A Sunday Times Book of the Year Shortlisted for The Pol Roger Duff
Cooper Prize 'This magnificent, highly readable double
biography...brings these two driven, complicated women vividly to
life' The Financial Times 'A gripping saga of a double-biography'
Daily Mail 'A masterful portrait' The Times 'Vastly enjoyable'
Literary Review 'Deeply absorbing and meticulously researched' The
Oldie In 1815, the clever, courted and cherished Annabella Milbanke
married the notorious and brilliant Lord Byron. Just one year
later, she fled, taking with her their baby daughter, the future
Ada Lovelace. Byron himself escaped into exile and died as a
revolutionary hero in 1824, aged 36. The one thing he had asked his
wife to do was to make sure that their daughter never became a
poet. Ada didn't. Brought up by a mother who became one of the most
progressive reformers of Victorian England, Byron's little girl was
introduced to mathematics as a means of calming her wild spirits.
Educated by some of the most learned minds in England, she combined
that scholarly discipline with a rebellious heart and a visionary
imagination. As a child invalid, Ada dreamed of building a
steam-driven flying horse. As an exuberant and boldly
unconventional young woman, she amplified her explanations of
Charles Babbage's unbuilt calculating engine to predict, as nobody
would do for another century, the dawn today of our modern computer
age. When Ada died - like her father, she was only 36 - great
things seemed still to lie ahead for her as a passionate
astronomer. Even while mired in debt from gambling and crippled by
cancer, she was frenetically employing Faraday's experiments with
light refraction to explore the analysis of distant stars. Drawing
on fascinating new material, Seymour reveals the ways in which
Byron, long after his death, continued to shape the lives and
reputations both of his wife and his daughter. During her life,
Lady Byron was praised as a paragon of virtue; within ten years of
her death, she was vilified as a disgrace to her sex. Well over a
hundred years later, Annabella Milbanke is still perceived as a
prudish wife and cruelly controlling mother. But her hidden
devotion to Byron and her tender ambitions for his mercurial,
brilliant daughter reveal a deeply complex but unsuspectedly
sympathetic personality. Miranda Seymour has written a masterful
portrait of two remarkable women, revealing how two turbulent lives
were often governed and always haunted by the dangerously
enchanting, quicksilver spirit of that extraordinary father whom
Ada never knew.
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