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An Elegant Madness: High Society in Regency Englandby Venetia Murray
Synopses & Reviews
THE REGENCY was one of the most romantic and turbulent ages in British history. Spanning the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, it was an era that witnessed unprecedented industrial progress, artistic accomplishment, violent social unrest, and — paradoxically — the most sparkling social scene English high society has ever enjoyed. Under the influence of the excessively fat, loose-moraled Prince of Wales (to whom Jane Austen dedicated Emma), the Regency became the very apex of British decadence. It was a time of lavish parties, ferocious gossip, relentless bed-hopping, and notorious gambling that set a standard for elegance and vulgarity. Venetia Murray uses original material from the archives at Windsor including dozens of contemporary accounts, diaries, letters, memoirs, and menus, as well as rare cartoons and prints, to evoke the period in vivid, delicious detail. At the same time she provides a subtle, smart analysis of the political and economic undercurrents of the social whirl. With many frothy pleasures and unexpected bite, An Elegant Madness is a book that readers will want to devour.
"In this engaging bit of social history, Murray's intent clearly is to entertain as well as to inform, with the text taking the form of well-researched anecdotes more or less casually linked together, with little or no analysis. The result is a pleasure to read. Murray moves from the premise that Regency England may be somewhat overlooked as an age of fops and dandies, characterized largely by the increasingly dissolute figure of the Regent, George, the Prince of Wales. What Murray fears may be lost in such an appraisal of the time is all the good bits, the high class courtesans, Almacks, the rather dreary club that everyone wished dearly to get into, Beau Brummell, the dandy who held well-attended audiences for the hours that it took him to dress, perfectly, in the morning. The almost breezy tone of the book belies the serious work that clearly went into the research. Murray had full access to the Chatsworth archives, and draws often and well from all manner of contemporary documents: letters, journals, newspapers and the like. Not a scholarly book, neither is it fluff: there is a wealth of detail put to the service of Murray's fine eye for the comic and her plain, cheerful gift for historical narrative." Reviewed by Andrew Witmer, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)
The Regency period was one of the most turbulent ages in British history, one that spanned the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, that witnessed unprecedented industrial progress, artistic accomplishment, and violent social unrest and--paradoxically--the most sparkling social scene English high society has ever enjoyed. Under the influence of the obese, loose-moraled Prince of Wales (to whom Jane Austen dedicated Emma), the Regency was the apex of British decadence, an era of lavish parties and relentless bed-hopping that set a standard for elegance and vulgarity. With wit and lively style, Venetia Murray chronicles the scandals, courtships, and daily life of these aristocrats, and evokes the tempestuous times of the early industrial and French revolutions. Sumptuously illustrated with rare contemporary cartoons, prints, diaries, and caricatures, An Elegant Madness is a book readers of social history and historical romance alike will devour.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 290-295) and index.
About the Author
Venetia Murray worked as a journalist, writing for many major periodicals and newspapers, and published three novels before concentrating on social history. Her previous works of non-fiction include Echoes of the East End and Castle Howard: The Life and Times of a Stately Home, a three hundred year history of the castle that was the setting for Brideshead Revisited. She lives in Wiltshire, England.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
1. An Impolite Society
2. Bucks, Beaux and 'Pinks of the Ton'
3. 'The Seventh Heaven of the Fashionable World'
4. Relative Values: The Cost of Living
5. London: The Most Prosperous City in Europe
6. From the Seaside Resorts to the Northern Meeting
7. 'A Mistress Had a Better Deal Than a Wife'
8. Clubs and Taverns: Gambling and Gluttony
9. The Age of Indulgence
10. The Pursuit of Pleasure
11. Charades and Epigrams: The Country House
12. Fashion, Manners and Mores: The New Liberalism
13. On the Eve of Reform
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History and Social Science » Europe » Great Britain » General History