VICTORIAN SISTERS: The Remarkable Macdonald Women and the Great Men They Inspired by Ina Taylor

VICTORIAN SISTERS: The Remarkable Macdonald Women and the Great Men They Inspired

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A failed case for the collective eminence of four Victorian sisters. Lightning struck four times among the seven surviving children of Reverend James Macdonald, an itinerant lower-middle-class Methodist minister: Georgians and Agnes Macdonald became the titled wives of painters Edward Burne-Jones and Edward Poynter, and Alice and Louisa became the mothers of Rudyard Kipling and Stanley Baldwin. Here Taylor attempts to show factors of heredity and upbringing, and traits of family personality and character, which led to these brilliant successes in marriage and mothering. The Macdonald girls were educated at home by their mother, indulged in amateur dramatics and musicales, and set to improving-exercises such as writing parodies of well-known poems, and essays on ""the greatness of little things."" The exploits of this spirited and adventurous crew provide a number of funny anecdotes, such as Louisa's youthful foray into taxidermy, when she guts and stuffs a particularly attractive dead mouse with turpentine-soaked cotton and tantalizes the family cat with it. As they age, however, Taylor is harder pressed to make a case for their uniqueness and achievement, and many of their ""successes"" seem mostly the result of being at the right place and the right time with the right pre-Raphaelite people. Even Alice, who corresponded wittily, and advanced first her husband's and then her son's career resourcefully, and Georgie, a skilled decorative artist and later social activist and parish council member, ultimately sink under the weight of what is now a standard insight of Victorian female biography: ""If they hadn't been limited by prevailing standards of vicarious accomplishment. . ."" Skim this for nuggets only.

Pub Date: Aug. 5th, 1987
Publisher: Adler & Adler--dist. by Harper & Row