Paula Byrne: Perdita The Literary Theatrical Scandalous Life of Mary Robinson



Nked in that Mary Robinson put so much of herself into her writing I feel I have rather overlooked Mary even though I must have seen her portrait several times at Chawton She deserves to be remembered along with the likes of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mrs Radcliff Mary Robinson lived a very interesting life in very interesting times Famous stage actress first mistress of Prince George later George IV aka Prinny influential fashion icon trend setter political activist proto feminist loving mother and celebrated poetwriter Mary aka Perdita from one of her most famous stage roles embodied the culture and pagentry of the 18th century English world She was arguably a woman born ahead of her time A woman who had a sense of who she was and what she wanted out of life and was able to capitalize on both her strengths as well as her weaknesses to make a name for herself Her turnaround from young naive actress to tawdry mistress of powerful men to respected author is almost unimaginable and she did all this before her death in 1800 at the age of 43Her beauty was legendary by her mid 20 s she had already been immortalized by Gainsborough Reynolds and other famous painters of the period She introduced new fashions and almost single handedly changed the style of female clothing from the tightly corsetted and hoop skirted designs of the mid 1700 s to the flowing body freeing styles of the late 1700 s and early 1800 s Not until the Victorian period would women s bodies be tortured again for the. Ft England to establish a fishery among the Canadian Eskimos Mary was married at age fifteen to Thomas Robinson His dissipation landed the couple and their baby in debtors’ prison where Mary wrote her first book of poetry gaining her the patronage of Georgiana Duchess of DevonshireOn her release Mary rose to become one of the London theater’s most alluring actresses famously playing Perdita in The Winter’s Tale for a rapt audience that included the Prince of Wales.

It was a very good biography of a woman who was both notorious and famous in the sevententh century but of whom most people unless they specialize in the period have never heard of I read most of the biography when I was teaching a course on The Romantics for the OSHER programme It s only a five week course and for only one week we read a handful of female authors one of which was Robinson who was admired by Coleridge and Wordsworth for her metircal innovations She was most famous for her Gothic novels and for briefly being the Prince Regent s mistress I finally had some time to finish off the biography this week A highly researched biography of a fascinating woman who has for many years been ignored by historyA fashion icon actress and celebrity of her day she was also a woman of letters writing poetry and novels a political radical and a feminist I was very inspired by this life though it was uite dry in places I found the first three uarters of this book for interesting than the last partly due to the change in Mary Robinson s circumstances but also in the writing which didn t always hold my attention It is however a most informative book about a really interesting woman who reinvented herself from actress to Royal mistress and then an author of both poetry and prose I hadn t realised the word celebrity had been around for so longThe latter part of the book contains much of a literary criticism feel whereas I wanted biography but I do recognise the two are inextricably li. This thoroughly engaging and richly researched book presents a compelling portrait of Mary Robinson–darling of the London stage mistress to the most powerful men in England feminist thinker and bestselling author described by Samuel Taylor Coleridge as “a woman of undoubted genius”One of the most flamboyant free spirits of the late eighteenth century Mary Robinson led a life that was marked by reversals of fortune After being abandoned by her merchant father who le.

Summary Perdita The Literary Theatrical Scandalous Life of Mary Robinson

Sake of fashionHer views were radical for the time and for her sex but she never waivered in them even when it made her unpopular She was an exceptional mother and daughter eeping both near to her for her entire life and sharing close ties to many women of both high and low estate from Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire to an actressprostitute friend fallen on hard times Her relationships with men weren t so advantageous her father and later her husband deserted her Her lovers failed to eep their promises of protection and fidelity although to his credit Prince George gave her an annuity for the rest of her life and stayed a friend to herWhile still a young woman she became crippled and was never able to walk again At that point in her life she determined to re invent herself and re gain respectibility by becoming a lady of learning and culture Although her poetry and books aren t remembered today she had fame and influence with her writing at the timeAll in all an enjoyable read although I have to give it only 3 stars due to author Paula Bryne s ponderous and sometimes dry writing style It took me a long time to get through this book not because Perdita s life story wasn t fascinating oh it was but because Byrne s writing wasn t fascinating I think I would have really liked Perdita alot and would now include her in one of my dinner with my favorite dead historical figures party I wonder how she d get along with the likes of Anne Boleyn Laura Ingalls Wilder and Daniel Boonehmmm. Who fell madly in love with her Never one to pass up an opportunity she later used his ardent and numerous love letters as blackmail After being struck down by paralysis apparently following a miscarriage she remade herself yet again this time as a popular writer who was also admired by the leading intellectuals of the dayFilled with triumph and despair and then triumph again the amazing multifaceted life of “Perdita” is marvelously captured in this stunning biograph.

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Jonathan Bate the Shakespeare scholar