Scandalous begins in eager anticipation of a party at Hampton Court Palace. Each character prepares with a different goal in mind. Belinda, beautiful, vain, and attended by fairies, vows she will not eat until she has found a husband. Lascivious Baron Charles also plans for conquest. Society matrons hope for scandal and ruin to add variety to the dull affair. The event progresses without incident until Belinda scorns the Baron and defeats him in a heroic game of cards. The Baron revenges himself by cutting a lock of Belinda’s well-maintained hair. Goaded by the interference of an evil fairy, Belinda rails against the Baron and destroys her reputation. The story closes as several characters agree to pay a poet to memorialize the day’s events.
Inspired by Alexander Pope’s “The Rape of the Lock,” Scandalous is a unique combination of Shakespeare and Springer, poetry and prose. While the characters are highborn, beautiful, and wealthy, base deeds are not beyond them. The contrast is heightened by Carter’s use of prose for descriptions and poetry for conversations. Like “The Rape of the Lock,” the satirical novella pokes fun at the social conventions 18th century high society but does so in a much more lowbrow format.