Wednesday, January 23, 2019

From the annals of terrible houseguests
Perhaps the worst brought-up children of the age were Leigh Hunt's. Byron got Hunt out to Italy to edit his projected periodical, the Liberal, but he was consternated when Hunt arrived with his slatternly wife Marianne, later described by [William] Blackwood [founder of the Edinburgh- based Blackwood's Magazine] as "a pert Abigail in a fifth-rate farce," and all their six offspring. The whole lot expected to stay in his house, and when he shifted from Pisa to Genoa, they followed. The children had been brought up in the ultrapermissive modern manner, and when Byron rebuked them, they answered back. They also proved extremely destructive: "What they can't destroy with their filth," said Byron, grinding his teeth, "they will with their fingers." He called them "Yahoos," "Blackguards," and "Hottentots," and tied his bulldog across the staircase to keep them out of his own quarters. Unfortunately, the dog went for the nanny goat the Hunts insisted on keeping to provide fresh milk for the Yahoos. Marianne noted in her diary: "Mr Hunt was much annoyed by Lord Byron behaving so meanly about the Children disfiguring his house, which his nobleship choose to be very severe upon. . . . Can anything be more absurd than a peer of the realm, and a poet, making such a fuss about 3 or 4 children disfiguring the walls of a few rooms--the very children would blush for him, fye, Lord B, fye!" [from Paul Johnson's The Birth of the Modern]
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I've got a poem up today at Vox Populi--"Respectable Woman," one of the summer's bounty of new pieces.

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