Sunday, August 21, 2016

Famous Ephebophile: Lord Byron



I (temporarily) abandoned MacCarthy's Byron Life and Legend on page 217 for Gilot and Lake's Life with Picasso (Gilot met Picasso when she was twenty-one, and he was sixty-two.) specifically because MacCarthy didn't cover Byron's writing process. However, I did cull that Byron was an (acting) ephebophile. 

Initially, Byron's affection was for Lady Oxford but it "transferred from the mother to the daughters, beautiful, well read, [and] precocious children". Byron was "bowled over by attractions of the eldest daughter, Lady Jane Harley, then sixteen, describing her in his dairy as 'a delightful creature, but un pea libre'."

"[B]ut his favorite was her younger sister Lady Charlotte, at eleven, was at the age of promise which most moved him, the child on the edge of puberty."


Lady Charlotte as Ianthe

"Lady Oxford's daughter Charlotte is the subject of the famous and much anthologised five stanzas "To Ianthe," fragile flower of the narcissus [...] In these stanzas [...] Byron celebrates the girl's evasive charm and addresses the painful ambiguities of their relationship:"


"To Ianthe"

Not in those climes where I have late been straying,
Though Beauty long hath there been matchless deemed,
Not in those visions to the heart displaying
Forms which it sighs but to have only dreamed,
Hath aught like thee in Truth or Fancy seemed:
Nor, having seen thee, shall I vainly seek
To paint those charms which varied as they beamed—
To such as see thee not my words were weak;
To those who gaze on thee what language could they speak?

Ah! may'st thou ever be what now thou art,
Nor unbeseem the promise of thy Spring—
As fair in form, as warm yet pure in heart,
Love's image upon earth without his wing,
And guileless beyond Hope's imagining!
And surely she who now so fondly rears
Thy youth, in thee, thus hourly brightening,
Beholds the Rainbow of her future years,
Before whose heavenly hues all Sorrow disappears.

Young Peri of the West! — 'tis well for me
My years already doubly number thine;
My loveless eye unmoved may gaze on thee,
And safely view thy ripening beauties shine;
Happy, I ne'er shall see them in decline;
Happier, that, while all younger hearts shall bleed,
Mine shall escape the doom thine eyes assign
To those whose admiration shall succeed,
But mixed with pangs to Love's even loveliest hours decreed.

Oh! let that eye, which, wild as the Gazelle's,
Now brightly bold or beautifully shy,
Wins as it wanders, dazzles where it dwells,
Glance o'er this page, nor to my verse deny
That smile for which my breast might vainly sigh
Could I to thee be ever more than friend:
This much, dear Maid, accord; nor question why
To one so young my strain I would commend,
But bid me with my wreath one matchless Lily blend.

Such is thy name with this my verse entwined;
And long as kinder eyes a look shall cast
On Harold's page, Ianthe's here enshrined
Shall thus be first beheld, forgotten last:
My days once numbered — should this homage past
Attract thy fairy fingers near the Lyre
Of him who hailed thee loveliest, as thou wast—
Such is the most my Memory may desire;
Though more than Hope can claim, could Friendship less require?

Byron commissioned for Richard Westall to paint the nymphet's portrait, and he shared "I should love [Charlotte] forever if she could always be only eleven years old [...]" 

However, it appears that Byron's affections went too far. "Lady O[xford] detected him one day in an attempt upon her daughter, then a child of thirteen, & was enraged with him to the greatest degree."