Regency Language: Jane Austen never called anyone a cad.

regency image 1When writing a historical novel, two things matter. The first, and most important, is that it entertains the reader. If it doesn’t do that, you’ve wasted your time.

The second thing is, where possible, you strive for historical accuracy, and that includes the language your characters use in their dialogue.

To a certain extent, of course, a little licence is allowed – necessary even. If your book is set in medieval England and all your people speak like the travellers in the “Canterbury Tales”, it’ll be authentic, but you won’t keep many readers for long.

People in Regency England spoke in a way most readers today would recognise more easily than they would Middle English, but even so, some licence is often needed. For example, most 21st century readers would find it hard to take seriously a hero who is a foppish dandy, mincing around town, arm in arm with his best male friend while looking at the ladies through his quizzing glass and saying, “Demme, if that gel isn’t up to snuff, what?”

At the same time, they don’t want a Regency buck who thebankruptviscount (2)slouches and says, “Whatever! Know what I mean, innit?”

The happy medium is for characters to speak in a way that sounds as if it would have been in use 200 years ago, but is also natural to modern ears.

To achieve this, in the Hadlow series, I try not to go overboard with the Regency cant. At the same time, I try not to use words and phrases that did not exist at the time. For example, nobody in “The Bankrupt Viscount” is described as “down to earth”, which might sound as if it’s been around forever, but didn’t come into use until 1932.

INCOGNITOIn “Incognito”, Grace and Luke would never be at an “impasse”. That word was not a part of the English language until 1851, some thirty years after the story.

And in the up-coming book, “A Good Man”, Harry Robinson is a rake, a bounder and a villain, but never a cad. The word cad was not used in its modern meaning until 1838. In 1817, it would have meant a cadet, or an apprentice servant. Not really how I would describe the jaded, womanising Harry.

I find taking this kind of care to be beneficial to my writing. If the people in Crompton Hadlow don’t speak out of their time, I get to know them better in place and context, and if I know them better, I am more able to tell their stories.

I hope you enjoy reading the books as much as I loved writing them. Please feel free to leave an honest review on Goodreads or Amazon. It would help me, showing me what I’m doing right and what I’m doing wrong, so that my next book can be a better read for you.

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About Caitlyn Callery

I have been a writer all my life. As well as Regency Romances, which I write as Caitlyn Callery, I also write stage plays, sketches and screenplays under the name Hilary Mackelden. I also have a weekly column in the Kent and Sussex Courier, and do publicity and PR for the charity, World In Need. I live in Sussex and love, (in alphabetical order) Ashdown Forest, my family, Jesus, reading and the sea.
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