Letitia Elizabeth Landon lived in a blaze of scandal and worship as one of the most famous women of her time: the Romantic Age in London's 1820s. Lucasta Miller tells the full story and re-creates the literary London of her time.
The extensive research shows, but so does the entanglement in writing that is dense and academic ... After plowing through 320 pages of small type, plus 54 pages of notes and bibliography, one wonders if the author was trying to refashion her Ph.D. thesis for the commercial market ... Like a student bewitched by her research, Miller provides every exhaustive detail about L.E.L. and her lovers, friends, neighbors.
Ms. Miller gives us a thorough view of Letitia’s character as relentless flatterer, flirt and self-promoter, but also as a desperate woman, both raised-up and ruined by her relationship with a powerful but truly awful man ... [These details only touch on] the details of Letitia Landon’s life as patched together and filled out by Ms. Miller, who has ably dispersed a mighty welter of deception, obfuscation and evasion ... Miller quotes and analyzes [Landon's work] with revelatory insight ... In this infinitely rich literary biography, Ms. Miller treats the life and the work dialectically, each informing and shaping the other...
Miller is unafraid of anachronisms and applies them vividly ... Miller delves eagerly into the menacing, male-dominated world of magazines and publishers ... Compared with the anodyne picture of the culture industry in most scholarship, Miller’s portrait is detailed and tenaciously cynical—and truer. In her hands, Landon’s story is a recognizably modern tragedy, that of the female artist forced to earn attention by reshaping her exploitation into a febrile glamour, knowing all the while that eventually titillation will become condemnation.