Read Queen of the Wits: A Life of Laetitia Pilkington by Norma Clarke Online

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Poetess, fallen woman and wit, Laetitia Pilkington spent her life as close to fame as she was near to ruin. Favoured by, among others, the newly celebrated Jonathan Swift in Ireland in the 1730s, she collected the stories and developed the brazen femininity that would be her only currency in London a decade later. Divorced by her husband after she was exposed as an adulterPoetess, fallen woman and wit, Laetitia Pilkington spent her life as close to fame as she was near to ruin. Favoured by, among others, the newly celebrated Jonathan Swift in Ireland in the 1730s, she collected the stories and developed the brazen femininity that would be her only currency in London a decade later. Divorced by her husband after she was exposed as an adulteress, she led a life of precarious self-sufficiency. Through humour and intelligence - and her skilful use of scandal, most notably in her Memoirs - she survived on the very fringes of respectability. Norma Clarke's hugely rich and enjoyable biography tells of a woman determined to be known as a writer on equal terms with men - in spite of Swift's dismissal of her as 'the most profligate whore in either kingdom'. It brings to life a remarkable character, who embodied the scandal, energy and sadness of a time when literature, gossip and the lives they described were inseparable....

Title : Queen of the Wits: A Life of Laetitia Pilkington
Author :
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ISBN : 9780571224289
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 384 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Queen of the Wits: A Life of Laetitia Pilkington Reviews

  • Sasha
    2018-11-24 21:29

    "Queen of the Wits" could as well have been subtitled "At the end of her Wits" - for all her wit, humor and bravado, for all the spark Laetitia Pinklington used to embellish the stories and poetry she wrote, the reality was harsh and often depressing. The little Irish poetess was often hungry, constantly in debt, occasionally imprisoned, thrown out of her lodgings because she had no money to pay the rent, humiliated by landlords and landladies, always on a lookout for the next wealthy benefactor who might provide her with support on account of her poetry. Like a heroine from some 18th century picaresque novel, Pinklington life reflects "wheel of fortune" that has her living relatively protected family life in Dublin one moment, just to have been forcefully divorced, thrown out of the house and left on her own the next - the husband being master of her fate, material possessions and even children. Once she was ostracized and society doors closed in her face, Pinklington moved to London where she lived the "scandalous" life of single woman who was writing poetry, pamphlets and letters on order. It is interesting that because of her social status (single, divorced woman with no money, protection and property) Pinklington often encountered compassion and help in "lower classes" and was rebuffed, abused and mistreated in wealthy palaces. Pinklington had a wit - there was a literate spark in her that would not stay silent and her talent was recognized early, even in her Dublin days when celebrated Jonathan Swift enjoyed her company. This wit, spark and clever way with words kept the little Irish lady going on even trough the hungriest London days, when she found audience liking her writings - often she would sell her poems to a wealthy patrons who would present them as their own, or write something flattering to aristocrats who would answer with grateful donation. Again and again we encounter lonely, depressed and frustrated Pinklington trying to keep her chin above the water, pleading here, begging there - had she really pursued "whoredom" (as her husband claimed) she would had far easier life and would probably amassed wealth instead living off the crumbs occasional aristocrat gave in charity. Like a real-life "Fanny Hill", Laetita Pinklington became notorious because of her best-selling "Memoirs" (published in three volumes) where she dished out stories about celebrities of her day, simultaneously describing her own life in a clever, self-mocking way that had certain charm and brought her national fame. As her son Jack later found out, she was so unique that she was tolerated - when he tried to write his own "scandalous memoirs" about celebrities of next generation, he was firmly and clearly told not to dare. It is questionable would Laetitia Pinklington ever wrote anything at all, had the fate kept her safely protected under glass bell of respected society - her husband, after all, was her main competitor and already published some work when she was still drinking tea with Jonathan Swift. Once the fate threw her completely in the air, little Pinklington got back on her feet trough literary work that provided her with rent, food and life necessities - for the 18th century world this was disgraceful, but she managed. At certain point she even had her own printing shop, though these quiet chapters of comfort were often just a prelude to something like arrest, sickness or other calamities. Norma Clarke's biography of this little "Foot-ball of Fortune" is excellent read, though there is a lot of tears mixed with laughter and harsh reality of her survival can be exhausting - just like aristocrats who loved Pinklington's funny writings but would not care for her serious, suffering letters, some readers might be put off with constant hardship Pinklington had to endure. She might have been "Queen of the Wit" but not of her own choice. As her last poem "Call me not to a world I hate" suggest, Pinklington might had dreams about sheltered existence where she would not depend on charity and fickle aristocrats.

  • Hilary
    2018-11-21 23:32

    A brilliantly written, thoroughly researched biography of a woman of talent and spirit - but I found it a gruelling read, as, despite her literary fame, Laetitia Pilkington lived on a knife-edge between bare survival and ruin, as she found herself on the wrong side of conventional society in the mid-18th century. A man's world, in which she battled to make her voice heard. http://bit.ly/XhB8I

  • Jessica
    2018-11-16 01:32

    I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It is well-researched and even though this is the biography of Laetitia Pilkington, a mostly unheard of voice of the eighteenth century, Norma Clarke's voice does not go unheard. Clarke helps the reader with her research to pick apart what Pilkington might or might not have lied/exaggerated about. She also makes little clever sides, especially of Pilkington's ridiculous husband. Clarke helps guide you through Laetitia's memoirs. A great read!

  • Elaine Kozak
    2018-12-01 01:39

    Fascinating account of a very talented woman surviving, some times barely, by her wits and astonishing talent (not many writers can toss off poems at the drop of a hat as she could) in a very misogynistic world. The depravity and hypocrisy among the men of a certain class, including clergy and esteemed writers and artists, that was portrayed is stunning. Interesting, also, for the depiction of the British and Irish societies of the time, including the politics and the institutionalized patronage (i.e. begging) by which so many who would not deign to work lived.

  • Melisende d'Outremer
    2018-11-23 19:29

    Another book that sounded promising yet fell flat. I lost interest after persisting up until pg 141 - the subject matter should have provided an interesting story but the tale dragged on and on and the book was eventually put aside. I was tempted to put it aside a lot earlier but decided to plough on - I wish I had stopped then. Maybe someone else's cup of tea but not mine - the story needs to grab and hold my attention and this unfortunately failed to do so.

  • Sherwood Smith
    2018-11-22 22:39

    Solid addition to studies of women writers of the 1700s.