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Restoration London: From Poverty to Pets, from Medicine to Magic, from Slang to Sex, from Wallpaper to Women's Rights Hardcover – May, 1998
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From Publishers Weekly
Picard, a former barrister, attempts to provide not a history but a description of how people lived in London in the decade (1660-1670) following the restoration of the Stuarts. Parceled among four broad thematic sections, like "The Urban Environment" and "The Human Condition," are self-contained chapters on such subjects as gardens, parks and public spaces; housework, laundry and shopping. Each is subsequently divided into brief articles. Picard relies on primary sources, notably Pepys's (called "Samuel" throughout) famed diary, along with various other contemporary documents and records. The result is lively and informative, with a distinctly eccentric feel. This enthusiastic, conversational work conveys the immediacy of a guided tour as the author points out the furnishings of the age and dispenses colorful anecdotes. She veers between fact and hypothesis, insight and cliche, with regular personal asides. The observation, for example, that "the best hats were made from beaver fur" from Canada is followed by the news that "Samuel's [i.e., Pepys's] hat fell off into a puddle one day, when he was riding, and was ruined.... He should have been wearing his velvet riding hat." Life was not necessarily nasty, brutish and short; it was both circumscribed and enriched by elaborate codes of behavior (as observed in "The Social Context"), and made interesting by the inventiveness and limitations of 17th-century science and technology (covered in chapters on medicine and dentistry). Rummaging in the ragbag of history, Picard has come up with a hybrid that is entertaining, if taken in small doses. 39 b&w illus.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
An entertainingly over-stocked historical digest of life during London's liveliest decade of the 17th century, 166070. Picard, a lawyer at Gray's Inn and an amateur historian, is uninterested in writing a revisionist work of that most uncharacteristic era in English history, which takes in the postCivil War return of the monarchy, the growth of Great Britain's mercantile empire, and the devastating Great Fire, out of which modern London arose. Picard's book is essentially lively social history with a materialist slant and skirts complicated politics to devote itself to a minute examination of mundane life from every angle. Picard gathers evidence and testimony to create something like the contemporary grab-bag almanacs, throwing in an exceptional range of information under headings for education, sex, clothing, housework, cooking, city planning, and entertainment, just to name a few. Sources naturally include the diary of Samuel Pepys, that of the underrated John Evelyn, and the eclectic biographical briefs of John Aubery. Picard also unearths small treasuries of first-hand data: the travelogue of Cosmo, the young grand duke of Tuscany, who took in London in a reverse of the Grand Tour; educator Hannah Wolley's ``conduct'' books like The Accomplish'd Lady's Delight, a Cooking Book, and Guide to the Female Sex; heraldic scholar Randle Holme's Academy of Armory, whose descriptions of anything appearing on a coat of arms reads like the era's Sears catalogue; and the Calendar of State Papers Domestic, a cornucopia of civil papers, e.g., rewards for stray cows, plans for waterworks, petitions on behalf of brothels, and requests to Sam. Pepys for naval supplies. Beyond her assiduous research, Picard displays remarkable sympathy for those who lived in the Restoration era, getting under the age's skin even to the extent of imagining wearing stays. Picard's engaging survey energetically rummages through the attic of London's colorful past. (24 pages b&w illustrations, not seen) -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.