Adrian Tinniswood

Romance Story

Read My Heart: Dorothy Osborne and Sir William Temple – A Love Story in the Age of Revolution


HarperPress 416pp £25 order from our bookshop

‘Can there be a more Romance Story than ours?’ wrote Dorothy Osborne to William Temple. And reading this engaging biography of two of the seventeenth-century’s best-known lovers, you can see what she meant.

When they met and fell for each other in 1648, William was twenty and Dorothy twenty-one, and they were the archetypal star-crossed lovers. Dorothy was the daughter of an impoverished Royalist; William’s lawyer father had been jailed for his Parliamentarian sympathies. Dorothy’s family was determined that she should restore their fortunes by marrying money; the Temples were equally determined that William should do the same. William was sent abroad, where he managed, like so many seventeenth-century males, to reconcile his love for Dorothy with a string of casual sexual encounters. Meanwhile she was kept at the Osbornes’ family seat in Bedfordshire, looking after her ailing father, fending off more eligible suitors (including a deaf-mute) and coping with her unmarried brother Henry, whose possessive behaviour bordered on the abnormal. ‘I cannot but tell him sometimes’, she confided in William, ‘that sure he mistakes and sends letters [to me] that were meant to his mistress.’

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

    • 'Volume five, then, but still no end in sight. Sandbrook is clearly enjoying himself so much he can’t bear the seri… ,
    • 'By the end of the book something so weighty, stylish and impressive has been built up that one feels far nearer to… ,
    • 'Her ensuing psychotic episode is described so convincingly ... that the reader will wonder if Dobrakovová did not… ,
    • 'The perspectives complement and contest one another, amounting to a glorious, atmospheric set of ventriloquisms.'… ,
    • RT : I reviewed The Testaments for . I will not be taking any questions at this time. ,
    • 'The Testaments is, first and foremost, a manual of resistance ... a type of resistance that is organised, articula… ,
    • 'I did occasionally wonder whether Rupert Murdoch ... might have instructed his editors at William Collins to produ… ,