Hot Best Seller

A Scandalous Life: The Biography of Jane Digby

Availability: Ready to download

The biography of Jane Digby, an ‘enthralling tale of a nineteenth-century beauty whose heart – and hormones – ruled her head.’ Harpers and Queen A celebrated aristocratic beauty, Jane Digby married Lord Ellenborough at seventeen. Their divorce a few years later was one of England s most scandalous at that time. In her quest for passionate fulfilment she had lovers which inc The biography of Jane Digby, an ‘enthralling tale of a nineteenth-century beauty whose heart – and hormones – ruled her head.’ Harpers and Queen A celebrated aristocratic beauty, Jane Digby married Lord Ellenborough at seventeen. Their divorce a few years later was one of England s most scandalous at that time. In her quest for passionate fulfilment she had lovers which included an Austrian prince, King Ludvig I of Bavaria, and a Greek count whose infidelities drove her to the Orient. In Syria, she found the love of her life, a Bedouin nobleman, Sheikh Medjuel el Mezrab who was twenty years her junior. Bestselling biographer Mary Lovell has produced from Jane Digby’s diaries not only a sympathetic and dramatic portrait of a rare woman, but a fascinating glimpse into the centuries-old Bedouin tradition that is now almost lost.


Compare

The biography of Jane Digby, an ‘enthralling tale of a nineteenth-century beauty whose heart – and hormones – ruled her head.’ Harpers and Queen A celebrated aristocratic beauty, Jane Digby married Lord Ellenborough at seventeen. Their divorce a few years later was one of England s most scandalous at that time. In her quest for passionate fulfilment she had lovers which inc The biography of Jane Digby, an ‘enthralling tale of a nineteenth-century beauty whose heart – and hormones – ruled her head.’ Harpers and Queen A celebrated aristocratic beauty, Jane Digby married Lord Ellenborough at seventeen. Their divorce a few years later was one of England s most scandalous at that time. In her quest for passionate fulfilment she had lovers which included an Austrian prince, King Ludvig I of Bavaria, and a Greek count whose infidelities drove her to the Orient. In Syria, she found the love of her life, a Bedouin nobleman, Sheikh Medjuel el Mezrab who was twenty years her junior. Bestselling biographer Mary Lovell has produced from Jane Digby’s diaries not only a sympathetic and dramatic portrait of a rare woman, but a fascinating glimpse into the centuries-old Bedouin tradition that is now almost lost.

30 review for A Scandalous Life: The Biography of Jane Digby

  1. 5 out of 5

    MAP

    IT'S FINALLY OVER! This book should be outlawed by the Geneva Convention as a torture device. Geez. Where to begin? The subject: Jane Digby is presented by the author and by others as a feminist icon - a woman who was sexually free, an adventurer, and open to new experiences and ideas that most women in her age wouldn't even dream of. The problem with that is it's all a complete lie. Yes, Jane Digby had sex. With a lot of men. But here's the pattern of the first 40 years of her life: Find a man t IT'S FINALLY OVER! This book should be outlawed by the Geneva Convention as a torture device. Geez. Where to begin? The subject: Jane Digby is presented by the author and by others as a feminist icon - a woman who was sexually free, an adventurer, and open to new experiences and ideas that most women in her age wouldn't even dream of. The problem with that is it's all a complete lie. Yes, Jane Digby had sex. With a lot of men. But here's the pattern of the first 40 years of her life: Find a man that adores her. They have wild passionate romance and sex. They probably have a kid. Their passion (or his passion) dulls. She feels lonely. She finds someone new. They have wild passionate romance and sex. They probably have a kid. Man #1 says "hey, wait a minute!" so she packs up and leaves, happily abandoning her marriage/romance, child, country, religion, name, home, whatever she can think of, to be with man #2. Eventually man #2's passion fades, and so on about 14 times. I don't know about you, but a woman who is so desperately needy to be with a man that loves her that she literally abandons EVERYTHING to be with him -- and that she does this SEVERAL TIMES throughout her twenties and thirties, is NOT my feminist hero. She's the high school girl I watched flinging herself at the cars of ex-boyfriends, sobbing and begging them to take her back, and went "Ugh." Jane does eventually make her way to the middle east, where she marries Sheikh Medjuel, a man 20 years younger than her. Despite the fact that she now lives the freaking desert with a Bedouin tribe, this does not make the book more interesting (more on that below). The one honorable, courageous thing we see Jane do during these years is help people affected by a massacre in Damascus...EXCEPT we have no information on this first hand from Jane (Jane kept extensive and painfully boring diaries, all of which are quoted liberally in this book). All we know are rumors that reached one of her ex-husbands. Except the author already showed us earlier in the book that many of the rumors he heard weren't remotely founded in truth. Therefore, although the author does not take Jane's heroic acts with a grain of salt, I do. The writing: Even with a completely unsympathetic heroine, I'm sure that with all the things Jane went through, this still could have been an exciting book. Too bad it wasn't. Even when we hit Damascus and she's married to a man who goes on MONTHS LONG DESERT RAID BATTLES WITH OTHER TRIBES it's boring boring boring. The author sees no reason to follow anyone who's not Jane, even for a paragraph, and Jane spends most of her time not out in the desert with her husband but in a house in Damascus. So while her husband is off doing awesome, romance-hero shit, we're stuck listening to Jane complain about the housekeeper. When we do hear about his stuff, it's usually in quotes from Jane's diaries, who writes about them like business transactions and squabbles. And while I'm sure that ultimately that's what they were her husband is MAKING WAR AND RAIDING OTHER TRIBES IN 140 DEGREE WEATHER OMG and do we get to have fun? No. The author does a similar thing when discussing the Turkish harems -- Jane is apparently one of the only European women in the 19th century to have a real understanding of these harems, but do we get to hear anything about what these Turkish harems are like? No. All we hear about is how Jane pitied them, and thought they were sexual slaves, and would listen to the girls' worries sometimes. I DON'T WANT JANE'S OPINION, I WANT TO KNOW ABOUT HAREMS. Basically, the first half of Jane Digby's life was spent hurling herself at whatever man would have her next, and then abandoning everything to hurl herself at the next one, and the second half of her life was spent living something right out of The Sheik, if the heroine in The Sheik had spent most of her time in a comfy house in Damascus ordering around gardeners, arranging dinners, and bickering with her housekeeper. Booooooooooo.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Brown

    This is one of those books where I have to give the biographers a good rating for writing a competent biography, but wish I could give her subject two stars for a poorly conducted life. As other reviewers here have noted Jane Digby was anything but a feminist role model. I have rarely read of someone whose entire life was so dominated by sexual desire and who was as willing to sacrifice anyone who stood in the way of its gratification. Though Lovell quotes others as saying the Digby was intelligen This is one of those books where I have to give the biographers a good rating for writing a competent biography, but wish I could give her subject two stars for a poorly conducted life. As other reviewers here have noted Jane Digby was anything but a feminist role model. I have rarely read of someone whose entire life was so dominated by sexual desire and who was as willing to sacrifice anyone who stood in the way of its gratification. Though Lovell quotes others as saying the Digby was intelligent and charming, this doesn't come across in any of her diary entries or letters, which are paraphrased throughout the biography and give the narrative of its second half a telltale overwrought Victorian tone. Instead Digby comes across as a spoiled, rich woman whose emotional life had never moved past the stage most of us grow out of by the age of 16. She falls in love with man after man, apparently learning nothing from the painful rejections that follow. They follow so consistently, one assumes that once men got over the thrill of boinking A Beauty, she didn't have much else going for her that would keep them around. If she was half as selfish as she comes across one can understand the objects of her obsessions' characteristic flight. Because the way she treated other people was appalling. She abandoned the children her neglect didn't kill, and showed zero interest in them as they grew up, allowing one daughter to grow up not even knowing who her mother was. She married a man she didn't love and abandoned him and their joint children without a backward look and save for an occasional letter had no contact with those children, one of whom became severely mentally ill. She encouraged the Bedouin love of her life to divorce the mother of his two children and another wife later and rejoiced when hearing of his other wives' deaths. Her sexuality rather than appearing liberated comes across as pathological. I wonder if her relationship, with the Bedouin Medjuel, lasted as long as it did because neither partner could look behind the stereotypical roles they were playing and because the language barrier probably kept them from understanding each other all that well. I'm always interested in stories of women who have successful long-term relationships with men much younger than themselves, having done just that myself for many years. But I came away unimpressed with this relationship which, reading between the lines appears to have been largely a fantasy on Digby's part that ignored the reality that her husband spent much of the year off in distant places without her and most likely with other wives that she was kept, most of the time, from knowing about. Her wealth attracted men who exploited her as she grew older, and though we mostly see her marriage to Medjuel through her diary entries, which paint him as Mr. Perfect to a cloying and unbelievable extent, one suspects that Jane created a pleasing fantasy of love for herself as she aged past menopause and the fires cooled, which was much easier to maintain without the frequent presence of her husband.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Marguerite Kaye

    This was recommended to me, and I am SOOOO glad it was. One of the things that I find difficult to take as an author is when a reviewer tells me that what I've written for a 19th Century heroine is unbelievable. What Jane Digby did in her real lifetime makes my heroines seem incredibly tame by comparison, and I'm never going to feel like I've stretched the boundaries again. Married at 17, divorced at 22, she included several noblement, a king, a prince, a Greek bandit and most notable a Bedouin This was recommended to me, and I am SOOOO glad it was. One of the things that I find difficult to take as an author is when a reviewer tells me that what I've written for a 19th Century heroine is unbelievable. What Jane Digby did in her real lifetime makes my heroines seem incredibly tame by comparison, and I'm never going to feel like I've stretched the boundaries again. Married at 17, divorced at 22, she included several noblement, a king, a prince, a Greek bandit and most notable a Bedouin sheikh in her list of lovers and husbands. In an age where gently-born women by and large lived in the shadow of their fathers or husbands, Jane was fiercely independent, spoke at least 6 languages fluently, designed and built homes in Germany, Greece and Syria, travelled into the wilds of the desert and lived a determinedly 'alternative' life, yet for those who knew her intimately, she was charming, intelligent and unassuming. Mary Lovell writes beautifully, and her research is obviously thorough, though she doesn't overwhelm you with it. She doesn't make a saint of her subject, which I appreciated, because there were times when I did begin to think that Jane must have been a bit of a diva, but she does paint a very well-rounded picture. She informes and guides but doesn't beat you up with her opinions either, and is happy to put alternative interpretations on some of the more dubious and less well-documented aspects of the life she is writing. I have never come across such a very colourful character, I've been inspired to write another sheikh story myself now, and I will definitely be looking for more of Ms Lovell's biographies.

  4. 5 out of 5

    BAM Endlessly Booked

    The print is minuscule

  5. 4 out of 5

    Victoria Evangelina Allen

    A HIGH- SOCIETY GYPSY PS 2020 - I have reread the book four years later and I confess to be absolutely in love with Jane Digby. What a Woman! What a life! What a freedom to be who you really are!!!! 2016 - I have a love-hate relationship with the subject of this exceptionally well-written and researched biography. She was willing to sacrifice anyone, including her six children, when called by her sexual whims. But her never-ceasing energy and interest in life can not leave one indifferent. Of cour A HIGH- SOCIETY GYPSY PS 2020 - I have reread the book four years later and I confess to be absolutely in love with Jane Digby. What a Woman! What a life! What a freedom to be who you really are!!!! 2016 - I have a love-hate relationship with the subject of this exceptionally well-written and researched biography. She was willing to sacrifice anyone, including her six children, when called by her sexual whims. But her never-ceasing energy and interest in life can not leave one indifferent. Of course, if she wasn't showered with money both by her first husband and her father, she would had never been able to pursue her many passions. When you start to compromise your values and believes your self-worth, pride and integrity is falling; you are willingly breaking down the fibers that hold the good character and values in the Light. Jane had it all and willingly threw it away, gaining what her soul most desired: freedom, passion, and constant challenge. She broke many hearts on the way to the desert life. She broke a few hearts in the desert as well: her Muslim husband, 20 years her junior, while being lawfully able to have four wives, divorced his only one at the time, the mother of his two sons, in order to possess Jane on her terms. She was born an English rose and died a desert matriarch while being a high-society gypsy in between. By the end of life she was doing a lot of charity, which speaks well of her character, tamed by years. But until the last breath, despite Medjuel's tenderness, she was tortured by jealousy. What a price to pay for having a young husband! I am not sure if I admire Jane Digby for her strength, energy and following her call for happiness or belittle her for the greatest lack of responsibility and respect to herself as a Woman. Read this exceptional biography of an exceptional woman to find out for yourself. Victoria Evangelina

  6. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    An amazing book about an amazing woman. Considering I had never heard of Jane Digby before I read this, and even had to Google her first to decide if I even wanted to read this book, I was absolutely fascinated by her. By the time this book ended with her death I was completely enthralled by her life and felt quite bereft to come to the end. Jane was born into a rich Georgian family, renowned as a great beauty, married a well-known lord and politician when she was still a teenager, and was no mor An amazing book about an amazing woman. Considering I had never heard of Jane Digby before I read this, and even had to Google her first to decide if I even wanted to read this book, I was absolutely fascinated by her. By the time this book ended with her death I was completely enthralled by her life and felt quite bereft to come to the end. Jane was born into a rich Georgian family, renowned as a great beauty, married a well-known lord and politician when she was still a teenager, and was no more than a few years into her marriage when she caused scandal by eloping with an Austrian prince. She divorced her husband in a case that shocked the entire British establishment, moved to Germany and became the lover of the Bavarian King after her prince abandoned her. She then married a Bavarian baron before embarking on an affair with a Greek count. The baron and the count fought a duel over her, before the baron let her go, and they remained friends to the end of their lives. Jane then later divorced her Greek count, had an affair with the Greek king (who was the son of the Bavarian king she had earlier had an affair with), took up with a Thessalian bandit general, left him when he was unfaithful to her with her maid - and ran away to Syria, with the maid still in service. Because men come and go, but a good lady's maid is forever, right? Then whilst travelling in the Middle East she fell in love with a Bedouin Sheik half her age, married him and lived with him to the end of her days, passionately in love, half the year living in goats-hair tents in the desert and half in a palatial villa in Damascus. She was fluent in nine languages, lived as an independent wealthy woman, beholden to no-one, and flaunted the values of society with impunity - and not one of the men she was involved with seemed to think of her with anything less than affection, even after she'd loved 'em and left 'em. Jane was a woman before her time - independent, intelligent, in control of her own life, unashamed of her own sexuality. In an era where women were expected to sit quietly and look pretty, where love was not expected in marriage and women had few rights, Jane chose to follow her heart wherever it led. She comes across as a unabashed romantic, searching for that one grand passion that would fulfil her, and she finally found it with a Bedouin sheikh in the deserts of Syria. Just...damn. What a woman. What a story. This is an excellent biography. Lovell presents Jane just as she is, with no moral whitewashing or condemnation, and her admiration for Jane's strength of character and determination comes across on every page. Jane seems very much a modern woman, streets ahead of her time, and it's all but impossible to fall in love with her, as indeed so many in her own lifetime seemed to do.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tam G

    Lovell as a biographer has a strength which is also a weakness. She only writes about people she loves. Generally I admire that and take her words with a grain of salt. It makes for pleasant reading. However, in the case of Jane Digby she has found someone who sounds interesting in summary but the reality is much duller. Digby was not the modern independent woman Lovell wishes to portray. She was a very beautiful, somewhat spoilt, and extremely romantic woman who moved from man to man seeking so Lovell as a biographer has a strength which is also a weakness. She only writes about people she loves. Generally I admire that and take her words with a grain of salt. It makes for pleasant reading. However, in the case of Jane Digby she has found someone who sounds interesting in summary but the reality is much duller. Digby was not the modern independent woman Lovell wishes to portray. She was a very beautiful, somewhat spoilt, and extremely romantic woman who moved from man to man seeking someone she was attracted to who would also give her his complete attention. Quite a few tried. It was not an easy task. By the end of the novel I was wondering if she was bipolar. She was extremely impulsive and greatly enjoyed the attention of the honeymoon phase of a relationship. She demanded that total attention as time went on. Sometimes she seemed a bit manic, rushing between romantic highs and post-relationship depression. Her final marriage was not the romance Lovell makes it out to be in summary. She was a rich European woman who made a good connection for a Bedouin tribe. She was supplying their guns and ammunition and negotiation with the European powers. Medjuel, her final husband, was observant and attentive, but most of their great love was in Digby's own mind. Medjuel lasted long because he could spend half the year (or more) in the desert with his tribe. And still, there is chapter after chapter of Digby chasing him into the desert because she is jealous of this ex-wife (she made him divorce his previous wives to marry her) or that possible new wife. By the end she comes off as unstable. The author spends half of the book in Damascus and the desert. Frankly, there is not enough interesting material for this section and I am very interested in Bedouin culture. The problem is that after Digby's initial travels through Syria the book focuses more on her life at home in Damascus, great Europeans who visit her, her intense jealousy of Medjuel's possible loves. It is her story, but this long tract of Digby's domesticity only serves to make her difficult personality more obvious.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kay

    What a life! The key word in the title is scandalous, and Jane Digby was just that - a well-born Victorian lady who was married no fewer than four times (and that's no counting the lovers she never got around to marrying). It would be too easy to dislike Jane Digby, as she seems to have been a foolishly enslaved by notions of romantic love, but she's too riveting to become seriously annoyed with, not to mention that at the time there were few other ways for her to channel her astonishing energy What a life! The key word in the title is scandalous, and Jane Digby was just that - a well-born Victorian lady who was married no fewer than four times (and that's no counting the lovers she never got around to marrying). It would be too easy to dislike Jane Digby, as she seems to have been a foolishly enslaved by notions of romantic love, but she's too riveting to become seriously annoyed with, not to mention that at the time there were few other ways for her to channel her astonishing energy and ambition. Digby did finally get around to becoming more a mature, likeable person, settling finally in Palmyra with her much-younger fourth husband, a Bedouin sheikh. The scope of Digby's life is enthralling -- it spanned all of Europe and a good part of the Middle East, not to mention many of the prominent people of the time. She was married off quite young to a much older man, and had she been able to simply settle into the role that had been carefully prepared for her by society, no more would have been heard of her. But, happily, she wasn't able to adapt. Her quest for freedom (for I think it is this she sought, really, and not just a search for romantic love) played itself out over multiple relationships and continents. I did tire a little of her continual bedding-and-wedding, but the final chapter of her life was so admirable that it's hard to imagine even a fictional life ending with more poetic resonance and redemption. Lovell has written several other well received biographies of iconoclastic women, among them Beryl Markham, Amelia Earhardt, Isabel Burton, and the Mitford sisters. I wish she'd undertake a biography of African explorer Mary Kingsley or perhaps courtesan/hellion Lola Montez -- speaking of the latter, now there was a scandalous life!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Patricia Kitto

    While I enjoyed very much the story of Jane Digby's life, I didn't enjoy slogging through pages upon pages of painstaking yet superfluous detail (especially the second half). Even so, I am happy to have had my assumptions of early 19th century women upended by this recounting of what I would call "An Adventurous & Unconventional Life". It leaves me wondering how many other "Jane Digbys" have been lost to history or to the smothering social convention of those times. And who are today's "Jane Dig While I enjoyed very much the story of Jane Digby's life, I didn't enjoy slogging through pages upon pages of painstaking yet superfluous detail (especially the second half). Even so, I am happy to have had my assumptions of early 19th century women upended by this recounting of what I would call "An Adventurous & Unconventional Life". It leaves me wondering how many other "Jane Digbys" have been lost to history or to the smothering social convention of those times. And who are today's "Jane Digbys" and those who would be if for not the social conventions of our time? 2 stars for the writing + 4 stars for making me think = 3 stars

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This started out as an enjoyable read. Jane's scandalous early life made for an interesting story, and while it was hard not to start thinking of her as a bit of a pre-Victorian Paris Hilton that didn't put me off. The problem with the book started when the biographer started describing her life in the middle east. It degenerated into a seemingly endless list of names and descriptions of uninteresting days. Sad that such an interesting period in Jane's life was made so boring. I was grateful whe This started out as an enjoyable read. Jane's scandalous early life made for an interesting story, and while it was hard not to start thinking of her as a bit of a pre-Victorian Paris Hilton that didn't put me off. The problem with the book started when the biographer started describing her life in the middle east. It degenerated into a seemingly endless list of names and descriptions of uninteresting days. Sad that such an interesting period in Jane's life was made so boring. I was grateful when I finished this.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Pauline

    Jane Digby certainly had an interesting life but this book is not the one to tell you about it. The writing is just not interesting. Jane herself I found to be less than sympathetic, a bit like a Paris Hilton with better manners. The descriptions of Syria of the time and of Bedouin life are the only truly worthwhile aspects of this book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Born into nobility, Jane Digby was raised to be a lady but ended up living a life full of adventure, love, and scandal for the 1800s public. Her name was one that became legendary, synonymous with scandal and breaking the rules of society. Married as a teenager, her husband was too busy for her resulting in her finding love elsewhere. This search for love would be a lifetime adventure that would lead from England, to France, Germany, Italy, and finally Damascus. The lover of lords, barons, kings Born into nobility, Jane Digby was raised to be a lady but ended up living a life full of adventure, love, and scandal for the 1800s public. Her name was one that became legendary, synonymous with scandal and breaking the rules of society. Married as a teenager, her husband was too busy for her resulting in her finding love elsewhere. This search for love would be a lifetime adventure that would lead from England, to France, Germany, Italy, and finally Damascus. The lover of lords, barons, kings, and sheiks among others hers was a life about love, desire, and fulfillment. Mary Lovell has thoroughly researched Ms Digby's life - calling on her surviving relatives for access to Jane's diaries, letters, paintings, and sketches. In the bits and pieces that have been left behind for posterity, Ms Lovell has succeeded in writing a fascinating account of a life lived outside of society's boundaries. Her writing is enthralling and this biography was not only a page turner but one of real-life adventure.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Vera

    An account that was just a little too dry to read for my taste. Certainly well researched, and avoiding the pitfalls of adding fantasy. So it's not historical fiction, which could perhaps be written in a more entertaining style, but it's rather closely based on historical facts from a mound of surviving papers. Jane seemed to be drifting emotionally until she found a suitable family in her later years, but never lost her emotional dependence. I found it interesting that Jane's jealousy kept burn An account that was just a little too dry to read for my taste. Certainly well researched, and avoiding the pitfalls of adding fantasy. So it's not historical fiction, which could perhaps be written in a more entertaining style, but it's rather closely based on historical facts from a mound of surviving papers. Jane seemed to be drifting emotionally until she found a suitable family in her later years, but never lost her emotional dependence. I found it interesting that Jane's jealousy kept burning well into old age. I read the fascinating biography of Gertrude Bell, another lady who travelled into the desert, but who had a lot more to offer than just a string of lovers and building sites. Jane's story gives a good insight into the playground of the upper class rich aristocrats of her time. She was a kind of accidental rebel who pushed the limits of social norms and values. It seems that she was no hypocrite. I am glad that at least she gained some achievement and recognition in the tribe she joined.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Vicky

    The biography of Jane Digby reads like the best of fiction. It is difficult to believe that this aristocratic woman with all the wealth of her class and the predictable future, managed to live a life so unexpected, so unconventional, full of adventures, with complete disregard to traditions. She always followed her heart, changing husbands and lovers, did not attach herself to her children, having many, was a close friend and confidant of kings and diplomats and spent the happiest last 25 years The biography of Jane Digby reads like the best of fiction. It is difficult to believe that this aristocratic woman with all the wealth of her class and the predictable future, managed to live a life so unexpected, so unconventional, full of adventures, with complete disregard to traditions. She always followed her heart, changing husbands and lovers, did not attach herself to her children, having many, was a close friend and confidant of kings and diplomats and spent the happiest last 25 years of her life living in the Orient, being a wife of the desert sheikh 20 years her younger. She became a legend during her lifetime, her life was reflected into numerous biographies, where the truth very often hidden under the surface of gossips and rumours. She was an explorer, lived in the desert for months, sharing the life with the Bedouins of her tribe. At the time of Queen Victoria, when woman was expected to be only a mother and a good wife, Jane Digby was unique.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jutka

    I have found this book greatly disappointing. The first part reads like the National Enquirer and the second a To-Do list. One would think that both Miss Digby and the author had gained an unparalleled depth of self-reflection and observation given the wealth of experience romatically, sexually, culturally and geographically made available to the heroine of Lowell's biography. None of the above is evident in either Miss Digby's diaries cited or the accompanying descriptions by the author. As it I have found this book greatly disappointing. The first part reads like the National Enquirer and the second a To-Do list. One would think that both Miss Digby and the author had gained an unparalleled depth of self-reflection and observation given the wealth of experience romatically, sexually, culturally and geographically made available to the heroine of Lowell's biography. None of the above is evident in either Miss Digby's diaries cited or the accompanying descriptions by the author. As it is I finished the book without a clear idea even as to the true character of A Scandalous Life.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mela

    The rumour was one of many about Jane which would circulate over the years, as though her life were not exciting enough without any invention Without a doubt, Jane Digby had unusual and fascinating life. From a delicately nurtured English lady, through a few other European countries (and men), to a wife of an Arab chief. Her biography could make a great movie (even better, TV series). Mary S. Lovell was as historically accurate as was possible. We (as always in such cases) have blank pages, bu The rumour was one of many about Jane which would circulate over the years, as though her life were not exciting enough without any invention Without a doubt, Jane Digby had unusual and fascinating life. From a delicately nurtured English lady, through a few other European countries (and men), to a wife of an Arab chief. Her biography could make a great movie (even better, TV series). Mary S. Lovell was as historically accurate as was possible. We (as always in such cases) have blank pages, but what we have is enough to create Jane's portrait and to try to understand her. Yes, the main sources were Jane's letters and her diary (those parts that survived), but still, (like in the case of The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family) it was really well researched. But, the style in which the story was told made the book boring too often. Too many fragments of letters, sometimes too much about some topic or people. Although I must stress out, there were very interesting and informative fragments too. It was definitely worth reading because of Jane Digby's story. When you read (like me) many books about (or taking place) in XIX century England, you should know about one of the biggest "scandalous women" at that time. Nonetheless, reading it felt like going through not enjoyable surroundings in search of some precious pieces of information. I value those pieces but reading the book not as much.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

    Lady Jane Digby really had a scandalous life, even for our modern standards. Married three times, divorced two, with many lovers in between, she led an unapologetic life, doing things her own way, even if it meant being rejected by polite society. In her forties, she fell in love with the Middle East and a Bedouin sheik, spending the last twenty years of her life as a wanderer in Syria. Although a biography, this book reads like a fiction novel, with a good pace, tension, intrigue and, of course, Lady Jane Digby really had a scandalous life, even for our modern standards. Married three times, divorced two, with many lovers in between, she led an unapologetic life, doing things her own way, even if it meant being rejected by polite society. In her forties, she fell in love with the Middle East and a Bedouin sheik, spending the last twenty years of her life as a wanderer in Syria. Although a biography, this book reads like a fiction novel, with a good pace, tension, intrigue and, of course, passionate love stories. In fact, it is curious to note that, despite her adventures and impulsive decisions, Jane Digby was not a “modern woman”. She was driven by love and could not imagine a life without a man by her side. A truly remarkable woman!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    What an amazing woman Jane Digby was... And what an amazing writer to present this extraordinary lady.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rosann

    Although Jane Digby was born during the Regency Period of England, Jane Austin she isn’t. The Regency period is known for the excesses of its aristocracy. Jane Digby’s upbringing and her adult years through the waning of this period certainly influenced her choices. She indulges in a hedonistic lifestyle, never adjusting her moral values to the Victorian standard. During her youthful first marriage Jane's family (and it seems the author) blame her self-indulgence on hanging around with the wrong Although Jane Digby was born during the Regency Period of England, Jane Austin she isn’t. The Regency period is known for the excesses of its aristocracy. Jane Digby’s upbringing and her adult years through the waning of this period certainly influenced her choices. She indulges in a hedonistic lifestyle, never adjusting her moral values to the Victorian standard. During her youthful first marriage Jane's family (and it seems the author) blame her self-indulgence on hanging around with the wrong crowd and the inattention of her older then-husband. Jane's behavior afterward proves them wrong. Her story is told using letters, her own diary entries and other documentation giving authenticity to her story. However, I thought the author's approach much to sympathetic toward her subject. Even with that slant Jane's narcissism is evident. For instance this passage from her diary when she is over 50 years old describing a celebration of the Bedouins, “the sword dance where men and women joined…I knew that if I chose I could surpass them all in fire and agility.” Really? Much is said throughout the book of her beauty, charm, artist talent, intelligence and courage. She did seem to have these characteristics; she just didn’t channel them into really making something of her life until she is almost 60 years old. Even at this age she is still moaning for her Sheik during his absence, despairing in petty jealousy and consumed with building/maintaining elaborate homes and gardens. She regularly enlists the long suffering family of her ignominy back in England to buy fashionable clothing, books, plants and other niceties and send them in “crates” to her. She lived off what would now be called spousal support from her first husband of only two years,(she married twice afterward)in addition to other money given and invested for her. She does nothing for her three children. Instead she covets her stepson to be her own child by birth. I also think the author wrote assuming all her readers are British or know the English class structure. It's safe to say most Americans don't, so a cursory explanation somewhere would have helped. Since about half of the book is devoted to Jane's life after leaving Europe, a map detailing Syria where she spent the remaining years of her life would have been useful. The book and the reader suffer a little from poor proof reading. There is a very obvious misprint early in the book giving the year as 1926, rather than 1826, to cite just one example. Overall, The Biography of Jane Digby a Scandalous Life by Mary S. Lowell is an absorbing story of an unusual woman, well researched. While I’m at it, I heartily recommend reading the biography of Gertrude Bell, Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations by Georgina Howell. She too is a most extraordinary, courageous, intelligent English woman. Although born 61 years later than Digby, she also lived among the tribes of what is now the Middle East but she was no where as juicily scandalous as Jane Digby.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

    Jane Digby lived a very unconventional life spanning multiple continents, husbands and lovers from her birth in 1807 until she died in 1881. As a pampered English aristocrat, her first wedding was fairly typical of the time with a young debutante marrying an older English peer. She didn't settle into that wedding, winding up divorced after an affair, and headed on to liaisons and marriages. She met the love of her life in the desert and married a much younger Bedouin sheik. She spend part of eac Jane Digby lived a very unconventional life spanning multiple continents, husbands and lovers from her birth in 1807 until she died in 1881. As a pampered English aristocrat, her first wedding was fairly typical of the time with a young debutante marrying an older English peer. She didn't settle into that wedding, winding up divorced after an affair, and headed on to liaisons and marriages. She met the love of her life in the desert and married a much younger Bedouin sheik. She spend part of each year in the desert with him and part in Damascus, with an ongoing love of the culture, the horses and the man, despite the religious and racial barriers that her background and peers seemed to feel was too extreme to be crossed. Her knowledge of the Arabian culture and her pride in the horses and her husband were ongoing and shared with those who visited in her country, with her accompanying visitors into the desert even past age 70. The story is told without a lot of psychobabble and appears to cite multiple source materials written by Jane Digby and her family, with letters from family and official documents cited for background. This book did take a much longer amount of time to read that is normal for me, with breaks for lighter reading after every couple of chapters, but it did give a good feel for what my history teacher called "the temper of the times". The costs of departing from the norm were definitely experienced by Jane Digby, but she lived a very singular life and left it on her terms.

  21. 4 out of 5

    J.D. Field

    The heroine of this story kicks ass in the most old fashioned way. And when I say old fashioned I'm not referring to the fact she's from the 1800s. She kicks off when she's only 16, emerging from the family mansion in the country, to take London by storm and marry a rich, powerful man, twice her age. Lady Jane Digby is something else, though. For her the most powerful impulse in the world is falling in love. And she falls in love, again, and again and again, and each time leaving the previous love The heroine of this story kicks ass in the most old fashioned way. And when I say old fashioned I'm not referring to the fact she's from the 1800s. She kicks off when she's only 16, emerging from the family mansion in the country, to take London by storm and marry a rich, powerful man, twice her age. Lady Jane Digby is something else, though. For her the most powerful impulse in the world is falling in love. And she falls in love, again, and again and again, and each time leaving the previous love behind. She moves across Europe, leaving a trail of lovesick Kings and Princes, and one Blakan robber chief. Also - and not so romantic - she leaves a trail of children, to be brought up by fathers, aunts, or convents and never meet their mother. She winds up in Syria, age 50, in love with a Bedouin sheikh 20 years younger than her, and then her story is only just beginning. This story is awesome with a compelling, larger than life heroine. Which is ironic, because Lady Jane Digby was exactly life sized, as a genuine, historical person. This is biography, not fiction, and all the more amazing for it... For more of my opinion on the book and some cool associated youtubery, check out my post here... http://jdfield.blogspot.com/2011/11/s...

  22. 5 out of 5

    Marie

    Mary S LOVELL is an amazing author, beginning her working life as an accountant but with wide interests from aviation to horses. In her biography of Jane DIGBY, she takes us through a scandalous English 1800s divorce after marrying at seventeen an English Lord. From an Austrian Prince, to an intimate relationship with King Ludwig 1 of Bavaria whilst married to a German baron, it reads like a novel, but Mary has researched her subject well and keeps us both informed and entertained as Jane next f Mary S LOVELL is an amazing author, beginning her working life as an accountant but with wide interests from aviation to horses. In her biography of Jane DIGBY, she takes us through a scandalous English 1800s divorce after marrying at seventeen an English Lord. From an Austrian Prince, to an intimate relationship with King Ludwig 1 of Bavaria whilst married to a German baron, it reads like a novel, but Mary has researched her subject well and keeps us both informed and entertained as Jane next falls for a Greek count. However, she discovers his unfaithfulness, simultaneously losing a six year old son and she begins an unsettled period, often traveling alone (not done!!) in the middle east. Again she falls in love this time with an Albanian General riding Arab horses and sleeping in caves! However, he too proves unfaithful. In her middle age, she is still a beauty but has done with men and settles in Syria where she meets and marries a Bedouin nobleman, living six months of each year in a Damascus palace and the other six in a goat-hair tent of Arabia..... From intensive study of Jane's diaries, letters and family/friends interviews, Mary has compiled a stunning understanding and very readable story of Jane's life. 353 pages, indexed.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Slytherin Rose

    Genre: Biography/ History Author: Mary S Lovell Book: A Scandalous Life: The Biography of Jane Digby My star rating: 3.5 out of 5 Will I re-read this? no This book was a very interesting read on Jane Digby's life. I did find it was a little slow read though. I think the writer did a wonderful job on her research of Jane Digby. Think back to what it was like as an aristocratic woman’s life back in the 1800’s London. Here Jane was made to marry a man who was older than her and had to interest with him. Genre: Biography/ History Author: Mary S Lovell Book: A Scandalous Life: The Biography of Jane Digby My star rating: 3.5 out of 5 Will I re-read this? no This book was a very interesting read on Jane Digby's life. I did find it was a little slow read though. I think the writer did a wonderful job on her research of Jane Digby. Think back to what it was like as an aristocratic woman’s life back in the 1800’s London. Here Jane was made to marry a man who was older than her and had to interest with him. She starts out trying to be a good wife to her husband who ignored her to get ahead with his political career. He pawns her off to his friends who in the ton of course are not loyal to their spouses. So starts Jane’s life. She is a person who just wants someone to love her like she loves them. There is some things that I did not like about her but thinking about how she was raised back then I can understand where she is coming from. This book covers her many affairs and about the children she had by her husbands and lovers. Overall I did like this book but I did find it to be a slow read.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Paula

    I re-read this book every year. I think it's that good! Lady Jane Digby was the daughter of one of England's peers and married the nam who was arguably the catch of the season, Lord Ellenborough. Unfortunately for Jane's happiness, it wasn't a love match from his POV and fairly impestuously, she threw herself into an affair. Not very discretely, either. Their marriage ended in one of the first recorded divorces, humiliating for both families, but Jane still refused to bow down to societies' whims I re-read this book every year. I think it's that good! Lady Jane Digby was the daughter of one of England's peers and married the nam who was arguably the catch of the season, Lord Ellenborough. Unfortunately for Jane's happiness, it wasn't a love match from his POV and fairly impestuously, she threw herself into an affair. Not very discretely, either. Their marriage ended in one of the first recorded divorces, humiliating for both families, but Jane still refused to bow down to societies' whims and rules, and went on to live a fantastic, altho scandalous life. She travelled thru Europe, married and divorced again, spending time with Kings and time with peasants until at last she found her home. The story of what happened between England and the Middle East is fascinating - how many men had travelled as Jane did (few!) and almost no women (with the exceptions of Isabel Burton & Hester Stanhope) and the hardships she overcome. Its a fascinating read that should hold your interest until the last page.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Orion

    Mary Lovell presents the scandalous life of Jane Digby in a detailed yet respectful way. She had access to family papers, so we get the inside personal view that her letters and journals provide, not the scandals and gossip of the press. It is a fascinating life for a 19th century British woman. At 17 she marries a wealthy but unloving husband, only to leave him when she falls in love with another man. After a divorce she is abandoned by her lover who cannot marry a divorced woman. She proceeds Mary Lovell presents the scandalous life of Jane Digby in a detailed yet respectful way. She had access to family papers, so we get the inside personal view that her letters and journals provide, not the scandals and gossip of the press. It is a fascinating life for a 19th century British woman. At 17 she marries a wealthy but unloving husband, only to leave him when she falls in love with another man. After a divorce she is abandoned by her lover who cannot marry a divorced woman. She proceeds through continental Europe making a few more attempts at finding a place to call home. Always her famous beauty and outstanding personality wins her the devotion of men she doesn't love while the men she loves cannot provide her the legitimacy of marriage. Jane finally goes to Syria and marries a desert nomad half her age, living a strange double life as a muslim wife and an English lady expat spending months at a time in desert tents, but having houses in Damascus and Homs, places known to us today from news reports of the violent civil war.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Owlboyle

    The biography of Jane Digby, an 'enthralling tale of a nineteenth-century beauty whose heart 14 and hormones 14 ruled her head.' 14 Harpers and Queen A celebrated aristocratic beauty, Jane Digby married Lord Ellenborough at seventeen. Their divorce a few years later was one of England s most scandalous at that time. In her quest for passionate fulfilment she had lovers which included an Austrian prince, King Ludvig I of Bavaria, and a Greek count whose infidelities drove her to the Orient. In Syr The biography of Jane Digby, an 'enthralling tale of a nineteenth-century beauty whose heart 14 and hormones 14 ruled her head.' 14 Harpers and Queen A celebrated aristocratic beauty, Jane Digby married Lord Ellenborough at seventeen. Their divorce a few years later was one of England s most scandalous at that time. In her quest for passionate fulfilment she had lovers which included an Austrian prince, King Ludvig I of Bavaria, and a Greek count whose infidelities drove her to the Orient. In Syria, she found the love of her life, a Bedouin nobleman, Sheikh Medjuel el Mezrab who was twenty years her junior. Bestselling biographer Mary Lovell has produced from Jane Digby's diaries not only a sympathetic and dramatic portrait of a rare woman, but a fascinating glimpse into the centuries-old Bedouin tradition that is now almost lost.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Deb

    I read this years ago and was fascinated by this biography of a well-born Englishwoman who married even higher, than ran off with her lover to Europe. He deserted her, she married a German nobleman and probably had an affair with King Ludwing (not the really crazy one. She ran offwith a handsome greek and married him, but dumped him when she caught him cheating on her and ran off to the hillsto live in a cave with a bandit chieftan and finally ended up married to a Beduin prince half her age. Sh I read this years ago and was fascinated by this biography of a well-born Englishwoman who married even higher, than ran off with her lover to Europe. He deserted her, she married a German nobleman and probably had an affair with King Ludwing (not the really crazy one. She ran offwith a handsome greek and married him, but dumped him when she caught him cheating on her and ran off to the hillsto live in a cave with a bandit chieftan and finally ended up married to a Beduin prince half her age. She proves you can be smart and a damn fool at the same time and that you can get away with a lot if you are beautiful, charming and have some financial independence. Her first two husbands helped her financially even after she left them

  28. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    I was partway through 'A Scandalous Life' when I realized that the author also wrote 'Sound of Wings', the Amelia Earhart biography that I'd just finished. Like Amelia, Jane was a woman who lived her life way beyond the cultural norms of her time. Born in 1807 into a wealthy British family, Jane defied marriage vows and family expectations. Her sexual prowess was legendary. But, the part of the book that I found the most interesting was later in her life she moved to the middle east to be a shei I was partway through 'A Scandalous Life' when I realized that the author also wrote 'Sound of Wings', the Amelia Earhart biography that I'd just finished. Like Amelia, Jane was a woman who lived her life way beyond the cultural norms of her time. Born in 1807 into a wealthy British family, Jane defied marriage vows and family expectations. Her sexual prowess was legendary. But, the part of the book that I found the most interesting was later in her life she moved to the middle east to be a sheik and traveled the desert extensively with him. The descriptions of traveling the desert on camel, living in tents was really quite remarkable. If you enjoy biographies, I'd recommend you pick this up.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kari

    I picked up this book because I was interested in learning more about the infamous Jane Digsby. She was a remarkable women who was brought up in the 1800's as an Elite English women... She was scandalous because she divorced many men (during a time when divorce was not allowed) and she lived around the world... I was interested because she spent the latter part of her life married to a Bedouin in Syria. It was an interesting book but written in biographical form so it was a lot to take in. The a I picked up this book because I was interested in learning more about the infamous Jane Digsby. She was a remarkable women who was brought up in the 1800's as an Elite English women... She was scandalous because she divorced many men (during a time when divorce was not allowed) and she lived around the world... I was interested because she spent the latter part of her life married to a Bedouin in Syria. It was an interesting book but written in biographical form so it was a lot to take in. The author should've included a tree of the characters because it is easy to get them confused... At times I was tempted to give up reading the book but continued through because I always finish books... Overall, an interesting read but not something I would highly recommend

  30. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    Interestsing story about Admiral Digby's Daughter. Daughter of a hero of Trafalgar, Jane is decades ahead of her time as a modern thinker on how a woman should shape her life and that of those around her. She scandalizes Europe with the indulgence of her love and sexual appetites, going from earls to dukes to kings and winding up in the arms of a sheik. With her sheik jane was living the modified life of an English noble woman and a bedouin. I thought from the cover it would be a romance novel, Interestsing story about Admiral Digby's Daughter. Daughter of a hero of Trafalgar, Jane is decades ahead of her time as a modern thinker on how a woman should shape her life and that of those around her. She scandalizes Europe with the indulgence of her love and sexual appetites, going from earls to dukes to kings and winding up in the arms of a sheik. With her sheik jane was living the modified life of an English noble woman and a bedouin. I thought from the cover it would be a romance novel, but it is far from that. Jane ia the Indiana Jones of females. She is an Amelia Earhart in the era before Amelia and the idea that woman sould be free of household duties and undertake adventures. An entertaining look a the greats of Europe and how they interfaced with this unique woman.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...