What to do with Byron's unpublished memoirs?
When Lord Byron died, and after his body was transported back to England from Greece, his friends and others had a decision to make about his memoirs. No one really knows how thorough they were—or how candid or accurate—but they did exist, and he had allowed some people to read all or excerpts, among them Mary Shelley.
In his comprehensive three-volume biography of Byron, Marchand points directly to the “problem” that faced Byron’s survivors, including, notably, Bryon’s long-time friend John Cam Hobhouse: Hobhouse’s whole attention now was turned, writes Marchand, to getting hold of the Memoirs and seeing them destroyed—even though, as Marchand notes, he’d never read a word of them. The whole issue? Reputation, reputation, reputation, as Michael Cassio’s cries out in Othello. They feared not only the scandal of Byron’s naughty stories, but what those stories might do to them, the poet’s dear friends. Guilt by association and all.
Another friend, Thomas Moore, wanted to save parts—he was at work on his own proposed book about Byron. Quarrels ensued and broadened. Panicky women with whom Byron had been intimate requested that their letters be returned—and they were certainly not interested in having their names appear in any Byron memoir, which would of course be a huge bestseller.
But all worries ceased. The Destroyers prevailed: They tore up both copies of the manuscript, tossed the shreds in a fireplace, and Byron’s words disappeared forever in smoke up the chimney.
And we are the losers.
|house where memoirs burned|