Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “L.E.L.: The Lost Life and Scandalous Death of Letitia Elizabeth Landon, the Celebrated Female Byron” as Want to Read:
L.E.L.: The Lost Life and Scandalous Death of Letitia Elizabeth Landon, the Celebrated Female Byron
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  96 ratings  ·  25 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 Lando
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published March 5th 2019 by Knopf Publishing Group
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 L.E.L., please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about L.E.L.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.84  · 
Rating details
 ·  96 ratings  ·  25 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of L.E.L.: The Lost Life and Scandalous Death of Letitia Elizabeth Landon, the Celebrated Female Byron
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 reputati ...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.

It h
Mar 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The big takeaway from this is that William Jerdan is The Literal Worst. He was the Harvey Weinstein of the proto-Victorian era.
danielle | localgoddesslit
I read this biography like it was on fire, each page licking my fingertips and threatening to singe my skin. I now know the bright orange of the cover serves as a fair warning, as does the enigmatic stare of Letitia Elizabeth Landon herself; this is a story hungry to be told. And trust me, you will devour it.

Likely, you have never heard of L.E.L., the celebrated "female Byron" who had nineteenth-century literary London salivating over her every written word. Born in 1802 in an era of fluctuating
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 researc
Gayla Bassham
If you, like I, have a taste for books about scandalous women and the Victorian literati, this will be just your thing.
Sep 13, 2020 added it
while I assume all biographers indicate this nowadays, I do respect lucasta miller for framing L.E.L.: The Lost Life and Scandalous Death of Letitia Elizabeth Landon, the Celebrated "female Byron" primarily around the issue of biographical and generic ambiguity. between L.E.L. the writer and Letitia the person, the Romantic and Victorian literary periods, irony and sincerity, miller imbues all with virtual scare quotes. since I've worked on m. shelley's work during this waning period of the Youn ...more
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 an
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.
Maura Heaphy Dutton
Fascinating insight into the lottery of literary fame. Fantastically well-researched. But, in my opinion, desperately over-reaches about LEL's talent, and the importance/interest of the minutiae of her life, making the middle section of the book, sadly, quite a slog, and burying some of the really interesting and important points that Miller has to make.

Rock-star poet of the 1820s, "L.E.L." (Letitia Elizabeth Landon, 1802-1837) is nothing short of a gift to a biographer: so thoroughly forgotten,
Bradley White
In brief:
Lucasta Miller is a celebrated literary analyst whose knowledge and research of the Brontë’s is unmatched, even being included as part of the introduction for the Penguin Classics edition of Wuthering Heights.
But she should stick to her subject.

L.E.L was readable. It did make me want to read the literary works of Letitia Landon (which are sparse) but I wanted to read her works more than Miller’s. Miller’s account of the scandalous life of L.E.L is more informative of the time period
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 jus
Etta Madden
Nov 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
L.E.L.: The Lost Life and Scandalous Death of Letitia Elizabeth Landon, the Celebrated "female Byron"Another great biography of a forgotten woman writer who churned out the pages during her life, winning quite a following of fans. Lucasta Miller's story begins with the gripping mystery of L.E.L's death by prussic acid in Cape Coast Castle, Africa. From there, she unwinds the many events that led Letitia Elizbeth to come to be known as L.E.L. and "the female Byron." Truly another sad case of the ...more
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 lif
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 thre ...more
Amy Bernstein
Nov 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
I'm grateful to live in an age when brilliant women buried under centuries of misogyny and patriarchy can be resurrected and restored to their rightful place in history. Landon's story full deserves this treatment. While this is a biography, I found it cloying at times, with the narrative almost doubling back on itself rather than moving forward. I also found myself wishing for a compelling fictional version of Landon's life, with appropriate artistic license taken to bring the woman and her com ...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.
David Ryan
Mar 06, 2021 rated it really liked it
"A triumph of original research and riveting storytelling” is not an exaggeration. The author’s writing is refreshingly erudite — a lesson in English vocabulary. Quite extraordinary. So too the tale of L.E.L.’s death which still remains highly controversial. Her personal life and the lives of those intertwined around her provide a revelation to the literary world of the period. Especially recommended to those interested in poetry.
DNF 27% | Der Einstieg mit L.E.L.s Tod war super und doof gleichzeitig: Damit ist das spannendste eigentlich direkt vom Tisch. Ich mochte zwar, was ich bisher gelesen habe, aber es ist sehr schwerfällig und einen Tick zu akademisch geschrieben... und nach 1,5 Monaten habe ich immer noch keine Lust weiterzulesen.
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. ...more
Jun 08, 2020 marked it as to-buy
Shortlisted for national book critics award biography 2020
rated it it was amazing
Apr 13, 2019
rated it really liked it
Jan 17, 2020
rated it liked it
Aug 01, 2019
rated it really liked it
Sep 24, 2020
rated it really liked it
Apr 02, 2019
rated it liked it
Jun 03, 2019
« previous 1 3 4 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Sealed Letter
  • Astray
  • Sweet Home
  • Multitudes
  • Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door
  • All the Beggars Riding
  • Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years
  • The Well of Loneliness
  • The Queen: The Forgotten Life Behind an American Myth
  • Mia & Korum (The Krinar Chronicles, #1-3)
  • Enemies and Neighbors: Arabs and Jews in Palestine and Israel, 1917-2017
  • The Tudors: A Very Short Introduction
  • The Soviet Union: A Very Short Introduction
  • Understand the Middle East (Since 1945): Teach Yourself
  • Modern China: A Very Short Introduction
  • The Doctor's Wife
  • Hamnet
  • In the Dream House
See similar books…

Related Articles

Happy Women's History Month! One of the undisputedly good things about modern scholarship is that women’s history is finally getting its due....
104 likes · 18 comments