Surpassing the Love of Men by Lillian Faderman - review by Celia Haddon

Celia Haddon

Female Friends

Surpassing the Love of Men


Junction Books 496pp £14.50 order from our bookshop

Miss Sarah Ponsonby and Miss Eleanor Butler eloped together in 1778. Dressed as boys, they were pursued by their families and taken home. But at their second attempt, they were allowed to set up home in a Welsh cottage. For fifty-three years they lived happily ever after.

‘[Sarah’s] conduct, though it has an appearance of imprudence, is I am sure void of serious impropriety. There were no gentlemen concerned, nor does it appear to be anything more than a scheme of Romantic Friendship’ wrote one of her relatives.

Known as the ‘Ladies of Llangollen’, the two heroines became a pattern for romantic female friends everywhere. Wordsworth wrote a poem hailing them as ‘Sisters in love’ and they were visited by Edmund Burke, Josiah Wedgwood and the Duke of Wellington. It was all utterly respectable.

It was certainly a romantic

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