A family history – eye-opening in places

In The Fall of the House of Byron the author Emily Bland does not talk solely about the most famous holder of the name, the poet George Byron. Instead, she talks about his grandparents and parents, aunts, uncles and cousins. They are an amazing collection of people; profligate, courageous, cowardly, famous, infamous and of dubious morality. None of them are boring in this book filled with anecdotes and stories which often seem quite incredible to the reader.

]The author begins with Lord Byron’s first visit to the run down and semi-derelict family home on his assumption of the title as a child and then circles back to talk about his immediate ancestors. Unfortunately, many of his family had the same names in different generations and it becomes difficult, on occasion, to distinguish between them. There is a family tree but I was reading on Kindle so I was not able to see it clearly. The problem of confusion is made worse by the author’s habit of skipping around the timeframe from one branch of the family to another – the order of events as they are presented is not chronological.

The stories are, however, fascinating and make it obvious to any reader the different way that people in this era could live if they had money or had aristocratic connections. As a family they rarely paid their bills and ran up huge debts, being able to borrow money and waste it seemingly at will. By the time the poet came into the title there was little money left, the house and possessions had been gutted or sold and the reputation of the family was at rock bottom. It is fair to say that he didn’t improve the situation although his poetry has been lasting – you can see a review of a book about his life I read in 2019 here. This book, however, doesn’t tell us much about the life of the poet and on one or two occasions it assumes that you know the key events in Lord Byron’s life.

This is a fascinating and eye-opening look at life for those at the top of society in Georgian Britain. It’s not always presented in an easy to follow way but it’s worth persevering for the stories.

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