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The wrong way to approach the Lillie Langtry story…

10 June, 2021

Lillie Langtry

• WITH reference to the story (Historians say there’s no evidence for Lillie Langtry link to Camden, May 27), this is the problem with a one-dimensional approach to “historical” research.

One thing is singled out to the neglect of a thousand others. Reality does not work like that.

Rate books, census, and historical registers, and the gratuitous defamation of a Greek or two, are unlikely to change the course of history. Or in this case, the story.

In the words of a much-gifted historian of the subject, and of the period, (Laura Beatty in Lillie Langtry – Manners, Masks, and Morals): “Lillie was a master at covering her tracks. Like all of her generation who availed themselves of the fin de siècle loosening of morals, she was fanatically discrete (furthermore) important people like the Prince of Wales and the Marquess of Hartington had private secretaries who were responsible for their good character…”

Can you, therefore, rely on archived “official documents” of the period, really? Or press cuttings for that matter?

Marianne Colloms and Dick Weindling ought to know better, particularly since they tell us the story – probably true – of what happened to hack Adolphus Rosenberg of Town Talk. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison and slapped with a massive £1,000 fine. Ouch!

One of Rosenberg’s peccadillos was to expose Lillie Langtry’s affair with the prince. A faux-pas and Victorian hacks ought to know that.

I leave you with the words of Max Arthur, author of Lost Voices of the Edwardians: “There is often no stronger proof than rumour concerning historical anecdotes and speculation – and often no stronger proof is needed.”

Next episode? Electra Yaras’s son appears on the scene and calls the researchers’ conclusions defamation.

Maybe his mother did not invent the story, (Looking for Lillie Langtry ). Maybe someone else’s did. Who? Ah!

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