MY DEAREST AUGUSTA: A Biography of Augusta Leigh, Lord Byron's Half-Sister by Peter Gunn

MY DEAREST AUGUSTA: A Biography of Augusta Leigh, Lord Byron's Half-Sister

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This ought to tap into the reader interest stimulated by the recent placement of Byron's long-withheld plaque in Poet's Corner, Westminster Abbey. Mad, Bad Byron hinted to too many hysterical women about his incestuous summer interlude with his older half-sister. Her second biggest mistake was to believe that they might both live down, or past, their reputed strange liaison. Byron, weirdly enough, asked his rejected, implacable ex-wife to look out for Augusta with the result that Lady B. pursued her sister-in-law right to the edge of Augusta's grave. A spendthrift husband and a passel of serpent's teeth for children forced a series of humiliating confrontations in order for Augusta to obtain money from Byron's estate. Augusta loved unwisely--ever; too well--always. Byron's biographers and the literary historians have tended to dismiss Augusta as vapid, amoral, and generally weak. This portrait, which makes excellent use of excerpts from the correspondence of all the parties involved, is kinder. Gunn shows Augusta as more acted upon than acting, not stupid but oddly innocent about sex or emotional motivations. She emerges with a degree of dignity here, not quite a tragic figure but a sympathetic one. Although Augusta worked hard to erase the idea that it had happened, the scandalous lapse Byron so shallowly versified (which was and is assumed to be autobiographical) has never ceased to be talked, written, and avidly read about.

Pub Date: Aug. 22nd, 1968
Publisher: Atheneum