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.”