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Le corbeau blanc

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  • Maria Athanassiou-Papaefthymiou
    There was something about it; I couldn t tell what. Throughout the time that Lady Melbourne was said to be aware of the incest she does not seem to dread the
    Message 1 of 2 , Mar 1, 1999
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      There was something about it; I couldn't tell what. Throughout the time
      that Lady Melbourne was said to be aware of the incest she does not seem
      to dread the association of Byron and Augusta, as she might if she knew
      about any incestuous relationship. Yet she knew about Byron's secret
      love. I don't read in her any dislike of Augusta, on the contrary she
      advises Byron "for Augusta's shake" and teases Byron about naming his
      sister + (in some versions denoted also as X).

      On the 25th of April, Lady Melbourne writes:

      "..you are fair, & do not try to deceive me & in that you have great
      merit, I confess, - but on the other points- xxx I wish I could flatter
      myself I had the least influence (You say I put too many of these
      hieroglyphics in but as your one puzzles me I think it is a proper return
      to puzzle you three times as much) for I could talk & reason with you for
      two Hours, so many objections have I to urge, & after all, for what - for
      the shake of Augusta- is it worthwhile! and to involve _______ ________
      indeed, indeed if I had powers of persuasion on this Subject and could use
      them with effect you should fall down and adore me. When you return from
      A. (Byron NO longer calls his sister A. in his letters, but he does call
      his love so- and he was at Augusta's in the beginning of the month not
      when this letter was written or after) I shall not dare to make use of
      Such a term you will deem it irreligious (according to the well-known
      religion of incest?). By ye bye did you promise to deceive me -I hope so-
      What a Medley it all is. You talk of Laughing - is it possible to think
      of it all and not laugh (laugh about INCEST and an APE? Ch, ch, ch...) -
      supposing they (and who is they?) were all brought together as people at
      ye end of the fifth act in a play. What a confusion it would make -& what
      explanations would come, & how you would be put to shame- write one- You
      have the materials quite ready it can give you no trouble."

      To this letter Byron anwswered with the all too familiar to us Ape
      sentences.


      On 18th November perhaps we get a glimpse to what the hieroglyphics really
      mean:

      " I met with a person who had seen A- answer to +"

      A- is Anabella as opposed to +, Augusta. A mathematical joke and a
      reference to their contrasting natures. Both religious, pious, one a
      stiff, one warm.
      ---------------------------------------------------------------------------

      Many of Lady Melbourne's letters to Byron are not available. Perhaps
      they have been destroyed. In some of them is written in her son's hand
      "keep" or "free". Free of what, I wonder.

      On the 10th of June, 1814 Lady Melbourne says:

      "...I am shock'd at some of the things you sd to me last Night, & think
      the easy manner in which two people have accustom'd themselves to
      consider, their situation quite terrible (so it wasn't that terrible after
      all? and how about that ape Medora?) - but I shall say not more at
      present, as I see it is so useless. I can not reproach myself with having
      ommited any thing in my power to prevent the mischief and calimitys that
      must happen, I fear - but I will not croak (LIKE a CORBEAU) or prophessy
      misfortunes - tho' I am very melancholy."

      Next letter is of the 13th of July and is solely dedicated to Princess
      Charlotte's elopement. A misfortune, a calamity, quite a terrible event
      resulting to the practical imprisonement of the Princess but gets rid of
      the Prince of Orange.

      And now to the "Corbeau" mystery. After the wedding to A-.

      31st of January, 1815

      "I must thank you for saying you forgive (what you are pleased to call) my
      doubts, & for not allowing my sincerity to prevent yr. still having
      confidence inme; I willingly accept the office, in which you have
      install'd me & hope always to be your Corbeau blanc. (you remember
      Voltaire's tale) I wish you may hit as justly upon the corbeau Noir and
      avoid her -..."

      Jonathan David Gross, editor of Lady Melbourne's letters claims this is a
      reference to "Le Toreau Blanc" where a raven is a bull's guide. The Bull
      mind you is the metamorhosed and persecuted Lover of a Princess whose love
      her father wishes to destroy. In talking to the raven and trying to
      make it carry out his wishes the father, or King reminds the raven that
      she turned black for turning in Coronis for adultery. Now this story
      would not suit me badly since the bull (Byron)more beautiful than the one
      that enchanted Pasiphae or stole Europe was in love with the heiress to
      the most powerful state in the world (Princess Charlotte) and she
      reciprocated. But this raven, the guardian, was supposed to take the
      Bull's eyes out and was considering being sold to the King. I don't read
      Lady Melboune's letter that way. She is happy to be in Byron's confidence
      as his corbeau blanc.

      There is another story that Byron will verify for
      you after I tell it. The most obvious reference to white and black is in
      Voltaire's story "Le blanc et le noir". There is a nobleman Rustan, could
      be a Marquis or a Baron, falls in love with the Princess of Cashmere. And
      so does she. Rustan has two favourites: a white and a black advisor (who
      function as secretaries, errand boys etc.). Rustan is decided to ask for
      the hand of his Princess and has to journey to Cashmere. No, caution
      advises the white servant. Yes, charge! advises the black. The journey
      begins and the servants disappear. Only thing found when they're called:
      a vulture fighting with an eagle. Tons of fantastic adventures ensue and
      when Rustan reaches Cashemere he has to compete for his Princess's hand
      for her father is giving her to another against her will. and she is in
      her castle crying. "Fight with me" says the rival. "Don't" says the
      Griffin. "Do" says the corbeau. Rustan fights, as a result they all die.
      Before Rustan's death the servants show up and expleain they have been his
      good (blanc) and bad (noir) "genies" that had been fighting over his fate
      all the way to Cashmere. Rustan dies. Then he wakes up to find it was all
      a dream.

      Byron's answer to lady Melbourne's letter:

      "...I suppose your Corbeau noir is + but if + were a Raven OR A GRIFFIN I
      must still take my omens from her flight - I can't help loving her tho- I
      have quite enough at home to prevent me from loving any one essentially
      for some time to come-"

      There is no Griffin in "Le Toreau Blanc". From these two letters + is not
      the Lover but the advisor and somehow she's found in antithetical position
      with Lady Melbourne.

      "...I am laughing now at your essentially -essentiellement- par nature-
      par Essence. I had never heard of it before, but as essentially worse or
      better - or serving any one Essentially &c.,&c. to me it was quite a new
      reading. I am going on changing Pens & each of them worse than the last
      - never mind, you must have time enough upon your hands to decypher what
      ever is written to you - I did not mean yt any favourite of yours, was
      Synonymous to yt term when you talk of the Grand Signiors, but I have no
      objection to her or any other person entrapping his Grace, but like a good
      politician I had rather he would form an Alliance with some person
      hostile to ye present System. You wrong me about X on one subject.
      THEY are as black, and as hideous as any Phantasm of a distempered brain
      can imagine - but that "Essential" x out of the way, I don't know any one
      more fitted for your Corbeau blanc, from cleverness, Good - humour & a
      thousand agreeable qualitys - not forgetting the interest they take in You
      & the knowledge they have of you, which renders them more able to manage
      and advise - does this satisfy you?"

      One could take the THEY to mean "the omens". "The omens are black
      hideous, Phantasms of the brain". "You wrong me": doesn't that sound
      apologetic? And this time Lady Melbourne says that since Augusta is out
      of the way ie not in London she herself is the best for B's corbeau
      blanc. But one can imagine that the attributes she ascribes to herself
      could be applied to Augusta if one is "to satisfy" Byron. As for
      Ldy Me's laughing at the "essentially" the OXYMORON is the most laughable
      aspect. He cannot mean "by Nature" ie "carnally" for at home he will be
      getting Anabella pregnant shortly.

      So this is my Corbeau blanc story...
    • Maria Athanassiou-Papaefthymiou
      ... The advisors had assumed the forms of the vulture and the eagle and Corbeau and Griffin among other things, during their fight over Rustan s fate. Byron
      Message 2 of 2 , Mar 1, 1999
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        > Before Rustan's death the servants show up and expleain they have been his
        > good (blanc) and bad (noir) "genies" that had been fighting over his fate
        > all the way to Cashmere.

        The "advisors" had assumed the forms of the vulture and the eagle and
        Corbeau and Griffin among other things, during their fight over Rustan's
        fate.

        Byron going to A. might have refered to Anabella's invitation to Seaham
        which was oout of etiquette. Or maybe not.


        Maria
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