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Lady Mary Wortley Montagu: Comet of the Enlightenment

by Isobel Grundy

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311629,606 (3.67)None
With interest growing in the tradition of women's writing, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762) has been transformed from a colourful eccentric to an important writer. This life is the first to take her writing achievement seriously, as well as re-telling a life-story which every newly uncovered detail renders more extraordinary.… (more)
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A sprawl and a crawl through the vivid and unlikely life of Lady Mary, one of the early 18th century's shiningest stars. There is a tonne of plain old information here, and Grundy narrativizes it effectively--we're not left with that "and then this, and then this, and then this"thing that historical biography so often falls into. There are definite flaws to the book--the attempts to construct her as a proto-feminist heroine (arch-Whig that she was) can be a bit forced, and I may find Grundy's habit of foregrounding the contingency of reconstuction based on surviving documents and guesswork by putting words like may and could in italics irritating as hell, but this definitely gets you into Lady Mary's skin and gets you thinking about her times and the intense characters that surround her--Hervey, the original "Lord Fanny"; Pope, the bitter hunchback passing ugly judgment on women's private lives because none of them will ever love him; the aged Lady Mary in the palazzo in Italy, being held captive by the crazies who play her off against each other and tell her lies and the truth until she doesn't know what's going on anymore and gives up all her coin so they'll protect her from the terrifying world. It's like a Herzog movie. ( )
1 vote MeditationesMartini | Jun 11, 2010 |
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With interest growing in the tradition of women's writing, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762) has been transformed from a colourful eccentric to an important writer. This life is the first to take her writing achievement seriously, as well as re-telling a life-story which every newly uncovered detail renders more extraordinary.

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