Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

InQueen Victoria, Lytton Strachey has written a personal study, almost a psychological profile, rather than a political biography. He has created a singularly alive and vivid portrait of a complex woman, a woman motivated by “a peculiar sincerity.” This sincerity gave Victoria her impressiveness, her charm, and her absurdity. Strachey also covers many of the political tumults of Victoria’s reign, from the “crisis of the bedchamber ladies” to the Boer War. Yet the main thrust of his book centers on the human personality itself: the complex workings of the mind and soul together and how personality impinges upon historical forces.

The book, a narrative chronicle divided into ten chapters, begins before Victoria’s birth. In the first chapter, “Antecedents,” Strachey explains the problems posed by the death in childbirth of Princess Charlotte, the only legitimate offspring of the prince regent, and the consequent rush of the remaining middle-aged sons of George III to produce a legitimate child to serve as heir apparent. Victoria’s childhood was secluded and, for much of it, she was unaware of the station to which she would be elevated. When informed, Victoria said, “I will be good.” These words became the dominating goal of her life.

The queen’s regnal career falls into five periods: the Melbourne period, the mar-ried years, the years of seclusion and unpopularity following Prince Albert’s death, the reemergence...

(The entire section is 502 words.)