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Lola Montez: A Life


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Lola Montez made up her name, her life, and her career. Born in 1821 to Anglo-Irish parents as Eliza Gilbert, Lola left a disastrous marriage and fell into an affair that left her original name tarnished. "Reborn" as Spanish noblewoman and dancer Lola Montez, she went on to travel Europe and conquer, among others, Franz Liszt and King Ludwig I of Bavaria. She died in America at the age of 40 of complications of a stroke and pneumonia, leaving behind a bizarre tangle of truth, half-truth, and lies about her adventures. It is this tangle that author Seymour set himself to unravel over a period of four years of research. A lawyer and independent scholar, Seymour has obviously devoted himself to a person of particular personal interest. Since no thorough biography of Montez has been done in over 20 years and since all previous works relied perhaps too heavily on Montez's version of her life, Seymour's work fills the gap by providing the definitive biography of yet another Victorian woman (see also Mary Lobell's Rebel Heart: The Scandalous Life of Jane Digby, LJ 10/15/95) who was definitely not Victorian in her actions. Recommended for larger public and academic libraries.-Katherine E. Gillen, Luke Air Force Base Lib., Goodyear, Ariz.

Lola Montez (1820-1861) boasted of being the subject of more biographies than any other living woman. Seymour, a lawyer who credits his winnings on the Jeopardy! TV show for giving him time to research this detailed study, claims to have written the only accurate account of the woman Richard Wagner called a "demonic being." King Ludwig I of Bavaria, who threw away his kingdom for her, was only one of many men who became obsessed with Lola. Born in Ireland as Eliza Gilbert, raised in India (both her father and her stepfather were soldiers), married as a teenager to a friend of her mother, she left her husband after several love affairs and ran off to Spain, emerging as an exotic dancer named Lola. She took London, Paris and Munich by storm, charmed Lizst and became the mistress of Ludwig. The latter was so lavish in his infatuation and she‘now the countess of Landsfeld‘so outrageous in her behavior that the public outcry resulted in his abdication. Later, after being charged with bigamy in England, Lola came to America, where she found new fame first as a dancer, then as an actress and finally as a lecturer. Seymour is a droning writer who treats both large and small matters with the same evenhanded tone, but the details are here (seemingly all of them, right down to Ludwig's foot fetish), and it is a jim-dandy of a story. In the end, Lola found religion, devoted herself to good works and, when she died, was buried in Brooklyn. Photos. (Apr.)

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