Some interesting women, some interesting houses - which left me wanting to read more about the women, and with too much information on the colours ofSome interesting women, some interesting houses - which left me wanting to read more about the women, and with too much information on the colours of wallpapers and exactly who designed which table. It could have been more entertaining had there been more illustrations, as a book on a historical subject there were quite a lot of pictures, but as a book on architecture and interior design it was a rather small selection. I know quite a lot of what is described is now lost to us, but still it made it a times a rather dull read - while some parts were very interesting indeed (for example the chapters on Mrs. Montague and Jane Maxwell)....more
To me it felt more like an introduction to some Georgian women than a full-fledged book in itself. The biographies (grouped in somewhat thematic chaptTo me it felt more like an introduction to some Georgian women than a full-fledged book in itself. The biographies (grouped in somewhat thematic chapters) are short, nothing ground-breaking but an easy and nice way to meet interesting (upper class, mostly) women - and if someone catches your interest here the best thing would be to get a biography of that specific woman (and in many, of not most, cases such books exist).
But the women are in many case interesting and it is inspiring to keep on reading on the subject. ...more
The sordid story of the divorce of Lady Seymour Dorothy Fleming and Sir Richard Worsley which went to court in 1782 makes for a really inte(4.5 stars)
The sordid story of the divorce of Lady Seymour Dorothy Fleming and Sir Richard Worsley which went to court in 1782 makes for a really interesting read. There are no diaries or letters really preserved to shed light on what had happened, but using what is available (legal documents, newspapers, contemporary books and poems and engravings) Rubenhold still manages to paint a vivid picture of what was going on and how thing could turn out this way. ...more
I've read all of Jane Austen's books (including the more obscure ones), I've read her letters (Shields may say over and over and over again that thereI've read all of Jane Austen's books (including the more obscure ones), I've read her letters (Shields may say over and over and over again that there are some that are destroyed - but let that not give you the impression there aren't many left, because there are), I've read several biographies. And I read this book and wondered if this book is about the same woman.
Be that as it may - how we perceive a person, long gone, is always a matter of personal opinions. I do, however, have some issues with the book as a biography:
First of all, Shield does not seem to take into account what was normal in Georgian England and from time to time she falls into the trap of assuming that what would be rational to a modern person would be rational for Austen and her family.
Secondly, you can't use novels as biographical material. Sometimes Shields acknowledges this, but then she does just that. Over and over again.
Thirdly, the novels are used to draw conclusions both Austen's life and her writing techniques - when the books were first written, though three of them were published much later and we know that they were edited. None of the original first drafts survive, we just don't know what they looked like. We can't say anything about what a witty heroine Austen created in Elizabeth Bennet back in 1796, because we don't know anything about that. All we know is what a witty heroine she published in 1813.
And I must add that the last chapter is just... weird. ...more
This is not a unique kind of book. There are others. There are others which are much better. This feels very much like a collection of notes of intereThis is not a unique kind of book. There are others. There are others which are much better. This feels very much like a collection of notes of interest and quotations - not reflecting on what was norm, what was common, what you could do and what was an oddity but could still happen, nor much on differences of class in everyday life. The chapter on fashion is mainly the author saying there is so much to say that she can't cover it all (why then include it to begin with?) and then long quotes (6 pages of them) from one single book from 1864 to make up the rest of the fashion chapter. The editing isn't perfect either - for instance the subject of servants in mourning can be found both in the chapter on servants (in the beginning of the book) and in the last chapter, covering the subject of mourning in general. And the book begins with: "During the nineteenth century, modes of lighting underwent drastic changes. At the beginning of the century, primitive means of lighting, rush lights and tallow candles were the norm, while by the century's end, electricity was available to all." [No it wasn't!]...more