I have been very comfortable here, – listening to that d-d monologue, which elderly gentlemen call conversation, and in which my pious father-in-law repeats himself every evening – save one, when he played upon the fiddle.
However, they have been very kind and hospitable, and I like them and the place vastly, and I hope they will live many happy months…
In the early days of March 1815, Byron was preparing to take his leave of Seaham Hall which had provided the backdrop to his fated marriage on a cold January morning some weeks earlier.
On the outskirts of a small fishing village and perched on a grassy hill that that overlooks the wild and windy north east coast and far away from the glamour of the ‘Melbourne Court’ in London, the ‘pretty Spot’ of Seaham Hall was the family home of Ralph and Judith Milbanke.
Although Annabella had been born at Elemore Hall in May 1792 as the completion of Seaham Hall was still underway, Annabella would spend her happy childhood years of bathing in the sea, clamouring across the rocks, dreaming up stories of dragons and shipwrecks while running across the sands and where she would live in peaceful anonymity until January 1815 and from then on her life would never be the same again:
Few of my pleasures were connected with realities – riding was the only one I can remember. When I climbed the rocks, or bounded over the sands with apparent delight, I was not myself.
Perhaps I had been shipwrecked or was trying to rescue other sufferers…
On the journey to their new home at 13 Piccadilly Terrace in London, the newly married couple also made a visit to Byron’s sister Augusta Leigh at Six Mile Bottom in Newmarket which would for Annabella become the ‘scene of such deep horrors’ but that is for another story!
Although Byron would never visit Seaham again, Annabella returned to her ‘dear home’ in 1817 with feelings of distress and profound sadness.
I see those moments as thro’ a veil;
The veil of sorrow hath passed between
And dimmed the hues of the distant scene;
And the beach where Hope’s unchidden rover,
So joyfully has bounded over,
Shall never shew her traces again
The tides of grief have made them in vain!
Although much altered over the intervening years, Seaham Hall is now a rather nice hotel and spa and on cold weekend in February and with the clearest skies imaginable, the Polite Tourist returned to the place that Byron in his letter to Tom Moore was to confess to taking a liking to ‘vastly’.
A sentiment the Polite Tourist is only too happy to agree with!
Byron’s Letters and Journals Vol 4 (1814-1815) Ed: Leslie A Marchand (London: John Murray 1975)
The Life and Letters of Anne Isabella Lady Noel Byron Ethel Colburn Mayne (London: Constable & Co Ltd 1929)