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Lady Caroline Lamb

On sale

16th May 2024

Price: £9.99

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Selected: Paperback / ISBN-13: 9781474624848

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From the outset, Caroline Lamb had a rebellious nature. From childhood she grew increasingly troublesome, experimenting with sedatives like laudanum, and she had a special governess to control her. She also had a merciless wit and talent for mimicry. She spoke French and German fluently, knew Greek and Latin, and sketched impressive portraits. As the niece of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, she was already well connected, and her courtly skills resulted in her marriage to the Hon. William Lamb (later Lord Melbourne) at the age on nineteen. For a few years they enjoyed a happy marriage, despite Lamb’s siblings and mother-in-law detesting her and referring to her as ‘the little beast’.

In 1812 Caroline embarked on a well-publicised affair with the poet Lord Byron – he was 24, she 26. Her phrase ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’ became his lasting epitaph. When he broke things off, Caroline made increasingly public attempts to reunite. Her obsession came to define much of her later life, as well as influencing her own writing – most notably the Gothic novel Glenarvon – and Byron’s.

Antonia Fraser’s vividly compelling biography animates the life of ‘a free spirit’ who was far more than mad, bad and dangerous to know.


Alexander Larman, Spectator
Characteristically readable, accomplished and in places positively revolutionary ... Fraser shows that she has more élan and attack - or passion and sense - than writers a third her age. Should this be her final sally, it is as inimitable and impressive as anything in her distinguished bibliography
Alice Loxton, Daily Telegraph
A zig-zagging Shakespearean drama, played out in the highest echelons of fashionable Georgian society . . . Fraser packs Lamb's life into short, sharp book which can be devoured in an afternoon. She has an eye for delightful detail which paints a colourful picture of the Georgian world . . . This is an expertly crafted, scholarly book, which not only examines the playful though ultimately tragic life of Caroline Lamb, but celebrates her imperishable spirit too
Mark Bostridge, The Oldie
Fraser's major achievement is to invest Caroline Lamb's life with a long-overdue sense of proportion ... Fraser writes with charm, empathy and the kind of readability that makes the findings of modern scholarship easier to swallow. And there can be no doubt that her understanding of Caroline owes something to a kind of wisdom derived from her own experience ... A wonderful swansong
Ysenda Maxtone Graham, Times
Sparklingly succinct ... Our Chief of Readable Historians
Clare McHugh, Washington Post
[Fraser is] a meticulous researcher and an agile, vigorous writer . . . She wisely resists any temptation to hold up Lamb as a feminist heroine (which she was not), while acknowledging the constraints placed on her because she was a woman
Irish Times
Fraser approaches Lady Caroline Lamb as an eminent historian of the British era of reform, and a major biographer of complex, victimised women including Mary, Queen of Scots and Marie Antoinette. She privileges the evidence of primary sources to recover Lamb the ambitious, politically informed writer from the sensationalist anecdotes recycled by Byron biographers and historians of her husband's political career . . . Through her determined pursuits of intellectual and sensual experience, Lamb the entitled socialite gained what Fraser recognises as the 'wry self-knowledge' to articulate the paradoxes she inhabited as the early victim of a celebrity culture still blighted by sexual double standards