cover image Defiance: The Extraordinary Life of Lady Anne Barnard

Defiance: The Extraordinary Life of Lady Anne Barnard

Stephen Taylor. Norton, $28.95 (416p) ISBN 978-0-393-24817-3

Anne Barnard knew everybody worth knowing in late-18th-century England, turned down a literal dozen marriage proposals, and wed for love in her early 40s after having become a very wealthy woman with the help of former suitors. She lived for a time in South Africa; adopted, raised, and provided for her husband’s biracial daughter; wrote a famous ballad beloved of Walter Scott; painted; and became an accomplished hostess. Her full and compelling life leaves the biographer with a puzzle: how to compress a story that could easily fill three volumes into a single book. Taylor (Commander: The Life and Exploits of Britain’s Greatest Frigate Captain) solves this conundrum admirably, focusing on a chronological retelling of the highlights of Barnard’s life. His work is enriched by his access to private unpublished source material. Taylor doesn’t fail to entertain, and his book is a fine, easily readable introduction to Barnard that does the work of leaving readers wanting more—more on navigating the difficulties of raising a biracial child in 19th-century London, more on Barnard’s relationship with the Prince of Wales, more on her interiority. This is a page-turning introduction to a fascinating life. 8 color illus. [em](July) [/em]