Tuesday, February 24, 2009

New Wendy Moore Biography on Mary Eleanor Bowes

Wendy Moore, journalist and author of The Knife Man: The Extraordinary Life and Times of John Hunter, Father of Modern Surgery, has just published a new biography entitled: Wedlock: The True Story of the Disastrous Marriage and Remarkable Divorce of Mary Eleanor Bowes, Countess of Strathmore.*

Moore delivered a delightful and erudite Bullitt Club lecture on John Hunter on September 23, 2008 (see Bullitt web site for an MP3 recording), and her biography is equally so. The subject of her new book was born 260 years ago, on February 24, 1749, and was a friend and patient of Hunter's. Wedlock opens with a scene of swordplay, and is just as intriguing throughout; as described on her web site:

'Wedlock' tells the remarkable true story of Mary Eleanor Bowes, Countess of Strathmore, who became Britain's richest heiress on the death of her entrepreneur father when she was 11. After an unhappy first marriage to John Lyon, the 9th Earl of Strathmore, who left her a widow when he died of TB, she was lured into marrying an Irish fortune-hunter named Andrew Robinson Stoney. Squandering her money and laying waste her vast estate, Stoney--who adopted the surname Bowes on marriage--reduced Mary to a wretched, starved, petrified shadow of her former self. After suffering eight years of cruelty and torment, Mary Eleanor finally found help in the most unlikely of places. A barely credible tale of survival and triumph against overwhelming odds, 'Wedlock' reveals an eighteenth-century world of sexual intrigue, terrifying adventure and court room drama.

* As a bibliographical note, the American edition of Moore's Hunter biography is entitled: The Knife Man: Blood, Body Snatching, and the Birth of Modern Surgery. The UK edition of the Bowes biography is entitled: Wedlock: How Georgian Britain's Worst Husband Met His Match.

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