With his new edition of The Sylph (Northwestern, 2007), Jonathan David Gross recovered the work of novelist and biopic subject Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. With Belmour, Gross introduces the modern audience to the only novel of English sculptress Anne Damer.
Belmour chronicles the tangled romances of a group of eighteenth-century English aristocrats. The plot centers on Lord Belmour’s pursuit of the lovely and slightly mysterious Emily Melville. The charismatic Belmour, a man of great feeling and quick perception, goes to great lengths to gain the affection of Emily, only to learn that she has recently married another man. Although crushed, Belmour tries to develop a friendship with the couple, but his heartache drives him to depart on an extensive journey through Europe. During these travels, the lives of Belmour and Emily unfold, though fate ultimately leads the two to cross paths once more.
Set among such vivid backdrops as Paris, Venice, and Rome, Belmour, like Damer herself, “conceals as much as it reveals,” yielding a rich, multifaceted story of forbidden love and erotic intrigue that will appeal to those interested in the gothic romances of Ann Radcliffe and the psychological novels of Elizabeth Inchbald. A contemporary of Jane Austen, Anne Damer casts an equally critical eye on the foibles of the aristocracy, while offering a similarly romanticized portrait of romantic love in the age of sensibility.