Friday, 27 February 2015

You've Been Framed! As Lord Byron Rages Against the Machine; Tee Bylo's in a Celebratory Mood...

Today is February 27 and on this day (some years and then some more!) my mother was delivered of me and some 203 years earlier Lord Byron delivered his maiden speech in the House of Lords and by some account; 'the best speech by a Lord since the "Lord knows when".

"I have traversed the seat of war in the Peninsula; I have been in some of the most oppressed provinces of Turkey; but never, under the most despotic of infidel governments, did I behold such squalid wretchedness as I have seen since my return, in the very heart of a Christian country.
And what are your remedies?

After months of inaction, and months of action worse than inactivity, at length comes forth the grand specific....
Setting aside the palpable injustice and the certain inefficiency of the bill, are there not capital punishments sufficient on your statutes?

Is there not blood enough upon your penal code, that more must be poured forth to ascend to heaven and testify against you?

How will you carry this bill into effect?
Can you commit a whole county to their own prisons?
Will you erect a gibbet in every field, and hang up men like scare-crows?

Or will you proceed (as you must to bring this measure into effect) by decimation; place the county under martial law; depopulate and lay waste all around you, and restore Sherwood Forest as an acceptable gift to the crown in its former condition of a royal chase, and an asylum for outlaws?
Are these the remedies for a starving and desperate populace?"

Thursday February 27 1812

Yes, indeed on this very day our Poet spoke out in "A Rage Against the Machine"....
Not unlike the US group of the same name who sang Killing in the Name of... which became an unlikely Christmas hit song some years ago!

Byron was addressing his fellow Peers and "raging" against the Framebreaking Bill that would introduce the death penalty for anyone found guilty of machine-breaking for Nottingham at that time was in the throes of crisis.

In the infancy of the industrial revolution, manufacturers in the stocking-weaving business exploited the advances in technology to employ greater uses for new machinery, the looms would deliver goods at a faster and cheaper rate to the detriment of the workers.

As the stocking-weavers found themselves surplus to requirements with wages falling and with 50,000 families reduced to starvation; organised gangs of desperate and hungry men began breaking the manufacturers' looms led by the mythical "King Ludd".

Troops were sent to Nottingham to quell the industrial unrest and rebellion and in the light of this revolt by the Luddites, the Tory cabinet proposed the Framebreaker's Bill.

Byron identified with the Luddite cause and claiming to be as penniless as those he supported, he sought the support of Lord Holland as the leader of the Whigs to address the House and to voice his opposition to the introduction of the death penalty.

My Lord, - 
My own motive for opposing ye. bill is founded on it's palpable injustice, & it's certain inefficacy... I have seen the state of these miserable men, & it is a disgrace to a civilized country.

Their excesses may be condemned, but cannot be subject of wonder. The effect of ye. present bill would be to drive them into actual rebellion...

P.S. - I am a little apprehensive that your Lordship will think me too lenient towards these men, & half a framebreaker myself.

Although his speech was well received, Byron was to find that he was not suited to the slow daily business of Parliament, the "Parlimentary mummeries" as he was soon to call them, his temperament too volatile and easily distracted and besides the tale of a certain "Childe Harold" would soon to be unleashed upon London society as he was to write to Francis Hodgson in early March:

....of them I shall mention Sir F. Burdetts. - He says it is the best speech by a Lord since the "Lord knows when" probably from a fellow feeling in ye. sentiments. - ....

And so much for vanity. - - I spoke very violent sentences with a sort of modest impudence, abused every thing & every body, & put the Ld. Chancellor very much out of humour, & if I may believe what I hear, have not lost any character by the experiment. - As to my delivery, loud and fluent enough, perhaps a little theatrical. - - I could not recognise myself or any one else in the Newspapers.... & my poem comes out on Saturday.

Hobhouse is here, I shall tell him to write. - My Stone is gone for the present, but I fear is part of my habit - - We all talk of a visit to Cambridge...
yrs. ever

If your curiosity has been piqued by the history of the Luddite Movement and Byron's 'rage against the machine', why not enjoy a read of the historical novel by my fellow Byronian Christy Fearn published by Open Books in 2013...

As French émigré Roman Catholics, Lizette Molyneux and her brother Robert are used to an existence on the edge of their Regency Nottingham community. But when Robert is arrested for a crime he insists he did not commit, Lizzie must draw on all her strength and courage to help him. Overcoming poverty, prejudice and the unwanted advances of her employer’s son, she unites with the frame-breaking Luddites to free her brother and to rectify social injustice.

With all the excitement of Sharpe (Bernard Cornwell), as well as the social commentary of Elizabeth Gaskell and Victor Hugo, Framed dramatises the issues of a turbulent time and champions the resistance of poverty-stricken workers. If you liked Les Miserables, then you’ll love Framed!

The young man sighed as his carriage drew to a halt in the courtyard.
Catching sight of his reflection in the coach window, he saw how his cheeks had already lost their suntanned glow. His dark hair now felt too long. He stepped down and gazed around him.

The lake was the same leaden grey, and the gaping arch of the empty abbey window yawned a greeting to him. Two years. Two years since he had been home. How much was the same, but how much had changed. He shivered. The English summer weather would be winter in the countries from which he had just returned; the places he had described in his poetry.

His thoughts ran to what John Murray had said in London: 'You have found your own voice.'
His musings on his travels were appreciated, his writing was approved, ready for publication, ready for an audience.

A loud clatter broke his reverie as his stout servant heaved luggage from the coach.
'Careful, Fletcher, there are fragile jars in there.'
'Sorry, m'lord.' 
Fletcher slowly dragged the case towards the abbey steps....

A Historical Novel about the Revolt of the Luddites

Sources Used:
Byron's Letters & Journals Vol 2 1810-1812, Ed: Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray 1973)
Byron The Making of a Myth, Stephen Coote (London: The Bodley Head 1988)
Framed. An Historical Novel about the Revolt of the Luddites, Christy Fearn (UK: Open Books 2013)

Thursday, 19 February 2015

It's February and the Outlook Looks Sticky for Lord Byron and the Arctic Monkeys!

I just adore the song by the Arctic Monkeys called Black Treacle taken from their fabulous album Suck It and See...

Now it's getting dark and the sky looks sticky
More like black treacle than tar
Black treacle...

Ah, ah! I know what you are thinking! Black Treacle and Lord Byron?

Well, let me explain for over 200 years ago, our noble Poet had enjoyed his honeymoon with Annabella Milbanke at Halnaby Hall, a Milbanke ancestral abode in Croft-on-Tees after their wedding at Seaham Hall, the other Milbanke abode on Monday January 2 1815.

However, to sound a note of caution and in the light of the varying recollections, scandals and innuendo that have surrounded Byron's fated marriage throughout history, perhaps my use of the word 'enjoyed' should not be taken too literally for in a letter to his friend Tom Moore, Byron had written:

...the treaclemoon is over, and I am awake, and find myself married. My spouse and I agree to - and in- admiration. Swift says "no wise man ever married"; but, for a fool, I think it is the most ambrosial of all possible future states.

I still think one ought to marry upon lease; but am very sure I would renew mine at the expiration, though next term were for ninety and nine years.
I wish you would respond...

As it is hardly the missive of an enamoured Bridegroom, it is perhaps not surprising that the celebrated author of Irish Melodies struggled to respond...

Treacle Series by Tara Keatinge

However, I have no problems with my response to treacle, either to eat or to listen to!
Adieu for now!

Does it help you stay up late?
Does it help you concentrate?
Does it tune you in when you chew your chin?
Am I ruining your fun?

Sources Used:
Black Treacle Arctic Monkeys (EMI Music Publishing Ltd 2011)
Byron's Letters and Journals Vol 4 (1814-1815) Ed: Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray 1975)

Thursday, 22 January 2015

227 Years Young! Tee Bylo Celebrates with a Ramble and a Slice or Two of Birthday Cake...

It's 'Sweets for My Sweet' today as our noble Poet is 227 years young and I'm going to celebrate with a slice or two of this delicious birthday cake that was purchased in his honour and despite a journey through traffic and ice only to have to wrestle my way through a local supermarket in which 'Every Little Helps' certainly did not on this particular morning; however, that is for another tale!

 For in 1821 and whilst living in Ravenna, Byron began a journal in which he recorded his thoughts on the Carbonari revolutionary movement and on their campaign to free Italy from Austrian rule along with his growing love for Teresa Guiccioli and of his continuing friendship with the Poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.

He began the Ravenna Journal on January 4 and made his final entry on February 27 which also happens to be the day that I was born, albeit a few years later!

Byron celebrated his own birthday on Monday January 22 1821 and the excitement that he felt is reflected in the journal entry...

It is three minutes past twelve. - "'Tis the middle of the night by the castle clock," and I am now thirty-three!
"Eheu, fugaces, Posthume, Posthume,
Labuntur anni;"
but I don't regret them so much for what I have done, as for what I might have done.

Though life's road, so dim and dirty,
I have dragg'd to three-and-thirty.
What have these years left to me?
Nothing - except thirty-three.

As he watched the minutes tick by towards his birthday the evening before with palpable exhilaration he completed his journal on Sunday January 21 1821 with the following entry:

To-morrow is my birthday - that is to say, at twelve o' the clock, midnight, i.e. in twelve minutes, I shall have completed thirty and three years of age!!!! - and I go to my bed with a heaviness of heart at having lived so long, and to so little purpose.

I agree that 226 years is rather a long time to have lived for so long, however, I would have to disagree with him that his life has been spent with so little purpose and in honour of His Lordship’s birthday I have created another unique tribute!

For beginning at the dawn of Thursday January 22 2015 and continuing until midnight, I shall be publishing a series of blog posts about my travels as a ‘Regency’ Recondite as I go in search of a dead poet’s society and with extracts from his letters and poetry including some from his admirers and detractors alike, I hope that it will prove to be an enjoyable sojourn for you; albeit from the comfort of your chair!

Simply click on the link and without 'Sparing the Horses', let your travels commence!

I shall bid you a fond 'Adieu' as I go in search of a large plate and ONE dessert fork!
Tee Bylo

Sources Used:
Born for Opposition Byron's Letters and Journals Volume 8 (1821) Ed: Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray 1978)

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

It's Pistols at Lunchtime as Byron and His Poetic Comrades Fight the Undead at Newstead Abbey...

Newstead Abbey, Nottinghamshire, England.
Summer 1815
La Parte Une:
Lunchtime. (Nearly)

George Gordon Byron’s eyes snapped open and he stared at the canopy of his fourposter bed above him, realising he was being rudely awakened. The banging was only somewhat in his head and mainly on his door. Rolling his head he saw and remembered he was not alone and that the door was possibly the only place in the room where banging had not taken place last night. Saturday night, now Sunday morning?
Yes, with Maud… Martha… M…M…M… Marion. The new maid. Making a mental note to make a written note of the names in future, he rose and yanked open his bedroom door to reveal his servant, stocky and dependable.
            ‘Fletcher! Heavens man d’you want to wake the dead ?!’
            ‘No, m’lord but something seems to have done and your guests are a bit perplexed. Took the liberty of assembling them with your visitors in the Great Hall.’
Byron regarded his man; a little older than his own twenty-seven years. Together they’d seen it all and anything that spooked Fletcher was seriously weird.
His guests! It all came back to him, shoving last evening’s shenanigans aside. Wait – the awoken? No, first things first. After another blazing row with Annabella he’d quit London telling the missus he’d be up at Newstead curating his recently formed Live Poets Society until further notice. Then, of course, he’d had to swiftly arrange the actuality of the fabricated excuse that had rolled off his tongue. So he’d rattled off the names to Fletcher to contact and invite. Then they’d headed up country.
Sir Walter Scott and that silly sod Southey had arrived yesterday and Coleridge and Keats were on their way, as were…
Wait – visitors?
Byron threw on some clobber and gently woke Marion with a cup of water sloshed in her face, a slap on her bum and a shrill ‘Off with you please, Maud!’

His lordship found his Great Hall full. He blinked. Sir Walter Scott, a broad and brawny middle-aged gent with cropped iron grey hair was resplendent in gaudy tartan finery and was standing with sulky Southey. He was slightly younger and infinitely more conventionally dressed. So far so good. But the others?
A sergeant of the local militia and some thirty of his red-coated troopers were intermingled with the village people; those men numbered around twenty-five and carried about their persons various hammers, axes, scythes along with a few old firearms. A couple winked at him.
            ‘Sergeant Baker?’
            ‘Morning m’lord, thank you for accommodating us and Ned Ludd’s lads here.’

            ‘Luddites?’ said Byron, avoiding more frantic winking, ‘if there’s a plot here, please explain it very, very briefly!’
            ‘Right-ho m’lord. Well, last night, our militia patrol found Cap’n Swing’s boys framebreaking and we chased ‘em out and squared up to ‘em in the village churchyard. Just as it were all about to crack off, there’s an unholy moaning and groaning from the Pegg Family vault and, well, concisely put m’lord, the long-term and more recently deceased ‘pon my honour, emerged then shuffled, lurched or ran at all of us and tried to eat us. M’lord.’
A murmur of agreement came from the gathered potential combatants. Southey raised an eyebrow and Sir Walter Scott dashed off, fast.
Sergeant Baker continued his report:
            ‘Lieutenant Pidgeon bravely advanced on one cadaverous assailant, drew his sword and lopped an arm off, but it kept coming and it bit his throat out! At this, the vicar, Reverand Cooper emerged from the church and threw holy water at an emaciated matriarch, but to no avail and he went down too: as her supper.’
At this point one of the troopers stepped forward saluting:
            ‘Beggin’ your pardon, sirs –‘
            ‘Private Rhodes, m’lord,’ said Baker.
            ‘Well it was like this, y’see, sirs. On seeing Lieutenant Pidgeon and the parson all munched up like they woz a Sunday roast, it fair got me dander up an’ I opened fire at the armless bloke – ‘coz he wasn’t ‘armless, woz he? Anyway I shot through the heart, but he kept on chewing at the Lieutenant. So I put another right in ‘is noggin and down ‘e went like a ninepin! Tried it on another one – same! Seems like these folks what’s returning from their not so final rest go back to it thataways.’
Byron nodded his thanks to the young trooper and said:
            ‘It’s a grave situation, right enough. The officer and the clergy gone…’
The old sweat interrupted:
            ‘That ain’t the half of it sir! During the ensuing melée, some of the Luddites got brought down - we were fighting back to back, but what with the darkness and the confusion, well…’
Southey piped up:
            ‘Brevity please, man!’
You can talk, thought Byron, but listened as the militiaman concluded his tale of terror.
Byron took a deep breath and addressed Southey, the returned Sir Walter Scott, and his staff:
            ‘So, the dead are rising and are after the flesh of the living to feast on, and they can only be despatched by a shot to the head…’
            ‘Or a right good skull-crackin’ whack on the nut with a mallet or some such cudgel m’lord!’ interjected one of the framebreakers, brandishing a large hammer encrusted with brains, to evidence his point.

To Be Continued...

You can read more of Greg's hilariously fantastic tale of the romantic poets fighting the undead at Newstead Abbey with a visit to the blog of Christy Fearn...

Christy Fearn is a novelist. Her debut novel 'Framed' was published by Open Books in March 2013. Christy lives and works in Nottingham.
She is a self-confessed 'Byron nut' and has a tattoo of Lord Byron on her arm.

Thank you Christy for permission to share this swashbuckling tale of ghouls and derring do, and a HUGE 'thank you' to Greg for writing it!

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