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

Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady - Kate Summerscale In the 1850s, Great Britain established a Divorce Act; this would allow couples to divorce through civil court without obtaining an act of Parliament.One of the first, and most scandalous cases, was that of Henry Robinson v. Isabella Robinson. Mr. Robinson found his wife's rather fanciful diary and accused her of adultery. He considered the journal to be proof of her affair with Dr. Edward Lane, one of the early hydropathy/water cure doctors.Large excerpts of the diary, which was considered almost as "horrifying" as the recently published French novel "Madame Bovary," were published in the newspapers. The idea that a woman might have sexual feelings was so alien to the culture of the time that it was newsworthy ... to the point that Queen Victoria wrote the newspapers and asked that they stop publishing the tales!In any event, "Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace" is a detailed non-fiction piece that draws from newspaper accounts (the actual diary was destroyed), letters from such notables as Charles Darwin (who was part of the Robinsons' circle of friends) and the various parties to the lawsuit ... which dragged out for years.The main fascination for me was the examination of social mores through the lens of this specific legal cases. One sees a great deal of what was expected from "well-bred ladies" during the time in terms of circumspection ... whilst their husbands and even the judges of their cases could commit the acts of which Mrs. Robinson is accused without being excoriated in public. Well worth reading for those interested in Victorian culture and legalities.(Review based on uncorrected advance proof.)