Is Eminent Victorians a fictional work? If not, which essay in the book is least accurate?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians is both a new and modern form of biography, rebelling against the standards of his period, and a return to the moral emphasis and form of Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans. Although the book is technically a work of non-fiction, like that of Plutarch, the point is not so much a recitation of historical facts as moral analysis of the characters of important people. Unlike the relatively genial Plutarch, Strachey sees himself at odds with the important Victorians and is intent on showing that they have feet of clay; this negativity somewhat distorts not his factual claims but his slant. For example, recent scholarly work on Manning suggests that Manning was, in fact, deeply concerned about poverty and the plight if the Irish, and Newman, by contrast, who Strachey uses as a positive foil to the negative Manning, somewhat less admirable and more self-centred than portrayed by Strachey.

As all have a balance of factual accuracy and distorted viewpoint, I am not sure one can settle on a “least accurate”; the Gordon portrait is probably the least distorted, and the Manning and Nightingale ones the most vitriolic.


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