Frances Calderón de la Barca by Marion Hall Fisher

Frances Calderón de la Barca

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A biography of the Scottish-born wife of a Spanish diplomat, known for her writings on life in 19th-century Mexico.

This biography was edited by Fisher (In Hearing of the Ocean, 2013, etc.) and first written by his parents, Marion Hall and Howard T. Fisher. It tells the story of Frances "Fanny" Calderón de la Barca, a noted figure in mid-19th-century literary and diplomatic circles. The book traces Fanny Inglis’ childhood and youth among the Scottish gentry, where her family circulated among Edinburgh’s elite and made the most of their distant connections to the nobility. After suffering financial losses, Inglis and her mother and sisters relocated to the United States, where she met and married a Spanish ambassador. As Fanny Calderón de la Barca, she traveled to Mexico when her husband represented Spain there, writing about the experience in a series of letters she published as a book, Life in Mexico. The Calderón de la Barcas saw revolution in Mexico and further political upheaval on their return to Spain, which served as fodder for another book. After she was widowed, Calderón de la Barca oversaw the education of the Spanish infanta and lived the remainder of her life among European nobles and royals. The work draws heavily on Calderón de la Barca’s published and unpublished writings to produce a solidly researched and informative biography. It loses focus, however, when describing periods not covered by the historical record—there is little documentation of Inglis’ childhood, for instance, so the text relies on the diary of Elizabeth Grant, her contemporary, and logical inferences—and speculates to excess on its subjects’ thoughts (“We feel ourselves to be on solid ground in guessing the direction toward which Buchan’s thoughts strayed”; “We think it legitimate to assume that Fanny Inglis was looking forward to the Peers’ Ball”) in a style that occasionally reminds the reader that much of the text was composed three decades ago. Aside from these issues of presentation, however, the result is a thorough and substantial biography of a less-familiar figure of the 19th century.

A well-researched and engaging portrait of writer Fanny Calderón de la Barca.

Pub Date: Jan. 7th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-5144-2137-6
Page count: 402pp
Publisher: Xlibris
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2016


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