Maroon, Fred J. The English Country House: A Tapestry of Ages.

Charlottesville, VA: Thomasson-Grant, 1987.

There are quite a few lavish volumes on the phenomenon of the English country house, and I’ve read most of them. It was a family home, rural retreat, setting for entertainment and political meetings, and a mark of standing in the upper classes, and while other countries have had something similar, developed over many centuries, the real “country house” is a purely English thing.


Published in: on 5 May 2015 at 6:20 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

“Good Form” in England, “by an American Resident in the United Kingdom.”

NY: D. Appleton, 1888.

There were literally scores of volumes published in 19th-century Britain on the subject of good manners, proper etiquette, and correct behavior in society, which leads one to believe the nouveau riche, especially, had deep insecurities about social class. I’ve read quite a few of these publications and there’s a good deal of natural similarity among them. But this one is quite different. The anonymous author says up-front that his purpose is “to provide Americans with a concise, comprehensive, and comprehensible hand-book which will give them all necessary information respecting ‘how things are’ in England.”


Sykes, Christopher Simon. The Golden Age of the Country House.

NY: Mayflower Books, 1980.

The English country house was a major social institution among the upper classes for a couple of centuries, up to World War I, when society and national political and economic life changed rapidly and dramatically. Because the aristocracy basically ran things, weekend parties at the country house had political consequences, too.


Weldon, Fay. Long Live the King.

NY: St. Martin, 2013.

This second volume in the author’s Edwardian trilogy is a considerable improvement over the first. The old queen has finally died and the family of the Earl of Dilberne is caught up in the planning for the coronation of Edward VII.


Weldon, Fay. Habits of the House.

London: Head of Zeus, 2012.

Most people will have forgotten (if they ever knew) that Fay Weldon wrote the pilot episode of the original Upstairs, Downstairs back in 1971. However, a fan of that series who picks up this book (the first volume of a trilogy) expecting more of the same is likely to be bemused. (Nice aristocratic word, that.)


Marsh, Ngaio. Scales of Justice.

Boston: Little, Brown, 1955.

Along with Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh was one of the Big Three British mystery novelists of what is now called the Golden Age. I’ve always enjoyed Sayers’s books (still very popular), though I never cared at all for Christie (still enormously popular), but it puzzles me why Marsh’s stores featuring DCI Roderick Alleyn of Scotland Yard have sort of fallen by the wayside.


Published in: on 11 March 2013 at 8:59 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

Kloester, Jennifer. Georgette Heyer’s Regency World.

London: Heinemann, 2005.

Georgette Heyer, who single-handedly invented the genre of “Regency romance,” was noted for (among other things) the accuracy and detail of her research.


Published in: on 9 March 2013 at 5:35 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

Bowen, Rhys. A Royal Pain.

NY: Berkley, 2008.

This is the second in Bowen’s most recent mystery series and it’s not bad — as long as you’re not expecting hard-boiled noir, shoot-outs, car chases, or the Mafia. Lady Georgiana of Rannoch is the half-sister of a duke and while she has the Swiss private school education and the social contacts, she has barely a shilling to her name.


Bowen, Rhys. Her Royal Spyness.

NY: Berkley, 2007.

This is the first offering in Bowen’s third series of humorous murder mysteries, this time set in the spring of 1932 and featuring the young Lady Georgiana, half-sister of the Duke of Glen Garry and Rannoch (known to all as “Binky”), and granddaughter of “the least attractive of Queen Victoria’s daughters.”


Lurie, Alison. Foreign Affairs.

NY: Random House, 1984.

Prof. Vinnie Miner, a specialist in children’s literature and folk culture at what passes for Cornell, is small in stature and plain of face, now in her fifties and well practiced at living by (and for) herself. She’s selfish, in a constructive sort of way, but the fact that she was raised to be a lady generally wins out. (Though her neighbors had better keep an eye on their roses.)