I’m in the UK at the moment, and spent a very wet and grey afternoon exploring Newstead Abbey. I’ve been round the gardens several times but
never made it into the house, and I have to say it was worth the effort. It’s on a smaller scale than many stately homes, but in many ways that makes it nicer – it’s actually possible to imagine a family living there.
For those people who don’t know – and I didn’t – Newstead was the home of the Byron family until Lord Byron finally ran out of money and sold it. Byron is one of those historical characters that I knew vague facts about, and I learned a lot from the exhibition to the extent that I’ve now added a biography and poems of Byron to the list of things I’m going to read when I run out of books about the Peninsular War and Lord Wellington.
Newstead is beautiful in any weather, but go there on a sunny day if you can. The gardens are huge and truly beautiful, and there are a great selection of events held there through the year. Take good shoes as it can be muddy even in good weather, and enjoy the gardens, the lake, the ducks, geese and swans, the superb views of the house, and of course the house itself, which has great exhibitions about Byron and his world.
I resisted buying a book in the gift shop. There are certain books which can be read on kindle and my bookshelves at home have been out of control for years. Some books, particularly if I’m using them for research, are hopeless in electronic format. There’s a very useful little volume about the structure of Wellington’s army which I use all the time when working on my Peninsular series, but trying to find my way around it on kindle took forever so I’ve now bought the book. I’ve found that, along with the amazing Peninsular War Atlas which I got for Christmas, need to be on my desk all the time. In fact I’ve used both of these so much while writing that I feel faintly anxious if I’m away from them for more than a few hours. Once I’ve finished the series I’ll have to wean myself off them gradually.
But I suspect I can learn about Lord Byron and read some of his work in a more portable format. I’ve always rather seen him as a comic figure, and I suspect that comes from reading Georgette Heyer during my teenage years. Certainly he was something of a poseur and I’m not sure that his personal life was up to much but he was a fascinating character and I’m looking forward to finding out more. I don’t think I realised that for all his eccentricities, Byron’s dedication to the Greek cause was very real and that he made genuine sacrifices for the cause.
There are never enough hours in the day for the things I’d like to know more about. Reading one book or article or visiting one place just leads to more and more. However, what better way to spend a wet Sunday afternoon than curled up in front of the log burner with a couple of cats (I’m currently cat sitting) reading Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. And it avoids the essential task of revising my second book which is what I probably should be doing.
Byron here I come…
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