Queen Anne, Sarah Churchill, and Abigail Hill (Lady Masham) again--this time in a slim memoir from Abigail's viewpoint, with...

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EXIT LADY MASHAM

Queen Anne, Sarah Churchill, and Abigail Hill (Lady Masham) again--this time in a slim memoir from Abigail's viewpoint, with more erudition and political texture than Jean Plaidy's The Queen's Favorites (1978), but with far less personality and drama. Writing long after the fact in 1733, Abigail has the feeling ""that my words will be so much spray, evaporating on the weatherbeaten but stubbornly enduring monuments of John and Sarah Churchill."" She recalls her 1690s life as servant-girl, from which she is rescued by her cousin Sarah--now Lady Marlborough, wife of soldier-hero John Churchill (whom Abigail secretly adores). And when Anne becomes Queen, busy lady-in-waiting Sarah installs Abigail as her substitute/spy at court; after all, the shy, sweet, stubborn Queen dotes on Abigail's soothing voice and soothing hands (for the Queen's arthritis). Did Abigail, then, purposely win the Queen away from Sarah? No way, she says. Nor did she seek to influence Anne--at least not at first. (And as for Sarah's viperish innuendos about an ""unnatural"" Anne/Abigail liaison. . . well, really!) Later, however, after Abigail's shotgun wedding to crude seducer Capt. Masham, she does become politically oriented: both her ministerial cousin Harley and the great Jonathan Swift (""I would have followed him across the African desert"") urge her to help their move towards peace-making with France--a noble cause which, however, makes Abigail the enemy of her beloved warrior John Churchill. And, as the Queen's health declines, Abigail finds herself disillusioned (the Stuart cause, which even the dying Queen secretly supports, is lost). . . and saddled with an unfair reputation as a meddler. Too sketchy to support the historical theses involved, too cool and studied to bring the famous trio to full-bodied life (Abigail's virtuous and dull, Sarah's mostly offstage)--so while this is stylish enough to please fans of Auchincloss' elegant-sidelight approach to historical fiction, most readers will want to stick with plain, warmhearted Plaidy.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 1983

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1983