"Eminent Victorians" uses the lives of four famous Victorians as a vehicle for Strachey's thoughts on the Victorian Age. He makes few concessions to the academic conceits of other biographers, and instead views the writing of biography as the means to arrive at conclusions regarding a former generation. Whereas other biographers would present the reader with a well-researched outline of a notable person's life, Strachey takes that life and bends it to his personal philosophy.
In "Eminent Victorians" he introduces the lives of Cardinal Manning, Florence Nightingale, Dr. Arnold, and General Gordon. Through Cardinal Manning, he offers us a glimpse of Victorian theology, and the arguments that divided the Anglican and the Catholic churches in Victorian England. Through Florence Nightingale, he offers us a glimpse of Victorian government, both in England and abroad. Through Dr. Arnold, he outlines the Victorian system of education. And through General Gordon, we get a glimpse of Victorian colonialism and military conquest.
All four portraits offer a comprehensive cross-section of Victorian England, some more convincing than others. Florence Nightingale's biography might be the weakest of the four, while Dr. Arnold's may be the most concise.
I enjoyed this book much more than I thought I would. I am not well read in British history, but Strachey offers enough background to eliminate confusion. Yes, his biographies aren't the most well-researched, but what he lacked in academic thoroughness he more than remedied with originality.