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Saturday, March 30, 2013
Eminent Victorians - by Lytton Strachey
"Eminent Victorians" by Lytton Strachey is a 1918 book that remains one of the best examples of biography ever written. (US Edition) (UK Edition) The beginning is ironic to us today, "The history of the Victorian Age will never be written; we know too much about it." Not anymore! But Strachey knew his subjects very well. He writes about four eminent Victorians, Cardinal Manning, Florence Nightingale, Thomas Arnold, and General Gordon.
Everyone knows the popular conception of Florence Nightingale. The saintly, self-sacrificing woman, the delicate maiden of high degree who threw aside the pleasures of a life of ease to succour the afflicted; the Lady with the Lamp, gliding through the horrors of the hospital at Scutari, and consecrating with the radiance of her goodness the dying soldier's couch. The vision is familiar to all— but the truth was different.
A Demon possessed her. Now demons, whatever else they may be, are full of interest. And so it happens that in the real Miss Nightingale there was more that was interesting than in the legendary one; there was also less that was agreeable.
Written in a breezy, enjoyable and factual style, this book is as appealing to us (I read it in college) as it was to the Edwardians.
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Posted by Marilyn Litt at 12:10 AM