It has been 25 years since the last major biography of the dumpy little queen who sat on Britain's throne for 64 years, and in view of the mass of scholarly excavating recently done on her, another seems due. Weintraub, noted biographer of Bernard Shaw, Whistler and the Rossettis, fills the need with an intensively researched and highly readable portrait, full of medical and other little-known detail, that brings us much closer to the private Victoria. We see her, above all, in her relations with the key men in her life: her prime ministers, principally Melbourne, Disraeli and Gladstone, the last of whom she detested; her husband Prince Albert, whose premature death sent her into decades of semiseclusion; and her Scottish gillie, Brown, a sort of licensed entertainer and comforter. She was simultaneously selfish and altruistic, passionate and prim, energetic and lazy, a lover of pomp yet middle-class at heartnot so much complex, perhaps, as contradictory. Yet whatever her failings, she was keenly observant and scrupulously honest, which is largely why she cast so powerful a light on her age. Photos not seen by PW. (March 30)
It has been more than 20 years since Elizabeth Longford's graceful Queen Victoria: born to succeed (1964). Weintraub makes use of various new tidbits that have come to light in this engaging account, which, like Longford's, is a personal and not a political biography. His version is not strikingly different, making rather less than is sometimes made of Baron Stockmar and John Brown, and perhaps somewhat more of Victoria's difficult temperament and limited perspective. He writes for the general reader; his source notes are very broad and often to secondary sources. Though it will not displace Longford, this lively narrative is a worthy complement to it and, above all, enjoyable to read. Nancy C. Cridland, Indiana Univ. Libs., Bloomington
Stanley Weintraub is Evan Pugh Professor Emeritus of Arts and Humanities at Penn State University and the author of notable histories and biographies including 11 Days in December, Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce, MacArthur's War, Long Day's Journey into War, and A Stillness Heard Round the World: The End of the Great War. He lives in Newark, Delaware.