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Passion for Egypt


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Julie Hankey is the granddaughter of Arthur Weigall and has had access to previously unseen private papers in researching his life.


Egyptologist Arthur Weigall is probably most widely remembered today for his involvement with Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon's discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922. In this detailed biography, Hankey (Weigall's granddaughter) draws extensively upon Weigall's personal correspondence for the first time, allowing readers to see events from his perspective and shedding new light on some references to Weigall in T.G.H James's Howard Carter: The Path to Tutankhamun (Columbia Univ., 1992). Hankey does full justice to Weigall's accomplishments in the field of Egyptology prior to Tutankhamun's discovery while also capturing his energy, enthusiasm, and reverence for Egypt and the characteristics of the remarkable people with whom he worked. But this biography is far broader in scope than its title suggests, for as Hankey recounts, Weigall turned to writing novels and experimenting in theater and film. Weigall's family life is also ably documented. Hankey is fair in her presentation of Weigall as a complex man who dismissed the existence of Tutankhamun's curse yet may well have fostered popular belief in it. Material from Weigall's correspondence will be of particular interest to specialists, while general readers will be attracted to the account of Weigall's life and work in Egypt.-Joan W. Gartland, Detroit P.L. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Arthur Weigall (1880-1934), the British Egyptologist and author, had a multifaceted career: accountant, archeologist, government administrator, set designer and author of over two dozen books. Undoubtedly, his most important role was in Egypt as chief inspector of antiquities (1904-1914). As his granddaughter shows in this (perhaps overly defensive) biography, he labored tirelessly to save Egypt's archeological treasures from thieves, antiques dealers, public work projects (such as the Aswan Dam) and amateur excavators. Weigall had a profound understanding of the economic and cultural forces that led to the plundering of Egypt's riches: he especially blamed Western museums for "creat[ing] a market in stolen antiquities." Hankey is most effective when she's describing the intricate, often exasperating political infighting Weigall engaged in with his boss Gaston Maspero, director of the department of antiquities for Egypt, as well as with Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon (the two men who discovered King Tut's tomb). But at times, the book reads more like an apologia than a biography. For example, she cites Carter's biographer regarding the Carter-Weigall conflict and then analyzes it for anti-Weigall bias. Hankey also contends that Weigall deserves to be taken more seriously as an author of novels and histories. She cites numerous glowing book reviews and quotes from his admiring fan mail. But even Hankey is compelled to admit that Weigall's prose tended toward the purple and that his conception of history was tinged with romantic idealism. In the end, it's hard to know just what legacy Arthur Weigall left behind he played too many roles, and this biography reflects that lack of focus. 16 b&w photos. (Sept.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

"'Julie Hankey has written a vivid and perceptive biography of her grandfather.' - Economist 'As sypathetic as it is vivid. It succeeds in recapturing a man who was both endearing and an enfant terrible...'- John Ray, Times Literary Supplement"

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