Caroline's Reviews > Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady

Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace by Kate Summerscale
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's review
Jun 12, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: british-history, victorian-history
Read from June 12 to 13, 2012

If nothing else, this book made me so grateful not to have been born a Victorian lady. To have no freedom, no choice, no legal status at all, to be dismissed as hysterical, weak, feeble. Reading this book, I felt so for Isabella Robinson, for the insight into the married lives of so many Victorian women - practical prisoners to their husbands.

This book is about the divorce trial of Isabella Robinson, accused of adultery by her husband and indicted by her own diary, in which she wrote all the details of her unhappiness, her husband's rough brutal nature, her love for a friend's husband, Edward Lane, her own struggles with her passionate impulsive nature. The divorce was one of the first in the new Divorce Court - previously couples needed a personal Act of Parliament to divorce, a time-consuming and incredibly expensive endeavour which naturally limited the number of divorces.

The way the papers of the time reported the case, the way she was painted as a slattern, as hysterical or necessarily insane - because of course no sane married woman would want more than her husband chose to give her, could possibly want to seek love outside of the bonds of marriage - are really eye-opening. Isabella Robinson was utterly disgraced, but of course Edward Lane came out clean and unscathed. And really, have things changed all that much today?
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