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June 15, 2010

CAAF: Your ex-girlfriend gives it one year, tops

thebyrons.jpg

I'm amused by this pen and ink sketch of Lord and Lady Byron shortly after their marriage. It was drawn by Lady Caroline Lamb, who had carried on an affair with the poet before being thrown over a few years before (it was Lamb who called Bryon "mad, bad and dangerous to know"). As with the couple's correspondence about religion, it's an early signal that the marriage was headed for a spectacular flame-out. Lamb was hardly objective of course, but look at that body language!

The sketches Lamb kept in her journals have real wit and charm. But the novel she later wrote about Byron, Glenarvon, is wonderfully terrible. I'm reading it right now and it's like slogging through a juvenile Bronte effort with all the trotting around moonlit ruins and character names like Calantha, the Duchess of Altamonte and Sir Everard St. Clare. Sample:

At this very period of time, in the prosecution of her sudden and accursed designs, having bade adieu to brighter climes and more polished manners, with all the gaiety of apparent innocence, and all the brilliancy of wit which belongs to spirits light as air and a refined and highly cultivated genius, she was sailing, accompanied by a train of admirers, selected from the flower of Italy, once again to visit her native country.

That does sound fancy, doesn't it? And evil. I wish Lamb had done the book as a graphic novel instead.

(Sketch scanned from Fiona MacCarthy's very good Bryon: Life and Legend.)

Posted June 15, 2010 12:48 PM

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