Books Under the Christmas Tree?
The rapid approach of Christmas made me think about books for presents and titles I have particularly enjoyed adding to my collection this year. I thought I'd share five of them that might make useful additions to your own list for Santa, or provide inspiration for gifts for history-buff friends.
My first is from Shire Publications, but is a much larger volume than the familiar Shire guides. Peter Matthew's London's Bridges covers them all from Hampton Court Bridge to Tower Bridge with excellent photographs and historic images. I've found it invaluable for working out what was in existence at a particular date and what it looked like then. But beside that practical use, it is full of fascinating stories and facts.
Staying with the watery theme, the next title is James Stevens Curl Spas, Wells & Pleasure Gardens of London. This contains exactly what it says on the cover - a comprehensive survey of every one of these attractions from the 17th to the 19th centuries. There are the famous, such as Sadler's Wells and Vauxhall Gardens and the obscure - Finch's Grotto Gardens, Acton Wells, the Bayswater Tea Gardens and the Devil's House. As well as the facts about each site there is a fascinating exploration of the social background.
My absolute favourite exhibition this year was the National Portrait Gallery's Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power & Brilliance. The effect for me was of eating very expensive chocolates while wrapped in warm velvet - luxurious, sensual and completely addictive! The catalogue, which is loaded with illustrations, is the next best thing to being able to smuggle a Lawrence home with me. (And for sheer swash-buckling gorgeousness, any author in search of a hero couldn't go far wrong with the portrait of Charles William Vane-Stewart, later 3rd Marquess of Londonderry. Phew!).
A rather less flamboyant man is depicted in The Journal of a Georgian Gentleman: the Life & Times of Richard Hall, 1729-1801, edited by his 4-times grandson, Mike Rendell.
This is packed full of everything from household accounts to observations on ballooning, the wild beasts at the Talbot Inn, the weather, the games the family played, recipes - an absolutely fascinating lucky dip into the life of a Georgian gentleman of the middling sort. My only criticism is the lack of an index.
Fully indexed and with a useful bibliograhy is Coachmaker: the Life & Times of Philip Godsal 1747-1826 by John Ford. Godsall was one of the top coachmakers of his time and left a detailed record of his business and his social and domestic life. He was incredibly well connected - a son in the household of George III, one daughter married to an MP, another to Nelson's attorney. He even supplied a carriage to Napeoleon's mother! He travelled all over the country and this beautifully illustrated book includes information on Cheltenham, the theatre, food and drink, gardening and a host of other topics as well as fascinating insights into carriage-making.
And finally, if you need a stocking-filler, there is my Walks Through Regency London - ten walks through modern London taking you into the world of the "long Regency" and illustrated throughout with original Regency prints. It is available from my website www.louiseallenregency.co.uk at £7.50 plus postage.