23 April 2012

Eminent Victorians; Lytton Strachey

Eminent Victorians Eminent Victorians by Lytton Strachey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Years ago I read the A.N. Wilson Victorians and vowed that one day I'd read the "original", and now I have.

Of the four people profiled, I'd only really heard of Florence Nightingale; Cardinal Manning, Dr. Arnold and General Gordon were complete unknowns to me.  Strachey has written profiles, often biased ones (and those biases show), rather than biographies, so there is some background and context missing.  As for bias, when writing about Cardinal Manning he talks about John Henry Cardinal Newman as being broken and virtually inconsequential after his conversion which is not quite true.  The thread that runs through all four is William Gladstone, who appears as friend, MP and Prime Minister, not always in a good light.

This was not the easiest of reads, and I spent time looking up people and events that would have been common knowledge back when the book was written.  The use of French, Latin and Greek, untranslated, was also a reminder that this was written in a very different time.

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