Glenarvon – Lady Caroline Lamb

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Glenarvon is Lady Caroline Lamb’s first novel, published in 1816. Its rakish title character, Lord Ruthven, is an unflattering depiction of her ex-lover, Lord Byron. Drawing from Glenarvon, John Polidori used a vampire named Lord Ruthven as a characterization of Lord Byron in his short story “The Vampyre” published in 1819.

Glenarvon corrupts the innocent young bride Calantha (Caroline herself) leading to their mutual ruin and death. The picture of her husband, The Hon. William Lamb (the 2nd Viscount Melbourne from 1828), called Lord Avondale in the book, is more favourable, although he too is held to be partly responsible for Calantha’s misfortunes: his biographer remarks that the book’s message is that Caroline’s troubles are everybody else’s fault.

The book was an enormous success with the reading public, but ruined Caroline’s already questionable reputation. Society’s leaders did not greatly mind reading about her love affairs, but deeply resented the vicious and easily recognisable portraits of themselves contained in the book, which were its chief “selling point”. One of those thus satirised, Lady Jersey, took her revenge by barring Caroline from Almack’s, the centre of fashionable life, a sign that she was now socially beyond the pale. As Melbourne’s biographer remarks, Caroline never found her way back into society again.

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