ADA, COUNTESS OF LOVELACE: Byron's Legitimate Daughter by Doris Langley Moore

ADA, COUNTESS OF LOVELACE: Byron's Legitimate Daughter

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Ada Augusta Byron, first Countess of Lovelace, has heretofore been a footnote, an index reference, or an item in an epilogue in the various partisan histories of her star-crossed parents. Now she has her own book, carefully written after the fullest research by the distinguished Byron scholar Doris Langley Moore. And she still comes out a footnote, an afterthought. Born of the brief marriage between the poet Byron and his embittered bride, Annabella Milbanke, she was for most of her life under the influence of that domineering mother, who was anxious to prove to the world (the prudish world of the young Queen Victoria) that Byron was a beast. She escaped Lady Byron's strict rule for a few years by marrying into the peerage (she outranked her mother! but alas, the Earl proved a weak-kneed ally), by producing three children (star-crossed also), and attempting to follow her own interests in mathematics and music. Only in her thirties did she realize that a case might be made for her father--that there might be two sides to the history Lady Byron presented so unequivocally. At about that time, she was overwhelmed: by gambling debts brought on by her supposed understanding of mathematical probability, and by an agonizing cancer that lingered for months longer than the doctors had deemed probable. She died at 36, her father's final age, and at her own wish, was buried beside him at Newstead Abbey. Dickens spent an hour at her deathbed, and admired her courage. Her story is more Gothic than any of his. . . . But she receives only perhaps a third of the words and pages in Moore's biography, which is intent on proving the unnaturally pietistic, sanctimonious misanthropy of her mother, who spent her life scheming, behind a false front of benevolence, to destroy anyone Byron had ever loved. Moore makes a very firm case. Ada was a pawn in a game whose rules, for all her mathematical brilliance, she never understood.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1977
Publisher: Harper & Row