Book Review: Our Tempestuous Day: A History of Regency England

Our Tempestuous Day: A History of Regency England
By Carolly Erickson
Robson Books Ltd, 2000 (first published 1998)

I really enjoyed this book. But then, I suppose I would, as I’m a sucker for anything having to do with Regency or Victorian England. Still, it’s sort of amazing to think that Erickson is describing the period that Jane Austen wrote in, as Austen’s books, while marvelous, don’t touch on the seedy underside where Erickson’s account often dwells (not that I mind in either case).

As I read, I found myself marking page after page where the writing or the information (or both) appealed to me. Some tidbits:

p. 233: On Byron after his years in Venice, when apparently his personality and his physique had become a bit coarse:

“Women still sometimes fainted when he entered a room, but whether from lovestruck admiration or shock and disgust was impossible to judge.”

p. 254: In the chapter on childhood education/experiences, Erickson relates the experience of novelist Mary Sherwood who recalls

how as a child of five she had been strapped into an iron collar attached to a wooden backboard. ‘It was the fashion then,’ she wrote. ‘I generally did all my lessons standing in stocks…’

The amazing bit?

Later in life [Mary Sherwood] ‘often thanked God and her beloved mother for the discipline to which she was subjected, which was very much to the good.’

The Tiger Mother‘s got nothing on this Regency matriarch.

On a broader note, Erickson made it easy to see how the excessive public morality of the Victorians (and their writers) would be a natural reaction to the amorality of the Regency period.

What about you? Have you read this book? What did you think?

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About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book, Did Dinosaurs Have Belly Buttons?, is currently planned for release in 2018. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Ten-Year-Old at Caterpickles.com, chatting about books and the writing life at BostonWriters.blog, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
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