Hear Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians

Click in this link to hear Strachey’s brilliant hatchet job on Florence Nightingale:


Why do I do what I do? Specifically, why am I making available on my website [hidden in the Blank Verse category (erroneously named)]: the work of Lytton Strachey virally available elsewhere if you care to perform a Google search (if you care)?

Why now?

Lytton Strachey was a member of the Bloomsbury Group http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloomsbury_Group. Strachey (1880-1932) may have been the first “modern” biographer  which, in his case, includes being: sardonically humorous, an intense researcher, a firm believer in his own get-to-the-point-and-stick-with-it elegant writer. Virginia Woolf’s sister Vanessa Bell painted this portrait in London in 1911 (available through Yale University’s Digital Resources Collection).

The link above is to a LibriVox recording of Eminent Victorians by Giles Lytton Strachey read by Margaret Espaillat.

Table of Contents
  • 20:121 01 – Preface and Cardinal Manning, Chapter 129:022 02 – Cardinal Manning, Chapter 2
  • 39:553 03 – Cardinal Manning, Chapter 3
  • 33:054 04 – Cardinal Manning, Chapter 4
  • 37:155 05 – Cardinal Manning, Chapter 5
  • 37:206 06 – Cardinal Manning, Chapter 6
  • 37:257 07 – Cardinal Manning, Chapter 7
  • 13:328 08 – Cardinal Manning, Chapter 8
  • 10:229 09 – Cardinal Manning, Chapter 9
  • 13:5010 10 – Cardinal Manning, Chapter 10
  • 14:0011 11 – Florence Nightingale, Chapter 1
  • 49:0212 12 – Florence Nightingale, Chapter 2
  • 54:1713 13 – Florence Nightingale, Chapter 3
  • 29:1314 14 – Florence Nightingale, Chapters 4 & 5
  • 36:3815 15 – Dr. Arnold, Part 1
  • 37:2616 16 – Dr. Arnold, Part 2
  • 34:3717 17 – The End of General Gordon, Part 1
  • 28:4118 18 – The End of General Gordon, Part 2
  • 30:0219 19 – The End of General Gordon, Part 3
  • 29:4620 20 – The End of General Gordon, Part 4
  • 35:1121 21 – The End of General Gordon, Part 5
  • 36:2422 22 – The End of General Gordon, Part 6
  • 35:2023 23 – The End of General Gordon, Part 7
    “Sometimes referred to as the Nightingale Jewel, this brooch, the design of which was supervised by Prince Albert The Prince Consort, is engraved with a dedication from Queen Victoria, ‘To Miss Florence Nightingale, as a mark of esteem and gratitude for her devotion towards the Queen’s brave soldiers, from Victoria R. 1855.’ The brooch was not intended to serve merely as a piece of jewellery, but rather, in the absence of a medal or established decoration suitable for presentation to such a female civilian, it stood as a badge of royal appreciation.” –National Army Museum, London
LibriVox notes:
“On Modern Library’s list of 100 Best Non-Fiction books, “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.”
[Note: I first read Eminent Victorians in 1972 at one of those moments I have had in  life where I was recovering from a disaster. The disaster in this case was my first divorce after my wife left me for a taxi cab driver in New York whom she met at an evening class in Chemistry. My reaction was to follow my friend David Phillips’ suggestion and move to San Francisco where we lived as roommates in a wooden red house in the Bernal Heights section–an area so steep that when I left the house to pursue free-lance writing assignments and women, I had to walk sideways.
Bernal Heights, a San Francisco neighborhood, where I lived close to the peak and could see from my desk in the front room (assuming no fog) the Golden Gate Bridge across the expanse of the City.

[In times of stress, I turn to literature. One day David handed me Eminent Victorians saying,  “This was written by the man who invented the New Yorker profile.” I went on to read Strachey’s biography of Queen Victoria and became immersed in the Bloomsbury Group, especially Virginia Woolf and eventually the multi-volumed autobiography of her husband Leonard. Strachey’s words especially were a great comfort, reading someone who could write so well and leading to the fantasy that someday I might acquire that ability.]