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Perdita

by Paula Byrne

Sex, fame and scandal in the theatrical, literary and social circles of late-eighteenth-century England. One of the most flamboyant women of the late-eighteenth century, Mary Robinson's life was marked by reversals of fortune. After being raised by a middle-class father, Mary was married, at age fourteen, to Thomas Robinson. His dissipated lifestyle landed the couple and their baby in debtors' prison, where Mary wrote her first book of poetry and met lifelong friend Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire. On her release, Mary quickly became one of the most popular actresses of the day, famously playing Perdita in The Winter's Tale for a rapt audience that included the Prince of Wales, who fell madly in love with her. She later used his copious love letters for blackmail. This authoritative and engaging book presents a fascinating portrait of a woman who was variously darling of the London stage, a poet whose work was admired by Coleridge and a mistress to the most powerful men in England, and yet whose fortunes were nevertheless precarious, always on the brink of being squandered through recklessness, excess and passion.

The Real Jane Austen

by Paula Byrne

Who was the real Jane Austen? Overturning the traditional portrait of the author as conventional and genteel, bestseller Paula Byrne's landmark biography reveals the real woman behind the books. Few authors inspire the same devotion as Jane Austen. Her six novels are perennial favourites, forever topping polls and appearing on screen. However, we know remarkably little about her. The Jane of popular imagination echoes the Victorian representation of her as sweet and maidenly, her books entirely suitable for polite society. In this astonishing biography Paula Bryce, the renowned Austen scholar, thwarts all attempts to tame Jane's reputation into one of dreary respectability and we meet the more likely personality behind such novels as Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion. Through her life and work, Jane emerges as deeply immersed in culture and politics, far ahead of her time in both her writerly ambition and desire for independence. With new revelations, including Byrne's discovery of a previously unknown contemporary portrait and the identity of Jane's long-lost seaside love, this is a depiction of Austen that finally makes sense - an intelligent, subversive and thoroughly modern woman.

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