Pages

September 25 1812 : Byron, A Charming Misogynist


On September 25, 1812, Lord Byron is writing to Lady Melbourne about Annabella. He is also working on the Address for the opening of the Drury Lane Theatre by sending Lord Holland some more revisions. Byron's letter to Lady Melbourne indicates that he is getting some resistance on the part of Annabella to the idea of marriage. Byron responds by suggesting to Lady Melbourne that he may decide to forget Annabella given  her requirements that he give her all his "time & and all the cardinal virtues". If that is the case,  Byron tells Lady Melbourne, he has another option in the person of a beautiful Italian lady with dark eyes, who will save him the "trouble of marrying by being married already". The only fault that this Italian beauty has is that she eats too much. Byron thinks that this is problem. He writes that a "woman should never be seen eating or drinking, unless it be lobster salad & Champagne the only truly feminine & becoming viands."  He writes:
As to Annabella she requires time & all the cardinal virtues, & in the <meantime> {interim} I am a little verging towards one who <reg> demands neither, & saves me besides the trouble of marrying by being married already. – – She besides does not speak English, & to me nothing but Italian, a great point, for from certain coincidences the very sound of that language is Music to me,  & she has black eyes & not a very white skin, & reminds me of many in the Archipelago I wished to forget, & makes me forget what I ought to remember, all which are against me. – I only wish she <ha> did not swallow so much supper, chicken wings – sweetbreads, – custards – peaches & Port wine – a woman should never be seen eating or drinking, unless it be lobster sallad & Champaigne the only truly feminine & becoming viands. – I recollect imploring one Lady not to eat more than a fowl at a sitting without effect, & have never yet made a single proselyte to Pythagoras. 
Byron's letter continues in the same charming sexist vein with some flattery of Lady Melbourne by writing:  
Now a word to yourself – a much more pleasing topic than any of the preceding. – I have no very high opinion of your sex, but when I do see a woman superior not only to all her own but to most of ours I worship her in proportion as I despise the rest. – And when I know that men of the first judgement & the most distinguished abilities have entertained & do entertain an opinion which my own humble observation without any great effort of discernment has enabled me to confirm on the same subject, you will not blame me for following the example of my elders & betters & admiring you certainly as much as you ever were admired. 
Byron's letters of September 25 1812 are reproduced below.

Byron to Lady Melbourne, from Cheltenham, September 25th 1812 
                                                 
Septr. 25th. 1812

My dear Ly. M. – It would answer no purpose to write a syllable on any subject whatever & neither accelerate nor retard what we wish to prevent, she must be left to Chance; conjugal affection and the Kilkenny Theatricals are equally in your favour – for my part it is an accursed business towards nor from which I shall not move a single step; if she throws herself upon me “cosi finiva” if not, the sooner it is over the better – from this moment I have done with it, only before she returns allow me to know that I may act accordingly; but there will be nothing to fear before that time, as if a woman & a <sh> selfish woman also, would not fill up the vacancy with the first comer? – 

As to Annabella she requires time & all the cardinal virtues, & in the <meantime> {interim} I am a little verging towards one who <reg> demands neither, & saves me besides the trouble of marrying by being married already. – – She besides does not speak English, & to me nothing but Italian, a great point, for from certain coincidences the very sound of that language is Music to me,  & she has black eyes & not a very white skin, & reminds me of many in the Archipelago I wished to forget, & makes me forget what I ought to remember, all which are against me. – I only wish she <ha> did not swallow so much supper, chicken wings – sweetbreads, – custards – peaches & Port wine – a woman should never be seen eating or drinking, unless it be lobster sallad & Champaigne the only truly feminine & becoming viands. – I recollect imploring one Lady not to eat more than a fowl at a sitting without effect, & have never yet made a single proselyte to Pythagoras. ———

Now a word to yourself – a much more pleasing topic than any of the preceding. – I have no very high opinion of your sex, but when I do see a woman superior not only to all her own but to most of ours I worship her in proportion as I despise the rest. – And when I know that men of the first judgement & the most distinguished abilities have entertained & do entertain an opinion which my own humble observation without any great effort of discernment has enabled me to confirm on the same subject, you will not blame me for following the example of my elders & betters & admiring you certainly as much as you ever were admired. – My only regret is that the very awkward circumstances in which we are placed prevents & will prevent the improvement of an acquaintance which I now almost regret having made – but recollect whatever happens that the loss of it must give me more pain  than even the precious acquisition (& this is saying much) which will occasion that loss. Ld. Jersey has reinvited me to M. for the 4 Octr. & I will be there if possible, in the mean time whatever step you take to break off this affair has my full concurrence – but what you wished me to write, would be a little too indifferent; and that now would be an insult, & I am much more unwilling to hurt her feelings now than ever, (not from the mere apprehension of a disclosure in her wrath) but I have always felt that one who has given up <all> {<so> much,} has a claim upon me (at least – whatever she deserve from others) for every respect that she may not feel her own degradation, & this is the reason that I have not written at all lately, lest some expression might be misconstrued by her. – When the Lady herself begins the quarrel & adopts a new “Cortejo”  then my Conscience is comforted. – She has not ritten 
to me for some days, which is either a very bad or very good omen. yrs. ever BN

I observe that C[aroline]in her late epistles, lays peculiar stress upon her powers of attraction, upon W’s attachment & c. & by way of enhancing the extreme value of her regards, tells me, that she “could make any one in love with her” an amiable accomplishment but unfortunately a little too general to be valuable, for was there ever yet a woman, not absolutely disgusting, who could not say or do the same thing? any woman can make a man in love with her, show me her who can keep him so? – You perhaps can show me such a woman but I have not seen her for these – three weeks. – 



Byron to Lord Holland, from Cheltenham, September 25th 1812  

Cheltenham Septr. 25th. 1812 

My dear Lord, - Still “more matter for a May morning”  having patched the middle & end of the address I send one more couplet for a part of the beginning – which if not too turgid you will have the goodness to add. – After that flagrant image of the Thames (I hope no unlucky wag will say I have set it on fire, though Dryden in his Annus Mirabilis {& Churchill in his “Times”} did it before me) I mean to insert this 

 “As flashing far the new Volcano shone 
    meteors 
 “And swept the skies with Lightnings <not> {not} their own, 
 <b the> “While thousands thronged around the burning dome 
 & c. & c.

I think “thousands” <& less> less flat than “crowds collected,” but don’t let me plunge into the Bathos, or rise into Nat Lee’s bedlam metaphors. – By the bye  the best view of the said fire, (which I myself saw from a <house> <chimney> House-top in C[ovent]. 

Garden) was at W[estminster]. Bridge from the reflection on the Thames. – – Perhaps the present couplet had better come in after “trembled for their home” the two lines after, as otherwise the image certainly sinks & it will run just as well. —  The lines themselves perhaps may be better thus – chuse or refuse – but please yourself & don’t mind “Sir Fretful” – 
               Sadly 
                 Or <ghast> 
 “As <burnt> {flashed} the volumed <flames> {blaze}, and <fear> shone 
                  or 
               ghastly 
 “The skies with lightnings awful as their own, 

The last runs smoothest – & I think best, but you know better than best. – “Lurid” is also a less indistinct epithet than “livid wave” & if you think so – a dash of the pen will do. – 

I expected one line this morning – in the mean time I shall <as> remodel & condense & if I do not hear from {you}, shall send another copy. – 
I am ever yr. obliged 
& sincere 
B





No comments:

Post a comment