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A Scandalous Life: The Biography of Jane Digby [Paperback]

Mary S. Lovell
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
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Book Description

18 Jun 1998

The biography of Jane Digby, an ‘enthralling tale of a nineteenth-century beauty whose heart – and hormones – ruled her head.’ Harpers and Queen

A celebrated aristocratic beauty, Jane Digby married Lord Ellenborough at seventeen. Their divorce a few years later was one of England s most scandalous at that time. In her quest for passionate fulfilment she had lovers which included an Austrian prince, King Ludvig I of Bavaria, and a Greek count whose infidelities drove her to the Orient. In Syria, she found the love of her life, a Bedouin nobleman, Sheikh Medjuel el Mezrab who was twenty years her junior.

Bestselling biographer Mary Lovell has produced from Jane Digby’s diaries not only a sympathetic and dramatic portrait of a rare woman, but a fascinating glimpse into the centuries-old Bedouin tradition that is now almost lost.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; 8th reprint edition (18 Jun 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857024699
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857024692
  • Product Dimensions: 2.3 x 12.7 x 19.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 118,114 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mary S. Lovell was an accountant and company director until she began writing in 1980 following a serious riding accident which left her temporarily disabled. Now an internationally acclaimed biographer, she has written best selling biographies of Beryl Markham, Amelia Earhart, Cynthia Pack, Jane Digby, Sir Richard and Isabel Burton, the Mitford sisters and Bess of Hardwick. Her latest biography is a family saga of the Churchills. Her books have been translated into foreign language editions, in French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Danish and Finnish. Her biography of Amelia Earhart was made into a movie starring Hilary Swank and Richard Gere in 2010, and she has three further titles optioned for film treatments. Until 2011 she often led reader groups interested in Jane Digby around Syria to follow in the exciting footsteps of this favourite subject of hers. She has recently completed promotional tours in the USA and UK, and is now working on the final chapters of her first novel.

Product Description


‘A rollicking good tale…Lovell has researched widely and gives a rich picture of this remarkable woman’s life.’
Sunday Express

Harper’s and Queen

‘A compelling narrative… Jane Digby’s sins make a wonderfully good read.’
Sunday Telegraph

‘A sympathetic readable biography.’
Daily Telegraph

About the Author

Mary Lovell is the author of the bestselling biographies of Beryl Markham, ‘Straight on Til Morning’, and of Amelia Earhart, ‘The Sound of Wings’. She is currently engaged on a dual biography of Richard and Isabel Burton.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jane Digby would have been very pleased!!! 24 Aug 1999
By A Customer
During her "Scandalous Life" Jane Digby was often written about in the popular press and remained a topic for tea time gossip for more than 50 years! Victorian England was fascinated by this unconventional woman who lived her life as she followed her heart and passions across Europe and the Middle East. Her story has so many twists and turns that it needs no embellishments.Mary S Lovell's research on Jane's life relied upon the volumes of diaries and letters she discovered . This brings a validity to her work that other writers have lacked. Jane's experience with the "tabloid press" type stories about her adventures (especially Isabel Burton's exaggerated account written when she thought Jane had died) had to leave her very cynical of potential biographers...but I really believe she would have been very pleased with Mary Lovell's book. The author presented Jane's life without moralizing and judging her and focused on her unique strengths and appreciation of strong personalities without prejudice of any kind. I was fortunate to find a copy of this biography while visiting in Ashburton,Devon, this August.It is out of print here (as "The Rebel Heart") and Mary Lovell's fans hope the publisher will reconsider. I was first introduced to Jane's extraordinary life when I read a biography of her distant relative, Pamela Digby Harriman and the reference was made to the similarities between these two unconventional women. After reading Pamela's life story...I knew I had to find out more about this earlier Digby woman that Pamela felt such a connection with. Mary Lovell has a real flair for writing about strong women characters.
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50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating 10 Oct 2004
I came across this book quite by accident and had never heard of Jane Digby before. What a remarkable woman. Her life was extraordinary, considered scandalous for her day, a life which led her from society in England, through Europe and on to spend the last segment of her life, with a man who turned out to be her greatest love, in Damascas and the desert. Truly a woman before her time, talented, smart, well-educated, a gifted linguist and seemingly fearless in the face of the many struggles she endured, often alone, on her chosen path in life. Mary Lovell has written a fascinating account of this remarkable woman. The book is very well written and never dwells too long, instead moving on from childhood through the stages of Jane's life towards the last years she spent with her Bedouin husband in the desert. Jane clearly touched many lives in many ways. Hers was a memorable life and one beautifully and respectfully recorded by Ms Lovell. I can thoroughly recommend this book.
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44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read for Biography Lovers 11 Feb 2003
This is an excellent book, but I have withheld the final star, the reasons for which I shall give.
The life of Jane Digby was so varied, and so at odds with her time, sex and upbringing, that I wonder she has not been covered before more frequently. Evidently a woman who loved often but not well, you learn many interesting things as the author takes you in and out of the scrapes Jane put herself through. One interesting tidbit is the origin of the term 'cad'. This is the stuff I read biographies for!
Mary Lovell had access to an immense amount of documentation during the writing of this book, including the diaries (previously thought lost) of Jane Digby herself. This lends the book a wealth of colour and detail which many biographies cannot match. The author also tries to avoid guesswork in looking at the character and motives of her subject.
My only complaint, and it should not stop you buying the book, is that it is too short and definitely not detailed enough considering the source material. I have the strong suspicion that this is the publisher's fault. The most detailed part of the book is Jane's life from her late forties onwards. I felt that the earlier part of her life, including the eponymous scandal of her first divorce, should have been framed better in its period. There is a danger that Jane comes over as a very 'modern' woman, inexplicably time-warped back to the pre-victorian era. I am left with the feeling that the author has been forced to 'skimp', or that the potential readership has been assumed to be less bright than average. I found this frustrating.
If you liked "Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire", I am sure you will like this. But it isn't quite of the same calibre.
Well worth a read.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Extraordinary Life 7 Aug 2008
By Lavalla
The only book I've read using two bookmarks! The extraordinarily rich biography of Lady Jane Digby whetted my hunger to know everything about her, so the notes were bookmarked as well as the pages.

An aristocratic beauty with a willful character embarks upon a life journey that would quell the courage of some of today's women let alone those 200 years ago! Disgracing her family, she scandalises others while she pursues an adventurous journey towards the arms of a man you'd expect the odds to have been against her having a relationship with then. As we follow her journey, we learn the minutiae of a woman's education, social position and the suffocating expectations she is supposed to dutifully respond to. And, while there is romance, this is more of an adventure story.

The effect on others of her singular behaviour was both to scandalise and impress. More would have been known about her had her nieces not torn up her diaries in shame.

I cried when I finished her story. I had lost a remarkable woman.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Enthralling - couldn't put it down!
Published 4 days ago by Monica White
5.0 out of 5 stars Sad to finish it
Well this has got to be one of the most remarkable women of all time. Sad to finish it.
Published 23 days ago by mrs m collins
5.0 out of 5 stars A scandalous life: The biography of Jane Digby
I really enjoyed this book. It was an informative and easy read. I appreciated the way the details of this remarkable woman's life was revealed without stooping to sensationalism.
Published 1 month ago by lynne rosser
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very enjoyable well written book
Published 1 month ago by janie mcclean
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent read, couldn't put tis book down
excellent read, couldn't put tis book down. I had very little sympathy with Jane Digby as her standards seemed selfish and hypocritical, with wanton neglect of her many children. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Nic
5.0 out of 5 stars very interesting and enjoyable
Mary Lovell brings Jane Digby "scandalous" life to life. I enjoyed the writing and the story and it has prompted me to buy other books by the same author.
Published 2 months ago by Maria
4.0 out of 5 stars From Dorset to Doukades...and beyond
What a woman! A traveller, a painter, a linguist. A female Byron, in many respects.

Not a role model as a mother, it seems, but a brave and adventurous traveller, and a... Read more
Published 2 months ago by James Potts
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Biography
This is a really well written biography and a really interesting read. You can really tell that Mary Lovell has done her research and Jane Digby's scandalous life has made for a... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Phantom1306
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth the time if you like biography and travel
If you can stand the sickening upperclassness of it all, this book is a well written historical biography. Read more
Published 4 months ago by MzBookMuncher
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating woman, fascinating story
It is a well written book based on Jane Digby's diaries, historical facts and diaries of other persons. Jane was an outstanding personality for her time. Read more
Published 4 months ago by A. N. Kalogera
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