Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Why I have decided, on balance, that I would like to live in the Regency era, if you're going to give me the choice.

I was recently criticised for my prediliction for the colour puce. This saddened me greatly; I take it as a sad example of prejudice against a man exhibiting an exuberant use of colour. And it was a digital watch for Gawdssakes!!! It’s not like I actually *own* a puce neck tie, or would dare to wear a hibiscus shaded jacket. Pershaw!

I don’t want to walk down the street and be accused of being a *puce ponce*. No, a man can’t dress like that nowadays, he’d end up looking like a David Dickenson impersonator, or be mistaken for Jonathan Ross, and no one would want that…

But there was a time when women were women and men were, well, men were just DANDY.

I speak of course of the Regency era (1811 to 1820 or there or there abouts – like the 1970s, the Regency era lasted longer than it should have done.) A time when a man could dress like Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen without getting pelted with stones in the street - ay up, hang on - maybe I've made a terrible decision here... let me think.. no, Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen would still get pelted with stones if he walked down the street, even if it was 1814. They'd just pelt him for fun. And probably for crimes against fashion. He's no Beau Brummel despite what he might like to think. The dandies were far more subtle, allowing vigorous colour on their waistcoats only; their other clothes finely cut, made of the smoothest silks and cottons, but all ever so subtle.

So it's the Regency for me. Though I'll admit I did flirt with this idea from Steven Wright:
I went to a restaurant with a sign that said they served breakfast at any time. So I ordered French toast during the Renaissance.
But I'm sticking with my original time travelling destination

And I have 10 fine and dandy reasons for my choice.

  1. The Brighton Pavillion. All over the world there's all sorts of revolutions going on: the French, then the Americans - even in blighty there were riots and all sorts of goings on. But the Prince Regent had his priorities in the right order. Build a lovely palace in Brighton. Good work, your Royal Highness, the Prince Regent. That'll show the oiks what's what...
  2. Regency furniture - how can you not want to *lounge* on that candy striped chaise longue? And in the Regency period, I would be *gay* for suggesting it, yes. But gay like a cavalier rather than a pub in Soho.
  3. The Hellfire Club. Exclusive clubs for high society rakes established all over Britain in the 18th century. These clubs were rumoured to be the meeting places of "persons of quality" who wished to take part in immoral acts and the members were often very involved in politics. Splendid! Listen, if I'm going back in time, I'm going back rich. Poverty stinks whatever era you're living in...
  4. The Regency period's vehicles of choice: the Hansom cab - ideal for secret assignations with a painted lady. Or the Penny Farthing - God's gift to comedy cycling. Get me one now!
  5. During the Regency the pre-eminant English writers include: Jane Austen, Lord Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Walter Scott, William Wordsworth, William Hazlitt, Thomas de Quincey & a young George Elliot. I'm not even going to bother to compare that list to today. It's breathtaking.
  6. John Montagu, Fourth Earl of Sandwich (who unfortunately died just prior to the Regency period in 1792, but I'm including him as an *honorary* dandy) - not only did the silly old bounder pay for Captain Cook to toddle off on some boat based adventures and so discover the Sandwich Islands (now stupidly renamed Hawaii), the dashed blighter only went and invented the sandwich, didn't he? Which is the greatest invention since sliced bread as far as I'm concerned. All because he was busy gambling and didn't want to waste time eating away from the table. "Dash it all, I'm playing cribbage here, don't you know. Bring me some meat slapped between a couple of chunks of bread." It was also his *fault* that Britain lost the American War of Independence. But y'know, as every gambler knows, you can't win em all, right? Truly my all time hero. How different the world would have been without him. Especially if he'd left it to that idiot the 8th Lord of Sussex to name our favourite sliced bread comestible. Corned beef sussex, anyone?
  7. More transport related follies: a Scotman named James Watt has already built a bally silly *steam engine* thing and now in 1814 a young English fellow called George Stephenson had this dashed silly idea of inventing a horse-less carriage contraption that seems to *run* along rails. Calls it a *steam train*. Never catch on to be sure. But jolly good show for trying, chaps.
  8. J. M. W. Turner. Okay. Come on, don't make me mention Damian Hurst, alright. I mean, like Damo & his pickled sheep, but please, this is the guy they named the prize after.
  9. This list has mainly been a list of cultural things and nice things to sit on, but despite my deep reservations about his activities in Ireland, I'll throw in Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington for his boots & also for besting Napoleon at Waterloo and so inspiring the classic Abba song.
  10. It would be easy to just throw Romance in here at 10. We have very romantic notions of the Regency period. Georgette Heyer does, Jane Austen films do. There was obviously lots of poverty and despair, but hey, I'm time travelling first class here. I get to choose what happens. So I'm going to have Famous Regency Romances (I may have just lost all my macho credibility here. Though I'm not sure I had any to begin with. Pah.) I give you Lord Byron & well, lots of ladies; Emma, Lady Hamilton & Nelson; Mary Shelley & Percy Shelley, and lots of people doing that polite hand holding & bowing dance that they do in all the Jane Austen adaptations. Great dresses for the ladies as well, I have to say, if only to pick up some male points for my caddish behaviour...


  1. I love this post. Its brilliant! The Regency Era sounds like a smashing time, I agree (but of course, only when one is wadded with cash).
    Fine clothes, chez lounges, parties for the priveleged, and stepping over the paupers to get into the carriages. To do such things in this day and age would only mean labels such as ponce, bitch, or my personal favorite 'get off my effing back and use the stairs to get onto the bus, you slag'.
    things just lose their charm in modern day!

  2. I'd like to have been a scientist then. And a bloke, obviously, singing and all that isn't really my bag.

    You can find out who'd you'd be:

    (I didn't know they did that programme. You might want to see if they do another one)

    I'm going to have to investigate needlepoint, I would have lacked moral fibre.

  3. Well I hate to piss on your parade, but you had better be rich to enjoy the wonderful life, because if you aren't, well quite frankly you will be fucked.

    ..and I googled some if this to my shame..

    While Regents Park and Regent Street of London were celebrating the highlights of 'regency style', this opulence very much contrasted with the abject poverty and inflation of the prices of food which crippled many lower class families. Taxes were rife during this era, people were not only expected to pay tax to the Government and King but also to the Church. The wide ranging extent of taxes were extreme, for example, window tax expected from anyone with a window (this extended to small ventilation holes in huts), these taxes rose the larger the windows were and the more there were. As a result those who could not afford the tax were forced to brick up their windows.

    England was also in the middle of an industrial revolution during the Regency, so there were growing numbers of people leaving the farms and countryside to find work within the cities in the new and plentiful factories. This shift from rural to urban saw the growth of slums and an increase and intensification of poverty within the major cities.

    As with all industrial revolutions, this shift lead to a huge increase in pollution. England, with tons of waste from the factories along with London’s sewerage being dump untreated into the river Thames. The coal being burnt in the factories also created thick smog in the cities, so much so that when a person wore a white dress out for a day, they would return wearing a grey one.

    Under George IV, England was industrial, crowded, powerful and troubled. It was a time of convict transportation in which Australia was colonized, but none of this dirty, bleak history is revealed by Jane Austen, as she lived in the English countryside and not in London, and the focus of all her novels were the charms of the countryside and its relative romance.


  4. Well but of course, I'm time travelling first class. My ancestors were in Ireland in bare feet, eating turnips. So I'm choosing to be rich and avoid all the grimness and class warfare that an inept and corrupt leadership such as the Regency. The height of the Empire was already sowing the seeds of its own destruction.

  5. that quiz MD posted is scandelous! It told me this (how rude!):
    You lack a moral centre! Personally, I blame the parents. The love of a good man might just save you, but I fear we've come to this turnpike too late. Like Mansfield Park's frankly wayward Miss Maria Bertram, you may sacrifice your reputation for sex and ultimately be more at home on continental soil.

  6. Sam: I got the same. Morals scmorals.