Books donated to a secondhand shop have cast light onto the scandalous 19th century family history of the renowned poet Lord Byron.
The volumes provide an insight in the life of Byron’s half-sister Augusta Leigh – the purported incestuous love-interest behind his departure to fight in Greece.
Augusta had seven children, one of whom, Elizabeth Medora, was thought by many to be Byron’s love-child.
Augusta’s husband, Colonel George Leigh, had already endured his own scandal when as equerry to the Prince of Wales, he cheated the Prince over the sale of a horse and fiddled his own regimental expenses. He was dismissed and his family endured a life of poverty and shame, although Augusta was granted residence in a grace and favour apartment at St James’ Palace.
The books, which belonged to Augusta and her family, were donated to the secondhand bookshop at Harewood House by a local woman who inherited them with the purchase of a house in London in the 1970s.
Of the books donated, The Literary Life and Correspondence of the Countess of Blessington had been inscribed ‘Augusta Leigh, St James’ Palace’, and another – Trimmer’s Fabulous Histories – is inscribed lovingly by Augusta to ‘Henry Francis Leigh from his dear Mamma on his birthday, January 28th, 1828’.
Audrey Kingsnorth, a volunteer at Harewood, said: “It has been a thrilling exercise to learn so much about this family through their treasured books, and we are continuing with our research.”