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What an earnest, industrious, sentimental, moralistic, censorious, thoroughly Victorian personage she was--yet outspoken and, from her maidenly ascent to the throne (in 1837, at age 18), regal. ""At 9 came Lord Melbourne,"" she wrote in her journal the day of her uncle's death, ""whom I saw in my room, and of course quite alone, as I shall always do all my Ministers."" This selection from Victoria's letters and journals brings together extracts from both previously published and unpublished materials--the latter, however, generally known to scholars. It is best read with a major biography at hand: annotation is at a minimum, and while the course of personal relationships can be inferred, the uninformed reader will be hard put to understand the changes of Ministry that so preoccupied Victoria, or to interpret her role in them. (During her long, sequestered widowhood, her constant complaints of not being consulted or heeded--except in the Disraeli years--obscure her very considerable influence.) But we have here, distilled, the whole rapturous Albert story--with its domestic turbulences, its public squalls, the recognition on Victoria's part of the difficulties of Albert's role (""A. is in my house and not I in his""), her dependence on him for emotional support and (increasingly) for political guidance. Her self-scrutiny was exceptional, and so was her clarity and directness of expression. To a correspondent commiserating on the coming marriage and departure of her daughter: ""First, I only feel properly at mon aise and quite happy when Albert is with me; secondly, I am used to carrying on my affairs quite alone; and then I have grown up all alone, accustomed to the society of adult (and never younger) people--lastly I cannot get used to the idea that Vicky is almost grown up. To me she still seems the same child, who has to be kept in order and therefore must not become too intimate."" (So the separation will not be as difficult as it is for her correspondent, whose daughter is also marrying.) Later, in daily letters to Vicky--wed to Frederick William of Prussia--she will be both intimate and a scold. With the notorious cringing from her heir, ""poor Bertie"" (""1 own I think him very dull""), the notorious invective against her here-noir, Gladstone (""the Queen. . . would sooner abdicate than send for or have any communication with that half-mad firebrand. . .""): a spirited, revealing assemblage for a wide readership.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1985
Publisher: Viking