Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England by Amanda Vickery

Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England by Amanda Vickery lands on the shelves of my shop, where it will be found in my Social History section.

New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2009, (First Edition) Hardback in dust wrapper.

Contains: Black & white photographs; Colour plates; Tables; Colour frontispiece; Illustrated endpapers and blanks;

From the cover: The Georgian house is a byword for proportion and elegance, but what did it mean to its inhabitants? In this brilliant new work, Amanda Vickery unlocks the homes of English men and women, from the Oxfordshire mansion of the unhappy gentlewoman Anne Dormer in the 16805 to the dreary London lodgings of the bachelor clerk and future novelist Anthony Trollope in the 18308. With her customary wit and verve, she evokes the interiors of a wide range of homes, introducing us to genteel spinsters keeping up appearances in two rooms, professional couples setting up home in rented houses, widowers frantic to keep their households afloat without a mistress, and servants with only a locking box to call their own.

Interiors do not offer up their secrets easily: rummaging in over sixty archives, Vickery makes ingenious use of unusual sources from upholsterers ledgers to burglary trials to tease out the hidden or taken for granted. She reveals the determining role of house and home in power and status, sentiments and strategies. In traditional political theory, the household was a microcosm of the state. The pecking order of master, mistress, servants, apprentices and children crystallized the social hierarchy in miniature. Neither the arrival of a contract theory of government, nor the fashion for sensibility dissolved domestic hierarchy. Yet even modest homes were redefined as arenas of social campaign and exhibition because of the spread of formal visiting, the proliferation of affordable, ornamental furnishings, the commercial celebration of feminine artistry at home, and the currency of the unisex language of taste. Vickery shows how domestic life came under everyday scrutiny and how the nimble hostess appreciated in value to men, who frequently yearned for the domesticity only a wife could provide.

Very Good in Very Good Dust Wrapper.

Red boards with Gilt titling to the Spine. [XVIII] 382 pages. Index. Bibliography. 9½” x 6¼”.

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