Jane Austen, on a visit, sums him up: ""I believe he is as noble a prince as we have known. I feel he is gifted with many talents, and that if he had been a private person he might have been acclaimed for some of them."" But ""Prinny,"" the future George IV, Prince of Wales for nearly 60 years, and England's most famous Regent, was not a private person--and this is the fictionalized tale of his frustrations. He is ""the first gentleman of Europe,"" the Regency period personified, but he has no other purpose. His friends include, besides a slew of elegant duchesses and the odd actress, playwright Sheridan and the unscrupulous Charles James Fox--who uses him in Parliamentary wrangles with George III, shares his mistresses, and psychoanalyzes him. It seems that Prinny isn't really a rake; he just craves the affection his rigid parents never gave him. So that's why, as seen here from age eleven to death, Prinny does little but protest his ill-usage, weep on many a sympathetic ivory bosom, bathe at Brighton, get fat, and get into scrapes--another year older and deeper in debt. The reasons for his friends' high opinion of him are unclear: if he had had more spunk, he might have run off and done something and saved himself. He might also then have saved Hardwick's novel from its ultimate dreariness. The saucy conversations are entertainlng, and the Hogarthian characters are well displayed; but, aside from such setpieces as stuffy George III going obscenely mad and the Prince's wedding to the ghastly Caroline of Brunswick, this Regency non-romance, with nary a chase scene, never takes off.