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The Prince of Pleasure

Review by Cheryl Bolen

The Prince of Pleasure
J. B. Priestley
Harper & Rowe Publishers, 1969
304 pages

Officially titled The Prince of Pleasure and His Regency, this book is much more a chronicle of the regency than it is of the regent. If you invest in just one book on the regency, make it this book. For the 265 illustrations (44 of them full color) alone, it is worth it.

Slightly smaller than a high school yearbook, the book gives the readers a good feel for the regency. Some of the era’s most well known portraits, such as Queen Caroline’s Trial in the House of Lords and the prince regent’s full-length portraits, are presented here, as well as ones by Gainsborough.

Head portraits of notables, political cartoons, pictures of buildings, even copies of playbills and menus are included in this must-have reference.

Prince of Pleasure is divided into chapters, one for each year of the regency. Prior to the chapters, Priestley fills in the reader on the prince’s background and that of his large family.

Chapters are The Regency, The Romantics, Pride and Predudice, Parades and Fireworks, The Year of Waterloo, The Byron Scandal, The Line Breaks, Fact and Fiction, The Year of Peterloo, Queen’s Move, and King of Pleasure.

Priestley’s writing style is outmoded and didactic, but his book, nevertheless, fills a void.

This article first appeared in the Quizzing Glass, January-February, 2006  

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