18th-19th Century Britain Message Board
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What is it that makes these books, especially those set during the Georgian and Regency eras so interesting for you?
For me, it started with Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen, but it rapidly evolved to not just reading fiction of the era or taking place in the era, but wanting to know much more about the era itself. It's so fascinating- from the French Revolution to Beau Brummell to now really enjoying fantasy novels set in an alternate world of that sort, such as Goblin Moon by Teresa Edgerton.
Hopefully, this group will allow us all to easily peruse each other's shelves in hopes of finding something else to our liking- I know my TBR list is always ready to grow larger!
Burton's also fascinated me - from a distance. I've yet to actually read any of his books, though I did pick up First Footsteps in East Africa just recently.
In answer to aarti's question, though: a combination of Tristram Shandy and an awareness of my own ignorance kindled a real interest in the 18th and very early 19th centuries this time two years ago. And my interest keeps inching backwards in time. - To the Restoration and before. As yet, the nonfiction I'd like to underpin other reading with is a little scanty... but I can't wait to add more.
Recommendations, anyone? :)
(Yes, I *am* British...) I grew up reading Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen thanks to my mother's collection, then studied Romantic and Victorian literature at university, so I've a reasonable selection of commonly set texts and wider reading.
I agree that my interest keeps going back in time, too- the Restoration is another fascinating era! Have you read the book The King's Touch? It's told from the point of view of the Duke of Monmouth.
Thank you for the suggestions, aarti. The King's Touch looks especially good. One of the Amazon reviewers noted there was little anachronism, which I really appreciate in an author. I've gotten a bit more non-fiction on the Restoration era than on others, though as I picked it all up in the same month (or two), I've not yet made it through everything. :) I'm hopeful that Adrian Tinniswood's biography of Wren will give some closer approach - or attention - to what he was like than Lisa Jardine's did. On a Grander Scale was more of a pro-Hooke apology; which, while probably inevitable in some degree, given their close collaboration and Hooke's diaries, was almost inappropriate in its pervasive insistence. Hooke didn't 'emerge' the hero of the story: he was placed as one by his author's advocacy, even when writing, ostensibly, about Wren. Admittedly, the latter seems to have been elusive, but I hope one can make a closer approach. Jardine was enlightening, though, on the early history of the Royal Society and science in the Civil War, under the Commonwealth, etc.
So, despite my reservations about her biographical treatment of Wren, I did buy Ingenious Pursuits... one of my shelves' attractive unread.
Apologies for the length - and I hope no one will mind if I quote myself in a long-intended review. I have trouble bestirring myself to actually write them. So no start should be wasted. :)
If anyone is interested, and is a member of Yahoo, I have just formed a brand new reading group called British Classics, where we will read and discuss classic British authors (one book per month, I think). If you would like to join, here is the link:
I've got more reading on my plate right now than I'd like to commit to adding more to; but thank you. I will definitely keep it in mind.
But if anyone is interested, I also have a Georgian-era RPG on Yahoo which is fun to play in :-)
BoPeep, what's your favorite Heyer novel?
Recently, though, I got hooked on the Richard Sharpe series by Bernard Cornwell. That was a surprise to me, because I'm not fond (to put it lightly) of military history. But it is so well-written, that I read all the books my library had, then went out and bought the whole series of 20! I'm on my second read-through, because the first time I wasn't able to get them all in order, and I missed some because they weren't available.
Has anyone read Fingersmith? And if so, how do you like it? I've heard a lot of good things about it recently, and about Waters' other works.
I think Affinity is my favourite, but Fingersmith has some wonderful twists and turns.
I see that BoPeep has encouraged you to pick up Fingersmith. I know it is hard to prioritize the wish list with so many great recommendations from this site but I would move this one towards the top.
I'm reading Woman in White by Wilkie Collins right now which I'm really loving. I'm about halfway through and each time I have to make a stopping point, I don't want to put it down! The characters are amazingly developed and the plot-suspense pulls you in... great Victorian novel if I say so myself!
Has anyone else read it? What did you think of it?
Also, has anyone read Moonstone? I was thinking of picking it up after I finish Woman in White, but I'd like to hear some other people's opinions first. (I've heard that WiW is much better than MS?)
I'm currently reading North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell. It took me longer than I anticipated to really get into it- probably because it has a choppy beginning- but now that I'm in, I'm really enjoying it. I also watched the BBC movie version last night, for the second time. Does anyone else have this movie? Or has at least seen it? It's VERY good, especially if you like the BBC Pride and Prejudice. And Richard Armitage has very pretty eyes :-)
8 hours of pure bliss!
And thanks for the heads up about Bleak House, lesezeichen- I'll see if the library has it first.
Awesome! Moonstone is on my list to read next. I didn't realize Wilkie Collins wrote so many novels/short stories. I was doing a catalogue search, and tons of titles came up (not just the repeats of copies... haha). I'm just more surprised that his name isn't talked about more.
I have about 100 more pages until I finish Woman in White, and I'm waiting for something to be done about Fosco. He may be a "Napoleon of Crime" but the good guy has to be vindicated in the end!... at least that's always my hope. :P
I also purchased Sarah Waters's Fingersmith, as I've heard a lot about that one. And a few more :-)
I also love the 18th c because of all the other change - the French Revolution and its complicated history and process, the English and European reaction to it etc, as well as Polish history (the Constitution and the reactions by the great powers).
The Regency is also fascinating - the rules, the war, the clothes, the language :-)
I love the periods for much of the same reasons you do, ladytess, though I don't know as much about Polish history at this time. Though I did just get the book Push Not the River, about Poland before the Napoleonic wars. I don't know how realistic a portrayal it might be, though.
I'm a huge fan of The Reluctant Widow as well. It's one of my favorites. Along with The Talisman Ring and Cotillion, I think.
Has anyone read Amanda Foreman's Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire? I have it on my shelf but haven't read it yet. Which is surprising, as I think I'd really enjoy it.
I like the Victorians' energy, syntax and concern with 'issues'. The novels are generally of a good length so that you feel immersed in the plot. I seem to have read all the 'major' novels and am trying more 'populist' works now, like William Harrison Ainsworth and others mentioned in Louis James' Print And The People 1819-1851.
If you ask me Anne was far more knowledgable and wise than her sisters and she found the perfect balance in style between light and easily readable (a la Charlotte) and dark and difficult (a la Emily).
Don't get me wrong. All the Brontë's and all their books will remain top in my list of favourites forever. Wuthering Heights was, until "Tennant", my favourite Brontë novel, although Jane Eyre was a close second. I think I probably enjoyed Jane Eyre more when I was younger (13ish) and Wuthering Heights when I was a bit older (17ish) but now as a proper-grown-up I think I can appreciate Anne Brontë, the least well known Brontë sister, a whole lot more.
Also The Woman in White is amazing. But Armadale by Wilkie Collins is, in my opinion, better than either of his two better known novels.
Persuasion is the best Jane Austen if you ask me.
I own Fingersmith by Sarah Waters but haven't read it yet. I hear it's good.
And for books about the 19th Century I'd recommend The London Underworld in the Victorian Period: Authentic First-person Accounts by Beggars, Thieves and Prostitutes by Henry Mayhew
The four main novels of Wilkie Collins are worth reading, the two listed above plus No Name and The Moonstone. It's interesting that in all four novels the main female character overshadows the men.
Although Persuasion is my favourite Austen novel I couldn't say it's her best work, that would have to be Emma.
On a completely different tact, I would like to recommend Uncle Silas and In A Glass Darkly. LeFanu wrote too much, as well as fiction he wrote a lot of journalism, sometimes virtually the whole paper he was currently editing, which meant that much of work is not as good as it could have been. However, Uncle Silas is a superb novel, a Gothic novel without the supernatural traits - if you like Wilkie Collins then this is also worth searching out. The short story collection contains 'Camilla', one of the first and best vampire stories, amongst other excellent supernatural tales. In the narrator, Dr. Hesselius, Le Fanu created, for better or worse, one of the first investigators of the supernatural in fiction.
I think perhaps the horror that the family might have felt at something they found to be very personal (and pointing to family scandal) stems from the very thing that makes the book so great. It is its realism and it's raw truthful feeling that gives it its edge but also it's smoothness. The book has a sort of seamless narrative that I think is greatly facilitated by authors writing what they know.
As for Persuasion I'm in two minds about it. If you ask me some days it's my favourite Jane Austen but admittedly not her best and some days I can't admit for any other book being considered her best. It remains my favourite nonetheless, but I'm not sure what I would class as her best if not Persuasion possibly Emma but also very possibly Pride and Prejudice. Although her other works are often overlooked in favour of Pride and Prejudice and despite its being the best known (and therefore probably not the best written in some people's eyes, as is often the case with prolific authors) I think it merits its wide acclaim and may very well be the best written and the best formulated in terms of plot and character.
Then again Emma which I'm re-reading now is certainly a priceless gem, and the characters are no less believable and the plot no less sparkling than in Pride and Prejudice. I tend to want to end these arguments within my own mind by settling on naming Persuasion as top Austen and leave it at that. Otherwise I'll be sitting here all afternoon thinking about it and when I get home I'll feel compelled to pull them all off the shelf and compare them.
I own No Name but have not read it yet. I think Collins shines when it comes to his female characters. They have a believability and a novelty in strength and spirit that other contemporary novels didn't have. I loved Lydia Gwilt in Armadale and despite the fact that she was hated and reviled when the book was first published I think Collins showed remarkable sympathy for her and understanding of what a difficult life might do to a person and what it might drive them to do that they would not otherwise have done under different circumstances. Through the sections of the novel narrated in her own voice, from her own diary we find that she is not altogether as conniving and 'evil' as she first appeared and indeed has great capacity for love and goodness, if only her sense of desperation and helplessness under pressure of her circumstances hadn't got the best of her.
I also felt a great affinity with Marian Halcombe in The Woman in White. More so than with her sister. He had a knack for painting realistic portraits of self-assured Victorian women.
It would be fun if you all could join us as you seem very knowledgeable :-)
I am looking forward to reading The Tenant of Wildfell Hall as well. I love that it takes place during the Regency era, which is by far my favorite era of English history. While at the bookstore last weekend, I picked up two other books that relate to that era. A Traitor's Kiss and The Thieves' Opera, both of which sound very interesting.
And I'm currently reading an EXCELLENT novel on the French Revolution entitled A Place of Greater Safety. It is huge and therefore very heavy to hold, but it's very, very well-written. I'd highly recommend it!
I just finished Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South, which I also enjoyed, though I must be sacriligious and say I prefer the BBC movie version to the book.
As for Jane Austen- I think we can probably move that discussion to a different forum :-) But I'll weigh in on the side of Persuasion. I think her characters in that book were excellently drawn and that the humor was so arch and mature, and the situation just so completely one that readers can sympathize with- mastery, IMHO.
Wilkie Collins - I love, love, The Woman in White; I found The Moonstone harder to get into, but rewarding.
I actually own both North & South and Wives and Daughters and love them both. But I'm such a sucker for a good costume drama!
I plan on starting Wilkie Collins' Armadale tonight, so I'm excited to see that people really like his work!
I hadn't heard of Gaskell until I happened across "Cranford" on the library audio shelf not long ago, which I thought pretty good.
Harriette may not be the most reliable narrator, being somewhat partisan to herself, but the book is quite entertaining in a gossipy Madame Campan way, and it got me interested in 18th- and 19th-century courtesans.
I have read Harriette Wilson's Memoirs in parts. Our university had an old copy that I could go through once in a while. And she's quoted a lot in other books of the period. I have the Lesley Blanch version on my shelf. I think it's probably edited, which is fine as Harriette was a bit melodramatic, wasn't she? :-)
I also have a large volume of Lord Chesterfield's Letters.
Mary Barton is a grittier protest about the appalling lives of Victorian factory workers, only spoiled by the melodrama at the end and the saintly nature of Mary herself.
72Deutschebea Første besked:
I also got interested in the history of this period through studying women's history in the Middle East - completely random, I know, but my professor was always making analogies between the two and talking about how the English were such good record-keepers that there is a wealth of English social history and women's history regarding this period. It provides a nice contrast to much of the early modern Middle Eastern history, for which records are often in short supply.
She had a mastectomy without anaesthetic, and lived to tell the tale. Some people call her the mother of the English novel, and some hand the title to Aphra Benn. I say let them share it, but Orinoko is no match for Pride and Prejudice.
To jump to the regency period, after you have read all the Georgette Heyer, and there are no more left to read, you might try Claire Darcy. She is not a bad substitute. Her novels have titles that are women's names.
I figured after I finished with Austen, I would do exactly as you suggest - move on to her predecessors and her contemporaries. Try to read the novels that influenced her. I am very interested in the epistolary-style novels that were written in this era, but I have not yet read one. Any suggestions?
Maria Edgeworth was an Irish writer around the time of Jane Austen or perhaps a little earlier, and she has done comedy Castle Rackrent and lots of other novels, one of which is Belinda.
I have a set that is very old, but if you are interested I will look up the other titles in it, although they may be out of print. Castle Rackrent is very funny, and is about English absentee landlords in Ireland. She also wrote educational books. She had a lot of siblings, and she and her father taught them, and wrote educational pamphlets. I think she was fairly popular in her time.
How about Joseph Andrews, by Fielding, Barry Lyndon, & Pendennis by Thackeray, and also by Fielding-Tom Jones and Amelia.
What a wonderful group, to be able to find people who love to read the same things as I do!
Another great friend of British 18/19th Century literature here. I came to it through watching the BBC series of Pride and Prejudice on TV. Since then I read all the Books of Jane Austen and over the time many other works of that period found a way to my shelf.
I mostly like:
Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice: That's one of my great favorites. I read it so often since I have that little book and some passages I could tell off-hand. As mentioned, I love her other novels as well - Lady Susan is a little sarcastic gem among the other great novels.
Elizabeth Gaskell: North and South - a bit boring first, but after some pages I couldn't lay it down! I love the BBC series as well, I watched it several times!
Elizabeth Gaskell: Wives and Daughters - another fine story, even if it's an unfinished one. But just the last chapter is missing - not an crucial part. The BBC series are also good.
Elizabeth Gaskell: Mary Barton. That's a little gem as well. Not so much as a love story but more as a social critic on the live circumstances of the mill workers at that time.
Wilkie Collins: The Woman in White: A real pageturner. When reading Collins it allways need a bit time to get in the book, but then it takes your breath away and you can't put it down! That man has had an great ability to create good charakters and a thrilling plot.
Wilkie Collins: No Name - The same thing here - you need get through the first chapters and than the story get so thrilling! I read that book on one weekend with laying half the nights too awake, because I couldn't put it down.
Wilkie Collins: Man and Wife - That book I'm reading in the moment. Another good one.
Fanny Burney: Evelina. I came to that book because it was mentioned in Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey. I found it really nice little gem.
Fanny Burney: Camilla: I think the story as such very interesting - a very good picture of the society of that time. But it's fairly thick and somethimes a bit peripatetic.
The Bronte-sisters: I like all the novels of them, Jane Eyre (Charlotte), Villette (Charlotte), The Tenant of Wakefielt Hall (Anne) and Wuthering Heights (Emily).
George Eliot: Middlemarch. I read that book some times ago in german translation and found it a little gem as well. Now I got it in its original language and will read it soon again!
William Thackeray: Vanity Fair. A really nice bunch of charakters. I read that book too in german translation first - but i will read it in it's original language too in a little while.
I have several other books in my shelf, but they are still unread. :-)
I have already an Dickens novel in my shelf, freshly delivered by Amazon on Wednesday this week: Bleak House - still unread in the moment. When I'm through with Wilkie Collins Man and Wife, I will start with it! :-)
What I really like about 18/19th century novels is that they gain worth every time you read them again. And every time one find new things among them, that one haven't seen the time before.