Byron’s House Party – from A COUNTRY HOUSE COMPANION

lord byron

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.

 

COUNTRY HOUSE

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.BYRON 1At 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) lambAuto-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!

byronNow that’s entertainment!

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!

About Margaret Jean Langstaff

A lifelong critical reader with literary tastes, a novelist, short story writer, essayist, book critic, and professional book editor for many years. A consultant to publishers and authors, providing manuscript critiques and a full range of editorial services. A friend and supporter of all other readers and writers. A collector of signed modern first editions. Animal lover and tree hugger.
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16 Responses to Byron’s House Party – from A COUNTRY HOUSE COMPANION

  1. robert okaji says:

    Oh, Margaret, you could he writing about me – laggard, backslider, former bookseller! How wonderful…

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a rich and wonderful pursuit and passion, Robert, isn’t it? Yes! I so miss real bookstores and the smell and feel of thousands of books, over the years have sort of created one in my home!

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      • robert okaji says:

        Yes, I worked with books for many years. My back is happier about not being in that business, but I miss it.

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        • I do too. I had an independent bookstore for years before I went to NY and trade publishing, then journalism etc etc etc My bookstore years were the happiest of my life. I worked like a slave 7 days a week, but the memories of the joy of talking to browsers one on one about books, putting great books in their hands enthusiastically still brings tears to my eyes.

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  2. Mikels Skele says:

    No breakfast at the “early hour” of 10? I wouldn’t survive such a life more than a couple of weeks! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Haha, the “servants,” maids and cooks slept in too! They’d been up all night too hot-footing it to meet their “wants, desires and cockamamie schemes,” step-and-fetching for these spoiled, self-indulgent rascals’ pranks, whims, “plays” etc. The Prince of Wales and other nobility were often in attendance too!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. insaneowl says:

    Reblogged this on insaneowl and commented:
    Loved this post. Enjoy it. 🙂

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  5. jef says:

    Lady Lamb’s touchingly middle school last line slows the breathing. Clearly the romantic propensity for projectile drama (even years later) has long been a feature of the wounded heart. Such vivid folderol keeps us young. Some of us. But the real story is this: Margaret! It’s just possible that your seemingly ‘mischievous’ dogs are emissaries sent back in thin disguises from the post-post-post-literate future (we are presently in the first post-hyphenate, and won’t reach post-post-post literacy for at least another two years); Wells’ Eloi-bedevilled reverie wherein naif-morons in togas gambol about crumbling libraries, nibble delicately at weird future-fruit, and periodically feed themselves to Morlocks. Your ‘dogs’ are a last-ditch attempt by ennobled and not terribly clever futurenauts who have wearied of having nothing to do but eat and be eaten. That is, your collection may be the future Library of Alexandria and mankind’s only hope. Let the dogs continue to steal and bury, that your enormous statue may yet stand before the Atlantean Public Word-Thing Repository in our collective Tomorrow. Your dog’s preference for your right boot, on the other hand, is inexplicable.

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    • Actually, you are crediting my devilish curs with too much cunning. After careful study I have determined that 1) they are really trying to drive me stark raving crazy and like to hear me scream at the top of my lungs while chasing them and 2) it’s the GLUE in the binding of the books they find so attractive (I’ve caught them licking it). I do find most of the books they sneak and carry off and smack them soundly once on the noggin with it when I do. Having become a detective of sorts in this mad game I have learned a mound of loose raw earth hastily assembled with the impress of paw prints all over it is a dead giveaway.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. If they do erect a statue in my honor it would be only fitting that I’d be depicted as wearing one fine paddock boot–on my left foot–with my several bookaholic dogs lolling at my feet licking books 🙂

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