There's an odd thrill of excitement in stepping back in time as I walk down the streets Byron used to frequent. Some have noticeable alterations, others have been completely rebuilt. And yet there's something about the imagination that doesn't let any of this taint the experience. On my recent visit to London I was enthralled with the delights of several of the streets upon which Byron, at one point in his life, had taken lodgings. Let us look:
8 St James's Street and 13 Piccadily Terrace
These properties are not as they were. 13 Piccadilly Terrace is said to have been in the location of the now 139 Piccadilly. The tall building photograpphed, appropriately named Byron House, is now 8 St James's Street, but as far as I am aware this is not the building as it was. Nonetheless, we can say safely that Byron would have breathed the air in that very spot. It doesn't get much more exciting than that...
Actually, yes, yes it does. As I turned the corner onto Bennet(t) Street, wherein he used to lodge at number 4 in a building no longer standing, there was a giant wall to mask construction work on the other side of the road. On this wall could be seen - and I dare say it would be impossible to miss it - a rather giant head of Lord Byron. Needless to say, I took this opportunity to be photographed with His Lordship.
Heading up the road took me to 50 Albemarle Street, more famously known as the home of John Murray Publishers. It has been situated there since Byron's life, so that's definitely a treasured location.
You will also find a rather peculiar statue of Byron in Hyde Park. Located on a roundabout just outside of one of the exits, it's quite an odd looking statue and one, if I may say so, that doesn't do him any justice. However, me being me, I had to take a picture of it. I'll let you make up your own mind about what you think!
At the end of the week we took a day trip up to Cambridge so I could see the university. Unfortunately, it wasn't the most pleasant of experiences. Perhaps I just picked the wrong day. Maybe not. But, for whatever reason, I decided almost immediately that I do not like the area. It was nice to see the statue of Byron in the Wren Library, even if some of the staff were unacceptably rude, but I can't say I'll ever be going back in a hurry.
On the bright side, we did then travel from Cambridge to Six Mile Bottom. This couldn't have come at a better time for me as I'm currently doing a lot of research into Byron's relationship with his half-sister Augusta Leigh, and a connected link with Mary Chaworth, and a great deal of this focuses around the once-residence of Augusta, now known as Paddocks House. It's a gorgeous building, and I feel honoured to have been inside it. I definitely recommend you visit if you get the chance - a taxi from Newmarket station is most certainly the easiest way to approach it if you, like me, do not drive!
With the dampener that is Cambridge aside, it's been a very satisfying week with a lot of Byron all around. There are still several places on my list I'd like to check off in the UK before I branch out and begin exploring the Byron of the rest of the world, but for now I shall enjoy the adventures of the recent past. I hope you shall too!