I'd give it two and a half stars if I could. Other books I feel the same way about, especially anthologies which are a mix and match of genres and appI'd give it two and a half stars if I could. Other books I feel the same way about, especially anthologies which are a mix and match of genres and approaches. Some of the pieces in this collection are "spot on" and classic examples of "Londoniana." Others had me scratching my head thinking, "well I hope that the Everyman Library didn't have to pay on royalties on THAT one."
Surely there are better London anthologies than this one....more
I am in some ways "the ideal reader" for this biography: an Anglophile and a British Historian, as well as someone with a considerable interest in midI am in some ways "the ideal reader" for this biography: an Anglophile and a British Historian, as well as someone with a considerable interest in mid-20th century intellectual history. I was in graduate school in the 1980s, and I was aware at the time of several of main skirmishes and battles fought between Trevor-Roper and his intellectual peers over the course of several earlier decades. Reading this book now, I can put them into perspective more much clearly than I could at the time, so that now I can perceive nuances and shades of conflict that were undecipherable at the time. There's a lot of great "back-story" in Sisman's biography: of course, it helps to be already somewhat familiar with what the "front-story" was. (I'm thinking in particular about matters involving Trevor-Roper's well-known public feud with Evelyn Waugh, but it also pertains to his engagement with rival historians and "frenemies" like Lawrence Stone, Keith Thomas, and A.J.P Taylor.)
Other reviewers have commented on the considerable length of Sisman's text: 575 pages. Really, the length is justified by Sisman's "mission" to maintain and defend Trevor-Roper's professional reputation. In the last decades of his life, Trevor-Roper made a series of unfortunate decisions that tarnished the name he had earned for himself with his careful and probing work in the earlier part of his historical career. He accepted the Mastership of Peterhouse College, Cambridge, a position for which he was unsuited and which proved to be in his own words "seven wasted years"; he maintained his association with the "Times" newspaper concern long after Rupert Murdoch took it over, when it was clear to outsiders that Murdoch was using Trevor-Roper's prestige as a cover for his own union-busting policies; and most notoriously, he lent his name, position, and expertise to the doomed effort to pass off the supposed Hitler Diaries as genuine. Sisman does succeed in presenting a good case that Trevor-Roper should be remembered not for this later mis-steps, but rather for his earlier sterling work, especially for "The Last Days of Hitler" which is just as interesting and readable today as if was when published nearly 70 years ago. ...more
Fascinating biography which provides a social history of the early 18th century English aristocracy, a privileged elite who lived fast, partied hard,Fascinating biography which provides a social history of the early 18th century English aristocracy, a privileged elite who lived fast, partied hard, and died young.
The Lady Diana Spencer of the 18th century was raised by her grandmother, the larger-than-life figure of Sarah Churchill, 1st Duchess of Marlborough, friend and advisor of Queen Anne, and wife of the victor of the battle of Blenheim. Massey's book is necessarily as much a biographical study of Duchess Sarah as it is of Lady Diana, and I think it is all the much better for it. ...more
The book does contain some information that was new to me about the documented mistresses, particularly Elizabeth Blount and Mary Boleyn. But there'sThe book does contain some information that was new to me about the documented mistresses, particularly Elizabeth Blount and Mary Boleyn. But there's also a lot on the wives that is dealt with better by David Starkey or Alison Weir.
Moreover, it is unfortunate that the text of the book was not better prepared. There are numerous passages that should have been revised in consultation with a good proofreader or copy-editors. There are also some glaring factual errors - for example, Hart suggests that Henry VII's father Edmund Tudor was only 14 at the time of his death in 1456 - thus lopping a full 11 years off his already short life-span. ...more
Fascinating look at notorious nineteenth century episode wherein Great Britain invaded China in order to protect the interests of the opium drug carteFascinating look at notorious nineteenth century episode wherein Great Britain invaded China in order to protect the interests of the opium drug cartel, and in the process inadvertently picked up for the British Empire what was then a neglected and insignificant island and what is now the global megacity of Hong Kong. "You can't make this stuff up." ...more
Very enjoyable collection of letters from the royal court of Louis XIV, in an engaging and colloquial translation. Elizabeth-Charlotte was a German prVery enjoyable collection of letters from the royal court of Louis XIV, in an engaging and colloquial translation. Elizabeth-Charlotte was a German princess, and although she converted from Lutheranism to the Roman Catholic faith at the time of her marriage, she would always be sympathetic to the protestantism of her youth. She remained proud of her Rhenish heritage, and felt like an outsider in France through fifty-plus years of life there. This made the Duchess something of a cultural anthropologist of the court, since her detachment allowed her the perspective necessary to comment pungently on the elaborate rituals of status and hierarchy.
Elizabeth-Charlotte was married to Philippe, Duke of Orleans, younger brother of Louis XIV. Philippe was a flamboyant homosexual at a time when there was no word for homosexuality - although his flamboyance fit in quite easily with the rest of the French court. Her comments on her husband's orientation make for fascinating reading, as does also her attention to details of dress and deportment among the elite. There's something agreeably earthy about Elizabeth-Charlotte. Among the topics she writes about: the quality of fabric for the dresses and gowns worn by the ladies; the misbehavior of the unruly children in the palaces, running wild without supervision; the various card games favored by the aristocracy; and the occasion jokes about farting and other bodily functions that her family enjoyed sharing. There's nothing stuffy or artificial about the Duchess.
She also makes many interesting comments on the international political scene of Europe in the late 17th and early 18th century. Elizabeth-Charlotte was connected by blood or marriage with almost all of the important European leaders of this time. William of Orange and his wife Mary, victors of the Glorious Revolution, were both cousins. Her favorite correspondent was her beloved aunt Sophia, Electress of Hanover, mother of the future King George I of Great Britain. Moreover, her son, another Philippe Duke of Orleans, became Regent and de facto ruler of France after the death of Louis XIV, during the childhood of the future Louis XV. ...more
My, but weren't there a lot of battles in Flanders during this period!
Professor Lynn, who is a great authority on military activities in early modernMy, but weren't there a lot of battles in Flanders during this period!
Professor Lynn, who is a great authority on military activities in early modern Europe, here provides a basic narrative framework for the five significant conflicts that took place under the full authority of the Sun King. Because of the complexity of the conflicts, and the seemingly never-ending series of engagements along the Rhine River and in the Spanish Netherands, the result is a book that sometimes seems like "one damn battle after another." But Lynn does provide some good analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of Louis XIV's strategy, making it clear that he sought to maximalize France's position within the established European order; unlike Napoleon, he did not seek to create an entire new world of nations and peoples.
This Osprey book is exceptionally well illustrated. The pictures are indeed worth thousands of words. However, the maps, while very attractive, are oddly labeled and are really not all that helpful. ...more