Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

The first volume of Jennie: The Life of Lady Randolph Churchill, entitled The Romantic Years, 18541895, is a traditional biography in that it opens with a brief account of Jennie Jerome’s immediate ancestry and then follows her through the first forty-one years of her life to the death of her husband, Lord Randolph Churchill. (The author, Ralph G. Martin, has completed the story of Jennie Jerome’s life in a second volume, entitled The Dramatic Years, 18951921 and published in 1971.) There is virtually no break in the chronological organization of Martin’s book. Jennie’s life is followed from her birth in New York, to youth in Paris, to her marriage and life in England. Although there are numbered chapters in the book, they are not titled and serve mostly to break up what otherwise would be a largely seamless essay of several hundred pages. The book is illustrated with portraits of many of the major characters, and Jennie and Lord Randolph Churchill are shown at various stages in their lives.

The story of Jennie Jerome Churchill’s life provides a look at the condition of the upper classes in the United States and Great Britain at the end of the nineteenth century. In Great Britain, the key to being part of the aristocracy was birth. Wealth was secondary, and as Lord and Lady Churchill proved quite explicitly, debt was only a minor annoyance. In the United States, money made the aristocrat, and although connection to a prominent family was an advantage, it was secondary. While there was always some tension between the two groups, the allure of hereditary nobility...

(The entire section is 658 words.)