My recent infatuation with 18th Century Britain began with Mary Delany’s biography by poet Molly Peacock. Delany was an artist who created an impressive collection of botanical collages which are housed today in the British museum. Next came Joyner’s Dream, a novel with companion CD by Sylvia Tyson.
Recently, a friend (and former CPL colleague) recommended Garrow’s Law, a British television series; I was eager to check it out.
William Garrow (1760 - 1840) was an English barrister who transformed the rights of the accused in the British courtroom. At the time of his practice, English society was a rough place, plagued with violent crime. Policing was accomplished by “thief takers” – essentially bounty hunters – who were rewarded by convictions. Conviction brought severe punishment (flogging, branding or hanging) for crimes considered minor today.
The system also encouraged the admission of dubious evidence and severely limited a barrister’s ability to defend a client. It was plagued with political corruption and interference masked by a veneer of formal manners and restrictive social convention. To me, evil in a cloak of good manners is even more sinister.18th Century English life portrayed by Hogarth
Bonus: Garrow had an unconventional personal life that adds romance to the story.
This historical drama reveals both how far we have come and how much things stay the same.
To further immerse yourself in the English society that Garrow inherited, take a look at the many books we have about artist William Hogarth (1697-1764). Hogarth satirized the corruption, hypocrisy and prejudice of English society in works like the Harlot’s Progress and the Rake’s Progress.
Explore the setting of domestic life with The English House by James Chamber and The Town House in Georgian London by Rachel Stewart.