Recommended reading: Books on Regency life

Composite image of publications on Regency life
There’s plenty to read about life in the Regency era. We’ve selected a sample.

The stories in Jane Austen’s books may seem confined to a few families or towns, but current events did find their way in, often as asides: the war with France, the behavior of militias, the abolition movement. 

A few weeks ago we gave you a quick historical timeline of major events in Austen’s lifetime.  For a deeper dive on what it was like to live in the Regency era, these publications are a good place to start.

regencybooks-morrison‘The Regency Years: During Which Jane Austen Writes, Napoleon Fights, Byron Makes Love, and Britain Becomes Modern’ by Robert Morrison

At the top of the list, and not only because author Robert Morrison will be speaking at next summer’s Jane Austen Summer Program, “The Regency Years” delves into the goings-on of the times: politics, war, entertainment, sexual mores, and er, more. In a review, The Washington Post said Morrison “thrillingly describes the Battle of Waterloo, tracks the War of 1812 in North America and offers a global tour d’horizon of Britain’s colonies in Canada, India and Australia. But he doesn’t neglect the arts and sciences.”

regencybooks-worldmagRegency World Magazine

This magazine devoted to all things Austen and Regency is published every two months and recently celebrated its 100th issue. Every issue is chock full of Austen-related news and events, as well as book reviews, history lessons, quizzes and more. Although it is published in England, it is delivered worldwide. 

regencybooks-england‘Jane Austen’s England: Daily Life in the Georgian and Regency Periods’ by Roy Adkins and Lesley Adkins 

We so equate Austen with the Regency era that it’s easy to forget that Austen was born 36 years before it started, so it is nice to look at the broader period. The Adkins follow a somewhat chronological order of the lives of folks in that era, starting with marriage, going through child-rearing, work, illness and finally death, with vivid examples gleaned from letters and other documents.

regencybooks-ate‘What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist-the Facts of Daily Life in Nineteenth-Century England’ by Daniel Pool

While “Jane Austen’s England” starts in the Georgian era, Daniel Pool’s book covers the post-Regency Victorian era as well. More of a companion to novels by Austen, the Brontës and Dickens, than a slice of Regency or Victorian life, “What Jane Austen Ate” will set you straight on when to use “My Lord” vs. “Your Grace” or give you the low-down on money matters — you can bet your sovereigns on that!

regencybooks-world‘Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels’ by Deirdre Le Faye 

This list would be incomplete without Austen scholar Deirdre Le Faye’s work.  One thing that sets it apart is that it devotes one chapter to each of Austen’s novels — including the unfinished “Sanditon” and “The Watsons.”

regencybooks-slang‘Regency Slang Revealed: Grose’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue & Later Versions’ by Louise Allen

After a long day’s work, one likes nothing better than to put one’s trotters up and rest one’s napper on the pillow, peepers closed.

If you think that was just gibberish, you might want to get your dandles (hands) on Louise Allen’s book and get versed in the slang of Jane Austen’s day. 

regencybooks-miseries‘The Miseries of Human Life’ by James Beresford

This compilation of miseries reads like a 19th-century Tumblr post: hilarious annoyances — miseries — that just make life sometimes unbearable. It’s available for free on Google Books, so you too can experience what irritated people back then and come to the conclusion that those Regency folks, they’re just like us.



the_ceaseless_century_three_hundred_years_of_eighteenth_century_costume.jpg‘The Ceaseless Century: Three Hundred Years of Eighteenth-Century Costume’ by Richard Martin

This 1998 book — centering on a 1998 exhibition of the same name at The Metropolitan Museum of Art —  is out of print. But never fear: It is available FREE as a PDF from The Met. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD.

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About Zeina Makky

Zeina Makky is a newspaper designer turned web developer, living and working in the D.C. area. Besides Jane Austen, Zeina’s passions include calligraphy, pop culture and chocolate.

9 thoughts on “Recommended reading: Books on Regency life

  1. Great list of books. I would also include In These Times: Living in Britain Through Napoleon’s Wars by Jenny Uglow. The author also quotes a lot from first-hand accounts to give a vivid portrayal of what it was like to live in Britain during Jane Austen’s life-time and how the wars affected everyday life.

  2. Then there is a lovely book available in audio, Jane Austen: a Biography by Elizabeth Jenkins. My friend, Rose, gave it to me in audio, and I have enjoyed it a lot. It’s a classic.

    1. Thank you for your additional recommendations, Zoe! We highlighted a few new biographies in a previous post, some that follow a different format. I particularly enjoyed Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things.

  3. I agree with Zoe Hood, you forget to mention Uglow’s In These Times, it puts quite in perspective what had been the times of Jane Austen.

    Another omission in this list is Our Tempestuous Day by Carolly Erickson, though it was originally published in 1986, there has been reprinted recently and it is quite easy reading.

    Whereas I feel quite baffled that you reccomend What Austen Ate and Dickens Knew, I remember quite clearly in the good old times of the Republic of Pemberley (when its boards were active) that it was NOT recommended since it conflates the Regency and the Victorian times when there are big differences between both periods).

    1. Hi Cinthia, Thank you so much for adding another recommendation! Ours was not meant to be exhaustive by any means, so we really appreciate it when readers add what they’ve enjoyed. I look forward to reading Erickson’s book. I don’t remember that What Austen Ate…conflated both periods, though it’s been a while since I read it. I remember it being a good introduction to life in those eras, as long as one does remember they were two distinct periods. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    2. Zeina and Cynthia, those are both great books, I agree. I will also mention another one I happen to like, though some may not. It’s A Portrait of Jane Austen by Lord David Cecil. It does not claim to be a full biography, just the author’s thoughts and impressions of Jane Austen. Some of his ideas may have fallen out of favor with many, but I do enjoy that book. Now I’ll try to be quiet. I did not intend to be such a chatterbox–I like to know what other people think.

      1. Not at all! We love hearing from readers and seeing what they recommend as well. 🙂 Thank you for participating in such a positive way!

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