November 8 1815: Lord Byron’s Bailiff

“On November 8, the event he had most dreaded came to pass: The bailiff arrived at the house to oversee the “executions” or sale of all their possessions for debt. Incredibly, Byron tried to keep up the pretense that Annabella had no idea why this gentleman was there; pride had moved him beyond reason. Acknowledging her uselessness, Annabella yearned for a “man friend of common sense … to laugh B out of his excessive horror on this subject, which he seems to regard as if no mortal had ever experienced anything so shocking,” she wrote to Augusta. Now both wife and sister had become one woman in his mind, and the single architect of his ruin: “He loves us or hates us together,” Annabella wrote to her double.

To Hobhouse, Byron confessed that he felt driven “half-mad” by financial embarrassments, adding that “he should think lightly of them were he not married” but that these same worries “doubled with a wife.” His anguish did nothing to soften his stance against accepting money—under any guise—from his publisher. Quite the reverse: Exacerbated pride made him the more adamant. Hearing that Byron was forced to sell his library because of debt, Murray sent him a check for £1,500 with the promise of more in a few weeks, accompanied by the offer to sell the copyrights he owned for the poet’s benefit. On November 14—six days after the arrival of the bailiff—Byron returned the check, “not accepted—but certainly not unhonoured” he wrote to Murray graciously, and he added the proud untruth that “the circumstances which induce me to part with my books though sufficiently—are not immediately pressing.”21 (Six weeks later, he again returned a draft from Murray for 1,000 guineas for the copyrights of Parisina and The Siege of Corinth, insisting that the sum was “much more than the two poems could possibly be worth.”)”

Byron: Child of Passion, Fool of Fame by Benita Eisler

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