Last year I reviewed Victorian Sex Goddess: Lady Colin Campbell and the Sensational Divorce Case of 1886. My only criticism was that the book focused very much on the court case, and there was little to satisfy the curious mind as to Gertrude Campbell’s subsequent career. Fortunately, Anne Jordan has just published Love Well the Hour: The Life of Lady Colin Campbell, thereby giving this redoubtable woman more sustained consideration.
Quite apart from robustly defending herself against a syphilitic and irrascible husband, Gertrude Campbell made a stand for wronged wives everywhere. Whilst she wasn’t a feminist in the modern sense of the word, Gertrude successfully challenged the idea that a woman separated from her husband should retire from public life and lead a nun-like existence. Rather than pursue the alimony to which she was entitled, she forged a succesful career as a writer and remained truly independent for the rest of her life. She was a prolific journalist, mainly for the Saturday Review, also writing a novel and a book on fishing. Her pioneering enthusiasm for sports was cruelly curtailed by the onset of rheumatoid arthritis.
Gertrude’s life story is fascinating in itself (see previous post for a summary), but this biography goes much further in revealing a wealth of information on the position of women in late-Victorian society, thereby illuminating the reasons why Gertrude was so remarkable in her willingness to defy convention.
Anne Jordan’s biography is well-researched, and written in a clear, engaging style. She conveys the complexity of this tenacious and intelligent woman who is so often defined only by her part in a notorious divorce trial.
Fellow Kindlers can download the book for just under a fiver, which is an absolute bargain.