“Happy Birthday” is Not a Regency Thing, but It is Mine

This week I marked another birthday. I am very much my astrological sign of VIRGO.

Horoscope.com tells us these Virgo Facts

Smart, sophisticated, and kind, Virgo gets the job done without complaining. Virgos are amazing friends, always there to lend a hand and also lend advice. Practical Virgos are incredibly adept at big picture thinking, and planning out their life, their vacations, and what they’re going to do today isn’t a drag it makes them feel in control and secure.

Virgos have a rich inner life and can sometimes seem shy at first meeting. A Virgo will not spill secrets right away, and it is important to earn a Virgo’s trust. But once you do, that Virgo will be a friend for life. 

Virgos expect perfection from themselves, and they may project those high standards on the other people in their lives. A Virgo hates when someone lets him or her down, even if the indiscretion is minor and unavoidable, like a last-minute cancellation. Virgos never want to disappoint the people in their lives, so they may spread themselves too thin and put themselves last.

Intelligent and a lifelong learner, Virgos loves trying new things, reading books, and learning about the world. They will happily sign up for an adult-education course, and they consider an afternoon in bed with a book pretty much ideal. A Virgo prefers an evening with good friends to a huge party and values downtime just as much as socializing. This sign does not need to fill their calendar to be content.

All this talk of birthdays got me thinking about the lack of birthday celebrations in Austen’s novels. It is quite disheartening to have others forget one’s birthday, but it was not so for Jane Austen and her family. We know Christmas had not the “glorious significance” as it does these days, but what of birthdays? Quite simply, as Anglicans, such humoring of a person, would have been frowned upon.

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Can you think of one person in Austen’s books who even mentions a birthday? The only one which springs to mind to me is Harriet Smith in Emma. Harriet speaks of hers and Robert Martin’s birthdays occurring within a fortnight, and those birthdays were separated only by one day.

As readers we know many of the characters’ ages. Lydia Bennet is but fifteen when we first meet her, but she is sixteen when she marries George Wickham. Marianne Dashwood is seventeen at the beginning of Sense and Sensibility and is nineteen when she marries Colonel Brandon. Fanny Price is a child when she first comes to Mansfield Park; yet, never once are her birthdays mentioned as a passing of time. Jane Fairfax is approaching one and twenty and the prospect of becoming a governess. Charlotte Lucas at seven and twenty has “become a burden to her family.” Elizabeth Elliot is nearly thirty and not married, and Anne Elliot is seven and twenty when Captain Wentworth returns to claim her. Catherine Morland turns eighteen just before Henry Tilney claims her as his wife. Even Elizabeth Bennet must have had a birthday somewhere in the year she had taken Mr. Darcy’s acquaintance. But when? There is no mention of her chronological aging, only her emotional aging. The closest we come to knowing something of Elizabeth’s age is when she admits to being twenty to Lady Catherine. But we do not know if she was nineteen when the book began and turned twenty some time between November when she dance with Mr. Darcy at the Netherfield Ball, or whether, like me, she is a September baby, turning one and twenty after she encounters Darcy again at Pemberley. Is such true for all of Austen’s characters? Austen wrote from her life experiences. If she did not “celebrate” such milestones, why would her characters? Tell me what you think. Am I being bizarre or is there some truth in this assumption?

Birthdays don’t play a prominent role in Austen’s novels, but they do in her few surviving letters. I like that because it shows a wonderful emotional connectedness to her family and to the life going on around her. 

We all know her sister Cassandra destroyed the vast majority of Austen’s letters, but a few survived – letters to nieces and other family members. In these, she displays her incomparable wit – even writing one backwards – and a true interest in everyone’s life. And she talks about birthdays – royal birthdays, neighbor birthdays, family birthdays and even dates one letter “Chawton, Sunday, June 23rd, Uncle Charles’s birthday.”

Strictly Jane Austen tells us, “Austen’s correspondence with her sister offers some insight into how birthdays were noted and celebrated by families from the gentry. In a letter from Steventon, dated January 8 1799, she writes, ” I wish you joy of your birthday twenty times over.”  Much later, regarding her own birthday, she wrote: “My dearest Cassandra, I will keep this celebrated birthday by writing to you.”  This letter then details a drive with her brother Edward, assemblies and other amusements, but not an official birthday celebration.

“For most families in Georgian times, birthday celebrations were unsurprisingly rather less lavish, especially in comparison to modern times. Yet a young boy from a wealthy family in Regency Britain would often have his fifth birthday marked with a ‘breeching ceremony’; this was a grand occasion with relatives visiting to bestow gifts. For girls, their sixteenth birthday was considered the day they reached marriageable age and they were often given gifts such as fine jewellery, a trinket box, an enamel fan or fabric for a new gown in recognition of their social debut.”  [How Did the Georgians Celebrate Birthdays]

Meanwhile, enjoy this list of September birthdays celebrated by some of our favorite Austen Actors. 


Happy September Birthday to these Fabulous Austen-Inspired Actors…

 September 1 – Aisling Loftus, who portrayed Charlotte Lucas in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

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September 7 – Christopher Villers, who portrayed Tom Bertram in 1983 Mansfield Park

September 7 – Henry Maguire, who portrayed Jack Wickam in 2003’s Pride and Prejudice: A Latter Day Comedy

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September 9 – Hugh Grant, who portrayed Edward Ferrars in 1995’s Sense and Sensibility

September 9 – Julia Sawalha, who portrayed Lydia Bennet in 1995’s Pride and Prejudice

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September 10 – Colin Firth, who portrayed Fitzwilliam Darcy in 1995’s Pride and Prejudice 

September 11 – Alan Badel, who portrayed Fitzwilliam Darcy in 1958’s Pride and Prejudice (11 September 1923 to 19 March 1982)

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September 15 – Sabina Franklyn, who portrayed Jane Bennet in 1980’s Pride and Prejudice 

September 16 – Alexis Bledel, who portrayed Georgiana Darcy in Bride and Prejudice

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September 19 – David Bamber, who portrayed Mr. Collins in 1995’s Pride and Prejudice 

September 22 – Billie Piper, who portrayed Fanny Price in 2007’s Mansfield Park

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September 22 – Rupert Penry Jones, who portrayed Captain Frederick Wentworth in 2007’s Persuasion

September 23 – Crispin Bonham Carter, who portrayed Charles Bingley in 1995’s Pride and Prejudice

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September 23 – Peter Settelen, who portrayed George Wickham
in 1980’s Pride and Prejudice 

September 24 – Ryan Paevey, who portrayed Donovan Darcy in Unleashing Mr. Darcy, as well as Marrying Mr. Darcy

 September 26 – Talulah Riley, who portrayed Mary Bennet in 2005’s Pride and Prejudice

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September 26 – Edmund Gwenn, who portrayed Mr. Bennet in 1940’s Pride and Prejudice (26 September 1877 to 6 September 1959)

September 27 – Gweyneth Paltrow, who portrayed Emma Woodhouse in 1996’s film version of Emma

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September 29 – Greer Garson, who portrayed Elizabeth Bennet in 1940’s Pride and Prejudice (29 September 1904 to 6 April 1996)

About reginajeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
This entry was posted in Austen actors, Austen Authors, birthdays, British history, Georgian England, Georgian Era and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to “Happy Birthday” is Not a Regency Thing, but It is Mine

  1. Jennifer Redlarczyk says:

    Happy Birthday! I have one more birthday for you, but it’s of my own doing. I always give Darcy Sept. 12th. Now how about that! Have a great rest of the month.

  2. Glenda M says:

    Happy Birthday Regina!

  3. Mary Robinson says:

    Happy Birthday! Enjoy your special day!!

  4. Glynis says:

    Happy Birthday! I’m getting more like Jane – as the years go by I try not to mention mine! Luckily my children know I don’t like fuss so I don’t have to worry about surprise parties (especially as my daughter’s family are in lockdown in Sydney!) When it was my fiftieth they did surprise me with a meal out but just with immediate family so that was nice. For my sixtieth my daughter took Mum and I to Bath. This year my son is going to cook for me and my daughter will treat me next year if they’re able to come then.
    I hope you have a wonderful day 🎂🎁

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