- BuyVauxhall Gardens: A History by Alan Borg and David Coke
Yale, 473 pp, £55.00, June 2011, ISBN 978 0 300 17382 6
Eighteenth-century historians can’t get enough of pleasure gardens. They seem to crystallise the new and distinctive features of Georgian society and culture in one fabulous setting. As places of commerce masquerading as wooded groves, pleasure gardens offered idealised rus in urbe. They could seem poetic in the dusk as the visitor listened to the evening chorus of resident songbirds, but were transportingly magical as night fell and hundreds, if not thousands, of lights were illuminated in the trees and colonnades. We are so accustomed to electricity that it is difficult to imagine the thrill of these oil lamps in an era when most relied on the fire in the grate and a smelly tallow candle to hold back the night.
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[*] ‘“All Together and All Distinct”: Public Sociability and Social Exclusivity in London’s Pleasure Gardens, c.1740–1800’ (Journal of British Studies, Vol. 51, No. 1, January 2012).