A PURE LOVE
With Letters and Poems by Lord Byron
For the readers information . . . . the following is a Same-Sex love story of Lord Byron and his friend.
This is a story of a secret love hidden in the Poetry of Lord Byron. A true story of his love for a friend . . . John Edleston, whom he met while attending Cambridge Trinity College in 1805.
Byron always wrote of his personal experiences ( which most writers do ) and cloaked them in other characters such as in Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. Although he insisted the poem wasn't about him, others disagreed and thought he was the hero of the story. Nevertheless, Childe Harold was the launching of his career. ( Actually, he was considered "An over-night success" when it was published. )
Through the letters and poems of Byron, you can almost feel the turmoil in his emotions during this love affair. At the time they met, they were very young. Byron was seventeen and Edleston was fifteen. (Exactly two years to the hour apart ) As far as the intimate relationship went, it seemed to consist of holding hands, kissing, and hugging. Byron said, "It was a pure love and passion" -- But as it progressed, it looked as if a decision would have to be made on the outcome. Byron left on his trip to Portugal, Spain, and Greece staying away for two years. When he returned, he was notified that John Edleston had died.
In his poems, he disguised the love by using fictitious female names. Byron was asked many times, who is Thyrza, but he would not reveal the person's name. The poem, "Stanzas to Jessy" was first published anonymously . . . and you will note he used the word Form in place of a person ( he or she ) in the poem.
Excerpts from a few of the letters* Byron wrote are followed by the related poems.
And through them
. . . Lord Byron tells his own story of the love for his friend.
Byron meets John Edleston, a Trinity choirboy, to whom he became attached during his first year at Cambridge in 1805.
In 1806, Edleston had given Byron a heart-shaped
cornelian stone. Byron composed the poem The Cornelian
that time. TheCornelian was in the private early edition of
"Fugitive Pieces" published in October 1806.
To -- Edward Noel Long, Feb.23, 1807 ( Edward was Byron's room mate in Cambridge )
. . . If possible, I will pass through Granta, in March, pray, keep the subject of my "Cornelian" a Secret . . .
To -- Edward Noel Long, May 14, 1807
. . . Not above a dozen of the pieces in my private Copies, will appear "pro Bono publico" though the volume will be considerably larger, most of the amatory poems, the Cornelian (which you & all the Girls, I know not why think my best) will be omitted, . . .
To -- Elizabeth Bridget Pigot, June 30, 1807 ( Elizabeth, was a friend in Southwell )
. . . I find I am not only thinner, but taller by an Inch since my last visit, I was obliged to tell every body my name, nobody having the least recollection of my visage, or person. -- Even the Hero of my Cornelian (Who is now sitting vis a vis, reading a volume of my poetics) passed me in Trinity walks without recognizing me in the least, & was thunderstruck at the alteration, which had taken place in my Countenance &c. &c. . . .
. . . .I depart for London, & quit Cambridge forever, with little regret, because our Set are vanished, & my musical protegé above mentioned, has left the Choir, & is to be stationed in a mercantile house of considerable eminence in the Metropolis. You may have heard me observe he is exactly to an hour, 2 years younger than myself, I found him grown considerably, & as you will suppose, very glad to see his former patron.-- He is nearly my height, very thin, very fair complexion, dark eyes, & light locks, my opinion of his mind, you already know, I hope I shall never have reason to change it. . .
To -- Elizabeth Bridget Pigot, July 5, 1807
My dear Eliza, -- Since my last letter I have determined to reside another year at Granta as my Rooms &c. &c. are finished in great Style, several old friends come up again, & many new acquaintances made consequently my Inclination leads me forward, & I shall return to College in October if still alive. My life here has been one continued routine of Dissipation, out at different places every day, engaged to more dinners &c. &c. than my stay would permit me to fulfil, at this moment I write with a bottle of Claret in my Head, & tears in my eyes, for I have just parted from "my Cornelian" who spent the evening with me; as it was our last Interview, I postponed my engagements to devote the hours of the Sabbath to friendship, Edleston & I have separated for the present, & my mind is a Chaos of hope & Sorrow. . .
. . . I rejoice to hear you are interested in my "protegé", he has been my almost constant associate since October 1805, when I entered Trinity College, his voice first attracted my notice his countenance fixed it, & his manners attached me to him forever, he departs for a mercantile house in Town, in October, & we shall probably not meet, till the expiration of my minority, when I shall leave to his decision, either entering as a Partner through my Interest, or residing with me altogether. Of course he would in his present frame of mine prefer the latter, but he may alter his opinion previous to that period, however he shall have his choice, I certainly love him more than any human being, & neither time or Distance have had the least effect on my (in general, changeable Disposition. -- In short, We shall put Lady E. Butler & Miss Ponsonby to the Blush, Pylades & Orestes out of countenance, & want nothing but a Catastrophe like Nisus & Euryalus, to give Jonathan & David the "go by".-- He certainly is perhaps more attached to me, than even I am in return, during the whole of my residence at Cambridge, we met every day summer & Winter, without passing one tiresome moment, & separated each time with increasing Reluctance. I hope you will one day see us together, he is the only being I esteem, though I like many. . .
To Ben Crosby, July 21, 1807 ( Crosby, a London bookseller, and an agent in the handling of the sale of Byron's Hours of Idleness, published the periodical.)
Sir, -- I have sent
according to my promise some Stanzas for "Literary Recreation". . .
John Edleston died in May, 1811. But it wasn't until October that Byron had received the news from Edleston's sister. Byron was in Malta at the time and had returned to England in July, 1811.
At the time he heard the news, his Mother
had recently passed away in August. Also, Charles Skinner Matthews,
another Cambridge friend of Byron's, had drowned in the Cam River.
In addition, during that four-month time period, he lost John Wingfield,
a friend from Harrow, and another Harrow friend, Hargreaves Hanson.
Edward Long had drowned in 1809 in a shipwreck near Lisbon. All of these
friends were in their early twenties.
To Francis Hodgson, October 10, 1811 ( A Tutor of Byron's at Cambridge )
. . . I don't know that I shan't soon be in London, but don't expect me. --- Every thing about & concerning me wears a gloomy aspect, still I keep up my spirit, it may be broken but it shall never be bent. --- I heard of a death the other day that shocked me more than any of the preceding, of one whom I once loved more than I ever loved a living thing, & one who I believe loved me to the last, yet I had not a tear left for an event which five years ago would have bowed me to the dust; still it sits heavy on my heart & calls back what I wish to forget, in many a feverish dream. . . .
To Robert Charles Dallas, October 11, 1811 ( A relative of Byron's who later became his Literary Agent )
. . . I have been again shocked with a death, and have lost one very dear to me in happier times; but "I have almost forgot the taste of grief," and "supped full of horrors" till I have become callous, nor have I a tear left for an event which five years ago would have bowed down my head to the earth. It seems as though I were to experience in my youth the greatest misery of age. My friends fall around me, and I shall be left a lonely tree before I am withered . . .
To John Cam Hobhouse, Oct. 14, 1811 ( A Cambridge friend, also traveled to Greece with Byron )
. . . at present I am rather low, & don't know how to tell you the reason -- you remember E at Cambridge -- he is dead -- last May -- his Sister sent me the account lately -- now though I never should have seen him again, (& it is very proper that I should not) I have been more affected than I should care to own elsewhere; Death has been lately so occupied with every thing that was mine, that the dissolution of the most remote connection is like taking a crown from a Miser's last Guinea . . .
To Mrs. Margaret Pigot, Oct. 28, 1811 ( Elizabeth's Mother )
Dear Madam, -- I
am about to write to you on a silly subject & yet I cannot well do
otherwise, -- You may remember a cornelian which some years ago
I consigned to Miss Pigot, indeed
gave to her, & now I am going
to make the most selfish & rude of requests. -- -- The person who gave
it to me, when I was very young, is dead, & though a long time
has elapsed since we ever met, as it was the only memorial I possessed
of that person (in whom I was once much interested) it has acquired a value
by this event, I could have wished it never to have borne in my eyes. --
If therefore Miss Pigot should have preserved it, I must under these circumstances
beg her to excuse my requesting it to be transmitted to me at No. 8 St.
James Street London & I will replace it by something she may remember
me by equally well -- -- As she was always so kind as to feel interested
in the fate of those that formed the subject of our conversations, you
may tell her that the Giver of that cornelian died in May last of a consumption
at the age of twenty one, . . .
The following poems are in the order as Byron wrote them . . . and correspond with the letters.
Click here to read
*Letters are an excerpt from "Byron's Letters
& Journals" Edited by Leslie A. Marchand