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!

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Introducing Byron... Lord of the Vampyre!

Was Lord Byron the First English Vampire?
A Halloween Essay

Lord Byron, the quintessential rake, was renowned for his outrageous sex life, and inspired equal parts fascination and disgust in the minds of men and women alike. 

In 1812, he became obsessed with Lady Caroline Lamb, a wife and mother, and tried to break up her marriage that he might possess her completely. Smitten with the dashing poet, Lady Caroline engaged in a well-publicized affair with him. Soon, however, Byron became bored with his conquest and abandoned her. Lady Caroline was devastated.

Her heartbreak evolved into a bitter hatred in the subsequent years, as Byron fathered a child with his half-sister, Augusta Leigh, and then married Lady Caroline’s cousin, Anne Isabella “Annabella” Milbanke. Their marriage proved to be an unhappy one, due in large part to Byron’s incessant philandering.

Portentously, in April 1815, the Indonesian volcano Mount Tambora erupted, blanketing Europe in a thick cloud of volcanic ash. Global weather patterns would be seriously disrupted for several years, leading to famine, riots, and bizarre weather phenomena.

The following January, Lord Byron’s wife left him immediately after the birth of their daughter. Depressed, Byron eased his pain with Claire Clairmont, the step-sister of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin. A month or two later, his divorce was finalized, and Byron decided to leave for the continent.

At that same time, Lady Caroline Lamb finally got a measure of revenge against her former lover with the May 1816 publication of her novel Glenarvon

The title character, “Clarence de Ruthven, Lord Glenarvon,” was a thinly-disguised satire of Byron, and proved to be the villain of the piece, leading the female protagonist into a tragic love-affair and paying the ultimate price for his treachery. The novel, understood to be a “kiss-and-tell” fictionalization of her relationship with Byron, immediately sold out and went into multiple reprintings and revised editions.

As the scandalous novel came out, Byron hired a 20-year-old doctor, John W. Polidori, as his personal physician and secretary, and they left England to tour Europe. 
Within a month, they settled in Switzerland, where Byron received some visitors in what may be the most famous vacation in the annals of English literature: Percy Bysshe Shelley, his fiancée Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, and her step-sister Claire Clairmont (Byron’s erstwhile lover).

As the weather was unusually miserable, due to the after-effects of the recent volcanic eruption, the group was forced to remain indoors, and they struggled to find ways to entertain themselves. (One of Byron’s pastimes involved getting Claire Clarimont pregnant.) 

One night, after reading aloud from a book of horror stories, Byron suggested that they all come up with ghost stories and have a contest to see whose was the scariest. Mary invented the basis of the story of Frankenstein, and Byron produced a fragment of a story that he would never finish. 

Dr. Polidori, who was clearly out of his league, came up with a tale of a skull-headed woman, whose uncanny appearance was a supernatural punishment for peeping through keyholes. His contribution was cruelly derided and mocked.

Polidori’s relationship with Byron soured for various reasons, and he was soon dismissed from his job. The doctor returned to his father’s native Italy, and there decided to get his own form of literary revenge on Lord Byron. 

Inspired by Lady Caroline Lamb, Polidori created a character called “Lord Ruthven” (pronounced riven, by the way), drawing the name from her own version of Byron. Polidori’s Lord Ruthven was a vampire, but unlike the vampires of traditional folklore, this one was a suave aristocrat who preyed on the young women of the British upper class, destroying their lives with his evil. 

The character was, again, a thinly-veiled satire on Byron and his hijinks. 
To rub salt in the wound, Polidori plagiarized Byron’s ghost story and created a novel called The Vampyre.

The following year, after marrying Percy, Mary Shelly turned her ghost story into the novel Frankenstein, or, the Modern Prometheus, which was first published in January 1818 and quickly became a popular success. 

Over a year later, in April 1819, Polidori’s novel was published, without his permission, in a British magazine. To make matters worse, the tale was attributed to Lord Byron, which infuriated both men and set off a bitter public feud. Meanwhile, The Vampyre became a smash hit in France.

The Vampyre is credited as the first work of the vampire genre in English, and also the first anywhere to portray the undead creature as an aristocratic sex-fiend rather than a gruesome monster. 
It served as one of the inspirations for Bram Stoker’s Dracula at the end of the century, though its authorship was in dispute for a long time, which prevented Polidori from cashing in on Lord Ruthven’s popularity.

In 1821, Dr. John W. Polidori committed suicide. (Interestingly, some years after his death, his sister, Frances Polidori Rossetti, gave birth to Christina Rossetti, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and their siblings.)

For his part, Lord Byron died in 1824 from an illness which was exacerbated, ironically, by having blood drained from his body by his doctors.

Disposable Thoughts on a Disposable Culture

"I have besides a personal dislike to vampires and the little acquaintance I have with them would by no means induce me to reveal their secrets..."
Lord Byron

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

In Defense of Byron's 'Bell'...

As much as I adore the poetry, letters and "scribblings" of Lord Byron and remain intrigued by his unique and fascinating life; I also believe that his image as the original Regency "bad boy" has been complimented by the scandal that surrounded his marriage of a mere 54 weeks to Annabella Milbanke on January 2 1815 at her family home in Seaham Hall in County Durham and which precipitated his journey into exile from their London home at 13 Piccadilly Terrace in April 1816.

Although Byron's reputation has been rehabilitated since his death in April 1824, the story of his estranged spouse has frequently been degenerated in return and it was with this in mind that I began a 'Lady Byron Blog' in 2012 as an attempt to 'even' the balance of opinion as it were.

'Portrait of Annabella Milbanke in 1812 by Charles Hayter Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery in London'

'I hope to leave this world without having said a word that could damage anybody, and so I must let people say what they will of me'
Ann Isabella Lady Noel Byron

The Lady and the Poet is the story of the life of Byron's 'Bell' Milbanke that I hope will offer an interesting and spirited insight into the life of remarkable and much maligned woman who became the wife of one of history's most famous and scandalous Poets...

Saturday, 9 August 2014

'Plain Yet Decent', Byron Bids Adieu to a Most Amiable Mamma...

I thought my dear Augusta that your opinion of my meek mamma would coincide with mine...
But she flies into a fit of phrenzy, upbraids me as if I was the most undutiful wretch in existence, rakes up the ashes of my father, abuses him, says I shall be a true Byrrone, which is the worst epiphet she can invent.
Am I call to this woman mother?

In the hagiography that often passes for the writing of Byron's life, Catherine Gordon Byron is somewhat of a Marmite figure... You either love her or you hate her!

My hatred of Marmite is equal to the fondness that I have for the story of Byron's most "Amiable Mamma", "A tender and peremptory parent who indulged me sometimes with holidays and now and then with a box on the ear."

Catherine Gordon was born in 1764 in the Castle of Gight, in the shire of Aberdeen to Katherine Innes and George Gordon, the 12th Laird of Gight and her ancestry as a Gordon of Gight which lay claim to a descent from the sister of King James the Second, were a wild race noted for their ferocious battles, treacherous deeds, suicide and murder.

"My dear Sir, - The Earl of Huntley & the Lady Jean Stewart daughter of James 1st. of Scotland were the progenitors of Mrs. Byron. I think it would be as well to be correct in the Statement..."

With the suicide of her father who had been found drowned in the Avon Canal in Bath on January 9 1779, the "romping good-humoured girl of sixteen, inclined to corpulency" became the 13th and final Laird of Gight.

With a passion for dancing and with a temper to match, the wealthy, outspoken and superstitious Miss Gordon was introduced to Bath society in 1785.

 Her presence was to be quickly noted by John "Mad Jack" Byron who despite his grief for the death of his wife Amelia, Baroness Conyers and the plight of his motherless daughter Augusta, "Mad Jack" was also in desperate need of a wife who could continue to support him in the manner to which he had become accustomed.

The naive and romantic Catherine was to be united in Holy Matrimony to the feckless and charming John Byron on Friday May 13 1785 at St Michael's Church in Bath and with no marriage settlement in place, all Byron had to do was to agree to take the name of Gordon and then he could make free with his wife's money, all £22,580 of it.

O where are ye gaein', bonny Miss Gordon,
O where are ye gaein' sae bonnie and braw.
Ye've married, ye've married wi' Jonny Byron,
To squander the lands of Gight awa'

For not only had Catherine married an upstart Englishman but by the winter of 1787 and with the lands of Gight squandered "awa'"Catherine now "big with bairn" was now following her cruel and dissipated husband to Chantilly in France in an effort to escape his creditors.

As the birth of her child approached, Catherine returned to England and having surrendered the care of the five year old Augusta to to Lady Holderness, the impoverished young woman moved into a furnished room at 16 Holles Street to await her confinement, alone.

And it was here that on Tuesday January 22 1788 she was to give birth to a boy who was born with a caul over his head, a deformity of the right leg and with the prosaic names of George Gordon Byron in honour of her father.

Catherine returned to her homeland in Aberdeen when her "dear son George" was a toddler and after the death of "Mad Jack" on August 2 1791 in Valenciennes, she devoted herself to the well being of her "ill-deedie laddie" denying him nothing despite his mischievous nature, her tightened purse strings and short temper.

Their provincial and happy life in Aberdeen would come to an end in August 1798 as Catherine and Byron who was now the Sixth Lord Byron, left Scotland to take possession of Newstead Abbey in Nottingham, the ancestral pile of the Byron family since the Reformation.

Now that Byron was a Peer of the Realm, Catherine would find herself increasingly marginalised over time as the decisions concerning the health and education of her son were now the responsibilities of others.
Maternal pride and a fond concern would frequently be mistaken for ignorance, fickleness and tedious embarrassment of which Byron was to become painfully aware of.

"Mrs Byron was a total stranger to English society and English manners... a mind almost wholly without cultivation... and not endowed with powers to retrieve the fortune and form the character and manners of a young nobleman, her son."

There is no doubt that Catherine as a woman of volatile opinion and expansive feeling was probably her own worst enemy, but then life had been hard for her and without the benefit of a supportive network and financial security, who are we to judge?

As Byron moved through adolescence with the usual teenage hormonal angst, coupled with a boredom of school, the need for cash and the desire to challenge authority; the relationship with his mother was to become ever more explosive and unpredictable.
In a series of letters to his "dearest Augusta", he lets forth with invective, which although superficially amusing, suggests a cruel attitude that sometimes affords him little credit.

"I have at last succeeded, my dearest Augusta, in a pacifying the dowager, and mollifying that piece of flint which the good Lady denominates her heart.
She now has condescended to send you her love, although with many comments on the occasion, and many compliments to herself.
But to me she still continues to be a torment, and I doubt not would continue so till the end of my life...
It is a happy thing that she is my mother and not my wife, so that I can rid myself of her when I please..."

"That Boy will be the death of me and drive me mad! I never will consent to his going Abroad. Where can he get Hundreds? Has he got into the hands of money lenders? He has no feeling, no Heart.
This I have long known he has behaved as ill as possible to me for years back, this bitter Truth I can no longer conceal, it is wrung from me by heart-rending agony.
I am well rewarded, I came to Nottinghamshire to please him and now he hates it.
He knows that I am doing everything in my power to pay his Debts and he writes to me about hiring Servants and the last time he wrote to me was to desire that I would send him £25.0.0 to pay his Harrow Bills which I would have done if I had had as much as he has - three hundred - I am glad I did not, but it shows what he is, God knows what is to be done with him, I much fear he is already ruined at eighteen!!! Great God I am distracted I can say no more."

Byron would eventually make plans to travel abroad with his friend John Cam Hobhouse for company.
His plans also included moving his mother from her cosy home at Burgage Manor in Southwell to Newstead Abbey, the cold, damp ruin that would include social isolation, his many debts and a visit from the bailiffs.

"I am sure it is very kind of you to take charge at the Abbey for without it I don't know what would become of his Lordship's property."

Despite the acrimony in which they had parted, Catherine was to be the recipient of Byron's most beautifully witty and picturesque letters that were written as he travelled throughout the East.

"If I wed I will bring you home a sultana with half a score of cities for a dowry, and reconcile you to an Ottoman daughter in law with a bushel of pearls not larger than ostrich eggs or smaller than walnuts."

Her reply is equally witty in return and there are delicious hints that mother and son would surely have enjoyed some lighthearted times together.

"A thousand thanks for your long letter which amused me much. I see you are quite charmed with the Spanish Ladies. For Heavens sake have nothing to do with them. They make nothing of poisoning both Husbands and Lovers if they are jealous of them or offend them. The Italian ladies do the same.

I will however agree to your marrying a very pretty very sensible rich Sultana, with half a Million to her fortune not less, and also a Bushel of Pearls and diamonds.
No other is worthy of you nor will she be received by me."

She valiantly tried to maintain the upkeep of the Abbey throughout the long winter of 1810 and 1811 while struggling with ill health in addition to juggling her son's debts and also the constant fear that a bailiff would remove her belongings.

"Hutton the Bailiff and two of his men arrived from Nottingham. How is this? I thought this business would have been settled... I did not think you would let this come on me... They say the things must be sold immediately.
P.S. For God(s) sake do not let me live in this state..."

Catherine Gordon Byron would die on Wednesday August 1 1811 at Newstead Abbey surrounded by her devoted servants as her son was travelling from London to be by her side.
She was forty six years old.

"Every thing is doing that can now be done plainly yet decently for the internment.."

Her remains were interred in the Byron family vault on Friday August 9 1811 at the Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire.

The Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene Hucknall, Nottingham

"Notwithstanding her violent temper and other unseemly conduct, her affection for him had been so fond and dear, that he undoubtedly returned it with unaffected sincerity and from many casual and incidental expressions which I have heard him employ concerning her, I am persuaded that his filial love was not at any time even of the ordinary kind."

Sources used:
Byron and His World, Derek Parker (London: Thames and Hudson Ltd 1968)
Byron's Letters and Journals Volume One, Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray 1973)
Byron's Letters and Journals Volume Two, Leslie A, Marchand (London: John Murray 1974)
My Amiable Mamma A Biography of Mrs. Catherine Gordon Byron, Megan Boyes (J.M. Tatler & Son Ltd 1991)

Friday, 1 August 2014

Newstead and I Will Stand or Fall Together... Tee Bylo Makes Plans!

It is no secret that I am a passionate devotee of the history of Lord Byron as well as an artisan who creates 'Small Worlds' in 12th scale and it was perhaps only a matter of time before I would create another 'Small World' inspired by Newstead Abbey, Byron's splendid ancestral abode that is nestled with Sherwood Forest in the county of Nottinghamshire.

Now, to be fair, I did try to talk myself out of this challenge as my diary for last September demonstrates...

"Good Morning! I find myself in a quandary as I muse over the possible purchase of a Gothic Castle to add to my property empire..."

However, I was to meet with fierce resistance on a certain social networking site that will remain nameless...

"Don't muse, do it!"
"Love castles, just do it and share"
"Yes, buy it"
"What quandary? Buy, buy!"

So with the 'Mission Accomplished' and the said purchase made, I am sharing my grand plan for the creation of Newstead Abbey in Miniature which after a spot of preliminary research could well turn out to be 'Mission Impossible'...

However, in my head at least, Newstead Abbey in Miniature will be a 12th scale stone Castle complete with the romantic turrets and lashings of the Gothic that will reflect the architecture, interior design and furniture of the contemporary Newstead Abbey that greets the visitor today.

 However unlike a visit to Newstead Abbey, my Newstead Abbey in Miniature will be not be subject to the savage cuts imposed by Nottingham City Council that have resulted in limited guided tours, staff redundancies and the theft of the priceless lead piping!

Sunday April 19 2015 will see the unveiling of the exterior of Newstead Abbey in Miniature on the 191st year of Byron's death.

However, which room I reveal first will be the decision of you, the reader!

To choose the room that you would like me to make first, simply cast your vote in my unique poll which you can find on my blog below:

The 'Small' Tales of Newstead Abbey.
The Creation of Lord Byron's Abbey in Miniature...

Although my plans for the creation of Newstead Abbey in Miniature have only begun this month in earnest, I have been rather busy with research and the 'stockpiling' of materials, fabrics, pictures and (the fun bit!) the choosing of the Newstead Abbey inspired miniatures!

And so as my Newstead Abbey in Miniature develops, I shall share with you the unfolding tale, the triumphs and the tears!

Bye for now!

As I am planning a "fact finding" visit to Newstead Abbey later this summer, I intend to make a careful study of the rooms and in the process am likely to exhaust my small camera and may yet find my sanity under question as to the undertaking of this project!

However, if pessimism should set in at least I know that the Newstead Abbey Shop sells a rather delicious chocolate bar!
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