Defiance: The Extraordinary Life of Lady Anne Barnard

Vivacious, witty, sensitive and insecure, Anne Lindsey (later Lady Anne Barnard) lived a bohemian life in Georgian Scotland and England, packed with friendships, literature, adventures, lovers and travel to France and the Cape of Good Hope colony in South Africa. Her friends included the dissolute Prince of Wales. She didn't marry until she was 40. To her respectable family's dismay, she wrote six volumes of memoir, plus diaries, literary works and a vast collection of letters. For Defiance, Stephen Taylor gained access to the family archives and produced this carefully researched, well illustrated and hugely entertaining biography.

"A literary education combined with an austere upbringing gave her a perspective unusual for a young woman of her class.... When she said, as she did, that simple pleasures brought the greatest delight, it was without affectation. When she said that marriage must go with love, it was with conviction." The oldest child of an elderly Scottish earl and his embittered young wife, Anne Lindsey grew up abused and neglected in a country house with a remarkable library. In her teens, she and her favorite sister moved to Edinburgh where they met David Hume, Samuel Johnson and other stars of the Enlightenment. A few years later they plunged into London's fashionable society. Taylor keeps the action moving. He intelligently mediates the social norms of then and now, and shows both the costs and the rewards of Lady Anne's idiosyncratic choices. This is a brilliant biography of a woman with unusual freedom for her time and the courage to enjoy it. --Sara Catterall

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