They were confidantes to British prime ministers, poets, writers, and artists, their lives entwined with the most celebrated and scandalous figures of the day, from Oscar Wilde to Henry James. They were the lovers of great men--or men of great prominence...Mary Wyndham, wilder than her wild brothers; lover of Wilfrid Blunt, confidante of Prime Minister Arthur Balfour (the Balfour Declaration); married to Hugo, Lord Elcho; later the Countess of Wemyss...Madeline Adeane, the quietest and happiest of the three...and Pamela, spoiled, beautiful, of the three, possesser of the true talent, wife of the Foreign Secretary Edward Grey (later Viscount Grey), who took Britain into the First World War.
They lived in a world of luxurious excess, a world of splendor at 44 Belgrave Square, and later at the even more vast Clouds, the exquisite Wiltshire house on 4,000 acres, the "house of the age," designed, in 1876, by the visionary architect, Philip Webb; the model for Henry James's The Spoils of Poynton.
They were bred with the pride of the Plantagenets and raised with a fierce belief that their family was exceptional. They avoided the norm at all costs and led the way to a blending of aristocracy and art. Their group came to be called The Souls, whose members from 1885 to the 1920s included the most distinguished politicians, artists, and thinkers of their time.
In Those Wild Wyndhams, Claudia Renton gives us a dazzling portrait of one of England's grandest, noblest families. Renton captures, with nuance and depth, their complex wrangling between head and heart, and the tragedy at the center of all their lives as the privilege and bliss of the Victorian age gave way to the Edwardian era, the Great War, and the passing of an opulent world.
Praise for Claudia Renton's THOSE WILD WYNDHAMS:
"Renton brings the subjects of John Singer Sargent's famous painting The Wyndham Sisters vividly to life in this captivating collective biography. Beautiful, intelligent, witty, and liberated for their time and place, this charming trio collectively defied Victorian and Edwardian conventions."--Booklist
"[B]eguiling ... Ms. Renton evokes the Wyndhams' aristocratic, cultivated milieu, the rich amenities of Edwardian England, and the stylish resignation the women maintained as their circumstances, their health and their country irreversibly declined ... An elegant, amusing writer ... a humane and tender portrait of three sisters in all their grandeur and vulnerability."--Richard Davenport-Hines, The Wall Street Journal
"[S]plendid ... Renton's nimble touch never fails. Drawing on letters, diaries, and historical records, she afford us an intimate yet clear-eyed view of a dynasty that both embodied and shaped a tumultuous era. Her portrait, no less than Sargent's, is a triumph of observation, insight, and erudition ... Renton's descriptions are as evocative as they are informative."--Anna Mundow, The Washington Post
"[T]he author's firm hands on the reins of her material ensure that readers are always entertained, and often also enlightened ... well-researched and well-written."--Claire Hopley, Washington Times
"It is many years since I have been waiting for someone to fill Nancy Mitford's shoes as a U-biographer, but Claudia Renton has done it with her lively, spirited story of the three beautiful Wyndham sisters and the privileged world in which they lived. Her book elegantly combines romance and history, set against the ultimately doomed and fatal glory of Edwardian England."--Michael Korda, author of Alone
"[An] accomplished literary debut, a spirited and captivating history of the lives and loves of aristocrats in Victorian/Edwardian Britain ... a richly detailed tapestry featuring the alluring Wyndham sisters ... A sparkling family portrait and riveting history." --Kirkus
"Three high-society sisters who were part of the British cultural and political elite in the late 19th and early 20th centuries ... a portrait of the aristocratic intelligentsia in Victorian and Edwardian England. This tale of the witty, sparkling privileged set may appeal most to fans of Downton Abbey."--Publishers Weekly