Imagine... a young, beautiful, English poetess in the early part of the 19th century... born into the lower middle class... only to become, in her teenage years, a published poet, and eventually, the most successful poet of her day... writing in the exquisitely designed and very popular annual gift books... she is unmarried, but having a long-term illicit affair with an older, married neighbor who is also the editor who publishes her first poem...the scandal of literary England... letters are circulating among Londoners about the woman and her lifestyle ... is she being whisked away to the countryside every few years to bear his illegitimate children? engaged to one man, only to have that engagement broken by the rumors ... finally engaged, and then married to another, possibly abusive man, who sweeps her away to far off Africa where the lonely, often ailing, poetess is found with a vial of prussic acid in her hand, slumped against her bedroom door, mysteriously dead at the age of 34 ... is it by her own hand? accident? suicide? murder? natural causes?

In her lifetime, she is a critical and commercial success, but soon after her death, she is quickly forgotten by the fickle English readership... only to be resurrected over the years... first, to be criticized for her commodification, but today, feminist criticism has given the critical interpretation of her work another perspective... and, the mysteries of her life are, once again, being scrutinized.

This is the mysteriously scandelous and critical life of Letitia Elizabeth Landon, known to her beloved readers as simply, L.E.L.

 

 

 

The web site is a work in progress. It has been built in response to a final exam assignment given by Professor Laura Mandell, Department of English, Miami University, Oxford Ohio. However, I will continue to update it as time permits.

Specifically, the assignment was to choose a work from The Bijou, spend about ten hours reading about the time period, and then situate the work historically, write a brief biography of the author, provide some literary information about the writer's other works, interpret the specific work chosen, and write a few experimental paragraphs connecting the poem to our time. That is basically what you will find here. But, eventually, I would like to add more of the critical work already done on LEL's works, as well as some more of my own critical interpretation of her life and her work. Also, the annual gift books are fascinating, and I would very much like to add some more about them and how they were a part of early nineteenth century women's lives.

Cheryl Young