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The Kindness of Sisters: Annabella Milbanke and the Destruction of the Byrons Hardcover – September 17, 2002


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf; 1st American ed edition (September 17, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375406484
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375406485
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,473,498 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

While Crane's first book, Lord Byron's Jackal: A Life of Edward John Trelawny, expanded Byron's unreliable friend from a biographic footnote into a full-blown Byronic antihero, this elliptical, tartly written and idiosyncratic new study expands on the epilogue to the poet's death in 1824: relations between his half-sister and lover, Augusta, and her sometime ally, avowed friend and lifelong rival, Lady Byron, n‚e Annabella Milbanke. In the process, Crane traces Byron's constantly shifting reputation and sets up Annabella's life, which spanned 18th-century Whig aristocracy, Regency society realpolitik, one year of Romantic agony and more than 40 years of ruthless Victorian rectitude, as "in miniature the story of the age." She had hoped to reform the famous author of Childe Harold and would turn her redemptive efforts to their daughter, Ada, and to Augusta and her daughter, Medora (rumored to be Byron's child). Annabella's financial cajolery and evangelical morality proved unevenly matched with the Byron gene for infamy. Ada developed a gambling mania and died young; Medora's notorious teenage seduction turned her against her mother; and Augusta, with her tainted reputation, was reduced to quasi-dependence on her sister-in-law. At the heart of the account is Crane's awkwardly dramatic and expository "imaginary dialogue" of the last meeting of the aging Augusta and Annabella, in 1851. Overall he displays a keen understanding of his subjects' vacillating and ambiguous motives. Even the repressed Annabella, he suggests, always loved Byron, the figure of Romantic and sexual freedom. 16 pages of b&w photos.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

A dashing figure in the context of his times, Romantic poet Lord Byron was born into a tempestuous, aristocratic family and seemed genetically predisposed toward melancholy, debauchery, and uncontrollable impulses. At the heart of this biography lies the lifelong animosity between the two most important women in Byron's life, who only met two years after his death. The poet had a lifelong affair with Augusta, his half-sister, who gave birth to a daughter assumed to be Byron's. Annabella, the poet's society wife, also bore him a daughter. Both Augusta and Annabella remained obsessed with Byron's memory, influence, and legacy. Repeatedly paying homage to the Greek tragedies, this rather hybrid biography by Crane (Lord Byron's Jackal: A Life of Edward John Trelawny) contains imagined scenes describing the two women's dubious motivations and machinations. Crane ultimately uses the women in Byron's life to illustrate the tensions that resulted as English literature moved from the Romantic to the Victorian periods. Since the book is thick with academic research jargon, it is suitable for academic libraries only.
Pam Kingsbury, Alabama Humanities Foundation, Florence
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca Fleisig on March 25, 2005
Format: Print on Demand (Paperback)
Having had a big crush on Lord Byron since my English Lit major days, I was very curious about this book. It tells the story of how Byron's estranged wife, Annabella Milbanks and his half-sister Augusta destroyed the poet; the former through her manipulation and thirst for revenge and the latter by way of her inherent weakness of character. While this might be a tad unfair to the ladies (after all, Byron was no saint!), the idea is compelling. David Crane is a wonderful writer. In the middle of the book you will find a departure from the usual literary biography. He writes an incredible script about the final meeting that might have taken place between Annabella and Augusta. It is so powerful! Unforgettable! Tragic, too.
I would gladly read this book again. It gives a unique perspective of Byron the man and the different women in his life.
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