Friday, July 30, 2010

Pick of the Litter: To Marry an English Lord

One of the things that makes this entire book-loving community so wonderful is its diversity. I love crime fiction. Mix in a splash of dystopian fiction, a pinch of historical fiction, a flake of biography, a seed of time travel, and a dash of history, and I'm in Nirvana.

One thing that's guaranteed is that my Nirvana is someone else's idea of Hell, and you know what? Neither one of us is wrong.

At one point I had over 4,000 books on 28 bookcases in this house. I was running out of room, and I'd made myself a promise that I would never go back to having piles of books on the floor and every other flat surface available. (I also refuse to doublestack.)

That's one of the main reasons why I joined Paperback Swap. I could maintain a steady stream of the books I wanted into the house, but at the same time, I was weeding out my books shelf by shelf.

I now have a little over 3,000 books in the house, and you know what? I know that the thought of me getting rid of at least 1,000 books is like a dagger in the heart to some of you. If I could, I'd invite y'all over for a weekend's Weed-a-Thon, but I can't.

Moving right along, I thought that it might be fun, from time to time, to show you one of the books on my shelves that will never be weeded out, swapped out, sold, or donated. This is the real purpose behind Pick of the Litter. Hopefully I'll choose a book that appeals to you and makes you try to find it at your local library or to buy your own copy. The genres will vary from one post to the next, and so will the age of the book.

It was fun to make my first choice:

Title: To Marry an English Lord or, How Anglomania Really Got Started
Authors: Gail MacColl and Carol McD. Wallace
ISBN: 9780894809392
Publisher: Workman Publishing, 1989
Trade Paperback, 416 pages

In the years following the American Civil War, there were industrialists and financiers who were making money by the pot full. Unfortunately snobs were in control of New York City, and the snobs were insisting that these nouveau riche be kept out of all the right sort of places.

Many of these new millionaires had darling daughters, and what father doesn't want his daughter to make a brilliant marriage? If the blue bloods on Fifth Avenue were turning up their noses at their little girls, there was only one thing to do: take them someplace where (1) they would be appreciated, and (2) where even more brilliant marriages were to be found.

Since most Americans always have been a bit lax about speaking languages other than English, England was The Place for American heiresses to go in search of Happy Ever After. In 1895 alone, nine American heiresses married into the British peerage (among them a duke, an earl, three barons and a knight).

What MacColl and Wallace do with such finesse and delight is tell us just how these young women traded dowries for titles. This is one of the first books I remember owning that is filled with essays, sidebars, fact-filled boxes, anecdotes, portraits, drawings, and photographs.

Sometimes I get certain feelings about a book, and the feeling I got from To Marry an English Lord was that the two authors had a blast writing this book and gathering together all the materials. Reading this was a joyful experience for me. Popular social history is one of my favorite genres, and this book is a wonderful example. Not only did I have fun while reading it, but I learned a great deal, and went on to use the bibliography to learn more. If this subject interests you at all, I urge you to find a copy of this book and read it.

As for my own copy, it's staying right here with me. It's my Pick of the Litter.


  1. Lol, I like the sound of this. And yes if I had been an American heiress I would have told my dad to find me a duke

  2. What a fun new feature! The book sounds wonderful! Please remember me if you ever schedule that Weed-a-thon!

  3. What a wonderful book! I would keep it always too!

  4. The book sounds wonderful! I'm actually going to see if I can find a copy.

    love the photo for this feature too!

    I don't have 3,000 books..but I have over 1,000 and it's growing. I certainly understand that a time comes when you do have to get rid of some books, yet there are always going to be some that have a place on the shelves forever (or at least in my life).

  5. What a marvelous book - and I am glad it is in good hands!

    Great feature, and as always, I love your button.

  6. What a cool idea! And I love the book you featured. The design is fabulous.

  7. Blodeuedd-- What? No prince? :)

    Kathy-- You'll be the first person I'll invite!

    Leah-- :)

    Kris-- I hope you find a copy of this book. It's definitely a keeper!

    Dorte-- Thanks!

    Beth-- This is one of those books (outside of art books) that I love for its looks as much as its content!


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