Lucasta Miller is the author of “L.E.L.: The Lost Life and Scandalous Death of Letitia Elizabeth Landon, the Celebrated ‘Female Byron.’” Landon’s “scandalous” death occurred at her own hand with prussic acid at age 36.
Even today, Letitia Landon provokes a virulently gendered response, as I have discovered after publishing a biography of her. One male critic wrote that I should have left her in the “kitchen slops bucket” of literary history. A female critic in the Italian press, on the contrary, thought Landon ought to be taught in schools.
(Lucasta Miller, “The Cautionary Tale of the ‘Female Byron,’” NYTimes, 6-1-19)
I don’t know the full context of the male critic’s remark; however, it seems unsuitably poisonous even in a dismissive appraisal of an artist’s work. There may be something other than strict weighing of poetic merit in play. Did Lucasta Miller flaunt feminist rhetoric in her narrative of Letitia Landon’s life?
To be fair, there might be perceived gender taint in the judgment of the Italian female critic who wants Landon taught in schools. Her language, however, doesn’t appear as fulsome as the male critic’s is feculent. Doubts flap in the wind absent a firsthand reading of the texts.
(c) 2019 JMN