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Aristocrats Caroline, Emily, Louisa, and Sarah Lennox, 1740 1832

ISBN 0374103054 / 9780374103057 / 0-374-10305-4

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Book summary

I must confess that initially I tried to skim this book. But it was far too good, and I ended up spending hours totally engrossed in the lives, loves, and letters of the Lennox sisters--Caroline, Emily, Louisa, and Sarah. Author Stella Tillyard gives a second life to these 18th-century aristocrats, whose extended family included some of the most significant and colorful British political figures of the era. She mixes impeccable research, a sharp eye for detail, and a writing style that's both precise and lively to produce a biography of a clan that doubles as a panoramic history of the aristocracy in the 1700s.

Each sister's defining characteristics shine through her letters, portraits, and Tillyard's terrific storytelling. Caroline, the eldest, is deeply pessimistic, intelligent, and moral but fascinated by and attracted to "wickedness" (she eloped with the naughty-but-nice Henry Fox and lived happily ever after). Emily: beautiful, loving, dictatorial, and unbelievably fertile (22 children, 10 of whom survived into adulthood). Louisa was good, gentle, always unwilling to believe ill of anyone, and when she died, was mourned not only by family and friends, but also by the whole of the Irish town in which she lived. And Sarah--flighty, flirtatious Sarah, with whom the young King George III fell blushingly and tongue-tiedly in love. Who, after disgracing herself and her dull, uninterested husband with the moody younger brother of Lord Gordon (of Gordon riots fame), finally found happiness and respectability, in her late 30s, with an understanding soldier. Unmissable. --Lisa Gee, [via]