Sometimes touching and sometimes hilarious, this is the story of one lovable, brilliant woman and her trajectory through the often surprising opportunities and the remarkable limitations of a Victorian woman's life. Young Minnie Sidgwick was just 12 years old when her cousin, 12-year-old Edward Benson, proposed to her in 1853. Edward went on to become Archbishop of Canterbury and little Minnie, as Mary Benson,to preside a social world that ranged from Tennyson, Henry James, and Oscar Wilde to foreign royalty and Queen Victoria herself. Yet Mrs. Benson's most intense relationships were not with her husband and his associates, but with other women. When the Archbishop died, very suddenly, Mary, or "Ben" to her intimates, turned down an offer from the Queen to live at Windsor, and set up home in a Jacobean manor house with her friend Lucy Tait. Drawing on the diaries and novels of the Bensons themselves, including E. F. Benson's Mapp and Lucia novels, as well as the writing of contemporary writers and poets, this book creates a very rich portrait of Mary Benson, her family, her close female friends, and their world.