When I was a child, my dad thought I watched too much TV. He was worried it would stunt my intellect. I think my brain survived just fine, but I will admit that too many telenovelas have left a love of over-the-top acting and drama. I love soap operas that include a dramatic confrontation over a man.
So, it comes as no surprise that I was immediately hooked by the story of a confrontation that involved the Countess of Coventry. A gossipy letter from the 1750s reported an altercation between Lady Coventry and her husband’s mistress in Hyde Park.
I was then startled when I read that the mistress, the famous courtesan Kitty Fisher, also died of lead poisoning from her make-up. A man’s wife and his mistress were both fatally poisoned by cosmetics?
This seemed far-fetched to me. It made me question whether stories about lead poisoning from make-up were true. Was white lead make-up really so toxic that young women were regularly dropping dead from wearing it?
I had to find out, and so a research program was born.