I was talking with Cristina about my writing and she asked me: Why do you write in the Regency era? Why not try writing a book set in our present? I wasn’t able to answer her. I couldn’t really think of why. So I thought and thought about it, and weeks later, I finally realized why I loved writing in the Regency era:
My reasons all boil down to: England’s culture during the Regency offers me a wide range of opportunities to spin up stories of high drama. And I thrive off of high drama and high emotions. “In early nineteenth-century London there was a striking contrast between the brittle politesse of social life and the violence that so frequently and suddenly impinged on it. This was the more obvious because of the then relatively small scale of the city.” MacCarthy captures my feelings exactly in Byron: Life and Legend. The “frequent clash of moods” exhilerates me as an author writing in this period.
I could swoon from all the ideas that flood into me, all the great scenarios that can stir to life in such a flamboyant and elegant high society that was itself full of so much drama. Captain Gronow writing of 1814 said: “At the present time one can hardly conceive the importance which was attached to getting admission to Almack’s, the seventh heaven of the fashionable world. Of the three hundred officers of the Foot Guards, not more than half-a-dozen were honored with vouchers of admission to this exclusive temple of the beau monde; the gates were guarded by lady patronesses, whose smiles or frowns consigned men and women to happiness or despair.”
According to The Regency Companion: “Exclusivity was Almack’s trademark. The Ladies Committee ruled with arrogant thoroughness. Every name scrutinized for membership was put to a grueling test of social suitability. Only the socially perfect need apply. Many peers of the realm were excluded, and though members had the privilege of taking a guest to the balls, their invited visitor had to pass rigid social tests too. These Patronesses issued a voucher to the chosen that entitled one to purchase a ticket.”
What also fascinates me when I read biographies is how similar their world was to ours in terms of celebrities and tabloids. Newspapers in the Regency era reported celebrity gossip. For example, this is an excerpt from the Morning Post; it’s dated May 3, 1785, so it isn’t one from the Regency era, but similar enough to the other articles I read from the early nineteenth century:
Two presidencies have been of late given up, Lady Bridget Tollemache and the Duchess of Devonshire. The former over wit, and the latter of fashion and bon ton. Lady Bridget is succeeded by the Duchess of Gorden, and her Grace of Devon by the Countess of Salisbury, who is now supreme not only in article of dress, but in everything that depends on guste…
And, ehm, just looking at the fashion of that time makes me want to write in the Regency era. The men in cravats and tight trousers. *Swoon*
To write in this era much research is needed. I can never be too sure of anything I write unless I’ve read it from a creditable resource. I usually have to double check things I’m unsure of with historians like M.M. Bennetts or my critique partner V.R. Christensen. So usually research is through books. But this time, I decided to do first hand research. Out of curiosity, after reading about how the poet Lord Byron had raw egg with his tea, I wanted to try it out myself
I tried it myself after much hesitation. It tasted creamy and a bit thick. It wasn’t all together bad until the yolk slipped into my mouth. I thought it had melted in the piping hot tea, but apparently not. Luckily I was by the sink by then and was able to spit it out. I have only one experience to summarize the finale of the Byronic-tea experience: Gross. Gross because of the yolk. And GROSS because of the aftereffect—it was only after I drank it that my sister tells me drinking raw egg for the first time will likely result in a stomach ache. It also makes you want to vomit, which, I deduce, is why Byron had this drink daily. He’s bulimic and an anorexic who also drank tons of water and vinegar every day in order to vomit. So maybe drinking Byronic-tea was not a very good idea. Ichk. But it was an interesting experience.
If anyone has any other research experiences I try out, feel free to leave a suggestion in your comment. And I would also like to ask the writers reading this post why you write in a certain time period, be it the medieval or the present era.
P.S. A shout out to our dear fellow blogger, Dr. Tom Bibey for the publication of his book, The Mandolin Case.