If you recognise that phrase, you’ll know it was once said of Lord Byron, coined by his jilted lover, Lady Caroline Lamb.
I’m not sure I’d describe anyone who loved animals as much as Byron did, as mad or bad. He had an impressive menagerie by any standards for a Lord of Scottish descent and it followed him on his Grand Tour across Europe and gathered momentum as he went. In a letter to his friend Hobhouse in May 1819 he added a request for four dogs of varying breeds, to his shopping list for toothbrushes and Macassar Oil. He was also known for his relaxed attitude to his household, who we are told he ‘bantered with’ rather than ruled over.
As for dangerous to know – I like to think he was just ahead of his time. Today, we probably wouldn’t give him a second thought. He may have been dangerous for others reputations but their fault if they overstepped the mark. It wasn’t any secret.
Byron’s colourful prose and turn of phrase are what lures me to him. He describes the events that unfold in his life with the same dry wit and picture painting detail as Joe Orton did in his diaries. He refers to Don Juan, the focus of the epic poem he was still writing at the time of his death in 1824 as ‘Donny Jonny’.
I’m glad he has played such a prominent role in my family history. Even now he inspires intrigue whenever he is mentioned. So I’m not giving him up just yet. And it’s enormously satisfying writing him into my script as if I have a claim to him. I suppose in some way I do. And that’s fine by me.
You can read my book ‘A Most Faithful Attendant – The Life of Giovanni Battista Falcieri‘ by purchasing it here.