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Eminent Victorians

Lytton Strachey

Book Overview: 

"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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Book Excerpt: 
. . .ry of the controversy, then appeared as the avowed opponent of the Provost and the Cardinal. With his own hand he drew up a document justifying the appeal of the Chapter to Rome by Canon Law and the decrees of the Council of Trent. Wiseman was deeply pained: 'My own coadjutor,' he exclaimed, 'is acting as solicitor against me in a lawsuit.' There was a rush to Rome, where, for several ensuing years, the hostile English parties were to wage a furious battle in the antechambers of the Vatican. But the dispute over the Oblates now sank into insignificance beside the rage of contention which centred round a new and far more deadly question; for the position of Dr. Errington himself was at stake. The Cardinal, in spite of illness, indolence, and the ties of friendship, had been brought at last to an extraordinary step— he was petitioning the Pope for nothing less than the deprivation and removal of the Archbishop of Trebizond.

The precise details of what followed . . . Read More

Community Reviews

This book was a rocking good read. It is very well written, and hilarious in parts. People have told me (either with glee or with a wag of the finger) that Strachey "takes the piss" out of Victorians in this book, but these people have never read the book. Waspish as his writing is, it is never (at

I read this book years ago and am considering rereading it again. I loved so many books about the Bloomsbury Group and Lytton Strachey was a very unusual but highly gifted individual.

In this classic book, Strachey deconstructs four heroes of Victorian England with acid wit and brutal directness. Cardinal Manning, a man of Catholic integrity, becomes a scheming power player; Florence Nightingale, a heroine driven by ruthless demons; Dr. Thomas Arnold of Rugby school, a moralist p

Although it sometimes comes at the expense of clarity, there is some artful writing here. Some examples:

On public school education:
"A system of anarchy tempered by despotism. A life in which licensed barbarism was mingled with the daily and hourly study of the niceties of Ovidian verse."

On Monsig

One should rather read Lytton Strachey’s ‘Eminent Victorians’ if one is interested to gain an insight into how Strachey dismounts with relish Victorian heroes and values. My motivation to read this book has been generated from my interest in the Bloomsbury Group, which the eccentric Lytton Strachey

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