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4.0 out of 5 stars I never knew a human being with so full a mind - a life of desire, glamour and loss, 1 Aug 2008
Amelrode (Vilvoorde) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Perdita (Hardcover)
During am exposition of works by by Thomas Gainsborough I saw portrait of Mary Robinson known as Peridta. She sits in a mossy bower, on an earth ledge, alone except for her loyal Pomeranian dog. In her hand she holds a locket, opened to reveal the blurred face of George, Prince of Wales, who commissioned Thomas Gainsborough's portrait of his lover in 1781. And yet by the time George commissioned Gainsborough to paint her portrait, the affair was over.

I wanted to know more about this woman who was one of the self-invented individuals who made 18th-century Britain such an effervescent, commercial, cynical, corrupt, celebrity-conscious and shallow, competitive place. Mary had three talents - for poetry, acting and sex.

She was an actress (not a decent profession at the time) who was nicknamed Perdita after her performance in Florizel and Perdita (Garrick's adaptation of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale). It brought brought her both public notoriety and the attentions of the Prince of Wales. With her new social prominence, Robinson became a trend-setter in London.

After her relationship with the Prince of Wales ended, Mary Robinson attempted to blackmail the Crown by threatening to make public the letters the Prince wrote to her during their affair. She was after the 20,000 pounds the Prince had promised her before he came of age. Able to obtain only a small annuity that was sporadically paid. Next to her love affiars Mary Robinson became distinguished for her poetry and was called "the English Sappho." In addition to poems, she wrote six novels, two plays, a feminist treatise, and an autobiographical manuscript that was incomplete at the time of her death. She died poor, remembered by just a handful of friends, including the philosopher William Godwin and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who said, "I never knew a human being with so full a mind."

Sarah Gristwood writes about this extraordinary life with knowledge, passion and great understanding, not only for Mary, but for the whole time. It is a pleasure to read this book, but not always a pleasure what you read. The glamour of the Regent period looks very different.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Perdita, 20 Feb 2013
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This review is from: Perdita (Hardcover)
Comprehensive biography including the history of England during the lifetime of Perdita. A story well told and I look forward to reading more books by Sarah Gristwood.
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Perdita by Sarah Gristwood (Hardcover - 1 Feb 2005)
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