Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mad, Bad, and Dangerous To Know

Big welcome today to my friend Janet Mullany! Today is Lord Byron's birthday, and there's no one in the world better suited to talking about Lord Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know himself!

Janet writes some wonderfully wild, spicy stuff that has turned the Regency genre on its ear. I myself warned her multiple heroes and menages would be a hard as Regencies. But did she listen to me? Noooo, she went out and sold them anyway. So I made up a "book cover" title just for Janet and her mad-bad hero, in her honor.

Janet’s next book, a sort-of sequel to her 2007 The Rules of Gentility, is A Most Lamentable Comedy, August 2009. She’s also blogging today at

(And apologies to all for lateness and non-working links. Blogger will not let me post some URLs. nor will it un-do them. )

Since I'm running so late, I'm putting all the picture credits here to save time:

Miniature portrait of Byron was his favorite, painted in 1815 by James Holmes and given to his half-sister who later gave it to Byron's Italian mistress.

Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun painted the teenage Byron in 1805 when she visited London.

Richard Westall's portrait of Byron.

Augusta Leigh by James Holm.

Lady Caroline Lamb by Thomas Phillips.


I want a hero is the first line of Byron's Don Juan, and so it seems doubly fitting to blog about him here--because this is a blog about heroes, and today is the birthday of the brilliant and scandalous Lord Byron, Mr. Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know himself (1788-1824).

I like to think of Byron as the dark twin of Mr. Darcy: whereas Darcy's greatest sin in the eyes of society was refusing to dance at a country assembly, Byron went the whole hog. Was he bisexual? Did he really have an affair with his half-sister Augusta Leigh? Was he really as shocking as the rumors and his letters suggest?

At any rate, the concept of the Byronic hero—aristocratic, brooding, scandalous, the man who cannot be tamed and whose deep psychic wound can be healed only by true love—is alive and well in romance.

He inspired Lady Caroline Lamb, with whom he had a very public and tempestuous affair to write at their first meeting, That beautiful pale face is my fate. At the end of the affair, however, she anticipated Dorothy Parker’s mantra of writing well as the best revenge—or at least writing and telling all—by publishing a novel abo

ut Byron.

His response:

I read” Glenarvon,” too, by Caro Lamb;

God damn!

(It's possible, by the way, that the Mad, Bad etc. epithet was first used by Byron, not about him, to describe Lady Caroline.)

Of the many resources online on Byron, my favorite is this one, for which I’m indebted to the illustrations and much of the material, and the terrific collecti

on of paintings by Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun at

You can spend a lot of time reading about Byron, but read him, too. He’s

well worth it, ribald, romantic, moving.

She walks in beauty, like the night

Of cloudless climes and starry skies,

And all that's best of dark and bright

Meets in her aspect and her eyes…

Read the whole poem here
http://www.b and find many of his works here, including the selected letters and journals at

And if you’d like to read some wonderful fiction about Byron and his circle I suggest Passion by Jude Morgan.

Thanks for having me visit, Delle!


  1. If you're having trouble posting, see if you can post as Anonymous. Settings are all correct, but something is not working. Please let me know your experience if you can so maybe we can find what's wrong.


  2. Blogger is such a bad, bad boy today.

    I wanted to point out in the illustration Delle put together for me, that the gentleman's hat is staying in position without benefit of hands--truly a miracle.

  3. Blogger is really really bad today!

    I didn't draw the cover- it's the work of a French artist, Honore Fragonard, who had a coffee-spewing sense of humor. It reminded me of our hero Byron, who might also have had a heroic way of wearing his hat.


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