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Enchantress of Numbers
Cover of Enchantress of Numbers
Enchantress of Numbers
A Novel of Ada Lovelace
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The New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker and Switchboard Soldiers illuminates the life of Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace—Lord Byron’s daughter and the...
The New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker and Switchboard Soldiers illuminates the life of Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace—Lord Byron’s daughter and the...
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  • The New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker and Switchboard Soldiers illuminates the life of Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace—Lord Byron’s daughter and the world’s first computer programmer.

    The only legitimate child of Lord Byron, the most brilliant, revered, and scandalous of the Romantic poets, Ada was destined for fame long before her birth. But her mathematician mother, estranged from Ada's infamous and destructively passionate father, is determined to save her only child from her perilous Byron heritage. Banishing fairy tales and make-believe from the nursery, Ada’s mother provides her daughter with a rigorous education grounded in mathematics and science. Any troubling spark of imagination—or worse yet, passion or poetry—is promptly extinguished. Or so her mother believes.
     
    When Ada is introduced into London society as a highly eligible young heiress, she at last discovers the intellectual and social circles she has craved all her life. Little does she realize how her exciting new friendship with Charles Babbage—the brilliant, charming, and occasionally curmudgeonly inventor of an extraordinary machine, the Difference Engine—will define her destiny.

    Enchantress of Numbers unveils the passions, dreams, and insatiable thirst for knowledge of a largely unheralded pioneer in computing—a young woman who stepped out of her father’s shadow to achieve her own laurels and champion the new technology that would shape the future.

Excerpts-

  • From the book Chapter One

    Sole Daughter of My House and Heart

    January-April 1816

    You may well wonder how I, no more than seven weeks old when my mother left my father and launched the great scandal that came to be known throughout England as the Separation, can claim to have witnessed the tumultuous events that provoked so much curiosity and gossip. It is a fair question, since some of the incidents I have described occurred before my birth. Certainly, I have always possessed uncanny powers of perception, understanding, and synthesis, but not even I can see beyond the frame that encloses my own life.

    Obviously I have no firsthand experience of the years that preceded my birth, and I will not pretend to remember the contentious events of my infancy. Instead this account of my parents' courtship, marriage, and separation and my own earliest years is comprised of facts I learned later: tantalizing details revealed by my mother, Lady Byron; glimpses of unattended papers not meant for my eyes; servants' gossip overheard in the corridors of my grandparents' palatial home of Kirkby Mallory; and detailed accounts Lady Byron painstakingly composed for her lawyers.

    There were an exhausting number of the latter.

    You may say I have borrowed other people's memories, and I will not deny it. I will see your challenge and raise you one confession: Sometimes it is difficult for me to distinguish between memories that are truly my own and stories that were inculcated by Lady Byron, her parents, and her friends, who perpetually hovered around me like a swarm of judgmental wasps.

    Can you honestly say that you are any more certain of the origin of your own memories?

    Though you may question their provenance, these are my memories, recorded here for posterity. And why should I not write my life? My father did so, although as far as I know, the only manuscript of his carefully crafted memoir was destroyed at my mother's command. Not that I claim my life merits memorializing as his did. Indeed, at this moment, my pride has been so battered that I believe the list of those who might wish to read my memoirs will be very short indeed. Perhaps admirers of my Great Work would be interested in learning about my life and education. Someday my children, if they are in a forgiving mood, might be curious about my youth and my consuming passions. They have shown little interest thus far, but someday, when they are much older and have learned firsthand that loving one's children does not guaranteed that one will never fail them, they may want to know me better.

    I confess to a stirring of superstitious fear that I tempt Fate by setting down this memoir now, as if the story of my life is nearing its conclusion. I am but thirty-five; surely I have years left to fill with accomplishments and reflection. My health has not been particularly worse than usual, and yet something compels me to take pen in hand now rather than wait until I am white-haired and wizened. In recent months, I have been plagued by disturbing suspicions that I may draw my last breath sooner than my doctors will admit-but the future is even less certain than the past, so I will say nothing more of that here.

    Instead I will return to my story, for it is unkind to leave my heroine and her child suspended in peril so long.

    After my mother spirited me from my father's home at 13 Piccadilly Terrace on that cold winter morning, we stopped to change horses in Woborn and continued on to Leicestershire, arriving at Kirkby Mallory quite late at night. The servants, who had never met us, were perhaps confused by the late hour or by Lady Byron's exhaustion, for they led her to the...

Reviews-

  • Library Journal

    July 1, 2017

    Leave it to Chiaverini, the New York Times best-selling author of numerous effective portrayals of historically significant women, to take on the redoubtable Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace, Lord Byron's only legitimate child. Trained from the nursery in science and mathematics by her mathematician mother, determined that Ada not follow her father's wild ways, Ada became enthralled with Charles Babbage's calculating machine and is now regarded as the world's first computer programmer. Here she has secrets to learn about her estranged parents, too.

    Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    September 15, 2017
    Mother-daughter tension sets the stage for this closely researched portrait of Ada Lovelace, the only legitimate daughter of poet Lord Byron.Chiaverini's (Fates and Traitors, 2016, etc.) latest historical novel details Ada's struggles to please her mother, Lady Byron, nee Annabella Milbanke, who so feared that Ada would succumb to the influence of Byron's bad blood that she forbade the child from reading poetry or indulging in any flight of fancy. Annabelle's own turbulent marriage to Byron lasted less than a year. She worried that Byron suffered from either madness or, worse, moral corruption, and after discovering his incestuous liaison with his half sister, Augusta, she fled with 7-week-old Ada. Thus began Ada's lifelong struggle to please her mother by suppressing half her lineage. Chiaverini details Ada's trials and tribulations with her mother's jealous dismissal of nurses and governesses who dared to tell the girl fairy tales. The emotionally neglected child became a ticking time bomb, eager to rush into inappropriate intimacies. Ada nevertheless became a profoundly talented and imaginative mathematician. Cast as Ada's memoir, Chiaverini's novel uses lines from Byron's poetry as chapter titles, charting Ada's discovery of her own talents and acceptance of her father's influence. Eventually, Ada found her closest friends in Mary Somerville and Charles Babbage, both of whom encouraged her intellectual creativity, as did her supportive husband, William, Lord King. Yet as Ada's intellect brilliantly wed practical mathematics to poetic genius, her ambition was constantly undercut; even her beloved Babbage presumed she would subordinate her career to his work. Arguably the first person to conceive of computer programming--an idea inspired by watching looms--Ada should have been lauded for her contributions to mathematics and technology. Yet her mother's, her husband's, and her society's ideas about appropriate behavior for women suppressed her genius. A compelling yet heartbreaking homage to the mother of computer science.

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    January 29, 2018
    This intricate fictional memoir of Ada Lovelace, considered the first computer programmer, by Chiaverini (Fates and Traitors) combines biography with the style of a novel of manners. The novel opens with a lengthy prologue imagining the courtship and brief marriage of the rather odious George Gordon Lord Byron, the sixth Baron Byron, and the restrained Anne Isabella Milbanke, eleventh Baroness Wentworth. Shortly after the birth of their only child, Augusta Ada Byron, in 1815, the pair split and Byron left England, never to return or see his daughter again. Despite his absence, Ada credits the great poet with casting a shadow across her life, and her mother constantly searches for signs of Byron’s mania in her. Though Ada’s keen interest in mathematics is clear from almost the beginning, it is only her association with Charles Babbage that leads to her now-famous creation of the first ever computer program. Period fans will delight in the details of gowns, suitors, and rivals that fill the pages until Ada’s rapid romance with and then marriage to William, Lord King, who will eventually become the first Earl of Lovelace. Chiaverini’s novel is a wonderful blend of history and fiction, poetry and math.

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A Novel of Ada Lovelace
Jennifer Chiaverini
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