Jane Austen and The Regency Period

Jane Austen and The Regency Period

Tegan explains about Jane Austen and The Regency Period.

  • About Jane Austen

    Jane Austen
    Jane Austen
    • Born in 1775.
    • Jane Austen’s lower-gentry family was small and close-knit.
    • She was educated by her father and older brothers as well as through reading.
    • She was sent to boarding school until her family could no longer afford it.
    • Jane Austen never married although she accepted an offer by Harris Bigg-Wither, but withdrew it the next day.
    • It appears that she was about to make an economically sound but loveless match, but changed her mind.
    • Her father tried to promote her writing and get some of it published to no avail.
    • Sense and Sensibility (1811) Pride and Prejudice (1813) Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1816) were published and became popular.
    • The Prince Regent liked her novels and hinted that Austen should dedicate Emma to him.
    • She did not like the Prince Regent, but had little choice but to carry out his wishes.
    • Jane Austen became ill with a disease which may have been Addison’s, lymphoma or a recurrence of the typhus she had as a child.
    • She died in 1817.
    • Two additional novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, were published after her death in 1818.
  • Austen′s Writing Style

    • Austen’s works are considered Romantic fiction but stylistically contribute to 19th Century
    • The tone of her works is satire which sets up her biting social commentary.
    • Her works also critique the novels of sensibility, which relied on an over-indulgence in emotion to captivate readers.
    • She experimented with literary forms, including the epistolary novel. Letters often feature in her novels.
    • Critic and moralist Samuel Johnson was a strong influence on her writing. Consequently, her works consider moral issues in love and marriage, elevating the novel to an instruction on moral conduct.
  • The Regency Period

    The Regency Period
    The Regency Period
    • In 1811, George III was deemed unfit to rule, suffering from madness due to arsenic poisoning.
    • His son became Prince Regent, the proxy ruler, giving the cultural era its official title.
    • The Prince Regent was disliked: considered a dandy, an excessive spender, an adulterer and a poor leader in a crisis.
    • The American War of Independence (1775–1783) and the Napoleonic Wars (1769–1821) had threatened England’s sense of security and stability.
    • The class system was therefore strictly upheld by the gentry, church and royals.
    • England’s stability was thought to rely on individuals remaining in the class they were born to – to aim for a better life in high-class society was immoral, treasonous, even blasphemous.
    • Nobles oblige meant the gentry provided charity to the poor near where they lived, in an almost feudal system.
    • But Industrialism led to economic change: a new merchant class were growing large and wealthy.
    • The nouveau riche had enough money to reach for luxuries, education, marriages and titles for the first time.
    • This new middle-class threatened the gentry, many of whom had little money and only noble titles left.
    • This led to intermarriage between wealthy merchant classes and noble families who had lost their fortunes – the nobles got a big dowry and the merchants got a rise in social status.
    • Many of the gentry disapproved of these marriages and maintained an etiquette code, to distance and ostracise the merchant classes who were ignorant of these complex and formal social rules.
    • These social manners were also used to reinforce the hierarchical social structure – people of the Regency period knew the correct way of addressing or showing respect to those with more wealth or higher political or social ranking than themselves.
    • Fashion moved away from powdered wigs and furs as the French Revolution made it unfashionable to be overly aristocratic.
    • Simplicity was preferred. Men wore linen trousers, overcoats, breeches and boots while women abandoned corsets for
    • The charming, broody Lord Byron became a celebrity with his dark Romantic poetry and the Prince’s friend Beau Brummell defined and shaped the dandy fashions.

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