I claim to believe in liberty, equality, and fraternity. And I live here.
Mélanie says these words to Raoul in Secrets of a Lady/Daughter of the Game, surrounded by the surrounded by the Siena marble, intricate fretwork, and Aubusson carpet of the Berkeley Square library. Pam Rosenthal had a wonderful post on History Hoydens this week, Dazed and Confused: Tales of Power and Privilege, which got me thinking about Mélanie’s words. Pam wrote about the conundrum of being “deeply egalitarian in my attitudes toward social, political, and economic matters” and yet writing “in a genre that centers itself upon the pleasures and pursuits of the Regency ton.”
As I wrote in response to Pam’s post, “I absorbed strongly egalitarian values from my mom, who also introduced me to Georgette Heyer [and Dorothy Sayers, Margery Allingham, Ngaio Marsh and other writers who’s books are largely set in a rarefied and aristocratic world] and took me out for tea and with whom I started writing Regency romances. Even our first book, The Widow’s Gambit, which was very “London Season,” had scenes set in the darker side of the Regency world. Exploring that darker side is something I’ve done more and more through the years. But there’s no denying my central characters live a very elite privileged existence.” And in my own life, though I certainly don’t live in Charles and Mélanie’s elite world, I confess I’m a political, social, and economic liberal who also enjoys the opera and nice restaurants and has a weakness for designer labels (usually purchased at 70% off :-)).
Melanie in a sense confronts the same paradox. She married Charles because she was working for a cause that opposed everything his world stands for. She realizes her marriage had catapulted her neatly over an artificial and quite unconscionable social divide. and yet she thinks in Secrets/Daughter that the longer one played a role, the more natural it became. She had grown all too comfortable with the privileges she had married into. It’s a conundrum she continues to wrestle with. In fact, I think she’ll confront it more in future books, when her past and ideal aren’t so buried.
All of which brings me to one of the video clips I recorded last summer on Charles, Mélanie, and money. This seemed a good time to post it:
How do you feel about power and privilege in the novels you read? Do you prefer to read about characters living an elite and aristocratic life? Do you like to see the dark side of that life or escape in to the fairy tale? Does it make a difference whether the story is set in the past or the present day? Do you think Mel’s conflicting feelings about the privileges she’s married into will cause problems for her and Charles in the future?
Mélanie wrestles with that privileged world in this week’s addition to the Fraser Correspondence. She writes to her friend Isobel Lydgate as she struggles with the seating arrangement for a dinner party. I almost had Mel comment on the nonsensical nature of seating people according to rank, but then I realized she probably wouldn’t write that to Isobel, an earl’s daughter. There are very few people with whom Mélanie can be herself.
Update 4 February: I’m blogging today on History Hoydens on Declarations, Resolutions, & Other Heart-Stopping Moments. Stop by and join in the discussion.