A History of Regency England
Review by Cheryl Bolen
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
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.