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Georgians Revealed

Posted on November 8, 2013

00 square le menuet. fan leaf. 1790 1811  british museum


The British Library opens a major new exhibition to the public tomorrow, November 8, Georgians Revealed: Life, Style and the Making of Modern Britain, providing insight into life in 18th- and 19th-century Britain and displaying never before seen artefacts that shed light on today’s popular culture.





Through over 200 historic objects, from rare and beautiful books from King George III’s personal library, to everyday objects and ephemera that are unique to the British Library’s collections, the exhibition reveals just how many of our current hobbies, occupations and interests were established and popularised by the Georgians, from leisure pursuits including fashion, shopping, gardening and sports, to more salacious pastimes including gambling, theatre, celebrity gossip and dance.


Dr Moira Goff, lead curator of the exhibition, says: “Because I’m a dance historian, and this is my show, I’ve put loads of dancing into it. It is my contention that ballet, as we understand it now, i.e. an entertainment where you get a whole story told only through dance and mime began in London in 1717 with a piece called The Loves of Mars and Venus by a dancing master called John Weaver and, just to prove the point, I’ve put out the libretto, which is the only thing that survives, alongside a piece of dance notation. This is one of the few periods of history where dances were notated and we can reconstruct them.




“This solo was danced by the great dancer-actress Hester Santlow, who danced Venus. I’m going to say: yes, I’ve danced that solo on the promotional video and it was a miniature drama in itself.




“Other things that happened were, of course ballet came to London from the Continent and the two Vestris – father and son – came from Paris to London and they were to star at the King’s Theatre…. They were so important that Parliament stopped for the day.”




Georgians Revealed also offers the chance to see the first ever British fashion magazines, enormous interior design portfolios by the likes of the Adam brothers, Britain’s first celebrity scandal in the press and the 1783 novel behind Pride and Prejudice, Fanny Burney’s Cecilia, which made the young novelist a household name.




The Royal College of Music has recorded new performances of music scores displayed in the exhibition, which include a signed manuscript of Handel’s Messiah, that can be heard throughout the show and are available on CD in the British Library’s shop.




Georgians Revealed at the British Library is the start of a series of events in 2014 celebrating the 300-year centenary of the start of the Georgian era. See and for more information.




Georgians Revealed opens today and runs until March 11, 2014.
  / #BLGeorgians / @britishlibrary 



Top: George Cruikshank, La Belle Assemblée, London, 1817 © British Library Board

Above: Le menuet. Fan leaf. 1790-1811 © British Museum



Zoë was born in Edinburgh, and saw her first dance performances at the Festival there. She is the dance critic of The Independent, and has also written for The Independent on Sunday, The Scotsman and Dancing Times. In 2002, she received her doctorate from the University of York for a thesis on “Nationhood and epic romance: Ariosto, Sidney, Spenser”. She is the author of The Royal Ballet: 75 Years and The Ballet Lover’s Companion.

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