The Criminal Conversation of Mrs. Norton: Victorian

The Criminal Conversation of Mrs. Norton: Victorian Westminster, London, June ,Crowds are gathering at the Court of Common Pleas On trial is Caroline Sheridan Norton, a beautiful and clever young woman who had been maneuvered into marrying the Honorable George Norton when she was just nineteen Ten years older, he is a dull, violent, and controlling lawyer, but Caroline is determined not to be a traditional wife By her early twenties, Caroline has become a respected poet and songwriter, clever mimic, and outrageous flirt Her beauty and wit attract many male admirers, including the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne After years of simmering jealousy, George Norton accuses Caroline and the Prime Minister of criminal conversation adultery precipitating Victorian England s scandal of the century In Westminster Hall that day is a young Charles Dickens, who would, just a few months later, fictionalize events as Bardell v Pickwick in The Pickwick Papers After a trial lasting twelve hours, the jury s not guilty verdict is immediate, unanimous, and sensational George is a laughingstock Angry and humiliated he cuts Caroline off, as was his right under the law, refuses to let her see their three sons, seizes her manuscripts and letters, her clothes and jewels, and leaves her destitute Knowing she can not change her brutish husband s mind, Caroline resolves to change the law Steeped in archival research that draws on than , of Caroline s personal letters, The Criminal Conversation of Mrs Norton is the extraordinary story of one woman s fight for the rights of women everywhere For the next thirty years Caroline campaigned for women and battled male dominated Victorian society, helping to write the Infant Custody Act, and influenced the Matrimonial Causes Divorce Actand the Married Women s Property Act, which gave women a separate legal identity for the first time


10 thoughts on “The Criminal Conversation of Mrs. Norton: Victorian England's "Scandal of the Century" and the Fallen Socialite Who Changed Women's Lives Forever

  1. Geevee Geevee says:

    The twenty second of June 1836, a warm drizzly day in Londonand so start s Diane Atkinson s highly readable book on a victorian beauty who in just nine days was ruined in a court case The story though is farthan the court case albeit one that was charged with scandal and interest involving not just Caroline Norton but her husband George and the Prime Minister of the day Lord Melbourne Melbourne was accused by George of having a criminal con


  2. Penny Penny says:

    3 It s sobering to think that even as late as the 1830s any children born in a marriage were entirely the father s If the marriage broke up, whatever the circumstances, a mother could not make a claim for custody as a wife had no separate legal existence.This book is the story of Caroline Norton, the breakdown of her marriage and her subsequent fight to get the law changed when her husband refused to let her see her three young sons.Caroline was a


  3. Laura McNeal Laura McNeal says:

    Fascinating, ghastly, and illuminating I began this book with a sense of outrage at the powerlessness of a mother and wife in the 19th century I reached its end with adiffuse sense of outrage and pity Caroline Norton suffered horribly at the hands of her husband, but she believed she had a right to betray him and lie to him and everyone else in the pursuit of an appearance of correctness The hypocrisy of a society that outwardly worshipped a particular k


  4. Deborah Siddoway Deborah Siddoway says:

    Excellent, well researched biography of the life of Caroline Norton The author clearly knows her field, and does not fall into the trap of failing to understand the parlous state of the divorce laws in England prior to the enactment of the Divorce Act of 1858 Atkinson also understands that while Caroline was, in her words, an accidental feminist , this by no means lessens her achievements I think it is fair to say that she would not have undertaken the campaign


  5. Victoria Frow Victoria Frow says:

    Good Interesting read Shows how out of a miserable marriage something good came out of it as Mrs Norton was accused of an affair with Lord Melbourne so her husband precided to divorce her and she stood to lose everything including her children to her husband so she challenged the law And because of this challenge even though it didn t benefit her we have the Infant custody act, matrimonial causes act and married women s property act.


  6. Marguerite Kaye Marguerite Kaye says:

    Caroline Norton is the epitome of all that was outrageously wrong with the law when it came to women, property and marriage Her husband was a violent, sadistic man who regularly beat her, who was avidly jealous of her and her famous Sheridan family He was also, it seems to me, in a perverted way, very much in love with her Caroline may or may not have been unfaithful to him George was definitely unfaithful to Caroline She left him several times after a violent attack, but th


  7. Helen Carolan Helen Carolan says:

    An excellent piece of history Telling of Caroline Sheirdan grand daughter of playwright and politican Richard Brinsley Sheirdan She married George Norton,but their marriage was doomed from the start as they were complete opposites She was intelligent, witty and flirty, while he was dour boring and a bully When he discovered an affair between his wife and prime minister lord Melbourne he and his family sued for adultery hoping a guilty verdict would ruin his career and bring down th


  8. Liz Bowsher Liz Bowsher says:

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers To view it, click here The historical context and the story are totally compelling It illustrates in graphic detail early Victorian womens total lack of right to govern their own affairs, enjoy the fruits of their own labours or enjoy the company of their own children Caroline Norton was fortunate to be part of society, intelligent and articulate and have the intellectual ability to wage the battle However, it was all consuming it i


  9. Sally Cartwright Sally Cartwright says:

    A fascinating insight into the life of a woman who was very much at the mercy of her domineering and manipulative husband Poor Mrs Norton nee Sheridan had a pretty grim existence thanks to women not being recognised in law She was a pioneer in trying to get small changes made specifically in regard to women having custody of children It was a really thought provoking book that demonstrates how much things have changed Highly recommended if you enjoy reading about social history.


  10. Clare Paterson Clare Paterson says:

    Very informative about Victorian law and women Full of incident What a life Caroline Norton read Really pleased to have read it.


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