What Would You Miss Most?

Rhiannaby Amanda L.V. Shalaby, author of Rhianna

Who doesn’t love a man in a cravat? A man who can dance to classical masterpieces? A man who addresses you as “my lady”?

Would it matter if he didn’t have a texting plan?

As a writer of historical romance, I often find myself comparing life in the twenty-first century to the lives of my characters, and I wonder: If I lived 200 years ago, what would I miss most?

Now, I want to be clear: I am a huge fan of nineteenth century England. I love the country houses and the clothing and the horse-drawn carriages. I spend a good deal of time there, albeit from the comforts of my writing desk, in a relaxed, temperature-controlled office, with a cup of freshly-brewed, Arabica bean coffee, accented with flavored creamer. But would I actually want to live there?

Life in nineteenth century England had its pros, if you were born or married into the right class. You could have a big house, lots of land, and lots of free time. There is something to be said for a simpler lifestyle in a world where technology has us communicating and multi-tasking as never before. Stressful demands on our time can be overwhelming. At such times, I find tea in the drawing room, offered by a butler with white gloves, exceedingly appealing. But what would you do when the urge to shoe shop online hits?

Getting back to our well-mannered, dancing gentleman in his cravat… With no online profiles to provide us the wealth of information on him we so desperately desire, your go-to source for info on the hot guy was gossipy, old women – or maybe your father would offer some details about him. And forget trying to snap a photo of him with your smart phone before you left the ball for the night!

How do you think you would fare in such a world? If you lived in nineteenth century England, what would you miss most?

17 thoughts on “What Would You Miss Most?

  1. Inés

    Great post! I think about this sometimes, too… a butler answer the door, a Lady’s maid do my hair and makeup, maids to do my laundry and cleaning, and to draw my bath…it sounds lovely. But then I think about my massaging showerhead, my favorite pair of jeans, and just the ability to go wherever I want without a chaperone and I know I’m right where I belong.

      1. amandalvshalaby

        Absolutely, Ines! Now that I think about it, I would really miss that massaging shower head! LoL I suppose, if we really wanted a little pampering, we could always drop our laundry off at the wash & fold (*guilty as charged*)!

  2. kmjack

    I often think of this since I’m a huge fan of historical romance. But since I’m African American I have to use my imagination a bit more and pretend I would not be someone’s servant in the regency to answer this question. I would miss the comfort of my easy indoor plumbing and cool air conditioning in the summer. With the lovely wardrobe I don’t know how those women managed in the heat and I can’t imagine talking care of business.

  3. Elizabeth Boyce

    As another mental resident of the Regency, I think about this, as well! I would miss my rights to vote and own property. I would miss my right to walk away from a marriage if that dashing gentleman in a cravat turns out to be more Wickham than Darcy. On the creature comfort side of things, I would miss the variety of world cuisines I have available around me. Air conditioning, my daily shower, and my electronic toothbrush would also be difficult to let go.

    I would love to spend a semester abroad in the Regency. Spend time at a house party, a whirl through London, wear the clothes, see the sights, be swept off my feet–and then I’d want to come home. I think it would be a lovely place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

    1. amandalvshalaby

      Spending a semester abroad in the Regency – what a fabulous idea, Elizabeth! Just enough time to enjoy the things we love about it, and then high-tail it back to our comfy 21st century. I would be up for that!

  4. Micah Persell

    I teach Romeo & Juliet each year, and a couple of years ago, a freshman said, “I just don’t see how this is gonna work out if they don’t have cell phones…” After laughing for, like, the rest of class, I had to admit she had a point. A simple “btw, am faking death” text from Juliet would have solved everything!

  5. Pam B Morris

    So interesting to consider. Great post, Amanda. So many things we now take for granted. I heartily agree with all the above. As for me I have Meniere’s disease so would already be dead! Or deaf. I’d miss dentistry (tho I hate going to the dentist) as I read once that many people died of malnutrition after their teeth rotted!

    1. Carol

      Great blog! Somehow I can’t see myself as being one of those women born into wealth. I think I’d end up middle class. So . . . . hands down, I would miss my modern appliances. Can you imagine washing clothes with a scrub board in a wooden tub and then hanging the clothes on the line–even in winter? How about cooking over an open fire or in a stove where there’s no temperature control? I’d miss my dishwasher, too. And I don’t know about you, but I do enjoy modern plumbing! Stealing out to the privy in the winter does not sound like fun. I write about the early 1900’s when times were simpler, but definitely not easier. But I couldn’t have lived back then! Not a chance!

    2. amandalvshalaby

      Oh, Pam, you got it! Modern medicine! Never mind antibiotics or daily medications to keep us going – they didn’t have so much as a Tylenol back then! I’m thinking, too, of all that natural childbirth going on… no epidurals! Maybe you would survive it, maybe not! *shivers*

  6. Sharon Clare

    As attractive as a slower paced life would be at times and the beautiful craftmanship of yesteryear, it would be impossible to give up the rights women have gained over the past century. We’ve come a long way, baby. Imagine being dictated to by the mores of a patriarchal society. Oh my!

    Great post, Amanda!!

    1. amandalvshalaby

      Hi Sharon! It’s so true. Can you imagine if we were all rushing to get married as teenagers just so we weren’t a financial burden to our families?! No amount of silk-embroidered settees could ease those troubles!

  7. Becky Lower

    My family has often said I was born a century or two too late. I tend to agree with them most of the time. However, I had three eye operations before I turned five to correct my crossed eye problem, and then at age 12, had an operation for juvenile scoliosis. So, without the benefit of modern medicine, I would have been a cross-eyes hunchback! Not very appealing to the Darcys in the world, I’m afraid. Great post, Amanda. You got everyone thinking.

    1. amandalvshalaby

      There is a lot to be thankful for this side of 1900, Becky! I have such terrible vision, and would be stuck with the thickest goggles for glasses! I’m very happy to live here & now – with my contact lenses! 🙂

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