A biography of the virtually self-gilding Jersey Lily which delves no deeper into the essential Mrs. Langtry than Pierre Sichel's 1958 biography; yet it's a heady, aromatic success story which Mr. Gerson pursues energetically and with a minimum of those fabricated pensees which have marred his other works. When the glittering yacht of Edward Langtry hove into view alongside the young Lillie's girlhood home, the Isle of Jersey, the Good Life, hitherto remote for a gently reared clergyman's daughter, was a thrilling possibility. ""I met the owner and fell in love with the yacht,"" Lillie was quoted as saying in later years. And so on to marriage which expanded the horizons of Lillie and completely withered poor Edward. In London Lillie became an almost instant success as a salon attraction, with the friendship of such varied celebrities as Whistler, Wilde (she was one of the few to defend him in his darker hours), Gladstone and -- the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII. Gerson is more chivalrous than Sichel, simply passing over the royal paternity of Lillie's daughter Jeanne (Edward and Lillie were soon estranged). There followed a procession of fascinated men (but Lillie was discreet and highly selective), a triumphant stage career, American tours and citizenship, and one more young husband. Aided by much contemporary material, the author leaves no doubt that Lillie was beautiful, talented, and as shrewd as Mama Gabor; she was absolutely certain that a man's worth and fame was established ""because I loved him.