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Tuesday, 3 August 2010

More bedtime reading

I promised I would update this blog with some of my bedtime reading. I recently read Ian Kelly's massive biography (the Ultimate Dandy) of Beau Brummell. I very much enjoyed some parts - especially his account of Brummell's schooldays - and his glory days as a fashion icon. The author clearly did an incredible amount of research for this work. Yet the book's ending left me very uneasy. Brummell's long decline into physical and mental illness is well documented, and Mr Kelly had access to Brummell's medical records: clearly a fantastic resource.  His forensic and clinical account of Brummell's physical symptoms as he approached death left me wondering just how far a biographer is justified in going in pursuit of a complete portrayal of his subject, however. Should a biographer portray his subject 'warts and all', or should a polite veil be drawn over some areas? A difficult one.

I can thoroughly recommend the other book I finished recently - Andrea di Robilant's fascinating study of his ancestor Lucia Mocenigo -  'Lucia in the Age of Napoleon'. Lucia was a friend of Empress Josephine, and was Lord Byron's landlady. Lucia witnessed the break-up of Venice in the tumult of the Napoleonic Wars. Her life was very different from that of Jane Austen - her father arranged a marriage for her while she was in her teens, and her married life went through many ups and downs. Robilant's book takes a novelistic approach to Lucia's life while ensuring the historical details are meticulously accurate.

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