An exhaustive biography of a clever, convivial Regency woman who was “dangerously unconventional, a character too colourful for propriety.”
In an age of enlightenment, upheaval, and revolution, Lady Anne Lindsay (1750-1825) was a prolific letter writer and a dedicated chronicler of current events. Taylor (Commander: The Life and Exploits of Britain's Greatest Frigate Captain, 2012, etc.) sifted through mountains of material at her family’s Scottish home, including her multivolume memoir. Anne charmed all who met her, and it’s easy to see how, with her upbringing in Scotland amid one of Britain’s greatest literary collections, the Bibliotheca Lindesiana. Her broad education was the product of that collection, as she and her sister read voraciously. She met the age’s most eminent thinkers, including David Hume, Alison Cockburn, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Edmund Burke. After moving to London, she found intelligent stimulation greater even than Edinburgh but without the small-town constraints. She was labeled a coquette because she was unconventional, preferring to befriend men rather than marry them. Her letters and journals are detailed, if somewhat prolix, but they give a wonderful picture of her times. She met London’s literati and politicians through her sister’s husband, who was a banker and gambler—never a good mix. It was his short selling that brought down his bank and caused one of the biggest financial crises of the century. Of all the men who wooed her, William Windham and Henry Dundas, both destined for high office, played the largest parts. When she finally married Irishman Andrew Barnard, it was Dundas who found him a position at the new colony in South Africa. Their years there were idyllic until her husband’s death, and she ably chronicled and drew the scenery and people. At the same time, she used her talents as a hostess to win over the defeated Dutch and to entertain passengers stopping on their way to India.
An edifying, uncluttered, and enjoyable picture of life in Regency England.