Reading,  Regency

Gail Eastwood talks about the roots of Anglomania

Does the idea of afternoon tea send a little curl of delight through you? Does the sight of rolling green pastures touched by mist make you yearn to be “across the pond”? Ha, I thought as much. As Regency fans—no, make that fanatics—we are all likely to be Anglophiles at heart—at least, those of us who aren’t lucky enough to be native Brits. Our romanticized fascination with the period is part and parcel of a love for the setting we read and write about.

The dictionary defines “Anglophile” as “a person who admires or sympathizes with Englandand English views, policy, things, etc.” It also says “Anglomania” is “an excessive or undue attachment to, respect for, or imitation of Englishmen or English institutions and customs by a foreigner.” Uh-oh. The Regency gown hanging on the back of my office door proves I am guilty of the “imitation” part of that. Certainly I don’t agree that my respect for and attachment to things English is undue, but hmm, how does one determine “excessive”? Is it a bit eccentric that I, an American, take note of Jane Austen’s and Queen Victoria’s birthdays? I believe that value judgment is both relative and subjective….

Pondering these weighty matters led me the other day to think about where this obsession with things English comes from. Have you ever thought about it? I come from a long line of English ancestors, so I could claim “it’s in the blood”, but I know plenty of Anglophiles/Anglomaniacs who haven’t a drop of English blood and are just as addicted as I am. How about you?
If it’s not heritage, then what? I suspect it’s more than just the obvious loveliness of everything English. I’ve been addicted from a very early age –if not before consciousness, at least before memory. It must be my mother’s fault. Her tool of choice had to be the books –those lovely illustrated children’s books. Beatrix Potter comes to mind in an instant. An edition we had included a sketch of Potter’s beloved home and I loved that picture as much as Peter Rabbit. And even before A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh, we read the poems in When We Were Very Young and Now We are Six. I can’t recite “What is the matter with Mary Jane? (She isn’t sick and she hasn’t a pain), and it’s lovely rice pudding for dinner again” without attempting a British accent.

Were you raised with a vicarious diet of things English through books? Which were your favorites? The more I think about it, the more books come to mind: Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, The Wind in the Willows, A Child’s Garden of Verses. There’s such a rich legacy of classic children’s literature from British authors! I went through a phase of reading books about dolls—my favorites were British ones, of course. Rackety-Packety House and Impunity Jane. There had to come a point, though, when this diet fed to me became a preference of my own, and hence, a self-perpetuating addiction. Did you read The Wolves of Willoughby Hall? When did you first discover Jane Austen, or the great Georgette? Once I began to choose books because they were set in England or were about some aspect of English life or characters or history, there was no hope of a cure. And why would anyone want to be cured? This addiction has, of course, has led to a lifetime of delightful reading discoveries and pleasure, not to mention a few humble contributions from my own pen.

Speaking of which, I should mention that The Persistent Earl, the next of my ebook Signet Regency reissues from Penguin Intermix, is due out next week, on December 11. I do hope you’ll take a look at it, and perhaps if you have an Amazon account, you could give me some “likes”? The heroine in this story, a wary widow living in her married sister’s Londonhome and helping to nurse the hero back to health after Waterloo, also serves as a governess of sorts for her charming young nephews and niece. We could do a whole article about what books English children in the Regency were reading, or our characters read as children before that…Isn’t the power of books amazing?
I’ll give away a copy of The Persistent Earl to someone who leaves a comment (and includes their email so I can contact them). Come join the conversation! I’ll draw the winner’s name next Friday, the 14th.
Elena here.  To learn more about Gail and her writing, check out her website at 
And next week, we’ll be celebrating Jane Austen’s birthday.  There will be prizes.  🙂
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9 years ago

Although I am English, I was born abroad and didn’t live here for years. My grandmother sent over all my mother’s old children’s books so from very young I was reading Enid Blyton and forming a very out-of-date but likeable and romanticised view of England! I’m sure that our early reading is key, and these days so is TV too, I think. If you see lots of beautifully costumed, well-scripted, dramas set in England (from any period) then you’ll also have a pre-disposition towards England. I see it working in reverse on children and teenagers here – they watch endless repeats of Friends and the OJ and think that America is like that, and desirable.

Congrats on the re-release of your books! I love the fact that books which were previously difficult to get hold of (especially those by American authors which were never released here) and becoming more easy to get hold of, as authors recover their rights and release them as ebooks. Encourage all your colleagues to do the same! helenajustina at hotmail dot co dot uk

Evangeline Holland
9 years ago

I am an utter Francophile. I’ve been in love with the language since I was a child, and love the cities, the history, the food, the architecture–just everything. Oddly enough, France, our longtime ally and the destination for Americans in Europe, is déclassé in historical fiction!

Bess Gilmartin
9 years ago

Hi Gail, Fun post! My dad was stationed in England when I was twelve. It was not love at first sight for me, but it didn’t take long to fall head over heels. We lived in a tiny village where the postman rode a bicycle, and the fish and chip truck drove around the village green every Saturday night. I still miss it!

Congratulations on getting your books out there again. Somehow I missed them the first time around, but I look forward to reading them now!

Elena Greene
9 years ago

Both my parents came from Lithuania, so I definitely have no birthright. Unless a handsome British spy was present at the Treaty of Tilsit (very close to where my mother’s family lives) in 1807 and fell in love with a Lithuanian girl.

Fiction aside, my gateways included C.S. Lewis, Tolkien and Georgette Heyer. I became even more of an Anglophile during a 3 year international assignment in the UK. I wished I could have stayed longer, but the job wasn’t conducive to starting a family.

Author Gail Eastwood
9 years ago

Helena, that’s an interesting point about what kids are exposed to in England now. Too bad we can’t get them to read all the lovely old books that we did! I worry about an England in the future where the old traditions aren’t valued.
Thanks for your comment, the congrats & email –I’ll enter you in the drawing!

Author Gail Eastwood
9 years ago

Evangeline, that is unfortunately so true about France being declasse (sorry I don’t know how to put in the accent marks in this format!)in historical fiction. The publishers are certain the reading public doesn’t want that setting. We can hope the independence of e-book publishing may help break that taboo. I have a historical story set in Paris that I want to do. I offered it to Signet back in the day, and my editor said -“I like the story –can you change it to London?” That would have ruined the story, so it hasn’t been done yet. It’s on my “to-do” list!! I did have a French hero in my trad Regency THE CAPTAIN’S DILEMMA (1995). (He was a POW). I’ll be re-issuing that one as an e-book some time in 2013.

Author Gail Eastwood
9 years ago

Dear friends, please don’t forget to include your email address (or contact me through email or facebook) if you want to be included in the drawing for the free book next Friday!

9 years ago

I was very small when our family chanced upon a lovely couple from London. Long years of association eventually enticed me to England for a summer. Though I grew up with Pooh, my first awareness of England in my reading was Tolkien. His LOTR threw open the doors on the world.

Kristine Hughes and Victoria Hinshaw

Gail, good to hear from you!! I could not escape being an Anglophile, could I, being named Victoria. Not to mention the fact that I always knew I was a princess, wheter anyone else acknowledged the fact. Especially my little brother. I am truly dedicated to all things English — except for my envy of my blog partner, Kristine Hughes, who is about to leave for London. Since she and her hubby live in Florica, they may have a frigid experience, but knowing Kristine, her snowflakes will be diamonds and the cold a mere cheek-reddening cosmetic effect!

Marissa Doyle
9 years ago

Hello, Gail! I think my Anglophilia began with reading Frances Hodgson Burnett and watching The Six Wives of Henry VIII on Masterpiece Theatre at approximately the same time. I was doomed, wasn’t I? 🙂

Louisa Cornell
9 years ago

Devout Anglophile here, Gail! We were stationed in England for three years when I was a child and my love for the little village where we lived and for all things English has never wavered a moment since. I was introduced to the books of Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters and Georgette Heyer by a pair of retired librarians, sisters who lived next door to us in the village. They were the first people I ever knew who had an actual library in their home. I spent many a rainy afternoon curled up in an elegant chair in front of the fireplace in their library, only to be interrupted for afternoon tea. It was heaven!

My mother’s family is Native American, but my father’s was three-quarters Welsh and a quarter English and didn’t immigrate to this country until 1892. My father grew up in a house where Welsh was spoken on a daily basis by his grandmother.

So as you see, I never stood a chance!!

9 years ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

Diane Farr
9 years ago

You’re right. It was the books. It was always the books.

I didn’t even know about the green hills and mist and all that. It was the language that enchanted me. Phrases like, “My hat! What a picnic,” and “jolly” as a modifier crept into my vocabulary without my noticing … much to the puzzlement of those around me. (Thank you, C.S. Lewis and E. Nesbit.)

Like you, I can recite A. A. Milne at the drop of a bowler and have a lingering, otherwise inexplicable, fondness for animals I have never met (hedgehogs, badgers, etc.) thanks to my childhood reading.

Cara King
9 years ago

My closest thing to a hereditary right to Anglophilia is an ancestor with the last name Stephenson — and as he’s untraceable, no one can prove that he wasn’t of English descent!

I definitely fell in love with England through children’s books. Sure, I loved Oz and Edward Eager and Nancy Drew, but most of my favorite authors were British — Aiken, Nesbit, Burnett, Streatfeild, Tolkien, Lewis, and eventually Diane Wynne Jones and Susan Cooper. (And I’m delighted to see I’m not the only one hear who loves many of those authors!)

BTW, Gail, it was “Wolves of Willoughby Chase,” not “Hall,” in case anyone wants to look for the book! That whole series (by Joan Aiken) was amazing — we’d call it alternate history nowadays, I guess! Bonnie Prince Georgie as the Young Pretender — “My Bonnie lies over in Hanover” — such fabulosity. (And Aiken also wrote a few traditional Regencies, FWIW.)


Mali Lim Howe
9 years ago

Looking back, I realize I gravitated towards English authors when I was a child, and it wasn’t done consciously. Even my favorite American writer -Lloyd Alexander- was steeped in British (albeit, Welsh) mythology. I loved Susan Cooper, C.S. Lewis, Diana Wynne Jones, Vivien Alcock, Joan Aiken, oh- and Enid Blyton! I desperately wanted to go to an English boarding school, thanks to Enid Blyton. My husband is also an Anglophile (much to the bemusement of his old Swamp Yankee family), so we tend to spur each other on in our Anglomania…

-Mali (hi Gail!)

9 years ago

I also think it’s the books.


Author Gail Eastwood
9 years ago

So lovely to see so many familiar friends here! (Waving madly)And new friends, too.
Bess and Louisa, I envy you your time spent living in English villages. I know I would love that! Vicky, you always manage to make me laugh! So true about Kristine… Marissa, yes, doomed! LOL. I put THE SECRET GARDEN in the books photo, even though I didn’t mention Burnett in my post. I could have listed so many more authors and beloved books, but have left that up to all of you!

Judy, Diane, Mali, thanks for dropping by and commenting! And Cara, thank you so much for correcting me on Aiken’s book title –lord, I read it such a very long time ago, and could not lay hands on my copy!

9 years ago

I have no English relatives, but I love the country. When I was a child I traveled there with my parents. We visited York, Wales and Scotland and I loved it!!!
I adored the castles, loved the nature and those Scottish cows are so cute. I’m lucky my husband would like to visit Britain with me, so next year we’ll be going to London.

I also like to read about English aristocracy: the costumes, the balls, the strict rules. It’s great!!

Jane George
9 years ago

Frances Hodgson Burnett, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, and…Dick Francis!

My dream is to spend at least a year in London and use it as a base for travel and exploration. 🙂

Lesley Attary
Lesley Attary
9 years ago

I grew up in the state of Washington – a perfectly English climate, no? When born, my mother’s nurse was a Brit and told my mother that “Lesley” was a good English name…(is that true?) Maybe that was the beginning? I think my anglophilism(?) began with my dad’s pride in his English ancestry. He always told my sister and I that we were “Welsh and Scotch”. His father’s people came from Bath England to Bath, Maine. On top of that, I watched a lot of Masterpiece theater period dramas, Monty Python and read The Secret Garden and Agatha Christy followed not too long by Jane Austen. My sister and I still argue over who has the better British accent. My formative years were spent exhausting the local library of their Harlequin Regency romances. I love the new Risky Abode! Thank you for the hospitality! lesleyattary(at)yahoo(dot)com

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