May 14, 2019

11. The Lost Life and Scandalous Death of “LEL”: Dr Lucasta Miller (1838)

"The gambler who lost touch with the dangers"

Although Letitia Landon – or “L.E.L.’s” – name is scarcely known outside specialist circles today, in the 1820s she was one of the brightest stars of the London literary scene. In the fast-evolving publishing world of literary monthlies and quarterlies, L.E.L. burst onto the scene as a true celebrity. She thrived due to the quality of her verse and the mystery of her persona. For several years the question tantalised. Just who was this writer that hid behind the laconic acronym? It turned out, when L.E.L.’s identity was revealed in 1824, that she was – in her mother’s words – “a girl addicted to writing poetry.”

In this episode of Travels Through Time, the literary historian and journalist Dr Lucasta Miller tells us about L.E.L.’s life and then takes us back to 1838 to witness her sad and contested end. It’s a story that ranges from the churches of London to the old slaving posts of west Africa, fusing together contrasting histories in the most unexpected of ways. As with the literary career that had gone before it, the manner of L.E.L’s death was left open to interpretation.

Scene One: 7 June 1838, L.E.L.’s wedding to George Maclean in London

Scene Two: Late August 1838, Cape Coast Castle, west Africa

Scene Three: The morning of 15 October 1838, L.E.L.’s death, Cape Coast Castle

L.E.L. The Lost Life and Scandalous Death of Letitia Elizabeth Landon, the Celebrated “Female Byron”

Presenter: Peter Moore

Guest: Dr Lucasta Miller

Producer: Maria Nolan

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