Glenarvon by Lady Caroline Lamb
Glenarvon is Lady Caroline Lamb's first novel, published in 1816.
Its rakish title character, Lord Ruthven, is an unflattering depiction of her ex-lover, Lord Byron. Drawing from "Glenarvon," John Polidori used a vampire named Lord Ruthven as a characterization of Lord Byron in the first vampire short story published in 1819.
Glenarvon corrupts the innocent young bride Calantha (Caroline herself) leading to their mutual ruin and death. The picture of her husband, The Hon. William Lamb (The 2nd Viscount Melbourne from 1828), called Lord Avondale in the book, is more favourable, although he too is held to be partly responsible for Calantha's misfortunes: his biographer remarks that the book's message is that Caroline's troubles are everybody else's fault.
The book was an enormous success with the reading public, but ruined Caroline's already questionable reputation. Society's leaders did not greatly mind reading about her love affairs, but deeply resented the vicious and easily recognisable portraits of themselves. One of those attacked, Lady Jersey, took her revenge by barring Caroline from Almack's, the centre of fashionable life, a sign that she was now socially beyond the pale; as Melbourne's biographer remarks, Caroline never found her way back into society again.
|Product dimensions:||8.50(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.51(d)|
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In real life, in the 18-teens, in England, the author, Lady Caroline Lamb, eccentric wife of MP William Lamb, later Lord Melbourne and Prime Minister of England to William IV and Queen Victoria, has a torrid extra-marital love affair with the raffish, rakish poet George Gordon, Lord Byron. The affair sours, and Byron dumps Caroline, rather unceremoniously. If only he had had a housekeeper like Conchetta Ferell's 'Berta' on our 21st century sitcom 2-and-a-half-Men, who advised her employer Charlie about the art of dumping: "She's not just some handy-wipe you can toss, after you, uh, wipe your handy!" How true. Caroline was not to be messed with. So infuriated she was, that not only did she leave to posterity her acid assessment of Byron's character that has come down to us in the history of literary aphorisms as "Mad, bad, and dangerous to know," but she also got busy turning her sorrow into income by writing a dishy tell-all, a roman-a-clef in which the central character, Lord Glenarvon, is a thinly disguised version of Lord Byron--a womanizer who destroys women such as the character Calantha (who is Caroline) for the sheer sport of it. As if that weren't revenge enough, the remaining characters in the novel are grossly caricatured versions her former friends and acquaintances from her aristocratic circles. Aghast at what she wrote about them, the gliterati and literati of her times were through with her. She was dead meat. Even a cleaned-up 2nd edition with a mea culpa could not get her back with the in-crowd. A true case of "publish and be damned!" I decided to read this book because I am interested in Regency and early Victorian England, and wanted some 1st-hand insights into the personalities, relationships, and perceptions of the ruling classes, even if distorted by the author's state of mind. In this respect the book is very rewarding for that reason. There are other unexpected rewards. Lamb has a gift for evoking images, and one is transported back to the rural landscape of the late 1790s, the time in which the book is set. While she can plod along at times, generally the pacing is excellent and the plot unfolds quickly enough, and when it is sagging, some more diatribe will appear and keep the story buoyant for a while to come. Perhaps Byron himself, after reading Glenarvon summed up most aptly it's total effect. In characteristic verse, he says "I just read Glenarvon by Caroline Lamb / .... [pause] God. Damn.!"
This is in three volumes. Fortunately all the free version scans are by Internet Archives who do a far better job than Google. As these reviews are printed in all of the free listings of the MS I can't tell the prospective reader which volume is which. At this writing there are six offered, two of each. I "bought" all six and will delete one (ie 3 books) set after checking them over. A lot of hassle for what may well be only a curiosity, but to fans and students of these romantic poets, it well might be a must have. (See the other reviews for details.)
If you read Frances Cribbons The Love Affairs Of Lord Byron, you get a different picture. Lady Caroline wss absolutely what we would refer to today as psycho. Far from being upset by her affair, her husband was glad to let Byron have her so he didn't have to deal with her outrageous behavior. At one point, her sister in law takes her to Ireland, with the intention of getting Lady Caroline out of the way so that he might marry her cousin(?). Byron tried to get her to take the hint that he wanted no more to do with her, finally telling her via letter that she needed to get her vanity under control and begging her to leave him be. Lady Caroline's behavior was so mental that before she left England she was not invited to parties Byron was invited to, and yet, she would just show up, and by some accounts, literally throw herself into carriages Byron left in. After Byron snubbed her, she took her revenge by burning his letters in a pyre (copies) while reciting a poem to him with others participating. This book, was the aftermath of the whole mess, and although at the time she seemed quite in control of herself, afterwards, by her own admission she went quite insane. By today's standards, her behavior would be seen as nothing less than stalkerish and creepy, but back then there was no such thing as restraining orders. Plus, one has to wonder if Byron saw Lady Caroline's crazymaking come out, slowly, perhaps, and saw visions of his mom, who was quite fond of throwing things at him, and started to think the better of it all. Read Cribbon's book for perspective, I recommend it. However, yeah, this book is the ultimate kick in the nuts to Byron. Just not sure I would trust her perceptions. Am I wrong for this? I don't know. What I do know is that there are two sides to every bad relationship, and this is hers, so in that regsrd, I won't completely discount everything she says, no matter how sane, or not, she was.