cover image Victoria


Stanley Weintraub. Dutton Books, $26.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-525-24469-1

It has been 25 years since the last major biography of the dumpy little queen who sat on Britain's throne for 64 years, and in view of the mass of scholarly excavating recently done on her, another seems due. Weintraub, noted biographer of Bernard Shaw, Whistler and the Rossettis, fills the need with an intensively researched and highly readable portrait, full of medical and other little-known detail, that brings us much closer to the private Victoria. We see her, above all, in her relations with the key men in her life: her prime ministers, principally Melbourne, Disraeli and Gladstone, the last of whom she detested; her husband Prince Albert, whose premature death sent her into decades of semiseclusion; and her Scottish gillie, Brown, a sort of licensed entertainer and comforter. She was simultaneously selfish and altruistic, passionate and prim, energetic and lazy, a lover of pomp yet middle-class at heartnot so much complex, perhaps, as contradictory. Yet whatever her failings, she was keenly observant and scrupulously honest, which is largely why she cast so powerful a light on her age. Photos not seen by PW. (March 30)