A Quiet Adjustment
In this deft and powerfully emotional novel set in early 19th-centuryEngland, Benjamin Markovits portrays Annabella Milbanke, the wife of the infamous Lord Byron.
Annabella is a lovely, self-possessed, and dignified young woman who surprises society by quite deliberately refusing Lord Byron’s offer of marriage. Instead, she begins a carefully calculated correspondence with the infamous man that ends, two years later, with a change of heart. They marry, and the young woman finds herself instantly out of her depth. Byron is famously tormented, and in his baffling and unpredictable moods he treats her with casual cruelty. She endures this, in the hopes of winning his love and “correcting his character.” But, after the couple spends a fortnight at the house of Byron’s sister, Annabella realizes the depth of her husband’s sins. The young Lady Byron feels she has no choice but to demand a marital separation—and the moral right, as she calls it, to save her vulnerable sister-in-law from Byron’s depravity.
Benjamin Markovits has characterized Annabella as a well-controlled, deep-thinking, and somewhat self-deceiving young strategist. Love for Byron is her undoing—for a while. When she finally emerges from the wreck of her marriage, she becomes a General of Parlor Warfare, capable of discreetly marshalling society to her cause. A Quiet Adjustment is a masterfully complex depiction of a cloistered—but certainly not powerless—19th-century woman.