Mistress of the Elgin Marbles: A Biography of Mary Nisbet, Countess of Elgin by Susan Nagel - review by Francis King

Francis King

A Guilesome Girl

Mistress of the Elgin Marbles: A Biography of Mary Nisbet, Countess of Elgin

By

Wiley 294pp £16.99 order from our bookshop
 

Among the three recommendations on the back of the jacket of this biography is one from Christopher Hitchens, himself the author of a provocative and lively book on the Elgin Marbles. Susan Nagel, he writes, has brought off the feat of 'showing again that behind the most ginger guy there is a guilesome girl'. The uncharacteristically slangy phrasing of the compliment suggests, rightly as it turns out, that here is a book not so much for the serious student of history as for the devotee of historical novels.

The 'ginger guy' in question is the 7th Earl of Elgin, famous or infamous - depending on how you look at it - for all but bankrupting himself in his struggles to remove the Marbles from the Parthenon to their eventual sanctuary on walls of the British Museum. The 'guilesome

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