Biographic Discoveries

November 23, 2009 at 12:00 am 3 comments

While I am currently in the middle of a wonderful biography of Sir Thomas Malory, I’m going to hold off writing a full review until I’m finished with it. Until then, I give you Henry V. One of the wonderful things about biography, or at least one of my favorite things, is the incidental cast of characters you end up learning about and oftentimes falling in love with. In the Malory book, Henry V has absolutely run away with the story and turned out to be my new favorite English monarch. Aside from being the heroic English figure who won back most of Normandy from the French (most spectacularly at Agincourt), Henry V was also quite the chivalric figure, holding tournaments and banquets throughout his French campaign and eventually falling in love with and then strategically marrying the King of France’s daughter, Catherine of Vallois. She’s pretty great, too, but for the moment my little historian’s heart is primarily engaged with Henry V. Oh, swoon!

This happens to me a lot with biographies. The form is inherently about discovering new people, but I find that it is oftentimes not the biography’s formal subject who ends up being delightful. Sometimes even just a little snippet will be enough to enchant me with a random biographic passer-by. (Alternately, I can end up hating an incidental person, like in The Peabody Sisters when I ended up thoroughly disliking Nathaniel Hawthorne.)

So rather than a formal review today I ask you a question: have you ever had this experience and, if so, who did you discover when trying to learn about someone else?

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Entry filed under: Biography, Musings and Essays. Tags: , , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. KT  |  November 23, 2009 at 11:19 am

    Aw, Henry V! Also played by Kenneth Branagh, which only adds to the awesomeness. I may need to pick up this Malory biography, though when I’ll read it I haven’t the foggiest.

    Oddly, I haven’t read a lot of biography, with the exception of background reading on Dickens, Salinger, and Pullman. The tidbits I picked up about J. D. Salinger’s first wife, Sylvia Welter, are pretty fascinating, though, and I’d love to hear more about her.

    Reply
    • 2. Corey  |  November 24, 2009 at 6:57 am

      No way! Well if there’s a Kenny B connection, all the more reason to love Henry V. I’ll have to go out to Aubudon and rent it and then squee a lot.

      And, yes, I often find that random wives end up stealing the show a little bit. They almost always sound interesting and then there is almost never another biography of just then. Ack!

      And I’ll have a full review of the Malory up in the next few weeks, but for the moment, I think you should definitely give it a read! It’s by Christina Hardyment. So far A+.

      Reply
  • 3. “We band of brothers” « Literary Transgressions  |  December 7, 2009 at 12:50 am

    […] the Park (in two cities!), I didn’t really seek any further plays out. That all changed when I fell in love with King Henry V. When I discovered the historic Henry V, I felt compelled to return immediately to my old stomping […]

    Reply

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