…. for it was to avoid troubling you upon it that I finally determined to remain an absent friend rather than become a tiresome guest. If I offend it is better at a distance…
Described by the late, great Byron Scholar, Peter Cochran as a ‘masterpiece of circumlocution’ – Byron’s second proposal of marriage in September 1814 would lay the foundation stone for his eventual exile from our shores in 1816.
An opinion also shared by his last love, the Contessa di Guiccioli who was to speak of Byron’s marriage as having had:
exercised such a deplorable influence over his destiny, that it is impossible to speak of it succinctly, and without entering into details; for this one great misfortune proved the fruitful source of all others..
Having accepted his proposal of marriage and with a courtship facilitated by the aid of the mail coach, Annabella would not meet her betrothed until November of that year and after his hasty departure from Seaham prior to their wedding, she would soon be reconsidering the painful truth of her betrothed’s words and of his apparent determination to ‘remain an absent friend’!
My only anxiety is to learn that you are coming….
What can I say to hasten your journey? I am scolded every day for your absence, besides feeling it most myself…
Annabella and Byron were married at her family home Seaham Hall on January 2 1815 and a mere 54 weeks later, their brief marriage would implode at their London home in Piccadilly Terrace with accusations of cruelty, drunkenness, sodomy and incest.
Throughout the intervening years, criticism of Annabella has often been unjust and the examples of her ‘cold and analytical manner’ and her ‘tortured’ style of writing have been cited to support the argument of her unsuitability as Byron’s bride.
And now with the use of published material and contemporary photographs – Wedlock’s the Devil! is THE story of Annabella’s courtship with the most famous Poet of our age and that far from being cold and dispassionate – the hopes and dreams of this young woman can be revealed.
Byron’s Letters and Journals Volume 4 1814-1815, Ed Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray 1975)
Lord Byron’s Wife Malcolm Elwin (London: John Murray 1962)