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About the book
  • Published: 15 March 2009
  • ISBN: 9780701179045
  • Imprint: Chatto & Windus
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 496
  • RRP: $55.00

Dancing to the Precipice

Lucie de la Tour du Pin and the French Revolution




Lucie de la Tour du Pin was the Pepys of her generation: her diaries provide a vivid picture of Versailles, the French Revolution and Napoleon. This richly textured, highly enjoyable and evocative biography shows us an extraordinary woman in the midst of her extraordinary times.

Born Lucie Dillon, to a half-French mother and an Anglo-Irish father, her world was Versailles and the court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. She married a French aristocrat, and narrowly survived the French Revolution, escaping to America at the time of Washington and Jefferson. Here, she lived a life of milking cows and chopping wood, having previously been accustomed to the lavish life of the French court. Returning to France prematurely, Lucie had to flee again, this time to England, where she took up sewing in order to support herself and her family.

Repeatedly in the right place at the right time, Lucie saw the Battle of Waterloo, the fall of Napoleon and the return of Louis XVIII, and the Restoration. She was an outstanding diarist and a remarkable woman, who witnessed one of the most dramatic and brutal periods of history, playing the part of observer, commentator and, often, participant. For the last years of her life she was ambassadress to Holland and the Kingdom of Sardinia. Her friends included Wellington, Lafayette, Alexander Hamilton, Talleyrand and Madame de Stael. She died, aged 83, in Pisa.

Mixing politics and court intrigue, social observation and everyday details about food, work, illness, children, manners and clothes, Caroline Moorehead paints a vivid and memorable portrait of an era - lasting three-quarters of a century - that saw the fortunes of France, as well as those of Lucie herself, rise and fall and rise again. Both as a witness and as a survivor, Lucie is a superb subject for an exemplary biographer.

  • Pub date: 15 March 2009
  • ISBN: 9780701179045
  • Imprint: Chatto & Windus
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 496
  • RRP: $55.00

About the Author

Caroline Moorehead

Caroline Moorehead is the biographer of Bertrand Russell, Freya Stark, Iris Origo and Martha Gellhorn. Her biography of Lucie de la Tour du Pin, Dancing to the Precipice, was shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award in 2009, and her most recent book, Village of Secrets, was a Sunday Times bestseller and was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize.

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