LADY UNKNOWN: The Life of Angela Burdett-Coutts by Edna Healey

LADY UNKNOWN: The Life of Angela Burdett-Coutts

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Angela Burdett was 23 in 1837 when, to everyone's surprise, she inherited her grandfather's name and fortune. She became Miss Burdett-Coutts, the richest woman in England. Her biography is largely the story of how and with whom she spent her money. She backed scientific research and became a friend to Michael Farraday and Florence Nightingale. She financed African expeditions of David Livingstone, and after him, Henry Stanley. With her long-time close friend Charles Dickens she founded a home for ""fallen women."" She built East End housing projects and an enormous market (a failure) to earn the appellation ""Queen of the Poor"" and the title ""Baroness,"" the first bestowed upon a woman in her own right. She knew everyone, befriended Louis Napoleon and Disraeli, and proposed (vainly) to the aged Duke of Wellington. She seems to have been a woman of independent mind who often asked advice only to disregard it; at 68, in spite of loud opposition, she married a younger man. When she died at 92 (in 1906) 25,000 people came to pay respects. Yet she remains a ""lady unknown,"" an anonymous benefactor, glimpsed obliquely through the lives of famous friends, yet never taking shape herself. Biographer Healey does the best she can with her elusive subject and limited sources, sketching an engaging, consistently interesting figure, more tantalizing than palpable.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1978
Publisher: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan