Forbears can become fairy-tale figures, especially when they defy tradition and are spoken of only in whispers. For the biographer and historian Emily Bingham, the secret of who her great-aunt was, and just why her story was buried for so long, led to lrrepressible: The Jazz Age Life of Henrietta Bingham. Raised like a princess in one of the most powerful families in the American South, Henrietta was offered the helm of a publishing empire. Instead, she ripped through the Jazz Age like an F. Scott Fitzgerald character: intoxicating and intoxicated, selfish and shameful, seductive and brilliant, and often terribly troubled. in New York, Louisville, and London she drove men and women wild with desire, and her youth blazed with sex. But her lesbian love affairs made her the subject of derision and drove a doctor to try to cure her. After the speed and pleasure of her youth, the toxicity ofjudgment coupled with her own anxieties led to years of addiction and breakdowns.
Henrietta rode the cultural cusp as a muse to the Bloomsbury group, the daughter of the ambassador to England during the rise of Nazism, the seductress of royalty and athletic champions, and a pre-Stonewall figure who never buckled to convention. Henrietta's audacious physicality made her unforgettable in her own time, and her ecstatic and at times harrowing story brings to life an essential chapter in America's twentieth century.