Monday, October 15, 2012

Was Lord Byron Consanguinamorous?

We know that consaguinamory is nothing new. One of the famous possible instances from the 19th century involved Lord Byron. at writes...

Historically important books donated to the Harewood House secondhand book shop 
Books donated to a secondhand shop have cast light onto the scandalous 19th century family history of the renowned poet Lord Byron.

The volumes provide an insight in the life of Byron’s half-sister Augusta Leigh – the purported incestuous love-interest behind his departure to fight in Greece.

Augusta had seven children, one of whom, Elizabeth Medora, was thought by many to be Byron’s love-child.
Those involved in, or at least accused of, consensual incest are in some good company. Another article on this at goes into more details, and perhaps what was going on is what we now call Genetic Sexual Attraction.

Byron and Augusta, five years his elder, shared a father, Captain John “Mad Jack” Byron, who died when the poet was three.

The pair were not raised together and did not meet until around 1803, when Byron was at Harrow School.

Then began an intimate correspondence, with a teenage Byron urging her in one letter to consider him “not only as a brother”, but as her “warmest and most affectionate friend”.

Augusta, who was married to her cousin, Colonel George Leigh, was the poet’s closest relative after his mother died in 1811.

Rumours began to fly about the nature of their relationship in 1813, when Augusta arrived to stay with him in London without her husband and children.

Byron’s letters from that year to another confidante, Lady Melbourne, strongly suggest an incestuous connection.

The following year, Augusta gave birth to a daughter named Elizabeth Medora Leigh, who is widely speculated to have been Byron’s lovechild.
Still, Byron married another...
Byron married Anne Isabella “Annabella” Milbanke in 1815 and they had a child, Augusta Ada, later that year.

Their marriage was short-lived, and Annabella left when their daughter was little over a month old, taking the girl with her and citing incest alongside charges of adultery and cruelty when she filed for separation.
Interesting. Was the charge based on reality, or was it just a tool necessary in the times to justify divorce?

If you want further reading, you might want to check out "Bound By Blood: Incestuous Desire in the Works of Byron" by Heather Stansbury. Here's the abstract...
This article investigates Byron’s use of the incest theme. It departs from the kind of biographical criticism often used to explore the theme of desire in Byron’s work, as this interpretive paradigm both understates the complexity of Byron’s treatment of the theme and neglects its literary precedents. Whatever his personal investment in the subject, the fact is that Byron’s representations of it were significantly indebted to eighteenth-century incest narratives, particularly Gothic works. Further, for Byron, incest is a means of presenting individual conscience and morality, as well as challenging socio-political institutions and religious dogma.
Everyone is better off if adults can be together without having to hide their love for each other. While trying to "protect" marriage, those who try to impose limitations on the sex lives and marriages of others are actually encouraging cheating and sham marriages.
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