December 30 1814: Lord Byron Arrives


On December 30 1814, Lord Byron, with John Cam Hobhouse, arrives at Seaham, where Annabella Milbanke has been waiting for him so they can be married. Hobhouse describes the arrival:

Friday December 30th 1814: At eight o’clock in the evening we arrived at Seaham, Sir Ralph Milbanke’s. Miss came to me when alone in the library, and with great frankness took me by the hand at once – presently in tottered her father – Miss is rather dowdy-looking and wears a long and high dress (as Byron had observed), though she has excellent feet and ankles. The lower part of her face is bad, the upper expressive but not handsome – yet she gains by inspection.

She heard Byron coming out of his room – ran to meet him – threw her arms round his neck and burst into tears!! She did this not before us. Lady Milbanke was so much agitated that she had gone to her room – our delay the cause – indeed, I looked foolish in finding out an excuse for our want of expedition. Miss, before us, was silent and modest, but very sensible and decent, and inspiring an interest which it is easy to mistake for love. With me she was frank and open, without little airs or affectations: of my friend she seemed dotingly fond, gazing with delight on his bold and animated bust – regulated however with the most entire decorum.

Byron loves her when present, and, personally, as it is easy for those used to such indications to observe. Old Sir Ralph is an honest, red-faced spirit, a little prosy but by no means devoid of humour. My lady who has been a dasher in her day, and has ridden the grey mare, is pettish and tiresome, but clever … both are dotingly fond of Miss …

There were in the house a family of Mr Hoare of Durham, confidential counsel and agent of Sir Ralph Milbanke, and the Reverend Thomas Noel, Rector of Kirkby Mallory and illegitimate son of Lord Wentworth, Miss Milbanke’s uncle maternal, a buck parson of the better sort. Byron won his heart by his kindness and open manner. Sir Ralph & co. told stories. Sir Ralph said that Moore, Archbishop of Canterbury, informed him that he had changed the archepiscopal signature from “Cant” to “Cantuar” because he wished to avoid the mistakes which thebad writing of his predecessor Cornwallis had caused the readers of his processes to commit. Of the Bishop of Durham, Shute, he told that the Bishop, when a tutor at Oxford, said to Lord Hampden, “The friendship which I have for my Lord your father – my respect for my Lord the Bishop your uncle – and the peculiar situation in which I stand with my Lord God,” &c. Also, that Shute desired some young man not to call his task an “imposition” – “You’re a man of family, Sir, a man of family – call it a literary transaction between two men of fashion”.

A gentleman who has lately seen Napoleon told Hoare that Napoleon said to him, “There are three generals in the world – myself, Lord Wellington, and that drunkard Blucher”.

Byron told me, that one day at dinner, Lady Caroline Lamb said to George Lamb, “George – what’s the seventh commandment? Thou shalt not bother.” Also that when the late Duchess of Devonshire was dying in Devonshire House – Lady Morpeth was carried into a bedchamber in convulsions, but was interrupted by a voice from the curtains which exclaimed “Don’t come here! Wil-hi-am is here!” Wil-hi-am said not a word. This was at two in the afternoon.

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