There are rumbles in
the blogosphere. Again. This time it’s about transparency – should you say
upfront who you are when you review, or is it better to use a pseudonym?
That got me thinking. It’s
always been that way, it’s just that these days geographic boundaries are less
important and it’s using a different medium to the ones our ancestors would
The dry announcements in
the Court Circulars and the brief accounts of doings in Parliament and society
held a lot of spice. It was spice that Lady Caroline Lamb exploited in her book
“Glenarvon” which led to her downfall. In it, she wrote scurrilous things about
society, her thinly disguised characters caricatures of actual people.
It wasn’t so much that
she’d written a satire. Oh no, it was more than that. It was in a book that
anyone could read if they could buy or borrow it. Anyone. That meant people
outside the sacred circle of high society. While the exploits of Lady Caroline
herself had led to widespread comment and even ridicule, especially her
relentless pursuit of Lord Byron, in “Glenarvon” she talked about people she
knew. And, being born to a rich and privileged family and then marrying into
one, she knew all the gossip.
In short, there’s
always been scandal. There are huge, big scandals which blow up and then
subside, leaving memories. They make some people feel superior, and give a
taste of a life that the reader sometimes knows she can’t achieve for herself. There’s
the schadenfreude effect, which, even before it had a name, was a powerful inciter to this. Seeing someone powerful fall, although the disgrace and early
death of Lady Caroline Lamb was more pathetic than tragic, an unbalanced woman
given her head and going slowly mad in the full glare of the public spotlight.
Not that her husband
suffered from her disgrace. He went on to become Queen Victoria’s flirt and
Prime Minister. Mind you, he had scandal of his own. “Everybody” knew he wasn’t
the son of the man who’d acknowledged parentage, but he’d been a younger son
and not expected to inherit the title. There was gossip about him, too, but he
was a clever man and he seemed to know what to do with that kind of notoriety.
There are people who
can take all the scandal on the chin and actually use it to further what they
wanted to do. One of my professors at university had this recipe. “Write a
scandalous book, one with an outrageous premise, but one you can defend, then,
with the eyes of the world on you, put that second, lovingly crafted book out.”
Good idea, but I never had the nerve to see that through. I can’t defend
something I don’t believe in and I’m not crazy enough to attract attention that
So what’s a girl to
do? Go nuts in the spotlight and be remembered forever, or be gracious and well behaved and be forgotten?