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Books Inscribed by Lord Byron’s Half-Sister/Lover Discovered at Used Bookstore

By Harriet Staff

In the age of Amazon, it’s rare to come across real treasures in used bookstores. But occasionally a gem does surface. Such is the case reported in The Independent:

She was born to wealth and privilege; he was “mad, bad and dangerous to know”. The affair between Augusta Leigh and her half-brother, Lord Byron, is said to be one of the reasons why the Romantic poet fled Great Britain for Greece in 1816, never to return. A heartbroken Augusta was left at the mercy of her spendthrift husband, Colonel George Leigh, who was also her cousin. Leigh brought shame on their family when, as equerry to the Prince of Wales, he cheated him over the sale of a horse, fiddled his own regimental expenses to fund his gambling, and was dismissed.

Now a donation to the second-hand bookshop at Harewood House, in Yorkshire, has provided a unique insight into the Leigh family history and Augusta’s place in one of the biggest scandals to rock Georgian society. Although condemned to poverty for the last 33 years of her life, Augusta, the only daughter of Amelia Osborne and John “Mad Jack” Byron, the poet’s father, retained a passion for reading. Her rediscovered literary treasures, inscribed by Augusta and members of her family, belonged to a woman in her 80s who had had them for 40 years without realising their provenance. She acquired the books with a London house in the 1970s Ω the bookshelves were too large to move, so the seller left them, and their contents, behind.

Volunteers at the bookshop were intrigued by an inscription in The Literary Life and Correspondence of the Countess of Blessington, reading: “Augusta Leigh, St James’ Palace.”

“That raised my eyebrows,” said Audrey Kingsnorth, the Harewood volunteer who led the research. “I had no idea who Augusta was… That’s when I started looking into the family and saw the [Byron] connection.”

Full article here.

Posted in Poetry News on Monday, October 22nd, 2012 by Harriet Staff.