Lamb, Caroline

WRITER, NOBLEMAN (ENGLAND)
BORN 13 Nov 1785, London - DIED 25 Jan 1828, London: Melbourne House, Whitehall
REAL NAME Ponsonby, Caroline
GRAVE LOCATION Hatfield, Hertfordshire: St. Etheldreda's Churchyard, Church Street

Only daughter of the 3rd Earl of Bessborough and Lady Henrietta Frances Spencer, a sister of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. In 1805 Caroline married William Lamb (the future Prime Minister Lord Melbourne). She became pregnant twice, but their only child was mentally retarded and suffered from grand mal epileptic seizures (it was said of him that he was a 'harmless but hopeless imbecile').

In 1810 she had a liaison with Sir Godfrey Webster and in March 1812 she started an affair with Lord Byron, of whom she said that he was "mad, bad and dangerous to know". London society was well aware of their affair and Caroline made several scenes after Byron put an end to it. Caroline sent him some of her pubic hair in a letter (August, 1812). She also threatened to kill herself with a knife at a party (July, 1813), though she denied this had happened. Byron had told her about his homosexual affairs to end their relationship and this gave her an instrument for blackmail. She wrote "remember me" in a copy of Vathek, the book by William Beckford, who had to live abroad because of his homosexuality. On 1 July 1814 they met once more at Burlington House at a masqued ball in honour of Wellington (though she observed Byron at Melbourne House in February 1816). In 1815 she travelled to Europe with her mother to nurse her brother Frederick Ponsonby, who had been wounded at Waterloo. In Europe she had other lovers, including a one night stand with the Duke of Wellington himself during the fall of 1815.

William Lamb's family wanted him to divorce her, but William didn't want a divorce and there was a reconciliation. Her gothic novel "Glenarvon" (1816) describes a romanticized version of her affair with Byron and was an instant succes de scandale. In 1824 she accidentally witnessed Byron's funeral procession in London (after he had died in Greece) and in 1825 William Lamb finally separated from her (there was no divorce). But he was at her bedside when she died in 1828, having traveled back from Ireland for the express purpose.

Caroline wrote two other novels, "Graham Hamilton" (1822) and "Ada Reiss" (1823). She also published songs set to music by Isaac Nathan (who collaborated with Byron on Hebrew Melodies in 1815-1816) and two satires of Byron's Don Juan: "A New Canto" (1819) and "Gordon: A Tale" (1821).

[A kind thank you goes to Mr. Paul Douglass for his corrections to the original text and for providing additional information on Caroline Lamb.]

Related persons
• was the lover of Byron, George Noel Gordon
• was the lover of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of

Events
1824/7/12: Lord Byron's funeral procession in London
A huge procession moved through London. A smaller procession moved to Hucknall, Nottinghamshire in four days. In the first coach were Colonel Leigh, Captain Byron, Hanson and Hobhouse. In the second coach were Burdett, Kinnaird, Bruce, Ellice, Stanhope and Travanion. In the thrid coach, among others, Moore, Rogers and Campbell. Mary Shelley saw the procession when it passed her house moving towards Highgate Hill. Caroline Lamb broke down once more when she saw the funeral processon of the former lover.

Sources
Regency Personalities - Lady Caroline Lamb
Lord Byron's Lovers: Lady Caroline Lamb
Timeline
• Quennell, Peter, Byron, The Years of Fame - Byron in Italy, Collins, London, 1974
• Crawford, Anne and others, The Europa Biographical Dictionary of British Women, Europa Publications Ltd, London, 1983
• Douglass, Paul, Lady Caroline Lamb, Palgrave, New York, 2004


Lampo, Hubert

Published: 1 Jan 2006
Last update: 23 Nov 2012