|GR: Attitude toward the aristocracy
Written by Line
(10/25/2003 11:55 a.m.)
There was a post at the P&P board a little while ago about how the Ashton-Dennis website argued that Elizabeth over-reacted to the news of Lydia's elopement. It claimed that people really didn't take things like that so seriously during Regency times (especially compared to the Victorian era) and gave examples of individuals who had done quite scandalous things and still been socially acceptable, like the Prince Regent.
That always struck me as a mistake, because it seemed to me that what was "acceptable" for members of the aristocracy was quite different from what the gentry considered acceptable for themselves. On p. 37, it says "The genteel read of the scandalous activities of London-based lords and ladies with an appalled and untiring fascination, but strongly defined themselves against such outrageous self-indulgence". [my emphasis]
People flip-flopped between fascination and repulsion. I think our attitude today hasn't changed all that much (think of our tabloids!), though we don't revere royalty as royalty the same way they did. What celebrities do, and what we consider acceptable behaviour in "real life" are not the same thing, and I think it was the same in JA's time.
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