Books donated to Harewood House give insight into Lord Byron family scandal

Historically important books donated to the Harewood House secondhand book shop

Historically important books donated to the Harewood House secondhand book shop

First published in Local news Wharfedale Observer: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

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.”

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