Lola Montez


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A Life

Bruce Seymour

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The exploits of Lola Montez—onstage as a dancer and an actress, in politics as a power behind thrones, and in bedrooms around the world—made her one of the best-known women of the Victorian era. Born Eliza Gilbert, daughter of British and Irish parents, she transformed herself into an aristocratic Spanish dancer, carrying on an audacious masquerade that took her to Europe, America, and Australia and attracting admirers and scandal wherever she went. When she died in 1861 at age forty, her obituary appeared in papers around the world. Yet her true story has always been obscured by the web of lies she constructed about herself. This absorbing and entertaining biography of Lola Montez is the first to reveal the facts of her incredible life.
Drawing on unpublished archives from four continents, Bruce Seymour describes Lola's disastrous early marriage to her mother's admirer, her many romantic liaisons after she left her husband, her disappearance to Spain when she was about to be sued for divorce, her reappearance as a Spanish noblewoman and dancer, and her love affairs with, among others, Franz Liszt. Seymour has been able to use the recently discovered intimate correspondence between Lola and King Ludwig I of Bavaria to recount how she won the heart of the aging king, how she was driven from the kingdom by an enraged mob, and how Ludwig ultimately abdicated because of her. Seymour presents an unretouched portrait of a woman of contradictory parts--a woman who was beautiful, intelligent, and courageous but was also monstrously egocentric and manipulative, and who was above all an independent woman ahead of her time.

Bruce Seymour is a lawyer and an independent scholar. He is co-editor of a German collection of the correspondence between Lola Montez and King Ludwig I of Bavaria.

"A lively study of a nineteenth-century performing personality whose adventures spanned continents and whose autobiographical mythmaking claimed even wider territory."—Joyce Flynn, Harvard University

"An admirably researched and highly readable biography of one of the most amazing women of her era. Seymour has scrupulously sifted through an elaborate web of fictions—mostly invented by Lola Montez herself—to present as authentic a portrait as we are ever likely to have."—Frederic Spotts, University of California, Berkeley

"A jim-dandy of a story."—Publishers Weekly

"Undaunted by the maze of lies Montez left in her wake, Seymour has succeeded in chronicling her extraordinary and endlessly fascinating life story, one that puts fiction to shame, with great verve. . . . Montez takes our breath away with her audacity, unbridled passion, and capacity for intrigue and seduction. To Seymour, we say "Bravo!"—Booklist

"Mr. Seymour, a lawyer and independent scholar, has done a splendid job researching archives at home and abroad and translating Montez's correspondence with her occasional lover, King Ludwig I of Bavaria. . . . A fantastic yarn. . . . We are . . . grateful to be in the hands of an enthusiastic chronicler who has applied his talents to bewitching subject."—Hannah Pakula, New York Times Book Review

"The best part of Bruce Seymour's biography is its richly detailed background. . . . Mr. Seymour's gift for social and cultural history is an enjoyable and instructive constant amid the wear and tear of his subject."—Florence King, Washington Times

"An amazing story of a peerless adventuress, told with great verve."—Independent on Sunday

"Seymour's narrative of Lola's various masquerades is so absorbing that the reader rarely has time to wonder where he has mined his information. . . . Superb reading."—Flora Fraser, The Times (London)

"One doesn't easily lay this book down, and the scholarly care with which Seymour has investigated Lola's mystifications enhances its interest."—Frederick Brown, New Republic

"[Seymour] has written what will remain the standard biography of a woman whose talent for self-promotion made her world famous."—Raymond Carr, The Spectator

"A self-centered charlatan or a woman of independent means? This fun, informative biography describes the nineteenth-century life of dancer Lola Montez, who scandalized polite society wherever she went and whose love affair with King Ludwig of Bavaria contributed to his abdication in 1848."—American Way

"Seymour's fascinating account of this shadowy woman who died from pneumonia in America in January 1861 aged 40 moves with speed and authority over a large, richly-coloured canvas. Mr. Seymour's researches through endless material are impressive and each chapter leads you on in an engrossing manner to the next and the drama is intense. I must say I felt a sense of regret when I finally closed the book, and I was left wondering what Madam Montez might have achieved had she lived beyond early middle-age."—Richard Edmonds, Birmingham Post

"Of all the hundreds of biographies that I have read over the years, this is quite the most gripping and the most fantastic."—Vera Agar, Oxford Times

"This is bedside reading of a high order."—Ian McIntyre, The Times (London)

"Seymour has, splendidly, found all the facts. . . . Seymour's work is the true memorial to her life."—Clement Crisp, Financial Times

"Seymour has dug up source material of extraordinary quality, . . . following in Lola's footsteps and designating himself, quaintly or campily, as her final victim."—Suzy Feay, Independent on Sunday

"Seymour's excellent narrative keeps this grotesque story zipping along with much rich detail."—Moira Shearer, Daily Telegraph

"It is tragicomedy which Bruce Seymour has researched in exhaustive detail, showing Lola at her most fractious, selfish, deceitful, demanding, silly and unlikeable. . . . Without sentimentalising his subject, he shows her deepening and changing."—Alan Judd, Sunday Telegraph

"Undoubtedly one of the best researched and most enjoyable biographies to appear for some time. . . . Bruce Seymour has told [Lola's] story with sympathy and understanding and in so doing has produced a delightful biography."—Richard Mullen, Contemporary Review

"Bruce Seymour's Lola Montez. . . seems destined to become the definitive modern biography."—Faye E. Dudden, Journal of American History

"A colorful treatment of a colorful life."—Harry Sayen, The Trenton Times

"The most authoritative single source on one of the era's most compelling and controversial public figures."—John W. Frick, Victorian Studies

ISBN: 9780300074390
Publication Date: March 30, 1998
480 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
24 b/w illus.