by Liza Picard ‧ RELEASE DATE: May 27, 1998
An entertainingly over-stocked historical digest of life during London's liveliest decade of the 17th century, 1660-70. Picard, a lawyer at Gray's Inn and an amateur historian, is uninterested in writing a revisionist work of that most uncharacteristic era in English history, which takes in the post-Civil War return of the monarchy, the growth of Great Britain's mercantile empire, and the devastating Great Fire, out of which modern London arose. Picard's book is essentially lively social history with a materialist slant and skirts complicated politics to devote itself to a minute examination of mundane life from every angle. Picard gathers evidence and testimony to create something like the contemporary grab-bag almanacs, throwing in an exceptional range of information under headings for education, sex, clothing, housework, cooking, city planning, and entertainment, just to name a few. Sources naturally include the diary of Samuel Pepys, that of the underrated John Evelyn, and the eclectic biographical briefs of John Aubery. Picard also unearths small treasuries of first-hand data: the travelogue of Cosmo, the young grand duke of Tuscany, who took in London in a reverse of the Grand Tour; educator Hannah Wolley's ""conduct"" books like The Accomplish'd Lady's Delight, a Cooking Book, and Guide to the Female Sex; heraldic scholar Randle Holme's Academy of Armory, whose descriptions of anything appearing on a coat of arms reads like the era's Sears catalogue; and the Calendar of State Papers Domestic, a cornucopia of civil papers, e.g., rewards for stray cows, plans for waterworks, petitions on behalf of brothels, and requests to ""Sam. Pepys"" for naval supplies. Beyond her assiduous research, Picard displays remarkable sympathy for those who lived in the Restoration era, getting under the age's skin even to the extent of imagining wearing stays. Picard's engaging survey energetically rummages through the attic of London's colorful past.
Pub Date: May 27, 1998
Page Count: 330
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1998
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