Friday, June 29, 2007

Susan Nagel's "Mistress of the Elgin Marbles"

Susan Nagel has written for the stage, the screen, scholarly journals, the Gannett newspaper chain, and Town & Country, and is the author of a critically acclaimed book on the novels of Jean Giraudoux.

She applied the "Page 99 Test" to her book Mistress of the Elgin Marbles: A Biography of Mary Nisbet, Countess of Elgin and reported the following:
I just turned to p99 in Mistress of the Elgin Marbles and found Mary in Constantinople, where she had gamely gone at the age of 21 with her new husband, Lord Elgin, Britain's Ambassador Extraordinaire to the Ottoman Empire. On p99, Mary has just given birth to her second child, her first daughter, and writes home to her mother that the baby has been Christened and innoculated. She is happy to report that the baby, also called Mary, 'sailed through the smallpox inoculation without reaction.' Out of her own personal fortune, Lady Elgin, had funded the shipment of a quantity of Dr. Jenner's newly discovered smallpox vaccine to the Middle East. She planned not only to innoculate her own children but also to offer the serum to other children to save lives. So grateful was the Ottoman Emperor, Selim III, after his own children received the vaccine, that he gave Mary unprecedented favor. She was the first Western woman invited inside Topkapi Palace and it was she who was given the Emperor's permission to remove the marble sculptures from the Parthenon, the result of which action remains controversial today. Mary, who was a wonderful mother and adored her children (and, obviously, had great concern for all children), would subsequently take the then revolutionary stand, contrary to her husband's wishes and the laws of Britain at that time, that it was she, (and every woman) who had the right to decide whether or not she would become pregnant. Mistress of the Elgin Marbles is the story of a passionate woman, mother, talented diplomat and humanitarian, who unwittingly changed the course of women's rights and cultural history.
Browse inside Mistress of the Elgin Marbles and read a brief excerpt.

--Marshal Zeringue