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WELCOME TO

Byronmania

 

Volume one number two

 

continuing the exploration of

 

Byron’s most “perverse passion

 

 

The crisis of the heart in 1813 and 1814

as expressed in the letters, journals and poetry

of

 

 The Right Honourable

George Gordon Lord Byron

 

 

 

the real,

original,

Regency Romantic hero

in boots, pantaloons and many caped coat,

revolutionary,

philosopher,

athlete,

poet

 

born deformed,

victim of child abuse,

advocate of paederasty,

source of the Vampyre,

Old English Baron

rake,

debtor,

hounded by the press,

ostracised because of rumours of

 sexual deviations and irreligion,

abandoned by his wife,

legendary bi-sexual lover

and freedom fighter  

.

 

Byronmania

Volume one, Number two

April19, 1998

 

 

Welcome to  Byronmania’s first guest contributor, John W. Leys, author of the article “Unacknowledged Legislators”. 

 

John is the leader of the Byron-maniacs who prowl the web, author of the series of sites dedicated to the Romantic poets and friends; the Percy Bysshe Shelley Web Page, the Lord Byron Web Page, the Unacknowledged Legislators Poetry Web Board the Unacknowledged Legislators Chat Page and the Lord Byron Web Ring.

 

The Lord Byron Web Ring can be found at: http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Acropolis/8916/webring.html

 

Welcome, also, to all Byron-maniacs. 

 

Please submit articles on your personal obsessions, puzzles, speculations and discoveries about the “adorable Lord Byron” (as he was addressed by the famous courtesan Harriette Wilson) by e-mail to byronmania [at] shaw [dot] ca

 

 

And please feel free to link this site if you are interested.

 


That Perverse Passion

 

In the late summer of 1813, Lord Byron had fallen into some kind of awkward and unwelcome love.  He referred to it as “that perverse passion” in a letter to Lady Melbourne on November 24th 1813. 

 

He was trying to extricate himself from this affair by the dubious technique of falling in love with someone else. 

 

He had almost managed to do this at a country house party in early October.  The lady of the house, Frances Webster, had tried her best to seduce him. 

 

A few weeks later, the moment of truth arrived.  They were alone together at two in the morning, in his home, she lost her nerve, dissolved in tears called on God and he “spared” her.

 

He was, therefore, in the awkward position of being in an embarrassing but unconsummated involvement with the wife of his good friend, Wedderburn Webster.

 

He believed he would probably have to fight a duel with him, but he contemplated it with resignation.  He intended to hold his fire and realized he might be killed.  He was also considering having to elope with Frances, a woman that he described as being “measured for a new Bible once a quarter” – not exactly his type.

 

This situation was considered to be an improvement over the “scrape” of the summer which must have been truly “perverse”.

 

Byron’s poems “The Giaour” “The Bride of Abydos” and  “The Corsair” (his most popular and successful works at the time) were all written under the influence of this emotional stress, which makes it of literary as well as of biographical interest.

 

Most scholars accept  that this inappropriate relationship was with his half-sister, Augusta Byron Leigh.  She was married to their cousin, George Leigh, whose mother, Frances Byron Leigh, had been the sister of their father “Mad Jack” Byron.  Byron and Augusta had not been close as children, having been raised in different parts of the country.  Even though Byron was a Lord he was not as socially prominent as his sister, because her mother had been a countess and she had been raised by her grandmother, Lady Holderness.  She was close to the Royal family, which Byron and all other fashionably republican young men detested as “tyrants”.

 

There are, however, other possible candidates for the identity of Byron’s perverse passion of the summer of 1813.

 

 

 

This edition of  Byronmania will present other women, inappropriate in various ways and possible “perverse” as passions, who were in Byron’s life in the late summer of 1813.

 

They were all named ‘Charlotte’.

 

 

Anne Ridsdale Mott

April 19, 1998

 

 

Byron by Sanders about 1813

 

 

 

“ Byron’s Charlottes”

 

Augusta Leigh attempted,  in the summer of 1814, to arrange her brother’s marriage to her friend, Lady Charlotte Leveson Gower. [i]

In a letter to Augusta written on June 18, describing having finally met her,  Byron refers to Rogers introducing him to Lady Charlotte “up comes Rogers with your Ch.e[Charlotte]”

 

 Your Charlotte? Who was Byron’s Charlotte?  

 

In her notes explaining why she left him in 1816, Byron’s wife Annabella recorded that Byron had  told her that one day his former mistress, Lady Oxford, had surprised him making love with her daughter,  Charlotte Harley.[ii]

Byron had been living as a guest of the family at their country estate at Eywood.  His three months there, making love, reading, discussing politics and playing with the children were among the happiest in his life. Charlotte was very pretty and engaging ­ ­—  and eleven years old.

Byron mentions her in his letters to Lady  Melbourne from Eywood, on April 5, 1813, “ Charlotte Harley... I shall probably marry when she is old enough and bad enough to be made into a modern wife”  and two weeks later,  “I am very busy educating my future wife[iii]

 If Byron had been “educating” her in the ways of love, he would certainly  have not  been welcome on the family trip to Sicily in June.  This might have been the impetus for  the family’s removal from England without him.  A bitter jealousy it would have been for Lady  Oxford, at the age of forty to share her lover with her child.

To Annabella Byron’s satisfaction and justification, this added pedophilia to the list of Byron’s deviations, enhancing his reputation as a monster and providing more evidence to reinforce her carefully crafted image as a saint delivered from corruption. 

 

But, in 1813, there was probably another Charlotte in Byron’s life, a very mysterious  relationship, and inappropriate in its’ own way. 

In a letter to her confidante and only  intimate friend, Margaret Mercer Elphinstone, on October 28, 1812, Princess Charlotte,  Heiress Presumptive, daughter of the Prince Regent, had remarked, “ I have seen a great deal of Lord Byron lately”. [iv]

 Even though Margaret Mercer Elphinstone was one of his friends, in the voluminous  collection of  writings by and about Byron there  is never any mention of his having met Princess Charlotte.  Now, how could this be?

 

Princess Charlotte is the forgotten princess of British history.  Her grandfather,  George III, was insane.  Her father George, the Prince Regent, who ruled in his father’s  name, was not much more mentally stable.  He had married, in 1785, an eminently  respectable Catholic widow, Mrs. Fitzherbert, in a religious ceremony, as  she had refused  to become his mistress, and because he loved her to distraction.  This was not considered a legal marriage, however, and ten years  later, he was formally married to Princess Caroline of Brunswick. They detested each  other. 

After the birth of their daughter, Charlotte, in January 1796, they separated and the Prince went back to his morganatic wife.  There were no more legitimate children.

Charlotte, like most children of broken homes, was torn in her loyalties.  Her mother was liberal and supported Whig policies. Like all young and fashionable people, so did Charlotte. The Whigs, the opposition in parliament, returned the favour and supported the Princesses in their  struggles with the rest of the Royal family. 

The Prince of Wales had, himself, been a  Whig, but, in February, 1812, he repudiated the party in order to get Tory government support for his  becoming Regent with Unrestricted Powers.

At a party on February 13th, 1812, the  Princess Charlotte had burst into tears at hearing about her father’s change of politics.  On  Saturday March 7, an anonymous and scandalous poem about it appeared in the Morning Chronicle  newspaper entitled “Sympathetic Address to a Young Lady”.  [v]

 

In the autumn of 1812, Byron was living at Cheltenham, taking the waters and recovering from ‘a smart attack of the stone’ in the kidney.  In the second week  of October, Byron spent time at Middleton, the country home of Lady Jersey, a close friend of  his and of Princess Charlotte. This week was frequently referred to later, in a  joking way, by Byron in his letters to Lady Melbourne, as she had been there also, as a  very “proper” time.

the week of immaculate memory last autumn at Middleton ... (where the beauties certainly did not belong to the landscape ) …[vi]

 although the recollection of my visit there will always retain it’s “proper” preeminence nor can I possibly pronounce where all was “proper” who was the “properest” but I am sure no one can regret the general propriety half so much as I do[vii]

 

This semms to indicate that there was someone at Middleton in October 1812, that Byron was attracted to, but with whom he had to behave in a “proper” manner.  This “proper” and “immaculate” behaviour was evidently sufficiently frustrating that it became a private joke with Lady Melbourne.  On November 6th 1812, Byron wrote a parenthesis in a letter to Lady Melbourne  

At M[iddleton]- & before - my memory really fails me - I never laughed at P - (by the bye this is an initial which might puzzle posterity when our correspondence bursts forth in the 20th century) [viii] 

 

Well, it certainly puzzles me!

 

It was a common practice to use initials in correspondence to obscure the identity of people being discussed because letters were frequently opened and read by servants, and Byron and Lady Melbourne knew that Caroline Lamb had paid servants to spy on Byron and open his letters.  Why would a “P” puzzle posterity unless it had some historical meaning?  This quote also makes it clear that Byron expected his correspondence to be read in the 20th century and, as he wrote, was editing it with that in mind.

On December 27th, 1812, Byron wrote to Lady Melbourne

I know very little of the P’s party and less of her publication (if it be hers) & am not at all in ye.  secret, but I am aware that the advice given her by the most judicious of her “ little Senate” has been to remain quiet & leave all to the P[rincessl C[harlotte] - I have heard nothing of the thing you mention except in ye papers… I by no means consider myself as attached to her or any party, though I certainly should support her interest... [ix] 

 

It would seem from the context here that “P” is the Princess of Wales.  The “publication” referred to was a release to the press of the Princesses’s side of the family  squabbles, several of which appeared during these years.  This is unusual, as the accepted abbreviation for “Princess” was “Pss”.

Charlotte was allowed to visit her mother at Montague House, Blackheath,  once every two weeks on weekends, and socialize with her friends at dinners and soirees.  When Byron was in his  relationship with Lady Oxford, as she was a close friend of the Princess of  Wales, he would have been there. The Princess of  Wales, of enthusiastic sexuality herself, encouraged her daughter in romantic escapades. She had shut her up in a bedroom with a Lieutenant of dragoons when she was sixteen,  telling the young people to enjoy themselves.  Not surprisingly, the little Princess was not  trusted by her father. She was watched by spying Ladies in Waiting and her letters were opened.

On  December 8th, 1812, from her “prison” at Windsor, Princess Charlotte asked Margaret Mercer Elphinstone to put ‘a little cross in the  corner ‘ of the wrapper of her letters as a secret sign to help her recognize which letters were from her. [x] Crosses seem to have been very  popular secret signs, as Byron began to use them extensively in his correspondence in 1813 and 1814.

Princess Charlotte did something in the summer of 1813 that enraged her father.  He removed her from London, refused to allow her to see Margaret Mercer and more or less imprisoned her at Windsor Castle.  In a letter to Margaret, Charlotte refers to the fact that part of her father’s anger  was caused by her too frequent visits to the portraitist, Sanders, and the presence of Lady Jersey in his studio.

 

 There are at least two portraits of Byron by Sanders.  One is the full size one owned by the Queen, of Byron and his servant Robert Rushton landing from a boat, painted in 1810, before he went to Greece, and the other is a beautiful miniature painted in 1812 or 1813.

In this miniature, Byron is wearing a heavy fur trimmed overcoat called a “pelisse” one of the three that he had bought at great expense in 1812.[xi] So Byron may also have been at Sander’s studios in London when Charlotte was there.

It would be a convenient place for a carefully chaperoned Princess to meet “friends” her father did not consider socially appropriate. Of course, Lady Jersey was one of Byron’s closest friends.

 

A letter written by Charlotte’s mother, the Princess of Wales, refers to having had to comfort Lady Oxford one evening after an emotional scene at one of the parties.  She reported that poor Lady Oxford was in tears and very upset with Lord Byron who was treating her badly.

Perhaps Annabella misunderstood.  Byron may have  been paying court to another Charlotte when Lady Oxford caught him.

 

  The Princess wrote to her friend, Margaret on Wednesday, December  1, 1813. 

I have got Lord Byron’s Bride of Abydos & have already read it through twice I am quite captivated by it & think it quite equal to his Giaour.   It is not a fragment, which. makes it more interesting I think.  Pray get it or let me send it you, & tell me if you do not admire the lines, the story and the poetry. . .  You will think me a little frantic perhaps, but this is just now my rage. [xii]

 

The ”Bride of Abydos” was not released until Thursday, December 2,  1813, so she must have received an advance copy.  On November 22, Byron sent John Murray a list of people who were to receive advance copies – Charlotte’s name was not on the list.

The poem is the story of a lovely young princess, about to be married off by her tyrant father, who languishes in a castle tower until rescued by a heroic lover who dies defending her.

 

But Byron did not mention knowing the Princess.

More in the next edition of   Byronmania


 

Byronic Calendars

 

October, November

and

December

1813

 

 

October 1813

 

Sun

Mon

Tue

Wed

Thu

Fri

Sat

 

 

 Where he is

Who he loves

What he is writing

What he is doing

Where he plans to go

How he feels

 

 

 

 

 

1

4 Bennett Street

?/Lady Frances Webster

To Ly Melbourne:"at Holland House I met Southey"

"the Queen is grown thin & gracious . . . I met Curran there"

Aston

To Ly Melbourne: "she evidently expects to be attacked . . .  my character as a Roue  had gone before me. . . she was “killed in covert””

2

4 Bennett Street

?/LadyFrances Webster

The Giaour

adding lines

toTom Moore: “today I dine with Mackintosh and Mrs. Stale . . . whom I saw last night at Covent Garden”

3

Stilton

?/Lady Frances Webster

The Giaour

additional lines and notes

sending a cheese to John Murray

Aston

4

Aston Hall, Yorkshire

?/Lady Frances Webster

The Curse of Minerva

additional lines and notes

 

5

Aston

?/Lady Frances Webster

To Ly Melbourne: “she is pretty, but  . . . - too thin -and not very animated - but good tempered -& a something interesting enough in her manner & figure. . . but I never should think of her or anyone else - if left to my own cogitations - as I have neither the patience nor presumption to advance until met half-way”

 

6

Aston

 

7

Aston

 

8

Aston

Lady Frances Webster

To Ly Melbourne: “I have made love - & if I am to believe mere words (for there we have hitherto stopped) it is returned ...a billiard room! ... tender... prose was received...and deposited not far from the heart which I wished it to reach...a little too much about virtue...& some sort of etherial process...which I don’t very well understand...but one generally ends and begins with Platonism”

9

10

Newstead Abbey

Lady Frances Webster

lends 1000 pounds to Webster

 

11

Aston

Lady Frances Webster

To Ly Melbourne: “nearly a scene at dinner”

12

Aston

the Giaour

review in the British Review

to John Murray: “The Giaour is certainly a bad character - but not dangerous - &I think his fate and feelings will meet with few proselytes”

13

Aston

Lady Frances Webster

To Ly Melbourne: “the circumstances which have broken off the last three...Caroline...Ly. Oxford..I spare you the third...

“they disputed about their apartments at N[ewstead]...she insisting that her sister should share her room ... you who know me and my weakness so well - will not be surprised when I say that I am totally absorbed in this passion ”

 

14

Aston

Lady Frances Webster

To Ly Melbourne: “the seal is not yet fixed though the wax is preparing for the impression”

 

15

 

16

17

Newstead Abbey

Lady Frances Webster

To Ly Melbourne:. I spared her - there was something so very peculiar in her manner... I sacrificed much - the hour two in the morning...I love her...I have offered to go away with her...i am really wretched with the perpetual conflict with myself” “empty...my skull cup which holds rather better than a bottle of claret in one draught..

18

Newstead Abbey

Lady Frances Webster

 

19

Newstead Abbey/Northhampton

Lady Frances Webster

To Ly Melbourne: ”We are in despair...he was seized with a sudden fit of friendship& would accompany me...she wavered - & escaped - perhaps so have I”

 

20

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

 

 

21

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

To Ly Melbourne: “I do detest everything that is not perfectly mutual ...she had so much more dread of the D...l than gratitude for his kindness - and I am not yet sufficiently in his good graces to indulge my own passions at the certain misery of another ...but she would not go off now - nor render going off unnecessary“

 

22

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

 

23

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

America/Madrid

To Ly Melbourne: ‘Marquis Teedale wants me to go with him to the army - Madrid hath charms more than Glory”

24

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

25

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

To Ly Melbourne: “I hate sentiment - & in consequence my epistolary levity - makes you believe me as hollow & heartless as my letters are light - indeed it is not so

 

26

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

The Bride of Abydos

“the work of a week”

or

“in four nights”

27

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

The Bride of Abydos

“the work of a week”

or

“in four nights”

28

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

The Bride of Abydos

“the work of a week”

or

“in four nights”

29

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

The Bride of Abydos

“the work of a week”

or

“in four nights”

30

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

The Bride of Abydos

“the work of a week”

or

“in four nights”

31

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

The Bride of Abydos

“the work of a week”

or

“in four nights”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


November 1813

 

Sun

Mon

Tue

Wed

Thu

Fri

Sat

 

1

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

 

2

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

 

3

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

 

4

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

The Bride of Abydos

To Ly Melbourne: “In the last three days I have been quite shut up - my mind has been from late and later events in such a state of fermentation that...I have been obliged to empty it in rhyme -& am in the very heart of another eastern tale - something of the Giaour cast -but not so sombre though rather more villainous - this is my usual resource”

5

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

 

6

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

 

7

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

 

8

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

to Augusta -”it is not Ly C nor O but perhaps you may guess - & if you do - do not tell You do not know what mischief your being with me might have prevented”

 

9

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

 

10

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

writing to Annabella Milbanke

(not sent until the 17th)

 

11

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

The Bride of Abydos

corrections and alterations

concern about separate printing

12

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

The Bride of Abydos

corrections and alterations

Journal - I saw the tigers sup at Exeter ‘change ... a “hippopotamus” like Lord Ll in the face; and the “Ursine Sloth” hath the very voice and manner of my valet

13

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

The Bride of Abydos

corrections and alterations

 

14

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

The Bride of Abydos

corrections and alterations

Journal-”last night I finished “Zuleika, my second Turkish tale.  I believe the composition of it kept me alive  - for it was written to drive my thoughts from the rcollection of –

“Dear sacred name, rest ever unrevel’d”

Dallas called ... Lewis...Hodgson...I must...send the device for the seal of myself and ******...call on the Stael and Lady Holland

15

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

The Bride of Abydos

corrections and alterations

Journal-“it has cost me less time (though more hours at a time) than any attempt I have made”

Journal - with Lewis to see the first of Anthony and Cleopatra...received Lord Jersey’s invitation to Middleton

 

16

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

The Bride of Abydos

corrections and alterations

Journal-”got my seals ... at Lord Holland’s with Mackintosh, the Ossulstones, Puysegur

17

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

The Bride of Abydos

corrections and alterations

to Lord Holland - “I was a short time ago in a very larmoyant way - and at those moments I generally take refuge in rhyme  - and so far imagination is a relief as I have often found it”

 

18

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

The Bride of Abydos

corrections and alterations

 

19

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

The Bride of Abydos

corrections and alterations

 

20

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

The Bride of Abydos

corrections and alterations

Ld Holland’s at dinner with Ly Ossulstone

21

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

The Bride of Abydos

corrections and alterations

Journal - I wish to God I had not dined. it kills me with heaviness, stupor and horrible dreams; -and yet it was but a pint of bucellas, and fish ... Oh my head!- how it aches? - the horrors of digestion! ...My head! I believe it was given me to ache with”

22

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

To Ly Melbourne: “C[aroline] has at last done a very good natured thing - she sent me Holmes’s picture for a friend leaving England - to which friend it is now making the best of its way

The Bride of Abydos

corrections and alterations

to John Murray “send the earlist copies -to Mr Frere - Mr Canning - Mr Heber - Mr Gifford - Ld Holland - Ly Melbourne - (Whitehall) - Ly C[aroline] L[amb] Brocket - Mr. Hodgson Cambridge - Mr Merrivale - Mr Ward - from ye. author

joined Lady Holland and party ... at Drury Lane

came home unwell and went to bed

 

23

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

The Bride of Abydos

corrections and alterations

dined with Ward and met “Canning and all the Wits”

 

24

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

Journal- “she would not rest until she had this picture sent”

The Bride of Abydos

corrections and alterations

dined with”Patrons of Pugilism and some of the professors” at Crib’s the champion’s ... “Tom is an old friend of mine”

25

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

The Bride of Abydos

corrections and alterations

 

26

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

The Bride of Abydos

corrections and alterations

 

27

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

The Bride of Abydos

corrections and alterations

Holland

to Dr William Clark “do me the favour of accompanying me to Holland next week”

28

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

The Bride of Abydos

corrections and alterations

(four notes to Murray)

Journal- dined with Lord Holland in St James’s Square “stuffed myself with sturgeon and exceeded in champagne”

29

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

The Bride of Abydos

Errata page as already printed

(at 3 o’clock in the morning ”swearing” and two more notes later in the day)

commented on in the Morning Chronicle

Holland

 to Dr William Clark - “we must not set off upon Speculation...there is nothing I should regret more than the dissolution of our partnership... at all events I am decided to go somewhere”

30

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Lady Frances Webster

The Bride of Abydos

corrections and alterations to the Errata

to John Murray: “dont send copies to the country until this is all right”

 to Tom Moore -”all convusions end with me in rhyme; and, to solace my midnights, I have scribbled another Turkish story...I have written this, and published it, for the sake of the employment to wring my thoughts from reality, and to take refuge in “imaginings” however “horrible”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


December 1813

 

Sun

Mon

Tue

Wed

Thu

Fri

Sat

 

 

 

1

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

2

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

The Bride of Abydos

corrections and alterations,errata

writing to Leigh Hunt

 

3

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

The Bride of Abydos

corrections and alterations,errata

writing to Zachary Macaulay editor of the Christian Observer thanking him for a “just criticsm” of The Giaour

 

4

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

5

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Journal - I only wish the pain over

 

6

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

The Bride of Abydos

corrections and alterations,errata

to John Murray: “the stumble of mine at the Threshold - I mean the misnomer of bride...I wish the printer were saddled with a vampire”

7

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

to Ld Holland -”I really have not nerves to to present a pet[ito]n far less say a word upon it...either indolence - or hippishness - or incapacity - or all three

8

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

to Tom Moore - “I have a habit of ..of uttering your “Oh breathe not”, “When the last glimpse”, and “When he who adores thee” ... they are my matins and vespers.[Webster said]’Byron, I must request you won’t sing any more...they make my wife cry’”

9

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

10

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

The Bride of Abydos

corrections and alterations,errata

to  John Galt -”I had a living character in my eye for Zuleika”

 

11

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

The Bride of Abydos

corrections and alterations,errata

to John Galt -  “”I thought myself two centuries at least too late for the subject;which, though admitting of very powerful feeling and description, yet is not adapted for this age, at least this country, although the finest works of the Greeks, one of Schiller’s and Alfieri’s in modern times, besides several of our old (and best) dramatists, have grounded on incidents of a similar cast

 

12

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Journal -I do not feel sociable enough for dinner today; - and I will not go to Sheridan’s on Wednesday... I only go out to get me a fresh appetite for being alone... came home and went to bed, not having eaten

13

“out of town”

 

14

“out of town”

two notes to Murray - one in an archaic style and vocabulary

 

writing to Thomas Ashe [the satirist who wrote about Princesses Caroline and Charlotte] “inform me what sum you think would enable you to ...regain at least temporary independence

15

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

The Bride of Abydos

to Edward Clarke - I felt compelled to make my hero and heroine relatives...I had nearly made them rather too much akin... - yet the times... induced me to alter their consanguinity & confine them to cousinship... I have used Bride Turkishly as affianced not married. I want to show you Lord Sligo’s letter to me detailing the Athenian account ..of our adventure ..which...suggested the story of the Giaour

 

16

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

The Bride of Abydos

corrections and alterations,errata

 

17

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

The Devil’s Drive

18

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Augusta

 

19

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

 

 

20

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

 

21

4 Bennet Street, St James’s

 

 

 

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4 Bennet Street, St James’s

Augusta

to Leigh Hunt -”The nearest relation and almost ye. only friend I possess ­­- has been in London for a week & leaves it tomorrow with me for her own residence - I return immediately - ...I should feel highly honoured in Mr. Brougham’s permission to make his acquaintance.

 

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Six Mile Bottom

Augusta

 

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London

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Unacknowledged Legislators

 

by John W. Leys, J.S.P.S.


 

            One thing I hate almost more than anything else in life is explaining my motivations to people.  I mean, I barely know why I do what I do let alone explain it to someone else.  When people start asking silly questions, about why I do things it forces me to actually think about why I do things.  Even if it's something seemly inconsequential I will spend hours wondering and trying to work out why I do some of the strange things I do.  So a few months ago when Anne Mott asked me why I chose to name my poetry related website Unacknowledged Legislators, after the famous Percy Shelley quote, I was struck speechless.  Why did I name it that?  Do I really believe all that crap Shelley used to spout about poetry’s influence on the world?  Well, the simple solution would have been to say “Well, Anne, I chose that name because it sounded nice, and yes, I do believe all that crap”.  But I didn’t think that’s the response she was looking for.  Hopefully this essay is a little more satisfying for all of us.

 

            A little over a year ago at the suggestion of my soon-to-be fiancée, Michelle, I began creating a website dedicated to Lord Byron.  Part of the way through the creation of this site I decided that I wanted it to be about more than just Byron did.  I envisioned a site dedicated to poetry and writing in general with a few specialized pages about some of my favorite authors.  The only problem I had was that I needed a good name for this site.  I thought it would be best to use part of a quotation from a poet, but which one?  While thumbing through Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, or The Atheist’s Bible as Kurt Vonnegut is wont to call it, I came across this quotation from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s A Defense of Poetry: “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world”[xiii].  I knew immediately that this is what I was looking for.  In one sentence, it summed up how I felt about poets, and it could easily be shortened to “Unacknowledged Legislators” which made a nice short title for a website.  Everything was working just fine until Anne started asking questions and making my brain hurt.  Do I really believe that poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world?  Wouldn’t Byron scoff at the very idea?  The answer to both questions is yes.

 

             Poets and Artists see the world a little differently than everyone else.  It’s hard to say exactly how, but in some ways, they see it a lot clearer than anyone.  Poets write about themselves, but somehow manage to become a reflection of everyone.  The best poets encapsulate all of mankind within themselves.  I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of reading a poem or hearing a song and thinking “I though I was the only one who felt that way”.  Poets can also use their work to let others share their vision of the world.  To show what they feel is wrong with it and what they feel needs to be changed.  In this way they can change the way people see themselves in the world, the way they see others, and affect they way they act.  In 1995 Pete Townshend said, “If you want to change the world, you have to get out there and change it.  Music is not going to change it.  Music changes the way you live in the world.  It changes the way you see it.  But it doesn't change the world itself.”[xiv] He was talking about rock music, but the same principle can easily be applied to poetry.  For what are songs if not lyric poems?  In fact, activism in popular music is probably the best argument for Shelley’s view of poets.  This is despite the fact that much of it is ineffective due to the listener's reluctance to act on anything that is presented to them.  Many prefer to just give lip service to “the cause” and hope someone else will do the dirty work.  However, in theory, Shelley was correct.  Some poets though choose to take a more active role in changing the world with their words.

 

Poet Julia Stein has long been interested in workers' rights due to her grandmother’s experiences in the sweatshops of the Bennett, Hollander, and Louis pants factory in Pittsburgh during the early part of this century.  In recent years, she has gone from writing poems about the horrors of the sweatshops and their relation to similar operations today to actively supporting movements to change these abominable conditions.  On 8 September 1996 she organized the first Justice for Garment Workers literary reading in support of UNITE, the garment workers' union.  On September 18, 1997, Guess Inc. filed a libel/slander suit against Stein’s reading.  Guess Inc. claimed that the organizers of the “so-called literary reading” were conspiring with UNITE against the corporation.[xv]  Apparently, the written word still strikes fear into some.  And this is only one example.  There are many other, too many to list here.  Of course the more cynical among us will scoff at the whole idea that poets can do anything remotely productive.

 

Lord Byron would have been the first to discount poetry’s importance to the world.  He was of the opinion that one only wrote poetry if they couldn’t do anything else.  Because of his club foot he was convinced that he was incapable of doing anything “important” so he busied himself with poetry.  As a poet myself I can whole heartily relate to this view.  If someone came up to me and told me that what I’ve written could change the world I’d laugh in their face.  I’m by no means an expert on Byron or psychology, but as someone with a working knowledge of both, and a fair understanding of my own motivations, I can safely guess at what motivated Byron’s views on poetry.  It’s very difficult for many artists to see the value of their own work.  It’s the inborn insecurity that so many of us carry around with us.  We think so little of ourselves that we can’t conceive that anything we’d produce could be of any worth.  Byron had a strong Don Quixote streak in him, and felt that only actions could change the world.  He was partially correct.  It takes direct action to effect change, but what he couldn’t see was that poets can influence other people’s actions.  It was this way of thinking that led him to Missolonghi.  It is unfortunate that he did not subscribe to Shelley’s way of thinking.  If he had lent his pen to the Greeks, he may have aroused sympathy for their cause without having to sacrifice his own life.

 

Today poetry has lost much of it’s power and respect.  It’s place has largely been taken, for good or bad, by popular music.  Many poets have betrayed their sacred trust by concentrating on form over substance.  They compose trite stylized and obscure verses that only other poets could ever decipher.  This literary masturbation is a perversion of what a poet’s job is.  What good is a legislature that only legislates to itself?  Poetry should be for everyone, not just for the enlightened few.  For if the poet only communicates to other poets, what good is he doing?  The rock lyricists and rappers of today are among the few that still understand the power that their art has over others.  They have for the most part replaced poetry in the hearts of the common people.  Sometimes I grieve for the dying art and vow to resuscitate it.  But sometimes I just sigh and accept her successors, and hope that they’ll let a quixotic fool join in their legislation.

 



[i] Byron’s Letters and Journals, volume 4, 1814 –1815, ed. Leslie a. Marchand . Murray, London 1973.  Note on page127 and letters from Byron to Augusta on pages 126 and 131 – (Lady Charlotte took fright and married someone else)

[ii] Lord Byron’s Wife, Malcolm Elwin, Harcourt Brace, New York, 1962 page 163

[iii] BLJ vol 4. Page 36

[iv] Letters of The Princess Charlotte, A. Aspinall, Home and Van Thal, London, 1949 .page 35

[v]BLJ vol 2. Note on page 183

[vi] BLJ vol 4

[vii] BLJ vol 4

[viii] BLJ vol 4

[ix] BLJ vol 3

[x] Letters of the Princess Charlotte

[xi] Lord Byron: Accounts Rendered. Doris Langley Moore, John Murray, 1974. Page 191

[xii]Letters of the Princess Charlotte

References

 

[xiii] Bartlett, John. Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. Ed. Justin Kaplan. 16th ed. Boston: Little Brown, 1992. Page 410. Note: The full text of Shelley’s A Defense of Poetry is available online at: http://library.utoronto.ca/www/utel/rp/criticism/shell_il.html

[xiv] “Pete Townshend Interview -- from The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll” (1995): Online. Internet. Available: http://www.the-spa.com/thirteen/townshen/hollywo.htm

[xv] Stein, Julia “Poets Take On Guess Inc.: Poets Win.” Electronic Book Review 5 (1997):  Online. Internet. Available: http://www.altx.com/ebr/ebr5/stein.htm