I watched part of it with my Dad, but he’s a big ol’ softy and didn’t want to see the end because he knew it would cover her death, so I’ve not yet seen all of it. I’ll have to watch it again properly, but my impression was that it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but it wasn’t all that good either.
It’s also a bit of a shame that they focused on her gambling - it seems to me that she was firstly easily lead, and secondly there’s a theory that she was desperately trying to regain part of the family fortune frittered away in building projects by her husband. Which never usually gets mentioned (and it’s not clear how much money he spent, though it was certainly a lot).
Betty Toole maintains that Ada wasn’t going to the races, that she was too ill at that point in her life, and that there’s no sign of the losses in the household accounts. The first point might be true, but the second point, well, would you be marking your gambling losses in the household accounts?
Betty also maintains that the affair she was supposed to have had with John Cross would have been impossible for her, again, given how ill she was at the time she was supposed to have had it. My feeling is that she was engaged in an emotional relationship rather than a physical one, by someone who was very charming and who took advantage of her.
If you read Lady Byron and her Daughters by Julia Markus, who goes back to primary sources including Ada’s and Annabella’s letters, then you find out that Ada twice gave the family jewels to Cross, (gambling partner as well), and her mother had to buy them back at a cost of, iirc, £900, which was a shitload of cash in those day. The second time is the deathbed confession - Lovelace told her mother that she’s given away the jewels for a second time, and Lady Byron retrieved them, without telling Lord Lovelace.
(Lovelace also confessed something to Lord Lovelace on her deathbed, something so awful that he never saw or spoke to her again. The assumption is that she told him about Cross.)
Cross was a total asshole, from what I can tell, who was focused on charming as much cash out of Lovelace as he possibly could. One reason I think this is that we know Lovelace was prone to crushes and impetuosity. She fell ‘in love’ with her tutor when she was a teen, and the two ran away with the intention of eloping, but she was recognised and returned to her family. Throughout her adult life, she was never short of attention, and was not averse to being a bit flirty, even with Faraday who was a strict Sandemanian and the least likely man to flirt with. But I suspect she was also insecure and easily charmed, and Cross had no scruples in terms of extracting money from her.
So I see the story as one less of a capricious, fantasist prone to betting on the horses, but a woman who had multiple pressures on her to try and make money quickly, who had a bit too much faith in her own skills, and who trusted the wrong people. Which is, frankly, a much more realistic summary of modern gamblers.
I also see a patriarchal narrative structure in which the woman is feckless and unreliable and takes the brunt of the blame for the gambling, where as the syndicate – which was all men – gets off scott free, entirely uncriticised. Cross’s character is never examined, his ability to extract money out of Lovelace is never seen as wicked, it’s just Lovelace that gets the criticism. This is not to say Lovelace had no agency, she did not have to give Cross that money as far as we know, but she is also not the only party at fault here.
(And we’re talking about a time when it wasn’t quite so clear that maths can’t win at the races, so it’s not entirely clear that her logic was quite as flawed as we assume it to be. What if she’d, through luck, won big before she died? How would the narrative be formed then?)
Ooh, I could go on all day…