ART & LIFE

POSTCARD BIOGRAPHIES FROM THE NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY
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The Independent Culture
From the late 1920s, the National Portrait Gallery invited leading writers to create 70-word biographies, of subjects whose portraits hang in the Gallery, for the backs of postcards. In this second series, we present some more of these unexpected and unknown literary gems.

Queen Elizabeth, born 1533, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn; came to the throne 1558. She established Protestantism in England, which, with the aid of her minister, Burleigh, and by her own mother-wit, she made a great Power. Her resistance to Spain culminated in the defeat of the Invincible Armada, 1588. Under her, Drake circumnavigated the World and Shakespeare wrote Hamlet. She died a Virgin Queen, 1603.

Lytton Strachey

"Will the enclosed do? I make it 69 words. A pretty little problem!" confessed Giles Lytton Strachey, returning his postcard biography to the Gallery in 1929. In his original, "born 1563" is crossed out in pencil and replaced with "33", the correct date. Strachey's eccentric capitalisation is retained. He went on to submit biographies of William Cecil and Sir Francis Walsingham to the series.

15: Lytton Strachey (1880-1932) on Elizabeth I (1533-1603)

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