LADY CAROLINE LAMB: A Biography

Paul Douglass, Author . Palgrave $26.95 (354p) ISBN 978-1-4039-6605-6

Lady Caroline Lamb is best known as Byron's most clinging ex-lover, notorious for sending him clippings of her pubic hair and for her portrait of him in her scandalous first novel, Glenarvon. Without descending into psychobabble, Douglass, a professor of English and American literature at San Jose State University, reveals the stresses of his subject's childhood, including a mother who was almost always ill or in the midst of an affair. He gives a sympathetic though unsentimental account of Caroline's adult mania and addictions to drugs and alcohol. He evokes her stoically reserved husband, William Lamb, later prime minister of England, telling in intricate detail the chilling story of his family's numerous attempts to separate Caroline from him. To his credit, Douglass does not allow Byron to dominate the narrative. But he maintains that Byron's influence made Caroline write her novels, describing her literary ambition as a form of misguided psychological transference. Douglass faithfully catalogues the content of Caroline's three gothic novels, although some readers may find his attention to detail a little wearisome. Constructing his narrative largely from letters and diaries, Douglass provides a richly textured account of 19th-century aristocratic life, with all its sordid liaisons and backstabbing: a world in which the eccentrically emotive and indiscreet Caroline was all too vulnerable. Illus. not seen by PW . (Oct. 13)

Reviewed on: 09/06/2004
Release date: 10/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
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