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Splendour and Squalor: The Disgrace and Disintegration of Three Aristocratic Dynasties Paperback – 1 Sep 2010

41 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books; Reprint edition (1 Sept. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843541254
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843541257
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 3.3 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 45,020 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Marcus Scriven's first book, Splendour & Squalor, was short-listed for Spear's Social History Book of The Year, 2010. He is currently researching his second book whose central character is another twentieth century aristocrat, summarised by one of his cousins as: 'a very attractive man....a psychopath, of course.'

Product Description

Review

'Splendour and Squalor is a witty, gossipy and profoundly researched portrait of four particularly dysfunctional 20th century aristocrats.' Christopher Hart, Sunday Times

About the Author

Marcus Scriven read history at Oxford before becoming a journalist, initially at the Sunday Telegraph, then at the Evening Standard. He is a leading contributor to Channel 4's documentary on Victor Hervey, 6th Marquess of Bristol, which broadcast in spring 2009. Splendour & Squalor is his first book.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Druries Man on 26 April 2010
Format: Hardcover
The characters in this book are all people who fall from elevated positions with an inevitability driven by their own wilfulness and addictions. As such the book treads a line between high Greek tragedy and salacious gossip. The fact that it does it so successfully and entertainingly is due to both to Scriven's beguiling familiarity with the codes, duties and diversions of the upper echelons of a society only recently disappeared, as well as the lively, always half-amused writing style which - in addition to documenting the greater excesses of the protagonists - lays open their more minor pecadillos on the end of a finely-turned phrase and sparkles with a vocabulary many of us would envy.

There are times when the behaviour of these people seems to be too incredible to believe. But speaking as one who knew (albeit briefly) one of these characters in their early life, I can vouch for at least some of the author's research: Appallingly correct!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Charles Dupplin on 22 Dec. 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a tremendous book. It has been comprehensively researched and is meticulous in laying out the slow train crashes of these 3 formerly great families, who each had lemming like urges at self destruction. There is something a bit depressing about reading bad news but the rich detail provided by and elegant prose of Marcus Scriven makes the whole sorry tome utterly compelling. When I got it I thought 9before reading a word) "too long". When I had finished I was ready for more.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Sam Chesterton on 25 Nov. 2012
Format: Paperback
Splendour and Squalour, the name says it all, but the fun and the devil are in the detail. What splendour, what bathos and worse; true horror and calamity, but chiefly self-inflicted.

After you have read this wonderful book you will perhaps conclude that in-breeding does eliminate all the fine qualities, whilst distilling and concentrating the truly vile.

If your true pleasure is Schadenfreude, then ask for this book for Christmas. As you warm your slippers in front of a blazing log fire, you will feel the cold fingers of insecurity gently massagin' you in the small of your back. (Ring for a whisky and soda before the staff hand in their notice.)
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59 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Ben Starling on 18 Dec. 2009
Format: Hardcover
Marcus Scriven's "Splendour & Squalor" is a thoroughly researched and beautifully written work that I'd recommend thoroughly. Unlike some writers, the author has identified, tracked down and teased information from sources whose experiences had previously been private. Scriven has then woven this information into a fascinating and at times hilarious account. It would have been easy for him to have dwelt on the "fall from grace" of the four characters, to have allowed the reader moments of schadenfreude ... but these are rarer than I'd expected - and he presents plenty of background information that caused me to challenge the images I'd created of e.g. the Herveys, father and son. I love the author's concise prose, the interest he builds and holds, and the insights he reveals... culminating in a final gem: the thought provoking epilogue. Apparently this is Scriven's first book. I can't wait for more...
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. C. Samengo-turner on 29 April 2010
Format: Hardcover
An extraordinary quartet of characters, each with an unerring instinct for self-destruction; a bizarre amalgum of vulgarity, naivety and perceived sense of superiority. That superiority is, however, dangerously fused with inner fears of inferiority and inadequacy, that sparks, throughout the book, like the terminals of some mis-wired obsolete electrical device.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By plymouthboy on 19 Jun. 2011
Format: Hardcover
A remarkable insight into how some of the families that literally lorded it over us for half a millennium or more chucked it all away in a generation. Populated by characters straight out of Waugh and Mitford and yet somehow even weirder. The selfishness of the four central toffs whose decline and fall Scriven charts is heartbreaking, even repulsive at times, yet there is still something of the heroic about their self destruction. It's a great read, tremendously well researched, full of telling detail. It's not the whole story of why England's landed classes lost their power and status so precipitously but it's one very important part of it. Decadence, extravagance, bone headed refusal to adapt to the world changing all around them and straight forward stupidity. They were all part of the story of aristocracy's 20th century decline. In this profile of this quartet of doomed nobs Scriven tells an often tragic human story but also shines a light on one of the great social changes of the past 100 years.
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46 of 50 people found the following review helpful By reads too much on 8 Dec. 2009
Format: Hardcover
I ordered this with some trepidation, thinking it might be superficial, gossipy and long on speculation, but short on facts.

Instead, it is a thoroughly researched, well-written account of some of the most self-destructive and/or amoral people of the 20th century.

My only caveat is that some of the translation of currency amounts from several decades ago into today's equivalent seems wildy exaggerated. Perhaps commas or decimal points were misplaced?
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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Neutral VINE VOICE on 18 April 2010
Format: Hardcover
The modern celebrity circuit is a continuation of the class dominated social calendar which existed prior to the Second World War. The names have changed but the amorality, immorality and desire for notoriety remain the same. In this enthralling account of the disgrace and disintegration of three aristocratic families, Marcus Scriven recalls the antics of the twentieth century upper classes who were described by Denis Healey in a speech the to Labour Party Conference in May 1945 as "selfish, dissolute and decadent". As examples, Scriven selects the seventh Earl of Leinster, two members of the Hervey family and the 12th Duke of Manchester.

Edward Fitzgerald was the seventh Earl of Leinster. He succeeded to the title at the age of 30 on the death of his brother in an asylum in Edinburgh. By then his addiction to gambling had led to his signing away the rights to the family home in Ireland which he had never intended to occupy. He had reservoirs of stamina but wasted them on gambling, women (he married four times) and alcohol. He spent most of his 83 years avoiding creditors and indulging in sexual adventures and squandering his inheritance. His wives and other women usually died unhappy "variously overdosed, drowned or demented." His was a case of arrested development, always willing to shock, seeing himself as a victim while making a point of ignoring advice to moderate his habits. He spent his final years in a miserable bedsit becoming known as the "Bedsit Lord" before killing himself with an overdose in 1976. As Scriven observes, "if his descent into oblivion was emblematic of a ruling class in irreversible decline, his march to damnation was uniquely his own."

The Hervey family had a long tradition of homosexual and bisexual behaviour.
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