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Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire [Paperback]

Amanda Foreman
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Mar 2004

Sex, intrigue and adultery in the world of high politics and huge wealth in late eighteenth-century England.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire was one of the most flamboyant and influential women of the eighteenth century. The great-great-great-great aunt of Diana, Princess of Wales, she was variously a compulsive gambler, a political savante and operator of the highest order, a drug addict, an adulteress and the darling of the common people.

This authoritative, utterly absorbing book presents a mesmerizing picture of a fascinating world of political and sexual intrigues, grand houses, huge parties, glamour and great wealth – always on the edge of being squandered by the excesses and scandals of individuals.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; (Reissue) edition (1 Mar 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0006550169
  • ISBN-13: 978-0006550167
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 3.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 286,802 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Amanda Foreman is the award-winning historian and internationally best-selling author of 'Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire' and 'A World on Fire'. She is also the recipient of the 1998 Whitbread Award for Biography. 'Georgiana' has been translated into a dozen languages and inspired a television documentary, a radio play starting Dame Judi Dench, and an Oscar winning feature film, 'The Duchess', staring Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes. 'A World on Fire' was published in the UK in fall 2010 to critical acclaim, and is slated for release in the US in summer 2011.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Georgiana Spencer was, in a sense, an 18th-century "It Girl". She came from one of England's richest and most landed families, and married into another. She was, beautiful, sensitive and extravagant. Acquainted fairly young with Charles James Fox, her move from parties to Parties led her to become the intimate of ministers and princes, and she canvassed assiduously for the Whig cause, most famously in the Westminster election of 1784. By turns she was caricatured and fawned on by the press, and she provided the inspiration for Lady Teazle in Sheridan's School For Scandal. But, luckily for her biographer, she also had weaknesses that were to taint her life. As gin gripped the masses, so gambling enthralled the aristocracy. By 1784 Georgiana owed "many, many, many thousands", and the creditors she acquired dogged her until her death, but the sterility of her marriage meant that she never came close to disclosing the magnitude of her debts. Amanda Foreman describes astutely the mess that was personal relationships for the aristocratic subculture (Georgiana and the Duke engaged for many years in a ménage à trois with Lady Elizabeth Fraser, who inveigled her way into his bed and her heart). She is, by her own admission, a little in love with her subject, which can lead to occasional lapses of perspective, but generally it adds zest to a narrative built on, rather than burdened by, scholarship, that is at once accessible and learned. An impressive debut, in every sense. --David Vincent


Antonia Fraser, Literary Review

‘Well-written, extensively researched and highly readable… Gripping’
Stella Tillyard, Mail on Sunday

‘An outstanding debut by a young biographer fully in control of her sources, and with an easy and elegant writing style’
Roy Strong, Sunday Times

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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First Sentence
I know I was handsome...and have always been fashionable, but I do assure you," Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, wrote to her daughter at the end of her life, "our negligence and ommissions have been forgiven and we have been loved, more from our being free from airs than from any other circumstance." Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars History made palatable 24 Aug 2009
I would probably not have chosen this title myself as something I would enjoy, but I was pleasantly surprised. Recently passed on to me by my daughter when she was clearing her bookshelves, this is history made palatable. Originally published in 1998 as Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, it has now been republished because of the recent film. Prior to reading this I only knew the very basic facts about her, mainly that she was like her descendant Diana, Princess of Wales publicly loved and personally very troubled.

A fascinating account and although normally I would not want to do so after reading the book, I would actually now like to see the film `The Duchess' and will be looking out to either hire the DVD or wait for it to appear on television.
Through the study of letters Amanda Foreman has managed to create for her readers a vivid portrayal of the life Georgiana lived as a young wife with a much older husband, whose mistress she was expected to accept. What a strange life they all seemed to live surrounded by scandals both at home and in politics. Georgiana herself succumbed to addiction and incurred huge gambling debts, from a very young age. She was also ill-fated to never be happy in love but she never lost sight of the fact that her children were the single most important factor in her life, she adored them. I found there were a number of comparisons to be made with the life of her descendant who was born just over two hundred years after her!

From what I have heard and read about the film I think having read this first will give me a much greater insight and understanding to the broader historical background.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
I found this absolutely compelling; I simply couldn't put it down. I found the politcal angle paticularly absorbing; the extra juice was just an added bonus! I also loved how Foreman points the reader to the ironies which pepper Georgina's life.It's really got me hooked on 18thc social and political history. I'm lucky enough to have a history degree, but this book is so accessible you don't need one; Foreman just guides through giving you all extra info without sounding patronising. This has to be the best researched biography I've read... if only my academic reading was as fun.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging 7 May 2008
I have given this review 5 stars because I think the book is well researched and an engaging read. It easily moves through the early life of the duchess (who originates in the Spencer family) and her movement through 'the ton'. The author clearly highlights the role of a women in the regency type period - feminism was unheard of and yet here we have a woman influencing politics and refusing to be constrained by her gender. The only negative comment I can make (and this is not a reflection on the book at all) is that I am not sure that I would like Georgiana very much and whilst I have sympathy for her loveless marriage, I find it hard to find empathy for a woman who lived in to such excess when many women of the era would have been grateful for a fragment of the fortune she had.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that doesn't talk down to its readers 28 Jan 2000
By A Customer
I often feel that books aimed at the general reader, ie, someone like me who did not go to university, assume that we are all thickwits who can't tell the difference between good and bad writing. The one thing I loved about Georgiana is that the book has all the quality of academic history while at the same time being very entertaining. Although at times I had to concentrate really hard on a lot of unfamiliar information, I also felt I was getting the real thing. I loved this book and I am now looking for others just like it. I never had a chance to learn about history when I was younger but it seems to me that it's possible to make up for it when authors such as Amanda Foreman write books that are for everybody. Having read this book, I know that I can at least talk about women in the eighteenth century and not sound completely ignorant.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars what a pleasure! 1 Mar 1999
By A Customer
This book has held me mesmerized for many days. It is not just an account of the life of the extraordinary Duchess of Devonshire but also a wonderful commentary about the time in which she lived - English politics, insights into the French Revolution from the view of Marie Antoinette (Georgiana's friend) etc. Obviously passionate about her subject Ms Foreman very seldom lets this overtake her objectivity. It it wonderfully lucid yet at the same time it is scholarly. It is on a par with, if not better than, Stella Tillyard's "Aristocrats". (And of course Charles Fox 'provides the link between the two books.)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant read, but a bit over political 3 May 2007
I found this book absorbing from the minute I picked it up. Amanda Foreman managed to mix the political elaments with the more social side of her life, to keep it interesting and to keep our attention. Even though I had been warned that it was heavily political, I still found it managable. However, as the book came towards the end, I felt that maybe Amanda Foreman was being pressed by her publishers to get it finished or maybe she was restricted to a limited word count. It seemed to become very rushed, brushing over elements in her life that I felt should have been covered, such as 'Little G's' wedding, both daughters' period of being debutante's and her sister Harriet's affairs, which saw her baring more illegitimate children, instead of only focusing on her political attributes. Maybe it was simply due to the fact that there are little surviving sources, but the fact that the last chapters are only appromimatly 10 pages long stays alot! Overall, It's a good read and I do recommend it, but be prepared to read alot about 18th Century politics.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Very good.
Published 7 days ago by Lesley Maiden
4.0 out of 5 stars So much more than just a Georgian 'It Girl' and doyenne of fashion...
I don't know why it's taken me so long to read this. I live not far from Chatsworth, I've met the current Duke once or twice at work events, I was even in the film The Duchess... Read more
Published 1 month ago by C. Ball
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 1 month ago by marjorie armstrong
4.0 out of 5 stars The Ducheas
I love the film and have watched it many times.
I was interested in finding out more about this Diana-like creature and so bought this book. Read more
Published 2 months ago by KarenAnne
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, thought provoking and great handling of a complex duchess
After seeing the Keira Knightley movie by the same name, I was intrigued to read the book it was based on. Read more
Published 3 months ago by K. McKenney
4.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable
Very enjoyable
Published 3 months ago by gfplux
3.0 out of 5 stars Purchased on back of the film
I was not a great fan of the film, so wanted to get the detailed story. It is detailed and a little long winded for my tastes. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Buzz Read
5.0 out of 5 stars Good look at the times
You have to feel sorry for Georgiana, in a loveless marriage, her husband having a mistress.

The similarity between the two modern Royals (I don't need to mention names)... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Riven
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful read
I chose this book after considerable research and I am pleased that I opted for this particular one. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Deke
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting tale.
I found this interesting as it provided facts as well as history. I have kept this book as I intend to read it again.
Published 10 months ago by Judith Baker
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