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Paperback review: Mrs Robinson's Disgrace, The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady, By Kate Summerscale


When Isabella Robinson's unpleasant husband read her account of her relationship with the married Edward Lane in her diary, he immediately sued for separation, then full divorce.

The case caused a scandal, especially when her diary entries were read out in court, detailing intimate moments with Lane as well as her own passionate feelings for him. But with Lane's denials, and little witness support, Robinson eventually lost to his wife. What she lost, however, was her reputation, and Summerscale cleverly references the literature of the age to show how a woman was judged by the material that was being read at the time, and to emphasise how novelistic Isabella's diary entries appeared. Likened to Emma Bovary, she was regarded as foolish and deluded, but there was a hint of truth in her descriptions.