S. G. Foster

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Foster, Stephen Glynn



Australia - History-Archival Resources; Australia - Politics and Government - Archival Resources
yarrafaye | Apr 24, 2020 |
Having so recently had a bad experience with a self-published book, I approached Stephen Foster’s Zoffany’s Daughter with some regret that I had agreed to review it. But I need not have worried: the book is beautifully produced and I enjoyed reading it.

German-born Johan Zoffany (1733-1810) was a distinguished neoclassical painter whose works are held in the National Gallery and the Tate, and the Royals have some too because his patron in England was George III (the mad one). But Zoffany was dead by the time events in this history take place and no help to his daughter Cecilia, except to confer upon her the status of a lady. And had he been alive, he may not have wished to be involved in her travails, because then as now, custody battles are unedifying affairs. The best thing we can say about the 21st century version of such battles is that at least they take place without the attention of scandal-mongering newspapers.

Which was not the case in the 19th century. Newspapers, in fact, turn out to be a major source of information for historian Stephen Foster when he set out to unravel the story of Cecilia Zoffany, the estranged wife of the clergyman Thomas Horne, who turned up on the island of Guernsey with two of her eight children, Clementina and Laura, and promptly provoked a storm of scandal and gossip. But the book is not a straightforward chronological narrative of events: it consists of introductory material on the nature and credibility of sources; background information about the history of child custody and the legal status of women; Clementina’s imagined journal; and excerpts from newspapers and court documents from St Peter Port in Guernsey. An extensive list of sources at the back of the book shows the extent of the research, nicely balanced by the author’s warning at the outset:

Most of this story is true.
So far as I know, none of it is false.
Much of it is fiction.

Zoffany’s Daughter is subtitled ‘Love and treachery on a small island’, but it seems to me that in the battle for custody of the girls, the treachery is not clear-cut.

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2017/12/24/zoffanys-daughter-by-stephen-foster/
… (mer)
anzlitlovers | Dec 23, 2017 |

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