The author's meticulous research has quietly--perhaps a bit too quietly--reconstructed the career of the beautiful 19th-century aristocrat, Jane Digby, whose adventures of the heart resulted in four marriages, startling affairs and six children scattered here and there--from her native England, through Europe to Damascus, where she died in 1881 at seventy-four, the wife of a Bedouin sheik. Without Schmidt's careful background detail dealing with places, political and military events, manners and mores of various societies, and individuals acquainted with Jane (the Richard Burtons, Ludwig of Bavaria, Balzac, etc.), Jane's own utterances would seem downright silly. ""The misfortune of my nature is to consider 'Love' as All in All""; or, commenting on the suicidal madness of a lovelorn girl, ""What a fine subject for a poem or a tragedy! I almost envy her!"" Balzac, in a Jane-inspired fictional portrait, cut below the postures to a possible raison: ""What she longed for, like many Englishwomen, was something conspicuous and extraordinary. . . a worship of the romantic and difficult."" So the elegant Dighy worshipped her way through various infatuations on the Continent to at last Damascus and 25 years of romance with a sheik who knew how to produce those jarring emotional peaks and troughs on which she thrived. A responsible if sedate view of a salty lady.