Glorious Apollo - Elizabeth Louisa Moresby - ebook

Glorious Apollo ebook

Elizabeth Louisa Moresby

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E. Barrington is a pseudonym of Elizabeth Louisa Moresby, a British-born novelist who became the first prolific, female fantasy writer in Canada. She wrote very quickly, attributing her productivity to her sparse vegetarian diet and Buddhist habits of mental discipline; her best-selling fictional biography of Byron, „Glorious Apollo”, took only one month to complete. A bestseller in the 1920s, „Glorious Apollo” is a fictional biography of the 18th century Romantic poet, George Gordon, Lord Byron. Byron comes from a family noted for philandering and profligacy. He achieves notoriety in those areas before he achieves fame as a poet. Beginning as he prepares to takes his seat in the House of Lords in 1809, the novel takes us through Byron’s entire life and career right up to his death in Greece at the age of thirty-six.

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Liczba stron: 540

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Contents

PART I

GLORIOUS APOLLO

CHAPTER I DAWN

CHAPTER II THE REBEL

CHAPTER III CHILDE HAROLD

CHAPTER IV WOMEN

CHAPTER V TRIUMPH

CHAPTER VI A GREAT LADY

PART II

CHAPTER VII THE RISEN SUN

CHAPTER VIII INTRIGUES

CHAPTER IX AN OFFER OF MARRIAGE

CHAPTER X ANGLING

CHAPTER XI SUCCESS

CHAPTER XII MARRIAGE

PART III

CHAPTER XIII STORM

CHAPTER XIV A WARNING

CHAPTER XV THE DISMISSAL

CHAPTER XVI THE THUNDERBOLT

CHAPTER XVII THE STRUGGLE

CHAPTER XVIII LOVE

PART IV

CHAPTER XIX SEPARATION

CHAPTER XX ECLIPSE

CHAPTER XXI EXILE

CHAPTER XXII RUIN

CHAPTER XIII A LOST BATTLE

CHAPTER XXIV SUNSET

CHAPTER XXV THE NIGHT

CHAPTER XXVI EPILOGUE

PART I

GLORIOUS APOLLO

CHAPTER I. DAWN

“And now the Lord of the unerring Bow,

The God of life and poesy and light.

The Sun in human limbs arrayed, and brow

All radiant from his triumph in the fight.„

–Byron.

The Nemesis of the Byron ill-luck had pursued him from birth, and yet on that day one would have thought it might have spared him. But everything had gone wrong.

In his lodgings in St. James’s Street Byron stood, white as death, shaken by a nerve storm, trembling in every limb, the ordeal before him of taking his seat in the House of Lords without the countenance, support or introduction of any of his peers, as lonely a young man as any in London. Not that formal introduction was necessary in the routine of business, but believing it to be so, he had written to his kinsman and guardian, the Earl of Carlisle, to remind him that he would take his seat at the opening of the session, expecting at least some show of family support. He had received a cold reply, referring him to the custom of the House, and feeling he had laid himself open to a calculated rebuff, his self-consciousness suffered accordingly.

And this was not all. He discovered to his horror that before taking his seat he must produce evidence of his grandfather’s marriage with Miss Trevanion of Cærhayes, and his solicitors reported that there was no family record as to where it had taken place, no legal record that it had ever been celebrated. Byron was almost mad with anxiety and dismay. Without that proof he could not take his seat, and himself and his peerage must be alike discredited. And God knows, he reflected bitterly, the Byrons had had discredit enough and to spare, and cursed bad luck as well. To him at times the peerage appeared designed only to draw attention to misfortunes and ill-doings much better forgotten. They haunted him, defacing his pride in it like a smear on the face of a portrait which must catch the eye of all beholders before they have time to appraise the likeness.

Indeed, the family history was far from pleasant reading. There was a highly picturesque “Sir John the Little with the Great Beard,” a Byron of Harry the Eighth’s time, who had received from that august hand a grant of the Priory of Newstead–no doubt an ancestor to plume oneself upon at the safe distance of three centuries, had it not been that Sir John’s morals were unfortunately as picturesque as his beard and his eldest son was, alas, filius naturalis. It could pass no otherwise, and for all time the bar sinister divided the successors from that Norman ancestry with which every well-found peerage should be decorated. That memory was loathsome to Byron.

The peerage itself came later, the reward of devotion to a family as unlucky as the Byrons themselves: the Stuarts. Charles the First granted it, and passed, and then set in an era of poverty and tedium, and no Byron distinguished himself until the fourth baron, and he did so in a way the family could have well dispensed with. He killed his cousin, Mr. Chaworth, in a duel so far outside the line of even the elastic code of the eighteenth century duel, that he was tried for wilful murder by his peers and found guilty of manslaughter. Apart from this, he was a village tyrant, who drove his wife from her home by ill-usage and, installing a tawdry “Lady Betty” in her place, disgraced himself and all his connections. And when this wicked old man died, as old in years as in wickedness, he was succeeded by “the little boy at Aberdeen,” the Byron whom the world will not forget.

So much for the peerage, but “the little boy at Aberdeen” was no happier in his parents. His grandmother, a lady of the great Berkeley blood, had married Admiral Byron, a cadet of the family and brother of “the wicked lord,” and became by that marriage mother of one of the worst scapegraces of the eighteenth century. Her son was that Mad Jack Byron whose wild escapades were the talk of the town, the Berkeley blood mingling with the Byron in most explosive fashion. And this was the poet’s father.

When Mad Jack was twenty-two years of age, he seduced the beautiful Marchioness of Carmarthen from her husband and children, the wicked Byron charm proving irresistible, as it had done and was to do to many women. He married her after the divorce and had by her a daughter, Augusta; married again, on her death, Miss Gordon of Gight, a Scotch heiress in a small way, possessed of some ready money available for his debts. She was descended from the Scotch royal blood, but a passionate, uncontrolled, coarse creature with no ladyhood in her and nothing at all to attract her errant husband when the fortune, such as it was, was spent. Fortunately he died six years after their marriage. There is a glimpse of her in girlhood from no less a hand than Sir Walter Scott’s, who saw her screaming and shrieking hysterically at a theatre where the great Mrs. Siddons had stirred her overwrought sensibilities–a woman of innate vulgarity and violence. Her wretched marriage with Mad Jack Byron worked her up almost to madnesses of rage and grief, affecting not only herself, but her son through life.

He, the boy the world remembers, was born four years after his half-sister Augusta, who was rescued by her maternal grandmother, Lady Holderness, from the too evident wrath to come of the second wife and removed from the desperately undesirable Byron surroundings to a more tranquil sphere which promised well enough for her future. The boy was left to fate and his mother. But the child sheltered in the Holderness household was not to escape the taint of her blood.

These two unhappy children, half-brother and sister, represent the sorrows of their line to some purpose. They overshadowed them, black-winged, and when we understand better the problems of life and death, we shall know that when the Greeks spoke of the inexorable dooming of the Three Sisters, they meant in one word–Heredity.

So the Byrons, in spite of their peerage, stood alone in their last representative at the moment when the young man might hope to retrieve that evil past.

The men of law had discovered, with infinite pains and considerable cost, that Admiral Byron’s marriage with Miss Trevanion had taken place in a private chapel in Cornwall, and so far all was well. But the episode occasioned talk, it resurrected family ghosts better laid and it made Byron’s difficult position more difficult and his uneasy self-consciousness a torturing flame.

He stood now in the sitting room of his lodgings in St. James’s Street, seeking for resolution to face the House without a quiver: a peer, and yet without one man in the body he was about to join on whom he could count for a welcoming look or word.

He had had many bitter moments of poverty and slight in his young life, but this was the bitterest, and when he thought of his entry alone, uncertain, unwanted, he was trembling on the verge of a resolution to fling the whole thing overboard, take ship for the wilds of Europe and be seen and heard no more in England. Ferocious hatred of the country and every one in it shot out of him like fire. To make himself heard, felt, to be revenged on Lord Carlisle, on any one and everything which stood coldly aloof, careless of his pain–what other comfort could there be in all the world?

Should he go? Should he not go? Not a living soul would care which decision he made. Lord Carlisle might smile his thin, almost imperceptible smile. Augusta’s grand relations might say that nothing better could be expected from the son of that appalling Gordon woman, who had outraged the sensibilities of Lord Carlisle and every member of the family who, for his sins, had had to do with her–a woman who had only £150 a year after Mad Jack Byron had plundered her, who had brought up her boy almost as a vagrant until he had succeeded to the title! What could he be expected to turn out? The comments! Her son knew very well what they must be. Could he nerve himself to go through with it? His heart beat in his throat and choked him.

A quick step on the stair. A man’s voice at the door–

“Why, Byron, can I come in? Why–what the devil–you’re as white as death! What is it?”

Dallas, a kinsman, a friend. Are our friends and relations ever tactful in the moment and manner of their intrusion? Byron shuddered with annoyance, yet felt that inspection had its bracing qualities. And, after all, to go utterly alone down to Westminster seemed the uttermost of humiliation to his tense nerves. Dallas was better than nothing.

He loosed his grip of the chair and was smiling at once through fixed lips.

“The very pest of a nuisance! There never was a poor devil with luck like mine. I must take my seat to-day in that old Museum of Fogies, the House of Lords, and having unfortunately been seduced into making a night of it with some Paphian girls and their usual concomitants of drink and dishes, here I am almost in a fit of frenzy with nervous pains in the head. Do I look white? God knows I feel it! Take me as far as the House, Dallas, and bring some brandy to kick me through the tom-foolery.”

Dallas stood looking at him with a peculiar expression. He was as sure as that he stood there that this was mere “bam,” that Byron was suffering from stage fright. He could swear his dinner had consisted of hard biscuits and soda water, eaten alone, and that he had spent the night in counting the hours to this awful day, in alternating convulsions of pride and terror.

For Dallas, as a kinsman, was behind the scenes of Byron’s temperament and knew pretty well how to gauge this contempt for the Museum of Fogies, which in reality meant so much more to him than to most men. He sat down and looked at him through narrowed eyes, with a question behind them, half envious, half cynical. After all, one could not have much pity for a young man with birth, beauty and a peerage, who might repair his broken fortune by picking and choosing among the wealthiest women in England if he played his cards with reasonable dexterity. No doubt he had an atrocious mother, and there was his slight lameness from an injury to the tendons of one foot at birth, but, all said and done, the agreeables sent the scales of the disagreeables flying aloft, in Dallas’s opinion, and there were few young men in England who would not change places with Byron if they could.

“Damn bad luck you’re so mossy!” he said coolly. “But how came you to be so weak, my friend, on the eve of such a tremendous occasion?”

Byron laughed, from the teeth outward, as the French say.

“Tremendous? I suppose you might call it so, but my reverence for my country’s institutions don’t carry me so far, I regret to say. The thing’s a trifle, and a foolish one, but none the less I have no wish to make a pother by fainting at the Lord Chancellor’s feet. So come along and be my bottle-holder as far as Westminster.”

Dallas stared.

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