The Schmooze

Matzos for Lord Byron

On January 2, 1815, the 27-year-old Lord Byron married the odious Annabella Milbanke, daughter and heiress of Lord and Lady Wentworth. Their daughter, Ada, was born on December 10. On January 15, 1816, Lady Byron took Ada and returned to her parents. The “first popular media scandal” erupted, and rumors spread that Byron beat and sodomized his wife during her pregnancy, was homosexual and a drunk, and committed incest with his half-sister. On April 21 Byron agreed to a separation, and on April 23 he left London to take a ship to the Continent. He sailed on April 25, and never returned to England and never saw his daughter again.

Isaac Nathan was 23-years-old in 1815, the son of a Jewish cantor in Cambridge. (They never met while Byron was at the university.) Nathan acted on his idea to collect and publish the “ancient” melodies of the synagogues in order to capitalize on the nationalist spirit in Europe after the defeat of Napoleon. He also had the idea to ask the most popular poet in England to write words to accompany the melodies. After an amazing series of contacts, Byron consented. (The first poem was “She walks in beauty.”) Equally amazing, Byron and Nathan became friends, and Nathan was with Byron during his last days in London. Nathan sent the following letter after he left Byron:

Byron replied, in an undated letter:

The originals of Byron’s and Nathan’s letters have not been found, although they were both published in Nathan’s 1829 work, “Fugitive Pieces and Reminiscences of Lord Byron containing an entirely new edition of the Hebrew Melodies with the addition of Several Never Before Published … also some Original Poetry, Letters and Recollections of Lady Caroline Lamb” (London, Whittaker, Treacher & Co., 1829). Nathan had become friends with Lady Caroline before her death in 1828.

Byron died in Greece on April 19, 1824. Nathan, after a remarkable life, died in 1864 after being hit by a street car in Melbourne, Australia, where he is still considered “the father of Australian music.”

Recommend this article

Matzos for Lord Byron

Thank you!

This article has been sent!

Close
Close