March 27 1812: Lady Caroline Responds to Byron

On March 27, 1812, Lady Caroline Lamb sits down to write a letter to Lord Byron who - probably the day before - had given her a rose and a carnation. "Your Ladyship, I am told, likes all that is new and rare for the moment," Byron had teased her. Caroline observed that he said this with a "sort of half sarcastic smile."[1] She would respond in a letter dated Good Friday, 1812, which came on March 27, 1812, written "on ornate blue edged paper with white embossed decoration," that she much preferred a sunflower. Her letter reproduced below demonstrates a very fine and playful intelligence. Lady Caroline writes:  

The Rose Lord Byron gave Lady Caroline Lamb died in despight of every effort made to save it; probably from regret at its fallen Fortunes. Hume, at least, who is no great believer in most things, says that many more die of broken hearts than is supposed. When Lady Caroline returns from Brocket Hall, she will dispatch the _Cabinet Maker_ to Lord Byron, with the Flower she wishes most of all others to resemble, as, however deficient its beauty and even use, it has a noble and aspiring mind, and, having once beheld in its full lustre the bright and unclouded sun that for one moment condescended to shine upon it, never while it exists could it think any lower object worthy of its worship and Admiration. Yet the sunflower was punished for its temerity; but its fate is more to be envied than that of many less proud flowers. It is still permitted to gaze, though at the humblest distance, on him who is superior to every other, and, though in this cold foggy atmosphere it meets no doubt with many disappointments, and though it never could, never will, have reason to boast of any peculiar mark of condescension or attention from the bright star to whom it pays constant homage, yet to behold it sometimes, to see it gazed at, to hear it admired, will repay all. She hopes, therefore, when brought by the little Page, it will be graciously received without any more Taunts and cuts about 'Love of what is New.' 
Lady Caroline does not plead guilty to this most unkind charge, at least no further than is laudable, for that which is rare and is distinguished and singular ought to be more prized and sought after than what is commonplace and disagreeable. How can the other accusation, of being easily pleased, agree with this? The very circumstance of seeking out that which is of high value shows at least a mind not readily satisfied. But to attempt excuses for faults would be impossible with Lady Caroline. They have so long been rooted in a soil suited to their growth that a far less penetrating eye than Lord Byron's might perceive them--even on the shortest acquaintance. There is not one, however, though long indulged, that shall not be instantly got rid of, if L'd Byron thinks it worth while to name them. The reproof and abuse of some, however severe and just, may be valued more than the easily gained encomiums of the rest of the world.
Miss Mercer, were she here, would join with Lady Caroline in a last request during their absence, that, besides not forgetting his new acquaintances, he would eat and drink like an English man till their return. The lines upon the only dog ever loved by L'd Byron are beautiful. What wrong then, that, having such proof of the faith and friendship of this animal, L'd Byron should censure the whole race by the following unjust remarks:
Perchance my dog will whine in vain
Till fed by stranger hands;
But long e'er I come back again,
He'd tear me where he stands.'
Benita Eisler [2] notes in her biography that Byron's rose and carnation were found neatly dried in Lady Caroline Lamb's room at Melbourne House when she died in 1828.

1.   Fiona MacCarthy, Byron: Life and Legend (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002) at 167.                2.  Benita Eisler,  Byron: Child of Passsion, Fool of Fame (New York, Random House, 1999) at  342.

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