More is known about Byron than almost any other figure in the history of English literature. There are twelve volumes of his letters or journals; dozens of memoirs in which he is described; and in much of what he wrote his favourite subject is himself. Copious details of his catastrophic, year-long marriage were recorded by Annabella Millbanke after she had separated from him and was gathering evidence for what she feared might be a custody battle over her baby daughter. But all the mass of documentation does not mean that, in the story of Byron’s life, there are not narrative gaps which can only be filled by either the speculations of the biographer or the inventions of the novelist.
A sub-genre of the historical novel, the fictionalised life rates fairly low in critical esteem, perhaps because people tend to feel that genuine novelists should not have to seek support for their imagination in the details of some real person from the past. In describing how Annabella Millbanke came to