The Life and Times of George Iv by Alan Palmer (Weidenfeld & Nicolson £2.65)
HE word "Regency" con
jures up transparencies of high living, low loving, whips. rakes, gentlemen boxers and boxing gentlemen. But Mr. Palmer has given depth to the age, drawing a vivid picture of the late eighteenth century and the Regency. Not only has he covered the intricacies of politics, but he has unravelled them in a clear concise way. In view of the shifts and cabals of the political background, this is not easily achieved.
The book also gives a nicely balanced picture of the social modes which is lent validity by the illustrations. The ambivalence of the age is brought out by the contrast between the grossness of the caricatures of Gilkey and Cruikshank set against the delicacy of the Gainsborough portraits and the taste of the Nash buildings.
The Regent's great con tribution to the arts is emphasised. Most people know that the Regent added extensively to the Royal collection of pictures, and was responsible for the seaside fantasies of Brighton Pavilion. But he was also concerned in the building up of the future British Museum and the :loyal Academy, an excellent double in the Arts.
Against this background Mr. Palmer has drawn a sympathetic portrait of a man who is more often than not portrayed as a superficial. gourmandising lecher. There was more to Prinny than that. But like so many heirs to the throne kept waiting in the wings too long, he dissipated his talents, and was given little opportunity to develop his brain.
In the short space of 217 pages this admirably illustrated book sketches in the Regent's relations with Maria