Sisters of Fortune: America's Caton Sisters at Home and Abroad

by Jehanne Wake

Paperback, 2012




Touchstone (2012), Edition: Reprint, 432 pages


The first American heiresses took Britain by storm in 1816, two generations before the great late Victorian beauties. Marianne, Louisa, Emily and Bess Caton were descended from the first settlers in Maryland, and brought up in Baltimore by their grandfather Charles Carroll, one of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence.

User reviews

LibraryThing member gaeta1
Not a bad book, but not a particularly engrossing one, either. I appreciated some aspects of this quarto-biography of the four Caton sisters (granddaughter of the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence, Charles Carroll of Carrollton) that are rarely covered in general histories of this period. The anti-Catholicism--not to mention the occasional "Anti Yankey-ism-" prejudice the three sisters who settled permanently in England faced, is a fascinating undercurrent in the book. And the author, who worked at Solomon Brothers, writes with understandable knowledge about jointures, entailments, the lack of rights of married women, the astonishing amount of debt so many aristocrats carried--all of the financial matters which underpinned Regency and Victorian society.

Unfortunately, her acuity in money matters does not extend to understanding the psychologies of the four sisters, nor to extending a satisfactory explanation of their actions. Indeed, she offers pages (and pages and pages) on South American gold mines, on Spanish stocks during the Carlists wars, on railway speculations, writing with more warmth on bank collapses than about the sisters themselves. What, really, was so special about these women except that they were taken up on a whim by the 1st Duke of Wellington? Did Marianne (a married woman and the eldest and most beautiful of the sisters) have an affair with the duke? Why did her marriage to his elder brother break down so quickly? Did Emily (the only sister to remain in Maryland) really manipulate her dying grandfather to change the will in her favor? And who WERE the men that the sisters did eventually marry--none of them emerge as more than ciphers. I appreciate that the author wanted to talk about more than the superficial gloss of the ton of Regency England, but she didn't succeed in making me care about any of the main characters as people, which is the primary reason for a writing a biography in the first place.
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LibraryThing member TheLoisLevel
Excellent biography of a family of sisters in the 18th century who managed to build and control their own fortunes...and marry into the English aristocracy a hundred years before anyone else.


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432 p.; 6 inches


1451607636 / 9781451607635
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