The Regency has come across my radar in a big way the past week. Despite being deeply interested in this period, I believe my knowledge of it is by my own lights pitiful, and – excluding the obese prince himself – kind of boils down to: Waterloo; uppity cartoonists; John Nash. Although I’m sure there’s lots of stuff I don’t know I know, if you see what I mean.
So I welcome the chance to share with you some items that will help us all be better acquainted with Regency Matters.
Elegance and Decadence: The Age of Regency
Lucy Worsley’s new television series on BBC Four: Elegance and Decadence: The Age of the Regency. The first episode, which logically focused on the prince himself, was screened last night. In a word: lavish. The programme stuck strictly to the “short Regency” – that is to say, correct dates – of 1811 – 1820. Such was the Prince of Wales’ profligacy on art, building and clothing, the problem for the producers, I suppose, was what to leave out rather than what to put in. For all his faults, George at least had impeccable taste. So we were treated to his collection, mainly the paintings, and mainly – I’m delighted to say from a personal standpoint – the works of Sir Thomas Lawrence, surely our greatest and most underrated portrait painter. Nobody could craft a silk purse from a sow’s ear quite like him. Dr Worsley gave us a quick tour of Lawrence at the National Portrait Gallery exhibition earlier this year and also the Queen’s Collection. Magnificent. We also learned that the prince purchased a Rembrandt for 5,000 guineas. And discovered the founding story of the Dulwich Picture Gallery (another personal favourite), which celebrates its 200th anniversary this year. I was interested to discover how Britain’s isolation during the Napoleonic wars gave rise to the picturesque in art and we had a detailed examination of a single Turner landscape.
We were treated to the fascinating story of Beau Brummel and his complete fall from grace after he inadvisedly and publicly insulted the Regent. And we got a good dose of Waterloo. Architecture, literature, society and politics were touched in passing and one presumes these will be developed in the coming programmes – I can’t wait.
If you missed the programme last night and prefer to avoid iPlayer, it is repeated this Thursday at 8:00pm.
A London Historians member kindly sent me a book recently called Walks Through Regency London by Louise Allen. The author has written over 30 Regency novels and is a keen explorer and collector of all things Regency. This illustrated guide features 10 walks in central London of between 1.5 and 2.5 miles each. St James’s, Mayfair, Piccadilly, Soho, the City, Southwark and more. It has a pleasing combination of plenty of detail and brevity, and while descriptive, it includes much contextual historical background. Walks Through Regency London is 48pages, A5 format, perfect for taking on your walk. I shall be road-testing it myself very soon. It costs £8.50 including postage to UK addresses. To obtain a copy, in the first instance send an email to email@example.com.
RNA Regency Readers’ Day
Those of you interested in the literature of and about the Regency will not want to miss this forthcoming all-day event, organised by the Romantic Novelists’ Association. It’s a celebration of Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer and the books they have influenced. It coincides with the launch of a new biography of Georgette Heyer, written by Dr Jennifer Kloester, and 2011 also happens to be the bi-centenary of the publication of Jane Austen’s “Sense & Sensibility”. The programme will comprise talks, panel discussions, workshops and a Regency walk of St. James’s. Refreshments and sandwich lunch are included, and there will be prizes.
Saturday 8 October 2011 9.00 Am – 6.00 PM
Royal Overseas League, Park Place, off St James’s Street, London SW1A 1LR
Tickets: £55. £7 discount for London Historians members (Quote London Historian and membership number on the application form).
More information here.
Update 6/9/11: Forgot to mention, there are quite a few Regency era-related talks at Dulwich Picture Gallery until the end of November, 2011 being their bi-centenary, a fact mentioned in Episode 1 of Lucy’s series. Summary on our Events page, here (scroll a bit).