by Lytton Strachey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
First published in 1918, Strachey's portraits of four legendary figures of the Victorian era revitalized the art of biography. The impression I got of each of these "eminent" people is of a very human and very flawed individual whose actions (and errors) affected the historical events they were part of.
The profiled victorians are Cardinal Manning, a Catholic Cardinal and Archbishop of Westminster; Thomas Arnold, an educator and the father of poet Matthew Arnold; and Charles George Gordon, a career British soldier whose debacle at Kartoum at the end of his life is the focus of the profile. The fourth subject was Florence Nightingale whose profile I found the most interesting of the group. Her image as a kind "lady with the lamp" nursing Crimean soldiers was not nearly as intriguing as the management and organization that she undertook to get those soldiers beds and food which the army had neglected to plan for.
Strachey was part of the Bloomsbury group and, instead of the ponderous celebratory tomes that had been typical of biography, he wrote lives with “a brevity which excludes everything that is redundant and nothing that is significant.”
This book is one of my Classics Club titles and also counts toward the 2019 Mount TBR challenge and the Back to the Classics Challenge (20th century classic)