I've just caught up on this and the Austen conversation had me grinning. A couple of years ago I discovered Austen fanfic and it's been a source of endless amusement ever since. Don't get me wrong - I'm not decrying fanfic, since I write it myself, but the lack of any sort of research on the part of the writers ensures I spend most of my time either laughing or doing this:
I dug out an LJ post I made at the time, some of which I reproduce here. Sorry for the length. Believe me, I cut this down by about half! A few gems:
(a) Language was formal. It isn't easy to get the speech patterns and cadences right, but Darcy calls her his 'dearest, loveliest Elizabeth'. He would not call her "baby", "sweetie" or (Diety help me) "sweet-pea".
(b) British towns and cities such as London, which has grown up in a higgledy-piggledy fashion over the last two or three thousand years, are not laid out in blocks. Please take a look at any London street-map for visual proof.
(c) Sweet as it is for Mr Darcy to read his children bed-time stories, he really wouldn't be reading them Dickens. Jane wrote the first version of P&P in 1796, and it was published 17 years later, after revision, in 1813. If we take 1813 as the date of the novel's action, and allowing the Darcys a decade to produce their children so that he's reading the bedside tales in, say, 1823, then it would only be kind of him to have included the nine-year-old Charles Dickens in his audience.
(d) Elizabeth, taken to the Opera House by Mr Darcy would not be watching Puccini's La Boheme. P&P is set in c1813, La Boheme premiered in 1896.
(e) Divorce was not only really, really hard to get (almost impossible if you were a woman wanting to divorce her husband) and astronomically expensive – it involved a civil trial, an ecclesiastical trial and if either party ever wanted to marry again, an Act of ruddy Parliament – but it meant social ruin for both parties. It's not like today where you can pop down to the solicitors and file for a quick no-faulter. It just wasn't done. So even if Caroline Bingley persuades Darcy to divorce Elizabeth, the subsequent scandal would make him unmarriagable for years. Elizabeth would be unmarriageable for life.
But the real delights are the way that no one understands how the British aristocracy works (including a lot of Brits!) but a few tips there:
(a) You can't bequeath a title in your will. It's not quite the same as your second best watch. Lord X can't disinherit his son and pass the title on to someone else. He can pass on all the unentailed property, but the title and the entailed estates and property attached to it go to Lord X Junior, no matter how much you want him to leave the title to Mr Darcy.
(b) by all means have Elizabeth be the widow of William Cavendish, Fourth Earl of Saffron Walden but her title would NOT be Lady Elizabeth Cavendish. She isn't the daughter of an earl, or marquess or duke. She would be Lady Saffron Walden. When William died childless (he was a cad so don't feel sorry for him) Elizabeth **cannot inherit his title**. She becomes the dowager Lady Saffron Walden when William’s heir (brother, nephew, cousin or whoever) inherits and marries. When she marries Mr Darcy, she loses the title and becomes, simply, Mrs Darcy.
(c) But the reverse holds true. If Lady Mary Cavendish marries Mr Smith, she doesn’t become Mrs Smith. She remains Lady Mary.
(d) Yes, it is true that most noblemen have several titles. A Duke will also probably own a marquessate and an earldom or two, a viscountcy and a few baronies. The full panoply of these titles will be listed on all official documents (wills, for example). But no, you can't arbitrarily call him or his wife by these lower titles – for one thing, his son will be using the next title down (as a courtesy) and his grandson the next one down from that. So please stop calling her the Duchess of X in one paragraph and Countess Y in the next when what you mean is the same woman. She's the Duchess. Full stop.
(e) Lady Lucas would sign her name as Lady Lucas, not as Lady Phyllis Lucas unless she is also the daughter of an earl, or marquess or duke as well as being wife to Sir William. But given that Sir William was a minor tradesman knighted for shop-keeping services, then she almost certainly wasn't. And if she had been, Miss Austen would have told us (the way she signalled that Lady Catherine was, and by extension, so was Mr Darcy's mother). And she would be unlikely to sign herself as Lady Lucas, much less Lady Phyllis Lucas, in a letter to her daughter. The Regency period was formal, but not so formal that Charlotte can't call her Mamma.
And you know, despite the things that make me laugh, I *still* love reading Austen fanfic!