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Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire Paperback – January 16, 2001
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Georgiana Spencer was, in a sense, an 18th-century It Girl. She came from one of England's richest and most landed families (the late Princess Diana was a Spencer too) and married into another. She was beautiful, sensitive, and extravagant--drugs, drink, high-profile love affairs, and even gambling counted among her favorite leisure-time activities. Nonetheless, she quickly moved from a world dominated by social parties to one focused on political parties. The duchess was an 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 the character of Lady Teazle in Richard Sheridan's famous play The School for Scandal. But her weaknesses marked the last part of her life. By 1784, for one, Georgiana owed "many, many, many thousands," and her creditors dogged her until her death.
Biographer Amanda Foreman describes astutely the mess that surrounded the personal relationships of 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 the duke's bed and the duchess's heart). Foreman 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, Amazon.co.uk --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
From Publishers Weekly
HShe was the most prominent British woman of her day. Whatever she wore became instantly fashionable, and her parties were the ones to attend. Royals, aristocrats and politicians sought her opinion, for she was as influential as she was beautiful. Princess Diana? No, her great-great-great-great-aunt, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (1757-1806). A bestseller in the U.K. and the winner of the 1999 Whitbread Prize for Best Biography, Foreman's debut is captivating not just because of Georgiana--whose insecurity, demented love life and gambling addiction made her personal life even more dismal than Diana's--but also because Foreman's portrayal of high society in late-18th-century Britain and France is so remarkably vivid. Foreman gives readers the aristocracy fighting for control over Parliament, King George slowly losing his mind, his love-struck son ill-prepared to take the throne, and more bed-hopping than on a TV soap opera. Georgiana, who bore an out-of-wedlock child with politician Charles Grey, knew that her best friend was her husband's mistress, but that was the least of her problems. Prone to drinking, drug-taking and eating disorders, she also racked up gambling debts equal to $6 million in today's dollars. Foreman's combination of exhaustive research and storytelling skill make Georgiana's story at once lurid, sensational and touching. (Jan.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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Top customer reviews
Our history teachers can have their favorite eras, and as students, we often spend too much time on that to the detriment of other eras. That's what happened to me. I didn't learn anything about the Georgian era.
That was the time of the American and French revolution-and of a British aristocracy that-well, read and be surprised.
An interesting thing about them though is that they took care of their illegitimate children in differing degrees, of course, but they took care of them. Today there are so many men who don't take any care of their children and that is awful. Children can live in peril today-if they get to live, of course.
Enjoyed reading about this likeable woman and also about all the other characters. Quite a fascinating lot.
Georgiana was an interesting woman and an accomplished one. But that can get overlooked as she was a central part of the gossip section in the newspapers of the time. Her life as an aristocratic woman was privileged and she had opportunities that women from the "lower orders" did not, such as travel, education and the meeting of accomplished and successful men. She also had time to waste and she frittered away her wealth and accumulated huge debts.
I do enjoy British history. Used to think of it as just an easy A in school. Now I just enjoy it Wouldn't it be great if teachers let you read biographies as part of your history class and to be able to get books about women and not just the men. But perhaps she would be considered to have lived a shallow life and as" not contributing to history in any unique way". But as a female, I feel you can relate in certain ways to her and also to be able to learn from her. She wrote her own book about the social group she lived in. It was considered shocking at that time, but it sold well.
My other issue with the writing of this book is that it trivializes a lot of really juicy topics that could have been expanded upon. One example was in the paragraph in which Foreman explains that Georgiana's correspondences about discovering the affair between Bess and the Duke had been lost/destroyed. Foreman then quickly jumps into the next chronological event in their lives instead of writing a paragraph about Foreman's expectations as to how she expected Georgiana to have reacted based on all the evidence gathered. We also don't get much information about the more scandalous, behind-hidden-doors lifestyle of Georgiana - her affair with Grey lived and died within two pages. I didn't even get the sense there was a single private meeting between the two until it was revealed that she was pregnant. Such was the chore in reading this book. Georgiana is an intriguing person, and that's to the credit of Georgiana and less so the author.
I did enjoy the author's depiction of the Whig and Tory rivalry, but I agree with some others that it sometimes went overboard with the details. I found the side characters to be much more real and interesting: Prince Charles, Marie Antoinette, Lady Spencer. I particularly enjoyed the section about Georgiana's visit to France during the French Revolution. What a fascinating time to be a fly on the wall.
Lastly, the editing is poor. It was as if someone finished their dissertation and let it be published. There are spelling mistakes, and more importantly, incorrect spacing that makes it confusing as to whether you were reading text or a correspondence.