The Regency Years: During Which Jane Austen Writes, Napoleon Fights, Byron Makes Love, and Britain Becomes Modern

Robert Morrison. Norton, $29.95 (416p) ISBN 978-0-393-24905-7
In this delightful history, literary scholar Morrison argues that England’s Regency period (1811–1820) was “perhaps the most extraordinary decade in all of British history,” and “marked the appearance of the modern world.” In support of this position, Morrison surveys the brief epoch from a variety of perspectives, asserting that it was characterized by many of the contradictions of the Prince Regent’s own personality. English society’s criminal underworld exploited vast economic and political inequities; many others, from the Luddites who smashed the machines that took their jobs, to the radical poet Percy Shelley, attempted to redress them. Pleasure-seekers savored new opportunities for shopping, dancing, gambling, drinking, and sports, and Lord Byron became both a revered literary artist and the icon of the nascent celebrity culture. As the libertinism of the 18th century gave way to the puritanism of the Victorian era, some English men and women experimented with new types of sexual identities, despite the social censure and even capital punishment they risked. At the decade’s end, England was a very different place than it had been at its beginning, and Morrison’s lively and engaging study not only illuminates these many and rapid changes, but convincingly argues that “its many legacies are still all around us.” (Apr.)
Reviewed on : 01/30/2019
Release date: 04/30/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
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