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The Lady in the Back Seat

Thomas Jones: Robert Harris’s Alternative Realities, 15 November 2007

The Ghost 
by Robert Harris.
Hutchinson, 310 pp., £18.99, October 2007, 978 0 09 179626 6
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... of him’. Ruth Lang isn’t exactly Cherie Blair, either. She’s one part Cherie, two parts Lady Macbeth (a character Lang once played in a student production), three parts Eve (why Lang is called Adam, presumably). The narrator easily falls for her sophisticated wiles: intelligent, witty, genuinely attractive (in contrast to her husband’s vacuous ...

One of the Pyramids of Egypt

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, 27 May 1999

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu: Comet of the Enlightenment 
by Isobel Grundy.
Oxford, 680 pp., £30, April 1999, 0 19 811289 0
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... that these episodes in Orlando’s career were primarily inspired by the life and letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. Of course Lady Mary was not herself Britain’s Ambassador to the Porte, only the wife of one; nor did she need to have her sex transformed in a mysterious ceremony at Constantinople in order to ...

Burnished and braced

Alethea Hayter, 12 July 1990

A Second Self: The Letters of Harriet Granville 1810-1845 
edited by Virginia Surtees.
Michael Russell, 320 pp., £14.95, April 1990, 0 85955 165 2
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... Relaxation is my bane, Lady Morpeth. All my habits and tastes lean that way and in consequence I am going to wage war upon them all. I dread a languid yellow old age, hot, perfumed and dawdling, and I prefer our Julia’s course, active, smart, burnished and braced.’ This selection of letters to an adored sister concentrates on the ‘active, smart, burnished and braced’ aspect of an ambivalent personality and pattern of life ...

A Perfect Eel

Elaine Showalter: ‘Lady Audley’s Secret’, 21 June 2012

Lady Audley’s Secret 
by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, edited by Lyn Pykett.
Oxford, 448 pp., £9.99, January 2012, 978 0 19 957703 3
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... of mysterious interest or poetic justice’. Few of the novels Mansel reviewed are still read, but Lady Audley’s Secret (1862), the biggest seller of them all, is a significant exception. Mary Elizabeth Braddon was the most prolific of the sensationalists, publishing more than eighty novels, as well as poems, short stories and plays. She began to write at a ...

Little Mania

Ian Gilmour: The disgraceful Lady Caroline Lamb, 19 May 2005

Lady Caroline Lamb 
by Paul Douglass.
Palgrave, 354 pp., £16.99, December 2004, 1 4039 6605 2
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... There never was such a Woman!!!’ Emily Cowper (later Palmerston) wrote of her sister-in-law, Lady Caroline Lamb. Lady Cowper was not being complimentary. She later described Caroline as being ‘more termagant than ever’. Such disparagement of the woman, who in 1812 had a notorious affair with Byron and was married to a future prime minister, was not confined to the Lamb family ...

Mrs Stitch in Time

Clive James, 4 February 1982

Lady Diana Cooper 
by Philip Ziegler.
Hamish Hamilton, 336 pp., £9.95, September 1981, 0 241 10659 1
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... supposed to do now. The author of this biography favours the first explanation, writing as if the lady had told him about it herself, but he doesn’t say why he believes her. She might be just saying that she was a tease. From my own admittedly limited experience, Lady Diana Cooper is capable of saying anything, if she ...

Did my father do it?

C.H. Sisson, 20 October 1983

Elizabeth R.: A Biography 
by Elizabeth Longford.
Weidenfeld, 389 pp., £10.95, September 1983, 0 297 78285 1
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Aristocrats 
by Robert Lacey.
Hutchinson/BBC, 249 pp., £9.95, October 1983, 0 09 154290 1
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The Cult of the Prince Consort 
by Elizabeth Darby and Nicola Smith.
Yale, 120 pp., £10, October 1983, 0 300 03015 0
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... a biography of a reigning monarch. The market is there – several markets indeed, and the name of Lady Longford is an indication that we are concerned with the upper end. She is not Crawfie – not so well informed on some matters perhaps, but better informed on many more. Moreover, she has come to us with the guarantees afforded by a biography of Queen ...

Browning’s Last Duchess

Virginia Surtees, 9 October 1986

... by their only daughter Edith (Edy), aged 25 in 1869 and unmarried. Of Edith little is known. Lady Paget wrote disparagingly that had she not been so stumpy she might have been good-looking, that her family thought she resembled a Sir Joshua Reynolds painting, and that her singing was without charm. ‘The disappointment of her life had been Odo ...

The Importance of Aunts

Colm Tóibín, 17 March 2011

... Prejudice, but there are also two aunts: Elizabeth Bennet’s Aunt Gardiner and Mr Darcy’s aunt Lady Catherine de Bourgh. It is an aspect of Austen’s genius that, while the novel negates the power and influence of Elizabeth’s mother, neutralises her by being both comic and blunt, the two aunts are painted in considerably different shades, one allowed a ...

Irish Adventurers

Janet Adam Smith, 25 June 1992

The Grand Tours of Katherine Wilmot: France 1801-3 and Russia 1805-7 
edited by Elizabeth Mavor.
Weidenfeld, 187 pp., £17.99, February 1992, 0 297 81223 8
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... Royal Irish Academy: an Irish countess, a Russian princess, a young woman from Co. Cork and her lady’s maid. They come to us from the journals that the young woman, Katherine Wilmot, kept during her travels on the Continent in 1801-3 and to Russia from 1805 to 1807, and sent home to her family. Parts of these journals have already been published, in ...

Merry Wife of Windsor

Patricia Beer, 16 October 1980

The Duchess of Windsor 
by Diana Mosley.
Sidgwick, 219 pp., £8.95, June 1980, 9780283986284
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... that the Duchess should be defended then it is obviously correct for them to make the attempt, and Lady Mosley would seem a natural for the task, possessing qualifications for both the political and the personal approach. She is connected with a long tradition of knight-errantry on the Windsors’ behalf: Sir Oswald led his Blackshirts through the East End in ...

The Sacred Cause of Idiom

Frank Kermode: Lady Gregory, 22 January 2004

Lady Gregory's Toothbrush 
by Colm Tóibín.
Picador, 127 pp., £7.99, September 2003, 0 330 41993 5
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... use of a toothbrush was a mark of the difference between us and them, gentry and peasant, or so Lady Gregory suggested when she made the remark – jocular, perhaps, and not the sort of sally she would have chosen to be remembered by. Colm Tóibín makes more than one allusion to it in this essay, gently hinting that his sympathies are with the ...

Brave as hell

John Kerrigan, 21 June 1984

Enderby’s Dark Lady, or No End to Enderby 
by Anthony Burgess.
Hutchinson, 160 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 09 156050 0
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Shakespeare’s Sonnets: A Modern Edition 
edited by A.L. Rowse.
Macmillan, 311 pp., £20, March 1984, 0 333 36386 8
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... the references in Shakespeare’s sonnets to a mistress ‘black as hell’, Burgess made the Dark Lady of his story a voluptuous East Indian who, after seducing the dramatist, inspired the tragic plays of his maturity by giving him a dose of syphilis. A.L. Rowse, meanwhile, edited the sonnets themselves. Already the author of a large-scale life of the ...

Sisterly

A.N. Wilson, 21 October 1993

Love from Nancy: The Letters of Nancy Mitford 
edited by Charlotte Mosley.
Hodder, 538 pp., £20, September 1993, 0 340 53784 1
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... to England, ‘of course I screamed with laughter.’ When a Spaniard suggests to her sister Lady Mosley mat Evelyn Waugh was only a Roman Catholic ‘for a joke’, ‘we screamed with laughter.’ And so on and so on. I am not being so puritanical as to deny that – at the time – all this must have been screamingly funny. On the printed page, I ...

Utterly Oyster

Andrew O’Hagan: Fergie-alike, 12 August 2021

The Bench 
by Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, illustrated by Christian Robinson.
Puffin, 40 pp., £12.99, May, 978 0 241 54221 7
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Her Heart for a Compass 
by Sarah, Duchess of York.
Mills & Boon, 549 pp., £14.99, August, 978 0 00 838360 2
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... tourist said to me. ‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Just sitting here, witnessing great joy.’Titian-haired Lady Margaret Montagu Douglas Scott is a bit of a one. A short, sharp Scot, she is the second daughter of the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry, ‘one of the most eminent peers in the land’, and his duchess, the ‘daughter of the Second Marquess of Bath, and ...

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