“The most flamboyant and notorious of the major Romantics, George Gordon, Lord Byron, was likewise the most fashionable poet of the day.“–THE POETRY FOUNDATION
I lost a whole day rediscovering with delight a wonderful, funny and revealing book on the British aristocracy. Downton Abbey pales next to this amazing expose’ of the high times at the grand country estates in England, a tradition for over five hundred years.
Why? I am in the throes of trying to slim down my “library,”I have books coming out my ears, falling out my windows and sometimes find one of my dogs running off with one in his mouth he’s discovered under my bed, in the creases of the sofa or behind the dryer in the laundry room (my dogs are not readers, but they love pictures and my scent soaked through the pages and bindings, and they will sometimes bury them under an oak tree after regaling in the photos and my fingerprints and aroma. They do this with my paddock boots and socks too and God knows what else. For some reason they always take the the book I’m reading at the time, and the boot for the right foot).
The book that stopped me in my tracks from making difficult choices? This one.
I digress, but in doing so I realize I am caving into a very British thing about a way of life. Dogs, horses, land, the outdoors…
These books will go eventually when I come to my senses for I have always been a rare book dealer on the side (esp. signed modern first editions), and I know the ropes and how to get my beloved little darlings good loving homes.
But I am also a laggard and backslider whenever I try to do this because I find treasures I’d forgotten about and fall into them head and heart yet again, effectively aborting the whole deal.
This book is an insider’s gossippy account of the infamous house parties of the landed gentry at their magnificent estates. Woot, woot! I’m green with envy!
In this magnificent tome all the accounts are in the first person by invited guests, and taken from their letters and diaries, and they are oh so rare.
What a high old time they had on these beautiful grand old estates, indulging their every whim, sparing no expense, cavorting, boozing, romancing and just plain acting silly.
So, anyway, Byron had a house party at a country estate in 1809, and if Byron was involved you can bet it was over the top and historic.At the time he was chasing Lady Caroline Lamb, but soon after tired of her. Years later, still sick at heart, her psyche permanently shattered, she staged a histrionic (fake) Auto-Da-Fe at yet another drop dead country estate in the presence of many guests at which she burned all of his letters and a miniature portrait of him on a funeral pyre while several women costumed in white garments danced around the bonfire, singing a song she had written for the occasion. Hysterical!
Sorry I missed it! Oh to be a fly on the wall for that one!
So it’s very slow going, this weeding through all these wonderful books, deciding which to sell, which to keep, and I hate every minute of it! But they are rare, wonderful and valuable, many are signed modern first editions. I’ve been a collector for a long time (and a dealer), so they pile up and up. They deserve a wider audience and appreciation; it’s wrong to horde and hide them, you know. But, drat, If I had a country estate like these blokes did, I could keep them all and create a public library for them. Oh, well, I slog forward with the chore at a snail’s pace and off they go!