'Read My Heart' explores the great love story of the 17th century – the relationship between Dorothy Osborne and William Temple, a love affair lived out against a backdrop of the devastation of civil war.
Sir William Temple (1628–99), the son of a staunch parliamentarian, was a handsome and intelligent young aristocrat who went on to become a celebrated essayist and diplomat. The woman who captivated him from their first meeting, when he was just 20, was Dorothy Osborne (1627–1696), an intellectual romantic from a family of committed Royalists. After a long and at times desperate courtship, during which Dorothy rejected numerous other suitors (including Henry Cromwell, the son of the Lord Protector), they married in 1654. Their union had been opposed by both their families, and on the eve of their wedding, Dorothy's beauty was destroyed by smallpox. Yet the pair went on to enjoy a fulfilled and passionate marriage that endured the deaths of all nine of their children, and the huge political upheaval of the age.
Their marriage was intellectually collaborative – both were immensely gifted writers, and possessed of strikingly modern sensibilities. Seventy seven letters written by Dorothy to William during their long clandestine courtship survive – they are masterpieces of wit and style.
William and Dorothy were at the social and political centre of life: both were friends of William of Orange and Mary, and involved in promoting their marriage. They were contemporaries of Pepys and friends of Jonathan Swift.
Drawing upon extensive research and the Temples' own extraordinary writings, Jane Dunn brings to life their remarkable story, offering a rare and fascinating window into the hearts and minds of the educated upper–classes in one of the most turbulent and intriguing periods of British history. She brilliantly captures not only the story of a marriage, but the spirit of an age.