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'All this she must possess,' added Darcy, 'and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.

Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice
chapter 8



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English History

Welcome to Mrs. Darcy's Everything Regency Page

In this section you will find reviews of essentially non-fiction books about The Georgian period and The Regency, and other books that might be of interest to you in Mrs. Darcy's library.


Please note! The books mentioned on this page are but a selection. You'll find many more interesting works in Mrs. Darcy's Online Store.

Michael and Melissa Bakewell - Augusta Leigh: Byron's Half-sister: a Biography

Augusta Leigh was the child of one of the most notorious scandals of late 18th-Century England - the elopement of 'Mad Jack' Byron with the beautiful and willful Marchioness of Carmarthen - and scandal would pursue Augusta her whole life. Her marriage to the equerry of the Prince of Wales brought her nothing but poverty and seven children. Her love affair with her half-brother, Lord Byron, was largely responsible for his separation from his wife and his subsequent exile.

Steven Parissien - George IV: Inspiration of the Regency

Parissien's biography of King George IV is a thoroughly researched analysis of how George came to be "one of the most despised" monarchs of all time. His childhood is described as "spartan" and "unnecessarily harsh." His father, George III, spent little time preparing his son for his future role, and it is likely that this played a part in his later indolence and debauchery. With many deficiencies to choose from, Parissien (Yale Univ.) is most troubled by George IV's inconstancy. Whether with friends, women, or political principals, self-gratification was always his ultimate imperative. His more positive critics tried to portray him as a great patron of art and architecture, and he himself tried to promote the fictional image of himself as military hero, incredibly believing he largely contributed to Napoleon's defeat. But Parissien shows how George's obsession with emulating the French monarchy with all its unpopularity and excesses reveals his inept "political wisdom." Even his own daughter wasn't spared from his utter selfishness. Mercilessly caricatured later in life, George IV left the legacy of a lecherous glutton who "sundered the contract between monarch and nation." This detailed work will most likely appeal to those who regularly read historical biography, though it is accessibly written and contains some juicy tidbits. [Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.]

J.B. Priestley - The Prince of Pleasure and His Regency 1811-20

A wonderfully detailed and readable account of the Regency era (1811-1820) and its focal point--Prince George IV. The author ably explores,within the context of the eras mores and singular fashion, the lives of its most celebrated and scandalous figures. The author also recounts the events of the Napoleonic Wars taking place at the time in an interesting and relevant fashion. This is not a new book, but one that deserves a place on this page. J.B. Priestley (1894-1984) is essentially known as a playwright, but he was a novelist, essayist, scriptwriter, broadcaster, and social commentator. The die-hard Colin Firth amongst Mrs. Darcy's visitors will undoubtedly have seen or have heard of, at least, of his Lost Empires about the world of the great music halls.

Rousseau's Dog: Two Great Thinkers at War in the Age of Enlightenment

In 1766, Scottish philosopher David Hume helped the radical Swiss intellectual Jean-Jacques Rousseau find asylum in England; a few months later, the volatile philosopher accused his benefactor of masterminding a murky conspiracy against him and triggered a virulent response. The argument had nothing to do with philosophy (or Rousseau's dog), but, as in their well-received Wittgenstein's Poker, the authors use the dispute as a pretext for an engaging rundown of the two thinkers' great ideas—with a big swig of human interest to wash down the philosophical morsels. Their (sometimes excessively) detailed, meandering account of the feud points to something larger: the contrast between the affable, urbane rationalist Hume and the moody, paranoid, emotionally overwrought Rousseau prefigures, they believe, the shift from the Enlightenment cult of reason to the Romantic cult of feeling. The authors widen their vivid portraits of the antagonists into a panorama of the cross-Channel intellectual community that refereed the squabble, taking in the ancien régime salons and their brilliant hostesses and the London and Paris streets where visiting philosophers were mobbed like rock stars. The result is an absorbing cultural history of the republic of letters in its exuberant youth. [Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.]

Mistress of the Arts: The Passionate Life of Georgina, Duchess of Bedford

Two hundred years ago there lived a magnetic and manipulative aristocrat whose complex relationships and strong passions would strike a chord with any modern woman. Georgina, sixth Duchess of Bedford, was the wife of one of the richest men in england, doted on by her husband and blessed with a life of luxury and social prestige. Yet she risked all this for a long-standing affair with a handsome lover, the famous artist Edwin Landseer, more than twenty years her junior. Georgina's controversial life caused scandal even in that decadent era. She was at the centre of Regency society and mixed with the leading politicians, aristocrats and artists of the day. Famed for her sex appeal even as her beauty faded, she kept both her husband and lover besotted throughout both their lives. Yet her powerful personality attracted enemies as well as admirers. In a story that takes us from the highlands of scotland to the picturesque beauty of Devon, through the turbulent courts of Europe and the unfolding politics of Ireland, via the extravagant balls and fashionable parties of the London season, this book vividly recreates the charmed, flamboyant life of one of the most fascinating characters of the age, and offers a hugely entertaining insight intp the colourful world of Regency high society.

Flora Fraser - Princesses: The Six Daughters of George III - Hardcover: 496 pages - Publisher: Knopf, 2005. ISBN: 0679451188

King George III of England (1760–1820) and his queen, Charlotte, had 15 children, among them six daughters, on whom Fraser (The Unruly Queen) focuses her family portrait. She depicts royals who attempted to live a rather homey life, but were torn both by the king's famous madness and by complex political and affectionate alliances within the family itself. Fraser has a great source that she uses extensively: the prolific and elegant letters of Charlotte and her daughters. Their correspondence reveals personalities and daily details that attach the reader to their lives. The letters are at times less informative than suggestive; over-reliance on them contributes a wandering quality to the narrative and too many precious tidbits that Fraser apparently couldn't bear to leave out. She also tends to set up situations that take too long to play out, the most significant being the onset of George's madness. The madness, though, is at the center of the women's lives: it not only helped weaken the monarchy further, it wrecked a happy marriage, created rifts out of family tensions and contributed to only three of George's talented daughters marrying, and then too late in life to have children, while two others triggered scandal with their affairs. It's a sad and fascinating story. 24 pages of color illus.

Flora Fraser is the next generation in the fine biographical/historical tradition of her mother Lady Antonia Fraser and her late grandmother Elizabeth (Countess of) Longford. Like her forebears, Fraser combines scholarship with an elegant and witty writing style to produce books which illuminate and engage. [review by courtesy of Amazon.com]

Stephen C. Behrendt
Royal Mourning and Regency Culture: Elegies and Memorials of Princess Charlotte

This book examines the widespread response in British artistic media to the death in childbirth in 1817 of Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales, daughter of the Prince Regent and heiress to the throne, showing how both in print materials like poetry and sermons and extra-literary artifacts like visual art, ceramics, metalwork, and textiles her life and death were invested with the qualities of myth even as her memorialists appropriated her experiences in the process of producing consumer commodities for an emerging mass audience.

Amanda Foreman
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire 

London, Harper Collins, 1998. XVI, 463 p.

You know the feeling? You open a new book, and after having read the first page you just can't stop reading anymore. Well, that is exactly what happened to me when I opened Amanda Foreman's biography on Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire. Right from the start I was mesmerised by it, it moved me immensely and I was quite sad when I finished the last page. Like the author, I fell in love with this fascinating woman who set the trend of England's high society in the late 18th and early 19th century. Georgiana Spencer (indeed, the great great great etc. aunt of Diana) became Duchess of Devonshire in 1774 and proceeded to become the acknowledged queen of fashionable society. She was beautiful, intelligent and sensitive. A loyal friend and a loving mother. She was a talented poet and wrote plays. Her marriage however was unhappy. Even though she did her best to be a good wife, her husband was actually the only person who did not come under her spell. Apart from other mistresses, he definitely preferred her best friend, Lady Elizabeth Foster, with whom the Duke and Duchess maintained a 'menage a trois' for many years. Perhaps due to her unhappy marriage, and having problems conceiving (the first 8 years of her marriage remained childless, and the first two babies were girls), she became a compulsive gambler, an adulteress and, because of a few very painful illnesses, a laudanum addict, which did not prevent her however of being a political expert of the highest order and an extraordinary strategist with great insight. She actually predicted the Irish problem as we still witness it to this day!

Daniel Pool What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew - From Fox Hunting to Whist - The Facts of Daily Life in 19th-Century England. - 1993, Simon and Schuster. 416 p. ISBN 0-671-88236-8

A practical reference book that gives an insight in the rather complicated rules, regulations and customs that governed every day life in 19th century England. Apart from the chapters in which the society of the era is explained, it contains a glossary, an extensive bibliography and index.

James Munson - Maria Fitzherbert: The Secret Wife of George IV. - Carroll and Graf Publishers, New York, 2002, 414 p.

The notorious love affair between George IV and Maria Fitzherbert is one of the most bizarre episodes in the history of the Royal Family. It is the story of a young Catholic widow who became the secret wife of the heir to the throne bacause she she had refused to become his mistress. James Munson reveals a genuine love story between the spoilt, egocentric prince and the older woman who brought peace and order to his life of restlessness and excess: their marriage defied English law and broke all the rules of monarchy.

Maria Smyhte, a widow, and a Catholic, settled in London at the age of just 24. The young prince fell madly in love - he wanted her, but she wanted marriage. She fled to France, returning a year later to be married secretely. Inevitably, the marriage became an open secret. Plunged into the centre of court and political intrigue, Maria's stormy life was led much in the public eye. thw themes dominate - the love of a kindhearted woman for a charming but faithless prince, and the perilous state of the monarchy in the eventful period of history.

Carolly Erickson - Our Tempestuous Day: A History of Regency England. London, Robson Books, 2000. 302 p. - ISBN 1-86105-341-X (First published in 1996)

From 1810-1820, while his father King George III declined into madness at Windsor, besieged by nightmares of England sinking into the sea, George, the Prince of Wales, served as regent, creating an epoch known as The Regency. This was the age of the opulent interiors of the prince's palace, Carlton House, the grand scenic architecture of his Brighton Pavilion, outlandish fashion, extravagant balls, the age of Austen, Shelley and Byron. Yet beneath the veneer of the chinoiserie and the grand facades, it was also a time of explosive popular unrest and political radicalism.

E.A. Smith George IV - New Haven, Yale University Press, 1999. 306 p. ISBN 0-300-08802-7

This biography of George IV, king of England between 1820 and 1830 provides a full and objective reassessment of the monarch's character, reputation and achievement. The author wants to offer a different view of this king, who had the reputation of being a dissolute, pleasure-loving dilettante and a feeble, ineffective ruler, responsible for the decline of the power and reputation of the monarchy in the early 19th century. The author doesn't minimize the king's failings, but focuses on his positive qualities and achievements in politics and the patronage of the arts.

Amanda Vickery - The Gentleman's Daughter: Women's Lives in Georgian England. New Haven, Yale University Press, 1998. 436 p. ISBN 0-300-07531-6 - Hardback

A fantastic book, based on a study of the letters, diaries and account books of over one hundred women from commercial, professional and gentry families, mainly in provincial England. It challenges the currently influential view that the period witnessed a new division of the everyday worlds of privileged men and women into the separate spheres of home and work. Contrary to orthodoxy in the 18th century there was neither a loss of female freedoms, nor a novel retreat into the home. In their own writing genteel women throughout the Georgian era singled out their social and their emotional roles: kinswoman, wife, mother, housekeeper, consumer, hostess and member of polite society. The book offers a very interesting insight into the intimate and everyday lives of genteel women of that period.

Venetia Murray - An Elegant Madness: High Society in Regency England. Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, 1998. 317 p. ISBN 0-670-88328-x - Hardback

A delightful book on the mores of the high circles in Regency England. Be prepared for quite a few enlightening aspects which one doesn't encounter in Jane Austen! This book provides us with the truth behind Regency romantic fiction. It's a captivating social history of the glittering circle of rakes and dandies, ladies and courtesans, pugilists and patrons, written with enormous wit. Enjoy the account about extraordinary characters of the era, such as Beau Brummel, the Regency's supreme dandy, whose toilette was so excessive that the most privileged members of society were invited to watch him dress! And what about courtesan Harriette Wilson, whose list of lovers reads like the Social Register? Every page has something amazing in store for us. A must read!

Sian Rees - The Floating Brothel: The Extraordinary True Story of an Eighteenth-Century Ship and Its Cargo of Female Convicts. New York, An Imprint of Hyperion, 2002. 236 p. ISBN 0-7868-6787-6. Hardback

In July 1789, 237 women convicts left England for Sydney Cove in Australia's New South Wales on board a ship called the Lady Julian. The women, most of them petty criminals, were destined to provide the colony's hordes of lonely men with sexual favours as well as progeny. This is the enthralling story of that extraordinary group of women and their voyage halfway around the world. At the heart of this riveting history is the passionate relationship between Sarah Whitelain, a convict, and the ship's steward John Nicol, whose personal journals provided much of the material of this book.

A Circle of Sisters: Alice Kipling, Georgiana Burne Jones, Agnes Poynter, and Louisa Baldwin. - New York, W.W. Norton & Co. - ISBN 0393052109

Although born to a humble Methodist minister, the clever and artistically inclined Macdonald sisters married "up," into the Victorian bourgeoisie. Georgiana married the rising pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones, whose affair with Greek sculptress Mary Zambaco would later test Georgiana's love for him. The family beauty, Agnes, also married an artist, the president of the Royal Academy Edward Poynter. Alice, known for her wit and flirtatiousness, married John Lockwood Kipling, the head of an art school in Bombay; Rudyard Kipling was their son. Louisa suffered from a mysterious debilitating illness, yet managed to write and publish several novels and married the industrialist Alfred Baldwin. Her son, Stanley Baldwin, was a three-time prime minister of Britain. Did the sisters "make" their husbands and their sons? Flanders (Inside the Victorian Home) ponders this question as she teases out, with novelistic insights, the domestic dramas, career paths and affinities of the sisters and their talented families. With her characteristic flair for absorbing detail and analysis, Flanders also explores more general aspects of Victorian social history: from the gender values underlying attitudes toward nervous illness to philosophies of child-rearing (particularly pertinent when discussing Rudyard Kipling's notoriously unhappy childhood). (source: amazon.com)

Ashley Hay - The Secret: the Strange Marriage of Annabella Milbanke and Lord Byron. London, Aurum Press, 2000. 269 p. hb

In January 1815, Lord Byron married Annabella Milbanke. He was London's most famous poet and its most desirable notorious lover, and every woman wanted to be his wife. She was a young lady with handsome prospects and good connections, but painfully shy and retiring. Astonishingly, after only a couple of meetings, the poet proposed. Even more astonishingly, she turned him down. After the unlikely correspondence that ensued, she accepted his second offer of marriage without another meeting. Only a year into the marriage, and just a month after the birth of their first child, Annabella left Byron and went home to her parents, never to see him again. The misdemeanours in her husband's conduct she subsequently hinted scandalised London - and the lurid speculation about the sensational secret she never quite revealed has continued ever since. Painstakingly pieced together from their diaries and letters, The Secret is a sensitive and poignant portrait of the celebrity couple of their day, whose strange marriage became the talk of Regency England


Other books of interest in Mrs. Darcy's library:

Rupert Christiansen - The Victorian Visitors: Culture Shock in Nineteenth-Century Britain. - 2000, Grove Press, New York. - 272 p. pb. ISBN 0-8021-3933-7

Early-nineteenth century London was an extraordinarily vibrant and creative metropolis to which visitors went in search of wealth and fame. "The Victorian Visitors" lucidly captures the encounters between London and some of its most famous visitors who left an indelible mark on its culture, such as French artist Gericault, Richard Wagner, the American medium Daniel Home, young Bernard Shaw etc. A fascinating look at the cultural and social mores of nineteenth-century London with which the author challenges the stereotypes of Victorian England.

R.E. Pritchard - Dickens's England: Life in Victorian Times. - 2002, Sutton Publishing, Stroud. - 284 p. hb. ISBN 0-7509-2741-0

The Victorian period was, in Tennyson's phrase, 'an awful moment of transition'. A society largely based on agriculture, traditional values and social hierarchies was transformed into one both stimulated and disordered by unprecedented growth in science, technology, industry, urbanisation and population, and profound questioning of politics, morality and religion. Through writers such as, amongst others, Henry Mayhew, Elizabeth Gaskell, Engels, Thomas Hardy this book brings to life the variety, energy and frequently harsh reality of the society that produced and inspired one of England's greatest authors.

"As I was coming home this night, I felt carnal inclinations raging through my frame. I determined to gratify them...!" James Boswell's London Journal, 1762-1763.

Peter Martin - A Life of James Boswell. London, Phoenix Press, 1999. 613 p. pb.

In his masterly biography on James Boswell, Peter Martin reveals a man who was more than a person known for his insatiable sexual appetites, his alcoholism, his disturbing interest in executions, and his hypochondria. In this entertaining, well-written biography, we get to know the author of "The Life of Samuel Johnson", the biography of biographies, as a man of great intelligence and wit, as a loyal friend, loving husband and father, but who couldn't help being struck by serious depressions which effected himself and his loved ones more than he would actually wish to. Apart from the interesting painting of the man himself, we get to learn a lot about Boswell's contemporaries and the way they lived and associated with one another. Therefore, at the same time it is a very interesting insight in 18th century daily life.

Martin Levy - Love & Madness: the Murder of Martha Ray, Mistress of the Fourth Earl of Sandwich. New York, Harper Collins, 2004. 240 p. hb.

Reconstruction of one of the most shocking and scandalous events of late 18th century England. A crime of passion of which Martha Ray became the victim. She was shot in cold blood when quitting Coventry Garden Theatre on a spring evening in the year 1779. The murderer did not only kill the official mistress of an earl, but a mother of five children as well. An unforgivable act, nonetheless defended by some at the time. Interesting polemic in the media of the era included.

Giles Emerson - City of Sin : London in pursuit of Pleasure.  London, Carlton Publishing Group, 2003. 288 p. hb

London 'the Synful city' is. And always has been. Hedonistic epicentre of England. This is the story of how Londoners have enjoyed illicit pleasures in the capital through the centuries unrepented whoring, adultery and sexual perversions; inordinate drinking, smoking and drug-taking; astounding bouts of gluttony; visceral and bloody fighting involving men, women and animals; gambling on a thin high-wire. It is the story of how the city encouraged and indulged vice and excess, often losing control when the purpose was to provide an escape valve for the mob. A social history which short circuits us straight into the heady day-to-day experience of city life played out, as ever, by two types of citizen, the appalling and the appalled.

Travelling from the Roman city of Londinium through to London at the end of the Victorian era, City of Sin is a fascinating pageant of political incorrectness. It shows us that, no matter how shocking we may consider some contemporary behaviour, it is nothing new. Even the Victorians had their equivalent of warehouse raves. And many of the pleasures once liberally enjoyed by Londoners of every rank are criminal offences today. The sexual revolution of the 1960s is a mere blip in the scale of orgiastic abandon of pre-Victorian days. Rich in anecdotes and thoroughly researched, City of Sin is a salutary reminder that much has changed for the best. But it also suggests that antecedents of the English could have taught us a thing or two about enjoying ourselves. (cover text)

Sarah Caldwell - Adaptation Revisited: Television and the Classic Novel. - Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2002. - 224 p. pb. - ISBN 071906046X

The classic novel adaptation has long been regarded as a staple of "quality" television. "Adaptation Revisited offers a critical reappraisal of this prolific and popular genre, as well as bringing new material into the broader field of Television Studies. The first part of the book surveys the more traditional discourses about adaptation, unearthing the unspoken assumptions and common misconceptions that underlie them. In the second half of the book, the author examines four major British serials: "Brideshead Revisited," "Pride and Prejudice," "Moll Flanders," and "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall."

Jane Austen on Screen - edited by Gina MacDonald, Andrew F MacDonald - Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2003. - 296 p. pb. - ISBN 0521797284

This collection of essays explores the literary and cinematic implications of translating Austen's prose into film. It considers how prose fiction and cinema differ; how mass commercial audiences require changes to script and character; and how continually remade films evoke memories of earlier productions. The essays represent widely divergent perspectives, from literary "purists" suspicious of film renderings of Austen to film-makers who see the text as a stimulus for producing exceptional cinema. The comprehensive study will be of interest to students as well as teachers.

Flirting with Pride and Prejudice: Fresh Perspectives on the Original Chick-Lit Masterpiece - Jennifer Crusie, Editor. - BenBella Books, Inc., 2005. 230 p. pb. - ISBN 1932100725

One of fiction's most well-loved novels, this 19th-century classic continues to capture the hearts of contemporary readers with its notions of marriage, dating, and romance. Leading authors in the area of women's literature and romance contribute to this fresh collection of essays on everything from Lydia's scandalous marriage to George Wickham to the female-dominated Bennett household and the emphasis placed on courtship and marriage. Contributors include Jo Beverly, Alesia Holliday, Mercedes Lackey, Joyce Millman, and Jill Winters. This compilation is an excellent companion for both those new to Jane Austen and well-versed Austen-philes.


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