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Our Tempestuous Day:
 A History of Regency England

by Carolly Erickson

Review by Cheryl Bolen

Our Tempestuous Day: A History of Regency England
By Carolly Erickson
William Morrow and Company, 1986
302 pages, $18.95

Calling Our Tempestuous Day a history of Regency England is a huge fallacy. The book is in no way a complete history of the regency, nor is it much of a partial history. But that is not to say the book has no merit. It certainly does.

Erickson left her position as a history professor (her last stint at California State University at Northridge) to write full time, and she is possessed with not only a keen dramatic flair but also instinctive knowledge of what people find interesting. Her narrative flows like the best of fiction, and her research is accurate.

Unlike books by historians, Erickson’s book has no table of contents; it doesn’t even have chapter names. There is little transition between chapters because each chapter deals with a different aspect of the regency. For example, one whole chapter is devoted to Lord Byron and Caroline Lamb, another to moralist Hannah More and the reformers, and another to Princess Caroline. The period’s famous events, such as Princess Charlotte’s wedding, Waterloo, the deaths of Princess Amelia and Charlotte, and the Peterloo disaster are chronicled within these pages. Sixteen black and white illustrations enhance the book.

Our Tempestuous Day is an interesting book. Erickson has the ability to humanize history. Here’s an example: "When the doctor at London Hospital saw six-year-old John Hawley, he told the coroner that he was in no doubt about how the boy died. There was a large and ugly bruise on his forehead, and another on his knees, and a deep gash running down one leg and foot that had become septic caused death. They boy had evidently received no medical treatment, though his condition had been grave and the look of him most pitiable.

"At the inquest the facts came out. John Hawley was a climbing boy, an apprentice to a chimneysweep named Moles." Thus begins a chapter on oppressed children of the regency.

While Erickson’s book is not comprehensive, it does give the reader an insight into many aspects of the period, and the richness of her historical details makes for a good read.

This review first appeared in Quizzing Glass in March 2006.   

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