Lucy Moore

A Life Less Ordinary

Defiance: The Life and Choices of Lady Anne Barnard

By Stephen Taylor

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Oh, how thankful we should be to live when we do. Imagine this being your résumé: ‘She has birth, wit and beauty, she has no fortune and she’d readily accept you; and she has such a spirit that she’d animate you, I warrant you!’ This was Hester Thrale, friend of Dr Johnson and thrusting literary hostess of the mid-18th century, recommending the young Lady Anne Lindsay as a wife for her hypochondriac friend William Seward.

Anne did indeed possess spirit, wit and beauty, as well as a connection to one of the oldest and grandest (despite their relative poverty) of Scottish families. In Georgian high society, these gifts, when allied to a rich man of a similarly aristocratic background, should have ensured her a life as a society hostess and patron of the arts, like her celebrated contemporary Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. Instead Anne followed her heart, in the process earning a reputation, as Stephen Taylor writes, as a ‘dangerously unconventional’ woman. She would be conveniently forgotten by subsequent generations uneasy with her independence.

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