The Whole Disgraceful Truth: Selected Letters of Lady Caroline Lamb. Ed. Paul Douglass. New York: Palgrave (2006). (260 pp.)
Description: Lady Caroline Lamb was described by her lover, Lord Byron, as having a heart like a “little volcano.” and as “the cleverest most agreeable, absurd, amiable, perplexing, dangerous fascinating little being that lives now or ought to have lived 2000 years ago.” She wrote witty and revealing letters to fellow authors like Lady Morgan, William Godwin, Robert Malthus, and Amelia Opie, and to her publishers John Murray and Henry Colburn, to her cousins Hart, Georgiana, and Harrio, as well as to her mother, husband, son, and lovers. In those letters she told her correspondents what she admitted was “the whole disgraceful truth” of her drug and alcohol addictions, her affairs with Sir Godfrey Vassal Webster, Lord Byron, and Michael Bruce, her jealousy of her cousin Georgiana (whom William Lamb had “adored” before proposing to Caroline), but also of her efforts to make a happy life for her mentally retarded, epileptic son, Augustus, and her determination to become a respected writer of fiction, poetry, and songs. This volume includes letters written between 1797, when LCL was eleven years old, and 1828 when she died at age 41.
"This extraordinarily talented woman of letters now speaks for herself in an impressively researched volume, allowing us to understand a much maligned figure, as tormented as she was tormenting, in all of her fascinating complexity—a must read for anyone with a serious interest in Romantic-era literature, history, domestic politics, or feminist studies." —Paula Feldman, author of British Women Poets of the Romantic Era
"This new edition of Caroline Lamb's Letters is a valuable resource and a vital complement to Douglass's impressive biography of Lamb. With the publication of the Letters we can see the human side of Lamb as well as her version of the events that were so infamously portrayed in her novel Glenarvon. Meticulously edited, this collection lets the 'Byronic heroine' speak in her own voice and it rounds out the portrait of a woman who is becoming increasingly important in the romantic canon." —Diane Long Hoeveler, Marquette University, author of Gothic Feminism: The Professionalization of Gender from Charlotte Smith to the Brontës .
"It was Caroline Lamb who coined the memorable phrase for her lover Lord Byron: 'mad, bad, and dangerous to know.' It takes one to know one. The Whole Disgraceful Truth: Selected Letters of Lady Caroline Lamb not only does justice to this challenging subject, but provides a unique, indispensable, everywhere compelling view of the world of Regency aristocratic society: its privilege, its high-living, its self-indulgent and frequently outrageous behavior. Cutting a swath through it all is 'Caro,' the theatrical gamine whose passions evoked and provoked Byron (he called her a "little volcano"). In his masterfully developed, scrupulously well-informed, groundbreaking edition, Paul Douglass presents her correspondence from girlhood to dying days—an unrivaled cache of letters, cascading with passion and punctuated with outbursts of verse, that constitute a trove of inestimable historical value and irresistible entertainment." —Susan J. Wolfson, Princeton University, editor of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and the poems and letters of Felicia Hemans.
"Caro Lamb was as familiar with the world of the Whig English aristocracy and the circle round the Prince Regent as she was with such literary giants as Blake, Foscolo, Godwin and above all Lord Byron with whom she had a famous affair and whose disappeared Memoirs she read. We know her from report and from her novel Glenarvon but this volume, based on original research and hitherto unpublished material, gives us the life and voice of an extraordinary literary figure directly. The volume impresses both by the thoroughness of its scholarship and by the light yet sure touch with which Paul Douglass conducts us through an eccentric, moving, pathetic, but courageous life in letters. Byron complains of the labours of reading a ‘she-epistle’ but there are few labours in this fascinating window into Regency England during the Napoleonic Wars and their aftermath and one of the greatest periods of Romantic Poetry." —Bernard Beatty, University of Liverpool, former editor of The Byron Journal.
Anyone having information about letters to or from Lady Caroline that are held outside of library and archive collections is requested to contact Professor Douglass.
Department of English and Comparative Literature
San Jose State University
San Jose, CA, 95192-0090