A Profound Secret
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This book prompted acres of press on her and her family and the discovery of a cache of letters from the Pre-Raphaelite painter Edward-Burns-Jones to her great-grandmother. Josceline then turned detective in this enthralling account of love in a fascinating age.
A Profound Secret by Josceline Dimbleby
A chance encounter at a summer party sent Josceline Dimbleby on a quest to uncover a mystery in her own family’s past. Talking to Andrew Lloyd Webber about a beautiful dark portrait in his art collection, by the Pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones, she undertook to find out more about the subject of the painting, her great-aunt Amy Gaskell. All that was known about Amy, according to family lore, was that she had ‘died young of a broken heart’.
In her search, Josceline came across a cache of unpublished letters from Burne-Jones to her great-grandmother May Gaskell, Amy’s mother. These letters turned out to be part of a passionate correspondence, of up to five letters a day, which continued throughout the last six years of the painter’s life. As she read, more and more questions were raised: why did Burne-Jones feel he had to protect May from an overwhelming sadness? What was the deep secret she had confided to him? And what was the tragic truth behind May’s beautiful daughter Amy’s wayward, wandering life, her strange marriage and her unexplained early death?
In piecing together the eventful life of her great-grandmother, Josceline Dimbleby takes us through a turbulent period in English history that includes the Boer War, the Great War and the Second World War, and visits the most far-flung corners of the Empire. The Souls, William Morris, Rudyard Kipling and William Gladstone all play a part in this sweeping, often funny and sometimes tragic story. Above all, it is her infectious enthusiasm for a subject so close to home that makes A Profound Secret a compelling and richly entertaining read.
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‘As with the opposite sex, there are few books you fall for and want for life, even fewerwith which you can find little fault.Here is a right stunner, a secret family history…At the book’s outset she is an innocent setting off breathlessly on a search; but the innocent evolves into a romantic, then acquires the wisdom of a historian, and ends up encasing a whole century in the most attractive of nutshells.’ David Hughes, Spectator
‘An entirely captivating book…Josceline Dimbleby’s greatest gift as a story-teller is her ability to communicate the excitement of her discoveries… compelling.’Miranda Seymour The Sunday Times
About the Author
Publication date1st February 2005
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CategoriesBiography: historical, political & military
Painting & paintings
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