I was playing around, looking for a book to allude to while writing a scene, when I came upon this one. At times, I see something and think, “That would be fun!” and this was one of those times. I do not mention it specifically by name…at least yet, but I couldn’t resist using it.
I knew the name Lady Caroline Lamb. Many who have a fascination with Regency England and literature do, but I knew of her more as the lover of Lord Byron rather than a writer in her own right. Lady Caroline was indeed a writer, though probably considered as scandalous as Byron, she likely also sold as many books as he did.
Glenarvon, the book Georgiana peruses in the story, was first published anonymously in 1816. Now, I say anonymously, but everyone in society knew Lady Lamb was the author. Even Lord Byron commented, “I read Glenarvon too by Caro Lamb….God damn!” Society at the time was well aware of her identity, though it did her no favours.
While Glenarvon is a Gothic tale, the story was actually that of her own affair with Lord Byron in which she included other prominent members of the Ton, under different names of course, and satirised them in the most unflattering terms.
The book was an undisputed success. The entire first run sold out, and further editions were printed, so one cannot say her efforts were for nothing; however, her already poor reputation was ruined and she became ostracised from the Ton.
The strange part is that Lady Caroline did not become a pariah on account of making her love affair public. The fact that she and Byron were lovers was far from a secret. It was in fact quite well-publicised. Rather, it was her unflattering satirisation of several high-ranking members of the Ton–including Lady Jersey, who led to her downfall (In retribution, Lady Jersey cancelled Lady Caroline’s Almack’s vouchers. By the efforts of family members, she did have her vouchers reinstated in 1819, but it did not do much to repair the damage.)
Glenarvon has been in and out of print since the 19th century. It’s last printing was in 1995, and has since been called an early work of feminism, though some consider it “hysterical” and incoherent. As Lady Caroline was known to abuse alcohol and laudanum and have mental instability, incoherent is a distinct possibility.
Lady Caroline Lamb published three other works in her lifetime: Graham Hamilton (1822), Ada Reis (1823), and Penruddock (1823).