Lady Charlotte (1812-95) was one of the most outstanding and successful women of the nineteenth century. Daughter of the Ninth Earl of Lindsey, she married the ironmaster, Josiah John Guest when she was twenty-one and moved from Lincolnshire to industrial South Wales. Here she fell in love with all aspects of Welsh language and culture, and is perhaps best remembered for her pioneering translation of the medieval tales 'The Mabinogion'. But she was also a successful businesswoman, an educational reformer who established much praised schools and a politician and society hostess. During this same period she gave birth to ten children in thirteen years. Living at a time when self-effacement, duty and sacrifice were prescribed for women, Lady Charlotte revelled instead in the workings of the Dowlais Ironworks, the largest in the world. As her husband's health deteriorated she increasingly assumed control, and when Sir John died she ran the works herself. She proved a formidable employer, facing down fellow employers and ironworkers in a bitter strike when her contemporaries were opting for appeasement.
On marrying her eldest son's tutor, the considerably younger Charles Schrieber, she left Wales and travelled in Europe collecting eighteenth-century fans and ceramics. The Schreiber Collection in the Victoria and Albert Museum is another of her legacies. Through this extraordinary woman's life, the authors explore the impact of industrialisation on British society, Wales' literary heritage and the importance of gender in Victorian society. The diaries Lady Charlotte kept for seventy years are a wonderfully rich source illuminating not only the thoughts and emotions of an influential nineteenth-century woman, but also the day-to-day concerns and struggles of those with ambition and vision.
Revel Guest, the great grand-daughter of Lady Charlotte, began her career as the youngest-ever woman parliamentary candidate. In 1960 she joined the BBC's Panorama, as its first woman producer/director and in 1968 formed Transatlantic Films, which has made over 150 award winning films and series. She is married with two children and retains strong ties to Wales where she farms in Powys and is Chair of the Hay Literary Festival. Angela V. John is a historian and biographer. She was, for many years, Professor of History at the University of Greenwich and now lives in Pembrokeshire. Her other books include a biography of the actress and suffragette Elizabeth Robins (also published by Tempus) and a life of the war correspondent Henry W. Nevinson.
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