The Magnificent Mrs Tennant, By David Waller


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The Independent Culture

"Correspondence From Various Distinguished Persons. Do Not Throw Away" was scrawled on a bundle found by the author in a farmhouse attic.

David Waller found that the writer of the note, the Victorian society hostess Gertrude Tennant, was not exaggerating. The bundle contained an invitation acceptance from Gladstone ("the very dullest man I ever met," wrote Gertrude), an encouraging note on her daughter's art from Oscar Wilde, letters from her admirer Gustave Flaubert, and some indecipherable notes from Henry James.

Telling the story of Gertrude from threadbare origins in Paris to grande dame, this account might be a novel by Henry James – but you will have no trouble reading it.