815- AN END AND A BEGINNING by John Fisher


Email this review


1815 burst upon the West like a Roman candle; some of its drama and lots of its dazzle Englishman John Fisher recreates in a swift, scintillating mosaic of 12 months, 12 chapters. But don't go looking for socio-political significance; rather, the accent is on historical chi chi: gossip, fashions, speeches, intrigues, betrayals, profiles; the period-references include Chateaubriand and Cobbett, Nicolson and Guedalla. There's the rake's progress: Byron's bizarre, bungled marriage; the champagne pomp and protocol of the Congress of Vienna- a colossal flop; Kean playing at Drury Lane; the blunders of Marshall Ney; a royal scandal-bored, buxom Caroline, Princess of Wales, cavorting at carnival time in Naples; the explosive, expansionist Americas: Jackson triumphant at New Orleans, the Astors and the VanDerbilts (as it was then spelt) triumphant in Mississippi and N. Y., seaman Decatur's overthrow of the Barbary Pirates prefiguring today's Sixth Fleet; the world of the London Dandy: insolent, immaculate Beau Brummell, grandson of a gentleman's gentleman, buddy of the Prince Regent; the literary lights: Wordsworth, Shelley, Austen, arch-romantic ""Monk"" Lewis exploring a Jamaican sugar plantation; Tsar Alexander and theological charlatanism; above all there's Man of the Year Napoleon, the Elba escape, the 100 days, the whirlwind battle of Waterloo, Wellington as victor, the St. Helena dog days. All vivid, variegated vignettes; an easy-to-take education.

Pub Date: May 22nd, 1963
Publisher: Harper & Row