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Barbara Cartland: In Love, In Lucca

Aggiornamento: 21 dic 2020

A billion books for hungry hearts With In Love, In Lucca we enter an entirely different realm of literature, poles apart from the reports and tales considered so far. Mary Barbara Hamilton Cartland, commonly known as Barbara Cartland, accounts as one of the most illustrious literary figures of the last century. Within our collection she is certainly the most prolific. As a matter of fact, in terms of sales Barbara Cartland is likely to be in the vanguard of all her contemporary writers. Her first novel „Jigsaw“ was published in 1923, to be reprinted in 2010 to mark the tenth anniversary of her death. In an introductory note to In Love, In Lucca, first published in 1997, we are told that this was her „exciting 512th book“ in this romantic genre. When she died three years later at the age of almost 99 years, Cartland had published the stupendous number of 723 romances of this kind in the course of her lifetime, amounting to an estimated billion copies translated into 38 languages. Cartland specialized in romantic novels, and occasionally she went beyond it. She is also the author of several works of history, of plays and biographies (on Metternich, queen Christina of Sweden, Charles II, Josephine of France, and on her brother Ronald, in fact prefaced by Sir Winston Churchill), and in 1978 she even published a long player of Love Songs.1)   Just like in all of Barbara Cartland’s romance novels, the story of In Love, In Lucca is crowned with fulfillment and happiness achieved after much toil and trouble, with love and bliss gained after seemingly endless longing. In view of Barbara Cartland’s lifelong passionate search for harmony and happy endings on the fictional level, it comes as no surprise that likewise in real life she showed great initiative in various charities, be it as Chief Lady Welfare Officer in Bedfordshire during World War II, as the founder of the National Association for Health in 1964, or as a strong advocate for nursing home reform or for the education of gipsies. For her social involvement and her many good deeds for the community she was decked with some of the highest honours, in 1988 receiving „La Médaille de Vermeil de la Ville de Paris“, that city’s highest award for notable achievements, or in 1991 being invested by Queen Elizabeth II as a Dame of the Order of the British Empire. After her death in the year 2000 160 unpublished manuscripts were unearthed. Since then a new novel of hers has been published every month within the so-called Pink Collection - named after her favorite colour, and after her marked preference for pink clothes.

A happy ending and dreams come true For roughly a hundred years Dame Barbara Cartland’s tremendous output has appealed to hundreds of millions of readers all over the world. Hardly ever does she break barriers or question rules or social conventions, and her plots move within a deliberately narrow range, however pleasurable a read they may be. In her chosen domain of writing Barbara Cartland will always be a phenomenon. In Love, In Lucca is set within the British aristocracy or the upper gentry,

respectively, as are more or less all of her romantic novels. Right from the start the goal aims at fulfillment in love and happiness, with the plot being foreseeable, and rather than being surprised by unexpected twists and turns of the action we will be confirmed in our straightforward expectations. Thus the novel offers a high potential of identification for all those in quest of romantic fulfillment. In Lucca, In Love tells the story of Paola, the daughter of the Earl and Countess of Berisforde, who has just left school and is now ready to become a débutante, that is to be introduced into the higher circles of society as a marriage partner. However, due to her grandmother’s passing away this is not considered seemly at exactly that period of time. For this reason her parents arrange for her to go to Lucca to stay with the Contessa Raulo for a while, a distant cousin of her grandmother’s partly of Italian descent. On this occasion Paola is assigned by her cousin Hugo to restore a most precious ring to the Marchese Vittorio di Lucca, which he attained when in India but subsequently was stolen from him. Hugo has just managed to recapture this ring on his recent dangerous mission in the far east. The Marchese, considered the most important person in all Lucca, is a very good-looking and a rich nobleman. However his reputation with ladies is as atrocious as can be. Thus Paola has to restore the ring without meeting him personally at any cost as this would surely prove detrimental to her.

When placing a letter in Lucca’s Cathedral San Martino for the Marchese to read, Paola is attacked from behind and threatened by four Indians. Luckily she had hid the ring in some other corner of the church. Both she and the Marchese are taken captives in the subterranean part of San Martino, but luckily manage to escape through the help of the cathedral’s priest. Thereupon the Marchese takes Paola to his villa and in the evening offers a ball. At night, however, when asleep Paola is kidnapped by the same Indian gang of four and taken prisoner in a watchtower of the ancient city wall. As the reader will expect, the Marchese finds out the sight, arrives on the spot, bravely kills the evildoers and liberates the captive Paola. What was initially meant to be prevented but was palpably expected to happen in the reader’s imagination right from the start, has come fully true: The Marchese declares his unconditioned love to Paola. As is customary in all of Cartland’s romantic tales, overt sex scenes are spurned and thus omitted, but the physical consummation of their love is close to outspoken:  „Then he was kissing her again until Paola felt her body melted completely into his and she was part of him. They were no longer two people but one.“2) The happy pair celebrate their marriage secretly at Lucca’s cathedral, performed by the local archbishop. Thereupon they spend their honeymoon in the Marchese’s villa in the nearby Spa of Bagni di Lucca and live happily ever after. 

Il Marchese Vittorio di Lucca: A womanizer turned faithful husband Once we are acquainted with Paolas imminent departure for Italy, the scene does not shift to Lucca as would be expected but rather to Florence. There we find the Marchese Vittorio di Lucca whiling away his time, pursing "Princess Leone with the determination of an experienced hunter“.3) While her husband the Prince is on a mission with the Pope in Rome, Vittorio has seized the opportunity to make love to his wife. Unfortunately His Highness returns somewhat prematurely. Smelling a rat instantly, in a fit of jealousy he suspects his wife of adultery. The Princess manages to hide the Marchese from her husband in wardrobe, he lying there underneath a

chair and a sofa. He witnesses the Princess quarreling with her husband, denying his presence, only minutes after he has made love to her. It gradually dawns on him that obviously „many other men had escaped from the Palace in a similar manner“.4) He feels degraded by the Princess’s insincerity and by the undignified situation into which he got himself, leave alone by the social scandal which may ensue from his reckless behaviour. Bribing the maid to unlock a backdoor in order finally to escape adds further to his humiliation. The message of the Marchese’s amorous escapade in Florence is patently clear to the reader right from the start. What looks like a scene from the Italian commedia dell’arte is instrumental in eliciting Vittorios’s remorse, thereby turning the bold womanizer into a sincere and loving husband. When after his escape returning to Lucca, the Marchese Vittorio proves to be a changed man. He has shaken off his immoral past, and he is now worthy of the purity and chastity of Paola, as becomes clear when he finally proposes to her: „I know, I know that I have never been in love before. This is love, my Darling, Love for an angel, and what I feel is not human but Divine."

All Lucca’s beauties with a few brushes of the stroke In her brief preliminary „Author’s note“ to In Love, In Lucca Dame Cartland lets the reader know that she visited Lucca in March 1990, and that she „was thrilled with its charm“, it being „a dazzling part of Italy which anyone who visits it will find hard to forget“. Adding a few historical facts, she then asserts that „the cathedral is just as I have described it in this novel“.5) In her romantic tale she makes Paola and her relative, the Contessa, go sight-seeing. The cathedral turns out to be the focus of their interest. So what do they actually see? They admire „three great doors“ and „the enormously tall campanile“ and then proceed to the Volto Santo, the town’s sanctuary, in the chapel inside the church. We learn that it is surrounded by legends, but we are left wondering which exactly they are. The Countess considers the cathedral „the most impressive building in the whole city“. 6) Thus we get a glimpse of this place of worship. Its rich splendor and its spirituality, however, do not really unfold. The readers, or the illustrator, for that matter, are offered a drawing without much detail, to fill in and serving as an incentive to go and see and to explore the cathedral  themselves.

In a similar manner some other eminent local buildings are presented with the stroke of the brush only, for example the Palazzo Mansi which “housed fascinating pictures“. Even the mighty rampart encircling the town is given but a scanty description. It serves primarily as a means for the bandits to lock Paola in a watchtower. When aware of the close surveillance of the ancient wall and the steady presence of security forces on top of it, one is tempted to question the kidnapping without being noticed at all as described in the romance. Seen from this angle the Contessa’s comment on this assumes an ironic tinge: „Who could imagine that anything like this in these days could happen in Lucca?“ 7) Yet Dame Cartland’s is a romantic fantasy world, and the kidnapping, however unlikely it may seem, certainly adds a good thrill within the romantic plot. Moreover, the author evidently took an interest in the town’s rich history when composing her romance, interspersing historical facts here and there, like Lucca’s famous silk trade starting in the 14th century 8) or Napoleon investing his sister as the „Princess of Lucca“. „I think it would be impossible to be bored in Lucca“, Paola comments, filled with wonder. In Cartland’s romance Lucca serves as the ideal backcloth for the love story to unfold. The town’s rich history and its gorgeous monuments seemingly too numerous to count are, however, but touched upon and do not unfold their full splendour. Thus the romance becomes a stimulus for further explorations and investigations on the readers’ part. 

1) Cf. Richard Severo in his obituary in The New York Times, May 11, 2000; Barbara Cartland, 98, Best-Selling Author Who Prized Old-Fashioned Romance, Dies 2) Barbara Cartland, In Love, In Lucca, London 1997, p. 157. 3) op. cit. p. 34. 4) op. cit., p. 40. 5) op. cit., p. 9. 6) op. cit., p. 67. 7) op. cit., p. 167. 8) op. cit. p. 73. Cf. Barbara Cartland, In Love, In Lucca (Mandarin, London 1997), which is sadly hard to find these days.

The chapter is taken from the forthcoming book in English and Italian, „Lucca-Mirrored in Literature“ / „Lucca nello Specchio Letterario“. It encompasses writings from five centuries, from Renaissance times up to the present, ranging from early travel reports to works of the classic and romantic age, to detective fiction, the historical novel and even to what in Italian is called the romanzo rosa, the type written by Barbara Cartland. The selection comprises both largely forgotten writers like Edmund Warcupp, John Ray, or Johann Caspar Goethe, and well-known authors like Heinrich Heine or Joseph von Eichendorff, amongst others. The drawings by Lucchese artist Lina Giusti delicately capture the spirit of each piece of writing.  H.M.S - Merlin 14/08/2020

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