Victorians

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message 1: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
I love contemporary comments on literature. We were talking Victorians in another thread, so here is what Lady Julia Grey author Deanna Raybourn said recently


message 2: by Rachael (last edited Sep 16, 2009 04:40PM) (new)

Rachael (rprensner) | 35 comments The blog post brought up a question that's been in the back of my mind for a while: how come we think of the Regency period as one characterized by elegant manners, witty repartee, and happy village life, while the Victorian by drama and passion and repressed sexuality? Deanna seems to essentially agree with me on this perception, and I would say it is also affirmed in historical fiction. Novels set in the Regency tend to be sweet, mild romances a la Georgette Heyer while in the Victorian period, anything goes (I've noticed for one things, one is much more likely to encounter a sex scene in a Victorian historical than a Regency).
If I had to postulate a reason for this, I would say it is due to the original novelists of this period. The work of such writers as the Brontes, Dickens, and Hardy is full of overt passion and discord, making it ripe ground for somewhat angsty modern interpretations. While in the Regency we have....Jane Austen, of course. If this is indeed the case, it is amazing that these writers set the precedent for fiction written about the period so many years later.

message 3: by Bill (new)

Bill (bill_bee) | 81 comments I am wondering if the Regency was an era of less repressed sexuality then the Victorian era. The reaction to the excesses of the French revolution and the Regent's court had not fully set in. Revolution and free thinking were still in the air. Anything was possible, including liberation from all of the sexual restrictions of earlier periods. Then the Victorian era slammed the door on all of that. But of course it was not able to completely close taht door.

message 4: by Monica (new)

Monica Fairview | 27 comments It's a tough issue. In the Regency period you have Jane Austen, but you have the Romantic poets, too. Byron was certainly not "sweet and mild" -- to judge by the famous epithet "mad, bad and dangerous." Think Lady Caroline Lamb and Lady Hamilton. Even Jane Austen had some family secrets, as David Nokes reveals. Jane Austen deliberately decided to exclude probematic subjects from her novels, though obviously "natural births" are woven into them (Harriet Smith, Eliza and Wiloughby's child in Sense and Sensibility), as are elopments and physical relations before marriage (Lydia). She is very matter of fact about these issues. Note, for example, that Mrs Bennet is more interested in the fact that Lydia was married than about the "morality" of Lydia's relationship with Wickham. A lot was made of the fact that the Bennet girls were "ruined" by Lydia's behavious by Mr Collins, but only because Lady Catherine says so.
I wonder if the Victorian "passion" that became so fashionable was the result of repression, and the fact that sexuality became "dirty" in the Victorian mind, and ceased to be matter of fact. There has been a lot said about how extreme the Bronte's upbringing was, with the consequence that their "passionate" nature had to be quelled, and expressed in different ways. Also, the Victorians were very sentimental, while the generation before was more down to earth.
And then you have the middle class morality that came into ascendancy, and the transformation of women into "angels". There's a good (but old book) called "The Madwoman in the Attic" by Gilbert and Gubar that makes for fascinating reading.
It's a huge topic, I think, and very complicated.

message 5: by Monica (new)

Monica Fairview | 27 comments Thought this is interesting re: Byron!

(Related to previous Austen post)

message 6: by Monica (new)

Monica Fairview | 27 comments Rachael wrote: "The blog post brought up a question that's been in the back of my mind for a while: how come we think of the Regency period as one characterized by elegant manners, witty repartee, and happy villag..."
I think this fascinating -- that we follow the general "tone" of an era when writing.

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