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Monday, June 28, 2010

The Devil Is In The Details

While browsing author blogs, especially group blogs, I see a LOT of authors discussing the problems they find in today's Regency Historical romances. There's a lot of debate about anachronisms and I've often been tempted to include my two cents on the subject because I see things posted that are--at the very least--questionable and--at worst--maybe just plain wrong. But I don't comment because I'm no authority on the Regency. The main complaint of these Regency Historical authors appears to be about other Regency Historical authors who are getting their facts wrong and the idea that these historically inaccurate books are making them look bad. The more I see, the more I'm beginning to wonder if there's anyone out there who really knows the end-all, be-all of information about the Regency period.

To satisfy my own curiosity, I've looked up some of the things in dispute on the blogs. What I found was a lot of conflicting information. On both the internet and in print. So, is it any wonder there's disagreement when the various resources about the period can't seem to agree or are misinformed themselves?

Here's an example. One author complained about the use of the word "scone" during the Regency period. She stated that scones weren't around until the Victorian era. So, I went looking. According to Wiki, the common complement to English tea during the Regency was scones with clotted cream and jam. Another source stated that scones were of Scottish origin in the early 1500's. To me, it's not much of a stretch to think that during the 300 year interim, this food item might have ended up a couple of hundred miles down the road in English kitchens. So, what's the answer? Even after doing a bit of research about this small detail, it still isn't clear.

Here's another one. Did English gentlemen in the Regency wear Hessian boots, or did they wear Wellingtons. I have no idea, but I'd really like to know. Some authors who have been writing Regencies for years claim that both are wrong. So, what's the answer?

Use of the word "whiskey" also seems to be a sore spot with a lot of Regency authors. I looked it up. Scotch whiskey came into being in 1778 in neighboring Scotland. So, it seems only reasonable to me that during the 40 year period that followed, maybe a bottle or two of Scottish produced whiskey made it over the border into England. Who can say conclusively that it didn't?

For years, one of the biggest complaints I've seen has to do with the use of contractions in books set during the Regency. Many of the old school authors claim it just "wasn't done." I admit, I've never read Jane Austen, but I'm told she did use contractions in her writing. She passed away in 1817, which means she actually lived and wrote during the Regency period. I guess even she didn't wish to read an entire book that had no contractions.

In wrapping this up (for now), I'd like to offer the radical suggestion that maybe the anachronisms and historical inaccuracies that sometimes appear in historical romances aren't always the fault of sloppy research. Just maybe some of them are due to all the conflicting information floating around out there. All I did was go poking around a little bit and the problem immediately jumped out at me. On many of these minute details of the period, no two resources seem to completely agree. It would be nice if there was a comprehensive, accurate reference for each of the most popular time periods throughout history. In the meantime, I guess we just have to keep digging.