A Woman of the Wild West: The Life of Mary Hallock Foote

In 1971, author Wallace Stegner published his novel Angle of Repose, which went on to earn a Pulitzer Prize.  The book is widely considered to be one of the best novels of all time; it is simultaneously a slice of life from the American Victorian West, a novel focused on environmental concerns, and a love story at once both tragic and uplifting.

Not everyone, however, found it wonderful – the extended family of author and illustrator Mary Hallock Foote were dismayed by the portrayal of the female protagonist, a fictionalized version of their progenitor. In an attempt to set the record straight, they contacted the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, and one year later Foote’s unpublished biography, entitled Reminiscenes: A Victorian Gentlewoman in the Far West finally appeared in print.

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Elizabeth Regina: The First, The Great, the Only

Elizabeth 1

“…. And the new social system was finally secure. Yet the spirit of the ancient feudalism was not quite exhausted. “ – Lytton Strachey

A prominent critic wrote about her two centuries after her death. Bette Davis played her in a melodramatic movie nominated for five Academy Awards. Today, millions of people attend traveling fairs that attempt to re-create the era in which she lived. The third longest reigning queen of England, Elizabeth I is widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest monarchs; she is certainly one of the best known. Her life story reads like a sensational novel, much stranger than fiction.

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Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Life in Perspective

Laura Ingalls Wilder

On visiting the website of the Little House on the Prairie Museum lists, it lists the following caveat: “Due to an ongoing error with GPS technology, many GPS navigators and mapping services are unable to direct their users to our site. To avoid becoming hopelessly lost, please use the following directions.” An amusing comment, to be sure – but, surreptitiously or otherwise, an apt description of the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her devoted readers.

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The Brontes: A Group Portrait

“Genius’ can be defined as the creation of something that afterwards feels like it was always here. While psychologists attempt to understand how genius occurs, history teaches that it flourishes in the strangest of situations. Such is certainly the case with the children of Patrick Bronte, an Irish cleric who married a Cornish woman and then moved to a tiny town in Yorkshire, far from the leading minds of the day. Bereft of influence and forced by circumstances to look out for each other, the resulting development of literary genius has yet to be matched. The three surviving sisters – Charlotte, Emily, and Anne — none of whom lived past the age of forty, left us with five incandescent novels – as well as a story that matches the dramatic intensity of the Bronte imagination.

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Queen Mary of Scots: A Tragedy Revisited

In 1904, at an estate auction, the National Museum of Scotland purchased a harp said to be given to Beatrix Gardyne of Banchory by Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1563. While no one can ascertain the truth of this tale, the instrument is thought to have been decorated at one time with a portrait of the queen. The museum’s collection of items associated with Mary also includes a set of jewelry, a cabinet, and coinage minted during the tumultuous reign of this tragic queen. The items, like the events of Mary’s life, are indeed the stuff of legends, and the museum’s web site devotes several pages to this most famous of all Scots.

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