Lady Caroline Lamb, also known as Honourable Caroline Ponsonby was born on 13th November 1785 in England. She was the daring and charming daughter of an Earl of Bessborough. As a little kid, Caroline was bold, reckless and tomboyish. Although she was educated in her late teenage years, she was known to be clever, artistic and witty. Caroline loved to write poetry, prose and draw sketches.
Lady Caroline & Lord Byron
Caroline was the very first female in the elite class to have captivated noted poet Lord Byron. At first Lord Byron was highly infatuated with Lady Caroline and pursued her with gay abandon and even planned to elope with her.
However, fate intervened and after his desire was satisfied, his seemingly wild passion and love turned to hatred towards her. She had met Lord Byron in the year 1812 when she was a young woman of 24 years and already famous as a writer. By the time, Caroline had already penned a novel called ‘Childe Harold’.
She was married to William Lamb, an upcoming politician. She was just nineteen years of age when she wedded Hon. Sir. William, who was also heir to the first Viscount Melbourne. It was an adorable love match and they were a happy couple during the initial years.
However, after a few years, she produced an autistic son and a premature daughter who died in a day. All these developments drained her emotionally. Later, her ill-health after childbirth also had a negative impact on her married life. Moreover, Lord William’s political ambitions played a vital role in hastening their growing rift. Even William’s family intense dislike for Caroline caused much heartbreak and sadness to Lady Caroline.
There were rumours about William Lamb’s sexual promiscuity and his strange demands from his wife, according to a letter penned by Caroline to Lady Melbourne in the year 1810 that threw light on disturbing marital scenes in the Lamb residence. Yet, the Melbourne family claimed that Caroline and her husband had an affectionate and loving relationship.
The Volatile Relationship with Byron
Caroline and Byron had constant fights, yet their love remained firm. It was a kind of love-hate relation. Byron fondly referred to Caroline as ‘Caro’, which was also her nickname. After her break-off with Byron, William took her to Ireland. Still, Lady Caroline pined for her lover and returned to London City in the year 1813. But, alas Byron’s interest in her had faded and he spurred her attempts at a reunion.
The Caroline-Byron love affair that happened in the year 1812 shocked the prudish London society. Caroline took the poet and literary scholar by surprise when she discussed poetry and read with him. Byron was also jealous if she mingled with other men.
They always wrote to each other and confided in their secret diaries about their romantic feelings. Matters escalated in July 1813, when at a ball Byron behaved harshly and insulted Lady Caroline who then tried to inflict self-injury. Caroline mental state was questioned and Byron remarked the episode as a theatrical performance by Caroline.
The Poetry War of Words
Their affair even affected and influenced their work as poets. When Caroline wrote a poem and hinted about Byron in her verses, he hit back with a hate poem referring to her as a haunting personality and a fiend. The tumultuous affair made Caroline distant and spiteful with her own cousins and family relatives.
Caroline’s Literary Career
Caroline was quite popular in the literary circle of those times. Most times she met other writers and poets in the Holland House, Lord Ward’s house or Lady Charleville’s house. Some of her best works are bookish novels. The Gothic novel called ‘Glenarvon’ released in the year 1816, was published anonymously, and it very much depicted her love story where the hero was pictured as a war hero.
In fact, several distinguished members of the London society were indirectly insulted with horrible caricatures included in the book. Caroline found herself alienated from society and her reputation suffered greatly.
Byron too responded in a sarcastic way to her novel. Modern literary scholars feel that the book is a worthy contribution while critics of the 19th-century felt that Glenarvon was mere pulp fiction. Other novels written by Lady Caroline include Ada Reis, Penruddock, and Graham Hamilton. All of them were released between 1822 and 1823.
Her Final Years
Caroline’s infamous affair with Byron earned her nothing but ridicule and isolation. Byron’s mother disliked her very much. However, William Lamb appeared to be a steady and supportive figure in Caroline’s life. He sympathised with his literate wife till her death at the young age of 42 years.
Lady Caroline formally separated with her husband in the year 1825, as both of them had their share of extramarital affairs. She then started living at Brocket Hall. In her later years, Lady Caroline became increasingly dependent on laudanum drug and alcohol.
She started losing her mental stability and by the year 1827, a full-time doctor took care of her failing health. On 25th January 1828, Lady Caroline passed away in England. She was late buried in St. Etheldreda’s Church graveyard located in Hatfield.