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Soldiers of Fortune: First Hand Accounts of Regency Battles

A Dorset Soldier: The Autobiography of Sgt. Williams Lawrence 1790-1869
by Eileen Hathaway (Editor), William Lawrence

An excellent book for collectors of Peninsular War accounts, and especially those interest in light Regiments for this book follows the life of Sergeant William Lawrence – or should I say the military life. It was first published in the 1880’s, some 20 years after Lawrence’s death – and this I believe is the first reprint since then. He was an illiterate man and dictated these when in his 60’s, some 40 years after events.
It begins when he runs away from his apprenticeship and joins the army – or tries several times to join the army and ending up with the 40th Regiment of Foot (the closest) just before they set off for South America in 1806.

The book is just full of fascinating little detail of everyday life in the army – of transportation and some terrible (but brief) accounts of battles fought. In fact the book itself is very Brief – reminding me a lot of another published account by a non-officer – ‘A Soldier of the 71st’. This gives a glimpse of life in the ranks. The editor, Eileen Hathaway, has done a phenomenal job footnoting the text so much of Lawrence’s background and family is explained – and detail which might not be familiar in the Peninsular War – such as seige works – can be easily understood without specialist knowledge or dredging out other reference books. It also comes with a number of extremely useful small maps which illustrate small parts of the text – I really liked that feature. There are a number of black and white reproductions of pictures in the middle- I wish publishers would do these in colour – I’d be willing to pay the extra – they just look so drab, and it is hard to get enthusiastic about black and white reproductions of uniforms. Luckily the back cover has the 40th uniform reproduced in colour and I did like the watercolour on the front cover, which was painted especially for this book.

Lawrence is an engaging story teller – not quite in the self-deprecating vein of someone like John Kincaid – but he is enjoyable. There is a great amount of detail in here which complements other Peninsular War accounts – but it is also wonderful for London and British travelling – Lawrence’s account of sharp practices by London Hackney Cab drivers and Inn land-ladies makes priceless reading.
List Price: £12.95
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Spellmount Publishers; (July 1996)
ISBN: 1873376510

The Prince’s Dolls: Scandals, Skirmishes and Splendours of the Hussars, 1739-1815
by John Mollo

The men of the Prince of Wales regiment – the 10th Hussars, were the ultimate reflection of the contrasts in Napoleonic Warfare. At once fashionable dandys who dressed in immensely expensive uniforms, but also courageous and daring cavalrymen. John Mollo’s history of this regiment covers its beginnings in 1739 until the close of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 although the majority of this history is focussed on the Prince of Wales’s involvement in the regiment. While the Prince of Wales poured all his ambitions for military splendour into this regiment he never actually served overseas with them – all his association with them was superficial.

The personalities in this regiment were often larger than the regiment itself (no mean feat!) – Beau Brummell, the Prince of Wales himself, Lord Henry Paget (later the Marquess of Anglesey), the Duke of Clarence’s illegitimate sons, and Captain Hesse (probably a royal bastard himself). With so many men inextricably linked with highest of the upper-classes there is ample room for a great many wonderfully salacious and scandalous anecdotes which lighten the book. Mollo does not leave it there though, he does a good job in covering all the elements of military life including the regiment’s service in the Peninsular War and the general life and discipline for the ranks.

It is such a pity that most books, this one included, don’t reproduce their illustrations in colour – this one has a number of good pictures, but they are all in black and white. I would certainly recommend reading this book in conjunction with Myerley’s recent work “British Military Spectacle” – which examines in much more detail the structure of the army during this period.

Hardcover: 255 pages
List Price: $39.95
Publisher: Pen & Sword Books / Leo Cooper (March 1997)
ISBN: 0850524938

Anne Woodley is an Amazon top 500 reviewer as well as the patroness of Janeites, the Internet discussion, as well as mistress of the Regency Ring. Her excellent page, The Regency Collection is a treasure trove of information.

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Fashions of the Regency Period

Jane Austen Fashion
by Penelope Byrde

This delightful book is the work of Bath’s Costume Museum Curator, Penelope Byrd. It takes an in-depth look at fashions of the period, care of clothes, and needlework, taking references from Jane Austen’s novels and her letters, and is supported throughout with beautiful illustrations. A must for anyone interested in period clothing, and a real treat, as it has been out of print for an absolute age!
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Excellent Press
ISBN: 1900318121
Price: £12.95

 

Jane Austen: In Style
by Susan Watkins, Hugh Palmer

A perfect book for those who enjoyed Maggie Lane’s Jane Austen’s World but want to know more. Jane Austen In Style offers an in depth look at Regency life, with chapters on homes, entertainment, fashion, food and more. While offering a wealth of Austen Family trivia and biography, Susan Watkins has also provided a map of daily life in the Regency.

Replete with full page, full color photographs and period prints, the book is visually stunning as well as being wonderfully informative. A well written, delightful read, it makes a good starting point for those wishing to get a feel for life in Regency England. Perfect for historical research or the casual novel reader.

It is complemented by a directory of where all manner of things Georgian can be seen or purchased today in both the UK and USA. A complete index is also included for easy reference. Available new and used from dealers such as amazon.co.uk
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Thames & Hudson; (October 1996)
ISBN: 0500279004
Price: £12.95

English Women’s Clothing in the 19th Century: A Comprehensive Guide With 1,117 Illustrations by C. Willett Cunnington

The nineteenth century was a period of continuous change for women’s clothing in England. The growing prosperity of the merchant class meant an ever-larger number of women for whom “dress” was a principle function of life, while the increasing availability of lower priced ready-made garments enabled women of moderate means to purchase the fashions of the day.

The magnificent array of ladies’ fashions that characterized the century are on display in this remarkably complete decade by decade overview. Drawing almost exclusively from contemporary source– fashion magazines, newspapers, rare period photographs, memoirs, Victorian novels, periodicals and other publications as well as firsthand observation of actual garments– the author describes and explains the couture that evolved in response to the changing social conditions, technological innovations and cultural developments.

An excellent reference for those who wish to study the fashion of English women’s clothing in the nineteenth-century, this sumptuously illustrated, commentary about clothing details including information about what influenced the design, materials used, the situation in which the garment would have been worn, and what type of person would have worn the garment. Granted, much of the material is more suited to Victorian studies, as this style was the most prelevant during the century, but Regency costume was in vogue from about 1800 to 1820. A wonderful reference for the costume designer or student of fashion, though the illustrations are . This is one of the most useful books for nineteenth-century fashion to be found. If there was a complaint to be made, it would have to be on the lack of color; illustrations are black and white or line drawings. A comprehensive index is included in the book.
Paperback: 460 pages
Publisher: Dover Pubns; Reprint edition (June 1990)
ISBN: 0486263231
Price: $29.95

Fashions of the Regency and Empire Fashions
By Tom Tierney

Paperdolls- they’re not just for children anymore! These historically based books, written and illustrated by renowed paper doll artist Tom Tierney provide a fascination and comprehensive look into British and French Fashion of the early 19th century.

The fashions of England’s Regency Period originated in the early years of the nineteenth century, contemporary with Empire styles in France and the Federalist vogue in the United States (the actual Regency began in 1811 when the Prince of Wales began acting for his incapacitated father, George III). The clothing was characterized by the revival of classical styles, the elegant fabrics and fine tailoring favored by Beau Brummell and the popularity of such accessories as turbans and shawls. In Fashions of the Regency we are introduced to George, a young lord who is a fastidious dresser, and his intended, Jane, both of whom display a variety of dazzling outfits for different occasions, from full court dress to riding habits and daywear. 30 costumes on 15 plates.

In 1804, when Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned Emporer of France, fashion took a dramatic turn away from the ordinary, nondescript clothing born out of the French Revolution. Elegant, extravagant fashion returned because Napoleon wanted to reinvigorate the economy, including the lace and fabric industries. He required military officers and high-ranking political figures to wear brightly colored and heavily embroidered silk coats on formal occasions, and he insisted that ladies NOT wear the same dress twice at court functions.Empire Fashions features a chic couple modeling styles from 1800-1815 in 16 costumes on 8 plates.

Both books are wonderful research and play tools, and are a great when used to contrast English and French culture. Also useful for anyone who has a hard time visualizing what a Carrick coat or sleeves “edged with swansdown” actually look like.

Paperback
Publisher: Dover Pubns; (November 1996); Dover Pubns; (December 1999)
ISBN: 0486293351; 0486408132
Price: $5.95; $3.95

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The Jane Austen Cookbooks

Jane Austen and Food
by Maggie Lane

What was the significance of the pyramid of fruit which confronted Elizabeth Bennet at Pemberley? Or of the cold beef eaten by Willoughby on his journey of repentance to see Marianne? Why is it so appropriate that the scene of Emma’s disgrace should be a picnic, and how do the different styles of housekeeping in Mansfield Park engage with the social issues of the day?

While Jane Austen does not luxuriate in cataloguing meals in the way of Victorian novelists, food in fact plays a vital part in her novels. Her plots, being domestic, are deeply imbued with the rituals of giving and sharing meals. The attitudes of her characters to eating, to housekeeping and to hospitality are important indicators of their moral worth. In a practice both economical and poetic, Jane Austen sometimes uses specific foodstuffs to symbolise certain qualities at heightened moments in the text. This culminates in the artistic triumph of Emma, in which repeated references to food not only contribute to the solidity of her imagined world, but provide an extended metaphor for the interdependence of a community.

In this original, lively and well-researched book, Maggie Lane not only offers a fresh perspective on the novels, but illuminates a fascinating period of food history, as England stood on the brink of urbanisation, middle-class luxury, and change in the role of women. Ranging over topics from greed and gender to mealtimes and manners, and drawing on the novels, letters and Austen family papers, she also discusses Jane Austen’s own ambivalent attitude to the provision and enjoyment of food.
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Hambledon Pr; (April 1995)
ISBN: 1852851244
Price: £14.95

The Jane Austen Cookbook
Compiled by Maggie Black and Deirdre Le Faye

Jane Austen wrote her novels in the midst of a large and sociable family. Brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, friends and acquaintances were always coming and going, which offered numerous occasions for convivial eating and drinking. One of Jane’s dearest friends, Martha Lloyd, lived with the family for many years and recorded in her “Household Book” over 100 recipes enjoyed by the Austens. A selection of this family fare, now thoroughly tested and modernized for today’s cooks, is recreated here, together with some of the more sophisticated dishes which Jane and her characters would have enjoyed at balls, picnics, and supper parties. A fascinating introduction describes Jane’s own interest in food, drawing upon both the novels and her letters, and explains the social conventions of shopping, eating, and entertaining in late Georgian and Regency England. The book is illustrated throughout with delightful contemporary line drawings, prints, and watercolours.

Authentic recipes, modernized for today’s cooks, include:

  • Buttered Prawns
  • Wine-Roasted Gammon and Pigeon Pie
  • Broil’d Eggs
  • White Soup and Salmagundy
  • Pyramid Creams
  • Martha’s Almond Cheesecakes

Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart; (May 2002)
ISBN: 0771014171
Price: $19.95

Margaretta Acworth’s Georgian Cookery Book
by Alice Prochaska, Frank Prochaska

The trouble with the old recipes or ‘receipts’ as they were called in the eighteenth century, is that they leave a great deal ot the imagination. They had no temperatures, very few instructions- most cookery information was handed down mother to daughter, and of course their ovens had no thermostats anyway. When Alice and Frank Prochaska dug up the old Receipt book belonging to Margaretta Ackworth, they decided to remedy this and spent the next months experimenting with the recipes, the ingredients and generally researching the family.

The result is this marvellous book. At once a cookbook with authentic Georgian period recipes with modern translations – and also a short history on the the cooking of the time generally, and Margaretta’s family specifically. The book tells us alot about culture in Georgian England of the eighteenth century and makes a marvellous read.

Many of the recipes just seem plain strange, they include ingredients rarely used now like carraway, rose-water, quinces and hare – well doesn’t everthing now have hershey’s chocolate or steak? Meat is often collared, scotched, potted, ragouted or colloped. I haven’t had the courage to try any of the meat dishes as yet .

The layout is really nice. The Prochaska’s use the original Ackworth recipe to precede their modern ‘translation’ of it, so you get the best of both worlds, the old and the new. There are only two colour photo’s in this book, reproductions of the portraits of Margaretta and her husband. The rest of the book is printed on a heavy cream paper in black type which feels very satisfying to read.

Hardcover – 160 pages (28 September, 1987)
Pavilion Bks.; ISBN: 1851451242
Available Used from $25.00

Anne Woodley is an Amazon top 500 reviewer as well as the patroness of Janeites, the Internet discussion, as well as mistress of the Regency Ring. Her excellent page, The Regency Collection is a treasure trove of information.

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Women’s Lives in Georgian England

The Gentleman’s Daughter: Women’s Lives in Georgian England
Written by Amanda Vickery

What was the life of an eighteenth-century British genteel woman like? This lively book, based on letters, diaries, and account books of over one hundred middle class women, transforms our understanding of the position of women in Georgian England. These women were not confined in their homes but enjoyed expanding horizons and an array of emerging public arenas, the author shows.

Amanda Vickery’s The Gentleman’s Daughter: Women’s Lives in Georgian England (winner of the Longman History Today Prize in 1998) is an outstanding study of a crucial period in modern women’s history. Roy Porter described this book as “the most important thing in English feminist history in the last ten years.” While the writing style at times reminds one of a doctoral dissertation, the book does fill a niche often left underresearched. As one reader noted, “I appreciated this book because it broke me of my misconceptions about any kind of “romantic” life of the women of this “almost leisure” class, as another reviewer called it. They were at the mercy of their husbands, their social situation and fate. Very thought provoking for a Jane Austen fan like myself.”

What would the lives of these women- women like Elizabeth Bennet, Emma Woodhouse, and even Austen, herself, to a lesser extent, have been like? Readers familiar with the feminist analysis of women’s lives in the late 18th to mid-19th century will find some of the commonplaces of that viewpoint called into question. Rife with personal examples, this history brings Georgian society to life through what Vickery identifies as the “terms set out in their own letters by genteel women.” The seven sections of the book are labeled: “Gentility”, “Love and Duty’, “Fortitude and Resignation” (which includes a noteworthy discussion on pregnancy), “Prudent Economy”, “Elegance”, “Civility and Vulgarity”, and “Propriety”. “Our battles were not necessarily theirs,” Vickery reminds us as she draws a fine profile of these women’s lives and their ways of finding meaning and pleasure amid the strictures of Georgian culture.

Yale Univ Press
ISBN: 0300080026;
Published: September 1999
List Price: $19.00 (paperback)

Ladies of the Grand Tour: British Women in Pursuit of Enlightenment and Adventure in Eighteenth-Century Europe
Written by Brian Dolan

Life in the eighteenth century for women was a strange mixture of education, enlightenment and restriction. The fact that some could travel so freely seems an anomaly given their general position in society legally – yet travel many did – and write about – they did too. Dolan has used mostly diaries and letters of female travellers for this large and well-researched book.

There is a lot of material which sheds new light (for me anyway) on the life of women travelling during this time but he tends to use the diaries and letters of those women who are already very well written about simply because there is such a wealth of material about them so Lady Bessborough, Lady Holland, Mary Montagu, Mary Wollstonecraft and Marianna Starke (to name the main ones) dominate the book. Perhaps there just isn’t the same wealth of material about travel undiscovered and so the main writers are returned to. These women have certainly been used to define this age.

The advantage of this book is it really does illustrate (and very well) the life of the traveller, the difficulties and how they travelled etc – without getting caught up in all the other issues that litter their diaries/letters – so you have travel unadulterated. He has also split the book up into nine topical chapters including travel of Education and Improvement, Fashionable Society and Foreign Affairs – and my favourite chapter – Sea Breezes and Sanity.

There are also a number of good illustrations used – although I rather question some of the captions used – For instance using Vermeer’s picture “Woman in Blue” – a picture of a woman reading a letter – to caption it “A woman absorbed in a letter from an absent lover…” seems to be both pushing the pathos and the aesthetic art interpretation a bit far…. couldn’t it just as easily have been a note from the grocer? …or her sister in the next town….or her mother?

Those niggles aside I think this is a great book to add depth to a library of anyone who is interested in this period.

HarperCollins
ISBN: 0060185430
1st edition, November 6, 2001
List Price: $27.00 (hardcover)

Anne Woodley is an Amazon top 500 reviewer as well as the patroness of Janeites, the Internet discussion, as well as mistress of the Regency Ring. Her excellent page, The Regency Collection is a treasure trove of information.

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Art Imitating Life

 

Written By Arti of Ripple Effects

Does art imitate life or does life imitate art or…neither? After reading Claire Tomalin and Carol Shields on the life of Jane Austen, I am inclined to draw that conclusion. The often sanguine outlook of Austen’s works is deceptive. The seemingly jovial ending may lead some to assume they are reading the simplistic stories of a woman wrapped in romantic bliss all her life.

Reality is, that Austen could persevere, write and be published was already an incredible achievement considering the confining social environment she was in. Instead of embracing the normative female role in comfort, she chose to tread the road less traveled to become a writer despite the gloomy prospect of poor spinsterhood, enduring rejection even from her own mother. She wrote in secret and struggled in isolation. For a long period she battled depression. Upon her death, her beloved sister Cassandra could not attend her funeral because the presence of females at such events were not sanctioned, apparently for fear of any outbursts of emotion.

It is Austen’s imagination that empowers her to break free of her reality and to rise above her constraints. She has created her art from the palette of imagination, as Tomalin has lucidly observed:

“Hampshire is missing from the novels, and none of the Austens’ neighbours, exotic, wicked or merely amusing, makes recognizable appearance. The world of her imagination was separate and distinct from the world she inhabited.”

Austen’s contemporary, the renowned Gothic writer Ann Radcliffe has attested, it is the imagination, and not real-life experience, that gives rise to story-telling. A scene in the movie Becoming Jane (2007) has vividly illustrated this point.

In the famous little book, The Educated Imagination, a must-read for any literature student, the late great Canadian literary critic Northrop Frye states that :

“The world of literature is a world where there is no reality except that of the human imagination.”

Austen has great proficiency in the language of imagination. In her novels, she has created a world that never was, but one that makes her readers yearn for. There is no Mr. Darcy in real life, or Elizabeth Bennet for that matter, but we could well use them as the ideal types to measure by, or, to strive for.

What about the satirist in Austen? How can the social critic be extracted from reality? How can one write social commentaries devoid of real life input? Austen may have toiled in isolation for fear of social repercussion, she did not write in a vacuum. While her art did not imitate her life, Austen had the chance to sharpen her observation from the very public sitting-room of her home and those of her relatives and friends, an opportunity that was conducive to her novel writing, as Virginia Woolf has pointed out. Ever since her childhood, the Austen home was the hub of family readings and discussions. Her brothers grew up to be men well versed in the fields of the military, clergy, and business.
In her ingenious way, by satirizing the things that ought not to be, Austen is bringing out the world that ought to be. In Frye’s words:

“The fundamental job of the imagination in ordinary life, then, is to produce, out of the society we have to live in, a vision of the society we want to live in.”

If art imitates life, it would be just a reproduction; if life imitates art, well… ours would be one very wacky world. But life could well be the reason for creating art, channeling our imagination to build a sublime vision of the ideal.

 

Arti reviews movies, books, arts and entertainment on her blog Ripple Effects. She has pleasure in many things, in particular,
the work and wit of Jane Austen.

Visual: Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh


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The Faces of Jane

Jane Austen's WorldJane Austen’s World
By Maggie Lane

Maggie Lane has done a wonderful job in this Austen collection. It is well set out, beautifully illustrated and a perfect introduction to Austen- especially for fans who have discovered her through the recent popularity of her books turned film and television series. It is a hardcover coffee table sized book- not something you take to bed with you- quite slim but packed full of good material. The book is divided into five chapters which cover everything from Jane Austen the person, to daily life in Regency England and the film adaptations. Each chapter is subdivided into smaller sections which are really just double page spreads on a particular subject. Don’t expect an in depth analysis of any particular subject but do expect a very competent summary. Lane includes a chronology of Austen’s life which is useful and easy to read. The only real objection I have is that many of the pictures used in here are not titled and it is difficult to find out where they are from- the illustrations index in the back is quite small and cluttered. For those of you who are thinking of buying this book second hand, watch out that you don’t confuse this book with Lane’s earlier work on Austen’s life. That is a smaller book and is more of a biography tracing her life and travels. In short- a really enjoyable book.

Hardcover – 144 pages (August 1997)
List Price: $20.00
Adams Media Corporation; ISBN: 1558507485

Jane Austen: Obstinate Heart

Jane Austen: Obstinate Heart
by Valerie Grosvenor Myer

I think Valerie Grovesnor Myer has made a good stab at trying to write to a biography of Austen and she succeeds relatively well. The only trouble is, Austen biographies are all drawn from the same material- very little new information has been turned up in recent years and so biographers are forced to reinterpret the old sources to find a new angle. That really is what this author has done- with only moderate success. Obstinate Heart has 24 chapters, mostly in chronological order. The complaint that this is more about Austen’s family than Austen herself bears through- especially in the first nine chapters. To make her book different, Myer has attempted to find biographical incidents from Austen’s own life to explain incidents in her novels. Not a bad thing to do- but I found it overpowering at time- as though she were just going from one incident to another- and sometimes I felt her examples used weren’t good ones. For instance she likened Jane Austens’ brother Edward’s adoption by the Knights to Fanny Price’s living with the Bertrams in Mansfield Park. Not at all the same situation. In the novel Fanny lived with the family but was never adopted by them. In real life, Edward adopted the new surname of Knight and eventually inherited a large estate and fortune from it. The situation reminds one more of Frank Churchill in Emma- Frank Weston is adopted by his aunt, Mrs Churchill, adopts her name and becomes her heir. That seems that is a much better example- why did Myer use this much less satisfactory one? Another ‘problem’ is that though she proves that she has read various books on Austen (for instance Deidre Le Faye’s collected letters of Austen) she doesn’t seem to have done much research on the history of the period. Myer cites a letter from Austen to her neice Fanny Knight in which she talks of the whole race of ‘Pagets’. Myer has clearly used the footnote which is in Le Faye’s edition of the letters to explain this remark about Austen’s dislike of the Pagets – explaining about Lord Paget’s (later Marquess of Anglesey) elopement with Lady Charlotte Wellesley. What both Le Faye and Myer miss is that the year before this elopement there was another High profile Paget elopement when Lord Paget’s brother eloped with Lady Boringdon. A little extra research on Myer’s part would have revealed this fact. I found the book interesting simply for Myer’s ‘new’ interpretation, but I wouldn’t pick it by choice. If you are looking for a really good biography of Jane – Park Honan’s is much better – or Claire Tomalin’s. (Both are available in our Giftshop) There are many other great books on the history of the time you could read. Maggie Lane is great and Deidre Le Faye’s collection of letters is fabulous. If this is all you can get hold of though, it would do in a pinch.

List Price: $13.95
Paperback – 288 pages (April 1998)
Arcade Publishing; ISBN: 1559704357

Anne Woodley is an Amazon top 500 reviewer as well as the patroness of Janeites, the Internet discussion, as well as mistress of the Regency Ring. Her excellent page, The Regency Collection is a treasure trove of information.

Enjoyed this article? Browse our book shop at janeaustengiftshop.co.uk

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Women’s Lives in Georgian England


The Gentleman’s Daughter:

Women’s Lives in Georgian England
Written by Amanda Vickery

Women's Lives in Georgian England
What was the life of an eighteenth-century British genteel woman like? This lively book, based on letters, diaries, and account books of over one hundred middle class women, transforms our understanding of the position of women in Georgian England. These women were not confined in their homes but enjoyed expanding horizons and an array of emerging public arenas, the author shows.

Amanda Vickery’s The Gentleman’s Daughter: Women’s Lives in Georgian England (winner of the Longman History Today Prize in 1998) is an outstanding study of a crucial period in modern women’s history. Roy Porter described this book as “the most important thing in English feminist history in the last ten years.” While the writing style at times reminds one of a doctoral dissertation, the book does fill a niche often left underresearched. As one reader noted, “I appreciated this book because it broke me of my misconceptions about any kind of “romantic” life of the women of this “almost leisure” class, as another reviewer called it. They were at the mercy of their husbands, their social situation and fate. Very thought provoking for a Jane Austen fan like myself.”

What would the lives of these women- women like Elizabeth Bennet, Emma Woodhouse, and even Austen, herself, to a lesser extent, have been like? Readers familiar with the feminist analysis of women’s lives in the late 18th to mid-19th century will find some of the commonplaces of that viewpoint called into question. Rife with personal examples, this history brings Georgian society to life through what Vickery identifies as the “terms set out in their own letters by genteel women.” The seven sections of the book are labeled: “Gentility”, “Love and Duty’, “Fortitude and Resignation” (which includes a noteworthy discussion on pregnancy), “Prudent Economy”, “Elegance”, “Civility and Vulgarity”, and “Propriety”. “Our battles were not necessarily theirs,” Vickery reminds us as she draws a fine profile of these women’s lives and their ways of finding meaning and pleasure amid the strictures of Georgian culture.


Yale Univ Press
ISBN: 0300080026;
Published: September 1999
List Price: $19.00 (paperback)

Ladies of the Grand Tour:

British Women in Pursuit of Enlightenment and Adventure in Eighteenth-Century Europe
Written by Brian Dolan


Ladies of the Grand Tour

Life in the eighteenth century for women was a strange mixture of education, enlightenment and restriction. The fact that some could travel so freely seems an anomaly given their general position in society legally – yet travel many did – and write about – they did too. Dolan has used mostly diaries and letters of female travellers for this large and well-researched book.

There is a lot of material which sheds new light (for me anyway) on the life of women travelling during this time but he tends to use the diaries and letters of those women who are already very well written about simply because there is such a wealth of material about them so Lady Bessborough, Lady Holland, Mary Montagu, Mary Wollstonecraft and Marianna Starke (to name the main ones) dominate the book. Perhaps there just isn’t the same wealth of material about travel undiscovered and so the main writers are returned to. These women have certainly been used to define this age.

The advantage of this book is it really does illustrate (and very well) the life of the traveller, the difficulties and how they travelled etc – without getting caught up in all the other issues that litter their diaries/letters – so you have travel unadulterated. He has also split the book up into nine topical chapters including travel of Education and Improvement, Fashionable Society and Foreign Affairs – and my favourite chapter – Sea Breezes and Sanity.

There are also a number of good illustrations used – although I rather question some of the captions used – For instance using Vermeer’s picture “Woman in Blue” – a picture of a woman reading a letter – to caption it “A woman absorbed in a letter from an absent lover…” seems to be both pushing the pathos and the aesthetic art interpretation a bit far…. couldn’t it just as easily have been a note from the grocer? …or her sister in the next town….or her mother?

Those niggles aside I think this is a great book to add depth to a library of anyone who is interested in this period.


HarperCollins
ISBN: 0060185430
1st edition, November 6, 2001
List Price: $27.00 (hardcover)

Anne Woodley is an Amazon top 500 reviewer as well as the patroness of Janeites,
the Internet discussion, as well as mistress of the Regency Ring. Her excellent page, The Regency Collection is a treasure trove of information.

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A Time for War

Wellington: A personal History

Wellington: A Personal History
by Christopher Hibbert

Wellington: A personal History

Wellington is not an easy man to pin down in a biography, and quite a few people have tried to do so in the past. Hibbert makes a p good stab at this very difficult subject and the worst that could be said about his book is that it is the most recent of the Wellington biographies.

Why is Wellington such a difficult subject? Mostly because he had a long and very active career which spanned a broad range of activities. From a rather dreamy and unfocused youth, to an extremely focussed, and successful war hero, then finally as politician. Underlying this was a man of great contradiction. He had an innate sense of nobility and duty which led him to marry a woman he had not seen for nearly eleven years – yet he treated her appallingly during their marriage. His contradictory nature is also very evident in his career – he hated the very activity in which he made his name, war.

I think Hibbert makes a reasonable attempt at coming to grips with Wellington’s nature and its contradictions – but I often think the personal side of Wellington – most especially his treatment of his wife and family, are often left unsatisfactorily explained.

I see three reasons for that in Hibbert’s case. First, there is not enough room in 400 pages to fit in everything with sufficient explanation. Secondly, there are easier, more public and interesting things to dwell on, and finally I suppose, because it would fall too much into the realm of speculation. There is little documentary evidence apart from gossip, some letters between Wellington and his wife, and of course Wellington’s infamously indiscreet confessions to Mrs Abuthnot which were later published in her diaries.

I do feel that Hibbert catches much of the public side of Wellington, his love of women, his modesty and quietness and his kindness and loyalty to those loyal to him.

Hibbert has set the book out chronologically and makes an easy read of his subjects. He does muddle up the first and second marchionesses of Salisbury- Wellinton was friends with both. The first Marchioness (also known as Dow Sal) sent him the hunting uniform from her personal hunt. The Second Marchioness (Frances, also known as the Gascoigne heiress before her marriage) was also a good friend of the Duke’s.

Elizabeth Longford does do a better job of capturing the nature and contradictions of Wellington – but then she can claim some measure of relationship with him – the 1st Duke’s wife, Kitty, was a Pakenham which is the Longford family name. Longford’s biography does fill two substantial volumes. Phillip Guedella has also written a good biography about the man.

Wellington: A Personal History

by Christopher Hibbert

List Price: $18.00

ISBN: 0738201480

Perseus Press; 480 pages; June 1, 1999

Secret Service: British Agents in France 1792-1815
Elizabeth Sparrow

The Secret Service in France

Though not an easy read, I did enjoy this book. The world of subterfuge is a truly murky place. Even with Elizabeth Sparrow’s relatively easy-going style it is, at times, difficult to unravel the complex relationships and payments, double crosses and so on.

This book is well set out and the topic is utterly fascinating. While I found it difficult to untangle the threads the subject was compelling enough to make it worthwhile.

Ms. Sparrow has made the divisions in sections and chapters well. (Visit Amazon.com for a complete index.)While you can read the book from start to finish for a complete overview, if you have a specific interest in a time period or place it is easy to pick up and read for that period. That is what I ended up doing.

Perhaps only giving four out of five stars is underselling the book because the topic is difficult and Sparrow does do a great job making sense of it. A very impressive job actually – it just didn’t grab me by the throat the way some other books do.

I would definitely recommend this book for those with an interest in the British History of this period or for people with an interest in the Napoleonic Wars. Perhaps even for people who just want to know how to be sly and cunning – there are some great tips!

Pair this with one of Stephanie Barron’s Jane Austen Mysteries for a fun, historical look into the world of Regency espionage.

Secret Service: British Agents in France 1792-1815
Elizabeth Sparrow

List Price: $24.95

ISBN: 0851157645

Boydell & Brewer; 352 pages; February 2000)

Anne Woodley is an Amazon top 500 reviewer as well as the patroness of Janeites,

the Internet discussion, as well as mistress of the Regency Ring. Her excellent page, The Regency Collection is a treasure trove of information.

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