Mrs Hurst Dancing: and Other Scenes From Regency Life, 1812-1823

By Gordon Mingay & Diana Sperling


Di Sperling was an amateur artist of considerable skill. Her paintings are a delight. In a charmingly informal manner, she depicts the daily events in the lives of her family and friends: donkey races, riding parties, acting charades, hanging wallpaper.

Diana also had a wicked sense of humour, an unerring eye for someone else’s bad luck, and if her sister Isabella rolled from her donkey (which she frequently did) or brother Harry tumbled off his colt, this too was recorded with hilarious accuracy.

Diana’s paintings have a wonderful freshness, a humour, a sense of fun and sheer joie de vivre, but they also form a unique social document. They show us the way Jane Austen’s characters would have lived and they bring to us, over a space of 160 years, a glimpse of country life in Regency England.

The seventy pictures reproduced here were painted by Diana Sperling between the years 1812 and 1823. Diana or Di as she was known in the family was born in 1791 and until her marriage in about 1834 she lived with her parents, brothers and sister at Dynes Hall near Halstead in Essex. Many young ladies could boast of drawing as an accomplishment, but unlike most of them.

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