Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Monday, March 21, 2016

Frankenstein Sundae, 219

The relationship between Lady Caroline Lamb and Lord Byron did not end well. The fracture would taunt and haunt her for the rest of her life—and she just could not let go of him. In the summer of 1814 she tried a surprise visit (could she get him back?), but he was out. So she took one of his books and wrote on the first page: Remember me!
When Byron returned, he was annoyed and wrote in reply a nasty couple of quatrains:
Remember thee! remember thee!
Till Lethe quench life’s burning stream
Remorse and shame shall cling to thee,
And haunt thee like a feverish dream!

Remember thee! Aye, doubt it not.
Thy husband too shall think of thee:
By neither shalt thou be forgot,
Thou false to him, thou fiend to me! 
Nasty Bryon—calling her a fiend who had betrayed her husband … hmmmm, with whom did she betray him, LB?
One of the great Byron scholars, Leslie Marchand (male), wrote a little about this in his three-volume biography—and notice his tendentious language in these selected sentences:
Caroline might have been mad at times, but she was no fool.
… in June she grew wild again and began to invade Byron’s chambers at all hours.
He felt hounded, beset by a demon who would never leave him.[1]
Mad, wild, beset by a demon—these words are hardly disinterested, and although I admire (and am deeply grateful for Marchand’s masterful scholarship), I see an old, old story here: the philandering man, the ill-used, then rejected woman who has little she can do about her situation but rage, rage against the dying of the light.

In Lady Byron and Her Daughters, Markus is able to separate her feelings for Byron as a poet (she admires his work) from her disdain for him (at times) as a human being. As I’ve discussed earlier (in my descriptions of the doings of Bysshe Shelley), the nineteenth century—like just about every other century—was not a good time to be a woman, and the women whose lives were crushed by thoughtless men (whose cruelties were sanctioned by systems of class and gender) had little they could do. So kudos to Caroline Lamb for writing Glenarvon.
But what about Lady Byron, who, after less than a year of marriage to this most mercurial of poets, discovered that she could just take no more? Markus begins her chapter about the end with this: Reader, prepare for a train wreck.[2] 

Lady Caroline Lamb

[1] Byron: A Biography, 3 vols. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1957), 1: 458.
[2] Lady Byron, 31.

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