Things I Dig About The Regency

Things I Dig About The Regency

In my last post I wrote about things that are definitely better now than they were in Jane Austen’s day. But there are some things that were better back in the regency era! In this post, I’d like to highlight things that I really, really wish we still had. For example:

Horses! Do you like horses? I was the stereotypical horse-crazy girl when I was young, and I still love them. In Jane’s time, of course, horses were everywhere: on farms, in cities, and everywhere in between. They were used for transportation, sport, and leisure. It would have been hard to go even a day without seeing at least one somewhere. Can we bring horses back, please? Just a little?

Along with horses, we could also all use a bit more daily walking, couldn’t we? Austen’s heroes perambulated everywhere: to church, to the local village, to friend’s houses, to meetings with their favorite gentlemen. And they probably stayed more fit and trim than we do, even with our fit classes and workout routines! There’s no exercise quite like walking.

Women’s clothes were awesome back in 1810! Dresses were slim, lightweight, and cool in the summer, and in the winter they could be easily paired with spencers and hats. Hats were simple and flattering, and fashions in general seemed entirely  . . .  sensible. We should have known it was too good to last! I could totally handle wearing a regency style dress to work every day, if current fashions allowed it.

I could also handle writing letters every day. We don’t do this much any more. We send texts and email instead, and nobody wants to spend money on postage when they can send a message electronically for free. But there’s nothing like the thrill of a real live letter in your hands, when you rip the envelope open and smell the ink and glue on the pages inside. It’s just not the same. Let’s bring back old fashioned letter writing (hopefully at 1810 prices!)

And if we bring back writing letters, can we also bring back handwriting? You remember handwriting: that painstaking art most of us learned in early childhood and practiced for years, and which is barely taught to children at all now. A person’s personality was revealed in their handwriting, in the way they crossed their t’s and dotted their i’s and the direction of the slanted letters. We spent hours examining people’s handwriting and using that to determine their personality or mood. A person didn’t have to write out, “Gee, I’m really excited about this particular piece of news!” because it was obvious in their excited scrawl. I wish we still practiced handwriting.

I also wish we had the same kind of emphasis on manners and courtesy that they had in Austen’s day. Our society has become crass. It seems that there is hardly any behavior that is out of bounds anywhere. Address total strangers by their first name? Not a problem. Ignore your dinner companion to read a text message? Everyone does it. Wear cut-off shorts to a formal event? Why not? We do not demonstrate anywhere near the same level of formality and respect for each other in social situations that people did in the regency, and that is a shame.

It would be great if presentations, “coming out,” and other coming of age ceremonies could make a comeback.We don’t really have a formal way, now, of marking the difference between childhood and adulthood, but in Austen’s day the difference was pretty stark, especially for women. Being brought formally into society emphasized the young person’s duties and responsibilities along with their new privileges, and it also offered a sense of community to the young adult. The closest we really come to that now is when a teenager earns their driver’s license, but that doesn’t have quite the same impact.

I’d also love to see a return of the idea of men practicing chivalry with women. Not to make women dependent on men or to keep women out of the workplace, of course. But wouldn’t it be nice if every man  felt obligated to speak up and defend a woman if they saw her being harassed by another man? The current social climate would look completely different if that were the case.

And last but not least, I’d like to return to a slower, simpler time. I’d like to sit through a dinner that’s not interrupted by phone calls or text messages. I want to wander outside at night, look up at the stars, and see their light shining strong and clear, not watered down or washed away by light pollution. I would love to live in a world where we build things that last for at least a generation, where we don’t throw out the latest and greatest technology after just a few years of use. I want to go back to lengthy face-to-face conversations on the dance floor and candlelight over the dinner table and witty conversation around the pianoforte! I want to go back to regency days.




But mostly, I’d really like to go back to this guy:

So how about it? What would you like most from the regency days?



20 Responses to Things I Dig About The Regency

  1. I couldn’t agree more! I was a prolific letter writer when I was younger. I grew up near an AFB and my friends were transferred every three years. I often wrote multiple people, each letter individual and a complete front and back was a short letter for me. Many were multiple front and back pages. I also miss the fact that clothing matched the occasion. It seems that in today’s world there is very little worth dressing up for–church, weddings, nothing seems to earn your “Sunday best” or better. Any what I wouldn’t give for the manners and chivalry of the Regency era. I worked hard to raise a son to understand and appreciate the women around him–particularly those in his life. Fortunately my husband is a pretty chivalrous fellow.

  2. Along with others here, I agree on the handwriting and aspects of etiquette, Elaine. As for dresses, the only problem with long hems is that they trailed in the mud. I’ve tottered about in a pair of Regency pattens designed to keep hemlines off wet ground, and you feel a bit like Bambi on stilts! Walking was one of the Regency woman’s few chances to exercise agency outside the social conventions of home, as well as an opp to write and sketch. Great article. Thanks very much for posting it.

  3. I could do slower simpler, but if I was a tenant or a servant it probably would br rough.

    • She would have had a field day, wouldn’t she? I can imagine Caroline Bingley as a contestant on The Bachelorette, or John and Isabella Thorpe on the Jersey Shore. shuddering Lady Catherine on Real Housewives would work too!

  4. Hear hear Elaine, I agree with every word you said. Life mattered back then. Now everyone is so busy and things move so fast that we don’t have time for ANYTHING!!! I grew up in a very simple easy way and we walked everywhere because we had no car and we lived in the country, there was no such thing as a bus even, but we thought nothing of it. I too love the Regency clothing and manners are definitely very scarce in our time. Great post.

  5. I do like the letter writing and see it so very rarely today. Sitting down together for dinner is something I tried to make sure we did but with all the extra curricular activities of 3 children, sometimes it was very difficult. I don’t ride but my two daughters learned at Girl Scout camps during some summers. The clothes – nope! and I would miss good hygiene and good health care. Walking is something I only do in good weather but I do walk all the aisles of our supermarket twice when I go in order to get some exercise, plus I have a treadmill. So I walk somewhere somehow each day. The class distinctions would put me and my family near the bottom as my parents were blue collar workers. My husband was a little higher as his father had a supervisory role but it was still connected to manual labor…steel mills.

    • My husband I still have all the notes we wrote back and forth to each other while we were dating. What memorabilia will kids today have from their dating years? It’s hard to imagine chat sessions, snapchats and instagrams standing the test of time.

  6. I agree with you! The handwriting in particular. When I started going back to school this fall, I was surprised to see that college age kids still knew how to hold a pencil and take notes! I had one professor who demanded that we write everything by hand…tests, essays, everything but our final research paper. I was glad I still had my handwriting skills!

  7. So interesting! As a horsewoman, I too would like to see them more in our daily lives. In my 20s (the 1970s) I wanted to establish a town where horses and walking were the only modes of transportation (or bicycles). I am in agreement with all your points. Now that I am retired, I at last have time to live what feels like a more whole life. I enjoyed my careers but everything was so rushed. All. the. time! I am happy to be free of that.

  8. Ahhhhh! Just reading this post was calming. Yes, we long for something different… trying desperately to avoid the flip side to that coin [the darker side that we try to ignore]. Yes, I long for the time of horses, long walks, talking and having discussions at the dinner table, and just slowing down. Thanks for this post.

  9. I agree some nice walks would be nice and a meal without texts or phone calls would be great!! I also agree about the manners. Some people today are just not mannerly. What has happened! The clothes seem nice ,the dress pictured is very pretty. And who wouldn’t want to go back to Colin Firth as Mr Darcy.?

  10. I love the different things you brought out about the Regency Era. These are some of the same things I love about it as well. Now if we could eliminate the wars, the class distinctions, and the poverty, as well as make sure there is plenty for all, we’d have paradise on earth. Wouldn’t that be nice, particularly with the horses and the other animals added in. Yes, I am a horse lover too. Thanks again for a thought provoking post, Elaine. 🙂

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