The Eroticism of Fat Men
It was the incomparably versatile Lady Caroline who doomed him. Early in 1815 Byron had made an unenthusiastic marriage to Caro’s husband’s cousin, Annabella Milbanke. Caro had predicted that he would “never be able to pull with a woman who went to church punctually, understood statistics and had a bad figure”. The claustrophobia of conventional married life in Piccadilly Terrace prompted Byron to behave badly with a thoroughness only he could have achieved, flaunting his relations with Augusta, throwing out dark hints of his homosexual past and (in his favourite role of the stage villain) shooting the tops off his soda-water bottles while his wife was in labour in the room upstairs.
On January 15 1816 Annabella and their infant daughter left London, taking refuge at her parents’ country house in Leicestershire. Three weeks later her father, Sir Ralph Milbanke, wrote formally to Byron to request a separation. Rumours of marital violence, adultery with actresses and his incest with his sister began to circulate. In early February the “villainous intriguante” Lady Caroline began spreading her own version of these stories, perpetrating the worst possible revenge of the woman scorned. “Accused B of – poor fellow, the plot thickens against him,” reported Hobhouse. The dash in his diary stands for sodomy. Byron’s sexual predilections, up to then known only to his confidential inner circle, were becoming public property. On February 12, Hobhouse brought Byron the alarming news of what he had been hearing “in the streets” that day.
Guardian, Saturday 9 November 2002