Mrs Robinson's Disgrace : The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady, Hardback Book

Mrs Robinson's Disgrace : The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady Hardback

3.5 out of 5 (1 rating)


On a mild winter's evening in 1850, Isabella Robinson set out for a party.

Her carriage bumped across the wide cobbled streets of Edinburgh's Georgian New Town and drew up at 8 Royal Circus, a grand sandstone terrace lit by gas lamps.

The guests were gathered in the high, airy drawing rooms on the first floor, the ladies in glinting silk and satin pulled tight over boned corsets; the gentlemen in tailcoats, waistcoats and neckties.

When Mrs Robinson joined the throng she was at once enchanted by a Mr Edward Lane, a handsome medical student ten years her junior.

He was 'fascinating', she told her diary, before chastising herself for being so susceptible to a man's charms.

But a wish had taken hold of her, which she was to find hard to shake...


  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 320 pages, Illustrations
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Prose: non-fiction
  • ISBN: 9781408812419

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The Suspicions of Mr Whicher was such a fantastic book, that writing the follow-up was always going to be hard. Kate Summerscale has more or less pulled this off with her story of a scandalous Victorian divorce case.She did nearly lose me though, I'm not a fan of Madame Bovary so when, in the first part of the book, she compares Isabella Robinson to Emma Bovary I had to force myself to continue to read, and I'm glad that I did as the Isabella Robinson revealed by her diaries is a fascinatingly complex creature and far more interesting than Emma Bovary.For the divorce court, the question at the heart of the case is whether or not Mrs Robinson was unfaithful to her husband with Edward Lane. For me as a reader this question is almost irrelevant as the Summerscale uses her story to explore the hypocrisies of mid-Victorian society, how Isabella was put on public trial, while the courts ignored the evidence of her husband’s adultery and how the press reported the case, branding her journal ‘freakish’. But the saddest thing is probably Isabella’s own reaction to the reading of her diary. Strictly under English law her husband hadn’t done anything wrong, Isabella’s papers, no matter how personal, were his property, so he had the right to read them, and to use what he found within those pages in the case. But her reaction to the unauthorised reading and publication of her diaries is very modern, when she writes of their using ‘curious, unchivalrous, ignoble hands’.As with the murder case in The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, this divorce case captured the public imagination and inspired writers of popular fiction,the scene in The Woman in White where Count Fosco reads the ill Marian's diary is probably the most directly inspired.Fascinating.

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