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A Strange Eventful History: The Dramatic Lives of Ellen Terry, Henry Irving, and Their Remarkable Families

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A Strange Eventful History: The Dramatic Lives of Ellen Terry, Henry Irving, and Their Remarkable Families Cover

ISBN13: 9780312429492
ISBN10: 0312429495
Condition: Standard
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In A Strange Eventful History, one of our greatest living biographers turns his attention to a gruop of history's most influential performers, a remarkable dynasty that presided over the golden age of theater.
 
Ellen Terry was ther era's most powerful actress.  George Bernard Shaw was so besotted that he wrote her letters almost daily, but could not bear to meet her, lest the spell she cast from the stage be broken.  Henry Irving was a merchant's clerk who by force of will and wit became one of the greatest actor-managers in the history of the theater.  Together, Irving and Terry presided over a powerhouse of the arts in London's Lyceum Theatre and revived English theater as a popular art form.
 
Exactingly researched and bursting with charismatic life, this epic story follows Terry and Irving and their brilliant but volatile children--among them Terry's son, Edward Gordon Craig, the revolutionary theatrical designer.  A Strange Eventful History is more than an account of the great classical age of London theater; it is a potrait of nineteenth-century society on the precipice of great change.
Knighted for his services to literature, Michael Holroyd is the author of acclaimed biographies of George Bernard Shaw, the painter Augustus John, and Lytton Strachey, as well as two memoirs. He is the president of the Royal Society of Literature and the only nonfiction writer to have been awarded the David Cohen British Literature Prize. He lives in London with his wife, the novelist Margaret Drabble.
Deemed “a prodigy among biographers” by The New York Times Book Review, Michael Holroyd transformed biography into an art. Now he turns his keen observation, humane insight, and epic scope on an ensemble cast, a remarkable dynasty that presided over the golden age of theater.

Ellen Terry was an ethereal beauty, the child bride of a Pre-Raphaelite painter who made her the face of the age. George Bernard Shaw was so besotted by her gifts that he could not bear to meet her, lest the spell she cast from the stage be broken. Henry Irving was an ambitious, harsh-voiced merchants clerk, but once he painted his face and spoke the lines of Shakespeare, his stammer fell away to reveal a magnetic presence. He would become one of the greatest actor-managers in the history of the theater. Together, Terry and Irving created a powerhouse of the arts in Londons Lyceum Theatre, with Bram Stokerwho would go on to write Draculaas manager. Celebrities whose scandalous private lives commanded global attention, they took America by storm in wildly popular national tours.

Their all-consuming professional lives left little room for their brilliant but troubled children. Henrys boys followed their father into the theater but could not escape the shadow of his fame. Ellens feminist daughter, Edy, founded an avant-garde theater and a largely lesbian community at her mothers country home. But it was Edys son, the revolutionary theatrical designer Edward Gordon Craig, who possessed the most remarkable gifts and the most perplexing inability to realize them. A now forgotten modernist visionary, he collaborated with the Russian director Stanislavski on a production of Hamlet that forever changed the way theater was staged. Maddeningly self-absorbed, he inherited his mothers potent charm and fathered thirteen children by eight women, including a daughter with the dancer Isadora Duncan.

An epic story spanning a century of cultural change, A Strange Eventful History finds space for the intimate moments of daily existence as well as the bewitching fantasies played out by its subjects. Bursting with charismatic life, it is an incisive portrait of two families who defied the strictures of their time. It will be swiftly recognized as a classic.

"There have been several excellent books about Irving and Terry individually, including Terrys own charming, if highly unreliable, memoir, The Story of My Life. What Holroyd adds to the picture is an extended dual focus, as well as lively and entertaining writingamong contemporary biographers he is almost without peer as a stylistand an unparalleled knowledge of the period. (Who but Holroyd, for example, would know about Irvings travails in finding a suitable Rozinante for a one-acter about Don Quixote? . . . As the title suggests, Holroyd frames his book almost like a melodrama, and it unspools with great narrative energy . . . Physically, A Strange Eventful History is an exceptionally handsome volume, with pages of color photographs and many of Gordon Craigs original woodcuts."Charles McGrath, The New York Times Book Review

"Holroyds sweeping group biography traces the lives of Ellen Terry and Henry Irving, two stars of the Victorian theatre, and their descendants. Terry was 'embodied sunshine,' beloved for her naturalness and grace onstage. In 1878, when she was thirty-one, she began a professional (and perhaps amorous) partnership with Irving, the despotic actor-manager of the Lyceum Theatre, in London, a stutterer 'of strange countenance and with crablike gait,' whose power lay in creating an 'awful sense of apprehension' in the audience. The pair rose to international fame performing melodramas and Shakespeare abridgments. Both had children who attempted careers in the theatre, and the second half of the book dwells on their struggles amid their parents decline. Holroyd proceeds at a furious pace, and, in less expert hands, the detail packed onto the page might bewilder; instead, the effect is of an epic, perfectly balanced by intimacies of setting and character."The New Yorker

"In this group biography of Terry, Irving and their families, Michael Holroydwell known for his lives of Lytton Strachey and Shawhas produced the most completely delicious, the most civilized and the most wickedly entertaining work of nonfiction anyone could ask for. I have no particular interest in theatrical history, but Holroyd's vervehis dramatic sense for the comic and the tragicis irresistible. The book's chapters are pleasingly short, its prose crisp and fast-moving, and every page is packed with bizarre doings, eccentric characters, surprising factoids and a stream of lively and scandalous anecdotes . . . A Strange Eventful History is a wonderful book, deserving applause, bouquets and a rave review in this morning's paper."Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

"When Michael Holroyd takes on a subject, you know his sweep will be wide. This is not to say that he forfeits depthfar from itbut rather that he puts things in the fullest possible context. His groundbreaking biography of Lytton Strachey more than 40 years ago not only established him as a first-rate practitioner of the art but also blew the lid off the Bloomsbury group with his revelations of their hitherto discreetly covered-up antics. Indeed, he is both forefather and godfather to the hundreds of works exploring the lives, loves and libidos of that fascinating crowd . . . So it is not surprising that A Strange Eventful History: The Dramatic Lives of Ellen Terry, Henry Irving, and Their Remarkable Families is not just a life of the great Victorian actress but includes her leading man (and presiding genius, along with Terry and their manager Bram Stoker, of London's landmark Lyceum Theatre) as well as both their families."Martin Rubin, Los Angeles Times <

Synopsis:

From perhaps our greatest living biographer, a portrait of a fascinating theater family, and of a turning point in popular entertainment in the Western world.

Synopsis:

In A Strange Eventful History, one of our greatest living biographers turns his attention to a gruop of history's most influential performers, a remarkable dynasty that presided over the golden age of theater.
 
Ellen Terry was ther era's most powerful actress.  George Bernard Shaw was so besotted that he wrote her letters almost daily, but could not bear to meet her, lest the spell she cast from the stage be broken.  Henry Irving was a merchant's clerk who by force of will and wit became one of the greatest actor-managers in the history of the theater.  Together, Irving and Terry presided over a powerhouse of the arts in London's Lyceum Theatre and revived English theater as a popular art form.
 
Exactingly researched and bursting with charismatic life, this epic story follows Terry and Irving and their brilliant but volatile children--among them Terry's son, Edward Gordon Craig, the revolutionary theatrical designer.  A Strange Eventful History is more than an account of the great classical age of London theater; it is a potrait of nineteenth-century society on the precipice of great change.

About the Author

Knighted for his services to literature, Michael Holroyd is the author of acclaimed biographies of George Bernard Shaw, the painter Augustus John, and Lytton Strachey, as well as two memoirs. He is the president of the Royal Society of Literature and the only nonfiction writer to have been awarded the David Cohen British Literature Prize. He lives in London with his wife, the novelist Margaret Drabble.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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rollyson2002, August 7, 2012 (view all comments by rollyson2002)
This group biography may be Holroyd's finest achievement.  His subjects are hardly neglected figures, but the weaving together of their stories over several generations is new and profound.  The world of the stage becomes a metaphor for a changing culture--in this case, the transition from the Victorian to the Edwardian epoch, when Ellen Terry became the most beloved actress of her time and Henry Irving the most successful and innovative theater manager in London and abroad.  Although Holroyd makes deft use of the copious secondary literature on these figures, he has done considerable research in primary sources.  And rather than relying on the conventional endnotes, his "Outline of Sources" serves as an especially valuable introduction to the period and its personalities.  Quite aside from offering an engrossing narrative, Holroyd has a point to prove: "Despite alterations in the law, in accepted social and moral habits, and in our methods of recording history, the configurations of family life today still echo and reflect the concealed lives of a hundred years or more ago."
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780312429492
Author:
Holroyd, Michael
Publisher:
Picador USA
Author:
Holroyd, Michael
Subject:
Entertainment & Performing Arts - Theatre
Subject:
Historical - British
Subject:
Acting & Auditioning
Subject:
General Biography
Subject:
Biography-Entertainment and Performing Arts
Subject:
Biography-Historical
Subject:
Entertainment & Performing Arts
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Paperback
Publication Date:
20100331
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Includes 2 8-page bandw photo sections p
Pages:
656
Dimensions:
9.21 x 6.48 x 1.18 in

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Drama » History and Theory
Biography » Entertainment and Performing Arts
Biography » Historical

A Strange Eventful History: The Dramatic Lives of Ellen Terry, Henry Irving, and Their Remarkable Families Used Trade Paper
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Product details 656 pages Picador USA - English 9780312429492 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by ,

From perhaps our greatest living biographer, a portrait of a fascinating theater family, and of a turning point in popular entertainment in the Western world.

"Synopsis" by ,
In A Strange Eventful History, one of our greatest living biographers turns his attention to a gruop of history's most influential performers, a remarkable dynasty that presided over the golden age of theater.
 
Ellen Terry was ther era's most powerful actress.  George Bernard Shaw was so besotted that he wrote her letters almost daily, but could not bear to meet her, lest the spell she cast from the stage be broken.  Henry Irving was a merchant's clerk who by force of will and wit became one of the greatest actor-managers in the history of the theater.  Together, Irving and Terry presided over a powerhouse of the arts in London's Lyceum Theatre and revived English theater as a popular art form.
 
Exactingly researched and bursting with charismatic life, this epic story follows Terry and Irving and their brilliant but volatile children--among them Terry's son, Edward Gordon Craig, the revolutionary theatrical designer.  A Strange Eventful History is more than an account of the great classical age of London theater; it is a potrait of nineteenth-century society on the precipice of great change.
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