Perdita: The Literary, Theatrical, Scandalous Life of Mary Robinson
For those who enjoy the Regency period and life of George IV, this is one of the most perfect books to introduce you into the famous lives of the period. Mary Robinson's was a brief, intense and fascinating life which pushed the established mores to their limits.
The Prince of Wales (later to be George IV) became enamoured of Mary during her portrayal of Peridita in Shakespeare's, A Winter's Tale
. She was a young actress, escaped from a bad marriage and strange father. She took to the stage for some income (as many women of the time did instead of taking up some of the "older" professions available to them).
The Prince of Wales became known as Florizel to Robinson's Perdita and she was his first 'major' mistress. Their lives intertwined for a brief period in his early adulthood - the beginning of what is known as the 'extended Regency'. Robinson was later mistress to many of the influential peers of the time, and was even friends with Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire;
At a time when Georgian morals were of questionable value (everything in private, nothing in public)- when profligacy, spending, appearance and general splendour were the order of the day - Mary Robinson orbited on at the perimeter of acceptability. An actress, an abandoned wife, a mistress, and more.
I found this book overlong, but worth the effort to read. It is one of a series of books about women on the edge of society in this period, and has been great to build up a picture of life and living in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. The author has gone to enormous efforts to track down information on Robinson, and it has paid off. There seems to be a good depth of research to back up the work. Overall Perdita
is a good read and well worth making the effort.
Anne Woodley, the reviewer of Perdita: The Literary, Theatrical, Scandalous Life of Mary Robinson, is an Amazon top 500 reviewer, the patroness of Janeites - the Internet discussion, and is mistress of the Regency Ring. Her excellent page, The Regency Collection is a treasure trove of information.