Irrepressible: The Jazz Age Life of Henrietta Bingham
by Emily Bingham
Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 385 pages, $28.
AN OLD TRUNK, a cache of letters, and revelations about the life of a great aunt whose secret was buried by her family for decades provide the backdrop for Emily Bingham’s biography of Henrietta Bingham (1901-1968). She was the daughter of Robert Worth Bingham and Eleanor Miller Bingham. Her father was a well-known Kentucky newspaper publisher and politician. He was made American ambassador to the Court of St. James from 1933 to 1937. When she was twelve, while en route with her mother to her grandmother’s country house, there was an accident at a railway crossing and her mother was killed. According to Emily Bingham, the family never recovered from the loss. The father became very dependent on his daughter and exerted an undue influence on Henrietta that at times might be classified as emotionally incestuous.