‘You were good enough in your last to say that I might write “soon” – but you did not add often – I have therefore to apologise for again intruding on your time – to say nothing of patience. – There is something I wish to say – and as I may not see you for some – perhaps for a long time – I will endeavour to say it at once…Lord Byron
In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you…Mr Darcy
Will you marry me?..Mr B.
Oops, I appear to have mixed up three marriage proposals here!
Lord Byron’s, Mr Darcy’s and mine!
For there I was with my worn copy of Wedlock’s the Devil – a collection of Byron’s letters from the years 1814-1815 with pages marked by my ‘Pride & Prejudice’ bookmark, a hastily bought souvenir from Bath and as I was reading the letter written by Byron on this very day, September 9 1814 – I confess that my attention wandered to the alluring and haughty figure of Mr Darcy in conversation with a certain Miss Bennet and somehow the words from his first marriage proposal became embroiled with what would also turn out to be Byron’s second marriage proposal to Annabella Milbanke…
‘A few weeks ago you asked me a question – which I answered – I have now one to propose… Are the “objections” – to which you alluded – insuperable? – or is there any line or change of conduct which could possibly remove them?
still I neither wish you to promise or pledge yourself to anything – but merely to learn a possibility which would not leave you the less a free agent.‘
But it’s hardly a declaration of ardent love and enduring passion, is it?
Which is all rather ironic when one considers Byron’s reputation as the great Romantic poet!
He would appear to write with a dread of being accepted and as with Mr Darcy, this, his second proposal would be immediately accepted and by September 18 the die was cast.
‘My dear Moore, I am going to be married – that is, I am accepted, and one usually hopes the rest will follow…
Things may occur to break it off, but I will hope not…
I must, of course, reform thoroughly‘
Unlike Mr Darcy and Miss Bennet however, Byron and Annabella were to be denied their happy-ever-after for by January 1816, a mere sixteen months later, Annabella had returned to her parents with the baby Ada and their brief marriage dissolved into bitterness, innuendo, scandal and exile.
However, that is another story, or possibly several more!
Several years ago, like Annabella Milbanke I also received a proposal of marriage from another aspiring Man of Letters; delivered not in person nor indeed by mail coach but courtesy of the fax machine!
‘for it was to avoid troubling you upon it that I finally determined to remain an absent friend rather than become a tiresome guest – if I offend it is better at a distance..‘Lord Byron
However, MY Man of Letters was at the time some several thousand miles away in the Middle East and fortunately my story has turned out very differently!
Byron’s Letters and Journals Vol 4 1814-1815 Ed, Leslie A. Marchand (London: John Murray 1975)
Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice An Annotated Edition Ed, Patricia Meyer Spacks (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press 2010)