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Ooh, I absolutely love Casanova. The second episode was as funny and likeable as the first, with even more staggeringly fabulous costumes straight out of a Fragonard painting*. Fuelling my 18th century love is The Age of Scandal by T. H. White, a book about 18th century England which I picked up at the Trinity Book Sale last week. T.H. White wrote The Once and Future King, one of my favourite books, and I was delighted to discover that he'd written about the demented Georgians. But I was slightly shocked when I started reading the first few chapters and, to my faint horror, found myself perusing a paen to the glorious days when the English aristocracy ruled the world, and a lament for the new post-war age and a Labour government who gloried in kicking the aristocracy off their perches. I didn't want to discover that someone whose writing I loved was quite so noxious, especially as I'd always understood that he was rather a liberal eccentric. And then I read on. And realised that the book, which claimed in its opening chapters to show what England had lost in demoting its nobility, was packed full of stories about aristocratic sloth, lust and avarice, not to mention even more exotic sins like necrophilia. By the time I reached lines like "the elegance of the sedan chair, however, ought not to lead us into overlooking the grimy faces who often peered through its glasses, or spattered it with mud in a riot, or died on foreign battlefields to preserve the comforts of its patrician owner", I realised without much doubt that this was satire. Which was a relief, quite frankly. And made for a much more entertaining book. Although how shameful that I, who wrote my undergrad dissertation on 18th century satire, should be so slow to recognise satire about the 18th century...

*title or description


Apr. 12th, 2005 01:34 am (UTC)
Not to be too lewd, but it looks like the gentleman beneath the girl in the swing would be able to see right up her dress, from the angle he's facing. Since, iirc, women weren't wearing underwear yet in the late 18th c., this means he's getting a full view of her nether regions, yes? Would contemporary audiences have read the painting this way?
Apr. 12th, 2005 08:39 am (UTC)
Would contemporary audiences have read the painting this way?

Oh, yes, absolutely. Fragonard's paintings are all pretty saucy! As was 18th century France....


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