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Lines, On Hearing That Lady Byron Was Ill

Lord Byron

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So what did Lady Byron do to deserve this?
Added by: Maddy
As described elsewhere in these notes, Byron married a beautiful young woman called Annabella Milbanke and then proceeded to behave very badly towards her.

The ultimate cruelty was to inform poor Annabella that he loved his sister Augusta more than her, and that Augusta's little daughter was his child. Annabella, who by that time had a little baby girl of her own, divorced him. He left England with his reputation in tatters, a virtual exile, never to return.

The greatest pain to him seems to have been that Annabella befriended his sister and persuaded her to end her incestuous relationship with him.

In this poem he refers to Lady Byron as the "moral Clytemnestra of your lord". Clytemnestra was the wife of the ancient King Agamemnon and sister of the famous Helen of Troy. Clyte tried to prevent her husband FROM going to war by witholding her favours. He went anyway. While he was gone she launched INTO an affair with the acting-ruler. When her husband came back she had him murdered, along with the woman that he had won as part of his booty, the clairvoyant Cassandra. Poor Cassandra foresaw all this, of course, but she was cursed and no-one ever believed what she said, least of all Agamemnon.

So Byron likens Annabella to a husband-murderer and says "Ha, you were supposed to have only joy and good health once you'd got rid of me- now fate conspires to revenge me!"
On the Defence of Byron
Added by: Parn Akuma
Of course, this comment comes from the perspective of those in the camp of the Milbankes, Leigh Hunt, Harriet Beecher Stowe, et. al. who found it expedient to lay all of the blame at Lord Byron's feet.

When Annabella left Byron it was originally supposed to be a short journey to her parents' house; she didn't intend to separate from him. It was her *father* who wrote and told him the marriage was over - but they didn't divorce. They remained separated until Byron's death in 1824, and never saw one another again.

It's simplistic, I think, to say that Byron merely treated her badly and caused her to flee for her own safety, as is the implication in the earlier comment. The two certainly were not suited for one another, and Byron was a less than stellar husband, but Annabella was (since we are being sensationalist in our biographies here) a frigid woman. She cared more for Math than Man and married him only to change him, then was offended when she couldn't.

Alternately, Byron kept a scrap of diary for years after their separation because it contained the word "household" at the top in Annabella's handwriting; this is not the action of a monstrous villain, surely.

Final analysis: it's unfair to attribute the Byron scandal of 1816 to only one party.

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