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The Napoleon Series > Book Reviews > General Interest Books

Regency Etiquette; The Mirror of Graces (1811), By a Lady of Distinction.


Regency Etiquette; The Mirror of Graces (1811), By a Lady of Distinction. (Facsimile of the 1811 publication). Fort Bragg, CA: R. L. Shep, 1997. 241 pages of the original facsimile, plus a few unnumbered additional illustrations at the back. ISBN# 0-914046-24-1. $17.95. Softcover.

Regency Etiquette cover

Thanks to R. L. Shep for reprinting in facsimile this utterly priceless book! The Mirror of Graces was originally published in 1811 and the front page gives a breathless summary of what will be found in the book including "cultivation of the mind and the Disposition and Carriage of the Body; offering also the most efficacious Means of preserving Beauty, Health and Loveliness."

Naturally a 'Lady of Distinction', in coy anonymity, has written it. But this book was no joke in Regency times and much of the advice would have been taken very much to heart. This is a rare chance to own, for a very reasonable price, a facsimile copy of an original text. The style of writing of this period can only be described as flowery, everything is padded out with endless adjectives, adverbs and classical references. So one receives the following advice: "Again, I repeat, the libertine, the gross Epicurean, may feast his imbruted gaze upon a form so stripped of decency; for he is a creature whose sense are bent to the earth and the basest offerings are his banquet." This, apparently, is the result of leaving too much shoulder showing!

Still, in between falling about the floor in fits of laughter, the book is exceptionally good. It is a period work on dress and deportment of the period. Not only does it discuss the aspects of what should make up a young lady's education, beauty routine, dress sense, and social deportment, but it also gives you extraordinary diet and health recipes to follow. I cannot personally recommend the "Eau de Veau," which includes such promising ingredients as a calf's foot, rice, bread, camphor and alum, but I can tell you that the author cannot speak too highly of it. Now, if anyone else would like to try it...

R. L. Shep, I notice, are reprinting quite a number of these authentic period books and the subjects mostly seem to be on fashion. All look excellent and certainly the ones I have are great. On general presentation they do a pretty good job too. The binding is softcover but the outside cover seems to be laminated with plastic - or plastic coated at least. My copy of Regency Etiquette has taken an awful lot of battering and has withstood it outstandingly well. The cover has faded badly but what cover doesn't?

Regency Etiquette, I think, is a must buy for people with interest in Regency romances or fashions. Anyone with an interest in buying good quality historical fashion reprints should make R. L. Shep one of their "must visit" sites. The on-line address (URL) for R. L. Shep is:

Reviewed by Anne Woodley, editor of the Regency Collection On-Line.