Let's hope that as brilliant a book as this won't be sidetracked as a scholarly tome, not intended for the layman. For it deserves, on its own merits, a good and appreciative market. With tests, finesse and sharp intelligence, Louis Kronenberger has written a vivid story of England's 18th century, that violently partisan, violently political of and license, frippery and corruption. All spheres -- all strata -- are included, from the court of the last Stuart, Queen Anne, ""a plain little busybody in a crooked age"", through the heavy Hanoverian Georges, with Walpole, Marlborough, Burke, Pitt playing political games of chance. The arts are somewhat scantily represented, save in letters where Addison, Swift, Pope, Goldsmith, Johnson, Boswell, Sheridan, Fielding crowded a rich period. Life at court -- life in the slums -- life in the provinces Dath the colleges, etc. Exceptional portraiture recreating a past world and the men and women who characterized it. Good reading.