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Georgiana Duchess of Devonshir (Thorndike Biography) Hardcover – Large Print, 1 Aug 2000

4.1 out of 5 stars 95 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 825 pages
  • Publisher: Thorndike Press; Lrg edition (Aug. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786226544
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786226542
  • Product Dimensions: 22.1 x 14.4 x 4.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,101,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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 thralled 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 --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.


‘Mesmerizing.’ 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

‘A pungent, intimate blend of biography and history…a provocative contribution to our understanding of women of the past.’ Jenny Uglow, Independent

‘Packed with fascinating information and grippingly good.’ Lisa Jardine

‘Real-life glamour, peppered with a menage a trois and a dose of depression…Curl up and devour it.’ Elle

‘A gorgeous Whig romp…[and] a serious, as well as seriously enjoyable, historical biography.’ Antonia Fraser, Sunday Times

‘Excellent and fascinating.’ Sunday Telegraph

‘From this very entertaining account emerges a vibrant picture of late-eighteenth-century life and politics, and the portrait of a rare and highly talented woman.’ Observer

‘A sparkling biography.’ Marie Claire

‘Brilliantly researched, compellingly told, this is biography of the first order.’ Daily Telegraph

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
The film "The Duchess", while enjoyable enough, shouldn't be seen as simply the content of this book on screen. The book is a mere cupcake compared to the rich dark fruit cake of Foreman's biography!

Georgiana was married to the much older Duke of Devonshire at the age of 17, and during the rest of her life became a well known wit, fashion icon, political mover and shaker, and gambling and opium addict. Oh, and she also lived in a menage with her husband's mistress. Foreman charts the rise and fall of Georgiana's life, giving insight not only into the woman herself but the political and social word in which she lived.

Foreman's style is clear and illuminating, and the combination of clear-eyed historical detail and compassionate approach to her subject make this an unforgettable read.
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Format: Paperback
Clearly well-researched, this biography of one of the eighteenth century's most enigmatic figures conveys vividly the tumultous world of eighteenth century politics alongside that of Georgiana's private life. A pioneer in women's involvement in politics, her role as a campaigner and society hostess placed her in the centre of the Whig party throughout its years of opposition; prominent men instinctively sought her advice. As well as highlighting G's pivotal political role, Foreman succeeds in capturing the moral ambiguity of the age in the private dilemmas her heroine faces: a hopeless addiction to gaming, her husband's mistress being her best friend, forcing to choose between her lover and her children etc. Although from an age difficult to empathise with, Foreman never the less makes G and her world instantly accessible. An Interesting and insightful read.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a review of the original hardback edition of 1998. Whilst on a visit to Chatsworth during the time of the release of the movie `The Duchess' I had purchased a new paperback edition with a picture of Keira Knightley on the cover without giving it too much scrutiny. I later discovered that it came with no plates. I then tracked down a very cheap new copy of the hardback edition, and I am pleased to do so. It comes with fifty-seven plates (many in colour) as well as the Spencer and Cavendish family trees as endpapers.

It should not surprise readers that the biography of the duchess as set out in Amanda Foreman's book is a lot more complicated than the life portrayed on the screen. It was more involved, with more players, and Amanda Foreman certainly has much more sympathy for the duke. But Foreman warns us in her introduction that "biographers are notorious for falling in love with their subjects."

And I am always weary of biographies such as this where the first seventeen years of the life is covered in just eighteen pages, and even these eighteen pages also cover the lives of her parents and grandparents. These are the years that form a person's character, but there are only a few references to this aspect. However, I cannot deny that the chapter is nevertheless extremely well-written. I was surprised, however, to find a number of errors in this first chapter. For example, William Cavendish was not Bess of Hardwick's eldest son; it was to Henry Cavendish that Chatsworth was left after Bess's death. And Hardwick House (sic) is not in Yorkshire.

Odd errors appear in the remainder of the text too: Roxborough Downs in Devon is `Roborough Downs'. The Duke of Portland is referred to as the Earl of Portland on the family tree.
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