REVIEW: A Visitor’s Guide to Georgian England by Monica Hall
Could you successfully be a Georgian? Find yourself immersed in the pivotal world of Georgian England, exciting times to live in as everything was booming; the Industrial Revolution, the Enlightenment, and the nascent Empire; inhabited by Mary Shelley, the Romantic Poets and their contemporaries. However, rather than just wondering about the famous or infamous, you will find everything you need to know in order to survive undetected among the ordinary people. What to wear, how to behave yourself in public, earn a living, and find somewhere to live. Very importantly, you will be given advice on how to stay on the right side of the law, and how to avoid getting seriously ill. Monica Hall creatively awakens this bygone era, filling the pages with all aspects of daily life within the period, calling upon diaries, illustrations, letters, poetry, prose, 18th century laws and archives. This detailed account intimately explores the ever changing lives of those who lived through Britain’s imperial prowess, the birth of modern capitalism, the reverence of the industrial revolution and the upheaval of great political reform and class division. A Visitor’s Guide to Georgian England will appeal to Romantic poetry lovers, social history fans, fiction and drama lovers, students and anyone with an interest in this revolutionary era.
Dear Ms. Hall,
I adore me some Georgian era books and am always interested in learning more about what life was really like then. Some facts are fascinating, some are horrifying and in all honesty I’m usually happy to close a book and realize I’m still safe at home in the modern world. When I first looked at the length of this book, I was not sure how much detail there would be as it’s half the size or less of some other books on the topic. Sure enough, it is more an introduction done in scattershot fashion than an in depth exploration of the time.
The blurb promises everything one would need to know to pass undetected were one a time traveler but soon the emphasis narrows down to the aristocrats and moneyed classes or those middle class social climbers. I guess were I to go back in time I’d rather be rich than a gin soaked street walker but the odds of passing among the upper classes would seem to be lower given the explained social niceties they developed in order to keep out the hoi polloi. And since the role and opportunities allowed to most women were so restricted, more of the information applies to men
The information was interesting but I didn’t learn much that I didn’t already know. Some cool facts were the passage of the first authorial copyright law under Queen Anne and the bizarre walk done by the ladies at the French Court called the Versailles Glide. As a wide ranging skim across the era, it’s a starting place but not really more than that. C
As someone who doesn’t know much about the Georgian era, this sounds absolutely perfect. Great review!
Is it the same sort of thing as Ian Mortimer’s ‘Time Traveller’s Guide’? I love his guide to medieval England and Elizabethan England, and he always covers the rich and the poor lifestyles so maybe that would be more your kind of read.
@Alyssa: She has a very approachable style and the book is not dry and dusty.
@Jane Lovering: I think it’s supposed to be like those books but it ends up being more a “quick and dirty” version.
In The Duke of Dark Desires by Miranda Neville, the heroine knows how to do the ‘Versailles glide!”
@Claudia: Hall describes how it’s guessed it was done and then has a link to a blog and – of all things – a youtube video of a scene from The Nutcracker ballet with gliding little angels. http://leslie-carroll.blogspot.co.uk/2009/08/versailles-glide.html
Frankly after reading how it is thought it was done and the strain on your body, I’m not planning on taking it up any time soon!
thank you for the review. For a devoted Georgian buff I can quite see that there might not be so very much academic or cutting-edge, but I stuck to my remit – for better or for worse. I could have expanded it very considerably, but I just tried to fascinate as well as interest. I’ve tried the Versailles Glide (in the privacy of my own home) and, believe me, it’s excruciating.
@monica hall: Cheers for even trying it! You are a braver woman than I am.