“There is something to me very softening in the presence of a woman – some strange influence, even if one is not in love with them, – which I cannot at all account for, having no very high opinion of the sex.
But yet; I always feel in better humour with myself and every thing else, if there is a woman within ken.”
As my home town was in the throes of enjoying a beautiful Indian summer, I was delighted to meet up with fellow Byronian Dianna Rostrad for an afternoon of sightseeing in York and an enjoyable lunch at the Black Swan; a 15th century hostelry noted for delicious food and the occasional haunting by an assortment of ghosts that have made themselves at home within the cosy confines of this medieval inn over the last five hundred years.
As Dianna and I have traded lively messages back and forth through the discussion board of my ‘Lord Byron Appreciation Group’ on Facebook for some time now; we had plenty to chat about as we shared thoughts about his Lordship’s various romantic paramours, proven or otherwise!
Dianna had very kindly bought me a signed copy of The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton and our chatter naturally ran to my creation of Lord B’s abode and as Fairfax House in York has long been my inspirational ‘mood board’ for the design of 13 Piccadilly Terrace in the year 1815; my suggestion to pay a visit to this fabulous Georgian residence was met with enthusiasm by my companion despite the fact that we had been pounding the cobbled streets of York on foot for some hours now.
On our approach to the graceful entrance to Fairfax House perched in the shadow of Clifford’s Tower since 1760, purchased by the Viscount Fairfax of Gilling Castle as a dowry for Anne his only surviving child; I remarked to Dianna that this was one wedding gift I would have been more than happy to receive!
Guide book in hand, my fourth copy but who’s counting; we strolled through the exquisitely appointed rooms, stroking the occasional piece of chinoiserie furniture in admiration, listening to the ticking of the wonderful longcase clocks and musing over the identity of the wife of the Earl of Carlisle whose portrait on loan from Castle Howard now dominates an entire wall of the dining room.
With the stern lady adorned in forest green silk gazing down upon us; Byron soon returned as the topic of conversation as we discussed his relationship with his much lampooned guardian, the unfortunate Fredrick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle, much to the surprise of the friendly tour guide who was following our observations with surprised interest!
As we made our way to the kitchen, I did enjoy a final wistful glance of the dining room with its elaborate stucco ceiling for the recreation of one for Lord B’s abode had resulted in much heartbreak and insomnia during one painful month from inception to completion…
However, as we entered the kitchen, I had the strangest sense of déjà vu and as I looked around at the familiar sight of the huge fire with spit roast and bread oven, I felt as if I had shrunk and had wandered into the basement kitchen of Lord B’s abode, albeit in 12th scale!
It was only as I looked at the elaborate dishes of sumptuous and mouth-watering cuisine on the kitchen table that reality finally intruded with the realisation that the former inhabitants of this abode were arguably more fortunate than the imaginary inhabitants of my abode who unfortunately still remain on the brink of starvation apart from a bunch of carrots and some cake!
Hopefully, the plans that I am making for the celebration of a Regency Christmas at 13 Piccadilly Terrace will offer a soothing balm to any past grievances.
Bye for now!
Follow the link to enjoy a ‘virtual’ tour of Fairfax House in York and which inspired the creation of the kitchen here at Lord B’s abode.
You must recollect however – that I know nothing of painting – & that I detest it – unless it reminds me of something I have seen or think it possible to see – for which I spit upon & abhor all the saints & subjects of one half the impostures I see in the churches & palaces…
A copy of a portrait of Byron by the fashionable Regency painter Thomas Phillips now hangs in the Hallway on the Piano Nobile of 13 Piccadilly Terrace.
Despite Byron’s opinion of a painting as “the most artificial & unnatural – & that by which the nonsense of mankind is the most imposed upon.” this particular painting entitled ‘Portrait of a Nobleman’ commissioned by Byron in 1813 as a gift for his ‘Dearest Augusta’ remains one of the most iconic images of the poet.
It was in the spirit of family unity that I also created a copy of the portrait of Byron’s ‘Amiable Mamma’ Catherine Gordon Byron that can be seen in Byron’s ancestral home of Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire.
In the hagiography that often passes for the writing of Byron’s life, Catherine Gordon Byron is somewhat of a Marmite figure for you either love her or you hate her!
My hatred of Marmite is equal to the fondness that I have for the story of Byron’s most ‘Amiable Mamma’ who was described by her only son as a “tender and peremptory parent who indulged me sometimes with holidays and now and then with a box on the ear.”
I was rather surprised to discover that not all of my fellow Byronians share my pleasure at the reunion of mother and son portraiture upon the walls of 13 Piccadilly Terrace; however, given that they share their final resting place side by side in the Byron ancestral vault in the Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene in Hucknall Nottingham, it made perfect sense to me that their likenesses hang side by side, albeit in a small world!
Adieu for now!
‘The Trouble of an Index’ Byron’s Letters and Journals Volume 12 Ed: Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray 1982)
There is something to me very softening in the presence of a woman, – some strange influence, even if one is not in love with them, – which I cannot at all account for, having no very opinion of the sex.
But yet, – I always feel in better humour with myself and every thing else, if there is a woman within ken.
And there is certainly a ‘woman within ken’ in the Dining Room of 13 Piccadilly Terrace for the walls that I have painted in a distemper inspired by the colour of ‘Wedgewood Blue’ are now adorned with several female likenesses that feature the like of Lady Melbourne and Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire.
For with this feminine presence dominating the Dining Room of 13 Piccadilly Terrace and with Byron’s ambivalent attitude towards food well documented in that he would frequently go for days without eating a substantial meal preferring a diet of “hard biscuits and Soda water”; I have created this particular room to be as ‘unByronic’ as is possible and which may offer some explanation for the portrait of B’s ‘infernal fiend’ that now hangs there.
For it was during the course of his brief residence within the martial home of 13 Piccadilly Terrace, he would on more than one occasion refuse to share the dining table with his bride.
… once when his dinner was accidentally served at the same table with mine, he desired his dish to be taken into another room (in my presence, & the servants attending) with an expression of rage…
As the dietary strictures employed by Lord B were not shared by his wife for having made no secret of her enjoyment of food, my hope is that this wonderfully poignant image of this solemn yet graceful little girl can continue to adorn the walls of this dining room in peace!
Bye for now!
‘The Trouble of an Index’ Byron’s Letters and Journals Volume 13 Ed: Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray 1982)
Lord Byron’s Wife Malcolm Elwin (London: John Murray 1962)
Despite the headaches I endured during the creation of the Dining Room at 13 Piccadilly Terrace, this room remains one my favourites which was inspired by in part by the beautifully intricate ceiling that dominates the Drawing Room at Fairfax House in York in addition to the letters of Lady Melbourne who was lauded for the exquisite interior design that she employed during the renovation of the Albany in Piccadilly that was completed in the autumn of 1774.
As the formidable Lady Melbourne was to prove a commanding presence within the graceful salons of Georgian society with her intimate friends Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire and the fashionable sculptor Anne Seymour Damer; she also has the privilege of dominating the walls of this room in several of the portraits that I have placed there.
Has Lady Greenwich told you of the Duchess of Devonshire, Lady Melburn, and Mrs. Damer all being drawn in one picture in the Characters of the three Witches in Macbeth?
They have chosen that Scene where they compose their Cauldron, but instead of “finger of Birth-strangled babe, etc.” their Cauldron is composed of roses and carnations and I daresay they think their Charmes more irresistible than all the magick of the Witches.
Lady Mary Coke
However, you may yet wonder why I have placed the childhood portrait of Annabella Milbanke as she was painted by Hoppner at ten years old for as ‘Lady Melburn’s’ niece and the future Lady Byron, she would in later years come to realise the truth of Lady M’s ‘Hubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble’.
I enclose you a very rough Sketch of the rooms on ye ground floor in yr House merely to shew you how ye rooms are disposed, as you may then consider in what way it will be most convenient for you to live in them – I have mark’d them as they are at present…
The Duchess’s Sitting room is furnish’d with low Bookcases Tables Couches & Great Chairs – in profusion…
… but certainly the Rooms up stairs, have only common useful furniture in them – The offices excepting the Kitchen are small – but will do very well & are very comfortable – for all ye Servants belonging to Dev House, are <used> to take care of themselves –
I suppose you or Ld B employ some Upholsterer & in that case – he had better look over the things left in ye House & see they are all there according to ye Inventory which the Auctioneer will give him…
– If you know of no particular person I will employ ours so let me know…
I forgot to mention yt all ye rooms are very light & pleasant excepting No 4 which being <cornered> so far back is darken’d by some buildings –
Lady Melbourne (Sunday March 12 1815)
Byron’s “Corbeau Blanc” The Life and Letters of Lady Melbourne Ed: Jonathan David Gross (Liverpool University Press 1998)
Yes, I am still here and I can guess what thought is uppermost in your mind right now as you read this!
For you’re probably thinking that I have forgotten all about the creation of my ‘Lord Byron House’ and have shaken the dust of the year 1815 from the soles of my feet as Lord B had hoped to when he sailed from our shores in the Spring of 1816 to a life of exile and even greater notoriety.
I am happy to report that you are quite mistaken and although I haven’t quite got around to dressing some of the rooms that will appeal and appease the comfort level of any inhabitant, imaginary or otherwise; the work on my small Regency abode still continues.
Admittedly, my work as of late has been more of the choosing and purchasing variety rather than the creating and painting tasks that still await that includes the putting together of one or two pieces of rather essential furniture.
For over two score years I would like to believe that I have had a more than average understanding of the word essential and what it means; however last month I was forced to concede this point when my pesky teenage son caught me drooling over a silver Georgian Tea Urn that I had bought from the US and having excitedly held it aloft for his opinion, he remarked “It’s very nice, but did they serve tea from a tray on the floor in Byron’s time?”.
Although the merits of essential furniture which along with the virtues of soft furnishings have never been high on the list of my priorities, 12th scale or not, I have also been very busy in my new role as a feature columnist for the Dolls’ House Magazine and the story of my ‘Lord Byron House’ has been making frequent appearances within the news ink that constitutes my monthly musings.
In the October issue, you can see a photograph of a miniature Boatswain warming himself by the cosy fire in the library of 13 Piccadilly Terrace. He wasmade for me by the wonderful Lucy Maloney of Designer Dog Miniatures and inspired by the portrait of Byron’s favourite Newfoundland which you can see on display at Byron’s ancestral home Newstead Abbey in Nottingham.
And I am quite sure that he will remain there at his leisure as any self respecting Poet would take one look at those bookshelves all devoid of books and would promptly make off to the nearest Gentleman’s Club!
With the summer officially over I shall been spending a lot of my time in the year 1815 between now and Christmas as there are some exciting plans being made for 13 Piccadilly Terrace which I will be able to share with you very soon!