Regency Literature

The Prince Regent, who later became King George IV, was quite an unpopular figure in his day. Despite this, his flamboyance and extravagance left enduring legacies in many of the arts such as the Brighton Pavilion. He encouraged extravagance in everything, from costume, architecture, gardens, entertainment, art, etc. It was one of the most civilised and prosperous periods in British history.

This era, now classified as the Regency period, had made significant contributions in terms of literature. It was at the time of the Prince’s birth that Horace Walpole wrote ‘The Castle of Otranto’, a gothic romance that set the stage for other gothic writers, especially Mrs. Radcliffe, whose works were immensely popular during the Regency period. Though the gothic romance was initially set in Medieval times, later authors started to use contemporary settings.  This is most evident in the works of the Bronte sisters, especially Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.

Gothic romance and gothic literature enjoyed a surge in interest in the 20th century with many authors, such as Victoria Holt and Jill Tattersall using the Regency period, as well as the Victorian period (which followed the Regency era), as their setting. However, like the Brontes, some authors, such as Mary Stewart, chose to use contemporary settings.

Other famous writers of the Regency era included Sir Walter Scott and the poet Lord Byron. But one of the most enduring writers, whose works became very influential to 20th century authors, was perhaps Jane Austen. She wrote several provincial romances, and had an interest in gothic literature as well. Many of Austen’s works have been made into film and movies and her books have been continually reprinted.  The images presented in her works have led to a revival in interest in the Regency era.

Historical romances set in the Regency period have become extremely popular today, such that there is a whole subgenre dedicated to Regency romances. The style of the Regency romance was perhaps set by Georgette Heyer and Jeffery Farnol, and have expanded over the years.

Many popular Regency authors of today include Mary Balogh, Stephanie Laurens, Julia Justiss, and Loretta Chase, to name a few. The Prince Regent would be happy to know that today’s romance readers owe a lot to his influence in the world of art and literature as it is reflected in today’s gothic and Regency romances.

Source by Bernard Bresslaw

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