Victorian Celebrities Gone Wild

At the turn of the 20th century, Henry Irving and Ellen Terry were the biggest stage actors in England. Their performances of Shakespeare were legendary and they rubbed elbows with famed writers such as Shaw, Ibsen, and Bram Stoker. Biographer Sir Michael Holroyd goes behind the curtain, examining the stars' lives, as well as their wild families, in A Strange Eventful History: The Dramatic Lives of Ellen Terry, Henry Irving, and Their Remarkable Families. The author devotes much attention to Terry's two "eccentric" children: true Bohemians with veritable "harems" of lovers, the Los Angeles Times says in a recent review. However, at times Terry's fun-loving children seem unappealing. The son, for example, was "sad to see the Germans leave" Nazi-occupied Paris. Irving's own children do not prove as stimulating. Overall, the book is a somewhat over-ambitious effort that leaves Terry and Irving "besmirched by their progeny.”