Lady Byron and Her Daughters by Julia Markus - review by Miranda Seymour

Miranda Seymour

The Real Donna Inez

Lady Byron and Her Daughters


W W Norton 384pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

In January 1815, Lord Byron married the clever, virtuous and unshakably high-minded Annabella Milbanke. In January 1816, Annabella left Byron’s London house, taking with her their baby daughter, Augusta Ada. Lady Byron never returned. Scandalous stories spread, tales of incest – Byron’s pregnant married sister, Augusta Leigh, was still living in the poet’s establishment when his wife left it – and sodomy (a criminal offence in Regency England). Invited to deny the rumours, Annabella calmly responded that she could hardly retract allegations that she had never herself made. [1pass]

At the time that she left Byron, Annabella, as her husband bitterly remarked, had the entire world on her side. His subsequent mockery of her in Don Juan as Donna Inez, Juan’s invincibly correct mamma, was condemned as outrageous by a prim British press. (Annabella herself thought the skit was

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