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This amusing foray into eighteenth-century literature is an entertaining tabloid biography of an age not unlike our own; men and women of fashion led their lives under the avid scrutiny of a public who had a sharp appetite for scandal and sensation.
In the period between the so-called Age of Reason and the Romantic Revival – that which the author calls the Age of Scandal – aristocratic and privileged eccentrics flourished and the professional writer declined. Here we meet notorious persons such as the Marquis de Sade; the Duke of Queensberry; who dislocated London’s milk supply; and the countess of Kingston, who journeyed to Rome in the hope of seducing the Pope. There are also lesser figures like the Misses Gunning, who were so beautiful that seven hundred people sat up all night to see them leave an inn.
T.H. White contends that these cultivated and fortunate individuals, best represented by Horace Walpole, were Elizabethan in their natures, without the formality of Alexander Pope or the exaggerated raptures of William Wordsworth.
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