Jane Austen

Happiness in “Our” Time

There are so many horrific events in the news I decided we need to focus on happiness today.

The Romance genre celebrates happiness. After all, isn’t that what the “happily ever after” ending is all about? We’re such optimists, we romance writers and readers. We believe that love conquers all. We relish stories where the hero and heroine face seemingly insurmontable barriers to happiness, but, through love–and the ability to change–they achieve their happy ending.

The Regency period lends itself very well to the these ideas of love conquers all and happily ever after. The idea of marrying for love was a relatively new concept by the Regency period. Before then, people married for advantage or security or power, but the concept of the individual and individual happiness was a new idea. I think this was partly what made Jane Austen successful in her time period. Her books, especially Pride and Prejudice, juxtaposed the old concept of marriage for advantage with the new ideas of love and personal happiness.

Not only is the concept of happiness relatively new, the concept of beauty changes in the 1700s and early 1800s. More natural beauty became desirable. The formal gardens of the 1600s were torn down to create the “natural” landscapes of Capability Brown. The powdered wigs, brocades, lace, and voluminous skirts of the 1700s gave way to more natural silhouettes. Men’s clothing, influenced by Beau Brummell, became simplified and form-fitting. Women’s dresses, with empire waists and filmy fabrics also showed off the female body from top to toe.

When wars closed Europe for the Grand Tour, it became fashionable to tour the British countryside, searching for the “Picturesque.” Touring the Lake District, visiting ruins (or building faux ruins on your country estate) became the thing to do. Taking pleasure in the natural became a new source of happiness during the Regency.

Who of us doesn’t smile when we see beautiful clothes or a beautiful landscape? Enjoyment of beauty is a part of happiness.

Love, happiness, beauty….that’s my idea of the Regency. And I love escaping “real” life by spending my reading and writing time in such a lovely place.

What part of the Regency makes you happy? What else makes you happy? I challenge you to think of 5 things that make you happy. Then go out and smile at someone today.

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Nancy Kelley
11 years ago

Jane Austen was also successful because she too followed the newer rules of natural beauty instead of formal constructs. Instead of using archetypical characters, she wrote about real people her readers could relate to. It was a major turning point in the development of the novel.

I love the Regency because it’s almost the opposite of the Victorian era. The contrast between a time when art, music, and dance were unrestrained and the very obvious restraint of Victorian times fascinates me. I love the both, but the Regency resonates more with me.

11 years ago

What a lovely post, Diane. Regency will always be my favorite period not only because of all the wonderful things you pointed out, but also for the simple fact that gentleman were really gentleman. Sure, they were given to a normal man’s proclivities more often than not, but they also knew how to treat a lady. How to talk to her, woo her, dazzle her with poetry and all manner of things at which men today would likely scratch their heads and say, “Huh? You want me to do… what??”

Jeff Rivera
11 years ago

There are still gentlemen in our time, Alyssia!But you’ll just have to find them.

11 years ago

Thanks for saying so, Jeff. My younger brother is a gentleman. When he proposed to his wife he arranged for a dinner in a beautiful, outdoor location, complete with candlelight, wrote a poem for her on parchment, and played his violin. He truly tries. Now, if only I could find someone like him, but not too much like him… LOL!

I like the politeness; something with which I was not raised. I also love the horses, but I suppose that would fit anywhere. I love reading about different types of food. I think what I like best is that it seems less frenetic. Even if they want to go fast, a horse only goes so fast. It’s an automatic slowing. When I’m reading my Regency Romances, I feel like I’m taking an extra breath.

Only five? Friends, books, music, writing, animals… to start. 🙂

Diane Gaston
11 years ago

Thanks for taking up my challenge to list 5 things that make you happy, Judy!

Jeff, welcome. It is nice to have a “gentleman caller” at Riskies! But I think Alyssia is on to something but it doesn’t only include men. I think there is a distinct erosion of polite behavior in society today. So I, like Judy, find traveling back to the Regency a welcome break.

Nancy, your point about Jane Austen introducing real people to novels is a great one!

Artie Mesia
11 years ago

I like the nicety of it all as well. And I must agree with Jeff. There are gentlemen out there, but there are also cads. I’m sure Jeff could say there are heroines out there as well as harlots. I was raised with politeness and manners. My parents actually sent me to a two week long manners camp where I learned the art of polite conversation and what fork to use when.

Five things that make me happy: my life, my family and friends, reading good books, watching soccer games (preferably with great defense), writing, and visiting the Riskies website (so that’s six).

Nancy Kelley
11 years ago

I missed the challenge to think of five things that make me happy. (That’s the risk of reading late at night.)

1) Blue skies after a major rain storm.
2) Thunderstorms
3) Being with my family–I spent all day Saturday with my cousins.
4) Writing
5) Chocolate

Jane George
11 years ago

Just the idea of tea in a lovely china cup and saucer upon a linen-covered table makes me breathe easier.

Hey, that’s do-able!

Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

Obviously I’m all for happiness right now (especially when it can seem hard to find!). 🙂 Books and friends who love books are high on my list. And even though there are some old-fashioned values I can definitely do without (like having to stay home and be quiet because I happen to be a female…) I am all for the return of some basic manners and etiquette–like not talking on a cell phone during the “Harry Potter” movie when some of us are trying to watch. I’m just saying…

Keira Soleore
11 years ago

Lovely post, Diane. I like the Regency, because it turns away from the hedonistic Georgian era and comes before the uptight prissiness of the Victoria era. The Regency was all about the light in art, architecture, music, fashion, etc.

Five things that make me smile: my daughter, a shiny new book, notes from friends, the ocean/sea, and sunshine.

Keira Soleore
11 years ago

Er, “Victorian” not “Victoria”

Louisa Cornell
11 years ago

I see we have reached a consensus here, a merry accord! The most attractive thing about the Regency (and I do adore almost everything about it) is the simple civility. The idea one must be polite and civil to people, even people who don’t deserve it, is something I sorely miss. I cannot help but think the people of the Regency may have had to practice strict etiquette but the act of being civil to people perpetuates itself and that is not a bad thing at all.

Five things that make me smile :

1. The cake decorator I am training finishes her latest practice cake and it turns out beautifully. She is so proud of herself and that makes me smile.

2. My dogs and cats. Anytime of the day or night they make me smile. (Well maybe not at the 4 AM potty calls, but the rest of the time!)

3. My friends online. The idea I may see you all only once a year, if at all, is perfectly fine when I get to talk to you all every day.

4. The fact Amanda McCabe is here and happy and healthy. Her wit, and youth and exuberance have always made me smile, but I smile a bit bigger these days.

5. The geese that return to the lake I pass on my way to work each morning. They come back every year to raise their goslings and I get to see them from little fuzzy babies to beautiful young geese before they fly away to return next year.

11 years ago

Should have read this earlier. It has been easy to think of things that make me happy.
1. My husband and I finished filling out our registration for for an Air Force reunion this fall. We look forward to seeing our friends.
2. We planned what shows we will be seeing while on vacation.
3. Our grandson came over, played with the dogs, and borrowed a Harry Potter movie to watch with his mom tonight.
4. I called my dad to wish him Happy Birthday. He turned 87 today. I was able to visit him last week which I don’t get to do very often (he lives about 1,000 miles away) and it is a bit of a drive.
5. I actually made some headway in sorting through our stuff and putting thins away.

Thanks for putting a positive note to a day with craziness all around us.

Susanna Fraser
11 years ago

As usual, I’ll be the oddball and say the thing I love most about the Regency is all the upheaval, tumult, and scope for adventure–but with the benefit of knowing how it ended, unlike the chaos we’re living through now.

Oh, and the clothes. Especially the men in uniform.

Five things that make me happy:
1) That my 7-year-old daughter has fallen in love with books and stays up every night reading.
2) Sunny summer days when the sky is so blue it almost hurts my eyes, and I can see Mts. Rainier and Baker plus the Cascade and Olympic Ranges from my 11th-floor office windows.
3) Writing, especially the rush of starting a new story.
4) Eating lunch at the Indian place by my office, especially gulab jamun for dessert.
5) Discovering a new-to-me author with a nice long backlist to glom.

Diane Gaston
11 years ago

Wow. I love what you all said.

One of the things that makes me happy is our Risky Regencies community!!!!

Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

“4. The fact Amanda McCabe is here and happy and healthy. Her wit, and youth and exuberance have always made me smile, but I smile a bit bigger these days.”

LOL Louisa!! Well, this makes me very happy today 🙂

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