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?