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Shockingly bad research and full of errors
on 22 July 1999
While very interesting and raising some interesting points Venetia Murray's book "An Elegant Madness" is shockingly badly researched and very sloppily edited. Do not rely on this book if you are not familiar with the Regency period - and do not quote from this book as truth, always use a secondary source to back up anything read in this book.
Errors are continually repeated.
She seems to have a permanant state of confusion with the Spencer (Earl Spencer) family and the Cavendish family (the Duke's of Devonshire). The 1st Earl Spencer had two daughters, Georgiana and Henrietta. Georgiana married the 5th Duke of Devonshire and had two daughters, Georgiana and Harriet. Murray consistently and continually confuses these two generations and families despite listing seven separate books on the family in her bibliography and a number of other associated books that would provide information on them. I am starting to wonder if she read the books at all - if she read that many surely she wouldn't have made those mistakes.
She calls the Marquis of Queensbury "Old Q" in fact, 'Old Q' was the Duke of Queensbury, a completely different person.
Her description of Beau Brummell is based on entirely apocryphal and disproved events. She places their first meeting on a salacious and since disproved story by Captain Gronow. She says that the Prince and Brummell fell out at an event in 1814 when Brummell insulted the Prince by asking his companion, "Who is your far friend'. This was not the case. Not only did this even actually occur a year earlier in 1813, but it was probably at least a year after the Prince and Brummell fell out. She also fails to show the influence of Brummell on clothing. She says his dress was 'leather breeches for daytime' in actual fact this was the common dress in the 1790's and not at all what Brummell introduced. No one was admitted into his dressing room either - they were entertained in his drawing room while he put on his neck cloths in the dressing room next door with the doors open.
She misdates the arrival of gas in London as 1816 - it came in 1808 and was in common use by 1815.
She continually misnames people - Lord William Pitt-Lennox for the Duke of Richmonds son Lord William Lennox. She calls James Wedderburn Webster, James Webster Wedderburn.
She confuses the Duke of Kent's mutiny in Gibralter (undated in her book but occuring in 1802) with a mutinous incident a few years earlier in Canada. She also says the Duke sentenced the man to 900 lashes, it was actually 999. But the mutiny in Gibralter was not over his cruelty, it was over his excessive regulations which prevented the men from drinking on Christmas Day.
She blandly uses 'after the war' as a statement - but doesn't state what war - one must assume she means after Waterloo. In which case it would be after the 'wars'. Given that the Napoleonic Wars dominated all but a few years of the 1788-1830 she chooses as the scope for her book she has almost no information of the effect of these wars on the country.
She quotes many things out of context to - the list of her errors, omissions and flat out misconstructions could go on.
Frankly while I am interested in much of the information she brings up, those things that I know about or have researched further have shown that she has very little discipline either in her note taking or her ability to put it into its correct context.
She jumps around her chosen 50 year period with little regard to the development of society, London or social mores. So she states with certainty it was a violent age and people were mugged etc. Yet the difference in London in the 1780's when people were robbed in the carriages in broad daylight in London streets, and in 1810 when this was extremely uncommon, is not developed at all.
It is not like Murray has put new interpretations on facts - she has taken too many events and given them incorrect dates, people or information.
This is an exceptionally sloppy book, littered with errors and should be read with extreme caution. I have only listed some of the errors in the book here.