Friday, December 6, 2013

Boyle's Court and Country Guide

If there was one book certain to be in the home of every social aspirant of the Regency era, it would have been Boyle's Court and Country Guide.

First published, I believe, in 1792, this little book--updated about every three months--was a guide to everyone in Regency society, where they lived and their occupation or rank. The listings were organized in the first half of the book by street name.
If you wanted to rent a house for the Season, you could ensure that the street you chose was occupied by illustrious neighbours.

The second half of the book was organized by names. If you met someone at a rout or ball, as soon as you returned home you could discover their address, the name and location of their country estate, and ensure that their acquaintance was worth cultivating.

These samples are from an 1821 issue of the guide. In the back of the book is a list of the 'best' hotels and coffee-houses (also clubs) of London. By 1824, this list had expanded to include boarding-houses.

In 1821, Eliza Boyle is listed as offering the services of the Court Guide; it may have been her husband who began the publication. Three years later it appears her son, G. H. Boyle, has taken over the operation. A unique service is advertised in the front of the book. It is a paid delivery service for visiting cards, invitations etc.

The 1857 issue of Boyle's followed the same basic pattern of earlier issues, but also it contained wonderful advertisements, and I'm wondering what year that began.


Boyle's Court Guide continued to be published for some 140 years until it was absorbed about 1934 by Webster's Royal Red book. Google Books has some 1821, 1824 and 1857 issues for free download, and Westminster City Archives have some issues, if you can access them. If you have access to the Getty Research Institute, they have many more issues. (I don't have that access, but I'd love to see some of the issues from the early 1800s.)

Much like a Regency socialite, I will have Boyle's Court Guide at hand, when next I am contemplating Regency society!

'Til next time,
Lesley-Anne

2 comments:

Anne Gallagher said...

Like an earlier version of the telephone directory. What fun.

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

Very much like a phone book. It also reminds me of the 'Henderson Directory' which was in every town in Canada when I was a child--a street and business guide.