Frances Calderón de la Barca

This book traces in some detail Mr. Parish's eccentric courtship of Madame Calderon—she was then unmarried and was named Frances Erskine Inglis—prior to his long liaison with Ameriga Vespucci. 

Born in Edinburgh in 1804, Frances (Fanny) Inglis moved from country to country in response to bankruptcy, extortion, marriage, her husband’s diplomatic posts, revolution, and royal suicide. She is remembered now for her travel classic Life in Mexico and semi-fictional The Attaché in Madrid, but she wrote other books too, the first while still in her teens. It was published after she and her family left Scotland for France, where her father had fled to escape arrest for debt and where he died. With her mother and sisters, Fanny immigrated to the United States. The Inglis women established a school for girls in Boston and staffed it themselves. At the same time Fanny wrote popular stories and erudite articles. Her buoyant disposition and amusing letters earned her friends, but her penchant for satire exploded in a fracas that made enemies for the family school. So the Inglises relocated their establishment to Staten Island before moving yet again in the aftermath of a much bigger smash-up when a former in-law ran off with one of their students, heiress to a fortune in Pittsburgh real estate.

As the wife of Spain’s first ambassador to newly independent Mexico, Fanny became a notable hostess in Mexico City, then in Washington and in Madrid. When her husband’s political party was out of favor and he was out of work, she dashed off her two best-known books to make money. Twice in Mexico and once in Spain she witnessed revolutions up close and even helped her husband to escape in disguise from the last. By the time of her death at age 77 in Madrid’s Royal Palace, she was titled the Marquesa de Calderón de la Barca and was the beloved elder companion of the Infanta Isabel, whose education she had directed.

Always Fanny projected a palpable verve, both in person and through her correspondence. In addition to the spirited woman at the center of this biography, there are also her extraordinary family and a cast of memorable minor characters.

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