Allan Massie

Byron Tells All

The Memoirs of Lord Byron

By

Hamish Hamilton 215pp £11.95 order from our bookshop

Scholars still regret the lost plays of the Athenian dramatists; feminists and other critics may deplore the lost poems of Sappho; for many of us however the memoirs of Byron remain the most grievous of literary losses, all the more because their destruction was not the work of time, but of stupidity, prudery and malice. The only two known copies of the manuscript, which Byron had entrusted to Tom Moore, were torn up and burned in the grate of John Murray’s office in Albemarle street; you can still see the grate and the best that can be said of the occasion is that the Murray family have atoned for this act of vandalism by their devotion to the memory of the greatest author they have ever had. Those present on Monday, the 17th May, 1824, less than a month after Byron’s death, were John Murray, Tom Moore, John Cam Hobhouse, and legal representatives of Lady Byron and of Mrs Augusta Leigh, Byron’s half sister. Hobhouse justified the deed: ‘The whole Memoirs were fit only for a brothel, and would damn Lord B to everlasting infamy if published.’ According to Byron’s biographer, Leslie Marchand, Hobhouse had never actually read the manuscript.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • What a charming, candid blogpost from one of our dear contributing editors. ,
    • RT : The first guess from one of my 1st graders was “death” and such an awed, somber, reflective hush fell over the clas… ,
    • Merry Christmas from Literary Review! Hope your stockings were laden with books, and the tree bending under the weight of further books....,
    • Last minute Christmas gift required? We're offering discounts on all our subscriptions (20% no less!) with the cod… ,
    • In this issue's 'Silenced Voices', Lucy Popescu writes of Thailand's restrictive lese-majesty laws and their latest… ,
    • "Gunn was a disciple of the American formalist Yvor Winters, but Winters’s poetry could never give off such a scent… ,
    • Christmas gift hunting? Why not give the gift of being even better read? We're offering discounts on all our subscr… ,