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on 20 November 2013
What a strange man the 3rd Marquess of Bute was: very rich, and addicted to building extraordinary piles in bright and precious materials. As for the riches, we learn of the good fortune and good judgment that kept the money coming in, when weaker counsels might have sent the estate smashing into ruin.
The buildings were what drew me to the biography, chiefly Burges's fantasy at Cardiff Castle. But the early death of Burges did not make Bute ease up. The results are depicted in excellent colour photographs.
To me, Bute's intermeddling in Catholic liturgy and pastoral care in Scotland is of the deepest interest historically. He had the oddest hobby-horses and must have been a pest at times.
Round this high Victorian life appear two stories that might come from some sensation novel of the times. At the beginning is the great suffering of Bute's orphaned childhood, accentuated by his uncompromising reaction. At the end is his slide towards death from the hereditary disease that dogged his family.
In the middle are his heroic wife, his liveliness, love of children, kindness to servants, humour, Mediterranean travels, and angular fit into the British aristocracy when it still held sway.
Rosemary Hannah is to be congratulated on an engrossing work of scholarship, balance and humanity.