Jane Austen Is NOT Victorian


I have been wanting to scream this for sometime, JANE AUSTEN NOVELS ARE NOT VICTORIAN!

The assertion does nothing but demonstrates the insufferable laziness of the speaker and grossly fails to give Austen her proper credit. Austen was born December 16, 1775 and died 18 July 1817. Many scholars defined the Victorian Era as the time the United Kingdom was ruled by Queen Victoria, which was from 1837-1901. Like many literary movements or recognized impulses, there is disagreement among scholars. Some scholars insist that the mentality associated with the Victorian Era actually first sprouted roots with the Reform Act of 1832. Whether the Victorian Era began in 1832, 1837 or any time between 1837-1901 it was well passed Jane Austen’s time. Her last novel, Northanger Abbey was published posthumously in 1818, a whopping twenty years earlier. Technically there is no way a movement influenced by Queen Victoria could have possibly swept across the land so quickly, especially during a period before the height of railroads, telephones, television, or internet.

I would say a more accurate portrayal of the Victoria Era in full swing would be around the 1850’s, which widens the gap between Austen and Victorian sentiment even further. Austen’s first novel Sense and Sensibility was published in 1811. One could easily assume she began writing it at least two to three years earlier, maybe around 1808. The best I would dare to label Austen’s work would be early 19th century. Because contemporary movies (that dreadful 2005 Pride and Prejudice) do not use the appropriate clothes for the period does not alter the time of the author’s original works and should not be the reference armchair literary critics rely on. The present does not change the past. One easy visual indicator to distinguish between Austen and Victorian in movies is a woman’s dress/frock. In Austen’s time the bodice of a dress ended just below the breast and the skirt began, in Victorian times the bodice sunk in at the waist, i.e. the tiny waist, see the movies North and South and The Way We Live Now. In addition, women during the Romantic Movement wore lower necklines and were not afraid to expose cleavage, –not so in Victorian dress.

Nevertheless, there are other obvious influences from the Romantic Movement that peaked in the 18th century as well. Samuel Johnson, Fanny Burney, and William Cowper were a few of the people who inspired Austen. Incidentally, none could possibly be Victorian. Neo-classical, Regency Era, English Regency, or Romantic would be far more acceptable than Victorian and would not inflict such an insupportable injustice. Saying Austen is Victorian is like saying the American sitcom I Love Lucy aired in the 1950’s is basically the same as Desperate Housewives written and aired in the early 2000s.

Dresses during Austen’s time:

“In this period, fashionable women’s clothing styles were based on the Empire silhouette — dresses were closely-fitted to the torso just under the breasts, falling loosely below. In different contexts, such styles are commonly called “Directoire” (referring to the Directory which ran France during the second half of the 1790s), “Empire” (referring to Napoleon’s 1804-1814/1815 empire, and often also to his 1800-1804 “consulate”), or “Regency” (most precisely referring to the 1811-1820 period of George IV’s formal regency, but often loosely used to refer to various periods between the 18th century and the Victorian).

These 1795-1820 fashions were quite different from the styles prevalent during most of the 18th century and the rest of the 19th century, when women’s clothes were generally tight against the torso from the natural waist upwards, and heavily full-skirted below (often inflated by means of hoop-skirts, crinolines, panniers, bustles, etc.). The high waistline of 1795-1820 styles took attention away from the natural waist, so that there was then no point to the tight “wasp-waist” corseting often considered fashionable during other periods.”


13 thoughts on “Jane Austen Is NOT Victorian

  1. Fair point Moksha! But does “Georgian” sum it up better? — I seem to remember something calling the crase “Empire-line” ? I am wrong but starting to get there.The rest of your post, read after my sleepy time.


  2. I thought of Georgian I think. I am not Jane Austen expert, nor will I ever be since she attracts a glut in the university. However, I do know she is NOT Victorian. LOL! And I know the Brontes had quite a bit of harshness to say about Jane Austen. It reeks of jealousy. I mean really. Could they have not written without insulting her. I think Austen has a quote, something about being severe to one’s sex in order to uplift oneself. HAH! </></>What is this Empire-line? Surely no one could have named it until after the fact, like way after the fact, 1950’s?


  3. I’ve just looked for John Galsworthy, so he wrote the Forsyte Saga, I don’t know much about him apart from that. . . . Why do you ask?Sorry about my last comment — how disjointed. I have to learn to switch the computer off before my brain does!


  4. I asked about Galsworthy because I will eventually need an author that I must invest all of my time, effort, and research in. I never heard of Galsworthy either. Not to imply I am an expert with British authors,however, he does seem to have published a lot, so I do wonder how I missed him. </></>I have yet to see Forsyte Saga, but a friend of mine said she liked it and is worth the viewing. I am lending her my Buccaneers DVD. I warned her that it is very irritating but worth at least knowing about. Even though both Edith Wharton and Henry James sort of became British through being pissed at America, I cannot seem to get into either one of them. There is something wanting, something lacking in their style, perhaps their content, actually I think it may be content more than style. </></>Anyway, I will have to read some of Galsworthy’s short stories to determine if I should invest in a longer piece. </></>I will post an entry about our book this evening.


  5. Georgian is the right term for her age because George III (the madness of) was reigning for her adult life.It seems odd to call myself an Elizabethan, but that’s what I am!She might probably deny being a Romantic (think Sensibility), or Gothic/Sensationalism (like Northanger Abbey). These were mere ‘fashions’ for the more flighty (and wealthy) youths. The Regency period was in full swing for the last 6 years of her life, and carried on for three more.


  6. Well, Elizabethan II . . . . just like a “Teddy Boy”, a ‘look’ fashionable in the early fifties. They were taking Edwardian-period styles, adding a quiff hairdo, and were notorious for a bit of casual violence.They were working class rockers in Britain who were obsessed by rockers like Eddie Cochran, or Gene Vincent. BTW, ‘Ted’: the diminutive for Edward.I like the way you keep editing your post.So you found the correct name; the ’empire silhouette’, I thought I was losing my mind!I don’t know enough about Austen’s dress-sense: I just had an idea that she lived a secluded and provincial life, so wasn’t a fashionista or obsessed with brand-names


  7. In tribute to Professor Zero, from Mrs BeetonTO MAKE GOOSEBERRY FOOL1433. INGREDIENTS – Green gooseberries; to every pint of pulp add 1 pint of milk, or 1/2 pint of cream and 1/2 pint of milk; sugar to taste.Mode – Cut the tops and tails off the gooseberries; put them into a jar, with 2 tablespoonfuls of water and a little good moist sugar; set this jar in a saucepan of boiling water, and let it boil until the fruit is soft enough to mash. When done enough, beat it to a pulp, work this pulp through a colander, and stir to every pint the above proportion of milk, or equal quantities of milk and cream. Ascertain if the mixture is sweet enough, and put in plenty of sugar, or it will not be eatable; and in mixing the milk and gooseberries, add the former very gradually to these: serve in a glass dish, or in small glasses. This, although a very old-fashioned and homely dish, is, when well made, very delicious, and, if properly sweetened, a very suitable preparation for children.Time – From 3/4 to 1 hour.Average cost, 6d. per pint, with milk.Sufficient – A pint of milk and a pint of gooseberry pulp for 5 or 6 children.Seasonable in May and June.


  8. HAH! Wiki wants an expansion!</></>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fruit_fool</></>Yes the Empire line. I found it quite inadvertently. I knew, I was sure that the dress during Jane Austen’s time was unique, never would I have imagined that it was so specific that it was only during her time. I followed links until I found it. Glad to know I was not crazy. Sometimes seeing the details do pay off. Now the dogs are another story. I read somewhere a group of people are pissed off that the wrong dogs are used during period pieces. Dogs that could not have possibly been where they are portrayed to have been. LOL!


  9. This is good research — I had no inkling that “Empire” referred to the French one, this is fascinating.There are some funny people out here, this authentic dog movement is very funny. How real is your dog? Or my dog?


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