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The Regency Years: During Which Jane Austen Writes, Napoleon Fights, Byron Makes Love, and Britain Becomes Modern (Hardcover)
A surprising and lively history of an overlooked era that brought the modern world of art, culture, and science decisively into view.
The Victorians are often credited with ushering in our current era, yet the seeds of change were planted in the years before. The Regency (1811–1820) began when the profligate Prince of Wales—the future king George IV—replaced his insane father, George III, as Britain’s ruler.
Around the regent surged a society steeped in contrasts: evangelicalism and hedonism, elegance and brutality, exuberance and despair. The arts flourished at this time with a showcase of extraordinary writers and painters such as Jane Austen, Lord Byron, the Shelleys, John Constable, and J. M. W. Turner. Science burgeoned during this decade, too, giving us the steam locomotive and the blueprint for the modern computer.
Yet the dark side of the era was visible in poverty, slavery, pornography, opium, and the gothic imaginings that birthed the novel Frankenstein. With the British military in foreign lands, fighting the Napoleonic Wars in Europe and the War of 1812 in the United States, the desire for empire and an expanding colonial enterprise gained unstoppable momentum. Exploring these crosscurrents, Robert Morrison illuminates the profound ways this period shaped and indelibly marked the modern world.
About the Author
Robert Morrison is British Academy Global Professor at Bath Spa University in England, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He has produced editions of works by Jane Austen and Thomas De Quincey. He lives in Bath, England.
Elegant, entertaining and frequently surprising.
— Miranda Seymour
Superb…The Regency period lasted for less than a decade but, as Mr Morrison argues, 'its many legacies are still all around us.' It was also, as this book amply proves, marvellously entertaining.
Morrison showcases that relatively brief period—less than a decade—as an age of ‘remarkable diversity, upheaval, and elegance.'…Given such plenty, what more could one ask from a work of cultural history?
— Michael Dirda
The Prince Regent…ruled over a period of extraordinary creativity and it is that progressive cultural legacy that Mr. Morrison commends to contemporary Britain and the rest of the world.
— Ruth Scurr
The Regency Years reads like a romance novel of its period without the novel but makes an entertaining nonfiction read with superior prose and dialogue.
— Robert Davis
The first book in three decades to focus on the Regency Period…A thoroughly entertaining…popular history that will please fans of British history and literature.
— Kelly Blewett
[A] zippy and vivid portrait of the Regency era.
— Henry Hitchings
Delightful…Morrison’s lively and engaging study not only illuminates these many and rapid changes, but convincingly argues that ‘its many legacies are still all around us.’
An intriguing discussion on the finer and more fascinating aspects of the Regency period that will appeal to history buffs.
Morrison gathers a broad range of topics into a strong, cohesive and fast moving narrative. An excellent introduction for readers new to the period and a fresh take for Regency enthusiasts.
Robert Morrison is my ideal of what a scholar should be—lively and interesting, he makes the past relevant to today.
— David Morrell, author of the Thomas and Emily De Quincey trilogy
Nobody knows more about this extraordinary, enthralling decade in British history than Robert Morrison. In The Regency Years he tells its story with a spirit and a panache that Regency writers like Lord Byron, or the pioneering sports journalist Pierce Egan, or the courtesan, memoirist, and fashionista Harriette Wilson might envy themselves. Twenty-first-century readers continue to be informed with wearisome regularity that Jane Austen and her novels were the products of a tranquil and stable and even slightly tedious world. Morrison offers indisputable evidence to the contrary, and in his pages readers will learn new things about the turbulence and the excitement, the restlessness and the radical energies of Austen’s historical moment. The Regency Years is a triumph of historical storytelling.
— Deidre Lynch, author of Loving Literature: A Cultural History
The Regency Years investigates actors, artists, and prizefighters; heroes, criminals, harlots, and statesmen. It deals with—among other things—books, battles, and scientific discoveries. Its unexpected conjunctions both illuminate a momentous decade of the early nineteenth century and shed unexpected light on our own time. Readers of this brilliant book will enjoy a rich experience, full of memorable surprises.
— Patricia Meyer Spacks, Edgar F. Shannon Professor of English, University of Virginia