Wives, Queens, Distant Princesses

John Bayley

  • The Bondage of Love: A Life of Mrs Samuel Taylor Coleridge by Molly Lefebure
    Gollancz, 287 pp, £15.95, July 1986, ISBN 0 575 03871 3
  • Jane Welsh Carlyle by Virginia Surtees
    Michael Russell, 294 pp, £12.95, September 1986, ISBN 0 85955 134 2

Suppose Mr and Mrs Coleridge to be young SDP yuppies today, who have asked us to dinner. What impression of each should we get? Of an amiable but very silly young man who talked too much and put on a great show of domestic warmth and solidarity? Of a capable and animated young woman, witty and elegant without being a show-off; devoted to the husband without making a display of it; admirable cook, makes all her own clothes? That would be about right. Her radical chic would have been much the same as his, but we might have the impression that it was a more settled part of her life-style and her way of facing society. Both made considerable social efforts, anxious to charm, particularly prospective employers and men in the media. Signs of strain in the marriage? Rather conspicuously absent, except for young Sam’s general tendency to overdo things: but she handled him sensibly. Child on the way. Outlook bright.

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