Format Hardcover
Publication Date 06/06/23
ISBN 9781639364053
Trim Size / Pages 6 x 9 in / 224

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Lady Caroline Lamb

A Free Spirit

Antonia Fraser

The vivid and dramatic life of Lady Caroline Lamb, whose scandalous love affair with Lord Byron overshadowed her own creativity and desire to break free from society's constraints.

From the outset, Caroline Lamb had a rebellious nature. From childhood she grew increasingly troublesome, experimenting with sedatives like laudanum, and she had a special governess to control her. She also had a merciless wit and talent for mimicry. She spoke French and German fluently, knew Greek and Latin, and sketched impressive portraits. As the niece of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, she was already well connected, and her courtly skills resulted in her marriage to the Hon. William Lamb (later Lord Melbourne) at the age on nineteen. For a few years they enjoyed a happy marriage, despite Lamb's siblings and mother-in-law detesting her and referring to her as 'the little beast'.

In 1812 Caroline embarked on a well-publicised affair with the poet Lord Byron - he was 24, she 26. Her phrase 'mad, bad and dangerous to know' became his lasting epitaph. When he broke things off, Caroline made increasingly public attempts to reunite. Her obsession came to define much of her later life, as well as influencing her own writing - most notably the Gothic novel Glenarvon - and Byron's.

Antonia Fraser's vividly compelling biography animates the life of 'a free spirit' who was far more than mad, bad and dangerous to know.

Antonia Fraser is the author of many widely acclaimed historical works which have been international bestsellers. She was awarded the Medlicott Medal by the Historical Association in 2000 and was made a DBE in 2011 for services to literature.
Her previous books include Mary Queen of Scots, King Charles II, The Weaker Vessel: Woman's Lot in Seventeeth-Century England, which won the Wolfson History Prize, Marie Antoinette: The Journey, Perilous Question; The King and the Catholics; and The Wives of Henry VIII.  Must You Go? a memoir of her life with Harold Pinter, was published in 2010, and My History: A Memoir of Growing Up  in 2015. She lives in London. Visit Antonia Fraser's website at

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Endorsements & Reviews

"This lean biography of the 19th-century Anglo-Irish writer sheds light on her enigmatic life, from her domestic relationship with William Lamb to her literary exploits and notably tempestuous affair with the poet Lord Byron." The New York Times Book Review
“Elegantly authoritative. The portrait that takes shape in Lady Caroline Lamb: A Free Spirit is not only convincing but also oddly affecting. Above all, it is lifelike. She sets out to give this striking character her due. And the fact that we find ourselves as irritated by Lady Caroline Lamb as we are fascinated is surely proof that Ms. Fraser has succeeded.” The Wall Street Journal
"A sprightly biography. A meticulous researcher and an agile, vigorous writer, Fraser has ascended the bestseller lists time and again with her vivid accounts of big lives." Washington Post
"The prolific Lady Antonia Fraser has long been drawn to formidable — and tragic — women, starting with her first biography, of Mary Stuart, more than half a century ago.Fraser’s skill and passion override all, and in The Case of the Married Woman, she renders her subject a woman of dignity, depth and character. Here we meet a heroine, one who fought for herself, for her children, and for all women and children. As Caroline Norton herself put it, 'I do not ask for my rights. I have no rights; I have only wrongs.'" The New York TImes Book Review (Praise for The Case of the Married Woman)
“Fraser shines a well-deserved spotlight on Lady Caroline Lamb’s literary ambitions and achievements and offers valuable insights on the political and religious rivalries of the era and the fraught question of Irish independence. It’s a worthwhile portrait of a woman who defied convention.” Publishers Weekly
“A modern reconsideration of the notorious life and career of the early-19th-century Anglo-Irish aristocrat and novelist. Fraser, the celebrated biographer and novelist, delivers a lean yet spirited account, offering further nuance to Lamb’s story within the thorny aristocratic society she inhabited. Narrated with dramatic verve and wit, Fraser establishes Lamb’s restless nature and eccentricities as well as her strengths. A shrewd and sympathetic portrait of a fascinating, complex “modern” woman." Kirkus Reviews
"Esteemed historian Fraser, who has written biographies of prominent women, such as Mary, Queen of Scots, and Marie Antoinette, turns her eye to the lesser-known yet impactful Caroline Norton, whose very public divorce turned her into a crusader for women's rights in nineteenth-century England. Enlightening and inspiring." Booklist, starred review, (Praise for The Case of the Married Woman)
"An intelligently illuminating biography and cultural history." Kirkus Reviews (Praise for The Case of the Married Woman)
"Fraser’s vivid character sketches and incisive analysis of legal, political, and rhetorical matters result in a winning study of an indefatigable crusader who turned a personal tragedy into a public triumph." Publishers Weekly (Praise for The Case of the Married Woman)