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Showing posts from September, 2013

Downton Abbey and the Regency

Are you a Downton Abbey fan? I am, and I’m impatient for Season 4 to begin here in the U.S. Waiting for the new shows gives me plenty of time to consider how the world of Downton Abbey resembles the Regency era. Here are just a few of the similarities the two worlds share:
A class-ridden society at their core
The Regency had its "beau monde," the roughly 10,000 or so aristocrats in the upper tier of society whom the working classes (the majority of the population) served. The class divide at Downton Abbey is illustrated by how hard the servants who live downstairs must labor to keep the household running while Lord Grantham and his family enjoy a busy social schedule of lavish dinners, balls and house parties.
Rigid code of social rules
Though the Regency is known for both its social elegance and decadence it was still very possible to be ostracized from polite society for straying too far beyond the rules of good behavior. Even celebrities weren't immune from a scandal'…

Ahoy, Matey - Today's a Good Day to Talk Like a Pirate

Roll out your Rs - September 19 is International Talk like a Pirate Day. This holiday was created in 1995 by a two friends living in Albany, Oregon – not too far from where I live. The fun has spread beyond the Pacific Northwest and Talk Like a Pirate Day has now become a reason to party pirate-style across the globe.

But what are we celebrating? Historians usually cite the time period of 1695 to 1725 as the “Golden Age of Piracy,” when famous pirates such as Edward “Blackbeard” Teach and Bartholomew “Black Bart” Roberts plundered the ships that sailed across the high seas. There were even a couple of fierce female pirates, Anne Bonny and Mary Read. Bonny became a pirate after eloping with her lover, "Calico Jack" Rackham, while Mary Read reportedly joined a pirate band to escape a bad marriage. 

Often regarded as romantic, swashbuckling figures, in actuality pirates often led short, violence-filled lives that ended in death during a battle at sea or at the end of a hangman’s …

Regency Lounge Lizards

One reason (among many!) that some people like Regency romances is that the Regency era is perceived as being one where elegant manners and impeccable etiquette were the norm – much like a perpetual Downton Abbey house party, only about 100 years earlier. 
But though the era is known for its elegant manners, those manners were studied and practiced by those who were at the upper tiers of society, or aspired to be there. Life on the streets of London, even if you were a member of the privileged "Beau Monde", could be rough.
For example, if you were a lady you seldom went anywhere alone in the metropolis without the escort of a man, a friend or at least a maid. And if you cared about your reputation, you’d avoid male enclaves such as Bond Street after mid-day, to avoid the insolent scrutiny of a “Bond Street lounger”.
Bond Street loungers were dandies who apparently had nothing better to do than linger on one of London’s most fashionable streets and popular shopping areas. These…

Visit Austenland

Have you ever dreamed of living in a Jane Austen novel? Would you spend your life’s savings to indulge that fantasy? 
You would if you’re like Jane Hayes, the heroine of Austenland, a new Sony Pictures Classic release based on Shannon Hale’s book of the same name. Jane is a 30-something New Yorker who has spent much of her life obsessed with the Regency era in general and Jane Austen's books in particular. So she jumps at the chance to go to England and immerse herself in Jane Austen’s world.

Jane is played by Keri Russell, and the excellent cast includes several faces you may recognize (Jane Seymour, Jennifer Coolidge) and some you may not (JJ Feild, Bret McKenzie). "Austenland" in the film is actually West Wycombe House in Buckinghamshire, England.

“What separates the casual Jane Austen fan from the aficionado?” asks Mrs. Wattlesbrook, who runs Austenland. “The number of times she’s read Austen’s novels or her consuming love for Mr. Darcy?”
Jane qualifies as an aficionado…