why I’m all into Regency right now
February 21, 2014
The first time I read Pride and Prejudice was in high school, for AP English, and I hated it. I think this was because it was Serious Literature. The teacher (who I never really got along with, long story there) was careful to tell us how Serious it is, and we talked about its Seriousness. The whole time I was thinking, this is a freaking soap opera about people getting married. Hell no.
Then I watched a bunch of Monty Python, as you do when you’re a nerd moving on to college.
When I read Pride and Prejudice the second time, in college, I realized it’s funny, in the same way Monty Python is funny. It’s all caricature and satire, some of it utterly scathing. Even Elizabeth is frequently mockable because she’s so sure she can read everyone else, but she knows herself so little. If someone had just told me the first time around that this was supposed to be funny and we’re allowed to laugh at it — in fact, we’re supposed to laugh at it — it wouldn’t have taken me another 15-20 years to become a fan of Jane Austen.
Then I was introduced to the BBC version with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, with all those beautiful clothes and settings, and I watched a bunch of the other films, and read the books, and I thought, What would this look like with werewolves? Because of course that’s what I would think.
So I’m working on that.
In the meantime, I’ve read a bunch of Austen and I’ve even started reading other authors’ takes on Regency romance, an entire genre invented by people trying to replicate Austen. There’s even a whole genre of sequels to Pride and Prejudice, about what happens to Lizzie and Darcy after they get married. I have to admit: I don’t like the sequels so far, and I stopped reading P.D. James Death Comes to Pemberley entirely. You know why? They’re not funny. They strip Elizabeth of all her wit. All the pointed social commentary and character studies are just gone, as if the world of P&P ought to suddenly be taken seriously. It’s all tedious dialog and description of manners and nothing of the satire and the pointed zingers of Austen — which is the whole point of Austen. (You want to know my idea for a Pride and Prejudice sequel? “Fitzwilliam Darcy Jr., Pioneering Naturalist, and His Adventures in India.” This must be why I’m a genre writer.)
I love the costumes when I’m watching the movies, and I’m finally making a Regency gown after years of wanting to do so. I know there’s a level at which it’s all about the clothes and manners. But dammit, my Regency stories are going to make people smile.