OUR TEMPESTUOUS DAY: A History of Regency England by Carolly Erickson

OUR TEMPESTUOUS DAY: A History of Regency England

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Not a complete history of the Regency (Erickson calls it a ""kaleidoscope sequence of views""), this moves through the period in a series of panels that illuminate the glitter of the aristocracy along with the disaffections and sporadic uprisings of the masses. The Regency conjures up Beau Brummell (who gets the shortest of shrifts), of elegant belles, elaborate balls and cynical amorous dalliances. It actually spanned the double defeat of Napoleon, the sensational adulation and later rejection of Byron, the rise and fall of the Luddites and other groups drawn to civil violence or crime by rising prices and unemployment, as well as a potent upsurge of evangelism with its handmaidens, petty and prudery. It unofficially began in October, 1810, when George III plunged into his final bout with dementia, and ended when he breathed his last in February, 1820, His eldest son, George, who was appointed Prince Regent in early 1811, spent the next nine years dallying with mistresses and decorating and redecorating Carlton House, his London mansion, as well as the Marine Pavilion, his Brighton pleasure retreat. He had banished his blowsy, nymphomanical queen, Caroline, from his sight and seldom saw his daughter and next-in-line to the throne, Princess Charlotte (who was to die in childbirth, leaving no issue). The Napoleonic campaigns had produced inflation along with wild economic fluctuations. War's aftermath saw demobilized unemployed soldiers and sailors turning to crime and civil unrest. The middle class and the working poor, meanwhile, were heeding evangelists such as Hannah More, who called for an end to lewdness and immodesty. By the Regency's end, England was moving toward what would later be called Victorianism. Erickson is superb at evoking the flavor of the era, with its opulent drawing rooms, Lucullan feasts, gossip, and snobbery. Also its chimney sweeps, highwaymen, robber gangs, prostitutes and its seething mobs calling for bread and universal male suffrage. She unfortunately never fully comes to grips with explaining why the political and economic system was so helpless, indeed perverse, in the face of all the ills besetting England during what Shelley called ""our tempestuous day."" But, all in all, her packaged tour is an intriguing glimpse at a peculiar historical cusp.

Pub Date: Feb. 21st, 1985
ISBN: 0380813343
Publisher: Morrow