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  • Writer's pictureElsie King

Did Austin, and other writers, put the romance into Regency?

The novel was a new form of entertainment in Regency times. As the population became richer and better educated, reading books became a popular pastime. Circulating libraries started up as many of the upper classes had greater leisure time and took to reading with enthusiasm. Were authors responsible for marrying the words Regency and romance?

Jane Austin, is certainly the reason I write in the Regency era but was she a romance writer? Her plots contain romance but there were no steamy sex scenes, torrid declarations of love and the hero and heroine were not the sole focus of her novels.

Much of Jane Austen's writing is a splendid, acerbic critique of her society rather than love stories. She raised moral and ethical issues and gave her characters conflicts and prejudices to overcome before they found love or happiness. Jane Austin wrote about the realities of relationships in the Regency era.

Charlotte married Mr Collins because the alternative was being a dependent spinster. Lydia Bennett thought she was in love but really just wanted to show her sister's she could beat them to the alter. Marianne definitely loved Willoughby but he couldn't afford to marry her and broke her heart. Elinor only marries Edward Ferrars when he is disinherited for loving her. Even Elizabeth Bennet jokes that her love for Darcy blossomed after "my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley." Anne Elliot is persuaded to not marry the love of her life as she could do better and Lady Susan marries an eminently stupid man so she can continue her affair with the love of her life, Mr Manwaring.

I love Jane Austin's practical, realistic approach to relationships in a oh so polite society. Her novels are brilliant dramas but don't fit the contemporary definition of a Regency Romance in my opinion. More on this next time.

The art work included is my second painting for the Marion Art Group exhibition at Gallery M in April 2023 and is titled Purple Roses. © L.C.Wong 2023

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