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Yvette’s hobby of collecting slang is a bit out there, but it’s feasible. Regency women loved wordplay. If you read or saw the adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma, you may remember Emma and Harriet collecting riddles and charades (word-puzzles) for a book. And slang dictionaries were more common than one would think. Captain Grose really did produce A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, and Pierce Egan really did have a book called Boxiana, with references to boxing slang. What’s more, one of the earliest female lexicographers I could find, Anna Brownlow Murphy, wrote a children’s dictionary that was published in 1814 and widely used in the Regency. It appeared in multiple editions. So why not a female lexicographer who collects slang?

Jane Austen Fans

Jane Austen had some lofty fans in her day, once word got around who she was. Prinny actually put her between a rock and hard place by having his librarian, J.S. Clarke, suggest that she dedicate her next book (Emma) to the Prince of Wales. Why was that so difficult? Because she couldn’t stand Prinny! Unfortunately, ignoring a royal dictate was unwise, so she did as he wished. But she put her foot down when Clarke then suggested that she write a historical romance about the ancestors of Prinny’s son-in-law. She explained that historical romance was not her cup of tea. Thank goodness, because I much prefer her stories of love in English villages.

But I’m happy I don’t have to revise books the way she did in the Regency. Authors did have pencils, erasers, paper, ink, and quill pens, but I hated revising when I had to retype things (before the advent of personal computers—yes, I was alive then), so imagine what it would be like to have to rewrite everything whenever you wanted to make a major revision. Handwriting was a crucial skill for clerks—there were even books on how to improve your business handwriting. All I can say is, thank heaven for computers.

Female Writers

Many female writers in the 19th century took pseudonyms or wrote anonymously, because it was considered bad form for a lady or gentlewoman to write books. That’s why Jane Austen’s books were published anonymously as “By a Lady” or “By the Author of Pride and Prejudice,” etc. Charlotte, Anne, and Emily Bronte wrote as Currer, Acton, and Ellis Bell. Lady Caroline Lamb wrote Glenarvon about London society (and Lord Byron, her former lover) anonymously. Mary Ann Evans wrote as George Eliot. But there were several women who did use their own names: Ann Radcliffe, Mary Shelley, and Elizabeth Inchbald. It depended on how radical they were and what their place was in society.

Children’s Books

By the Regency, children’s books were starting to be more than educational or religious. This is when the first fairy tales appear in book form (Grimm’s Fairy Tales were first published in 1812 in Germany) and you start getting entertaining works like the ones I quote in Dance of Seduction. Of course, “entertaining” didn’t quite have the same meaning it does now. After all, even though the poem “Cock Robin” that Gabe reads in To Wed a Wild Lord is subtitled, “a pretty painted toy for either girl or boy: suited for all ages,” it’s about how Robin Redbreast dies and everyone mourns him.

Book Covers

Book covers were boring in the Regency; i.e., there weren’t any images on them. But there were lots of images in them. George Cruikshank did a thriving business in black and white etchings for books, notably the novels of Charles Dickens and Laurence Sterne. As you might imagine, color illustrations were prohibitive. In fact, books were pretty expensive, too, which is why private circulating libraries flourished, and why all those rich dukes and earls were the only ones with big libraries. To own a book was a mark of wealth. Thank goodness books are now much more readily available for everyone.