Living In Keats' Time

Discussion of other topics not necessarily Keats or poetry-related, i.e. other authors, literature, film, music, the arts etc.

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Living In Keats' Time

Postby Fortuna » Sun Mar 26, 2006 1:13 pm

Channel 4's Regency House Party

Has anyone seen this series?

My intellect despises me for it, but I'm a bit of a sucker for reality TV shows. Especially when they are based in the times of Keats' life. Some years ago, I used to dabble in a bit of historical re-enactment in Victorian times so something like this TV series really resonates with me. I'd cherish the opportunity to have a first-hand taste of life in the Regency era!

It's not in Australia so I have never seen it but during the pinnacle of my Keats' obsession, I devoured every page on the website in an attempt to better understand the world John Keats came from. I don't know how accurate the information is but for me, it really helps to see pictures and get the Dummies' Guide rather than flipping through the dictionary for meanings on obsolete Regency terms.
Last edited by Fortuna on Sun Mar 26, 2006 9:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Malia » Sun Mar 26, 2006 9:30 pm

Hey Fortuna :)
I've seen part of the series you're talking about. I didn't watch all of it partly because I could barely see the channel on my TV (I didn't have cable at that time and PBS came in very fuzzy) and also because it seemed to be more like a soap opera than an educational-type program. Although I did learn a few things--such as that after dinner when the men and women separated (men to have cigars and drinks in one room, the women to chat in a separate room) the women couldn't leave to go to bed until the men rejoined them. Now, I'd say that most guys who actually *lived* in that era would know not to leave the ladies waiting *too* long--but the guys from the show basically got drunk and had the ladies waiting for HOURS with nothing to do. It did sort of make a statement about how women weren't equal to men at the time. Seemed to me that there wasn't a whole lot for middle/upperclass women to do in that era--not much that was considered proper, at any rate. I can only imagine why Fanny Brawne jumped at the chance to dance and meet soldiers all the time. Aside from her dress-making, she must have had precious little in her life that felt fun or worthwhile.
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Postby Fortuna » Sun Mar 26, 2006 9:51 pm

Malia wrote:I can only imagine why Fanny Brawne jumped at the chance to dance and meet soldiers all the time. Aside from her dress-making, she must have had precious little in her life that felt fun or worthwhile.


We can hardly be so hard on her when we consider her other choices! :D In the interviews on the website, a lot of the women talked about how bored they were, except the Countess, whose title allowed her some concessions. Even as adults, they had to play games like hide and seek to pass the time.

I wonder if all this spare time would allow an aspiring writer like Keats to devote so much of himself to producing works and whether those of us living (especially in the larger cities) in the 21st Century really see our lives quiet down enough to devote ourselves half as wholly. I'd like to think I'm devoted to the things I do, but they all revolve around a central ethic of work hard. I don't know what I'd do if day in day out, my choices were to play hide and seek while waiting for the men to return from their shooting/horse riding days, or devote myself to my art... (not like photography was a big thing back then but while we're speculating...)
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Postby Saturn » Sun Mar 26, 2006 10:38 pm

I watched the whole of this series when it was on TV about two years ago for the very reason that it did give a very interesting insight into The Regency period [one of my favourite periods of history].

From what I remember of the series one of it's most interesting aspects was that it had 'characters' or representatives from all classes of society and it was very eye-opening to see how each class had its own restrictions, rules and ettiquette.
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Postby Credo Buffa » Mon Mar 27, 2006 4:02 am

I've often pondered this myself, how the leisurely classes of earlier times probably really didn't have a whole lot to do. I remember my friend and I watching Pride and Prejudice once and wondering how all these people had the time to learn and remember all these dances that they do. . . but then we remembered that they probably had plenty of time on their hands for it! Personally, I think I'd have torn my hair out with boredom.

Lately, I've also been considering the idea of an "accomplished lady" of the Regency era, as explained by Jane Austen in P&P: "A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word." Is that it?! Poor girls who weren't particularly artistic, musical, or light on their feet! As much as I love art, music, and literature, I'd certainly go mad if those were my only options for intellectual pursuit. According to Mr. Bingley: "It is amazing to me how young ladies can have patience to be so very accomplished as they all are." Patience? What else are they supposed to do?! :shock:

Apart from the unfortunate female population, however, it is interesting to consider that idea of being able to devote one's life to one's art, though, as Keats was able to do. Although, Keats was a rare case, really. If we look at his financial situation just before his death, chances are that unless his literary career took off soon, he'd have had to maybe turn back to medicine for income. It makes sense based on that picture of society at his time, and before, that most great writers were from higher classes, because they could literally afford to be so. They had the means to support themselves and still work "full time" at writing. Only the biggest and best-selling writers today have that option; they're actually making real money, and that's pretty rare.

Could there be some kind of correlation, then, between the perceived "downfall" of great art and the 21st century work ethic that Fortuna is talking about? Not that I think there really has been a "downfall" myself, but there sure are a lot of people who do. And we can't ignore the fact that it's probably a heck of a lot harder to be a great artist today than it used to be, if only for the fact that that leisurely class doesn't really exist the way is used to. No matter how brilliant, who has the time? It's hard enough finding the time to read poetry, let alone write it!
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Postby Fortuna » Mon Mar 27, 2006 9:23 am

This idea of having so much time, like in Pride and Prejudice, occurred to me when I saw John Keats' drawing of the Grecian urn. I was floored at how someone who was so talented in poetry could also be such a disciplined and detailed artist too! Although I can't say the prospect of having the free time to learn an instrument, learn to sing, draw, dance, and practice French is torturous for me at all... yes, I cherish life as a 21st Century woman in all other respects.

I also refuse to believe that there really is a downfall in great art either seeing as I hope to be a great artist some day but it is really hard to make a name for yourself when people in our society are so accustomed to new names expiring as quickly as they emerge.
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Re: Living In Keats' Time

Postby Raphael » Wed Feb 24, 2010 6:54 pm

I know you started this thread awhile back. I heard about the TV programme at the time, but didn't see it as I have no TV.
I was going to start a thread similar to this so I thought why not comment on this and add more questions to you all...
My goodness I would not have been bored if i had been a middle class lady like Fanny Brawne- she would have lots of fun and nice things to do:

Walking in the countryside - fresh air! No smelly noisy cars!!! :D
Playing the piano
Taking tea/coffee with friends
Reading
Dances
Embroidery/sewing fab dresses to wear
Card games/board games
Playing with pet dogs/taking them for walks
Wrting letters to gorgeous poets :wink:

No queuing up at supermarkets, waiting and waiting to cross the road full of stinking cars, no deafening traffic noises...
I think there are some aspects of life back then I would love- especially the quiet compared to today, proper friendships were people met, played cards, wrote affectionate letters, played music together etc. And one could see a proper night sky full of stars at night.
What would you like about living in those times? What would you miss if you went back to live then?
I'd only miss running hot water, dentists , antiobiotics ( in case I got consumption) anaesthetics and modern operating things. Oh and CD players, but then I could learn to play the piano.
John....you did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

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Re: Living In Keats' Time

Postby Credo Buffa » Wed Feb 24, 2010 7:17 pm

Raphael wrote:I think there are some aspects of life back then I would love- especially the quiet compared to today, proper friendships were people met, played cards, wrote affectionate letters, played music together etc. And one could see a proper night sky full of stars at night.

This is absolutely the sort of thing we're missing in the modern world. Sometimes I reflect on how most of us will never know what true fresh air and true, unconnected quiet are like. Even on the quietest nights at home, there is still that sonic wallpaper of appliances running, an airplane flying overhead, the distant hum of traffic. You've got to really be "in the boonies" to even begin to get a sense of the lightness that our ancestors experienced.[/quote]

Raphael wrote:What would you like about living in those times?

Having the above-mentioned quiet, certainly. In fact, everything you mention above, Raphael, is something we could all use more of in our lives. The respect for personal relationships and time for reflection and individual pursuits is an increasingly lost art. These days, we're all such workaholics that so many people forget to even have hobbies!

Raphael wrote:What would you miss if you went back to live then?

As a woman, I would certainly miss the freedom and the opportunities I have in the 21st century. As a 27-year-old unmarried woman in Keats' day, I'd be a complete dependent. I wouldn't have been able to earn three degrees, support myself, live in my own apartment, own my own car. . . or my own anything, really. Those are things I couldn't ever imagine giving up. Independence is something I value very much, and while I do agree that the cultivation of close friendships is something we could all strive to achieve a la our 19th century counterparts, knowing that I don't have to lean on anyone else to put food on my table is an empowering thing that women of the old days very rarely had the chance to experience.

What else. . . I'd certainly miss medical science as well, having the rather fragile health that I do. Running water, definitely (bathing in general, as I have to imagine that my modern nose couldn't stand the general stench!). And I'm with you, Raphael, on the recorded music. Even as a musician, having the opportunity to hear anything you want at any time is a wonderful gift. If I had to pay to hear a Beethoven Symphony performed live every time I wanted to hear it (which, if I were lucky, might be once in my entire life), I might go mad of withdrawal!
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Re: Living In Keats' Time

Postby Credo Buffa » Wed Feb 24, 2010 7:21 pm

Raphael wrote:I think there are some aspects of life back then I would love- especially the quiet compared to today, proper friendships were people met, played cards, wrote affectionate letters, played music together etc. And one could see a proper night sky full of stars at night.

This is absolutely the sort of thing we're missing in the modern world. Sometimes I reflect on how most of us will never know what true fresh air and true, unconnected quiet are like. Even on the quietest nights at home, there is still that sonic wallpaper of appliances running, an airplane flying overhead, the distant hum of traffic. You've got to really be "in the boonies" to even begin to get a sense of the lightness that our ancestors experienced.

Raphael wrote:What would you like about living in those times?

Having the above-mentioned quiet, certainly. In fact, everything you mention above, Raphael, is something we could all use more of in our lives. The respect for personal relationships and time for reflection and individual pursuits is an increasingly lost art. These days, we're all such workaholics that so many people forget to even have hobbies!

Also, while many of its more restrictive aspects might get to be oppressive after awhile, I would like how much care people put into their appearance. Not that it is meant to sound shallow in any way, but it is nice to think how everyone would take pride in how they present themselves to the world--especially the men! My goodness, if my boyfriend bothered to dress himself in something tailored and aesthetically pleasing everyday instead of his usual careless uniform of baggy everything. . . *sigh*

Raphael wrote:What would you miss if you went back to live then?

As a woman, I would certainly miss the freedom and the opportunities I have in the 21st century. As a 27-year-old unmarried woman in Keats' day, I'd be a complete dependent. I wouldn't have been able to earn three degrees, support myself, live in my own apartment, own my own car. . . or my own anything, really. Those are things I couldn't ever imagine giving up. Independence is something I value very much, and while I do agree that the cultivation of close friendships is something we could all strive to achieve a la our 19th century counterparts, knowing that I don't have to lean on anyone else to put food on my table is an empowering thing that women of the old days very rarely had the chance to experience.

What else. . . I'd certainly miss medical science as well, having the rather fragile health that I do. Running water, definitely (bathing in general, as I have to imagine that my modern nose couldn't stand the general stench!). And I'm with you, Raphael, on the recorded music. Even as a musician, having the opportunity to hear anything you want at any time is a wonderful gift. If I had to pay to hear a Beethoven Symphony performed live every time I wanted to hear it (which, if I were lucky, might be once in my entire life), I might go mad of withdrawal![/quote]
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Re: Living In Keats' Time

Postby Raphael » Wed Feb 24, 2010 7:29 pm

This is absolutely the sort of thing we're missing in the modern world. Sometimes I reflect on how most of us will never know what true fresh air and true, unconnected quiet are like. Even on the quietest nights at home, there is still that sonic wallpaper of appliances running, an airplane flying overhead, the distant hum of traffic. You've got to really be "in the boonies" to even begin to get a sense of the lightness that our ancestors experienced.


I really hate the noise of cities.I know Regency cities would have had noise ( and our dear poet didn't like cities- gosh how much more would he hate c.21st Britain!)- but still quieter than those of today- traffic, police sirens, blaring pop music from shops, helicopters, planes....


Having the above-mentioned quiet, certainly. In fact, everything you mention above, Raphael, is something we could all use more of in our lives. The respect for personal relationships and time for reflection and individual pursuits is an increasingly lost art. These days, we're all such workaholics that so many people forget to even have hobbies!


Well, I have no job so have more time than those employed.


Also, while many of its more restrictive aspects might get to be oppressive after awhile, I would like how much care people put into their appearance. Not that it is meant to sound shallow in any way, but it is nice to think how everyone would take pride in how they present themselves to the world--especially the men! My goodness, if my boyfriend bothered to dress himself in something tailored and aesthetically pleasing everyday instead of his usual careless uniform of baggy everything. . . *sigh*


I do like the clothes and style of the Regency, I have to say. Even John's style ( and he was said to be "slack") to me is nicer than tatty jeans and trainers.
John....you did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

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Re: Living In Keats' Time

Postby Credo Buffa » Wed Feb 24, 2010 7:43 pm

Raphael wrote:I really hate the noise of cities.I know Regency cities would have had noise ( and our dear poet didn't like cities- gosh how much more would he hate c.21st Britain!)- but still quieter than those of today- traffic, police sirens, blaring pop music from shops, helicopters, planes....

I moved a few years ago from what was primarily a suburban/rural experience into the city to be closer to my work and my friends, and while I love the access I have to activities and entertainment, I have to say that every time I go back to visit my parents, I notice the difference! Especially now in my new place, which is on a relatively busy road with a traffic light right outside and a strip mall across the road, it's NEVER dark at night, and NEVER quiet. You get used to it, of course, but it will never hold a candle to the peace I find at my parents' house.

Raphael wrote:I do like the clothes and style of the Regency, I have to say. Even John's style ( and he was said to be "slack") to me is nicer than tatty jeans and trainers.

How and when did our standard of dress become so lax? Keats on a bad day would be an unprecedented improvement over most of us now on a good day.
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Re: Living In Keats' Time

Postby Raphael » Wed Feb 24, 2010 8:08 pm

I moved a few years ago from what was primarily a suburban/rural experience into the city to be closer to my work and my friends, and while I love the access I have to activities and entertainment, I have to say that every time I go back to visit my parents, I notice the difference! Especially now in my new place, which is on a relatively busy road with a traffic light right outside and a strip mall across the road, it's NEVER dark at night, and NEVER quiet. You get used to it, of course, but it will never hold a candle to the peace I find at my parents' house.


I live in the suburbs and whilst there are a few parks, a little wood and lots of wildlife ( bats, birds, squirrels etc)- the noise is relentless. I have music on permananetly at home to drown out the noise of traffic.

How and when did our standard of dress become so lax? Keats on a bad day would be an unprecedented improvement over most of us now on a good day.


I don't know! I was given vouchers to buy clothes for a job interview a couple of weeks ago and the clothes I looked at were appaliing in their stitching and style. I will go as far to say that they were revolting. Fanny Brawne could have designed and sewn better when she was 10.
Looking at the portraits of John I think he looked gorgeous! I couldn't imagine him liking jeans and trainers can you?
John....you did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

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Re: Living In Keats' Time

Postby Raphael » Wed Feb 24, 2010 8:15 pm

I was getting logged out of the library so couldn't answer these parts Credo:


As a woman, I would certainly miss the freedom and the opportunities I have in the 21st century. As a 27-year-old unmarried woman in Keats' day, I'd be a complete dependent. I wouldn't have been able to earn three degrees, support myself, live in my own apartment, own my own car. . . or my own anything, really.


I have a degree and I am still unemployed so I don't really have much independence- I am stuck relying on the state which I hate- relying on a gorgeous Regency man looks more attractive right now! :lol:
I cannot drive and hate cars anyway, so I don't care about that one. I'm more bothered by attitudes- and believe me the men in my home town are so dumb and talk to women like they are thick. John would be a better dinner companion by far! :D


Those are things I couldn't ever imagine giving up. Independence is something I value very much, and while I do agree that the cultivation of close friendships is something we could all strive to achieve a la our 19th century counterparts, knowing that I don't have to lean on anyone else to put food on my table is an empowering thing that women of the old days very rarely had the chance to experience.



Well if you are unemployed like me, you are reliant on the state- the state or a man? I don't know which is worse. a kind loving husband like John would have been, and some of his friends seemed to be- that isn't that bad really. Women did work and could- eg writers, tutors, but hey maybe it could be fun to be a lady of leisure!



What else. . . I'd certainly miss medical science as well, having the rather fragile health that I do.


That's the most important improvment!


Running water, definitely (bathing in general, as I have to imagine that my modern nose couldn't stand the general stench!). And I'm with you, Raphael, on the recorded music. Even as a musician, having the opportunity to hear anything you want at any time is a wonderful gift. If I had to pay to hear a Beethoven Symphony performed live every time I wanted to hear it (which, if I were lucky, might be once in my entire life), I might go mad of withdrawal!]


I saw a live trio playing classical music yesterday at the gallery- wonderful!
John....you did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

Peter Sanson, 1995.
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Re: Living In Keats' Time

Postby Cybele » Wed Feb 24, 2010 10:26 pm

What an interesting thread! I've often wished I'd lived in the early 19th century.
I've also had second and third thoughts! :lol:

While blessed silence is often a luxury these days, I think that a constant silence might seem isolating. If one lived in the city back in the day, it would have been anything but silent! People shouting, horse's hooves clomping, raucous kids raising ruckus -- all these would have been constants -- just as the sounds of traffic and household appliances are now. (As I type this, I can hear the low-pitched swooshy hum of our forced-air furnace and the rapid fwooop-fwoop-fwoop-fwoop of a helicopter buzzing overhead. I must remind myself that that furnace keeps me comfortably warm on all but the coldest winter days and that helicopter is probably transporting someone from our small county hospital to a trauma center in a nearby city.)

Viewing a star-filled sky, free of light pollution, is a true (and rare!) delight. It can be an absolutely transcendent experience. But, the safety brought by electric lighting is a true boon -- especially in the winter.

People didn't live as long as they do now -- young men dying at the age of 18 or 25 was not at all unusual. I doubt that there were many families not touched by the death of a child. Maternal mortality rates were horrifying, and as you've pointed out, women had precious few rights. Ordinary people (that is, those not born into a privileged class) worked very hard for many more hours a day than we routinely do now. Medical science was making huge advancements, but for its practitioners it must have been an exercise in frustration. -- There was so much suffering even the most gifted physician could do nothing to mitigate.

The clothes were, IMO, *very* elegant. -- I routinely set off alarms at the local university museum in my efforts to examine construction details when they have an exhibit of 19th century (or earlier) clothes. -- But beautiful garments are not often comfortable. I, for one, am grateful that I need not wear a corset with stays to be considered well-groomed.

But -- Yes, yes, yes! -- it would have been an exciting time to be alive. Science was advancing rapidly, explorers were traveling to all corners of the globe. People were gaining more individual rights. Things were gradually getting better. Our hero/poet wrote to his brother, "All civil[iz]ed countries become gradually more enlighten'd and there should be a continual change for the better. . ." (http://englishhistory.net/keats/letters/georgekeatsseptember1819.html

Let's not overly-romanticize the Romantic Era! :D
It's the wonderful connections with friends and family -- the home-made music, the parlor games, bright & witty conversation peppered with excruciating puns -- that I envy. Of course, there's no good reason we can't indulge ourselves nowadays with such things. Alas, we seldom bother.
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Re: Living In Keats' Time

Postby Raphael » Thu Feb 25, 2010 2:44 pm

While blessed silence is often a luxury these days, I think that a constant silence might seem isolating.


Oh for me no! I long to be able to hear the birds singing better, to sit and just hear the sounds of nature- the wind whispering its secrets through the trees, a stream gurgling...



If one lived in the city back in the day, it would have been anything but silent! People shouting, horse's hooves clomping, raucous kids raising ruckus -- all these would have been constants -- just as the sounds of traffic and household appliances are now.



True, but not as loud as horrible traffic, disgusting pop music blaring out (thump thump thump..), sirens screaming..


Viewing a star-filled sky, free of light pollution, is a true (and rare!) delight. It can be an absolutely transcendent experience. But, the safety brought by electric lighting is a true boon -- especially in the winter.



Crime is still rising- the lighting hasn't helped that much.


People didn't live as long as they do now -- young men dying at the age of 18 or 25 was not at all unusual. I doubt that there were many families not touched by the death of a child. Maternal mortality rates were horrifying, and as you've pointed out, women had precious few rights. Ordinary people (that is, those not born into a privileged class) worked very hard for many more hours a day than we routinely do now. Medical science was making huge advancements, but for its practitioners it must have been an exercise in frustration. -- There was so much suffering even the most gifted physician could do nothing to mitigate.



True, all true- but each century has its up sides and downsides- now this century''s "progress" is killing this beautiful planet.




But -- Yes, yes, yes! -- it would have been an exciting time to be alive. Science was advancing rapidly, explorers were traveling to all corners of the globe. People were gaining more individual rights. Things were gradually getting better. Our hero/poet wrote to his brother, "All civil[iz]ed countries become gradually more enlighten'd and there should be a continual change for the better. . ." (http://englishhistory.net/keats/letters/georgekeatsseptember1819.html


I love those letters.


Let's not overly-romanticize the Romantic Era! :D


No but there is nothing "romantic" about this century at all.


It's the wonderful connections with friends and family -- the home-made music, the parlor games, bright & witty conversation peppered with excruciating puns -- that I envy.


Me too, how I envy them this- this century is cold and lonely.

Of course, there's no good reason we can't indulge ourselves nowadays with such things. Alas, we seldom bother.


I wish I could find a circle of friends who would like to spend evenings this way- but alas! I cannot- they are always too busy! Doing what I ask you? Watching TV I suppose.If I could be transported back in time I might be sorely tempted despite the downsides.
John....you did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

Peter Sanson, 1995.
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