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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Passionate and fun, 20 Jun. 2001
This review is from: Passion and Principle: Loves and Lives of Regency Women (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
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