• Tue, Apr 30 2013

Shelved Dolls: Caroline Lamb – Byron’s Mistress With The Pubic Hair

caroline lamb

You know how much I hate it when people refer to their exes as crazy. I am absolutely not going to say that Caroline Lamb, the aristocrat best known for being Lord Byron’s mistress was crazy, or highly strung, or emotional, or any of the adjectives that men use about their ex-girlfriends all the time. I like her. I really, really do, and I think she is too often dismissed as being one of the nightmare girlfriends of history.

I am going to tell you about the time that she sent Lord Byron a bloody clump of her pubic hair though, because that just seems fair. That feels like a story you’re entitled to know early, so you can use it in forming your own decisions about her behavior.

It was shortly after their break-up when she sent him that bizarre gift. She tied the parcel with a bow and left a note which read, “I cut the hair too close and I bled more than you need.” So, that was strange.

Even more extraordinary was the fact that Byron cherished this keepsake until his death. He carried it with him always. I guess we all need talismans to hold onto from relationships, but anything – really, literally, anything, not necessarily a good thing like  jewelry, but candlesticks, a dead plant, some pincushion, a monkey’s skull – would be better than a bloodied ringlet of pubic hair.

Byron and Caroline were very well matched in that they were both peculiar.

Caroline was supposedly unruly from the get-go. Elizabeth Abbott, pretty much my favorite historian, writes that her mother, Henrietta Frances Spencer (married to Frederick Ponsonby, the third earl of Bessborough), was unable to give her the discipline she needed so “the sad result was a self-absorbed and wildly disruptive child who dominated her little world through her rude manners, fearful tantrums and outrageous lies.”

Sometimes  Abbott means to criticize people and inadvertently makes them seem absolutely fabulous. I mean, she was this chick, apparently:

eloise

So she sounds pretty great. I kept trying to Google “Lady Caroline” coupled with “outrageous lies” but Google will not tell me any of these alleged falsehoods which is very frustrating for obvious reasons, and Abbott does not give specifics. Every biography seems to agree that there were outrageous happenings though, so I guess you can invent them on your own. I did read that she ran away to a convent to take her vows when she was age thirteen but, right around 1800, that does not seem particularly shocking.

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  • mizz

    haha great write-up!

  • hmhque

    Loved it! I so wish there were actual photographs of Byron, I often wonder if artists romanticized his looks or if he was really that hot!

  • Alisande F

    Yay! The reading list is back!! Much appreciated.

  • MR

    Yes, very well done again. Byron’s greatest influence was his competition with Mary Shelley. Also romantic love’s sexual parameters are endless – Byron wasn’t a romantic.

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    • Sean

      Thank you New York Colon Pile, this information is very useful!

    • MR

      This is it? I call the greatest Romantic poet, unromantic. Sounds like the Enlightenment wins – Aristocracy of the mind is finally put to bed. This makes me happy.

  • BygoneBaubles

    I find your writing style to be absolutely delightful. I’ve read all of your ‘Shelved Dolls’ articles instead of working today (don’t tell anybody at my job, OK?) and I’m enthralled!

  • s_park

    Jennifer! You should write about Byron’s daughter – Ada Lovelace. She’s credited as the first computer programmer and was also supposed to be very beautiful.