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Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda…
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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)
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. ( )
  queen_ypolita | Jun 3, 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 |
With many historical figures the problem is to place the character in context for the life and time of the reader. Sometimes the smartphone internet cafe moccachino user just does not ‘get’ the medieval monk. With Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (1757-1806) we have no such problems. She is a woman as suited to the 21st century as she was (and was not) to the 18th century.

With many historical figures the problem is to place the character in context for the life and time of the reader. Sometimes the smartphone internet cafe moccachino user just does not ‘get’ the medieval monk. With Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (1757-1806) we have no such problems. She is a woman as suited to the 21st century as she was (and was not) to the 18th century.

Georgiana blasted her way to prominence through force of personality. No great beauty, she was adored by almost all who met her and dominated the London smart set, the ton, for most of her life. She all but ran the Whig party during the crucial years at the turn of the 19th century. She had everything that we would call desirable today: fame, adulation, power and money. Think of her as a sublime mix of Kim Kardashian, Beyonce, the Duchess of Cambridge and Hillary Clinton.

There was also a dark side. She had a gambling addiction and never really understood the value of money. Her gambling and other debts almost bankrupted her husband, the Duke. She took lovers and her illegitimate child almost ruined her marriage; that it did not says much about the infidelity of the Duke and the mores of the time. She almost certainly had a long-term lesbian love affair with Lady Elizabeth Foster, ‘Bess’, who shared her home and her husband.

Throughout this book, no matter how reprehensible, shocking or unacceptable (to our eyes) her actions, we cannot help but fall a little in love with Georgiana and root for her to succeed as we would any fictional heroine.

Amanda Foreman has written a magnificent biography. Intimate, exciting and always driving forwards as we want to learn more about this woman and what she did next. ( )
  pierthinker | Sep 9, 2016 |
This is a terrific biography of a remarkable woman. The Duchess was born Georgiana Spencer, is the great-great-great-great aunt of Princess Diana, and was just as famous in her day. She married early and unhappily, but was the standard-bearer for fashion; wrote novels, poetry, and plays; was a scholar of chemistry and mineralogy; and was the backbone of the Whig party, actively campaigning, influencing policy, and directing political strategy. Her early married life was a whirlwind of social and political activity, during which she developed a massive gambling addiction, amassed staggering debt, and sustained her breakneck lifestyle and personal woes (among them her loveless marriage and numerous miscarriages) with non-stop parties, alcohol, and laudanum. Particularly interesting is her relationship with Bess (Lady Elizabeth Foster) who enters the Devonshire household as a friend and something of a financial ward, and begins a long term affair with the Duke.

This book is a well-researched and fascinating glimpse into 18th century life, where Georgiana always seemed to be in the thick of everything, including the Regency Crisis of the late 1780s, and the French Revolution. The political history in the book was a little dense and hard-to-follow at times, but given her political influence, passion, and acumen, it is absolutely necessary to the book. The current climate of political mudslinging and celebrity worship/vitriol appeared to be no different in her day, and Georgiana was the regular target of all of it. At times it was tempting to dismiss her life of parties and gambling, yet her accomplishments are astounding for a woman of that (or any) era, and I wept at her death in 1806. Hollywood could not have scripted her life any better, and now I am keen to see The Duchess, the Keira Knightley adaptation of this book.
  AMQS | Apr 17, 2016 |
Georgiana was a wealthy, titled lady who married into an even wealthier, better titled family* and spent the remainder of her days being a leader of fashion and politics. This was an excellent biography of a notable woman. Unlike ealier time periods, this was an era of paper. All of Georgiana's friends, relatives and enemies wrote daily; the correspondance about her would alone provide material enough for a book. In addition, she was daily featured in newspapers and cartoons, novels (including her own, [book: The Sylph]), at least one play (Sheridan's "School for Scandal") and diaries; there is a glut of information about the time and Georgiana. It is mind-bending to realize that almost every day of her life could be accounted for. I'm used to time periods in which whole years are mysteries, let alone birth dates, physical appearance, or handwriting. I recommend this biography to anyone interested in the Georgian or Regency periods; it provides an excellent, behind-the-scenes idea of the politics of the time, as well as a good understanding of how the upper-class lived.

Georgiana was an international celebrity; she was a dear friend of Marie Antoinette and George IV. She led fashion and society for decades, before retiring (like many of her contemporaries) due to overwhelming debts and a personal scandal. Like her sister Harriet (mother of the infamous Caroline Lamb, who is described in Georgiana's letters as a plump, spoiled girl), she bore an illegitimate child.

I think I would have quite liked the quick-witted, rather overwrought, highly dynamic Georgiana.




*The Cavendishes, descendants of that worthy Tudor woman [book: Bess of Hardwick]. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
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Amanda Foremanprimary authorall editionscalculated
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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