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L.E.L.: The Lost Life and Scandalous Death of Letitia Elizabeth Landon, the Celebrated "female Byron"
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L.E.L.: The Lost Life and Scandalous Death of Letitia Elizabeth Landon, the Celebrated "female Byron"

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  64 ratings  ·  15 reviews
A lost nineteenth-century literary life, brilliantly rediscovered--Letitia Elizabeth Landon, hailed as the female Byron; she changed English poetry; her novels, short stories, and criticism, like Byron though in a woman's voice, explored the dark side of sexuality.

"None among us dares to say / What none will choose to hear"--L.E.L., "Lines of Life"
Letitita Elizabeth
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published March 5th 2019 by Knopf Publishing Group
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Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Letitia Elizabeth Landon was a flaming torch of the London literary scene during 1820-30s. L.E.L, as she marketed herself, modeled herself off of Bryon and Shelley. Writing poetry in the first person, tortured and dramatically Romantic. Her choice of first person point of view placed her in a precarious position as her work discussed amorous endeavors, alluding in the coded language of the time to sexual congress and the emotional consequences. She was playing smoke and mirrors, but her ...more
From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the week:
Lucasta Miller's account of an infamous female poet in ruthless times, London in the 1820s and '30s, is abridged in five parts by Katrin Williams.

The dubious William Jerdan, editor of the Literary Gazette, takes on the responsibility of mentoring young Letitia Elizabeth Landon, who starts writing passionate verse for his magazine, signing off as a persona known as LEL.

But publication comes with conditions...

Reader Helena Bonham Carter
Producer Duncan Minshull.

No rating on this one. I got to nearly 50% and that was enough for me. It's dense, analytic writing. Within the strictures of the time period of her life (L.E.L.) it went into myriads of tangents. It certainly is not just a biography or a study of the woman's life. Much more like an across the board literary dissertation. And about poetry itself, primarily during the time between the Romantics and the Victorians, but not at all limited to the core of what the title predisposes you to expect.

Kathleen Flynn
This is a fascinating look at a forgotten writer, but also an absorbing picture of London literary culture and English social history more generally in the 1820s and 1830s -- a strange interim between the louche Regency and the buttoned-up, but hypocritical Victorian era.

It's also the most searing indictment of literary misogyny I think I've ever come across. If the sad story of L.E.L. doesn't make you furious on behalf of all women everywhere, you are dead inside. But this exhaustively
Gayla Bassham
If you, like I, have a taste for books about scandalous women and the Victorian literati, this will be just your thing.
V. Briceland
May 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The poet known as L.E.L., who flourished and disappeared in the 1820s and 1830s, was a genuine cultural phenomenon who has been all but forgotten today. Years ago I studied for a doctorate in English literature of the period, and I'd never once heard of her. Lucasta Miller's biography of this overlooked, perhaps neglected, writer is easily one of the best reads I've enjoyed this year…although I have several caveats about the author’s writing choices.

L.E.L. was as much an exercise in marketing
Genevieve Taylor
Nov 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This charming and engaging unravels the mysteries around Letitia Landon, or L.E.L., who was known in her time as the female Byron and who died under mysterious circumstances of cyanide poisoning. Though Letitia has been all but forgotten in modern times, recent discoveries and thorough research have shed new light upon her life and her death, and the fascinating literary subculture she inhabited.
DNF page 100 or 150 or so (it's been awhile).

I wanted to love this book, and there's a lot of things here that are in my wheelhouse. As the title implies, I'd never heard of Landon before (or L.E.L. as she published under) and I was eager to learn about her and restore her to her rightful place in literature for myself, at least. I have nothing but respect for the clear effort Miller put into this thoroughly researched work. But I just couldn't stick with it. It's fairly academic and maybe I
Elaine Ruth Boe
Oct 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bio-memoir
It was refreshing to read a biography and poetry analysis, since I've mostly read fiction or personal essays since grad school.

Following Miller's commentary was enjoyable and rewarding, although I believe we should always be careful when reading literary works autobiographically. Miller makes a strong argument for how LEL used her poetic voice to express a façade of her identity. But sometimes Miller extrapolated about Letitia's biographical facts based on the poetry.

In many ways Letitia's
Aug 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Miller is a very good literary biographer, and this surprising and scandalous story does not disappoint. We learn most about an age through its by-ways sometimes and this illuminates the 'strange pause' between Romanticism and the Victorians. There is the deep ambiguity of the 'virgin poetess', writing for a respectable public and especially young women ( she was admired by the Brontes, Elizabeth Barrett, Christina Rossetti) but moving in largely male and predatory literary circles. She had ...more
Oct 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
L.E.L. was a fascinating read of an poet I was unaware of. Letitia Elizabeth Landon, author and applauded poet of her era bravely sought a literary place and recognition within a patriarchal world. In order to maintain her standing in London's literary notoriety she chose to hide her illicit affair and subsequent pregnancies. Lucasta Miller teases out through detailed research the story of L.E.L.'s life and her possibly suicidal death in West Africa. If only those last two letters she wrote fell ...more
Kristen G
Dec 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Infuriating, informative deep dive into the pre-Victorian literary scene and the career of a now-forgotten poetess, LEL, who was the tabloid fodder of her day. This book also chronicles her unhappy love life, including with her “Svengali” who groomed her from a young age and offered her a Faustian bargain of a literary career in exchange for sexual favors (and, in the honor-obsessed era, her reputation). I’m not usually one for nonfiction but this was great.
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! Letitia’s life intertwined with many familiar names and historical events, and Miller did a beautiful job of presenting her story.
Nov 12, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
I got about 5 percent in and gave up. The writing style is so poetical and time-skipping that it can't manage the narrative. It was incoherent to me.
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