Perdita: The Life of Mary Robinson

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9780007164592: Perdita: The Life of Mary Robinson

Sex, fame and scandal in the theatrical, literary and social circles of late 18th-century England.One of the most flamboyant women of the late-eighteenth century, Mary Robinson's life was marked by reversals of fortune. After being raised by a middle-class father, Mary was married, at age fourteen, to Thomas Robinson. His dissipated lifestyle landed the couple and their baby in debtors' prison, where Mary wrote her first book of poetry and met lifelong friend Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire.On her release, Mary quickly became one of the most popular actresses of the day, famously playing Perdita in `The Winter's Tale' for a rapt audience that included the Prince of Wales, who fell madly in love with her. She later used his copious love letters for blackmail.This authoritative and engaging book presents a fascinating portrait of a woman who was variously darling of the London stage, a poet whose work was admired by Coleridge and a mistress to the most powerful men in England, and yet whose fortunes were nevertheless precarious, always on the brink of being squandered through recklessness, excess and passion.

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About the Author:

Paula Byrne was born in Birkenhead and has a PhD from the University of Liverpool, where she is a Research Fellow in English Literature. Her first book, 'Jane Austen and the Theatre', was short-listed for the Theatre Book Prize. A regular contributor to the 'Times Literary Supplement', she lives in Warwickshire with her two young children and her husband, the critic and biographer Jonathan Bate.

Review:

`Enthralling and perceptive...A fine biographer has conjured up a dazzling personality and brought her, laughing, back to life.' Sunday Times`Mary Robinson, scandalous darling of the 18th-century stage and letters, is given a welcome rebirth. A full-scale literary biography...a fitting tribute to her.' Observer`Robinson's is a life that bears the retelling. She cuts a figure in the history of celebrity culture and in literary history. Paula Byrne's full-scale biography is cholarly, lively and important.' Daily Telegraph`...a superbly researched and narrated life of a woman whose capacity for self-transformation, when combined with beauty, talent, wit and passion suggest that she may be the most interesting of all.' Miranda Seymour, Sunday TimesPraise for `Jane Austen and the Theatre':`This scholarly, perceptive book leaves you wanting more from the same author.' Loraine Fletcher, Independent

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