A famous poet, a mysterious death and a story stranger than fiction…
*FINALIST FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARDS 2020*
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.
‘Sensational material brought expertly to life; but Miller’s real gift to the reader is her patient reconstruction of the “lost literary generation” 1820s and 1830s.’ Claire Lowdon, Sunday Times
"In her biography of L.E.L., Lucasta Miller’s stellar research blows two centuries of accumulated dust off a phenomenon worth unearthing… This book takes biography to a new level… Detection of this order has a revelatory impact."
"Wonderfully entertaining... spellbinding."
"Lucasta Miller has written a terrific book… This is a compelling life of the victim of a misogynist celebrity culture, a rich mix of literary criticism and impeccable research, which reads like a novel – you keep turning the pages to discover whatever will happen next to the unfortunate L.E.L.."
"Compelling as a detective story, Miller’s revelatory life of Landon is a masterpiece of eloquent scholarship... Miller's real genius lies in her forensic ability to disentangle reality from romance... splendid."
"Miller explores the seedy underbelly of the era with panache… Miller’s definitive biography restores to life a poet who influenced writers such as Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Christina Rossetti and Charlotte Bronte."