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Lady Caroline <I>Ponsonby</I> Lamb

Lady Caroline Ponsonby Lamb

Birth
Marylebone, City of Westminster, Greater London, England
Death 26 Jan 1828 (aged 42)
St James, City of Westminster, Greater London, England
Burial Hatfield, Welwyn Hatfield District, Hertfordshire, England
Plot in churchyard
Memorial ID 6641 · View Source
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Regency Figure. Born the daughter of Lady Henrietta Spencer and Frederick Ponsonby, Lord Duncannon, and later, 3rd Earl of Bessborough, she was known as Caro to her family and friends. She was likely educated with her cousins at Devonshire House, her aunt, the notorious Duchess of Devonshire's home. She was considered an accomplished lady of her age; she spoke and read French and Italian, was knowledgeable of Greek and Latin, played the harpsichord, and drew with skill. She had her coming out in Paris in 1802, and met William Lamb the following year. In 1805, the couple married, despite the enmity his family seemed to hold for her. Her husband began a political career, first elected MP for Leominster in 1806. She apparently had great difficulty in carrying a child to term, and of only three known pregnancies during her marriage, the only surviving child was a son, George Augustus Frederick, born in 1807. Unusual for the time, she insisted her disabled, epileptic son remain at home rather than be 'put away.' Far from being a typical politician's wife, she disdained discretion, finding it oppressive. She was known to scorn convention, and would occasionally dress in a page's livery. She also had an torrid affair with the infamous Sir Godfrey Webster in 1810, which when confessed to her husband, was forgiven. After reading a copy Byron's 'Childe Harolde's Pilgrimage,' in March 1812, she wrote him a letter of admiration. The poet then met her at a ball some two weeks later. He described her as “the cleverest most agreeable, absurd, amiable, perplexing, dangerous fascinating little being that lives now or ought to have lived....” They entered into an affair that was so indiscreet, it defied all convention of the age. Within the first month, she had nearly eloped with him, but Byron's friends convinced him to leave London, and she then wrote countless letters to him. She again ignored convention by appearing at his home in page's livery upon his return to the city that July, and attempted to stab herself when thwarted. In August, she was taken off to Ireland by her family, to avoid further scandalous behavior. That winter, Byron initiated an affair with another woman, but Caroline appeared incapable of moving on, and wrote him incessantly. In November he wrote her a cutting reply; “I am no longer your lover...leave me in peace.” She had a breakdown, and she became notably thinner thereafter. The pair clashed when meeting in public, fanning the flames of gossip. In 1816, she claimed that Byron had confessed to an incestuous affair with his half-sister. That year she published a novel, 'Glenarvon,' peopled with thinly disguised members of London society, including Byron. As a result, she became a social pariah. Her hostile in-laws arranged for her to be diagnosed as insane. Her husband, under familial pressure, briefly separated from her, then reneged, returning to her regardless of her behavior. She then published 'A New Canto' (1819) and 'Gordon: A Tale' (1821), 'Graham Hamilton' (1822), and her last novel, 'Ada Reis' (1823). In 1824, she was shattered by news of Byron's death. She requested her letters to him be returned. Instead, she was to turn over letters Byron had written her, but she refused. In 1825, her husband, then Secretary for Ireland, agreed to a separation, then again changed his mind, allowing her to live at Brocket Hall. Addicted to alcohol and laudanum, her never robust health deteriorated, and by 1827, she was a virtual invalid. Her husband returned from Ireland to be with her in her final illness. She died at age 42; her husband never remarried.

Bio by: Iola


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 14 Oct 1999
  • Find A Grave Memorial 6641
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Lady Caroline Ponsonby Lamb (13 Nov 1785–26 Jan 1828), Find A Grave Memorial no. 6641, citing St Etheldreda Churchyard, Hatfield, Welwyn Hatfield District, Hertfordshire, England ; Maintained by Find A Grave .