The Sylph

Front Cover
Northwestern University Press, 1779 - Fiction - 245 pages
13 Reviews

This ranging epistolary novel follows Julia Grenville, a Welsh beauty who knows little of the world until her marriage to the older Lord Stanley. Through Julia’s letters to her sister, readers learn more of Julia’s new life in London—her unfaithful husband, her miscarriage, her disillusionment with the city and its fashions. Other letters reveal that Julia has a longtime admirer, Harry Woodley, from her former life, as well as a mysterious guardian angel: her Sylph. This character guides Julia away from the depravities of her life in London, including her gambling problem. The Sylph is also another sympathetic ear to Julia’s increasing marital dissatisfaction and growing affinity for another man, the Baron Ton-hausen. As Julia nearly falls prey to the overzealous admirations of one of her husband’s associates, her husband is consumed by gambling debts to that same associate. She is shocked to discover the depths of her husband’s ruin and plans to flee to Wales before she too can be claimed in payment. Her disgraced husband takes the ultimate way out and Julia goes home to her father and sister in Wales. Her Sylph is not far behind, however, and soon reveals himself to Julia to be more than she could have ever imagined.


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Review: The Sylph

User Review  - Goodreads

If you have a taste for 18th century literature, this is a great read. It's an epistolary novel, written in letters, about a young and innocent women from the country who marries a rake. She is ... Read full review

Review: The Sylph

User Review  - Goodreads

This book was apparently dashed off in between social whirls by the Duchess of Devonshire, the subject of the film “Duchess.” Hurried it might have been, slapdash it is not. It is written entirely as ... Read full review

Selected pages


Note on the Text
Editors Introduction
Chronology of Events from the Life of GeorgianaDuchess of Devonshire
The Sylph a comic piece by Saint Foix

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About the author (1779)

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (b. 1757) first published The Sylph anonymously in 1779. She was a close friend of Marie Antoinette and an ancestor of Diana Spencer.


Jonathan David Gross is a professor and the director of the DePaul University Humanities Center. He is the author of Byron: The Erotic Liberal, and editor of Byron’s “Corbeau Blanc”: The Life and Letters of Lady MelbourneEmma, or the Unfortunate Attachment, and Thomas Jefferson's Scrapbooks: Poems of Family, Nation, and Romantic Love. 

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