ORD BYRON'S WIFE by Malcolm Elwin


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Why did Byron marry the so proper, pampered, prissy Annabella, who had thought, all a flutter, to reform him, and why did the marriage, lasting less than a gear, end on such a dark, damaging scandal, sending the pregnant girl back to her parents and the handsome poet, until then Europe's number one darling, into exile and more ""nameless"" excesses? And did Byron really have incestuous relations with Augusta, his sister? And what of his many mistresses? Was he also homosexual? And was it true, as Annabella thought, that his drunken frenzies proved him mad? Well, the ""answers"" to these and other posers are majesterially set forth and examined in probably the most thorough-going biography of a nobody we've had- that nobody being of course, Annabella. Fortunately, although the book's raison d'etre its unrestricted use of the formerly super-restricted Lovelace Papers- those countless letters, notes and what-nots of Annabella's, full of moralistic frou-frou, schoolgirlish self-justifications etc.- still it is Byron who, even while getting only second billing, steals the show- and how! Goethe called him a ""fiery mass of ving valor""; he was also a mass of crackling contradictions: the husbandly brute as the dazzling rake, the people's adventurer as against the moody aristocrat, the an of self-destruction and the man of self-love. But why? Disappointingly the analysis here is circumspect not controversial; to some it will seem the author hedges, to others that he is merely being marvelously objective. Either way, we'll never know: Byron's buddy having long ago burnt the poet's private journal. In case, this is a stunningly documented, antiseptically accurate account, without doubt a must for the Byronites.

Pub Date: April 24th, 1963
Publisher: Harcourt, Brace & World