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High Society in Regency Period, 1788-1830 (2000)

by Venetia Murray

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5941039,854 (3.67)25
A history of English Regency, a period marked by unusual elegance. The author analyzes the contribution made by aristocrats fleeing the French Revolution and contrasts the elegance of the rich with the lot of the poor, the period also being known for the Luddite riots.

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Regency England was a time period that technically lasted from 1811-1820 and which you might recognize as the setting of the genre known as “regency romances”. An Elegant Madness is an impressively thorough discussion of the time period, with chapters on everything from clothes to dinners, to society and scandalous sex lives. Although the author’s tone is fairly scholarly and dry, the topics and first hand accounts make for some fascinating reading.

The author’s research was clearly extensive and I loved all the snippets of letters she shared. I also appreciated the in-text citations, which are always useful for distinguishing fact from speculation. On the other hand, the author’s writing style was somewhat dry and the chapters occasionally felt like a collection of loosely connected anecdotes. The random, untranslated bits of French were also somewhat distracting. Fortunately, one thing saved the book from being too scholarly and hard to follow. Through the anecdotes chosen, the author does an amazing job conveying the feel of the fascinating society that was Regency England.

I would honestly recommend this book to anyone with some interest in history. The time period includes much upheaval and many contradictions, so it contains a variety of aspects that could appeal to many different kinds of readers. There was chivalry and romance, high society and balls and duels. There were crazy sexual escapades and and fabulous feasts and grandiose entertainments. And the author does a great job covering all of these aspects of Regency England with smoothly integrated quotes and superb commentary. I doubt anyone could read this book without at least a momentary desire to experience life as a member of high society in Regency England.

This review first published on Doing Dewey. ( )
  DoingDewey | May 6, 2013 |
If you are like me and your main impression of the Regency Era was based on just the snippets of the works of Jane Austin you had been partially exposed to over the years you will be quite surprised to find out that this time period was not as staid, reserved and restrictive as it seemed, I had always had the impression it wasn't that much different than the Victorian Era. And boy was I wrong.

This was a very dynamic and chaotic time of near constant change and flux.
And yet this book shows how elements and inventions from this time period have influenced our world to this day.

The authors style is very light and humorous making the book very accessible to even casual history fans, but it is also very informative and her knowledge base is quite vast.

My only quibble with this book was the use of illustrations. I feel the author used far to many cartoons satirizing the social and political scene vs. more realistic illustrations that would have made what she was writing about seem more real. After awhile I didn't even bother to look at them any more. ( )
1 vote Kellswitch | May 16, 2011 |
This is a wonderful resource for someone looking to find out the basics about the reality of life in the Regency period and should be required reading for many authors who write about the period. She goes into detail about the food, the fashions, the people and the habits and how it differed from previous and later generations. It's told in an engaging way with chapters concentrating on particular issues. Much of the information is taken from contemporary sources and it's got a pretty comprehensive bibliography, there are both footnotes and endnotes (which I actually like in a book).

Worth a read if you're interested in the period. ( )
  wyvernfriend | Dec 6, 2010 |
While compiling interesting trivia about a fascinating period of history, the book is riddled with factual errors which neither author nor editors seemed to mind. Some dates are wrong, nicknames are mixed up, and people are not properly identified. Since so many things are incorrect I am not really sure that it is of any use as a non-fiction account of the times.

Here is the link to an excellent review that sums up my feeling about the book, http://www.amazon.com/review/R2OVFWNI6PGMT8/ref=cm_cr_pr_cmt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=06... hopefully linking other people’s reviews is allowed… ( )
  anutany | Oct 26, 2010 |
I've never had this much fun reading an non-fiction book.

Not quite narrative in style... more like a thematic gossip rag. ( )
  C.Vick | Apr 6, 2010 |
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The years of the Regency have come to be synonymous with an elegance and style which are unique in the history of English culture: but they tend to be seen through a romantic haze.
Such excesses were a delight to Jane Austen. The vogue for a profusion of trimmings on hats provoked her to write to her sister Cassandra that 'Flowers are very much worn, and fruit is still more the thing. Elizabeth has a bunch of strawberries, and I have seen grapes, cherries, plums and apricots. There are likewise almonds and raisins, French plums and tamarinds at the grocers' but I have never seen any of them in hats' p.250
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A history of English Regency, a period marked by unusual elegance. The author analyzes the contribution made by aristocrats fleeing the French Revolution and contrasts the elegance of the rich with the lot of the poor, the period also being known for the Luddite riots.

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