Reluctant to leave the warmth of Lord Byron’s library, I slipped into the hallway and headed for the study. Periodic lightening strikes helped guide my way and kept me from tripping over any errant animal roving about the house.
From the looks of things upon my arrival in the study, Lord Byron seemed to be exceptionally talented at being messy. Stockings and “whatnot” were tossed about with abandon. It appeared that Byron had not only enjoyed some company earlier in the evening, he was also afflicted with a lazy valet. Well this was a tad awkward. Was this the setting of a clandestine visit with Claire Clairmont perhaps? After all, she had a raging crush on Byron so strong that it compelled her to travel to Lake Geneva with her stepsister, Mary Shelley and Percy Bysshe Shelley, in order to spend time with him.
Lord Byron was dashingly good looking, knew it and worked it. He exuded Regency hip. So attractive was he that his name became a coveted adjective for gentlemen to be described with. Women swooned from his “Byronic” good looks. Perpetuating his image though prompted Byron to be obsessed with his weight.
Unfortunately, his appetite was a determined force to be reckoned with; he made excuses for it by saying he had a “morbid propensity to fatten”. Not truly, Byron just really, really liked to eat and drink and was very good at it too.
There was one other thing in Byron’s life that really irritated him. He was born with a club foot and was mortified by it his entire life. Not willing to be inconvenienced by either science or common sense, he was convinced that his club foot was the result of his mother refusing to give up her corset during her pregnancy – he never forgave her. He was fixated with drawing the eyes of those who looked at him upwards and away from his foot. He did not want any stares to pause at a robust waist. Maintaining his raffish appearance drove him to be a vanguard of the “fad diet”.
With these thoughts in mind, I moved across the study to a small table set for private dining. Only a desperate, yet intrepid, eater would taste what lay before me. I leaned in and took one eye-watering sniff. The boiled potatoes looked to be smashed down with the back of the fork and reeked of vinegar. It appeared that he had thrown caution to the wind and almost finished off the boiled cabbage that shared the plate. A small carafe of white wine and plain crackers rounded off the unfortunate looking meal. One of his ex-lovers, Lady Caroline Lamb, described Lord Byron as “mad, bad and dangerous to know”. Maybe he was just hungry?
As I stood there considering the unpleasantness of this misguided Regency weight loss regimen, my toe kicked something under the table. A torpedo bottle! A grand early design for a soda water bottle. Its shape required it to remain on its side, thereby keeping the cork moist and sealing in the water’s effervescence. Hmmm, soda water could further help dampen a zealous appetite.
Maybe it was true, Lord Byron preferred to eat alone and would fill up on such foods so as not to be hungry and eat at social gatherings. Byron once wrote that he “found the sight of a woman eating as repulsive, unless she was eating Champagne and Lobster of course”. The rogue!