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The Lost Life and Mysterious Death of the "Female Byron"

Lucasta Miller


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Other Editions of This Title:
Digital Audiobook (3/4/2019)
Hardcover (3/5/2019)


A finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography: the fascinating, rediscovered story of a writer who changed English poetry and explored the dark side of sexuality through a woman's voice.

On October 15, 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 as 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, the Brontës, and Edgar Allan Poe. However, she was also a woman with scandalous secrets, and her death prompted a cover-up that is only now unravelling. Lucasta Miller, acclaimed author of The Brontë Myth, meticulously pieces together L.E.L.’s lost career, revealing her as a brilliant woman who embodied a seismic cultural shift, the missing link between the Romantics and the Victorians. A triumph of original research and riveting storytelling, L.E.L. restores a fascinating figure to her place in history.

Praise For L.E.L.: The Lost Life and Mysterious Death of the "Female Byron"

A National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist

“Compelling as a detective story. . . . A masterpiece of eloquent scholarship.” —Literary Review
“A valiant recovery job—the life of a writer, a woman first celebrated, then notorious, in her time and nearly forgotten today. . . . Infinitely rich.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Miller’s stellar research blows two centuries of accumulated dust off a phenomenon worth knowing. . . . This book takes biography to a new level.” —New Statesman
“A luminous and engaging literary mystery supported by thoughtful and exhaustive research.” —Bustle
“Few figures of the Romantic era are as enigmatic. . . . This intrepid biography examines her eclipse in light of a scandal. . . . Miller’s subtle readings of a poet whom she calls ‘proto-postmodern’ restore a lost reputation.” —The New Yorker
L.E.L. is the first biography of Landon to explore recent revelations about her life, and the literary critic Lucasta Miller's sleuthing delivers an unexpected result. The figure who emerges from her pages is not just a missing link in literary Romanticism, but a progenitor of something modern.” —The Atlantic

Anchor, 9780593311158, 432pp.

Publication Date: October 20, 2020

About the Author

LUCASTA MILLER is a British literary critic who has worked for The Independent and The Guardian, and contributed to The Economist, The Times (London), The New Statesman, and the BBC. She was the founding editorial director of Notting Hill Editions and has been a visiting scholar at Wolfson College, Oxford, and a visiting fellow at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. She lives in London with her husband, the tenor Ian Bostridge, and their two children.