Eminent Victorians Essay

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Aubrey holds a Ph.D. in English and has published many articles on twentieth-century literature. In this essay, Aubrey surveys the history of biography writing and shows how Strachey changed the nature of the genre.

In his preface to Eminent Victorians, Strachey states that biography is "the most delicate and humane of all the branches of the art of writing." As to the rules and conventions of this delicate art, however, views have changed considerably over time. The purpose of the earliest biographies in English was to commemorate and glorify the deeds of great warriors. When early Christian monks took to writing biography, they added to the commemorative aspect the purpose of encouraging morality. Thus was hagiography, the lives of the saints, born. (Much later, hagiography was to be hilariously satirized in Eminent Victorians at the expense of John Henry Newman, who, Strachey reminds us, published a series...

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