Cover image for Lady Caroline Lamb : a biography \cPaul Douglass
Lady Caroline Lamb : a biography \cPaul Douglass
Douglass, Paul, 1951-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.
Physical Description:
xiii, 354 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, genealogical table ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PR4859.L9 D68 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Lady Caroline Lamb, among Lord Byron's many lovers, stands out - vilified, portrayed as a self-destructive nymphomaniac - her true story has never been told. Now, Paul Douglass provides the first unbiased treatment of a woman whose passions and independence were incompatible with the age in which she lived. Taking into account a traumatic childhood, Douglass explores Lamb's so-called 'erotomania' and tendency towards drug abuse and madness - problems she and Byron had in common. In this portrait, she emerges as a person who sacrificed much for the welfare of a sick child, and became an artist in her own right. Douglass illuminates her novels and poetry, her literary friendships, and the lifelong support of her husband and her publisher, John Murray.

Author Notes

Paul Douglass is Professor of English and American Literature at San Jose State University

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Douglass has painted a more balanced and sympathetic portrait of the infamous Lady Caroline Lamb than have her previous biographers, most of whom tended to dwell on the more sensationalistic aspects of her personality. Primarily recognized as Lord Byron's onetime lover, Lady Caroline has often been characterized as an emotionally unstable, drug-dependent nymphomaniac. Douglass, however, prefers to explore the childhood traumas that contributed to Caroline's often erratic adult behavior and to analyze the major role she played in changing the possibilities for women of the nineteenth century. He also pays long-overdue tribute to her considerable literary talents and aspirations. One of the leading social, political, and literary figures of her day and a devoted mother to her mentally and physically handicapped son, Lady Caroline succeeded in very tangible accomplishments that have long been overshadowed by her passionate and highly publicized liaison with Byron and the mental breakdown precipitated by the end of their affair. This professionally wrought biography provides a revisionist feminist view of a fascinating historical figure. --Margaret Flanagan Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Lady Caroline Lamb is best known as Byron's most clinging ex-lover, notorious for sending him clippings of her pubic hair and for her portrait of him in her scandalous first novel, Glenarvon. Without descending into psychobabble, Douglass, a professor of English and American literature at San Jose State University, reveals the stresses of his subject's childhood, including a mother who was almost always ill or in the midst of an affair. He gives a sympathetic though unsentimental account of Caroline's adult mania and addictions to drugs and alcohol. He evokes her stoically reserved husband, William Lamb, later prime minister of England, telling in intricate detail the chilling story of his family's numerous attempts to separate Caroline from him. To his credit, Douglass does not allow Byron to dominate the narrative. But he maintains that Byron's influence made Caroline write her novels, describing her literary ambition as a form of misguided psychological transference. Douglass faithfully catalogues the content of Caroline's three gothic novels, although some readers may find his attention to detail a little wearisome. Constructing his narrative largely from letters and diaries, Douglass provides a richly textured account of 19th-century aristocratic life, with all its sordid liaisons and backstabbing: a world in which the eccentrically emotive and indiscreet Caroline was all too vulnerable. Illus. not seen by PW. (Oct. 13) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Lady Caroline Lamb (1785-1828) is remembered primarily because on meeting Lord Byron, she described him in an immortal phrase: "mad, bad, and dangerous to know." Her torrid, bitter affair with Byron soon followed; it became a staple in numerous Byron biographies down the generations. As is often true in literary biographies, minor figures who clash with the famous are treated with a glaring lack of sympathy. Lady Caroline has consistently been portrayed as an unbalanced, irresponsible, cross-dressing nymphomaniac. Douglass's riveting work, a triumph of scholarship and original research, is a much-needed corrective to skewed portraits of the past. Lady Caroline was sometimes outrageously willful and self-destructive, but she had crushing, lifelong burdens to bear; in the first five years of her marriage, she had two stillborn children and a son who never developed mentally beyond the age of seven. Douglass reveals Lady Caroline for what she was: acutely intelligent, diversely gifted, a talented novelist, and an aristocrat who moved in the highest circles of Regency society. The notes, appendixes, and index are excellent. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. Lower-/upper-division undergraduates and above; general readers. N. Fruman emeritus, University of Minnesota

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. vii
Acknowledgementsp. ix
Prefacep. xi
1 A Child of the Mistp. 1
2 Growing Painsp. 13
3 Coming Outp. 31
4 Marriagep. 49
5 Parenthoodp. 67
6 Indiscretionsp. 79
7 Byronp. 101
8 Irelandp. 119
9 Medea and her Dragonsp. 143
10 Playing Byronp. 169
11 The Music of Glenarvonp. 197
12 Politics and Satirep. 209
13 A Book to Offend No One: Graham Hamiltonp. 227
14 Another Farrago: Ada Reisp. 241
15 Byron's Deathp. 255
16 Exilep. 263
17 Rational and Quietp. 281
Epiloguep. 289
Lady Caroline Lamb and Her Circle Who's Whop. 293
Chronologyp. 297
Abbreviationsp. 302
Notesp. 303
Referencesp. 341
Indexp. 347