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Private pursuits

Much of George’s patronage was intended to reinforce his public image, but he also collected works to amuse himself in his private hours. Theatrical, view and satirical prints and drawings entertained him after dinner, when (if not hosting a lavish party) he would sit with a close circle of friends looking through portfolios of prints. He read widely, from Classical history to the novels of Jane Austen, which he greatly enjoyed.

No precise records of the appearance of George’s library at Carlton House survive, but a bill of 1806 indicates that the room was furnished at that date with bookcases, tables and reading stands of ebony inlaid in ivory. The bookcases, their contents, and tables here are from the Carlton House library, although they have been altered in the nineteenth century.

George’s collections provided him with a freedom that he did not enjoy in real life. Through his books, prints and drawings he could learn about those countries he was unable to visit in person, and follow the military campaigns in which his father refused to let him participate. His collections are witness to his particular fascination with French history and culture, an interest that would inform his collecting throughout his life.

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