Author(s): Lytton Strachey
An unparalleled manifesto for the modern biographer, Lytton Strachey's razor-sharp essays about four prominent Victorians brought him tremendous fame. However, the great pacifist's subjects did not fare as well. Strachey skewers the legends glorifying Florence Nightingale, educator Thomas Arnold, Cardinal Henry Manning, and military hero General Charles ""Chinese"" Gordon. His incisive portraits challenge the nineteenth-century's preeminent values: humanitarianism, liberalism, evangelicism, and imperialism.First published in 1918, this book made an enormous impact on war-weary readers, who were seeking alternatives to Victorian manners and morals. In the Preface, Strachey notes of the role of biographer that ""it is not his business to be complimentary; it is his business to lay bare the facts of the case, as he understands them. That is what I have aimed at in this book--to lay bare the facts of some cases, as I understand them, dispassionately, impartially, and without ulterior intentions."" Strachey's approach to his subjects--recognising their multifaceted, ambiguous, and often self-contradicting humanity--established a new style for biographical writing. Eminent Victorians remains one of the most influential and entertaining studies ever written.