doesn’t mean it’s Regency.
Today I’m going to take a look at a few of my unfavorite myths about England and the Regency and rant about them.
First, the Downton phenomenon, otherwise known as when will it be safe to watch PBS again? The Downton phenomenon, formerly known as the OscarWildeization phenomenon can be further subdivided into:
The Gel thing aka the Maggie Smith Making a Quick Buck thing. Why do dowagers refer to young women as gels? Most of them seem fairly solid to me. Why in fact does this upper class accent predominate in the Regency? We don’t know how they spoke. We do know that the Countess of Devonshire and her crowd affected a particular drawl. But the rest of them? One accent in society, another at home (particularly men who had to speak to the ragged oppressed on their estates)? See below, Beautiful Accents.
Which leads me to the Loveable Servant with vaguely cockney accent whatever their origins. I will stop right there. These are just two examples of this egregious blight.
The Postcard Phenomenon. This is the assumption that every part of England, particularly rural areas, are beautiful. Not so. Neither are thatched roofs generic.
The Wrong Food and Drink. Scones, afternoon tea referred to as high tea, muffins (unless sold by a muffin man; they are things like big flat crumpets), whisky outside of Scotland, bacon and eggs etc. for breakfast. And in other periods, potatoes were unknown in the medieval period; seventeenth century cottage dwellers did not cook apple crisp over their open fires. (Yes, I have seen these.) And if you were a vegetarian it was from necessity (and you’d kill for a bit of bacon to add to the pottage; some things just don’t change) or you’d be dying.
Moving on to topics also relevant to contemporaries:
Excessive politeness and grace. I think I do not need to explain further.
Beautiful accents. Some of them. Some are unintelligible. But Fuck You sounds so much more genteel in a posh accent.
The Royal family and people with titles are universally adored, loved, and respected. Not so and certainly not all the time, unless there’s a need for a Big Celebration or a Big Cry. Much of the time they are regarded as overpaid embarrassments. During the worst of the Charles-Di breakup honest satirists and comedians were put out of work as the Royals surpassed themselves.
But back to the Regency. Would you care to share your favorite myths?
The servant with the Cockney accent is one of my pet peeves, too. The Postcard Phenomenon–well, maybe I’m guilty of it. I lived in England for three years, near Portsmouth which is in the south, but traveled all over on weekends. So much of the English countryside *is* beautiful so why not write about it? It’s part of the appeal of England, for me. I do try to get the regional variations right, based on photos I’ve taken and other stuff.
I get a little upset when Regency people have “ego trips.” 🙂
The speed with which people move across and around England in many books set in the Regency is astonishing. Trips to Bath from London in a day, etc.. Reminds me of the film when Robin Hood lands in England from France and says “Tonight we shall dine with my father in Nottingham”.