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Lord Byron: Marriage

Byron's literary career continued at a clip. In 1813 he published the poems Giaour and The Bride of Abydos. In January 1814, he published the long poem The Corsair, which became an instant bestseller. Though his relationship with Augusta continued, he began to court a woman named Annabella Milbanke. Prim and stout, Annabella was not the kind of woman Byron usually went after. Scholars speculate that marriage may have been a bid for respectability, or a way to distance himself from the relationship with his half-sister that even he knew was wrong. Annabella, for her part, fell wildly in love with the hot young baron, who wrote love letters to die for.

The couple married 2 January 1815. It was immediately clear to both of them that they'd made a huge mistake. Almost immediately after the wedding, Byron took his wife to visit Augusta, whose husband was away. During the two-week visit, Annabella slept alone in a guest room while Byron and Augusta shared the master bedroom. Byron and Annabella's marriage fell apart spectacularly hard and fast. Within a few months of their wedding day, he referred to his wife as "a nice little sullen nucleus of concentrated savageness."15 He flew into rages, ran up debts and carried on affairs that he made no attempt to hide. Annabella gave birth to their only child, a daughter named Ada Augusta, on 10 December 1815. A few weeks later, she took her baby and split, ending the marriage after one year and fourteen days.

A shaken Annabella told her parents and her lawyers about Byron's abusive behavior. Word of his allegedly incestuous relationship leaked out, making Byron persona non grata in respectable circles. His reputation ruined, his finances a mess, Byron decided to leave the country of his birth once and for all. "I was unfit for England," the poet later wrote, and "England was unfit for me."16

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