Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Perdita: The Literary, Theatrical, Scandalous Life of Mary Robinson” as Want to Read:
Perdita: The Literary, Theatrical, Scandalous Life of Mary Robinson
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Perdita: The Literary, Theatrical, Scandalous Life of Mary Robinson

3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  389 ratings  ·  34 reviews
This thoroughly engaging and richly researched book presents a compelling portrait of Mary Robinson–darling of the London stage, mistress to the most powerful men in England, feminist thinker, and bestselling author, described by Samuel Taylor Coleridge as “a woman of undoubted genius.”

One of the most flamboyant free spirits of the late eighteenth century, Mary Robinson le
Hardcover, 445 pages
Published March 22nd 2005 by Random House (first published November 1st 2004)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Perdita, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Perdita

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,552)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Mary Robinson lived a very interesting life in very interesting times. Famous stage actress, first mistress of Prince George (later George IV aka "Prinny"), influential fashion icon & trend setter, political activist, proto-feminist, loving mother, and celebrated poet/writer, Mary (aka "Perdita" from one of her most famous stage roles) embodied the culture and pagentry of the 18th century English world. She was arguably a woman born ahead of her time. A woman who had a sense of who she was a ...more
Sherwood Smith
Occasionally I have performed on stage. When that happened, the lights were so bright that I couldn't see beyond them, though one can hear the rustles and exhalations of a great crowd packed into a small space.

How much tougher must it have been in the eighteenth century, when candlelight was the most powerful source of light--when it was easy to watch the people in the boxes watching you?

This book was not only a meticulously researched account of a fascinating woman who, like so many eighteenth
The more I read of 'classic' novels/historical biographies the more I realise people haven't really ever changed. I can identify with a Jane Austen heroine as much as I can with any modern character and it's easy to pick out the social stereotypes that still exist today. Perdita is an excellent example of this. I fell in love with Mary Robinson through this book - I genuinely hadn't realised such radical feminists had existed in the 1700s, plus her political beliefs still chime with me today. Sl ...more
Sarah Beth
Mary Robinson was an "actress, entertainer, author, provoker of scandal, fashion icon, sex object, darling of the gossip columns, self-promoter" (xvi). Born in 1757, she was considered by many to be "the most beautiful woman in England" (xv). So beautiful that the Prince of Wales, seeing her play the part of Perdita, began writing her love letters. She subsequently had the dubious honor of being the first of his mistresses. Her life was characterized by a series of misfortunes: her father essent ...more
What an interesting woman. I wish this book were twice as long or that someone would make a big, fancy expensive movie about her. I liked it more than Duchess of Devonshire and it would be a much better movie. Not so darn depressing. If you like Marie Antoinette and Duchess (both were in this woman's life), read this next!

A highly researched biography of a fascinating woman who has for many years been ignored by history.

A fashion icon, actress and celebrity of her day she was also a woman of letters writing poetry and novels, a political radical and a feminist. I was very inspired by this life though it was quite dry in places.
This book is an interesting contrast to the previous book I read and reviewed, Claire Tomalin's Mrs Jordan's Profession. Both biographies are about Regency actresses who became royal mistresses, Mary Robinson to the Prince of Wales, subsequently George IV, and Dora Jordan to the Duke of Clarence, later William IV. Both women left the stage for their royal lovers, who subsequently abandoned them; although Dora Jordan's abandonment after twenty years contrasts strongly with Mary Robinson's fling o ...more
The poor quality of Paula Byrne's writing in Perdita astounded me as I read it. She seemed to think that being a good biographer means having dozens of unnecessary excerpts from her subject's poems and novels (hello, this is a biography, not literary analysis) and infinite references to Mary's Robinson's autobiography that begin with "in the Memoirs Mary said," or "Mary wrote in the Memoirs..." In other words, Byrne's editor let her run a muck and fill up the book with filler that could have (an ...more
Mary Robinson married young and not well (in her defense, she was duped into thinking that her suitor had an inheritance coming which, in fact, he did not) and she gave up a career in theater to do so, as such a profession was not socially acceptable for a proper woman. The couple lived beyond their means, which soon landed them in debtors' prison. Mary nevertheless stood by her husband quite a long time, even when she discovered an affair or two that he was having. She did, however, go into act ...more
Book Wormy
I struggled with this as non fiction is not my thing but it is fascinating how a woman believed to have influenced Wordsworth, Mary Shelly, Samuel Coleridge and many others has essentially vanished from history.

Living in the 1700's Mary Robinson was more like a modern day independent woman.

She had numerous affairs most notably with the Prince of Wales.

The book contains extracts of her poems and novels and it has promted me to try and find some of her works.
Jenny Brown
An absolutely fascinating look at a woman I'd known nothing about despite having read quite a few 18th century women's novels that were resurrected by people active in women's studies in the 1980s. Byrne did a brilliant job not only of bringing alive her subject, very much "warts and all," but also gave us enough samples of her writing that we can get a feel for what Robinson did that her contemporaries admired so much and also why her work hasn't lasted the way that of some of her contemporarie ...more
Couldn't really finish it - I found it a little dull, and I couldn't be convinced of her beauty or genius. I didn't really even know why I ever wanted to read this book - it had sat on my Amazon wishlist for too long, so I finally borrowed it from the library. I got as far as her visit to Wales to meet her husband's "uncle" (actually his father), and then I decided life was too short to carry on reading about someone I couldn't bring myself to care about. If she was such a literary genius, why a ...more
Jane Routley
A revealing and evocative insight into the world of the time. A fascinating person. The Kim Kardashian of her age? Who remade herself as a literary lion in later life.
I thought it was going to be so intresting - dull, dull, dull. Skimmed quite a bit of it!
Mary Robinson was the Princess Diana of her day. Well, Princess Diana if she became a very accomplished writer. This is a great biography of a very clever and very famous woman. Mistress to the Prince of Wales (briefly), trend-setter, poet, essayist and novelist, Mary Robinson was one of the most fascinating people of late Georgian society. Paula Byrne tells her story in a very honest manner, not hiding the way Mary manipulated her image, but at the same time showing a great deal of respect for ...more
Fantastic introduction to an overlooked politically and socially active woman of the late 1700s. Thank you to Paula Byrne for rescuing Mary Robinson from oblivion. Mary Robinson was a woman out of her time, anti-slavery, pro-women's rights, and active and vocal in her opinions. Sadly maligned, she was as much a product of the celebrity world of her time as she was used and abused by it. A fascinating, eventful life, beautifully written by Ms Byrne. Very strongly recommended.
Byrne did a good job with a difficult subject. Not many letters existed from Mary's early years, so Byrne was left to weave together Mary's story from several untrustworthy sources: Mary's own memoirs, written with an eye towards how she wanted to be remembered; and tabloids of the time, which --just as tabloids of today--could be true, but were mostly false.
Very good biography of Mary Robinson. It was very interesting to see that she was an early advocate for the rights of women and slaves in her poetry and books. It was not something that women with good
reputations could do. A good companion book to this is The Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Forman. Both well researched books.
As someone who never reads non-fiction, and knows nothing about the time period I was surprised that I completed this book. Mary Robinson had an interesting life. I enjoyed that Byrne added some historical perspective. Although I thought that it read a bit like a textbook, I still would recommend this book.
A fascinating book with far more twists and turns than many of the pop!historical novels that attempt to replicate the period. Mary Robinson could give a number of modern celbutants a number of lessons on remaking themselves and using the press to their advantage.
Eh. Needed A LOT of editing. Got about 60% through it and just didn't care anymore. No tangential detail was excluded and much was just filler and adulation. I don't think Mary Robinson was a boring woman but one would not know it from this book.
Byrne did an excellent job of exploring the three main "themes" of Robinson's life but she got a little heavy on the quotations of poetry for my tastes. Overall though, excellent biography - it's hard to make Mary Robinson boring...
Really fascinating insight into her life as actress mixing with aristocracy in c18. Split into 3 parts. First two superb and last less good as more focused on her life as an author. Definitely worth reading.
Actress, novelist, courtesan, poetess, fashion icon, feminist, 'most beautiful woman in England', political activist. All this, and Perdita even did time for debt!

*awed rendition of 'Mrs Robinson'*

Vera Cobb
Had a bot of trouble deciding whether it wanted to be a biography or a literary biography. Subject was intersting and a person I'd never previously heard of. Had an interesting albeit short life.
Who knew 18th Century England was so racy?? This read gives the intricate details of Robinson's fascinating life, although it is a bit slow-going (started this novel in May...).
This is mainly about what other people said about Mary Robinson. I got bored with it but it would be interesting to read her Memoirs, as she was a remarkable woman.
Fantastic biography of a little known actress-cum-writer, who reinvented herself multiple times, all the while being the subject of the scandal sheets of London.
Mary Robinson's transition from courtesan to feminist is my favorite part of her life story. Always a pleasure to read about outstanding women in history.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 51 52 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Privilege and Scandal: The Remarkable Life of Harriet Spencer, Sister of Georgiana
  • A Scandalous Life: The Biography of Jane Digby
  • The Lady in Red: An Eighteenth-Century Tale of Sex, Scandal, and Divorce
  • Aristocrats: Caroline, Emily, Louisa, and Sarah Lennox, 1740-1832
  • England's Mistress: The Infamous Life of Emma Hamilton
  • Princesses: The Six Daughters of George III
  • Nell Gwyn: Mistress to a King
  • Madame de Pompadour: Mistress of France
  • Sarah Churchill Duchess of Marlborough: The Queen's Favourite
  • Dancing to the Precipice: Lucie Dillon, Marquise de la Tour du Pin and the French Revolution
  • Madame de Pompadour
  • Court Lady and Country Wife: Two Noble Sisters in Seventeenth-Century England
  • Ungrateful Daughters: The Stuart Princesses Who Stole Their Father's Crown
  • Charlotte & Leopold: The True Story of The Original People's Princess
  • A Gambling Man: Charles II and the Restoration
  • Courtesans: Money, Sex and Fame in the Nineteenth Century
  • Madame de Pompadour: A Life
  • Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England
Paula Byrne is a British author and biographer. She is married to writer Jonathan Bate, the Shakespeare scholar.
More about Paula Byrne...

Share This Book