Thursday, 27 June 2013

Mad, bad and dangerous to know...


Lord Byron, considered by some to be the greatest romantic poet of his time, was Newstead Abbey's most famous owner. He inherited the estate from his great-uncle at the age of ten, and lived there at various times between 1808 and 1814. His life was short but tempestuous and filled with scandal: huge debts, numerous love affairs and a rumoured incestuous liaison with his half-sister. One of his mistresses, Lady Caroline Lamb, said that he was 'mad, bad and dangerous to know'. There is speculation that he may have suffered from bipolar disorder. He died, aged 36, from a fever contracted in Greece, where he went to fight against the Ottoman Empire in the Greek War of Independence. The equivalent of a modern-day rock star, Byron was popularly mourned but various institutions including Westminster Abbey refused to bury or honour him. He was buried in a church near Newstead. It was not until 1969 that a memorial was finally placed in Westminster Abbey.

Byron had a beloved Newfoundland dog called Boatswain, who died of rabies and was buried, with a monument (see photo) larger than that later accorded to its master! The inscription is from Byron's poem 'Epitaph to a Dog'.

Near this Spot
Are deposited the Remains
of one
Who possessed Beauty
Without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferosity,
And all the Virtues of Man
without his Vices.
This Praise, which would be unmeaning flattery
If inscribed over Human Ashes,
Is but a just tribute to the Memory of
"Boatswain," a Dog
Who was born at Newfoundland,
May, 1803,
And died at Newstead Abbey
Nov. 18, 1808.

9 comments:

  1. I knew of Byron's reputation and dalliances with Carol Lamb, but I'm glad to learn more. Reminds me I need to pick up the poetry book I have on the romantic poets and re-read them this summer.

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  2. I didn't know of his bad reputation. He died young but left a legacy of poems.That is funny that his dog got a better deal than his owner after death.

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  3. I've steered clear of Lord Byron ever since I heard he was a favorite of Willoughby. :-)

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  4. Ha , Byron..so romantic , even in the love he had for his dog!

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  5. "Mad, bad and dangerous to know!" What a great phrase. Byron would probably have loved having it on his tombstone.

    I like the way you composed your photo today. Heck, I like the way you compose most of your photos!

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  6. Beautiful view of the Abby.

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  7. I love the visit to Newstead Abbey -- and I especially love Boatwain's epitaph.

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  8. Very interesting post, and the Newstead Abbey looks beautiful !

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