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4.3 out of 5 stars19
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 11 October 2013
This book is a very well researched study of Covent Garden and its adjoining districts in the eighteenth century with 174 illustrations with pithy comments and evocative descriptions based on contemporary accounts. The author notes the exact locations of many dwellinghouses, coffee shop, studios etc to prove his thesis [he succeeds, even though there was at the time no established middle class to be bohemian against]. I had to go to the endpapers of "Boswell's London Journal" published by Heinemann in 1950 which has a plan of CG showing some of the places he mentions. Something similar in this book would be helpful. On a minor point. I annot agree that the present Covent Garden is a "charmless tourist trap", The tourists I can't answer for, but architectually St Paul's church still dominates the piazza with its portico and great Tuscan eaves protecting us from the fierce London sun, looking over Fowler's market building, itself an outstanding piece of architecture.
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The world of ‘bohemian’ London in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries crops up often in some of the books that I read; by the time of Dickens much of this unique world and way of life had gone, but there is still a shadow of it in his writing. The pictures and caricatures, the satirical and often scathing indictments on society, politics and culture that were offered by artists such as Rowlandson and Hogarth, probably the best known ‘popular’ artists of the time have lived on and still offer relevant commentary to viewers today.

The author has taken an area focusing around Covent Garden and offered a view of the lives, occasions and output of some of these artists who lived in this hothouse of inspiration. Many of the most well-known artistic and literary names of the eighteenth century lived, at one time or another in this area, and this book covers the artists. It would be nice to find a book that covered the literary aspect of this area and time; that too would make a tremendous read. There is an Appendix in this book that lists all that is known of 146 artists and engravers who lived in and around the Covent Garden area during the period in the book; that makes for a lot of people of artistic temperament living in a small area, and making the most of life. Most of them lived hard, fast and sometimes brutal lives, and this shows in a lot of their work – bawdy, cutting, brutally ‘warts and all’ images of life and living in the eighteenth century. There is more to be learned by studying some of these images than could be said in many words about the same scene, and they repay close study immensely. The author has included about 200 images in the book, and they are all related and referenced to the text and points made therein. This makes for a great and thoroughly engaging read about a time and place that seemed quite unique in the European world. Quite remarkable, and extremely interesting.
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on 14 August 2014
Very interesting and thorough history of a formative period in the capital's history.
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on 14 October 2014
Extremely well written book, and a must if you are interested in the period
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on 26 February 2015
A terriffic venture into Georgian London and the Covent Garden art scene
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on 13 October 2013
This book not only brings to life a fascinating area of London but also the lives of the people, the artists,actors and writers who lived there. It is really readable history at it's very best. I had never seen many of the illustrations before and they help to make it a shocking but gloriously funny book.
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on 18 December 2013
As usual with Vic Gatrell this is informative, entertaining and very well written. A must for history buffs and those interested in London.
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on 4 November 2013
well written informative book that brought the 18th century alive haven't finished reading it yet my pleasure before I fal;l asleep
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on 22 April 2016
It is informative factually but surprisingly hard to read. I found my attention wandering. Perhaps a bit more sub editing would have helped.
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on 25 April 2016
If I had a time machine, I'd want to go and see for myself the Covent Garden that Vic Gatrell describes so vividly in this wonderful book.
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