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.
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.
By the discovery of new material relating especially to the existence of L.E.L’s children, Miller has been able to piece together very coherently the celebrity, notoriety, fame, and shame of the writer’s story. While the main focus is on the vibrant and vicious atmosphere of the male-dominated and misogynistic London literary scene, Miller also presents without indulging in pop psychology some fascinating glimpses of the family atmosphere ... This memorable and fascinating book is far from being just another example of the increasingly common attempts to excavate a female genius stifled by her male partner. Seen against the complex backdrop of her family circumstances, the machinations of literary London, and changing social mores that made a 'female Byron' no longer socially acceptable, L.E.L., in death as in life, continues to intrigue and bewilder.