Nelson & His World

Discussion on the life and times of Admiral Lord Nelson
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 Post subject: Book Reports
PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 9:20 pm 
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Billy Ruffian suggested a thread for book reports. Here it is. I've made it a sticky so that is easy to refer to.

At the moment, I am reading 'Nelson's Lady Hamilton' by E Hallam Moorhouse (1908). It may seem rather dated, and the style is certainly a bit effusive, but she writes perceptively about Emma's faults and virtues. Her criticisms are fair and balanced, and devoid of Victorian sanctimony.

But we are all waiting (aren't we?) for John Sugden's Vol 2. due out on April 3rd. The publication date has been postponed several times I think. Perhaps he was waiting to catch Nelson's 250th.


Last edited by tycho on Sat Nov 08, 2008 11:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2008 12:45 am 
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This is Great tyco! I'll post a couple of my own as soon as I get them drafted for upolad.


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2008 10:53 am 
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Billy R -

see also excellent posts on the 'Booksearch' thread 'Inside Nelson's World' on already published books, and sources such as the Nelson Museum who have used books at great prices - all profits to the museum.


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2008 9:26 pm 
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I guess I'll get the ball rolling here by posting a brief review of David Cordingly's 'Billy Ruffian.'

The Belerophon 74 (Billy Ruffian) was a ship of the line that distinguished itself many times, most notably at the Glorious First of June; the Battle of the Nile; and of course, Trafalgar.

Cordingly takes us on a journey from the blueprints of the ship, and the man who designed her (sir Thomas Slade) to the breakers yard.

"Billy Ruffian" shows us how ships, which were the biggest moving vessels on earth at the time, were built in the late eighteenth century. Everything form the requisitioning of giant oaks as 'the Kings property, to the fitting out of rigging and sails, to the arming and manning these giant warships is discussed by Cordingly in fairly rich detail.
Dismasted and nearly blown to bits (Billy was adjacent the L'Orient when it caught fire and ultimately exploded) at the Nile, and severely ravaged, and again, almost burnt or blown up at Trafalgar, she still managed to maintain her flag, and survive.
Perhaps the most notable occurance in her life was that she was the ship that Napoleon surrendered to in 1815. He was transported to Portsmouth on the Billy where he stood off in harbour attracting great crowds.

Cordingly's writing style is smooth and relaxed, and loaded with anecdotes.
Fans of Nelson -who features prominantly in the book- will thouroughly enjoy 'Billy Ruffian.'
Highly recommended!


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 Post subject: Knight-mare with Penguins
PostPosted: Mon Mar 24, 2008 1:36 am 
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Some time ago in my local Canadian bookstore I spotted Roger Knight's book in a handsome Penguin paperback. I happily bought a copy. After I'd read a couple of pages, I sensed something was missing. I flipped to the back of the book with a wild surmise.

There are no endnotes and no bibliography! They've been totally omitted from the Penguin edition.

(I conveniently realized this about 30 seconds *after* I'd started writing in the margins.)

Some footnotes remain, including a number of anchorless references to the absent bibliography. How bizarre!

With Penguin, it's back to the bad old days of "Take it on faith" Nelson books. I wonder what Professor Knight thinks of this?

- Galiano

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 24, 2008 8:05 am 
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Even the original harback edition of Knight - with notes, bibliography etc., sure, had some really slipshod copy editing, and figures wrong - eg £50 instead of £500 for Nelson's inheritance from his uncle. It probably wouldn't matter much in a potboiler but this was a magnificent, scholarly work and deserved better.

Another book I have - a paperback edition - suffers the same lack as your Roger Knight. It is 'Nelson and his Captains' by Ludovic Kennedy. Maybe the hardback had the full references. The book is full of interesting biographical information I'd never read anywhere else so it is frustrating not to have source notes.

The book focuses on Nelson and the Nile captains and Kennedy manages to weave together an intricately textured narrative that blends a fast-moving narrative of the battle, with a vivid depiction of the personalities involved with all the anecdotal material I love about their relationship with each other and with Nelson, of whom Kennedy also writes a superb pen-portrait.

The book is out of print but you can get copies on abebooks for a few pounds.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 17, 2008 9:02 pm 
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I’ve mentioned both these books on other threads but thought I’d give fuller reviews here.

1) ‘Above and Under the Hatches: being Naval Recollections in shreds and patches with strange reflections’ by James Anthony Gardner.

The title page of the manuscript is dated 1836, though Gardner was retired in 1814. The memoirs were first printed for the Navy Record Society in 1906, edited by Sir Vesey Hamilton and Sir John Knox Laughton. The edition I have (and the only one I have been able to find) is an edited version by Christopher Lloyd, published by The Batchworth Press in 1955. Gardner didn’t write for publication but for the amusement of family and friends so he is quite unrestrained in his descriptions of the horse-play, hard drinking and good humour among the ‘young gentlemen’. Although he seems to have been an able officer who was well regarded by his superiors, he never progressed to post-captain and was retired on half pay as a lieutenant. However, he seemed unembittered by this lack of advancement. Maybe his sense of humour was mistaken for lack of seriousness.

He served in some famous ships, including, briefly ‘Victory’ but he records little of the actions in which he was involved; though his descriptions of battling through storms and bad weather freeze the blood. One action he was involved in produces the following gruesome anecdote:

One of our poor fellows was cut in two by a double-headed shot on the main deck and the lining of his stomach, about the size of a pancake, stuck on the side of the launch, which was stowed amidships on the main deck with the sheep inside. The butcher who had the care of them, observing what was on the side of the boat, began to scrape it off with his nails, saying, ‘Who the devil would have thought the fellow’s paunch would have stuck so? I’m damned if I don’t think it’s glued on!’

What interests him most are the oddities and eccentricities of his messmates and the wild drunkenness, pranks and the violent and sometimes bizarre behaviour they indulged in, all expressed with the fine turn of phrase you might expect of an Irishman. He has a sharp ear for dialogue and is, he boasts, blessed with a good memory. Occasionally, he shows a little delicacy, omitting four verses of a bawdy song out of respect for ‘those of finer feeling as they are a little out of order’.

He is frank in his assessment of his colleagues – sometimes he is warm in his praise: despite one or two abrasive encounters he says of Sir Robert Calder ‘a braver officer never stepped between stem and stern than Bobby Calder’. James Hall, Boatswain, however is ‘a Hun, a Goth, a Vandal’; and Alex Mackenzie ‘when he was a midshipman used to sneak after lieutenants; when made lieutenant, sneaking after the captains, and when made a captain, was at his old tricks, sneaking after the admirals. Had he lived to be made a flag officer, he would have sneaked after the devil’.

This is a wonderful book – fresh and vital, and especially attractive for the engaging picture Gardner unconsciously reveals of himself – wry, cheerful, humorous and eminently likeable.



2) Naval Wives and Mistresses by Margarette Lincoln published by the National Martitime Museum.

I have quoted from this mainly on the ‘mail’ thread, but there is so much more to enjoy. Margarette Lincoln covers every aspect of the challenges and difficulties naval womenfolk faced, and largely, overcame: the long separations; the management of children and households without support; the difficulties of communications and the fears and realities of widowhood and poverty.

The book is particularly interesting in that she looks at the levels of society reflected in the social microcosm of the navy – not just the aristocrats, gentry and ‘middling sort, but also the common sailors and their families at the bottom of the social heap.

She quotes extensively from correspondence between seamen and their families and draws inferences that are insightful and percipient. As she points out, during the Georgian period, one man in five served in national defence of some kind, a large proportion of the population. The important supportive role played by women is now recognised and recorded in this interesting and valuable book.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue May 13, 2008 10:55 am 
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A new book is soon to be published about the Admiralty, called 'The Great Ship Ashore'. (Is that a catchy title or what? Sounds like Pepys perhaps?) The info I have is that it will be out in 'early 2008'.

The author is Justin Reay FSA, who is Tutor in History for the University of Oxford's international programmes and a senior manager of the Bodleian Library, where he is editing their collection of Pepy's Admiralty papers. He is also a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, a member of the 1805 Club, the Society for Nautical Research and the Britannia Naval Research Association.

I have no knowledge of the publishers. Looks as though it might be an authorarative work (hopefully not too expensive!).

Kester


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2008 9:49 am 
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Having spent many years in the 'Ed Bizz' as my other half refers to my teaching career, I have been curious about the education offered to midshipmen aboard ship. A fellow enthusiast on another forum pointed me towards this interesting book which is available on Googlebooks. Printed off, its 120 A5 size pages can be stored in an A5 ring binder and read at leisure.

'The Young Midshipman's Instructor;( Designed as a Companion to Hamilton Moore's Navigation) with useful hints to Parents of Sea Youth and to Captains and Schoolmasters in the Royal Navy, by DAVID MORRICE, late Schoolmaster of His Majesty's Ship Hussar, Lord Viscount Garlies Commanding, published in 1801, price three shillings and sixpence.

The book is very engagingly written; Morrice is clearly a dedicated and committed teacher of the best kind - wise, kindly and firm if a little priggish. He gives tips on handling youngsters, on discouraging swearing, despite the bad example of some officers, and encouraging good manners, neatness and cleanliness, as well as detailed guidance on the curriculum, subject syllabi and teaching methods. The subjects studied are wide-ranging - mathematics and navigation, of course, and also geography, chronology and astronomy. In addition he commends English Language and Literature ('well selected and amusing authors' are advised) a French grammar,(his phonetical guidance on French pronounciation is entertaining. 'Bon', he says, is 'bong'); a fable book, Telemachus and Gil Blas, Don Quixote, Rollins' Ancient History; a dictionary and 'a dictionary of sea terms and phrases in four languages; viz, Italian, French, Spanish and Dutch, lately published by Neuman.'

He makes an interesting comment that I found confirmed by my own colleagues - that the Scots pronounce French better than the English.

'Why is it that a Scotchman always learns to pronounce the French language sooner or better than an Englishman or any foreigner? It is for the most part that the Scotch alphabet is pronounced like the French and therefore the Scotch pupil has already acquired the just sound of several letters by the practice of his mother tongue.'


He also gives advice on a subject 'which delicacy forbids me entering farther into a work of this kind, however necessary to the welfare and happiness of thousands it may be, to speak more explicitly about it'. Nevertheless, he says that:

'whenever a schoolmaster perceives an improper and growing familiarity between any of the younkers, he should immediately separate their births [sic] and forbid their being seen together in private or laying hands on each other. On this head, I speak very seriously; it is a matter of the last importance,particularly at sea and I have had myself occasion to put the advice I am now giving in practice, under similar circumstances'

Morrice sounds like a rarity, though. He comments that 'little encouragement is given to school-masters employed in the navy.... their ignorance in general of almost everything but navigation, and the extreme youth of those who are sent from Christ's Hospital to fill these situations, render the improvement of young gentlemen at sea....very precarious.'

This is a fascinating book and not just for teachers or those interested in social history. Anyone interested in seamanship and navigation and shipboard life will find it informative and enlightening


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 Post subject: Elizabeth & Georgiana
PostPosted: Sun Jun 08, 2008 11:23 am 
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Caroline Chapman and Jane Dormer Elizabeth & Georgiana: the Duke of Devonshire and his two duchesses John Murray (2002) ISBN 0-7175-6044 6


For anyone interested in the social mores of the period, this book is a fascinating read. The ménage a trois of the Duke of Devonshire, his wife Georgiana and his mistress Lady Elizabeth Foster, later his second duchess after Georgiana’s death, mirrors, in many ways, that of Nelson and Sir William and Lady Hamilton, each trio apparently living together in a harmonious relationship that was not without its stresses and tensions.

The similarities between the lives of Emma and Elizabeth are extraordinary: Elizabeth, as her portraits show, was very beautiful, and had a rather rackety early life of injudicious flirtations followed by a precarious social position after her scandalous separation from her husband. Like Emma, she gave birth to her illegitimate children in difficult and secret circumstances; like Emma she was highly intelligent, artistic and a good linguist and shared many of her character traits: her letters reveal that she was charming, effusive and affectionate. She was fascinated by politics too, as an observer and commentator, when she was part of the ‘Devonshire House Set’ of Whiggery that supported Charles James Fox.

The trio were great admirers of Nelson – Elizabeth describes in tremulous detail her meeting with Nelson and it was to her that Emma entrusted vital letters from Nelson confirming his relationship to Horatia. (Forgive a slight personal digression here -it was only when I read this book that I discovered, just as the anthology was almost complete, that Duchess Georgiana and the Duke had both written poems on Nelson’s death. Of course, I got in touch with the Chatsworth archivist and have now obtained permission to include both poems in the booklet which should be available soon.)

The narrative confirms, through many individual examples, what is well known: that the whole of the upper echelons of society functioned through institutionalised adultery to which discretion was the key. Spouses usually maintained (willingly or unwillingly) the façade of marriage and outward respectability regarded as essential for social cohesion. Nelson’s great sin in the eyes of society was not his adultery with Emma but the fact that he abandoned his wife. His action was seen as showing contempt for the social order as well as a personal unkindness to Fanny.

A great incentive for a woman to stay within an unhappy marriage, was, as I discovered from this book, that should she leave her husband, even in the case of his adultery or brutality, she would lose custody of, and all contact with, her children. Lady Elizabeth re-established contact with the two sons of her first marriage but only after their father died, and then with difficulty. The reason for this was the law stated that a widow, even one within a functioning marriage, was not the guardian of the children of her marriage unless her husband had specifically stated in his will (and Elizabeth’s husband hadn’t) his desire that she should be. Nelson took pains to ensure that his wish that Emma should be Horatia’s guardian was established. Knowing the legal situation at the time, one can see why he was so anxious to ensure this.

It is almost a cliché to describe the 18th century as an age of contrasts – of beauty and squalor, of elegance and coarseness, of courage and honour and mean-spirited corruption. And certainly, in this book, we see that marriage was apparently sacrosant, yet adultery was widespread. Truly, hypocrisy is ‘the homage that vice pays to virtue.'


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 Post subject: Evangelicals in the Royal Navy, 1775-1815 - Richard Blake
PostPosted: Fri Jul 18, 2008 11:44 pm 
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Evangelicals in the Royal Navy,1775-1815: Blue Lights and Psalm Singers, by Richard Blake.

This is a very well researched and informative book on the subject. It traces the naval careers of the 'Blue Lights'- the slightly derogatory name given to those officers who actively followed their faith and attempted to promulgate it on all the ships on which they served. The careers of such men as Gambier, Saumarez, Middleton, Kempefelt, Austen, Parry, Penrose, Pellew, Ramsay etc are described at their various stages. It shows them as acting, usually independently, to raise the level of Godliness, and (mostly) humanity on their own ships. By the end of hostilities, in 1815, the survivors brought with them their zeal and began to organize the evangelical societies and charities, which are now well known. The history of these bodies is hardly covered, since they were mostly formed after 1815. This work should therefore be viewed as a detailed study of the background to these movements, and the men whose drive led to their formation. Their influence had a direct bearing on the improvement of the seamen’s lot and their treatment by the navy in the future.

Chapter headings, to give an idea of the scope:

1. A Century of neglect and a call to revival
2. The genesis of a movement: Middleton, Kempenfelt and Ramsay
3. Gathering momentum: Divine service at sea in the later 18C
4. The blue lights during the French revolutionary war, 1793-1802: a change of emphasis
5. Developing the ethos of the officer corps
6. The impact of evengelical enthusiasm on on fighting determination: Quarter-deck or organ loft
7. Evangelical activity on the lower deck: The psalm singers
8. Evangelicalism at the end of the Napoleonic War: A flare in the darkness.


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 Post subject: 'Trafalgar: Napoleon's Naval Waterloo' by Rene Maine
PostPosted: Mon Aug 04, 2008 9:17 pm 
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I’m not quite sure what to make of this book, 'Trafalgar: Napoleon’s Naval Waterloo’ by a French historian, Rene Maine, published by Thames & Hudson in 1957, so maybe a little out of date. I came across it by chance; and though I don’t know where Maine stands in the hierarchy of authoritative historians, I bought the book anyway, curious to see an assessment of Nelson and Trafalgar from the French perspective.

There was nothing particularly new or revisionist in his assessment of the two leaders. His judgement is remarkably detached and his conclusions concur with the general view that Napoleon’s interfering and controlling micro-management, coupled with his lack of understanding of naval warfare, undermined the confidence and paralysed the decision-making powers of his admirals. ‘The sea had no place in Napoleon’s make-up. It escaped his genius, tried his patience, and it bedevilled his normally clear vision’.

He is generous about Nelson, recognising his skill at delegation and the trust in his subordinates which bred initiative in his captains. He was ‘the most illustrious member of the Royal Navy. This was due less to his courage under fire –many captains in the British fleet were his equals on that score – than to the breadth and acuteness of his perception, the soundness and speed of his decisions, his talent for organisation, his gift for training men, his insatiable ambition, his supreme contempt for any adversary who was accorded the honour of engaging him, and lastly his unlimited love of fighting and of life itself.’

The detail in which he describes the events from the French point of view is interesting and new to me. He has an excellent grasp of historical events and quotes extensively from letters, despatches, orders, reports etc. (though without precise references; also there are few footnotes and no index) which the reader must therefore take on trust.

Though Maine quotes many anecdotes which enliven the narrative, the problem for me is that those regarding Nelson are quite often wrong in detail – for example, he claims it was Blackwood, not Pasco, who suggested ‘expects’ instead of ‘confides’ in the famous signal. This undermines confidence in the hitherto unknown (to me, at any rate) and unsourced anecdotes he repeats about Napoleon and his admirals. How far can we trust him on matters we know nothing of when he is shaky on the material we are familiar with?

For example, how authoritative is this exchange? Maybe there are creditable sources for it, but how is the reader to know without references?

Napoleon has demanded a review of the fleet. Weather conditions were unfavourable and Admiral Bruix refuses.

Maine continues:

QUOTE

‘Napoleon turned on him like a madman: ‘Obey me!”

‘Sire, I will not obey!”

‘You are insolent, sir!”

He had a riding crop in his hand, and he raised it; it looked as if he would strike. Bruix turned pale, stepped back a pace, and put his hand to his sword:

‘Take care, Sire!”

For several seconds, the two men glared defiantly at one another motionless, while members of the suite stood petrified with fright. Napoleon flung away his riding crop.

‘The review!” he cried.
END QUOTE

It was Bruix’s second in command who gave the order, the admiral having turned on his heel. A storm of terrific ferocity arose and many craft and men were lost: ‘according to witnesses’, Maine says, a dozen ships and about 200 men; though the official figures in Marshal Soult’s report, were 8 craft and ‘about 50’ casualties.

Nevertheless, despite these uncertainties, it was extremely enlightening to see a more detailed exposition of the personalities of the principal French protagonists, and the relationships between them, and with Napoleon. The biographer’s revelation and analysis of character and the interplay of personalities, and their influence on historic events, are always of absorbing interest to me.

Maine writes (if the translation echoes the original) in a crisp, confident, bracing style, for the most part, though the brief references to Nelson’s personal life with Emma appear occasionally have an echo of Mills & Boon.

I wonder if anyone has come across the book and cares to comment. If anyone is interested in reading it, there are numerous cheap copies available on abebooks.


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 Post subject: Nelson's Daughter, by Miranda Hearn
PostPosted: Thu Aug 14, 2008 4:57 pm 
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Recently came across this novel, Nelson's Daughter, by Miranda Hearn, published in 2005.

The book begins with Emma in her last few months, in the farmhouse near Calais, and gives a good picture of her relationship with Horatia and with her Egyptian servant Fatima. The story of Emma's life, and of Horatia's life, is told in a series of flashbacks. Despite the fact that this is of course covering old ground it is treated with a freshness which made it very readable, and the writing is very good indeed.

I recommend this book thoroughly.

If anyone now reads this book, or has already read it, please leave your comments here - I'm sure we would like to know if I was alone in enjoying it!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Aug 14, 2008 5:23 pm 
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Chasbaz:

yes, I too enjoyed this book very much. I usually avoid historical fiction (with the exception of Patrick O'Brian who is in a league of his own) but Mira recommended this and I decided to give it a go.

I think it is beautifully, and very cleverly written. The author uses a deliberately flat, unadorned style when she narrates the known, factual details of the lives of Emma and Horatia, and a much more lyrical and poetic one when she makes the delicate shifts into her imaginative re-creation of events. I liked the integrity of this approach: the truth was never altered, manipulated or denied but presented in an open way, and the author's inventiveness was kept quite separate. Yet the complete work was not at all awkward or disjointed; the lyricism made an alluring counterpoint to the historical narrative. It is a very accomplished work both in its management of structure and language, and in its imaginative sympathy. Highly recommended.


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 Post subject: Doctor of Love: James Graham and His Celestial Bed by Lydia
PostPosted: Sun Sep 14, 2008 10:00 pm 
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Soon to be published: "Doctor of Love: James Graham and His Celestial Bed" by Lydia Syson

For a slightly confused account of the subject matter see: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/sep/14/society
Quote:
Georgina, Duchess of Devonshire, the 18th-century aristocrat played by Keira Knightley in her latest film, The Duchess, was treated at London's first sex clinic, a book published this month will reveal.

Devastated by her failure to provide a male heir for an unloving husband, Georgiana, who was the society It Girl of her day, was introduced to the pioneering Dr James Graham by her mother, Lady Spencer. After enduring a series of unlikely procedures, such as repeated ice cold champagne douches, the duchess was persuaded to lie with her feet above her head after sexual intercourse.

The neglected wife, gambling addict and political campaigner was among a number of influential men and women who visited Graham's extraordinary therapeutic establishment.

The story of the rise and fall of a man who also notoriously launched the society career of the adventuress Lady Emma Hamilton, the great love of Admiral Lord Nelson, is told for the first time in Doctor of Love, Lydia Syson's biography of Graham. ...

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