Scandal of the Season
Scribner, 2007 (2007)
Reviewed by Barbara Lingens
he Scandal of the Season
is a wonderfully clever imagining of the scenario presented in Alexander Pope's
The Rape of the Lock
. Eighteenth-century enthusiasts need look no further for a delightful entertainment. We are in the sure hands of a knowledgeable source on the sights, sounds and smells of the era as well as the conversational gambits and foibles of some very real people.
t seems that Arabella Fermor, a coquette, and Robert Petre, seventh Baron of Ingatestone, have fallen in love, a hopeless match because the dowry she brings is not nearly enough to satisfy the Baron's family. Nevertheless, they are smitten, and their affair is what allows us to get to the heart of the social scene in London, with its masquerades, seductions, social calls and gossip. Alexander Pope, the sickly poet, is privileged to observe all of this and is himself caught up in a hopeless love. Along the way we meet other famous people of the time - Jonathan Swift, Richard Steele and John Gay to name a few - and we are privy to a budding Jacobite plot.
hat Pope's poem made his fortune is doubly interesting because of what we learn in this novel about his other writings. Apparently he was already on his way to some success, but the publication of the poem, which sold three thousand copies in the first week after it was printed, helped make him '
the first writer in English history to become independently wealthy from the sales of his own books.
' Also included in the novel is an Afterword that reveals what finally happened to the characters in the story, as well as a transcription of the short version of the poem. This is a bravura work, all the more stunning because it is author Sophie Gee's first.
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