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The Devil Kissed Her: the Story of Mary Lamb Paperback – 17 Oct 2005

4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; New edition edition (17 Oct. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747571139
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747571131
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,466,795 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


‘A model of good biographical writing. Watson writes in a pure, clear style with both enthusiasm and intelligence’ -- Sunday Tribune

‘A wonderful, moving and vivid book’ -- Amanda Foreman

‘Kathy Watson has achieved the rare combination of sensitive, meticulous research with readability’ -- Virginia Rounding, Sunday Times

‘Riveting … offers an indelible portrait of two of literature’s most intriguing figures’ -- Val Hennessy, Daily Mail

About the Author

The daughter of a Scottish mother and a Jamaican father, Kathy Watson was brought up in Devon. After graduating from Oxford University, she worked for the BBC and then as a journalist and editor in national women's magazines. Her first book, The Crossing, also a biography, was published in 2000. She is currently a freelance journalist and lives in North London with her husband and two small children.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
An excellent read. I would have given it 5 stars if it had proper source footnotes and an index (as all biographies should have).
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program) 3.0 out of 5 stars 5 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking 13 Mar. 2011
By Mary Ann Savage - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
At a time when people were rather routinely hanged for non capitol offenses, Mary Lamb was released into her brother's cuistody after staqbbing her mother to death with a kitchen knife.
She went on to be a writer (with her brother, "lamb's Tales From Shakespeare") and be part of a literary circle that included a lot of writer contemporaries.
She went to a mental asylum several times in her life.
This book presents a good picture of a certain British subculture and also of the state of mental health in her day and time.
I found it interesting throughout.
3.0 out of 5 stars Okay, but no great revelations included. 4 Sept. 2015
By Carolyn Evans - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While it is an interesting subject, I didn't feel like there was a great deal of depth. It is a very scholarly work, but not very entertaining.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Complex Story Doesn't Translate Well 3 Feb. 2009
By Geneva Mae Lewis - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Charles and Mary Lamb's slim volume, "Lamb's Tales Of Shakespeare" has been one of two children's books in continous publication since the late 1700's (the other is Robinson Crusoe). The lines in an encyclopedia do not begin to describe the intertwined histories of the brother and sister authors. Kathy Watson has attempted a daunting task: To put into context eighteenth century English societal structure, women's roles and education in said society, and historical treatment and diagnosis of mental conditions, all amidst the author's effort to tell a cohesive individual family history of at least two generations from birth to death. May I add, in 238 pages. The end result is sloppy, headache-inducing, confused, and exhausting for the reader. Focus and vision is what this book lacks, and a feeling that historical letters and documents that should have been rigorously used and cited, and were not, leads readers with a gaping absence of solid documentation. Instead we are left with imagined fancies of possibilities and insinuations that are annoying and amateurish. The story of brother and sister Charles and Mary Lamb had the basis for a compelling historical and societal story, but is miles away from fruition in this work. An initial enthusiasm and energy in the beginning quickly fades to a dull desperation. Her conclusion that Mary's life took a turn for the better when she killed her mother in a fit of manic rage was quite disturbing. The liberties taken demote this book from a potential literary history to tawdry dime store novel.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars some proofreading might have helped this little book 3 Nov. 2010
By adorian - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The book is slim. It is heavily padded. If someone wrote a poem, the author quotes the poem at length. If someone wrote a short story, the plot of the story is given in excessive detail. If a letter was written, it is also quoted. But no matter how much original material gets quoted, the book is still almost unreadable because of the bizarre errors of punctuation.

p. 122 A Midsummer's Night Dream
p. 123 A Midsummer Night's Dream
p. 124 A Midsummer's Night's Dream

How can anyone (author or editor) allow that to happen over the brief course of three pages?

The author has no idea how to punctuate relative clauses after proper nouns, so we get a strange mixture of "use the comma this time" and "don't use the comma in the next sentence. "Oxberry, who..." followed by "Barnett who...." On p. 158, we get one paragraph that contains "Monkhouse, who..." and "Burney who..." and "Alsager, who...."

When you add things like "grammer" (p. 121), you end up with a book that is laughably unreadable, which is a pity because this is a very interesting story. Mary Lamb murders her mother and then spends the rest of her long life in and out of insane asylums, while her famous brother (Charles Lamb) tries to take care of her. Even when they both achieve literary fame, the ominous shadow of the madhouse looms over them. But the importance of the story is negated by the constant punctuation errors.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mary Lamb's Madness 2 Jan. 2005
By Kevin Killian - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Kathy Watson argues ably and nimbly that we should not regard Mary Lamb's madness as an occasional thing that visited her and left no traces, leaving the essential Mary Lamb behind. No, it was part and parcel of her personality, and can be seen in her writing as well. Watson discovers that outside of the famous TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE which she wrote with her brother Charles (splitting down the corpus of Shakespeare by ignoring the histories, writing up the comedies, and leaving the tragedies to Charles), Mary Lamb wrote other books as well, which she makes sound perfectly fascinating. I would love to read the "Mrs. Leicester" book and hope that Tarcher, which published this fine biography, will print a companion book of Mary Lamb's collected writing.

She hints also that Mary was drawn to many men, including the romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who was so sexy that she just couldn't help herself when he was around. Charles eventually had to ask Coleridge not to come around because a visit from him would find Mary going a little crazy.

Watson brings us into the early 19th century world of the madhouse, which is a pretty creepy place. Women with private means like Mary Lamb had their own rooms and own attendants, but still they must have seen some dreadful sights, making their lives very different from other women of their class who were in general protected from the seamy. You can never forget however, that Mary killed her own mother with a knife, a crime so rare that people hardly ever run into it, even judges with long histories of criminal cases, even hardened homicide cops. Why did she do it? Watson provides a limited answer. In my mind Mary Lamb's psychology was similar to Lizzie Borden's, except she was perhaps more lovable and had more of a humorous nature. But both were brooders and both nurtured an unassimilable hatred toward the patriarchal structure of the family.
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