Glittering and gossipy, an extravagant panorama of the “Age of Scandal”. Describing a period where manners were all, morals nothing, and money useful but not essential, novelist and social historian Murray (Castle Howard: The Life and Times of a Stately Home, not reviewed) lightly surveys the English aristocracy’s and beau monde’s best time since the Restoration. The habits and hobbies, fancies and finances of Regency bucks and beaux, debs and “demi-reps” (i.e., courtesans) may be fodder for bodice-buster novels, but the facts are no less sensational, at least at the top of society’s upper crust. The Prince Regent, the future George IV, arguably had more taste (both good and bad) than any other monarch and set the tone for the bon ton with reckless spending, architectural extravagance, sartorial ostentation, an irregular love life, and gluttonous appetite’subjects addressed here in titillating detail. In Nurray’s account, these characteristics of his count for more than, say, his ties with radical politics or his succession scheming during the Regency Crisis. Likewise, among his friends, Beau Brummel, the era’s best-dressed gentleman, counts for more in these pages than Charles James Foy, the brilliant but dissolute opposition politician, and in the historical calendar of events, the Grand Jubilee of 1814 gets more space than the “Peterloo” massacre during food riots in 1816. With a top-heavy but otherwise wide-ranging array of observers and informants, Murray’s sources include the mandatory Lord Byron and Lady Caroline Lamb as well as Captain Charles Gronow and the busybody Princess Lieven of Austria, plus the archives at Windsor and Chatsworth. Murray ends in cautioning her reader that the Regency Era was not merely “a glamorous chimera,” but like any good gossip, her book cannot help gravitating to the era’s diverting aspects. A social history—with the emphasis heavily on the social—both frivolously entertaining and assiduously researched. (16 pages b&w illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-670-88328-X

Page Count: 317

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955