The Muse

β€œIt’s said that muses only need to possess two qualities: beauty and mystery. Blackwood had both in spades.” – New York Observer

This book explores the life of Caroline Blackwood (1931-1996), a Northern Irish socialite who became an international muse to writers and artists and the wife of painter Lucian Freud, composer Israel Citkowitz, and finally to the poet Robert Lowell. Her wealth and social standing are weighed against the tragedy of her childhood, the trauma inflicted upon her by her succession of spouses, and ultimately, the death of one of her children.

You can see her dark-eyed beauty in photos by Walker Evans, and her bewitching figure in paintings by Lucian Freud. She is the mermaid of whom poet Robert Lowell writes in The Dolphin (and he was clutching her portrait when he died). She was Lady Caroline Blackwood, legendarily witty and alluring but also a legendary drunk.

Raised an heiress to the Guinness fortune, Blackwood (1931-1996) moved easily among the aristocracy, the bohemians of postwar England and the liberal intelligentsia of 1960s New York.

She has been called a muse to genius-though her marriages to Lucian Freud, the composer Israel Citkowitz, and Robert Lowell were as troubled as they were inspiring-and she was an author herself, short-listed for the Booker Prize in 1977.

In this first biography of Blackwood, Nancy Schoenberger deftly paints a complex woman who was captivating to her dying day.


"DANGEROUS MUSE is not so much a literary biography as a fable for our own times -- dramatic, chilling and suggestive." - New York Times Book Review

"A well-researched biography...strong on both the social history of the transatlantic literary and cafe society of the 1950s and 1960s and on literary interpretations of Blackwood's work." - Washington Post Book World

"A fiery and willful woman lives in this searing chronicle of taboos defied, lives scarred, and great poetry achieved." - Booklist (starred)