Monday, September 19, 2011

Review: The Pageant of Georgian England by Elizabeth Burton

I was bored, having a Jane Austen/Regency craving, and at the library. I have, of course, read Jane Austen’s novels several times over, and find Georgette Heyer to be infinitely boring. (Really, after a while the characters start running together. Independent female lead who is quite witty meets rakish but otherwise good natured male lead. Throw in some hot headed young heiress and her lover. Add a few quirky family members. Hilarity Ensues.) So, I started looking through the books about England. And it was in the travel section, of all places, I found this book. I figured I would give it a try, if nothing else. I was pleasantly surprised.

Keeping in mind the book was written in the 60’s, and most likely some of the information has been found to be inaccurate at this point, I still found the book both informative and entertaining. Burton has a light-hearted style that keeps the book from becoming merely “a history book”. And certainly one can’t imagine her droning on in a monotone on the subject. In fact, the book reads less like a lecture and more like a conversation. She makes snarky comments about the scandals of the nobility, which gave me the idea of Regency Reality TV, Just Add Hot Tub. Sometimes she’ll be discussing one person, and mention that they’ve met this other famous person in a rather nonsequitur aside. This is common in regular conversation, especially if the person talking is easily distracted. She has copious footnotes that give brief explanations without overwhelming the text. All this did was leave me wanting to learn more.

Another strength of this book is that it focuses more on minutiae, little details. The first chapter is a general overview of the Georgian period but the rest details various aspects of day to day life: the various types of housing, decorations, medicine, etc. Most appropriately it ends with gardening, the crowning glory of the English. I found this chapter most interesting, especially with regards to landscaping and improving, which was a big topic in my favorite Austen novel, Mansfield Park. The paragraphs on Repton also put Henry Crawford and Mr. Rushworth in a clearer context. If I understand Ms. Burton aright, Repton would have found both to be rather silly (mostly Rushworth).

It was a fun read overall, and I’m thinking of reading the other books in her series. She has written about the Elizabethan and Stuart eras. But that won’t be till I’m done with my other five hundred books.

Also, Happy Talk Like A Pirate Day

Has anyone noticed Will is a fop?

1 comment:

  1. Sounds delicious! I have been craving some good Jane Austen-type books lately too (mainly for the time period). I might have to try this one. And by the way, LOVE the idea of Regency Reality TV! I think you should write a mini story!