Lucy Moore

A Life Less Ordinary

Defiance: The Life and Choices of Lady Anne Barnard

By

Faber & Faber 388pp £20 order from our bookshop

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.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'I was dumbfounded by the view of the Berlin Wall from the eastern side. It seemed inconceivable that in under thre… ,
    • RT : Danger for ‘local’ staff, access in exchange for silence (and logos) - all sounds familiar in this fascinating look… ,
    • 'He has long been eclipsed by Vermeer, though his interiors are arguably more ambitious.' David Gelber on the Dutc… ,
    • 'The wicked are truly revolting and the rage is wholly understandable' on new thrillers by John Le… ,
    • In @aaciman's sequel to 'Call Me By Your Name', 'Erotic urgency has merged with middle age’s frugality of heart', s… ,
    • 'The repression of free speech in Uganda is common. Reporters Without Borders’ 2019 Press Freedom Index ranks Ugand… ,
    • RT : The Topeka School is out today! I reviewed it for and I'm psyched to see him talking at the Tate tonigh… ,