Catherine was the long-suffering mother who bore him; Annabella the wife he sodomized and abused; Ada their sickly but brilliant daughter. With Caroline he conducted a scandalous affair; with Claire an opportunistic and cruel one. Claire’s stepsister Mary was the wife of his fellow poet Shelley, with whom he spent the dark summer of 1816. In Teresa’s bed, he found comfort during his years of Italian exile. But his true love was Augusta, his half-sister; and Medora was the fruit of their incest.
Nine women; one misbehaving poet; George Gordon, Lord Byron. The most flamboyant of the Romantics, he wrote literary bestsellers, was a satirist of genius, embodied the Romantic love of liberty and was the prototype of the modern celebrity. Yet he treated the women close to him abominably.
In Byron’s Women, Alexander Larman tells their extraordinary, moving and often shocking stories. In so doing, he creates both a troubling and fascinating portrait of one of England’s greatest poets, and an affecting sequence of accounts of the lives of women at the dawn of modernity. All nine of ‘Byron’s women’ are a remarkable reminder, decades before universal suffrage and female emancipation, that intelligent women could lead lives considerably richer than those of dutiful wives and producers of children.
Byron’s Women was shortlisted for the 2017 Elma Dangerfield Prize.
Alexander Larman is an author and journalist. His most recent book, The Crown in Crisis (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2020) is a revelatory history of the abdication saga, using new and previously unknown material to tell the thrilling untold story of the political and legal machinations that led to Edward VIII’s renunciation of the throne.
His previous books include Byron’s Women (Head of Zeus, 2016), an ‘anti-biography’ of the famous poet that focused on nine of the key women in his life, Restoration (Head of Zeus, 2016), a social and narrative history of the year 1...
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