BOOKS: PICK OF THE WEEK
Saturday 12 June 1999
She was reading a letter from one of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire's rivals. "I found myself becoming furious on her behalf," says Foreman, whose biography Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire is published in paperback this month, and who will speak about Georgiana at the British Library on Tuesday.
"She was always treated dismissively by historians," she says. "But her letters were clearly those of an intelligent woman."
Foreman was hooked, and she began a trail of research made more difficult because many of Georgiana's letters were heavily censored by her Victorian descendants. It's easy to see why.
Born a Spencer, Georgiana was a high-rolling, debt-ridden gambler who turned borrowing into an art form.
She was a political activist for the Whigs, while also ruling the social world as the queen of fashionable society.
Privately, Georgiana spent much of her life dependent on the Lady Elizabeth "Bess" Foster, who was devoted to Georgiana. Inconveniently, she also worshipped Georgiana's husband. He once, rather carelessly, got both of them pregnant in the space of a month.
"Georgiana was the first celebrity and Bess was the first fan," says Foreman, of their relationship.
Foreman has achieved celebrity status herself this year, posing nude for a Tatler magazine article, which led some to question whether a serious book was devalued by such publicity.
But, Foreman points out, the nude shot was published months after the book had achieved its success - the hardback has already sold 40,000 copies.
"People were shocked," she says, "but it was fun."
Foreman is now looking ahead to the American publication of Georgiana in January. It should do well: upper-class dissipation in period dress is what they like us for.
Amanda Foreman, British Library, Euston Road, London NW1 (0171-412 7222) Tue, 6.15pm, pounds 5/pounds 3.50
`Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire' by Amanda Foreman, Flamingo, pounds 8.99
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Emma Watson on Jennifer Lawrence naked photo leak: 'Even worse than seeing women's privacy violated is reading the comments'
- 2 Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb
- 3 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
- 4 Cee Lo Green: It is only rape if the victim is conscious
- 5 Nigerian witch-finder Helen Ukpabio threatens legal action against human rights organisations
Scottish independence referendum: Franz Ferdinand, Mogwai and Frightened Rabbit to play in support of Yes campaign
Jessica Chastain demands Scarlett Johansson-fronted Marvel superhero movie
Downton Abbey series 5 start date revealed: ITV drama to return in late September
Nicki Minaj suffers wardrobe malfunction during MTV VMAs performance with Ariana Grande and Jessie J
Olivia Colman and Mary Berry top Radio Times' female power list
Rotherham child sex abuse scandal: Labour Home Office to be probed over what Tony Blair's government knew - and when
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Ashya King: Parents of five-year-old boy refused permission to visit him in hospital and denied bail at Spanish court
With Douglas Carswell joining Ukip, my party has taken another giant step forward
When elitism grips the top of British society to this extent, there is only one answer: abolish private schools
Ashya King: 'Cruel NHS has not given us the treatment we need', says father of five-year-old with brain tumour who fled to Spain