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Bridgerton Returns... Featuring an Austenian Blunder!

Hello, dear readers! For those of you who’ve fallen for Netflix’s Regency-inspired television series Bridgerton, adapted from Julia Quinn’s bestselling romance series of the same name, I’m sure the latest four episodes have constituted—or will soon—a long-awaited viewing party. Netflix released Part I of Bridgerton’s third season last week on May 16, over two years after the premiere of season two, which received both critical and popular acclaim in 2022. I’ll keep the spoilers to a minimum for those of you who have yet to begin the latest chapter of the Bridgerton family saga—though it will be difficult, as I am positively bursting at the seams to gush about this fan-favorite historical drama!

Following childhood friends-to-lovers Colin Bridgerton and Penelope Featherington, the third season of Bridgerton is filled with familiar faces, including Viscount Anthony and Viscountess Kate—season two’s primary couple—as well as crowd favorites such as Eloise and Benedict Bridgerton, as well as Queen Charlotte (who received her own spin-off series in 2023), Madame Delacroix, and Lady Danbury. The Featherington family also makes their return, hot off the scandal that briefly compromised their situation in season two, as do the Mondritches, whose eldest son unexpectedly inherits a title and estate.

And we can’t forget Lady Whistledown, whose gossip is stirring the ton more than ever…

A wallflower in bloom, ft. Penelope's stunning season 3 makeover

For those of you die-hard Janeites, Austen herself even receives a brief shout-out in this season’s first episode, “Out of the Shadows.” When her brother Colin, recently returned from his travels abroad, attempts to gift her a new book, Eloise Bridgerton promptly shuts him down, informing him that she is already in the middle of reading a book—Jane Austen’s Emma. When Colin balks at the idea of Eloise reading a novel rather than one of the books of feminist literature she usually prefers, calling it a “silly romance,” she maturely defends Emma’s merit:

"Perhaps my tastes have changed. The writings I read before of women making their way outside society, those were the romances. This book has humor, and truth, and the pains of friendship—it is altogether more probable."

A brief but exciting shout-out to those of us Janeites who followed the Austen-Regency pipeline to Bridgerton in the first place!

Unfortunately, the show’s fact-checkers made a historical blunder in choosing to highlight Emma this season. "Out of the Shadows" is set in the early spring of 1815, following the commencement of London’s annual “season.” However, Emma was published six or seven months later, hitting the market on December 23rd. In fact, it came out so late in 1815 that the date on the original title page was listed as 1816!

While the show writers likely chose to feature Emma due to Emma Woodhouse and Mr. Knightley’s friends-to-lovers romance arc, which perhaps mirrors Colin and Penelope’s relationship in some respects, they would have done better to highlight a novel that had actually been published by the spring of 1815. For instance, Mansfield Park, in this author’s humble opinion, would have been a much better choice. For one thing, it was published in 1814 and therefore would have been a historically accurate novel for Eloise to indulge in. Secondly, despite its status as Austen’s oft-least-beloved novel, Mansfield Park parallels Bridgerton’s third season much more closely than Emma, starring a heroine who has pined for her cousin/best friend Edmund since childhood and a hero who only reciprocates those feelings after engaging in a brief yet ill-conceived relationship with another woman.

Then again, I’m no expert—merely an Austen-lover inserting her two cents into a multi-million-dollar conversation. And of course, I won’t let this minor inaccuracy stop me from continuing to binge (… and re-binge … and re-binge) the series. Described by creator and director Chris Van Dusen as a fantasy world “rooted in Regency times” with “the volume … turned up,” Bridgerton has never claimed to be a lesson in Regency history.

Thus, I encourage you to keep up the Bridgerton fanfare! Host brightly-colored afternoon teas and balls; don poofy dresses, corsets, and feathered hats to your heart’s content. This author, for one, will be right there beside you!

7 comentarios

this has officially inspired me to start watching bridgerton ;)

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Such an interesting article well done!

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this is really observant!! i do wonder why they didn’t choose “northanger abbey,” though? penelope’s feelings about “emma” seem to mirror austen’s famous defense of the novel in “northanger abbey.”

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no ur not bestie <33333

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