Best Wishes for 2011!

December 31, 2010 at 10:25 am (books) (, , , , , , )

The news today, as I turned the radio on (always set to Vermont Public Radio’s “classical” station!) was the New Year’s Honours List recipients. Among them named, actor David Suchet (“M. Poirot”) and biographer Antonia Fraser.

As someone living in the “hinterlands,” working on the project of a lifetime, I can’t help but think how charmed my efforts would have been had I Antonia Fraser’s background: her mother, Lady Longford. Even Lady Longford’s grand-daughter, Flora Fraser, benefitted.

How Elizabeth Longford got into the “biography” business, I’ve no clue – right place at the right time, in some respects, I’m sure. There were masses of biography, letters, diaries, coming out of England in the 20s, 30s, 40s — that would have been a great foundation to build upon, an audience ready and waiting. Even today, the British are intent on history, family history, house history. It was a thrilling atmosphere to be in, working at the Hampshire Record Office for two months. People so inquisitive, so interested.

Lady Longford’s 2002 BBC Obituary mentions she was “in her 50s before she produced her first historical work”. Perhaps there’s hope for me yet!

I was looking at Newspapers yesterday; found mention of William Gosling attending “the Prince Regent’s Levee” in 1811 (about which I will write later). I mentioned it to my mother at dinner – was just busting to do so; I’m sure she was quite bored… How wonderful, as Lady Longford’s obituary in The Times suggests, to have had a “life spent among intellectuals for whom the production of books of all kinds was at least as natural as the production of children.” (The Longfords had eight children.) “Her own historical writings combined erudition and thorough research with wide appeal.” Who can ask for more!?

Interestingly, the obituary goes on to say “…and sure enough, Elizabeth Longford kept a diary and encouraged all her children to do the same.” And gotta love this sentence, near the end: “Needless to say, an aristocrat writing about royalty was an irresistible recipe for publishers, readers and Americans” (my emphasis)!

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Remember the Ladies!

December 29, 2010 at 1:52 pm (people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , )

Although my interest lies in the letters of ABIGAIL ADAMS during her stays abroad (England, France), when I heard that Vermont Public Radio had Joseph Ellis‘ talk about the family Correspondence, I just had to link to the page and encourage readers to give it a listen!

The actual letters (and much more) are to be found at The Massachusetts Historical Society.

I found this poster when preparing my talk “Austen/Adams” — it’s rather crude, like so many Austen images, that I rather “like” it.

I must say, since it had been years since I read Abigail’s letters: There is much to be learned about England at the time she travelled there and what life was like for Jane Austen. No one notices things like an astute woman; and Mrs Adams wrote so well of her impressions.

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