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A famous poet, a mysterious death and a story stranger than fiction.

On 15 October 1838, the body of a thirty-six-year-old woman was found in Cape Coast Castle, West Africa, a bottle of Prussic acid in her hand. She was one of the most famous English poets of her day: Letitia Elizabeth Landon, known by her initials ‘L.E.L.’

What was she doing in Africa? Was her death an accident, as the inquest claimed? Or had she committed suicide, or even been murdered?

To her contemporaries, she was an icon, hailed as the ‘female Byron’, admired by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Heinrich Heine, the young Brontë sisters and Edgar Allan Poe. However, she was also a woman with secrets, the mother of three illegitimate children whose existence was subsequently wiped from the record. After her death, she became the subject of a cover-up which is only now unravelling.

Too scandalous for her reputation to survive, Letitia Landon was a brilliant woman who made a Faustian pact in a ruthless world. She embodied the post-Byronic era, the ‘strange pause’ between the Romantics and the Victorians. This new investigation into the mystery of her life, work and death excavates a whole lost literary culture, in which the legacy of Keats and Shelley turned toxic.

Reviews

Riveting… A thorough, engaging, and even loving restoration of a woman writer whose story needed to be told and whose works required fresh, attentive eyes.

Kirkus Reviews

Miller crafts a fascinating narrative that is as much about the volatile ways in which gender intersects with cultural practices, including drug addiction, sexuality, colonialism, and creativity, as it is about her provocative subject, Letitia Elizabeth Landon.

Emily Bowles, Library Journal

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Formats & editions

  • Hardback

    9780224079396

    May 16, 2019

    Jonathan Cape

    400 pages

    RRP $55.00

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