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During the years when George IV ruled the United Kingdom, first as Prince Regent then as King, his extravagant tastes served to characterize the times - the Regency period being identified strongly with new trends in British architecture, fashion and culture. The literary expression of this era was the genre of so-called 'silver fork' novels set in fashionable London society. Initially devoured as authentic insights into the rarefied world of the best social circles, these novels were thus serving as etiquette primers for growing numbers of nouveaux riches.

The detail and décor of the novels gives them an enduring socio-historical interest, hence the value of Alison Adburgham's study, first published in 1983, which offers astute readings of such 'silver fork' specialists as Disraeli, Bulwer-Lytton, and Catherine Gore. With an assured eye for the social context of these works, Adburgham explores the class tensions and complex social interactions behind the high sheen of the silver fork.

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