Riches, beauty, wit, and an excellent education bought Mary Eleanor Bowes anything but liberty. As Moore shows, nothing could save her from the fate of legal nonentity that she shared with every other married woman of her time. Neither could anything spare her the merciless scrutiny of a celebrity-obsessed press that flourished on scandal, and judged the countess author of her own woes. Years later Mary wrote a prototype misery memoir, recalling the tortures she endured, including a horrific abduction. It was a counterpoint to the Confessions her husband had bullied out of her and then published. She rightly imagined her cathartic Narrative would "stagger the belief of Posterity".The book isn't released until March in the US, but it's worth looking out for.
Monday, 26 January 2009
I was totally fascinated by Lydia Syson's review in Saturday's Guardian about Wendy Moore's new book Wedlock: The True Story of the Disastrous Marriage and Remarkable Divorce of Mary Eleanor Bowes, Countess of Strathmore. It tells of Bowes' abusive marriage to Andrew Robinson Stoney: an extraordinarily calculating and brutal man who, in 1777, tricked her into marriage after apparently fighting a duel to defend her honour. Years of abuse followed, but she finally escaped Bowes with the help of one of her own female servants. As Syson says: