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Victoria Glendinning

Author of Vita: The Life of V. Sackville-West

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About the Author

Image credit: Photo by Nigel Beale / Flickr

Works by Victoria Glendinning

Vita: The Life of V. Sackville-West (1983) 473 copies, 4 reviews
Anthony Trollope (1992) 332 copies, 2 reviews
Leonard Woolf: A Biography (2006) 244 copies, 5 reviews
Electricity (1995) 197 copies, 2 reviews
Rebecca West: A Life (1987) 186 copies, 4 reviews
Jonathan Swift (1998) 182 copies, 3 reviews
Elizabeth Bowen (1977) 140 copies
Edith Sitwell: A Unicorn Among the Lions (1981) 91 copies, 2 reviews
Raffles: The Man in His Moment (2012) 75 copies, 5 reviews
The Butcher's Daughter (2018) 59 copies, 3 reviews
The grown-ups (1600) 46 copies, 4 reviews
Flight (2002) 27 copies, 2 reviews
Sons and Mothers (1996) — Editor — 14 copies
Family Business (2021) 5 copies

Associated Works

The Return of the Soldier (1918) — Introduction, some editions — 1,572 copies, 77 reviews
All Passion Spent (1931) — Introduction, some editions — 1,198 copies, 56 reviews
The Fountain Overflows (1956) — Introduction, some editions — 1,077 copies, 21 reviews
The Camomile Lawn (1984) — Introduction, some editions — 870 copies, 21 reviews
The Edwardians (1930) — Introduction, some editions — 781 copies, 25 reviews
The Birds Fall Down (1966) — Introduction, some editions — 537 copies, 2 reviews
Fire Down Below (1980) — Introduction, some editions — 350 copies, 6 reviews
No Signposts in the Sea (1961) — Introduction, some editions — 314 copies, 10 reviews
Harriet Hume (1929) — Introduction, some editions — 288 copies, 8 reviews
The Thinking Reed (1936) — Introduction, some editions — 273 copies, 5 reviews
Cousin Rosamund (1985) — Afterword, some editions — 257 copies, 8 reviews
Family History (1932) — Introduction, some editions — 243 copies, 5 reviews
Sunflower (1986) — Foreword, some editions — 121 copies
Marriage (1912) — Introduction, some editions — 111 copies, 8 reviews
The Passionate Friends (1913) — Introduction, some editions — 102 copies, 3 reviews
Virago Omnibus II (1728) — Introduction, some editions — 37 copies
Virago Is 40 (2013) — Contributor — 31 copies
Fanny Trollope (1995) — Foreword — 30 copies
Slightly Foxed 45: Frankly, My Dear (2015) — Contributor — 18 copies
Three nineteenth-century novels (1979) — Introduction — 8 copies
Observer Magazine 20/11/1977 (1977) — Author, some editions — 1 copy


Common Knowledge



Victoria Glendinning's biography of Raffles presents a fuller and rounder picture of a man sometimes consigned to the marginalia of history. The book presents a very interesting account of the opeations of the East India Company during the Regency, and of Raffles as a maverick inclned to take advantage of his remoteness from headquarters to push his authority past the limits in pursuit of his vision.

The book probably pays too much attention to Raffles' home life and that of his relatives at the expense of more detail on the early days of Singapore. Aside from that it's still an interesting and informative read about a highly influential man whose deeds helped shape the modern world.… (more)
gjky | 4 other reviews | Apr 9, 2023 |
Dame Rebecca West (Cicely Fairfield in private life) had a literary career that spanned most of the 20th century, and she seems to have been just as feared and respected a journalist when she was writing suffragette polemics in her teens as she was when she was reporting on the Iranian Embassy siege — happening outside her windows in Kensington — aged ninety. Many of her book reviews, with the famous knockout blow in the first sentence, became legendary. But her fiction often seems a little bit intimidating, tucked away in that pile of Viragos we mean to get around to one day, and overshadowed by its autobiographical elements, particularly the relationship with H G Wells and her long-running feud with their son Anthony West, a lot of it conducted through competing novels. And then there's the whole complicated business of her stance on Yugoslavia and her objection to Churchill switching his support from Mihailović to Tito. Lots of scope for biographers to get side-tracked.

Victoria Glendinning knew Rebecca West in the last couple of decades of her life, and, with a track-record of biographies of Great Female Writers, was obviously signed up as a safe pair of hands to tell her side of the story and defend her against the inevitable posthumous attack from Anthony. All the same, this isn't quite a bland "official biography". Glendinning is quite prepared to admit that her subject had her faults, that her famous determination to speak her mind in print and take no prisoners went together with a dangerously thin skin, and that her feminism and independence were never entirely free from the gender attitudes of her Edwardian childhood. Those contradictions, perhaps, were what made her so interesting, but they also gave her a difficult life. Because of the sort of person she was, it took her ten years to accept that she would never be anything more than "the other woman" (or rather, one of them) in the relationship with Wells; it brought her a humiliating and distressing rejection when she tried to turn a fling with Lord Beaverbrook(!) into a relationship, and of course it particularly hurt her relationship with her son.

Glendinning calls this a "little biography", and at 250 pages of text it's certainly quite short by the standards of the genre, but it packs quite a lot of thoughtful analysis into that space, sparing us a lot of the day to day detail that we probably didn't really want anyway. If you're a serious student of West's work, you'll probably want something with more footnotes and a more detailed bibliography, and perhaps with a bit more outsider's perspective on the quarrels, but otherwise this seems like a very good place to start.
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thorold | 3 other reviews | Jun 14, 2021 |
What a life, what a personality. Makes one think about the importance of privilege/connections/money/hustling/branding to a writer's life and how the societal worship of eccentricities can sometimes overshadow an artist's works. Especially with the Woolf connections and references peppered throughout the book.

Glendinning is thorough in her scholarship and organisation, with just enough pithy sideways authorial interjection to temper and balance out Sitwell's overwhelming individuality. Published in 1981, the book referenced a few times the letters between Sitwell and Tchelitchew to be released by Yale in 2000. I wonder if there's any new edition with perhaps an afterword about how they would colour Glendinning's analyses of their smothering codependent relationship.

Aside: it's always nice when one's faves show up in someone else's biographies, it really humanises (de-lionises) all the well-known names and also populates the setting of the past really well.
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kitzyl | 1 other review | Dec 31, 2020 |
Agnes Peppin is the daughter of a butcher. As a young girl she makes a mistake. She meets a boy and becomes pregnant. Having disgraced her family, she is sent to Shaftesbury Abbey to have her child and then become a nun. She is lucky. The only reason she is accepted at Shaftesbury is because her mother has powerful connections through her family. When Agnes has the baby, it is sent away to be raised by the father's family and she settles in to life in the Abbey. Agnes is chosen as assistant and secret-keeper by the Abbess because she can read and write. Unfortunately King Henry the VIII is on the throne and his Great Matter threatens the abbey. The king divorces one wife, marries another, beheads the new wife....and along the way monasteries and abbeys are dissolved, their assets taken by the crown and the buildings razed. It's not a safe time to be Catholic. Finally Agnes is faced with the question of where she will go when Shaftesbury Abbey is no more.

I enjoyed this book. It was a bit slow at the beginning, but as I got to know the characters and got pulled into the daily life of a disgraced girl in the Tudor era, I found myself mesmerized by the story. Agnes lives in an age where women had few choices....men mostly made their choices for them. I liked the fact that the story gave another angle to the tale of King Henry and his fracas with the Catholic Church. I had never really thought about what it might have been like for the nuns and priests who suddenly had no place to live and no church to worship in. It must have been terrifying and extremely sad for them. Not to mention dangerous. Agnes also discovers that there is much hypocrisy, lying and secrets hidden by those around her.

I found this book to be quite thought provoking. Agnes accepts so much without question or argument because she really isn't allowed to have an opinion. She's a woman.....a disgraced woman....and she knows her place in the scheme of things. At first, I thought she was weak, but then I realized she just knows things are they way they are. She has no hope of changing anything so why voice any dissent? And she learns that pointing out hypocrisy or problems usually just ends with her getting in trouble for noticing something that isn't her concern. So it's not really weakness....but wisdom on her part to remain silent. I don't think I would have survived had I lived in the Tudor era.

All in all, an interesting read. Anyone interested in the Tudor era would enjoy this story.

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Overlook (W.W. Norton) via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**
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JuliW | 2 other reviews | Nov 22, 2020 |



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