My Cat All My Pleasure

Gillian Darley

  • Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England by Amanda Vickery
    Yale, 382 pp, £20.00, October 2009, ISBN 978 0 300 15453 5
Cut-paper work by Anna Maria Garthwaite (1707)
Cut-paper work from 1707 by the 17-year-old Anna Maria Garthwaite, who later became a designer of patterned silks for dresses

In contrast to the still contentment of a Zoffany conversation piece or the energetic racket conjured up by Fielding’s novels, life indoors in Georgian England was frequently a dull, hard and miserable business. For those who did not fit the norms, social or material, the outcome was often exceedingly uncomfortable. As Amanda Vickery writes in Behind Closed Doors, her sparkling, richly detailed investigation of what she calls the ‘hazy background’ to the Georgian household, ‘cruelty begins at home.’ She looks at many types and conditions of person throughout the long 18th century, but the picture is never sharper than when she focuses on those men and women who by accident, of fate or of birth, did not have homes of their own.

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