BOOKS

The Impossible Life of Mary Benson

Rodney Bolt

RRP: £8.99

1 June 2012

Published by Atlantic Books

ISBN: 9781843548621

RRP: £7.99

1 June 2012

Published by Atlantic Books

ISBN: 9780857895820

Young Minnie Sidgwick was just twelve years old when her cousin, twenty-three-year old Edward Benson, proposed to her in 1853. Edward went on to become Archbishop of Canterbury and little Minnie – as Mary Benson – to preside a social world that ranged from Tennyson, Henry James and Oscar Wilde to foreign royalty and Queen Victoria herself.

Yet Mrs Benson’s most intense relationships were not with her husband and his associates, but with other women. When the Archbishop died, Mary – ‘Ben’ to her intimates – turned down an offer from the Queen to live at Windsor, and set up home in a Jacobean manor house with her friend Lucy Tait. As Good as God, as Clever as the Devil, is the sometimes touching, sometimes hilarious, story of one lovable, brilliant woman and her trajectory through the often surprising opportunities and the remarkable limitations of a Victorian woman’s life.