Saturday, 24 September 2016

New book on the Georgians

Peter Ackroyd's book on the eighteenth century, Volume IV in his History of England is now out. I haven't yet had the chance to look at it, but you might find it a good read - and ask for it as a Christmas present?

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Politeness, sociability, and the literary world

Two of the dominant values of the Georgian era were 'politeness' and 'sociability'. Together they give an insight into the values of the period, its leisure pursuits, and its intellectual interests.  


The term, derived from the Greek polis (city state), carried implications of good breeding and sociability. ‘Politeness’ united (most of) the aristocracy, gentry, and middling sort in a common culture of ‘gentility’. They frequented the spa towns of Bath, Tunbridge (not yet Tunbridge Wells) and Buxton. Those who could afford to do so spent the winter in London where they attended plays and concerts, and retreated to the countryside in the summer where they paid ceaseless calls on their neighbours and attended the provincial theatre and assemblies. Like Jane Austen's Fanny Prince in Mansfield Park, they subscribed to circulating libraries. See here for another account of circulating libraries.

Newspapers and periodicals

In 1695 Parliament had made the momentous decision not to renew the Licensing Act that had required all published works to gain government approval before publication. This was followed by what the historian Julian Hoppit (A Land of Liberty? England 1689-1727, Oxford, 2000) has called ’an explosion of printed matter issuing from the press, be it books, pamphlets, sermons, journals, or newspapers’. One foreigner noted that 
‘England is a country abounding in printed Papers’. 
These catered for a reading public eager for news and the expression of opinion.

The Daily Courant (1702) was the first daily newspaper. 

Members of polite society also read periodicals, The Tatler, The Spectator, and (from 1731) The Gentleman's Magazine.

Title page of The Gentleman's Magazine
from 1759.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

The first two Georges

The Hanoverian dynasty celebrated in
the Painted Hall in Greenwich
Sir James Thornhill

At 6 pm on 18 September 1714 Georg Ludwig, Elector of Hanover, landed at Greenwich, to be greeted by cheering crowds. In August, following the death of Queen Anne, he had been proclaimed King of Great Britain. He spent his first night in England at the Queen's House. The following day he held his first royal reception there. 

George owed his crown to the Act of Settlement of 1701, which settled the English succession in favour of George’s mother, the Electress Sophia of Hanover and her heirs, ‘being Protestant’.

It remains the law to this day and is the present Queen’s legal title to the throne. By the laws of hereditary succession, James Francis Edward (the Old Pretender), the son of the deposed James II, was the rightful king, but his Catholicism barred him from the throne.