George Gordon, Lord Byron

  (1788 - 1824)

Henry Yelvertoft, Lord Grey de Ruthyn

Lord Grey de Ruthyn was eight years older than Byron. He had taken a lease in 1804 on Newstead Abbey for the five years until Byron's majority (in 1809, 21). Byron came to stay at Newstead with him after his (Byron's) departure from Annesley Hall and his failed affair with Mary Anne Chaworth at the end of 1803 (15).

Newstead Abbey
Newstead Abbey

Owen Mealey, the estate overseer, writes to John Hanson on 29 December, 1803:

Lord Byron is at Newstead with Lord Gray they goe out these moonlight nights and shuit pheasants as they sit at roost. There is a great deal said about Lord Byron in the neighbourhood for staying away from school, and now being tutored by Lord Gray that kills all the game in the Country he has had 16 Hares in the House at one time he says he will turn the gardens into a hare warren. (quoted in BECP, p71)

But something happened between the two, and Byron left Newstead.

Leslie Marchand writes:

Byron stayed on [at Newstead] through the holidays, but before his sixteenth birthday [on 22nd January 1804], something happened that gave him an emotional shock, and he left with the determination never to have anything to do with Lord Grey again. Though he would never reveal the nature of the offense, he hinted at it clearly enough to make it obvious that the sensuous young lord had made some kind of sexual advance which disgusted his younger companion. Hobhouse noted in the margin of his copy of Moore's Life; '.... a circumstance occurred during [this] intimacy which certainly had much effect on his future morals.' (LMLJ, p46)

Byron writes to his half-sister Augusta Leigh on 26 May 1804:

I am not reconciled to Lord Grey, and I never will. He was once my Greatest Friend, my reasons for ceasing that Friendship are such as I cannot explain, not even to you my Dear Sister (although were they to be made known to any body, you would be the first), but they will ever remain hidden in my own breast. - They are Good ones however, for although I am violent I am not capricious in my attachments. - My mother disapproves of my quarreling with him, but if she knew the cause (which she never will know), She would reproach me no more. He Has forfeited all title to my esteem, but I hold him in too much contempt ever to hate him. (quoted in BECP, p72 and LMLJ, p29)

Thomas Moore, Byron's first biographer, writes anodynely in 1832:

An intimacy ... soon sprang up between him (Byron) and his noble tenant (Lord Grey de Ruthyn), and an apartment in the abbey (Newstead) was from thenceforth always at his service. (TMLJ, p26)

It was against this entry that Hobhouse made his marginal note:

.. a circumstance occurred during [this] intimacy which certainly had much effect on his (Byron's) future morals.

Megan Boyes, one of Byron's many biographers, observes discreetly in 1988:

For the rest of his life he (Bytron) regarded him (Lord Grey) with a repugnance caused, it is generally believed by Lord Grey's attempts to introduce him to homosexuality and, although this is only a theory, it is quite within the realms of possibility. (MBLW, p6)

Benita Eisler writes in 1999:

The 'unmentionable' nature of Lord Grey's crime would have been clear to anyone hearing or reading Byron's account of his flight from Newstead. Lord Grey had made sexual advances to Byron that the younter boy repulsed. Or wished he had. (BECP, p72)

Louis Crompton, writing in 1985, observes:

It seems, however, difficult to imagine how Hobhouse could have asserted that the episode affected Byron's later behavior if he had not been a willing participant. (LCGL, p83)

He adds:

Did Grey anger Byron by boasting of his 'conquest' to some mutual acquaintance? (LCGL, p85)

In this case, Byron's outrage would be at the disclosure, not at the homosexuality.

On 21 November, 1804 (16), he writes again to his half-sister, Augusta:

I have more reasons than one, to wish to avoid going to Notts [Nottinghamshire], for there I should be obliged to associate with Lord G. whom I detest, his manners being unlike those of a Gentleman, and the information to be derived from him but little except about shooting, which I do not intend to devote my life to. Besides, I have a particular reason for not liking him. (RPLJ1, p55)

On 1 December, 1804 (16), he writes to John Hanson:

... Lord Grey is still at Newstead ... I presume he goes on in the old way, - quarrelling with the farmers, and stretching his judicial powers (he now being in the commission) to the utmost, becoming a torment to himself, and a pest to all around him. (RPLJ1, p56]

The affair is not elucidated by a later exchange of letters between the two, when Lord Grey writes:

We parted in 1804 the best of friends... Your letters were afterwards most affectionate, nay I have even now a trifling pledge of your esteem which your mother gave me, and therefore under all these events, you cannot wonder at my being somewhat surprised - (you say the break was harmful to yourself, I need not say to you who know I have not the power to command my feelings when deeply wounded what my sensations were). (BECP, p73, quoted from the Meyer Davis Collection of Manuscripts)

Abbreviations:

BECP Byron, Eisler, Benita, Child of Passion, Fool of Fame, first published Hamish Hamilton, 1999

LCGL Crompton, Louis, Byron and Greek Love, University of California Press, 1985

MBLW Boyes, Megan, Love Without Wings, Derby, 1988

RPLJ1 Protheroe, Rowland, The Works of Lord Byron, Letter and Journals Vol 1, Free Plain Vanilla Electronic Texts, September 2005

TMLJ Moore, Thomas, Letters and Journals of Lord Byron, first published J.Murray, London, 1832 

The poet biographies, criticism, translations, and textual notes on this site are the copyright of Paul Scott
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