Our Tempestuous Day Analysis
Our Tempestuous Day is a study which includes many vignettes and numerous characters—a cross section of humanity, from high to low, major to minor. American businessman Louis Simond toured Britain between 1809 and 1811, and his travels give an overview of the kingdom for the reader. Nevertheless, the regent is the central character to which the narrative continuously returns.
The portrayal of the regent is a brilliant re-creation of an individual who has completely blurred any distinction between his private life and his public responsibili-ties. Convinced that what is good for him is by definition good for the country, Prince George acts, and spends, only for himself and his desires. No matter their appropriateness, his royal residences at Carleton House and the Pavilion at Brighton, his balls and dinners, and his comforts and desires all take precedence. In one sense, he is but a product of the aristocracy of his day; selfish, self-centered, and egoistic, the regent also drinks great quantities of laudanum to control his nerves. Years earlier, he had entered into an irregular marriage to a Catholic widow, Maria Fitzherbert. Later, for reasons of state and to clear his debts, he married a German princess, Caroline of Brunswick. That marriage was a disaster. He was difficult; she was impossible. Crude, unwashed, and oversexed, Caroline was kept out of the kingdom when at all possible. Their only child, Princess Charlotte, was the heir to the throne after her father, but her relationship to both her parents was flawed at best until her untimely death. Difficult relationships and damaged personalities are one of the themes running through Erickson’s various volumes. The regent, in his solipsistic egoism and his overindulgence in food, drink, and drugs, cannot tell the difference between truth and fantasy: He frequently imagines himself as a military hero who has led his country’s armies to victory over the hated Napoleon. In reality, he never saw a battlefield.
Another major figure in Our Tempestuous Day, also representing the self-centered abuses associated with the era of the regency, was George Gordon, Lord Byron. Byron’s physical presence, his magnetic personality, and his poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage set London society ablaze in 1812. He was the candle that attracted the moths of the aristocracy and the demimonde. His quest for self-gratification— combined with a failure of commitment to anything, even to self—was a flame for many in that hedonistic society. Byron was attracted to women such as Caroline Lamb and her cousin Annabella Milbanke, and they to him. Yet he was suspicious of women of intellect and found it impossible to develop permanent relationships. Eventually, he left England for Venice and other romantic climates.
Erickson cleverly contrasts the youthful Byron with the aged Hannah More. More—“Holy Hannah”—had long been a popular author. In her sixties, she had written numerous uplifting and moralistic tracts and books, most recently Christian Morals in 1813. A member of the Evangelical movement of the Church of England, More urged the middle and upper classes to embark upon a religious and moral reformation. Conservative politically, she was an outspoken radical in her opposition to the irregular sexual mores of the court and the ruling class. By the end of the regency, More and her supporters were winning the battle that would set the scene for that respectable and earnest moral world identified with Queen Victoria, who assumed the throne in 1837.
Arthur Wellesley, the duke of Wellington, is another major figure in
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