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None of Strachey's Victorians emerge unscathed. In his hands, Florence Nightingale is not a gentle archangel descended from heaven to minister sweetly to wounded soldiers, but rather an exacting, dictatorial, and judgmental crusader. Her "pen, in the virulence of its volubility, would rush ... to the denunciation of an incompetent surgeon or the ridicule of a self-sufficient nurse. Her sarcasm searched the ranks of the officials with the deadly and unsparing precision of a machine-gun. Her nicknames were terrible. She respected no one." Dr. Thomas Arnold, the man appointed to revamp the very private British public school system, fares little better: in Strachey's acid ink, he became "the founder of the worship of athletics and the worship of good form." In this same vain, military hero General Gordon is portrayed as a temperamental, irascible hermit, occasionally drunk and often found in the company of young boys--a man who tended to forget and forgo the tenets found in the Bible he kept with him always. And the powerful and popular Cardinal Manning, who came within a hair's breadth of succeeding Pope Pius IX, belonged, Strachey writes, "to that class of eminent ecclesiastics ... who have been distinguished less for saintliness and learning than for practical ability."
As he offered up indelible sketches of his less-than-fab four, Strachey was intent on critiquing established mores. This effortlessly superior wit knew full well that deep convictions and good deeds often go hand in hand with hypocrisy, arrogance, and egomania. His task was to pique those who pretended they did not. --Jordana Moskowitz --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
I read this in my freshman year of college, and it was a pleasure to go back to it again.
This fact must force the reader to re-assess one of the most prevalent stereotypes about the Victorians: their supposed insistence on conventionality and conformity.
Lytton Strachey is credited with reinventing the art of writing biographies in his brilliant Eminent Victorians.
As earlier reviewers have pointed out Lytton Strachey revolutionized the approach to biography in this book by introducing characterizations that were laden with sarcasm and dry... Read morePublished on November 9, 2011 by R. J. Marsella
Strachey's Eminent Victorians represents a certain type of critical historiography--not caricatural, but viewed with a wry sceptical eye. Read more
Lytton Strachey is credited with reinventing the art of writing biographies in his brilliant Eminent Victorians. Read morePublished on October 8, 2010 by Douglas S. Wood
I gather this is a classic of biography.
I recently re-discovered Lytton Strachey, and am loving his work. Read more
This Wilder Publications edition of Eminent Victorians is the most poorly edited mess I have ever stopped reading. Gayle TurnerPublished on February 1, 2010 by Gayle Turner
John Sutherland's full commentary remedies the one defect - carelessness with factual detail - that mars Strachey's fascinating and informative biographies of four eminent... Read morePublished on September 13, 2009 by Steven Farron
In the early 20th century, Lytton Strachey set the standard for the biography. Prior to his, biographies were often boring lists of accomplishments. Read morePublished on June 20, 2009 by Bruce Oksol
This is a really terrific book to read, just not this version. Strachey gets 5 stars. But I really have to complain about the poor quality of the book itself. Read morePublished on March 21, 2009 by Amazon Customer
Although it sometimes comes at the expense of clarity, there is some artful writing here. Some examples:
On public school education:
"A system of anarchy tempered... Read more