Dearest Gentle Readers: Records of Bridgerton’s Regency Era Britain 

By Gaby Hale, Outreach Archivist 

Are you eagerly awaiting the second part of season 3 of Netflix’s Bridgerton? Us too! To tide us all over, I have selected twelve of Rose Library’s rare books that were published during or near the regency period.  

 But first – what is the regency period?  

The regency era in England is considered the years 1795 to 1837. The name came from the regency (or appointment of a person to govern instead of the actual monarch due to absence, illness, or inability to perform their duties) of Prince George of Wales in the place of his mentally ill father, King George III. While Prince George only was regent from 1811 to 1820, the whole period retains the name. The regency period has distinctive fashion (think Roman columns), literature, burgeoning industrialization, and the Napoleonic Wars. The era ends with the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837 and is subsequently followed by the Victorian period.  


In “Bridgerton”, reading is a central plot point – the characters devour Lady Whistledown’s gossip column every week. The characters, most notably Eloise, are seen reading novels. Novels and poetry during the regency period largely reflected the Romantic movement of the period, which emphasized individualism, emotion, and imagination. Here are a few novels from the regency period at Rose Library: 

1) Pride and prejudice by Jane Austen (1813) 

You can’t talk about the regency period without mentioning Jane Austen. Jane Austen (1775-1817) published six full-length novels from 1811-1818, including the beloved “Pride and Prejudice” in 1813. During her lifetime, Austen spent many years in Bath, which contains exquisite architecture that is featured in many period pieces, including “Bridgerton”. Bath also contains a Jane Austen Centre, which celebrates the life of Austen and the regency period. Rose Library holds first and early editions of all of Austen’s works. Many of these early editions do not list Austen’s name and are also in three volumes (also called a triple decker).  

The beloved 1894 “Peacock” edition of Pride and Prejudice.

2) Evelina, or, A young lady’s entrance into the world … by Frances Burney (1778)

“Evelina” is another triple decker novel that was initially published anonymously by a female author. Frances Burney (1752-1840) was a satirical novelist, diarist, and playwright that is best known for her novel “Evelina”. Much like many of Austen’s works, this novel comments on consumerism, romance, and women’s life in fashionable London society. You can read this novel online through Project Gutenberg.  

3) Flim-flams!, or, The life and errors of my uncle, and the amours of my aunt! By Isaac Disraeli (1805)

“Flim-flams!” is a novel by Isaac Disraeli (1766-1848), the father of British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. Isaac, a Sephardic Jew, wrote several works that commented on radical Englishmen, revolution(s) in France, literature, and the treatment of Jewish communities in England. His novels often featured quirky individuals and tales. You can read this novel online through the Internet Archive. 

4) Amabel : or, Memoirs of a woman of fashion by Elizabeth Hervey (1814)

“Amabel” is a novel by Elizabeth Hervey (1748-1820), who published six novels during her lifetime. This novel is Hervey’s final and is the only one first published under her own name. You can read this novel online through HathiTrust. 

5) The juvenile magazine, or, An instructive and entertaining miscellany for youth of both sexes (1788)

“The Juvenile Magazine” is the first English children’s periodical designed to look like a magazine. It contains short pieces of fiction and nonfiction, plays, images and poetry designed for children. Much of the contents of this magazine was recycled into the “American Children’s Magazine” the following year.  

Fashionable Life 

In “Bridgerton”, the characters don exquisite gowns and suits as they traipse around London, attending balls and operas, calling on each other at home, and gossiping at the modiste. Here are some regency period materials about fashion and entertainment: 

6) Townsend’s monthly selection of Parisian costumes (1828) 

In the television series, the characters spend a great deal of time at Genevieve Delacroix’s shop, who they believe to be an authentic French seamstress. Individuals want the latest fashion from Paris to make them stand out (including Penelope in season 3). This book is full of images (or plates) of the latest fashions out of Paris for the 1828 season. “Townsend’s” describes itself as: “Selected from the latest Parisian publications; with a description of the dresses, and general observations.” 

7) The Costume of Yorkshire by George Walker (1814)

Much like “Townsend’s”, this work showcases the fashion of the 19th century. Unlike the latter, though, “The Costume of Yorkshire” focuses on the different traditional clothing styles of Yorkshire, a region in Northern England. The 40 plates and their captions showcase different professions and activities in the area, including spinning wool, making oat cakes, threshing, and finding leeches.  

8) Safe and sound : an opera in three acts, performed at the Lyceum theatre, London by Theodore Edward Hook (1809)

Attending the opera was a common activity among the London elite during the regency period and is seen several times in “Bridgerton”. While most characters attend to be seen there and gossip, a few (like Francesca) enjoy the music. Theodore Edward Hook (1788-1841) was an author, composer, civil servant, and jokester who often wrote tales about fashionable English society for outsiders. After being jailed as a debtor for mishandling public money, he became a popular novel writer. Hook also received the world’s first postcard in 1840, likely having mailed it to himself.  

9) A Tour through Paris by William Sams (1822-1824)

In “Bridgerton”, third-son Colin is often coming and going, traveling across mainland Europe. It was common during this period for wealthy young men to do a “Grand Tour” of Europe, spending lengthy amounts of time away from England. During their travels, the men often kept diaries that detailed their journey, commenting on the routes taken, the people met, and sights seen.  “A Tour through Paris” contains 21 colored plates that depict the sights that Colin and other travelers like him might have seen during their Grand Tour in France.  


There were a plethora of rules that the wealthy English were expected to follow during the regency period. Many of these seem overly strict and absurd to us today, such as the behavioral expectations for young women on the “marriage mart”. Even once married, there were strict guidelines for behavior for wealthy English society.  

10) Wits cabinet : being a companion for young men and ladies … (1724)

“Wits Cabinet” is a courtesy book, or manual on the matters of etiquette, acceptable behavior, and morals, for both young men and women. The book touches on a wide variety of topics ranging from the interpretation of dreams, makeup and perfumes, drinking alcohol, to courtship. This work is from slightly before the regency period, but still informs much of the behaviors expected later. You can read an earlier edition than Rose Library’s online through the Internet Archive.  

11) A letter of genteel and moral advice to a young lady by Wetenhall Wilkes (1744)

“A letter of Genteel and Moral Advice” was another courtesy book for women written by Irish Reverand Wetenhall Wilkes (-1751). This popular book described the rules members of the “fair sex” should follow to achieve happiness in their station. The guide is stylized as a letter from Wilkes to his 16-year-old niece. You can read the work online through the Internet Archive and HathiTrust.  

12) A vindication of the rights of woman : with strictures on political and moral subjects by Mary Wollstonecraft (1794)

Season 2 of “Bridgerton” included a subplot where Eloise becomes marginally involved in activism and women’s rights. Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) was a founding feminist philosopher who wrote novels, treatises, and essays. Her famous work “Vindication of the Rights of Woman” argues that women are not intellectually inferior to men but instead appear at a disadvantage due to a lack of education. The piece calls out the double standards for men and women, as well as the perilous position of women in society. Wollstonecraft died 11 days after giving birth to daughter Mary Shelley, author of “Frankenstein” and founder of the science fiction genre. You can read the essay online through Project Gutenberg.  


June 13th will be here before we know it, gentle readers!

Cressida Cowper?
(Townsend’s Monthly)