“Smiles form the channel of a future tear.”
Recently I came across these adventure notes amongst my papers:
“This is a 12 hour adventure. Meet at the Hill Lane Gate at 8 am prompt. We return to the same location at 8 pm. Bring a regency hamper to assuage thirst and hunger. Bring some guineas (not fowl). Be prepared to move fast and light. Rain defence advisable. Sturdy footwear. We shall go the distance. Bring a short Byron poem or extract of your choice.”
Was this an important document related to the aristocratic poet and hero beloved of Caro Lamb? Could this be Lord Byron’s notes for his travels in Albania in 1811 with his great friend John Cam Hobhouse? Yes and no. Important certainly, but for another search for knowledge some 201 years later: The Quest for Regency London, February 2012.
Accompanying Lord Byron, Lady Anne Louise Emily Hardy and John Cam Hobhouse on this day in 2012 were Susan Vaughan (Becci Fearnley), Teresa Guicioli (Karina Rodler), Josephine de Beauharnais (Emilie Ripoche), Stephen Lushington (Ollie Hogg) who joined us briefly and emotionally at Byron’s birthplace in Holles Street, Lady Constance Spencer Smith (Rose Blackman), Alexander Mavrocordato (Harry Hazelgrove), Earl of Clare (Pierre Van Dessel), Allegra Byron (Belle Johnson), Dr James Kennedy(Alex Wilks), Susan Boyce (Louise McCann), Lady Caroline Lamb (Natalia Laverty) and Lady Jersey (Lucy Wegerif).
The Southampton stagecoach deposited the party at Kew Gardens before we boarded the Tube to Piccadilly Circus. Albany, Byron’s bachelor pad, was our first destination, then on to the Drury Lane Theatre to see where our hero directed operations for a time. Holles Street was the venue for a short reading at Byron’s birthplace. “So, We’ll Go No More Aroving” captivated our fellow shoppers. We moved on to Whitechapel Gallery to see Thomas Phillips’ oil painting of Byron in Albanina dress which usually hangs in the Ambassador’s Residence in Athens. As the light faded we set off for Kensal Green Cemetery where Hobhouse's tomb was suitably atmospheric in the fading light! A candlelit ceremony there as the snow fell was perhaps the stand-out memory of the day. A debrief at Lady Anne Hardy's “House of Starbucks” at Kew was enthusiastically embraced as we waited for the mail coach back to the south coast. For the record, here is our poem:
so, we'll go no more
so late into the night
though the heart be still as loving
and the moon be still as bright
for the sword outwears its sheath
and the soul wears out the breast
and the heart must pause to breathe
and love itself have rest
though the night was made for loving
and the day returns too soon
yet we'll go no more a-roving
by the light of the moon
Few will be able to forget, let alone remember, our early May visit the home of Lord Byron and our opportunity to tour those other parts of the Midlands where the Byron myth was crafted. In the morning we visited Hucknall, a short distance from the abbey where we had a 1 o’clock appointment. Here, at the Church of St Mary Magdalene, are the tombs of Byron himself and of his beloved daughter Ada. To complete our day we called in at Castleton in the Peak District. Near this picturesque town, set in magnificent surroundings, are the famous Blue John caverns which Byron explored with Mary Chaworth and her mother who had invited him to join a party of young people for a visit to the caves. Mary was Byron’s first true love and the inspiration for many of his poems. Here we banqueted in honour of the great poet, climbed the Heights of Mam Tor and reflected on a colossal life as we stood where Byron and his friends stood above the russet slopes of Derbyshire. A full day certainly, and one which promised to become another part of the fascinating Byron myth.
Much more could be told. We realise that we have not mentioned the stunning Presidential Address on the topic of Byron’s animals, the wonderful speed courting or Lady Oxford’s Croquet Festival of 1813, but these stories are for another time. However, several manuscript sheets of this report were burnt in error when we re-enacted the 1824 burning of the memoirs. It is with sadness that we end the year but the Society will gather again in September for cultured revelries and academic tours de force. The next generation of Byronists will take the helm and the adventures of Childe Harold will continue anew.
Adam Diaper & Fifi Smart (Presidents)