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Passion and Principle: Loves and Lives of Regency Women Hardcover – 16 May 1996


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 236 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray; First Edition. edition (16 May 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0719555515
  • ISBN-13: 978-0719555510
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 16.5 x 24.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 820,776 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Book Description

In a rule-governed society where a woman is a chattel of her father or her husband, romantic love is a game played for high stakes. This book shows how women strove for love in the colourful, politically turbulent Regency era. The unfortunate daughters of George III are part of this social history.

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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A. Woodley on 20 Jun. 2001
Format: Hardcover
There were three issues at stake when I tried to figure out just how I would rate this book excellent book by Hodge. The first is its accuracy, the second its subject matter, and the third is its readability. In the end I gave it a top score because it is so very readable, and very well researched indeed - but I still hold some reservations about the subject matter which I will explain later.
But first to general comments - I was surprised at just how good this book is - how good and how much fun too. I think Jane Aiken Hodge has really excelled herself. This book certainly shows up in stark comparison to the absolutely appallingly researched book by Venetia Murray which came out at the same time . Hodge, a successful author of many novels based in the extended Regency shows herself to be mistress of her chosen topic. She is clear and very balanced in her presentation. She knows the people she is writing about and I found her marvellous at highlighting what had been relatively obscure facts (How Lady Bessborough hid her illegitimate pregnancies for instance).
I also felt she did a marvellous job in presenting gossip for what it was, and trying to present a balanced picture of some of the obscure incidents - for instance her chapter on the daughters of King George. There was quite a bit of gossip at the time, and since, about secret marraiges and illegitimate children. I felt Hodge did an excellent job presenting the issues, the sources and so on.
The book has a short introduction chapter to set it in context to the period, it contains an excellent overview of women's position in this period - legally, socially and politically.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By victorianwannabe on 19 Mar. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have long been looking for a book about this sort of subject, so was over the moon to find Passion and Principle by Jane Aiken Hodge. It is well written, very easy to read and a bit of a page turner, as well as being extremely well researched. I would certainly read it again.
There is one thing though...being a sentimental kind of girl, it did blow away all my preconceived notions that there were some Mr Darcy's out there in the Regency.This book showed that it seemed an unwritten rule that if you were a man living at that time you had to be an unprincipled prat, which is a shame. To find that one of my favourite poets, Percy Bysshe Shelley, was an idiot, was a revelation, and will now cloud over his verses for me. There are almost moments where what you are reading is very sad and depressing...there aren't quite the happy ever afters one is wanting...Even so, great read and great insight into the period.
P.s if anyone does know of any honourable men living during that period (apart from William Wilberforce) let me know!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I wish I'd taken the advice from the other reviewers that gave this a low star rating. Reading this book made me feel like I was mentally wading through treacle. I couldn't get into it and for some undefinable reason it just kept getting more and more annoying. I gave up after several chapters and threw it down the stairs where it's gathering dust in my charity book pile. If you feel a desire to read this book, borrow it from a library! I wish I had.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3 reviews
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Passionate and fun 16 Dec. 2000
By A. Woodley - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
There were three issues at stake when I tried to figure out just how I would rate this book excellent book by Hodge. The first is its accuracy, the second its subject matter, and the third is its readability. In the end I gave it a top score because it is so very readable, and very well researched indeed - but I still hold some reservations about the subject matter which I will explain later.
But first to general comments - I was surprised at just how good this book is - how good and how much fun too. I think Jane Aiken Hodge has really excelled herself. This book certainly shows up in stark comparison to the absolutely appallingly researched book by Venetia Murray which came out at the same time . Hodge, a successful author of many novels based in the extended Regency shows herself to be mistress of her chosen topic. She is clear and very balanced in her presentation. She knows the people she is writing about and I found her marvellous at highlighting what had been relatively obscure facts (How Lady Bessborough hid her illegitimate pregnancies for instance).
I also felt she did a marvellous job in presenting gossip for what it was, and trying to present a balanced picture of some of the obscure incidents - for instance her chapter on the daughters of King George. There was quite a bit of gossip at the time, and since, about secret marraiges and illegitimate children. I felt Hodge did an excellent job presenting the issues, the sources and so on.
The book has a short introduction chapter to set it in context to the period, it contains an excellent overview of women's position in this period - legally, socially and politically. In it Hodge also explains her selection of women based on the 'extended Regency' - a common phrase which is used to cover the period of the Prince of Wales majority in 1780 until he became King in 1820. The Regency itself only lasted from 1811-1820 but this extended period allows Hodge to include greater range of interesting women.
Now I come to my reservations. This is a book written entirely from already published sources so don't expect to find anything new revealed in here - mind you this isn't always a bad thing . Hodge has used sources which most people would have great difficulty getting hold of themselves- so much of the information in here will be new to most readers.Hodge never attempts to re-write history, just collect a lot of relevant characters and make sense of them. Unfortunately it does mean that the subjects she chooses to rely on aren't always the best ones- they usually happen to be the ones with most written on them. So the Duchess of Devonshire, Lady Bessborough and their offpspring get a vast deal of discussion - but Lady Jersey, Lady Cowper and Princess Lieven who were dominant personalities in the actual regency period go almost entirely without mention. Now, like I said, this is just a reservation about the book - Hodge still has a great deal of material to deal with and she deals with it confidently.
So this does end up being great resource for Regency fans who don't want to carry around a whole stack of books but would like a quick easy reference. It has most of the main women you would come across at least mentioned if not in detail.
There have been numerous similar books as this published in the past - although most have predominantly eighteenth century personalities, E Beresford Chancellor and J Fyve have written a couple of the best of them but you'd need to track them down on a used book site. As further, but slightly different reading, Amanda Vickery has done a great book recently which is on everydaylife for Gentleman's daughters which I would highly recommend too
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The scandals of Georgiana and Harriet Spencer - very disappointing 29 July 2005
By Elizabeth A. Root - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I don't necessarily fault books that are based on secondary research - there can be great value in pulling scattered material together, and in such cases, there is no need for the author to come up with new theories. The urge to claim a novelty has produced a lot of bad books.

Unfortunately, almost everything here is covered adequately in other, better books, and this superficial assemblage has little to recommend it, unless the reader wants the scandal without having to plow through other, more significant historical information. I was excited to find this book and terribly disappointed by the time I finished it.

Most of this book is narrowly focused on the love life of two sisters, Georgiana Spencer, Duchess of Devonshire and Henrietta (Harriet) Spencer, Countess of Bessborough. Hodge apparently feels that real measure of female liberation is the ability to engage in extra-marital sex, as opposed to trivialities like education, choosing one's own spouse, financial independence, etc., so she finds it terribly exciting and important that these two sisters managed to have out-of-wedlock children without being divorced. This approach seriously scants both the period and the lives of these two women.

Having read Amanda Foreman's Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire (Modern Library Paperbacks), I find Hodge's treatment of the Spencer sisters superficial and trivializing. The sisters were very active and influential in politics, actually canvassing voters and appearing in public, scandalizing the Tories. If you are interested in their lives, I'd read Amanda Foreman and skip this.

Even if one considers their extra-marital affairs to be terribly important, two woman do not make a convincing study of the period, not even of the aristocratic class. Their license is rather offset by the cloistering of the royal princesses. One is left not knowing whether this events are the result of social trends or individual decisions. Certainly the Duke of Devonshire's family did not take Georgiana's conduct lightly and urged him to divorce her. Would the entire position of women in this period have been revolutionized if one man had decided on a divorce? Henrietta Spencer's husband began divorce proceedings against her in 1788, after learning of her affair with Sheridan, but was persuaded by family pressure to drop them. Elizabeth Vassell, Lady Webster, was divorced in 1797. Hodge doesn't really canvas the era and contrast it with others to make a convincing case.

Toward the end of the book, Hodge deals with female authors - this section is actually interesting. Here Hodge argues that during this period, woman were more likely to wrote under their own names, not concealing their gender under masculine or gender-neutral names as the Brontes later would. Of course, this is probably much better covered in literary histories of the period.

I recommend this only to people who want to be sure they have read everything on this period. I wouldn't recommend it as an introduction to the period in general or the lives and status of women. A very interesting book which overlaps the beginning of the era and actually provided a much more acute look at women's lives is Brian Dolan's Ladies of the Grand Tour: British Women in Pursuit of Enlightenment and Adventure in Eighteenth-Century Europe.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
18th century ladies 20 Jun. 2011
By Rowena T. Mason - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book. It contains brief biographies of some fascinating late 18th century and early 19th century ladies. It reads like Regency romance, but these stories are true. The biography of Jane Austen is particularly interesting.
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