Imperial Vanities: The Adventures of the Baker Brothers and Gordon of Khartoum: Three Victorians, Their Friends and Enemies

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9780002571883: Imperial Vanities: The Adventures of the Baker Brothers and Gordon of Khartoum: Three Victorians, Their Friends and Enemies

‘A Victorian drama of three intertwined lives set against a backcloth of the greatest empire the world has ever seen. By degrees heroic, poignant, whimsical and tragic, Brian Thompson’s wonderful book is precisely what that much-misused cliché “rattling good yarn” might have been coined to describe.’ RICHARD HOLMES

'Victorian Britain, that seemingly most conformist of ages, was in fact teeming with eccentrics. The fabulous Baker Brothers were eccentric in a conformist way for the time: Sir Samuel searched for the source of the Nile; Baker Pasha became leader of the Ottoman army. But it was that epitome of empire, and epitome of the Christian English gentleman, who was the most peculiar of them all: 'Chinese' Gordon is finally depicted as the anarchist he really was as he marched to his death against the Mahdi. It is Thompson's triumph that he gives these characters, straitjacketed first by their time, and then by history, the freedom to dance across the page once more.' JUDITH FLANDERS

Imperial Vanities is an adventure story in the high tradition, ranging from the Upper Nile, to Ceylon, Egypt and the slave markets of the Balkans. Livingstone, Speke and Burton also make an appearance, with the shadowy and elusive Laurence Oliphant spying from the sidelines. Written with Thompson's masterly touch, this is history at its best.

'A tale of Empire at its most eccentric. Part biography, part history, part adventure yarn, Imperial Vanities is an ingeniously enjoyable read.' Fergus Fleming

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Review:

On Brian Thompson’s previous book:

'Georgina Weldon's life is a story so richly worth telling as to make the common run of biographies seem sadly dull. Elegant in style, at once sensational and substantial in content, this book is a surprise and delight.'’ Lucy Hughes Hallet, Sunday Times

‘One of the funniest books of the year. It would take a heart of stone not to laugh at Mrs Weldon's disastrous career.' Miranda Seymour, TLS

'Georgina Weldon is the kind of subject biographers dream about…But what makes Thompson's extraordinarily accomplished book so marvellous is his ability to get inside her preposterous skin.' Kathryn Hughes, Sunday Telegraph

‘It would take a heart of stone not to laugh at Mrs Weldon's disastrous career.' MIRANDA SEYMOUR, TLS

'Georgina Weldon is the kind of subject biographers dream about…But what makes Thompson's extraordinarily accomplished book so marvellous is his ability to get inside her preposterous skin.' KATHRYN HUGHES, Sunday Telegraph

'In 1889, Mrs Georgina Weldon, with a monkey called Titileehee, fled London and her lesbian lover, turned up at a convent in France and settled there for twelve years during which she wrote six volumes of preposterous autobiography. Her life, filled with incident (as Lady Bracknell might have disapprovingly described it), would have been a gift to Dickens. One of the lost voices of Victorian Woman, though only death could silence her garrulous pamphleteering, litigation and provocative egotism, now sings again, thanks to Thompson's wonderfully comic account.' IAIN FINLAYSON, The Times
'The true story of Georgina Weldon's life, a steamy stew of society gossip, adultery, lesbianism and litigation, is far stranger than fiction. She was one of those "bad women" whom the Victorians liked to write out of history. Brian Thompson has written her life like a novel and sees the feckless Georgina as a Victorian Fergie, the over-the-top author of her own misfortunes. Her life may have been a chapter of fiascos, but this is a gripping book.' JANE RIDLEY, Spectator

'A thoroughly enjoyable read' PETER STANFORD, Independent on Sunday

From the Back Cover:

'Victorian Britain, that seemingly most conformist of ages, was in fact teeming with eccentrics. The fabulous Baker Brothers were eccentric in a conformist way for the time: Sir Samuel searched for the source of the Nile; Baker Pasha became leader of the Ottoman army. But it was that epitome of empire, and epitome of the Christian English gentleman, who was the most peculiar of them all: 'Chinese' Gordon is finally depicted as the anarchist he really was as he marched to his death against the Mahdi. It is Thompson's triumph that he gives these characters, straitjacketed first by their time, and then by history, the freedom to dance across the page once more.'
JUDITH FLANDERS

Imperial Vanities is an adventure story in the high tradition, ranging from the Upper Nile, to Ceylon, Egypt and the slave markets of the Balkans. Livingstone, Speke and Burton also make an appearance, with the shadowy and elusive Laurence Oliphant spying from the sidelines. Written with Thompson's masterly touch, this is history at its best.

'A tale of Empire at its most eccentric. Part biography, part history, part adventure yarn, Imperial Vanities is an ingeniously enjoyable read.'
FERGUS FLEMMING

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Thompson, Brian
Published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd (2002)
ISBN 10: 0002571889 ISBN 13: 9780002571883
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