Spartacus Review

Volume 13: 24th February, 2008

18th Century History

Title: Queen of the Wits


Editor: Norma Clarke

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Price: £20.00

Bookshop: Amazon

Spartacus Website: Laetitia Pilkington


Prostitute and poetess, fallen woman and society wit, Laetitia Pilkington spent her life as close to fame as she was near to ruin. Favoured by, among others, the celebrated Jonathan Swift, she was divorced by her husband after being exposed as an adulteress. In London, she survived through her humour and her intelligence - and her skilful use of scandal - on the very fringes of respectability. Norma Clarke's hugely rich and enjoyable biography is the story of celebrity, sex and literature in the early eighteenth century. Above all, it brings to life a woman who embodied the scandal, energy and sadness of a time when literature, gossip and the lives they described were inseparable.