Part biography, part detective novel, part love story, and part meditation on archival research, Love Among the Archives is an experiment in writing a life. This is the story of two literary criticsâ€™ attempts to track down Sir George Scharf, the founding director of the National Portrait Gallery in London, famous in his day and strangely obscure in our own.
After discovering Scharfâ€™s scrapbook of menus and invitations from Englandâ€™s most stately homes, the authors began their adventures in the archives of London, searching Scharfâ€™s diaries, sketchbooks, and letters for traces of the man who so loved dining out. Addicted to Victorian novels, the authors looked for a marriage plot, but found Scharfâ€™s passionate attachment to a younger man who had hidden from him a secret engagement; they looked for a Bildungsroman, but found that Scharf never left his beloved mother.
Always short of money, self-educated, talented, irascible, gregarious, prolific, and snobbish, this son of a poor immigrant artist was to become the right-hand man of an earl he called â€śmy best friend.â€ť The written record of his nightmares, debts, gifts, and dinner parties comes together to produce a rich Victorian character whose personal and professional lives challenge what we think we know about sex, class, and profession in his time.