Saturday, August 20, 2011

Mad, bad and difficult to decide ...

... on how to go about portraying Newstead Abbey, Lord Byron's gothic pile in Nottinghamshire. Which I have decided to do.
Having collaged the homes of his fellow Romantic Poets, Keats and Shelley, I feel I can't leave out Byron though his place is nothing if not a real rambler of a building and hard to get a handle on.

Byron wasn't born at Newstead Abbey but grew up there with his querulous mother and the dilapidated  building and its history obviously had an enormous and lasting influence on his life and work.

"Eternally romantic and beautiful, like a smaller version of the great cathedrals of Wells or Salisbury, the great west front of Newstead Abbey stands as one of the most perfect examples of thirteenth century monastic architecture. The Abbey has a long history, but it is the spirit of the sixth Lord Byron which pervades the place today ..."

During the course of one of his not infrequent cash flow problems Byron ordered his servants to dig up floors looking for treasure reputedly buried by monks centuries before, but all they found were a number of stone coffins full of bones. He had a drinking cup made from one of the skulls.

The building is said to be home to any number of ghosts, including a nebulous black shape with staring eyes, a white lady and The Black Friar - this last immortalised by Byron in his poem Don Juan - the appearance of which was believed to portend bad luck for the family that had usurped the monastic order's home ...

All in all I think a large helping of Gothic Romance with a bit of spectral horror a la Fuseli is called for for this one ... but I am determined to introduce Boatswain into the picture somehow, Byron's beloved huge Newfoundland dog who has a magnificent tomb at the Abbey.
Animals were one of his lifelong passions.

And apropos of dogs, here is a tiny collage I did the other day:

It really is tiny, playing card size, based on a previous collage of Fanny Keats's dog Carlo. Another poetic pet. Just playing around, in between pictures, with leftover scraps I am too miserly to throw away.
Right, off to do some more research and review my stash of suitable papers ...


  1. Love this group of writers/poets. Can't wait to see the next chapter...
    BTW, Newstead Abbey with its ghosts and sad demise has a US semi-version in Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis' aunt's estate called 'Grey Gardens' in prestigeous Easthampton, NY. Their story happened in relatively contemporary times:
    Interesting how their house takes a prominent position in their life story. It was made into a Broadway play, then a movie, then released as a video.

  2. Opps s/b 'prestigious'....don't hit that post button so fast!

  3. A drinking cup made from a skull!!? What a handsome fellow he is though.