Huge picture hats and charming straw bonnets; lashings of lace and tulle; yards of gathered floating muslin and bosoms upthrust by tightly boned stays. Powerful thighs encased in close-fitting breeches; elegant colourful tailcoats with flowing hair brushing the collar; white starched cravats and tasselled polished boots. Horses and carriages, vast estates and mansions filled with treasure. It’s a world of privilege and slowed down time, far from the rush and bustle of the twenty-first century.
Although the fictional Georgian world is necessarily a romanticised version, it harks back to an era of endless fascination. We know that the sharp class divisions and the inequities in life were unfair, that those who worked had to toil for hours to produce articles that would now be cut out in minutes by machine. We know life was harsh, that odours we would consider offensive were legion, that disease was rife and often incurable. But somehow the harshness adds to the piquancy of the period, pointing up the glamour enjoyed by the rich.
For the novelist, it’s an era riddled with possibilities. Where your modern author struggles to find legitimate obstacles to put in the way of achieving goals, the historical writer has them readily to hand. Communication can take days instead of being instantaneous; rules forbid women access to male dominated areas; travel is long and arduous; clothing is restrictive; food and drink can be inaccessible; and it is all too easy to become lost in a maze of dangerous alleyways or vast acres of uninhabited countryside.
This is the world I write in when I’m working the Georgian era, and I love it.
My Georgian world may be similar to that of other historical authors, but each is unique, reflecting the writer’s own love of that particular past. What I love most about writing in this period is that I can invite readers into my particular world, which is close to the real one but belongs exclusively to me.