After a little research into the life of Lord Byron, I almost wish there was a hell, for surely he deserves to be there.
I got started on Byron when I accidentally came upon the BBC Radio 4 Facebook page. There I found a link to an audio about Lord Byron's daughter, Allegra, who was sent off to a convent and died there at the age of five. That's bad enough, but Byron ignored her letters asking him to visit her. After listening, I starting reading bits and pieces of Byron's story and the anger in me grew.
Byron couldn't resist the advances of an 18 year old girl, Claire Clairmont (half-sister to Mary Shelley), who was dazzled by his good looks and his fame. He spurned her at first, but succumbed to primal urges. This is from a letter he wrote to his half-sister, Augusta Leigh (also one of his sex partners), in 1816,
Now don’t scold; but what could I do?--a foolish girl, in spite of all I could say or do, would come after me, or rather went before--for I found her here--and I have had all the plague possible to persuade her to go back again; but at last she went. Now, dearest, I do most truly tell thee that I could not help this, that I did all I could to prevent it, and have at last put an end to it. I was not in love, nor have any love left for any; but I could not exactly play the Stoic with a woman who had scrambled eight hundred miles to unphilosophise me. Besides, I had been regaled of late with so many "two courses and a desert" (Alas!) of aversion, that I was fain to take a little love (if pressed particularly) by way of novelty.As a result of his taking "a little love," a daughter, Allegra, was born in January 1817. When Allegra was a toddler, Claire gave over the care of the child to Byron. After she became a bother to him, he arranged for her to be sent to a convent run by the Capuchin nuns in Bagnacavallo, a distance of about 15 miles from Palazzo Guiccioli where Byron stayed in Ravenna, Italy. (Byron's mistress, wife of Count Gicciolo, is said not to have liked the little girl.) Byron had many mistresses in the course of his life; I'm only including the bare minimum of detail, since the story of Byron is full of him thumbing his nose at society, politics, sex, and lots of writing. To learn more about little Allegra, please listen to the BBC audio.
A long introduction to a short poem!
Click to enlarge for easier reading. © Diane Mayr, all rights reserved. The background is the portion of a letter to Byron from a nun in which Allegra addresses her father. The original is found at the Bodleian Libraries at Oxford. I have no information on the Allegra picture, but since it is in the public domain, I felt free to alter it. A version can be found at Wikipedia.
Head over to Reading to the Core for this week's Poetry Friday Round-Up!