PERSONS OF CONSEQUENCE: Queen Victoria and Her Circle by Louis Auchincloss

PERSONS OF CONSEQUENCE: Queen Victoria and Her Circle

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What Auchincloss thinks of Victoria and her intimates (as against what others have concluded). With frequent recourse to ""I suspect,"" ""I suggest,"" ""I find it easy to imagine,"" etc., the novelist and essayist (most recently, Life, Law and Letters, p. 716) takes on the defense of Louise Lehzen, the formidable governess who, he writes, ""was simply the Queen's old nurse"" after Victoria's accession--though on the next page he acknowledges her affront to Albert and Victoria's eventual disenchantment. Melbourne's beneficent influence, on the other hand, he is at pains to discredit. Noting not only Melbourne's want of sympathy for the poor (which every commentator recognizes), he claims--""insofar as one can make out""--that Victoria's first P.M. tried to turn her into a ""political chameleon"": ""the Crown had to be first a violent Whig and then a violent Tory."" Poor Albert, according to Auchincloss, would have to reteach her to be neither. Not that Auchincloss thinks especially well of ""Albert the Good,"" who is pictured as a stuffy drudge ""most successful in the areas appropriate to the activities of a constitutional monarch or figurehead""--whatever the ambitious Baron Stockmar might have wished. Some of this is arguable, some of it is dubious, some of it is pat (the alleged ""failure of communication"" between Victoria and Gladstone, and then between the Queen and her offspring), and because each figure is separately profiled, much of it is repetitious (the Lehzen case repeatedly surfaces, as does the question of sexual relations between the Queen and her ""adored gillie,"" John Brown). But in any case it is just too much Auchincloss--approving, reproaching, personally weighing and measuring. In a book made up to look like a picture-album and ostensibly intended for the uninformed reader, one wants a more reliable, less speculative view.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1979
Publisher: Random House