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

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Synopsis

PLEASE NOTE: THIS EBOOK DOES NOT CONTAIN PHOTOS INCLUDED IN THE PRINT EDITION. 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 merchant’s 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 London’s Lyceum Theatre, with Bram Stoker—who would go on to write Dracula—as manager. Celebrities whose scandalous private lives commanded global attention, they took America by stormin wildly popular national tours.

Their all-consuming professional lives left little room for their brilliant but troubled children. Henry’s boys followed their father into the theater but could not escape the shadow of his fame. Ellen’s feminist daughter, Edy, founded an avant-garde theater and a largely lesbian community at her mother’s country home. But it was Edy’s 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 mother’s 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. Please note: This ebook edition does not contain photos and illustrations that appeared in the print edition.

 

About Michael Holroyd

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Michael Holroyd has written celebrated biographies of Hugh Kingsmill, Augustus John, and Bernard Shaw, as well as the acclaimed Basil Street Blues and Mosaic. He lives in London with his wife.
 
Published March 2, 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 656 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Humor & Entertainment, Arts & Photography, Travel. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for A Strange Eventful History

Kirkus Reviews

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Biographer and memoirist Holroyd (Mosaic, 2004, etc.) re-creates the separate and shared histories of two theater immortals.

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of A Strange Eventful History: T...

Publishers Weekly

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Holroyd's latest starts as a biography of Ellen Terry, one of the greatest actresses of the late 19th century—until it reaches the beginning of her professional and personal involvement

Dec 22 2008 | Read Full Review of A Strange Eventful History: T...

The New York Times

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The biographer Michael Holroyd presents the lives and families of Ellen Terry and Henry Irving, theatrical legends of their time.

Mar 29 2009 | Read Full Review of A Strange Eventful History: T...

The New York Times

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The biographer Michael Holroyd presents the lives and families of Ellen Terry and Henry Irving, theatrical legends of their time.

Mar 29 2009 | Read Full Review of A Strange Eventful History: T...

The Washington Post

That night 22 members of the Terry family appeared onstage, including Ellen's brother Fred, who gained world renown playing Sir Percy Blakeney, better known as "The Scarlet Pimpernel."

Mar 12 2009 | Read Full Review of A Strange Eventful History: T...

The Independent

Three major lives, of the actors Ellen Terry and Henry Irving, and of Ellen's son, Edward Gordon Craig, interlock with a host of other middle-sized and minor characters, some gargantuan figures in their own right, such as George Bernard Shaw and Isadora Duncan, others almost now forgotten, such a...

Sep 14 2008 | Read Full Review of A Strange Eventful History: T...

The Telegraph

all superfluous horrors" - such as the blinding of Gloucester - from .

Sep 06 2008 | Read Full Review of A Strange Eventful History: T...

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