Finding Number (Click this to view full catalogue structure)HM/132-162
TitleCorrespondence relating to an article on Lady Byron by Mrs Harriet Beecher Stowe
Extent38 items
DescriptionLetters in this section relate to the aftermath of Mrs Harriet Beecher Stowe's notorious 1869 exposé printed in the 'Atlantic': 'The True Story of Lady Byron's Life'. Her article has been described as 'the most sensational magazine article of the nineteenth century' and it certainly caused a great deal of controversy at the time.

Stowe's article proclaimed the long-whispered rumour that Lord Byron had carried on an incestuous affair with his half-sister and that they had a daughter together. Stowe was moved to write the article after striking up a friendship with Annabella Milbanke (Lady Byron), Byron's wife. While Lady Byron was on her deathbed, she had called Stowe to her country estate. It was then that Stowe claimed she heard Lady Byron's side of the tumultuous marriage, and the secret adulterous relations Lord Byron had with his half-sister.

Stowe's nominal aim in writing 'The True Story of Lady Byron's Life' was the defence of Lady Byron against criticism levied against her in the British and American press both before and after her death in 1860. It has also been suggested that wider issues concerned with women's rights and the institution of slavery may have played a part in Stowe's decision to write such an expose.

Once the article had been published, the demand for proof of Stowe's claims grew and there are a number of letters in this section which mention the Trustees of Lady Byron's papers, and Dr Lushington, who had previously acted as Lady Byron's counsel/legal advisor.

Harriet Beecher Stowe suffered great personal and professional backlash after the publication of the article, but she continued advocating on behalf of Lady Byron, and also attempted to repair her own reputation by publishing the following year (1870) in a subsequent, stand-alone treatment titled 'Lady Byron Vindicated'.

There are numerous letters between Harriet Martineau and Maria Weston Chapman, (1806-1885) nee Weston, American Reformer and Abolitionist. Although the issues surrounding Lady Byron and Mrs Stowe are the main focus of these letters, the issue of slavery in America is also discussed.
Access StatusOpen


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