Although I consider myself fairly well read in 19th century history, I had never before heard the story of French Emperor Napoleon III's mistress - whAlthough I consider myself fairly well read in 19th century history, I had never before heard the story of French Emperor Napoleon III's mistress - who was an English courtesan of very humble upbringing.
They met while the young Louis Napoleon was in exile in London, and "Miss Elizabeth Howard" (one of her many names) was a flourishing "actress" and entertainer in the disreputable demi-monde. Ms. Maurois makes the case that Miss Howard's financial support played a key role in helping engineer Louis Napoleon's successful political career in France: in essence, that the throne of France was "purchased" with the "ill-gotten gains" of this beautiful but semi-literate shoemaker's daughter.
Unfortunately, this book is not really very well written; this was Simone Maurois's first book, and she shows a tendency to stray from her subject and run off into tangents. But it is an interesting subject, and she actually makes a pretty good case that Louis Napoleon probably would have done better for himself - and for France - if he had stuck by his loyal mistress instead of chasing after the Spanish aristocrat Eugenie Montijo....more
"With 'Love' and 'Rage'" would be more accurate as a title.
David Morgan enjoyed a briefly intense, somewhat boozy friendship with Iris Murdoch in the"With 'Love' and 'Rage'" would be more accurate as a title.
David Morgan enjoyed a briefly intense, somewhat boozy friendship with Iris Murdoch in the Bohemian world of London in the 1960s. She was twenty years older, and already a well-published novelist, so there was already considerable inequality from the start. He was a struggling student at the Royal College of Art, and Murdoch provided the younger man with guidance, advice about his messy romantic life, and the occasional loan. Now, a decade after her death, Morgan has written a rambling, poorly organized, repetitive (but short) account of their platonic relationship. Between the lines, "With Love and Rage" seems infused with a mildly bitter regret that Murdoch didn't allow him to become a larger part of her life. ...more
Some clever dialogue (reminiscent of an Ivy Compton-Burnett novel) interspersed with undeveloped characters in a family drama set in WilhelminSketchy.
Some clever dialogue (reminiscent of an Ivy Compton-Burnett novel) interspersed with undeveloped characters in a family drama set in Wilhelmine Germany. There's some wit about the follies of the bourgeoisie in Pre-World War I Europe. In the better parts, it reminded me of a Germanic "Galsworthy Saga." But there's just too much missing. It's like watching a foreign language film without subtitles. And I gave up caring at all about the characters about half-way through. Moreover, the whole narrative structure seems faulty to me....more
These are slight, highly autobiographical stories detailing a detached narrator's odd moments and peculiar relations, written by a minor member of theThese are slight, highly autobiographical stories detailing a detached narrator's odd moments and peculiar relations, written by a minor member of the British aristocracy. The only reason the collection "earned" its third star from me was that I think that Wyndham is actually quite interesting, and as an editor, journalist and friend he has insinuated himself into some of the most interesting lives of our time.
Francis Wyndham was born in 1924, and at the time of this writing (January 2011) is still active in London literary circles. His literary and social ancestry is impeccable. His maternal grandmother was Ada Leverson, aka "The Sphinx," one of Oscar Wilde's closest friends. His father was a member of the social set of "The Souls" before World War I; his aunt was Pamela, Lady Glenconner, who was involved in a long-standing romantic relationship with Sir Edward Grey, British Foreign Secretary in 1914. Becoming active in the London cultural world of the 1950s, he befriended Sonia Orwell, Jean Rhys, and V.S. Naipaul, among others; the painter Francis Bacon and the travel writer Bruce Chatwin were also among his intimates. What a memoir Francis Wyndham could write if he chose to - and one is left wondering why these short tales often seem like discarded fragments of what ought to have been a longer and more serious work.
My favorite story in the collection was "Ursula," a thinly veiled portrait of the author's half-sister Olivia Wyndham. (Considerably older than Francis, she was the offspring of Francis's father's first wife who died of the Spanish Flu in 1919.) As a young woman, Olivia served as a nurse on the Western Front; disillusioned with British society, she moved to New York City, settled in Harlem and became the lover of an African American actress named Edna Thomas. Olivia and Edna lived happily together for 35 years; in the 1940s Edna appeared in the world premiere on Broadway of Tennessee William's "A Streetcar Named Desire." Wyndham portrays his relationship with his sister and her partner with great care and sensitivity - and I love finding out about cultural connections that I didn't know before!...more