Justine: Regency Research Books

The beautiful Regency-era music room at Kenwood House outside London. Photo (c) 2015 J. Covington

The beautiful Regency-era music room at Kenwood House outside London. Photo (c) 2015 J. Covington

I just returned from ten fabulous days with Jilly in England where I saw all manner of museums, country houses, old ships, and gorgeous churches, big and small. The only downside is the horrible jet lag I’m suffering with today. Combine that with a deadline to return revised manuscripts to two contests I finaled in and a Kindergarten “promotion” ceremony on Wednesday for my little one means I’m recycling a previous post.

I plan to post soon about the dozen or so books I picked up while I was in England, but for now, here’s a recap of some of the ones I’ve read over the last year and enjoyed.

“What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist — the Facts of Daily Life in Nineteenth Century England” by Daniel Pool
This book covers the gamut. Card games, how to address your peers, the Church of England, MPs, you name it. Everything is covered at a high enough level that you learn about it, but you won’t necessarily become an expert. The most helpful insight so far: learning how many players it takes for a game of loo.

“Cant — A Gentleman’s Guide: The Language of Rogues in Georgian London” by Stephen Hart
If your characters come from the seedier side of London (or need to fit in), this is the perfect book to find word nuggets that make your characters sound authentic. Hart takes tangents that are funny and interesting, too.

“The Gentleman’s Daughter: Women’s Lives in Georgian England” by Amanda Vickery
This is one of two books I purchased by Vickery, a scholar at University of London, who has put forth a great study of women’s lives in this era. I’ve only just started this book, but it’s incredibly interesting to read about how women lived back then. I’m looking forward to reading more of this and suspect the things I learn will make their way into my books.

“Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England” by Amanda Vickery
While the previously mentioned book covers the lives of women, this book discusses the lives of everyone within a home: servants, single men, spinster ladies, genteel women. It also goes into detail about home economy and the day-to-day workings of life in the home.

Are you reading any good non-fiction books or books for research right now? If so, share in the comments below.

10 thoughts on “Justine: Regency Research Books

    • My husband went to Vegas while I was in England, so if you’re ever hankering for a travel buddy (who knows his way around a casino), let me know and you can borrow him for a weekend! 😉

  1. (-: Been thinking of you on your travels. Jet lag is a hassle, and I always find it’s worse when I go east to west. But this too shall pass.

    I’ve bought some books which have proven fairly disappointing. What’s been extremely helpful and exciting is digging into free newspaper archives on the internet. I also think it’s a good idea to read contemporary fiction from that time. Trilby was a hugely popular novel during my time period, and while I think most people these days have never heard of it, certain tropes, like the Svengali who holds mysterious sway over his artistic protoge, came from the book.

    I’ve also been making some really exciting (although useless) connections — there’s a theater that was closed because of the Great Blizzard of 1899, and the play that was on was called The Rev. Griffith Davenport. It’s about a minister who opposes slavery (and my book also has the ghost of Abraham Lincoln). The other theater that was closed was presenting a blackface minstrel play . . . . I didn’t make those connections until I wrote this down . . . . Anyway, there’s a poster for the play on a fire hydrant that’s in one of the blizzard photographs from the time!

    Now, if I can only find out that the theater was built over an old graveyard for plague victims, I will be a very, very happy writer! (If not, I’m thinking about squidging the history over a bit — it’s alternative history, anyway . . . . If I do that, I wonder if I have to change the name of the theater . . . .)

    • It’s okay to squidge the history, so long as you acknowledge that to your readers (particularly something like a Regency or Victorian). Those readers KNOW their history and they won’t be afraid to tell you you’ve got it wrong. In fact, in one of the MSs I got back from a contest, the judge told me that some of my history seemed “wrong” so she looked it up and admitted I was right. 🙂

      It sounds like you’ve got all sorts of interesting connections in your book! Yay! I agree with you that newspapers are a great resource for information. I pay to view the British Newspaper Archives (it’s like a buck-sixty for 24 hours of reading) and have found some gems there, like the week that my story takes place was the whole Corn Laws debate and protest, and parties were “under-attended” that week because of it.

  2. I hope you’ll be over the jet lag soon. I find that to be the second worst thing about traveling, right after the sheer terror of flying I’ve developed in the past four years for some inexplicable reason.

    One of my favorite research books is one you recommended to me, The Georgian Art of Gambling. And I’ll have to get Cant – A Gentleman’s Guide… because my current Victorian heroine is donning a disguise and walking on the wild side in a few seedier (but not seediest) parts of London (all for a good cause, of course). I tried to read the Crimson Petal and the White recently, which is fiction but is a very detailed, well-researched Victorian-era story. The prose is beautiful, but despite that – or maybe even because of it – I just couldn’t get deep enough into the book to invest in the characters. I might pick it up again at some future time, but am back to Courtney Milan for ‘inspirational research’ for now.

    • My sister just sent me a book called “How to Be a Victorian: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Victorian Life” by Ruth Goodman. If you don’t have it, I’ll lend it to you. My sister thought it’d be an interesting read for me, and while she’s right, there are some pretty significant differences between the Victorian and Regency periods, as you well know, and I don’t want to get myself confused.

      • The book your sister sent you sounds fantastic!

        Absolutely, lots of differences between the eras,, especially in the late Victorian ages as the world approached the 20th century. That’s what drove me to move the time period of my historical series to the Victorian era (1869-70). For example, one of my heroines is a suffragist (not to be confused with a suffragette). And I spent the weekend doing internet research on things like the Married Women’s Property Act of 1870.

    • Oh, glad to hear I’m not the only one who feels that way. I’m not at the sheer terror point yet, but as I get older, when I get on a plane, I always think, “Is this time the time my number is up?” I’m sure my blood pressure is too high until we finally level off, or land on the ground. (Most accidents happen during take offs and landings, so I can usually forget my fears when we are at cruising altitude.) I wish I could get over it. I NEVER feel this way when I get in the car, and we all know that 1) flying is safer than driving and 2) most accidents happen within a few miles of home.

      I suppose I should just feel grateful that I don’t have an irrational fear of driving, too.

      Sorry, that was singularly unhelpful. But, brrrr. Flying. The rewards are so great, but we earn those rewards.

  3. I am getting ready to start “The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales.” I’m hoping the psychoanalysis of the fairy tales will inform my writing.

    • Cool! That sounds really interesting! My critique partner is writing a series based on Greek mythology. I should mention this book to her, too, because I’d bet there are a few fairy tales that are informed by Greek myths.

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