April 6, 2009
A Strange Eventful HistoryMichael Holdroyd, the celebrated biographer of Lytton Strachey, George Bernard Shaw and Augustus John, was at the Lit Fest to promote his new work, A Strange Eventful History: The Dramatic Lives of Ellen Terry, Henry Irving and Their Remarkable Families. This one is the story of the lives of those two Victorian theatrical talents and the intensity of their love and professional rivalry.
Sat 4th April
Sat 4th April
The book also includes stories about their children: Terry’s son and daughter and Irving’s two sons. Holdroyd spoke for about 20 minutes from an interesting script, which summarised the book and picked out some of the more fascinating anecdotes. He then read a passage about their tour of Canada and the USA, before answering many questions from a very interested audience. The most intriguing character in the book appears to be Edward Gordon Craig, the illegitimate son of Ellen Terry, who himself fathered 13 children by eight different women, including one with Isadora Duncan, and who was a brilliant, if controversial, stage designer.
I was particularly keen to see Holdroyd as I have recently read his autobiography, Basil Street Blues, and found it very illuminating. I was not disappointed by his witty and knowledgeable presentation, and look forward to reading this latest book, too.