The Byron Journal

The Name ‘Ianthe’ and a Pregnancy by Byron in a Letter of Lady Oxford’s

The Byron Journal (2019), 47, (1), 43–54.

Abstract

An 1813 letter written by Lady Oxford, never before published in full, answers literary and biographical questions about her relationship with Byron. Biographers argue whether she had a pregnancy by Byron and why Byron did not mention it again; this letter confirms that she did have a pregnancy which ended in a miscarriage. Byron’s nickname for Lady Oxford’s daughter Lady Charlotte Harley, ‘Ianthe’, is sometimes treated as an interpretive key to Byron’s poems to Charlotte, but does not appear in early drafts, and is only added to ‘To Ianthe’ many months after Lady Oxford and Charlotte left England. This letter shows that the epithet ‘Ianthe’ was connected to the portrait of Charlotte before she left England, placing the name closer to the composition of the poems and supporting its interpretive significance.

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Author details

McCune, Adam