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The Age of Scandal: An Excursion Through a Minor Period [Paperback]

T. H. White


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Book Description

March 1987 0192819488 978-0192819482 New edition
"Between the Classical and the Romantic movements...there existed this other age, which was one of peculiar flavour," writes T.H. White, author of the classic children's novel The Sword in the Stone and numerous other tales of Arthurian bravery. In The Age of Scandal, first published in 1950, White focuses on the period in late 18th-century England that followed the Age of Reason--a period characterized by dilettantism, material comfort, and eccentricity. The literary sway of Swift, Pope, and Dr. Johnson had by then given way to a more aristocratic set of literati, of whom Horace Walpole, writing from the house he had christened Strawberry Hill, was the most splendid and eloquent example. Walpole and his contemporaries "were among the first people in England to be apprehended as personalities," writes White. "Eccentric, individual, sentimental, dramatic, [and] tearful," they were lovers of gossip, fashion, and exhibitionistic behavior. Among the most colorful figures of the age were Selwyn, a famed execution-goer; Beckford, who built an astonishing tower at Fronthill; and Joanna Southcott, remembered for her shocking announcement that she would give birth to the new Messiah.
Based on writings by Horace Walpole and other literate recorders of the age, T.H. White has constructed a "little scrapbook of a nostalgic Tory." Here is the fascinating record of another period of literary history by one of the best-loved writers of our own. White describes the eccentricities of the 18th-century Royal Family, the fashions of the nobility--the powdering of wigs, eating and drinking, medicine, birthday parties and theater-going, and English pronunciation; attitudes toward religion and sport; and, above all, the outgageous gossip that circulated in literary circles. A witty, idiosyncratic, audacious portrait of an aristocracy on the wane, The Age of Scandal stands as an entertaining, authoritative description of the late 18th-century English literati.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Univ Pr (T); New edition edition (March 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192819488
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192819482
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.7 x 2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 227 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,520,341 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author


About the Author:
T.H. White is the author of The Once and Future King, which includes The Sword and the Stone and Mistress Masham's Repose, and the translator of The Book of Beasts, a 12th-century Latin bestiary.

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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love regency romances? Read about the real word of the Ton March 6 2011
By Marshall Lord - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
T.H. White's book is a non-fiction description of the 18th century world of the "Haut Ton," of debutantes and Lords, told with charm and humour.

As Reay Tannahill's introduction to the 1993 Folio edition of this book says, it paints a picture of 18th century British society which is "outrageously partisan, appallingly opinionated, 100% politically incorrect, and highly entertaining from first to last."

The author is, or course, best remembered today for his novels about Merlin and King Arthur, but this delightful little work, first published in 1950, is at least as worthy of being remembered. Imagine Quentin Letts with all the humour and none of the vindictiveness, and you have some idea of his approach to life.

To give you a picture of the chatty style of the book, White begins by bemoaning "the end of civilisation in England" which statement he justifies by pointing out that when he was an undergraduate at Cambridge "the Master of a college was a fabulous being" who lived a life of surpassing luxury, but when he last stayed at the university he lunched with two masters of colleges and both had to help with the washing-up after the meal.

His descriptions of the differences between society in the 18th and 20th centuries are entertaining as well as fascinating. After describing how much faster various activities were routinely carried out in his own day compared with two centuries before - "The 18th century managed to eat so much more than we do because it ate more slowly. It could drink more, by drinking all night" he concludes that

"It would be interesting to find out whether the pulse rate has gone up."

As White describes, the world of the aristocracy and the ton was a much smaller body than even the highest levels of society today. At the start of George III's reign there were only 174 peers (there were nearly a thousand when White was writing and rather more, including life peers, today.)

The book describes many of the most notorious and interesting characters and events of the 18th century: it stretches a little into the 19th, about as far as William IV, but mostly it concentrates on the reign of George III. Brummell is mentioned four times in the book, but usually as a source. The chapter "A perfect tragedy" is one of the best accounts I have ever read of the circumstances leading up to the trial and execution of Admiral Byng, who was shot, as Voltaire put it, "pour encourager les autres." Other chapters cover the church, Doctor Johnson, schools, and the relationships between men and women, of which White wrote,

"The beauties who were the contemporaries of Walpole lived through romances of such intricacy and splendour that Hollywood in delirium could scarecely do them justice."

(though they recently had a good attempt at one of the most extraordinary such stories with "The Duchess [DVD] [2008]" starring Kiera Knightley.)

If you've every wondered what the reality behind the novels of Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer was like, or have considered trying to write a story set in that period yourself and are looking for somewhere to start your research, you will not do better than this book.

If you like this book, a similar volume which gives a lot more details of the facts of the period, and is probably more accessible although the prose is not quite so beautiful or amusing, is "Georgette Heyer's Regency World by Jennifer Kloester.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Entertaining History of Eighteenth Century England Sept. 14 2009
By Diego Banducci - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This book provides a highly amusing view of eighteenth century England, specifically the period immediately following the Augustan Age, i.e., the decades between the death of Alexander Pope (1744) and the publication of Wordsworth's "Lyrical Ballads" (1798). It is both educational and very funny.

If you're interested in purchasing a hardback version, consider the beautifully bound one published by the Folio Society in 1993.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Entertaining View of 18th Century England Sept. 14 2009
By Diego Banducci - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book provides a highly amusing view of eighteenth century England, specifically the period immediately following the Augustan Age, i.e., the decades between the death of Alexander Pope (1744) and the publication of Wordsworth's "Lyrical Ballads" (1798). It is both educational and very funny.

If you're interested in purchasing a hardback version, consider the beautifully bound one published by the Folio Society in 1993.
6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Scandalous? Sept. 1 2000
By Ilana Stein - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
'Age of Scandal' details the sort of scandal and gossip that abounded during the 18th century. The king, his ministers and the "upper classes" were all subjected to the scandalmongers of the time, and White enjoys reporting on both the mongers and on their subjects.
T.H. White is a great writer, with an light manner that made this book relatively easy to read, despite its depth of detail. I believe however that it is somewhat dated. In comparison to today's media-oriented world where scandal has to be really BAD before we consider it "juicy" much of the "scandal" was just good fun. On the other hand, it was fascinating to learn about what was considered scandalous in England in the 18th century.

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