Shocking Letter Reveals Depraved Contents of Lord Byron's Destroyed Memoirs

Newly discovered letter reveals shocking details of Lord Byron's destroyed memoirs, depicting him as a "perverted" man obsessed with exposing his own wickedness and degrading his wife.

Ayesha Mumtaz
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Shocking Letter Reveals Depraved Contents of Lord Byron's Destroyed Memoirs

Shocking Letter Reveals Depraved Contents of Lord Byron's Destroyed Memoirs

A newly discovered letter by Elizabeth Palgrave has shed light on the scandalous and disturbing contents of Lord Byron's destroyed memoirs. The letter, found in Trinity College's Wren Library, describes the memoirs as revealing Byron's "most perverted" nature and his obsession with recording his own wickedness, particularly his mistreatment of his wife Anne Milbanke.

According to Palgrave, who was given a brief glimpse of the manuscript before it was burned by Byron's friends after his death in 1824, the memoirs contained Byron's "most severe remarks" on his wife and her family, as well as other families he had met. She wrote that Byron "evidently set his mind to evil" and took "delight in recording his own wickedness" and "in exposing and degrading his wife."

The letter suggests that Byron was focused on depicting himself as a villain, expressing indifference and aversion towards his wife, whom he married out of convenience during a snowstorm. Palgrave concluded that the poet took "extreme pleasure" in "levelling" those "eminent for virtue" to his own immoral standards.

Byron had entrusted the memoirs to his friend Thomas Moore with instructions to publish them only after his death. However, the manuscript was deemed so damaging to Byron's reputation and that of others that it was destroyed at the publisher's office, despite the reactions of those close to the writer ranging from indignation to amusement to indifference.

Why this matters: The discovery of Palgrave's letter offers a rare first-hand account of the controversial and scandalous nature of Byron's lost memoirs, which have long been a source of fascination and speculation for scholars. The letter provides a window into how the notorious Romantic poet was read in his time and demonstrates the lost memoir's ability to simultaneously scandalize and captivate readers' imaginations.

Trinity College archivist Adam Green, who uncovered the letter among the papers of Palgrave's father, Dawson Turner, called it a truly, exciting discovery. The destruction of Byron's memoirs has been described as the greatest literary crime in history. Palgrave's account confirms the shocking depravity of the memoirs' contents and Byron's reputation as the "bad boy" of the Romantic movement who reveled in the shock his work elicited.

Key Takeaways

  • Newly discovered letter describes Byron's scandalous lost memoirs.
  • Memoirs revealed Byron's "perverted" nature and mistreatment of wife.
  • Byron took "delight in recording his own wickedness" and degrading others.
  • Memoirs were destroyed to protect Byron's reputation and others.
  • Discovery offers rare insight into how notorious poet was viewed in his time.