Excellent and highly readable book about a woman of great intelligence, beauty and spirit who had a lasting effect on the time in which she lived. This last cannot be said of many women of the time: unenfranchised, chattle of their husbands, restricted in their thoughts and movement in the world. Meanwhile, men held the political power as well as the domestic. Georgiana managed to enter a world in which she could could use her flair to become both politically influential and a star of society. Highly recommended - much less of a potboiler than the movie!
Rebecca S. reviewed Georgiana : Duchess of Devonshire (Modern Library Paperbacks) on
Helpful Score: 3
This story is much more fascinating than the movie. What a story -adultery, politics, fashion, scandal. Princess Diana was directly descended from Georgiana and shared her flair for being in the public spotlight.
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
Duchess Georgiana was the most prominent British woman of her day(1757-1806.) She was beautiful, sensitive and extravagant. This is her story of drugs, drink, high-profile love affairs, gambling and also her battle with an eating disorder! (She is the great-great-great-great aunt to the late Princess Diana.) Georgiana's story is sensational! Anyone who loves historical biographies will love this soap-opera like novel. The political and fashion commentaries are also very entertaining.
Though it has been some time since I read this book , it is one of the few I have wanted to keep in my personal library. Unfortunately, I cannot remember to whom it was loaned. The book gives a fascinating picture into the life of that class in that era. But, even more important, it gives a very full picture of an amazing woman, her strengths, her flaws and her weaknesses. As for the movie -- don't bother!
This is dazzling biography that goes beyond the often stale retelling of history. The author presents the person, Georgiana, what she was like, her allegiances and character. The her-story is presented in fascinating detail. This is a serious scholarly work, yet I was riveted. This is one of Princess Diana's most colorful ancestors, and I can honestly see where Princess Di gets her spirit and character from this genetic tapestry of a woman!
Excellent biography, I was born within a few miles of Chatsworth, Georgiana's home, and loved reading the rich history of the beautiful house - and that beautiful Duchess, for her life and times no other biography equals it. She was truly a woman before her time.
Highly entertaining book and very well researched and written. Even if you have seen the movie, you will find the discussions of her impact on the political scene (and the political scene itself) very interesting. It is not light reading, but for someone interested in British history, I certainly recommend it.
A well written and in depth biography. The writing style is reminiscent of Carolly Erickson in that the history flows more like a novel than a text book. While the book does have a good amount of footnotes, it is not overly done, and each one offers more elaboration on different points throughout the book. The author truly did her research and shows us a glimpse of what politics was truly like in the late 18th - early 19th centuries and the role that the Duchess played as leader of the Ton. We also get a good look behind closed doors at the strengths and weaknesses of the various nobility and politicians that surround the Duchess. With family portraits and newspaper drawings from the era included, it was quite easy to become immersed in the history. A great read for any history buff that is interested in a woman who left her imprint on society.
Normally I love biographies, but I got way too distracted with all her footnotes and I just couldn't take it anymore. I don't mind a few, but when you have them every other sentence, it gets very distracting. I'll try to find other biographies on Georgiana because her life does look interesting.
After seeing the movie, which I thought was completely heart-wrenching, I found the book. Although I think both versions are very good, as always, the book is a little less dramatic and more realistic.
This is an excellent book! I am fully versed on British and French history of the time, and this book was accurate, objective and very enjoyable to read. Ms. Foreman does a good job of integrating the politics of the times (in which Georgiana was very much involved) with the private life of Georgiana and her contemporaries. After reading much about Marie Antoinette and Josephine Bonaparte, and seeing Georgiana's name mentioned several times, I was eager to read her own story.
Biograpers are notorious for falling in love with their subjects. It is the literary equivalent of the Stockholm Syndrome, the phenomenon which leads hostages to feel sympathetic towards their captors. The biographer is, in a sense, a willing hostage, held captive for so long that he becomes hopelessly enthralled.
The winner of Britain's prestigious Whitbread Prize and a bestseller there for months, this wonderfully readable biography offers a rich, rollicking picture of late-eighteenth-century British aristocracy and the intimate story of a woman who for a time was its undisputed leader.
Lady Georgiana Spencer was the great-great-great-great-aunt of Diana, Princess of Wales, and was nearly as famous in her day. In 1774, at the age of seventeen, Georgiana achieved immediate celebrity by marrying one of England's richest and most influential aristocrats, the Duke of Devonshire. Launched into a world of wealth and power, she quickly became the queen of fashionable society, adored by the Prince of Wales, a dear friend of Marie-Antoinette, and leader of the most important salon of her time. Not content with the role of society hostess, she used her connections to enter politics, eventually becoming more influential than most of the men who held office.
Georgiana was a boring woman, rich, spoiled, idle and promiscuous. She was a compulsive liar, a compulsive gambler, a compulsive spender, needy, clinging, spoiled, immature. In a word: trailer trash (OK, 2 words). Ugh