January 26 1816: A Second Thyrza

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On January 26 1816, Miss Selina Doyle writes to her friend Lady Byron. Miss Doyle appears to refer to a Thyrza, as a previous love of Byron, who he idolized. Byron had “occasionally spoken of Thyrza to Lady Byron, at Seaham and afterwards in London, always with strong but contained emotion. He once showed his wife a beautiful tress of Thyrza’s hair, but never mentioned her real name.” That may have been because Thyrza was actually John Edleston, who Byron had loved at Cambridge, and mourned in death with an Elegy on Thyrza.  The misunderstandings between husband and wife were vast.

Miss Selina Doyle writes:

“As a real wife you were contemned, but when you become again the beau idéal of his imagination, between the possession of which and him there is an insuperable barrier, you will be a second Thersa [Thyrza], perhaps supplant her totally. These are prophecies and may appear irrelevant, but as I think them now, I like to say them, they may possibly save you a pang hereafter when you hear of his love and misery at being deprived of you, which nothing can replace. No, nothing indeed, for were you to return the excitement produced by desire of you would cease, I am convinced, and his incapacity of rendering you happy, as you deserve in his opinion, would make him hate himself and you, and hélas, as long as he lives I fear that his mind will be in that disordered state without malady increases to a degree of imbecility, for I doubt not that that degree of insanity is his natural state, at least since the period his mind was first supposed to have been affected, and I have as little doubt that had he married Thersa, he would have been to Thersa what he has been to you. She could not better have ‘ministered to a mind diseased’ than you did when living with him, than you do in leaving him.”

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