The Good Sharps
*A TELEGRAPH BOOK OF THE YEAR*
The enthralling story of an eighteenth-century family and their extraordinary achievements.
‘A luminous and detailed account of the lives of this unique family and the turbulent times they navigated . . . Striking and poignant’ David Olusoga, Sunday Times
Four brothers, three sisters. Brought up in a Northumberland rectory and in the close of Durham Cathedral, the Sharps would achieve exalted positions at the heart of British society. In 1781, the celebrated painter Johan Zoffany put the final brush strokes on the luminous portrait that immortalised the siblings’ rise, and their remarkable unity and passion for life.
Ambitious, free-thinking and courageous, the Sharps were pioneers in the major movements that defined the eighteenth century – from political reform and philanthropy to medicine and industry. John, an eminent priest, established a model welfare state at Bamburgh Castle and commissioned the world’s first lifeboat; William became surgeon to George III; while James was a visionary inventor, canal promoter and engineer. Most famously of all, Granville, the youngest son, battled tirelessly as Britain’s first great campaigner for the abolition of the slave trade. Despite the social strictures of their day, Elizabeth, Judith and Frances claimed significant independence, and played key roles in hosting the Sharps’ famous musical parties on barges on the Thames.
In this vivid, moving biography, Hester Grant charts the siblings’ shared journey to prominence, and explores the values and enduring bonds that inspired their success. The Good Sharps brings to life not just these men and women who realised that the future could be different, but also the new world they created.
‘Group biography at its best . . . The Sharps leap off the page and into your heart’ Amanda Foreman, author of The Duchess
‘An account of lives fulfilled and well-lived, narrated with exceptional insight, warmth and humour’ Ariane Banks, Spectator
The Good Sharps offers readers a unique and poignant perspective from which to consider the Georgina period * Who Do You Think You Are? * Grant skilfully weaves her vast knowledge of 18th-century English history and the complex story of a large family into a fluent narrative... It's the intertwining in their lives of the radical and the typical, the ordinary and the extraordinary which Grant's book so beautifully reveals -- Ivan Hewett * Daily Telegraph * What a family, and what an age: the seven Sharp siblings not only helped refashion the 18th-century world around them...but the causes that engaged them then are hardly less resonant some 250 years later... an account of lives fulfilled and well-lived, narrated with exceptional insight, warmth and humour. Grant conjures the texture and bustle of daily lives in vivid, imaginative vignettes that track the siblings at work and play, and one closes the book with a sharp pang of regret, along with real affection and admiration for its protagonists. -- Ariane Bankes * Spectator * Group biography at its best: a family of vivid and inspiring personalities, making waves in diverse, interconnected worlds. The Sharps leap off the page and into your heart. Georgian England will never seem quite the same again -- Amanda Foreman [A] luminous and detailed account of the lives of this unique family and the turbulent times they navigated... striking and poignant -- David Olusoga * Sunday Times *
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