PERSONAL: Born in Bellshill, Scotland; married. Education: University of Edinburgh, Ph.D.
ADDRESSES: Home—London, England. Agent—James Gill, PFD, Drury House, 34-43 Russell St., London WC2B 5HA, England. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Worked as a professional dancer; lecturer at Helsinki University and Sheffield University. Guest lecturer at the University of Salzburg.
Lady Hester: Queen of the East (biography), Faber & Faber (London, England), 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: Lorna Gibb's Lady Hester: Queen of the East is a biography of Lady Hester Stanhope (1776–1839), a woman who broke barriers in the early nineteenth century. The niece of Prime Minister William Pitt, she served as his hostess until his death in 1806, after which she lived on a state pension. The woman Lord Byron called "that dangerous thing, a female wit," chose a life of travel and sexual freedom. She remained single, taking several lovers who were often much younger than she. One of her alliances ended in the scandal that prevented her from returning to London from the Middle East, where she spent the remainder of her life. She was active in Lebanese politics, where she dressed in the traditional clothing of men, including wearing a turban under which was her shaved head.
Lady Hester was a woman of ego who expected her requests to always be met. Her alliances ranged from the highest-born Middle Eastern leaders to criminals, and many sought her out, including prophets and religious men who foresaw that she would rise to greatness. Eventually reduced to poverty, she went into self-exile in an abandoned convent in Joun, near Damascus, where she made a home for dozens of cats. Her decomposed body was discovered after her death at the age of sixty-three.
Guardian reviewer Frances Wilson wrote that "Gibb has an authoritative grasp of the nineteenth-century Middle East and an intuitive understanding of her subject's hunger for experience. Lady Hester is a flawlessly written, finely structured and beautifully produced book in which we are given a more complicated figure than legend has yet provided."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Geographical, October, 2005, Victoria James, review of Lady Hester: Queen of the East, p. 84.
Independent on Sunday (London, England), May 1, 2005, Patricia Duncker, "Did the Roof Cave In on You, Dear?"
Guardian Online (London, England), http://books.guardian.co.uk/ (May 14, 2005), Frances Wilson, review of Lady Hester.
Lorna Gibb Home Page, http://www.lornagibb.com (February 23, 2006).
Observer Online (London, England), http://observer.guardian.co.uk/ (May 8, 2005), David Jays, "That Was No Lady," review of Lady Hester.
Sunday Times Online (London, England), http://www.timesonline.co.uk/ (April 24, 2005), Miranda Seymour, "Travel: Lady Hester by Lorna Gibb."
Times Literary Supplement Online (London, England), http://tls.timesonline.co.uk/ (July 15, 2005), Annette Kobak, "Leader of the Breed," review of Lady Hester.