By Mark Girouard
(Frances Lincoln, Hardcover, 9780711233294, 192pp.)
Publication Date: July 1, 2012
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Does a neglected masterpiece by Jane Austen enshrine her first love affair? Who was Vita Sackville West's real grandfather? What clues are there to the identity of 'Walter', doyen of Victorian pornographers? When and why did P.G. Wodehouse mutate from hack to genius? Was Oscar Wilde really down and out in Paris? Was Brideshead really Madresfield?
These and other excursions into literary or social history have developed out of Mark Girouard's spare time enthusiasms, as diversions from his main occupation as an architectural historian. In nine essays he calls attention to points that have not been noticed before, corrects fallacies that have got into general circulation, suggests, identifies, redates, refutes, or pours a little cold water on unjustified romanticisms. Three further essays sample another enthusiasm, his own family background, and introduce characters such as the dwarf who had to stand on a bench to address the South African Parliament, the colonial governor who fell in love with his niece, and the dowager duchess with whom he spent his childhood on the edge of the park at Chatsworth.
Mark Girouard was born in 1931. He is a British architectural writer, an authority on the country house, leading architectural historian, and the biographer of James Stirling.He worked for Country Life magazine firstly as its Architectural Writer, and then as its Architectural Editor until 1967. He was Slade Professor of Fine Art from 1975 to 1976, and was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London in 1987. Among his many books is Elizabethan Architecture (2009) and Life in the English Country House, which won the Duff Cooper Memorial Prize for 1978, and the WH Smith Literary Award in 1979. Writing with wit and erudition, Mark Girouard's works expertly explore the social history of the fabric in which we live. He lives in Notting Hill, London.
"Easygoing elegance and scholarliness lightened by jouncing, irrepressible enthusiasm." - Katherine A. Powers, "A Reading Life", Barnes & Noble Review