New Book | The Game of Love in Georgian England

Posted in books by Editor on December 20, 2018

From Oxford UP:

Sally Holloway, The Game of Love in Georgian England: Courtship, Emotions, and Material Culture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019), 256 pages, ISBN: 978-0198823070, £60 / $75.

Courtship in Georgian England was a decisive moment in the life cycle, imagined as a tactical game, an invigorating sport, and a perilous journey across a turbulent sea. This volume brings to life the emotional experience of courtship using the words and objects selected by men and women to navigate this potentially fraught process. It provides new insights into the making and breaking of relationships, beginning with the formation of courtships using the language of love, the development of intimacy through the exchange of love letters, and sensory engagement with love tokens such as flowers, portrait miniatures, and locks of hair. It also charts the increasing modernization of romantic customs over the Georgian era—most notably with the arrival of the printed valentine’s card—revealing how love developed into a commercial industry. The book concludes with the rituals of disintegration when engagements went awry, and pursuit of damages for breach of promise in the civil courts.

The Game of Love in Georgian England brings together love letters, diaries, valentines, and proposals of marriage from sixty courtships sourced from thirty archives and museum collections, alongside an extensive range of sources including ballads, conduct literature, court cases, material objects, newspaper reports, novels, periodicals, philosophical discourses, plays, poems, and prints, to create a vivid social and cultural history of romantic emotions. The book demonstrates the importance of courtship to studies of marriage, relationships, and emotions in history, and how we write histories of emotions using objects. Love emerges as something that we do in practice, enacted by couples through particular socially and historically determined rituals.

Sally Holloway is the Vice Chancellor’s Research Fellow in History and History of Art at Oxford Brookes University. Holloway is an historian of emotions, gender, material culture, and romantic relationships in Georgian England. After completing her AHRC-funded PhD at Royal Holloway in 2013, she worked on the Georgians season at Historic Royal Palaces, and taught at Queen Mary University of London, Oxford Brookes University, and Richmond, The American International University in London. With Stephanie Downes and Sarah Randles, she is co-editor of Feeling Things: Objects and Emotions through History (OUP, 2018).


1  The Language of Love
2  Love Letters
3  Love Tokens
4  The Marketplace of Love
5  Romantic Suffering
6  Breach of Promise

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