Fridge Brilliance: One possible reason for the arduous pace in the beginning of the book:
Volume I - Mr Norrell:He hardly spoke of magic, and when he did it was like a history lesson and no one could bear to listen to him.
Why is Norrell so defensively proud and reflexively sarcastic in both book and series, so desperate to make English magic respectable and by inference, respected? It comes down to this line in the final episode of the series:
Norrell: Please do not laugh. It is cruel to laugh.
It comes in response to his feeble attempt at combat magic against Strange, summoning a small indoor rainstrom. Strange, the more powerful, mercurial and classical magician, promptly starts laughing at the absurdity of it and opens up all of Norrell's childhood and youth. He's the first practical magician in England for centuries, while magic is now the province of street sorcerers and charlatans. He's also a small, dull and not particularly confident man, not being that likely to have many friends in the first place, and would probably have been extensively mocked by his peers, with everyone whispering about him behind his back. Of course he would hate being laughed at, especially by Strange, who is everything he is not. Notably, Strange seems to recognise this, and apologise.
"No English magician has ever killed a fairy". And by the end of the television series, this is still true — Stephen Black, who has received all of English magic, was born on a slave ship in the middle of the ocean. So, technically, a man without a country.