Comparing Regency Authors, Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, and Patricia Veryan
Here is an absolutely beautiful, and spot-on comparison between three reining masters of Regency and Georgian novel. The Comparison is between Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, and Patricia Veryan. And the astute obsever is Alicia Rasley. These are her words:
Austen: Dry wit, slightly distanced, more intellectual than emotional. She conveys a great deal of insight into characters without much fuss or exposition. Her sentences are elegant and well-constructed, with the “punch” often saved for the end. She delights in the slight wrench at the end of the sentence which makes this funny and “true”. Her omniscient point of view allows her to comment more on the characters than is common today (except in Regencies :). But that slightly distanced POV creates greater humor. I personally think Austen was quite cynical about human beings, but basically benevolent, and her cynicism is manifested in those long sentences with the ending twist– she’s always lulling us and then stabbing us.
Heyer: Great witty dialogue, more social comedy in the Shakespearian sense (funny situations that put the main character into new and odd relationships), intense immersion into her own particular Regency universe, intelligent protagonists for the most part but plenty of (again, Shakespearian) amusing “lower” characters– often a little brother!. Some cynicism, but not as much as Austen. More ironic than cynical. As a stylist, Heyer is an utter master of the adverb. I don’t mean that as damning with faint praise, as she does almost everything about sentences right, but she’s just terrific at sliding in the perfect modifier to make everything clear. She is by far to me FUNNIER than Austen, in the LOL sense.
Veryan: This is the only one of the three I think that generally and successfully aims to create high emotion. (The end of Dedicated Villain remains my all-time absolute tear jerker.) She is truly more a “romance writer” than the other two, in that she seems to believe more fully in love and romance. She is NOT a cynic. So her style is more sincere, earnest and emotional both. She uses more intense emotion words, and isn’t afraid to risk sentimentality. Her prose is much more direct and active, especially in her action scenes (and she far more than Austen and more than Heyer writes many Georgian and Regency type action scenes, especially sword play and duelling). Her descriptions are a lot more precise and sensual too. Everything she does– the sentence lengths, the diction– is in service to the more modern goal of giving the reader a visceral and emotional experience of the story. Her POV is pretty tight– we ARE her characters.
All very good– and all very different. Their differences are right there manifested in the way they write sentences. Their attitudes come through in every line.