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Eminent Victorians (1918)

by Lytton Strachey

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,653299,110 (3.75)69
Eminent Victorians marked an epoch in the art of biography; it also helped to crack the old myths of high Victorianism and to usher in a new spirit by which chauvinism, hypocrisy and the stiff upper lip were debunked. In it Strachey cleverly exposes the self-seeking ambitions of Cardinal Manning and the manipulative, neurotic Florence Nightingale; and in his essays on Dr Arnold and General Gordon his quarries are not only his subjects but also the public-school system and the whole structure of nineteenth-century liberal values.… (more)
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English (27)  Spanish (1)  All languages (28)
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
Eminent Victorians is a seminal work of biography that elevated the genre to the status of fine art. The biographical project was liberated by Strachey's humour, iconoclasm, and narrative flair, which replaced veneration with cynicism. For a decade, his images of Cardinal Manning, Florence Nightingale, Thomas Arnold, and General Gordon transformed people's conceptions of Victorians.
When Lytton Strachey's biographical articles on four "great Victorians" were published in 1918, they sent a shockwave through Victorian England. It was the beginning of the modern biography, elevating the genre to the status of high literary art. Strachey used his iconoclastic wit and cynicism to approach his themes rather than devotion. ( )
  jwhenderson | Feb 23, 2022 |
An excellent book with short biographical sketches of Cardinal Manning, Florence Nightingale, Thomas Arnold and General Gordon. While Strachey was writing to critique the spirit of that age, his sketch of Nightingale was very good and was intriguing. ( )
  Jon_Speed | Nov 24, 2020 |
The initial chapter (on Cardinal Manning) was exceedingly tedious, especially if one had no knowledge of who Cardinals Manning and Newman and some of the other major players were. The remaining chapters, if you managed to persevere through the first, picked up a bit, especially the final chapter on General Gordon. ( )
  OperaMan_22 | Sep 9, 2020 |
I read Lytton Strachey years ago and felt this book had been overhyped, but rereading it in my late sixties, I found myself admiring his use of telling facts to open up the iconic facades of his four subjects and reveal something true about each as a human being rather than as an archetype or Victorian exemplar. ( )
  nmele | Jan 16, 2018 |
Strachey was beloved by Virginia Woolf, plus it's about Victorians--two great tastes! I expect this book to be like eating peanut butter swirled into chocolate. om nom nom.
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Strachey, Lyttonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Holroyd, MichaelIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To H.T.J.N.
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The history of the Victorian Age will never be written: we know too much about it.
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Human beings are too important to be treated as mere symptoms of the past.
The art of biography seems to have fallen on evil times in England…..Those two fat volumes, with which it is our custom to commemorate the dead — who does not know them, with their ill-digested masses of material, their slipshod style, their tone of tedious panegyric, their lamentable lack of selection, of detachment, of design? They are as familiar as the cortege of the undertaker, and wear the same air of slow, funereal barbarism.
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Eminent Victorians marked an epoch in the art of biography; it also helped to crack the old myths of high Victorianism and to usher in a new spirit by which chauvinism, hypocrisy and the stiff upper lip were debunked. In it Strachey cleverly exposes the self-seeking ambitions of Cardinal Manning and the manipulative, neurotic Florence Nightingale; and in his essays on Dr Arnold and General Gordon his quarries are not only his subjects but also the public-school system and the whole structure of nineteenth-century liberal values.

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