Eminent Victorians Hardcover – 4 Jul 2002
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About the Author
Frances Partridge, Paul Levy, David Newsome, Mark Bostridge, John Pollock, Terence Copley are all authorities in the area.
Top Customer Reviews
Cardinal Manning is first up. Religion is a constant theme in the book and Manning emerges as the least pious of its subjects. As described, he was ambitious, mean spirited and concerned with all the wrong aspects of religion: dogmatic, theological abstraction rather than charity, etc.. There may be a selection bias at work here: Manning's social work is mentioned briefly, but Strachey is more interested in Manning's faults than his strengths. And let's be honest, who isn't?
Florence nightingale is next. Strachey starts by warning us that she was less agreeable than her legend suggests. However, compared to modern biographies this is mild stuff. She was head-strong and possibly neurotic; when weighed against her achievements these are very minor faults, and after reading this biography she went up in my estimation greatly. The villains of this piece are the purblind members of the establishment, against whom she battled. They are subject to the full force of Strachey's gentle sarcasm.
Thomas Arnold is portrayed as the father of the modern public school system. Like Nightingale, he combined piety with practicality, though with results of less certain value. To modern eyes his methods appear unorthodox, his deprecation of scientific knowledge looks bizarre, but his focus on moral education is refreshing.Read more ›
Strachey was famous for his dry, incisive wit and here, in 1918, in a world disillusioned by war, he turns his jaundiced eye on four of the "boys own paper" heroes of Victorian public life. Cardinal Manning, the talented and ambitious cleric who made a new career for himself after converting to catholicism; Dr Arnold, the headmaster immortalised (in fictional form) in 'Tom Brown's Schooldays' - the man who civilised the barbaric "Lord of the Flies" world of the late Georgian public school and intorduced the 'play up play up and play the game' philosphy which is still satirised today; General Gordon, the charismatic hero of Britain's wars in China and the sacrificial victim at Khartoum; and last but most well-known, Florence Nightingale, the reformer of nursing and heroine of the Crimean War.
All four were in their day idolised; all four share a self-consciousness of their destiny which, to a modern eye, looks arrogant and egocentric. Strachey, separated by a generation and illuminated by the early twentieth century's dawning understanding of psychology, invents in these monographs a new type of biography; one which unpicks the forces shaping a personality, examines their motives and looks coolly at the roots of their "greatness".Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
My father asked for a warts and all type biography of someone who is usually treated with nothing but respect. Not exactly an easy request! Read morePublished 19 months ago by Elizabeth Mary Higgins
Four elegantly written biographical essays, giving a waspish commentary on four people the present Secretary of State for Education will regard as Victorian heroes. Read morePublished on 8 Jan. 2014 by D. J. Evans
a great book, enjoyed the part on Florence nightingale, the chapter on cardinal manning was an eye opener, enjoyed it imensleyPublished on 6 July 2013 by antony webb
A classic of its time. The witty Lytton Strachey unseats Victorian icons from their pedestals.
I most enjoyed the chapter on Cardinal Manning, which touches on the life... Read more
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