L.E.L: The Lost Life and Scandalous Death of Letitia Elizabeth Landon, the Celebrated "Female Byron."

L.E.L: The Lost Life and Scandalous Death of Letitia Elizabeth Landon, the Celebrated "Female Byron." Knopf. Mar. 2019. 416p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780375412783. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780525655350. LIT
Critic Miller crafts a fascinating narrative that is as much about the volatile ways in which gender intersects with cultural practices, including drug addiction, sexuality, colonialism, and creativity as it is about her provocative subject, Letitia Elizabeth Landon (1802-38), aka L.E.L. By writing the life story of this post-Romantic novelist and poet, as known (or perhaps more accurately for us, unknown) by her initials as her full name, Miller draws attention to how the poet's liminal cultural and literary position contributed to forming her identity—and how Victorian reshaping of the literary canon led to the loss of her works, beautifully paying homage to her literary contributions supplemented with historical context and showcasing her most frequently used rhyme, fame/shame. The couplet seems, at first glance, a prescription but ultimately expresses L.E.L.'s relentless defiance of expectations.
VERDICT Suitable for readers interested in Romantic and Victorian poetry as well as those seeking out lost female writers.
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