There are lots of things I enjoy about writing historical fiction. In terms of plot, I appreciate the social constrictions of earlier times, because they provide so many opportunities for complications.
I love research. I can happily dive into sources, drawn from one fascinating fact to another until I surface hours later with a treasure trove of material. There’s so much to learn!
The clothes are great, too. Gloves and cloaks and bonnets. Ballgowns and walking dresses. Half boots and dancing slippers.
But if I have to pick one favorite thing it’s the language, particularly in the Regency period where I hang out, with a huge shout-out to Georgette Heyer for showing us the way in this regard. Who could resist the phrases?
A stupid or silly person can be — bacon-brained, beef-witted, bird-witted, a chucklehead, a fatwit, a nincompoop, a rattleplate, a slowtop, or scatter witted.
They called gin blue ruin, Flash of Lightning, Old Tom, and Stark Naked. The latter presumably because of the state in which you might find yourself after a drinking bout. And the wonderful terms they had for those who’d overindulged — drunk as a wheelbarrow, in your cups, castaway, disguised, eaten Hull cheese, foxed, jug-bitten, properly shot in the neck, tap-hackled, and top-heavy. And if you tried to lie about your condition, you were telling bouncers or Canterbury tales or plumpers, cutting shams, or pitching the gammon.
The phrases are equally vivid for the state of being charmingly broke, also referred to as – cucumberish, damned low water, on the rocks, at a stand, with not a sixpence to scratch with or a feather to fly with, pockets to let, punting on the River Tick, rolled-up, and run quite off one’s legs.
On the other side of the coin, so to speak, there were great expressions for wealth – flush in the pockets, full of juice, post the pony, stump the pewter, swimming in lard, and well-inlaid.
A married man was riveted or leg-shackled or a victim of the parson’s mousetrap. And if he was a bit henpecked (a fine word in itself), he was living under the cat’s foot.
A snooty person might be high in the instep, top of the trees, of the first stare of fashion. And they would certainly look down their noses at a woman of easy virtue or –barque of frailty, bachelor fare, Bird of Paradise, bit of muslin, convenient, Cyprian, Demi-rep, gamepullet, lady-bird, light-skirt, Paphian, peculiar, or prime article.
I could go on and on, but I’m sure you get the idea. It’s a privilege and a pleasure to write sentences that include expressions like these. That’s why the Regency is always the place for me.
Jane Ashford discovered Georgette Heyer in junior high school and was captivated by the glittering world and witty language of Regency England. That delight led her to study English literature and travel widely in Britain and Europe. Her historical and contemporary romances have been published in Sweden, Italy, England, Denmark, France, Russia, Latvia, Slovenia, and Spain, as well as the U.S. Twenty-six of her new and backlist Regency romances are being published by Sourcebooks. Jane has been nominated for a Career Achievement Award by RT Book Reviews. She is currently rather nomadic.