Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady

Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady

Hardback

By (author) Kate Summerscale

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  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • Format: Hardback | 320 pages
  • Dimensions: 142mm x 211mm x 33mm | 422g
  • Publication date: 19 June 2012
  • ISBN 10: 1608199134
  • ISBN 13: 9781608199136
  • Edition statement: New.
  • Sales rank: 368,357

Product description

"I think people marry far too much; it is such a lottery, and for a poor woman--bodily and morally the husband's slave--a very doubtful happiness." --Queen Victoria to her recently married daughter VickyHeadstrong, high-spirited, and already widowed, Isabella Walker became Mrs. Henry Robinson at age 31 in 1844. Her first husband had died suddenly, leaving his estate to a son from a previous marriage, so she inherited nothing. A successful civil engineer, Henry moved them, by then with two sons, to Edinburgh's elegant society in 1850. But Henry traveled often and was cold and remote when home, leaving Isabella to her fantasies.No doubt thousands of Victorian women faced the same circumstances, but Isabella chose to record her innermost thoughts--and especially her infatuation with a married Dr. Edward Lane--in her diary. Over five years the entries mounted--passionate, sensual, suggestive. One fateful day in 1858 Henry chanced on the diary and, broaching its privacy, read Isabella's intimate entries. Aghast at his wife's perceived infidelity, Henry petitioned for divorce on the grounds of adultery. Until that year, divorce had been illegal in England, the marital bond being a cornerstone of English life. Their trial would be a cause celebre, threatening the foundations of Victorian society with the specter of "a new and disturbing figure: a middle class wife who was restless, unhappy, avid for arousal." Her diary, read in court, was as explosive as Flaubert's Madame Bovary, just published in France but considered too scandalous to be translated into English until the 1880s.As she accomplished in her award-winning and bestselling "The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher," Kate Summerscale brilliantly recreates the Victorian world, chronicling in exquisite and compelling detail the life of Isabella Robinson, wherein the longings of a frustrated wife collided with a society clinging to rigid ideas about sanity, the boundaries of privacy, the institution of marriage, and female sexuality.

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Author information

Kate Summerscale is the author of the bestselling books "The Queen of Whale Cay" and T"he Suspicions of Mr. Whicher." She lives in London with her son.

Review quote

"This is the golden age of narrative nonfiction, and Summerscale does it better than just about anyone."--Laura Miller of Salon.com on NPR's "Weekend Edition Sunday" "You'll find "Fifty Shades of Grey" on beaches everywhere... but the story of Mrs. Robinson deserves a place on summer reading lists. She is pretty hot stuff."--"The Boston Globe " "Summerscale unspools the Robinsons' tale with flair in "Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace," but it's her social history of marriage that's really riveting. Grade: A"--Tina Jordan, "Entertainment Weekly" "[Kate Summerscale] prods, scrutinizes and examines, employing a real-life historical episode to shed light on Victorian morality and sensibilities . . . The end of the court case is surprising, and to give it away would be an insult to Summerscale's cleverly constructed narrative. But she stresses that one thing is clear: the diary 'may not tell us, for certain, what happened in Isabella's life, but it tells us what she wanted.'"--Andrea Wulf, "The New York Times Book Review" "Kate Summerscale--perfectly at home in the 19th century, as evidenced in 2008's "The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher," her grisly but addictively readable tale of an 1860 murder investigation--blends cultural history with all the elements of a doomed love story in her tale of a real-life Madame Bovary . . . Isabella emerges, regardless of the verdict, as the most fascinating of characters, her pride not trampled in the face of a defense that called for her to proclaim herself a sex maniac rather than an adulterer. Not much of a choice, but she still came out on top."--Jordan Foster, NPR.org "Summerscale engages with her material in such a psychologically rich manner, an added bonus feature, as it were, given that the original story is already so fascinating in itself . . . "Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace" is a glorious evocation of both one woman's inner world, her hopes, dreams, disappointments and desires, and her outer one in the form of the painstakingly r