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Sad, Glad and Interesting to Know

An historic eighteenth century fort, which was built in the grounds of Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire had fallen into a sad state of disrepair but thanks to money from Historic England the masonry can be repaired and the whole edifice brought up to the standard it was when the fifth Lord Byron built it in 1750. It once served as a mooring for the ship which was kept on the lake for entertaining friends with recreations of naval battles just across from his home. His great nephew, the Romantic poet and sixth Lord Byron is reputed to have been influenced by the gothic surroundings of Newstead Abbey, including the Cannon Fort.

A spokesman said “Hopefully it will remind people that the abbey, park and the fort area were gifted to the citizens of Nottingham by Julien Cahn in 1931”. 

Meanwhile possessions of the poet Lord Byron are currently being exhibited at the University of Edinburgh. The items are from his final trip to Greece, a country he fought and died for. George Gordon Byron of course grew up in Aberdeenshire in Scotland so it is apt that they should be shown in the Scottish capital. The artefacts on display include a handwritten book of useful Greek phrases, the poet’s final journal, and a certificate granting him the freedom of Missolonghi in Greece. The exhibition also looks at Byron’s Greek connections through items loaned from the National Library of Scotland. 

The poet returned to Greece in 1823, more than two years into their revolution against the Ottoman Empire and he used his fame to publicise the Greeks’ fight for liberty. Byron was awarded the certificate of freedom for the Greek town of Missolonghi in 1824 but sadly died there on the 19th April of a fever.

Meanwhile staying with the Byron circle many people are well aware that Mary Shelley wrote “Frankenstein” after one dark and stormy night on Lake Geneva at the Villa Diodati when a contest between Byron and his guests, including Percy Bysshe Shelley, was held to relate a horror story. One of those present on the evening was John Polidori, Byron’s physician and friend. He was also a writer and Polidori’s efforts resulted in the published novel “The Vampyre” which is said to have started a wave of vampire and horror fiction in the English language. The novel was originally credited to Byron himself but later Polidori got the plaudits after lodging a complaint. A mystery that has evolved is how a rare first edition of the work has recently been discovered in the library of the University of Queensland in Australia. The librarian said they were just looking through their rare book collection hoping to find some interesting handwritten notes when they discovered the work. Apparently, the book’s previous owner was Mary Anne Ricketts, who lived in Dorset, England and who had ties with the English aristocracy. The front cover states ‘Vampyre, a tale’ and she’s written “by Polidori … the idea only is Lord Byron’s”. Mary’s cousin Charles Sturt went to Australia in the late 1820s and presumably took the book with him.

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