March 9 1812: Lady Caroline Lamb writes to Lord Byron

On March 9, 1812, Lady Caroline Lamb, who is twenty-six years old, mother of a four year old probably autistic son, married to the Honourable William Lamb, heir to the 1st Viscount Melbourne  and a rising politician (who would become one of Queen Victoria's favourite Prime Ministers), writes anonymously to Lord Byron addressing him by the title character of his recently published poem as follows:    
"Childe Harold I have read your Book & cannot refrain from telling you that I think it & that all those whom I live with & whose opinions are far more worth having - think it beautiful. You deserve to be and you shall be happy.
Do not throw away such Talents as you possess in gloom & regrets for the past & above all live here in your own Country which will be proud of you - & which requires your exertions.
Lady Caroline Lamb, painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence 

Pray take no trouble to find out who now writes to you - it is one very little worth your notice & with whom you are unacquainted but who from the first has admired your great & promising Genius & who is now so delighted with what you have written that it would be difficult for me to refrain from telling you what I think.
As this is the first letter I ever wrote without my name & could not well put it, will you promise to burn it immediately & never to mention it?
If you take the trouble you may very easily find out who it is, but I shall think less well of Child(e) Harold if he tries - though the greatest wish I have is one day to see him & be acquainted with him."
Lady Caroline had received an advanced copy of the poem from Samuel Rogers. On reading the poem, in the words of Byron's biographer *:  
Her response was instantaneous: "I read it and that was enough."  She was undeterred by Rogers' warning that Lord Byron had a club foot and bit his nails. 'If he was ugly as Aesop I must know him.'
So it began. Her letter of March 9 has all the inconsistency, charm, and obsession that Lady Caroline would demonstrate in the love affair that she had with Lord Byron from March to August, 1812.  I hope to explore their relationship in more detail in subsequent posts.

*MacCarthy, Fiona (Byron: Life and Legend (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002) at 163-164.

No comments:

Post a Comment