Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace

The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady
Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady. Bloomsbury, dist. by Macmillan. Jun. 2012. c.320p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781608199136. $26. HIST
On the surface, the mid-19th-century marriage of Henry and Isabella Robinson seemed both normal and successful: he was a well-off civil engineer, she an intelligent and spirited woman in her 30s; they had three children and a financially stable household in Edinburgh. However, the emotionally charged entries of Isabella's diary tell quite a different story. Unhappy with her husband's coldness and frequent absences, Isabella spent years confiding in her diary about her loneliness, her longing for intellectual companionship, and her passionate infatuation with a married doctor. When Henry chanced upon the diary, the situation exploded into a vicious divorce trial that filled the newspapers and dragged Isabella's record of her innermost thoughts into the public's critical eye. Following the pattern of her previous book The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher, Summerscale combines a thorough examination of her topic with a wider view of relevant social issues—in this case, Victorian attitudes toward marriage, divorce, and the figure of the unhappy housewife.
VERDICT A deft unraveling of a little-known scandal that should appeal to any reader interested in women's history or the world behind the facade of the Victorian home.
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