Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Book Review: Pivilege and Scandal

Amanda Foreman has said more than once that if she were to write Georgiana's biography at this point in her life she would have taken then same angle The Duchess has taken in emphasizing Georgiana's affair with Charles Grey. Although I am personally glad Foreman did not take that approach, fellow author Janet Gleeson did for her biography of Georgiana's sister: Privilege and Scandal: The Remarkable Life of Harriet Spencer, Sister to Georgiana. In fact the paperback form in the UK goes under the name of An Aristocratic Affair. Although Harriet's decade-long affair doesn't define who she is (which Gleeson never infers, of course), it is interesting to see the different vantages of the two books, seeing as the two women did have similar lives.

Harriet was the shy, younger Ashlee Simpson to Georgiana's Jessica. As much as this book doesn't spend all its time comparing the two, I automatically did with both the sisters as well as the books. Awful, I know; so please excuse any further comparisons! Despite being shy, Harriet shared many of the same interests as Georgiana, especially politics. Unlike her sister she quickly birthed an heir and spare to her abusive husband. Harriet's life was filled with suffering due to ill health and stupid men...oh and her daughter Caroline Lamb did not make things very easy either. Many who know the story of Georgiana know that the sisters were very close but will be surprised at just how close the two were. I was surprised to find that Harriet requested to be buried alongside her beloved sister when she succumbed to illness years later.

Gleeson's book gives voice to a fascinating woman who is commonly disregarded in history. You find yourself loving Harriet, despite her human faults, and wondering what could possibly happen next. The writing has a clear, even flow which gives understanding to topics that could be somewhat confusing, such as politics and elections. It is amazing how much information Gleeson was able to procure since most of Harriet's personal letters were burnt. I would highly recommend adding this book to your reading list. It gives a different and interesting perspective to the Spencer and Devonshire families and expands upon the Devonshire House set. So let Harriet take center stage in your reading repertoire and pick up this fabulous book!


  1. i really want to read this book!!! but at amazon is temporarily out of stock :(
    so i will have to wait...

  2. I would be interested in reading this book. I love biographies. That's not why I'm posting, though. After your adventures in making things, I thought I would share this URL:

  3. I've been meaning to read this book for like ages. Now that I have a 40% off coupon from B&N, I may just have to buy it! I agree with you that I'm glad that Amanda Foreman didn't decide to emphasize Georgiana's affair with Charles Grey. While it was an important part of her life, it wasn't the most important. I think the relationship between her, the Duke and Bess in many ways was more important.

  4. C- Ugh, I hate that! Although, Amazon does have the paperback in stock...the cover isn't as pretty but the content is just as good!

    RL-Thank you very much for the link!

    Elizabeth- A 40% off coupon! That wouldn't last a week in my possession. I do think you will like this book, especially since Harriet was a scandalous woman :) I also agree with you, Georgiana's relationship at home is much more unique and more interesting than what she had with Grey.

  5. I read this book a couple of months ago and am pleased that Harriet finally got her moment. Her life was just as interesting, yet Bess had her own book first. Hrumpf!
    And why is it that the UK covers are generally better?
    Surprised that Amazon is out of stock---it's quite a recent book. I highly recommend!

  6. I got my copy secondhand and was able to get this cover. I bought it before they released the paperback because it looked like they were going to stop releasing the hardcover edition-for whatever reason. I'm not sure if that is what they're doing, though!

    I am glad she did get her moment, and such a great book because you're right, her life is just as interesting as Georgiana's.

  7. I absolutely loved this book! I actually read it before I read Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, so I have a bit of soft spot for Harriet as she was my introduction into the Devonshire circle.

  8. Thanks for the tip, I will try to find it here in Sweden or else I can always buy it on :-)

  9. another christmas present to myself!