One of the first-ever group biographies, A Sultry Month by Alethea Hayter is a lively mosaic of archival riches.
As London swelters in a heatwave in 1846, a glamorous coterie of writers and artists spend their summer wining, dining and opining. Elizabeth Barrett is courted by her secret fiancé, the poet Robert Browning, who plots their elopement to Italy; Keats roams Hampstead Heath; Wordsworth visits the zoo; Dickens is intrigued by Tom Thumb; the Carlyles host parties for a visiting German novelist and suffer a marital crisis. But when the visionary painter Benjamin Robert Haydon dies by suicide, they find their entwined lives spiralling around the tragedy. First published in 1965, Alethea Hayter’s portrait of Victorian London’s literati remains vivid, witty and enticing.
‘Hayter’s clever, innovative book turned a searchlight on a time, a place, a circle of people; it has surely inspired the subsequent fashion for group biographies.’ Penelope Lively
‘Nothing I’ve ever read has flung me so immediately into those streets, that weather, that period. Hayter never forgets that people want stories, that lives are stories.’ Margaret Forster
Alethea Hayter’s clever, innovative book of 1965 turned a searchlight on a time, a place, a circle of people; it has surely inspired the subsequent fashion for group biographies, most brilliantly...Read more
Before the Sun Set
This wonderful recreation of a time and a climate of mind – a hundred years ago, one realizes, startled – is not just an evocation of place but also of the child’s eye view. A Late Beginner...Read more