Rebel Heart: The Scandalous Life of Jane Digby

Mary S. Lovell, Author W. W. Norton & Company $25 (0p) ISBN 978-0-393-03895-8
When she was 21, Digby (1807-1881), a beautiful English aristocrat, shocked London society by leaving her husband and young son to pursue an Austrian diplomat with whom she was having a love affair. Digby's subsequent divorce was literally front-page news as the London Times ``cleared its traditional front page of classified advertisements to carry [the] sensational news story'' in the form of ``a verbatim report of the... divorce hearing in Parliament.'' The divorce then led to self-imposed exile on the continent, where she had many lovers (including Ludwig I of Bavaria), married two more times and bore five children, although she never lived with or formed lasting bonds with her surviving offspring. Drawing on primary research, including Digby's letters and diaries, Lovell (Straight On Till Morning) brings her unconventional subject to life in this outstanding portrait. At the age of 50, Digby embarked on her fourth and happiest marriage, to bandit Chief Sheikh Medjuel of Arabia and, adopting her husband's culture, spent part of each year with the bedouin nomads in the desert. Lovell provides vivid descriptions of tribal life as well as Digby's more lavish existence in Damascus, where she entertained Western tourists. So much for repressed Victorians. Photos. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/02/1995
Release date: 10/01/1995
Genre: Nonfiction
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