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Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda…

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (1998)

by Amanda Foreman

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
A mediocre biography of Georgiana Spencer, who was quite a character in 18th-century England. Her relationships were kind of all over the place, she racked up staggering debts due to a compulsive gambling habit, and yet she was a force on the political scene -- unusual for a woman of her day. Georgiana is a fascinating character, but this book is sadly not a page-turner. My eyes began to glaze over whenever the subject matter turned to political goings-on, and her continued gambling made me desire to pluck them right out of my head -- I'm unable to fathom the vast sums of money frittered away to no benefit! ( )
  ryner | Oct 17, 2018 |
I’m used to thinking of celebrities with financial and moral imperfections as a recent phenomena. It was interesting to find that Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, in the late 18th / early 19th century, managed to be linked to a number of lovers, including several of the leading politicians of the day, and have an illegitimate child by one; have a lesbian relationship with one of her husband’s mistresses; run up the equivalent of $7M in gambling debts; and become a laudanum addict. In her spare time she was the leading society hostess of the day; a devoted mother (including her husband’s illegitimate children); very active in Whig politics; the model for Lady Teazle in The School for Scandal; the foremost arbiter of women’s fashion; and an accomplished amateur chemist and mineralogist (receiving favorable notice in these area from both Joseph Banks and Henry Cavendish). She makes the exploits of Monica Lewinsky, Paris Hilton, and Madonna look pretty pathetic. ( )
  setnahkt | Dec 9, 2017 |
This biography is a great example of a celebrity tell-all biography done in a very thorough academic way. Georgiana Cavendish was born in 1757 into the family of the Earl's Spencer and married the Duke of Devonshire in 1774. She was a political mover and shaker for the Whig party, who was in opposition to George III and his policies of absolute rule of the monarch. She was a leader of society and famous for partying and supposed affairs who had an odd acceptance of her husbands peccadilloes as well. However, her biggest scandals involved in her gambling debts. In fact, she and her sister, who also married into the Cavendish family, practically ruined the Cavendish family financially. She and her husband lived openly with her husband's lover, Lady Elizabeth Foster, in a mutual friendship society and she openly accepted her husbands illegitimate children. He did not return the favor when Georgiana had an illegitimate daughter by her last lover. She left voluminous papers and letters that were mutilated and highly redacted by her later Victorian ancestors, leaving historians with an incomplete accounting of this fascinating social and political hostess with the mostest. Ah, such were the times.

The author of this biography was sympathetic to her subject and stated at the end of the biography that Georgiana never got her just accolades for all she did for the Whig party because she as a woman. That goes without saying. Even today. What bugs me the most, however, is that all the reviews of this, and other biographies of this paradoxical woman, is the constant mention that she was a Great Aunt of Lady Diana Spencer, who was the Princess of Wales. To that I say, Georgiana, was just is illustrious and worthy of attention as is Lady Di, and probably did more of substance for England than her modern day relative.

This was a very interesting, but academic, biography that was surprisingly easy to read about a formidable and extremely complex woman, who was a great anomaly, even in her times. ( )
  benitastrnad | Dec 4, 2017 |
This book spent over six years in my to-read stack until I got round to reading it, but it was worth the wait. The book is engagingly written and Georgiana's character and life appear fascinating and complex, which makes it all feel very real. ( )
  mari_reads | Sep 9, 2017 |
This captivating biography illustrates the astonishing and dramatic life of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, an 18th century "It" Girl and ancestor of Diana, Princess of Wales.
  mcmlsbookbutler | Nov 6, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Amanda Foremanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Halitzer, WendyCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McCaddon, WandaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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I know I was handsome...and have always been fashionable, but I do assure you," Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, wrote to her daughter at the end of her life, "our negligence and omissions have been forgiven and we have been loved, more from our being free from airs than from any other circumstance."
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375753834, Paperback)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:03 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

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 Georgiana achieved immediate celebrity by marrying William Cavendish, fifth duke of Devonshire, one of England's richest and most influential aristocrats. She became the queen of fashionable society and founder of the most important political salon of her time. But Georgiana's public success concealed an unhappy marriage, a gambling addiction, drinking, drug-taking, and rampant love affairs with the leading politicians of the day. With penetrating insight, Amanda Foreman reveals a fascinating woman whose struggle against her own weaknesses, whose great beauty and flamboyance, and whose determination to play a part in the affairs of the world make her a vibrant, astonishingly contemporary figure.--From publisher description.… (more)

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