Hi everyone! I am coming out of Hoyden retirement on the joyous occasion of my new book release. Sweet Disorder
, my elections book
and the first in a Regency small town series, is out from Samhain
Nick Dymond enjoyed the rough-and-tumble military life until a bullet to the leg sent him home to his emotionally distant, politically obsessed family. For months, he's lived alone with his depression, blockaded in his lodgings. But with his younger brother desperate to win the local election, Nick has a new set of marching orders: dust off the
legendary family charm and maneuver the beautiful Phoebe Sparks into a politically advantageous marriage.
One marriage was enough for Phoebe. Under her town's by-laws, though, she owns a vote that only a husband can cast. Much as she would love to simply ignore the unappetizing matrimonial candidate pushed at her by the handsome earl's son, she can't. Her teenage sister is pregnant, and Phoebe's last-ditch defense against her sister's ruin is her vote—and her hand.
Nick and Phoebe soon realize the only match their hearts will accept is the one society will not allow. But as election intrigue turns dark, they'll have to cast the cruelest vote of all: loyalty...or love.
Nick, my hero, is a huge Byron fan, and early on Nick and Phoebe (both from very political families) discuss Byron's maiden speech in the House of Lords, on the Frame Breakers Bill. In this excerpt, Nick is trying to make polite conversation and has asked Phoebe if she likes Byron. Not realizing he's a fan himself, she gets annoyed.
"No," she said. "Not every woman is precisely the same as the next, you know. We don't all copy Lord Byron's verse into our commonplace books from memory simply by virtue of our sex. I haven't read a word of his silly poem, and I don't intend to. I do not care a straw about his tragic past or his tragic profile or how many women he had in the East."
He blinked. "You sound like my mother."
That brought her up short. "I do?"
She had made that speech before, or something close to it. Byron was all the rage; he came up in conversation. Suddenly, she remembered that there had been a time when she had read every fashionable book she could get her hands on. She'd pored over the lists of new publications that London booksellers sent to the newspaper.
Now she sounded like someone's mother.
"She thinks him an embarrassment to the Whigs. She called his speech on hanging the frame-breakers 'theatrical'."
"I cried over that speech," Phoebe admitted, subdued and strangely unsettled. "Jack—that is, Mr. Sparks, my brother-in-law—printed it in the Intelligencer. [the local newspaper]" Did she dislike Byron at all? Or had she simply spouted an unexamined opinion, to be contrary?
"It was brilliant," Mr. Dymond said hotly. "But it was not in the style of the House of Lords. Passion and compassion have no place in well-bred politics."
She hid a smile. He wasn't, after all, much more tactful than she was. "I didn't mean to be rude. As I said, I haven't read his lordship's work. I might like it. Plenty of others do."
He smiled. "No, I do believe rudeness comes to you quite unconsciously."
Byron's speech, which can be read in Hansard's Parliamentary Debates
along with the debate surrounding it, is pretty well written. Probably that surprises no one. It is also, to my modern eye, extremely formal, and while scathing, hardly shockingly so.
Can you, then, wonder that in times like these, when bankruptcy, convicted fraud, and imputed felony are found in a station not far beneath that of your lordships, the lowest, though once most useful portion of the people should forget their duty in their distresses, and become only less guilty than one of their representatives?
Frame breakers, 1812.
Image via Wikimedia Commons.
But at the time, presumably in part because of Byron's snarky delivery, it was considered inflammatory. Byron writes: "I spoke very violent sentences with a sort of modest impudence, abused everything and everybody, [and] put the Lord Chancellor very much out of humour."
Was the speech a success? At this distance, it's impossible to tell. Presumably it was like most talked-about creative productions: a lot of people loved it, a lot of people hated it, a lot of it had to do with your personal feelings about Byron, and which opinion was fashionable changed depending on your audience.
Image via Wikimedia Commons.
At the time, Byron was effusively pleased with the speech's reception. Robert Charles Dallas wrote later:
"When he left the great chamber I went and met him in the passage; he was glowing with success, and much agitated. I had an umbrella in my right hand, not expecting that he would put out his hand to me; in my haste to take it when offered, I had advanced my left hand—'What,' said he, 'give your friend your left hand upon such an occasion?' I shewed the cause, and immediately changing the umbrella to the other hand, I gave him my right hand, which he shook and pressed warmly. He was greatly elated, and repeated some of the compliments which had been paid him, and mentioned one or two of the peers who had desired to be introduced to him. He concluded with saying that he had, by his speech, given me the best advertisement for Childe Harold's Pilgrimage."
(Honestly, on reading even just that small excerpt, darling as it is, I can't help feeling that Dallas was not so much a friend as a frenemy. I found a hilarious sum-up of his biography and the legal trouble surrounding it
, which opens, "The Recollections
is at once one of the most valuable and most disappointing of the Byron memoirs.")
The House of Lords, 1809.
Rowlandson and Pugin in A Microcosm of London.
Image via Wikimedia Commons
In a letter to Francis Hodgson
, Byron mentioned that "[Lord Holland] tells me I shall beat them all if I persevere, & [Lord Grenville] remarked that the construction of some of my periods are very like Burke's
!!—And so much for vanity."
But this same Lord Holland wrote in his Memoirs
that the speech was "full of fancy, wit, and invective, but not exempt from affectation nor well reasoned, nor at all suited to our common notions of Parliamentary eloquence." Was he kindly encouraging a fledgling Whig orator in the hopes that one day he'd improve? Or did he like the speech at the time but no longer feel it would reflect well on him to say so by the time his memoirs were published three or four decades later? Once Byron was famous, and then disgraced, no one discussed him without an agenda.
Mr. Frenemy Dallas also felt the need to mention that Byron rehearsed parts of the speech with him in advance, but that "his delivery changed my opinion of his power as to eloquence, and checked my hope of his success in parliament. He altered the natural tone of his voice, which was sweet and round, into a formal drawl, and he prepared his features for a part—it was a youth declaiming a task."
A "task" was a type of school assignment, involving, I think, the recitation of memorized passages from the Classics. Moore's biography of Byron also mentioned this in connection with his second speech in Parliament
:"His delivery was thought mouthing and theatrical, being infected, I take for granted (having never heard him speak in Parliament) with the same chanting tone that disfigured his recitation of poetry, — a tone contracted at most of the public schools, but more particularly, perhaps, at Harrow, and encroaching just enough on the boundaries of song to offend those ears most by which song is best enjoyed and understood."
The whole thing makes me feel embarrassed and protective on Byron's behalf (okay, I'm sure he laughed all the way to the bank, but also he was so self-conscious!), and it also makes me feel very, very fond of him.
Here's how Byron discussed the episode in his journal, years later: "[Sheridan] told me[...]I should make an orator, if I would but take to speaking, and grow a parliament man. He never ceased harping upon this to me to the last; and I remember my old tutor, Dr. Drury, had the same notion when I was a boy
; but it never was my turn of inclination to try. I spoke once or twice, as all young peers do, as a kind of introduction into public life; but dissipation, shyness, haughty and reserved opinions, together with the short time I lived in England after my majority (only about five years in all), prevented me from resuming the experiment. As far as it went, it was not discouraging, particularly my first
speech (I spoke three or four times in all); but just after it, my poem of Childe Harold was published, and nobody ever thought about my prose
afterwards, nor indeed did I; it became to me a secondary and neglected object, though I sometimes wonder to myself if I should have succeeded."
Tell me about a youthful ambition of yours, or a popular book or movie that you are just too contrary to try!
One commenter will be chosen at random to receive a free e-book of Sweet Disorder, and one commenter will be chosen from the entire blog tour to receive an awesome prize package
that includes tie-in pinback buttons, bookmarks, bacon-scented candles, a bookstore gift card, and much, much more! (This drawing is open internationally. Void where prohibited.)
Labels: Rose Lerner, Sweet Disorder