\Georgiana: The Duchess of Devonshire,"" by Amanda Foreman gives a personal view on the life of the very amazing Duchess. Georgiana began her flamboyant lifestyle at the age of 16 when she married William Cavendish, the Duke of Devonshire. Georgiana became an instant celebrity and every action was monitored by society. She gained notoriety for her odd sense of fashion. In a time of tall hair, Georgiana would outdo everyone, making hers three-feet tall and topping it off with ornaments of waxed fruit or a ship in full sail.
Like celebrities of today, Georgiana fell into the vices of society. She was a girl who desperately needed love, but found none from her husband. She turned to gambling, alcohol and drugs. At times, Georgiana also suffered from bulimia. Everyday she was tormented by her addictions, but hid them behind a mask for her husband and society.
Georgiana's main passion was politics. She got involved with the Whig party early in her life. She was fascinated by politician Charles Fox and worked along side him frequently. During elections she canvassed daily for the Whig party rounding up numerous votes. Her speeches captivated audiences and she became as popular as the candidates themselves.
Despite all her political triumphs, Georgiana's life was always plagued by her relationship with the Duke. Her gambling debts forced her to be dishonest about finances and her frequent miscarriages created a lot of strife between the two. Even after she had given the Duke an heir, life was still difficult. She fell in love with Charles Grey, a young up-and-coming politician. Their affair led to a two-year exile and when Georgiana returned, she was never allowed to see her illegitimate daughter.
Foreman does a thorough job of retelling Georgiana's life. Using letters to and from Georgiana along with diary entries and newspaper clippings, the reader gets many perspectives on Georgiana's life. The reader also gets an understanding of the other people in Georgiana's life as well as society life in London during the late 18th century.
Foreman first came across Georgiana while working on her doctorate on attitudes to race and color in late 18th century London. After reading one of her letters, Foreman knew what she had to do. She quickly asked the authorities at Oxford University to let her change her dissertation to Georgiana. Thankfully for Foreman, they agreed. She decided to write a biography along with her doctorate. After five-and-a-half years, ""Georgiana: The Duchess of Devonshire"" was completed. The Daily Cardinal was given the opportunity to talk with Foreman and get her views on the life of Georgiana.
The Daily Cardinal: What qualities of Georgiana made you fall in love with her?
Amanda Foreman: She had many of the things I had always admired and knew that I could never attain myself.
DC: Like what?
AF: She was popular, self-confident, great sense of fashion and flare, she could easily connect with others. As a shy graduate, I had none of these things. She seemed a heroine, but at the same time she was suffering from all these emotional problems. You could not help but fall in love with this person who, on the outside was blessed with everything you could ever wish for, but on the inside was crippled with them and had to fight against them everyday.
DC: How much did Georgiana's life affect your own?
AF: I guess it did two things. After I finished it I realized that I hadn't really explored life in my 20s as much as I should have done. I spent my 20s in the library and although it was fun and interesting. I think I led a sheltered life. It was a bit like Rip Van Winkle, and I emerged realizing I had been out of it for quite some time. At the same time I was very shy and learning about Georgiana gave me self-confidence and self-knowledge.
DC: Do you think Georgiana's popularity was so large because she was the first Duchess of Devonshire in over two decades?
AF: Whatever class she had been born into, she would have made something of herself. If she had not been born an aristocrat, then she might have become an actress or a composer. But being a Duchess, kind of like the Princess of Wales, at a very young age she instantly became famous.
DC: Do you think her reckless lifestyle demeans her character?
AF: The reckless lifestyle certainly does not make her admirable, but what makes her admirable is that she recognized that she had these terrible problems and tried to overcome them for years, and she eventually did.
Amanda Foreman will be talking about her award-winning biography, ""Georgiana: The Duchess of Devonshire"" at Canterbury Booksellers, 315 W. Gorham St., on Wed., Jan. 24, 7:30 p.m. Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire is published by The Modern Library.