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Nell Gwyn: A Biography Paperback – Unabridged, 2 Jun 2006

4.4 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Pan; 1 edition (2 Jun. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330485539
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330485531
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 726,698 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

'A history of the beautiful, quickwitted, sexually magnetic Gwyn...Beaclerk recreates the heady, politically charge atmosphere of Charles's court' -- Daily Express

Book Description

Beautiful, quick-witted, good humoured and sexually magnetic, Nell Gwyn remains one of England's great folk-heroines. The story of her exceptional rise from a poor, abusive childhood to the wealth and connections that came with being the lover of one history's most louche kings, is a highly charged mix of lust, money, high politics and love. Oyster wench, Orange seller, comic actress, court jester and loyal friend Nell was the original 'peoples princess'. Charles Beauclerk, a direct descendant of Nell and Charles II, has brilliantly recreated the heady, licentious atmosphere of court and brings new insights into Nell's Career as an actess as well as her domestic life. Probing beneath the suface of her reltionship with the king, the author reveals to us the true nature of Nell Gwyn's world and her unique impact upon it. This is both quintessential restoration romp and epic love story; an account that far exceeds the colour and excitements of the best historical fiction. 'revealilng and entertaining' - Literary Review 'a rich and deep knowledge of the period conveyed in warm, unstuffy and amusing style' - Daily Mail

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Far more than a mere recitation of dry facts, Charles Beauclerk's biography of the magical life of Nell Gwyn displays rare insight into the human condition, which insights one soon realises are acutely applicable to the here-and-now of politics, art, and the mysterious attachments of the heart. To history, Nell Gwyn was (pg. 297) "...the stuff of legend, the girl from the slums who had won the heart of a king." In the author's hands, however, this story of love reciprocated (for such it was) is more than romance- it shines a spotlight on the theatre of politics and power which was the 17th century and still is today, in which nothing is as it seems to be, and fame provides a most convincing disguise for the truth. Beauclerk's evident erudition is worn lightly, and in this biography the richly comedic serves to illustrate the philosophical. Beautifully written, the author's style is both polished and relaxed, not unlike the later diaries of James Lees-Milne, with a limpid clarity of prose interspersed with surprising imagery, like his description of the Protestant rabble-rouser Titus Oates, (p. 279) "His mouth, we are told, was in the centre of his face, and he was built like an orc, with short bandy legs and long lifeless arms." On nearly every page one finds apt insights as, for example (p. 293) referring to the death of Nell's mother, "...like many alcoholics, old Madam Gwyn probably found a way of abandoning decent surroundings for a life of misery somewhere." The world of Charles Stuart and Nell Gwyn was a theatre, both metaphorically and literally, and whether on stage or at court everyone acted a part. In his biography of Nell, the plays of Dryden, Marvell, and others are neatly dissected by Charles Beauclerk to reveal unexpected depths of meaning.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
I heartily endorse the previous reveiwer's praise.
Charles Beauclerk has researched his book in great depth and detail but he wears his erudition lightly. The historical detail is abundant but never overwhelming. The book is a page-turner that brings Restoration England to life.
The style is as witty as Nell and Charles themselves. The author's humour and wise analyses continually shine out.
The relationship between the commoner Nell and the King really was revolutionary, a class-crossing affair of true love between two kindly, intelligent, humane people.
Their story is related with the same qualities evident in the author, their descendant.
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Format: Hardcover
Charles Beauclerk's vibrant narrative of Nell Gwyn's amazing life is much more than a terrific biography. This richly woven portrait of a woman and her era is a masterwork of literature that draws you completely into its own world. I couldn't put it down and kept hoping that it wouldn't end.
Anyone fortunate enough to attend one of Beauclerk's powerful, inspiring talks on English literature and history already knows that here is a unique individual voice, destined to draw a wide following. Without hesitation I predict he will be counted among the brightest thinkers and writers of his generation.
Charles Beauclerk's first book could have no more fitting heroine than the incomparable Nell Gwyn, from whom he is directly descended. Finally this legendary mistress of Charles II has a biographer who knows his subject and can bring her to life. My advice is to grab a copy and settle into a comfortable chair and surrender to the capable hands of this brilliant young writer. Beauclerk's sharp eye never overlooks a significant detail and his ever-present sense of humor never misses the chance to share a smile or a laugh.
And when the inevitable movie comes out, you will say with conviction: "Oh, but you should really read the book!"
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Format: Paperback
The seventeen-year romance-cum-friendship between London's most notable comedienne, the outsplken, salty commoner Nell Gywn and the bright, saturnine, often incomprehensible King Charles II, makes for a lively tale. There's a great deal about Restoration theatre and politics, most especially the politics of the court, as a bonus underpinning to the story of the two unlikely lovers.

But were they so unlikely a pair? Both were children of hardship: Nell, scrambling from poverty and probable illegitimacy to theatrical stardom, then upward to precarious glamour as the King's mistress, and Charles, for eleven years an imporverished, apparent loser scrambling to keep himself going, even to stay alive, in Europe while the Commonwealth ruled.

This is the first time I've gotten much of a feel for what Charles was like as a person, and one of Beauclerk's special skills appears to be character analysis. What an interesting comment on Cromwell's real values was his desire to be adorned in royal regalia after his death. This account of Nell's story is full of similar colorful insights and anecdotes.

I'm familiar with the hardcover edition, and thought those color plates extremely good. Impressively, they are also very well done for this handsome paperback.
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Format: Hardcover
Bored by school-taught history, I became an ardent reader of history when I began encountering it as a well-told story, Eileen Power's "Medieval People" being one of the first to show how fascinating and affecting stories of long-ago people can be. I read "Medieval People" in a battered second-hand paperback, and have just read Charles Beauclerk's biography of Nell Gwyn in a splendid-looking, richly illustrated hardback, an adornment to my library. Nell Gwyn's is a remarkable story, and in Charles Beauclerk's richly wrought, multi-faceted biography her story is brought to vibrant life in an insightful and witty way, with Nell a player in the context of Restoration theatre and court politics. In Beauclerk's telling, Nell's story is one thread in a tapestry, with the vivid thread of Charles II as a strong counterfoil. This is the first time I've gotten any feel for what Charles was like as a person, and the author's analysis of these two soul mates is memorable. A bonus pleasure is Beauclerk's understated humor and sparkling descriptions, often just tossed off as one-liners. This is one of those books that held my interest all the way
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