The Magnificent Mrs Tennant: The Adventurous Life of Gertrude Tennant, Victorian Grande Dame

Overview

Gertrude Tennant’s life was remarkable for its length (1819–1918), but even more so for the influence she achieved as an unsurpassed London hostess. The salon she established when widowed in her early fifties attracted legions of celebrities, among them William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli, Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, Thomas Huxley, John Everett Millais, Henry James, and Robert Browning. In her youth she had a fling with Gustave Flaubert, and in her later years she became the redoubtable mother-in-law to the ...

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Overview

Gertrude Tennant’s life was remarkable for its length (1819–1918), but even more so for the influence she achieved as an unsurpassed London hostess. The salon she established when widowed in her early fifties attracted legions of celebrities, among them William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli, Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, Thomas Huxley, John Everett Millais, Henry James, and Robert Browning. In her youth she had a fling with Gustave Flaubert, and in her later years she became the redoubtable mother-in-law to the explorer Henry Morton Stanley. But as a woman in a male-dominated world, Mrs. Tennant has been remembered mainly as a footnote in the lives of eminent men.

This book recovers the lost life of Gertrude Tennant, drawing on a treasure trove of recently discovered family papers—thousands of letters, including two dozen original letters from Flaubert to Tennant; dozens of diaries; and many other unpublished documents relating to Stanley and other famous figures of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  David Waller presents Gertrude Tennant’s life in colorful detail, placing her not only at the heart of a multigenerational, matriarchal family epic but also at the center of European social, literary, and intellectual life for the best part of a century.

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Editorial Reviews

Washington Times

"Mr. Waller traces with care the filaments of larger historical forces that intertwine with the finer threads of Gertrude''s single life . . . . Through Gertrude and her expansive, democratic social tastes, Mr. Waller offers a tapestry of the ideas and people of the age — each one delicately interconnected with the rest."—Emily Wilkinson, The Washington Times

— Emily Wilkinson

Washington Times - Emily Wilkinson
"Mr. Waller traces with care the filaments of larger historical forces that intertwine with the finer threads of Gertrude's single life . . . . Through Gertrude and her expansive, democratic social tastes, Mr. Waller offers a tapestry of the ideas and people of the age — each one delicately interconnected with the rest."—Emily Wilkinson, The Washington Times
Library Journal
Through an acquaintance with the granddaughter-in-law of Gertrude Tennant (1819–1918), Waller (Wheels on Fire: The Amazing Inside Story of the DaimlerChrysler Merger), was privileged to have access to a huge cache of family papers, letters, and diaries from which to craft this intriguing biography. He reveals the story of a neglected daughter of a minor English naval officer, a child whose formative years spent in the high society of 1830s French salons no doubt influenced the celebrated gatherings she would later host in mid- and later Victorian London. An intimate and lifelong friend of Gustave Flaubert and closely acquainted with iconic men of the age from William Gladstone to Victor Hugo, Tennant would become such a highly connected woman that a meeting with Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Shaw merited no more than a minor note in her diary. VERDICT It is a pity that Tennant is now remembered only as part of the background in the lives of famous men, a slight that Waller hopes to correct as he chronicles the seemingly endless connections and experiences acquired in her astonishingly long life. Recommended for students of the Victorian and Edwardian eras.—Tessa L.H. Minchew, Georgia Perimeter Coll. Lib., Clarkston
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300139358
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 7/7/2009
  • Pages: 308
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

David Waller, an author and management consultant, has written two previous books and holds a postgraduate degree in Victorian studies from Birkbeck College, University of London. He lives in London.

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