Monday, 15 March 2010

The Burial Horde

Here's recent and dead good Byron biographer Fiona MacCarthy

"Chief colluder in Byron's fame was, of course, his publisher, the second John Murray, whose successor, John Murray 7 commissioned this new biography...All my journeys in pursuit of Byron have begun and ended at 50 Albemarle Street off Piccadilly, the dignified house purchased by John Murray 2 in the wave of prosperity following the success of Childe Harold. Teasing contemporaries defined this as the moment at which the one time tradesman bookseller became a gentleman, and certainly, Murray's literary and social status advanced in relation to his author's meteoric rise.

"Your room speaks of him in every part" wrote the besotted Caroline Lamb to Murray in 1816. The Byronic reverberations are still there...the archive (now here) does not consist simply of manuscripts and letters but also includes objects; portraits and miniatures, clothes and medals, accumulated memorabilia; a collection of adoring letters from women of all classes, many quite unknown to Byron, who wrote in desperation, seeking contacts, assignations...; a macabre assortment of hair, donated by the late Lord Byron, who had his magpie side; a little slipper thought to have belonged to Allegra, Byron's daughter by Claire Clairmont, who died aged five in a convent at Bagnacavallo....the resources of the Murray archive can only be described as a burial horde...

Those are the voices you hear first and loudest here.

Byron is where the modern idea of the writer STARTS...

It's also where you have to start when you think about
the house, the dynasty, the collected memories
of John Murray, Publisher, Albemarle Street
John Murray, the unmatched literary archive
John Murray...a dynasty of seven of them
all called John Murray...
JM 6 even going so far as to change his name
by deed poll when he took over the firm...

Wierd, huh? Makes me wonder if that urge to continuity is not unnconnected to the very existence of the archive...itself a gathering of personal and public history...and that this unusual degree of control over memory has its initiating impulse in some other than institutional imperatives…

It’s probably got something to do with Byron. If I’ve found out anything so far about the archive itself, it’s that everything starts with Byron

No comments:

Post a Comment