Thursday, 24 October 2013

....dogged faithful Hobhouse.....Kensal Green Cemetery

I came across the grave of John Cam Hobhouse at Kensal Green by accident. The name leapt out at me because of a long standing interest in Byron:
" what turned out to be his final term at Cambridge, Byron made his most intimate male friendships, with John Cam Hobhouse, Scrope Davies and Charles Skinner Matthews, a group of young men on his own intellectual level who shared and indeed helped to perfect his sense of humour, the propensity to laughter which was Byron's saving grace....John Cam Hobhouse was the son of Benjamin Hobhouse, a Liberal Whig MP created baronet in 1812. He was initially suspicious of Byron's affectations disliking the way he went swanning around Cambridge wearing 'a white hat, and a grey coat' while riding 'a grey horse.' But he warmed to Byron on discovering that he wrote poetry. Hobhouse himself had literary aspirations. The friendship between the volatile and charismatic Byron and the dogged faithful Hobhouse flourished through the years, surviving tiffs, domestic tragedies, political differences, so that Hobhouse, after Byron's death, could truthfully assert: 'I know more of B. than anyone else & much more than I should wish any body else to know.'" (Fiona MacCarthy "Byron: Life & Legend.")

Hobhouse travelled with Byron in Spain, Portugal, Greece and Turkey, was his best man at his spectacularly imprudent marriage (Byron regretted marrying the moment the ceremony ended) and consoled him after his separation. When they weren’t together the two corresponded continually but of course only Byron’s letters are of interest to anyone now. Byron died forty five years before Hobhouse who went on to have a long political career as a radical Whig the highlights of which were a spell in Newgate for writing a seditious pamphlet (Byron, all sympathy, wrote a poem: “Why were you put in Lob's pond/My boy, HOBBY O?/For telling folks to pull the House/By the ears into the Lobby O!”....not one of the poets greatest efforts) and inventing the phrase “His Majesty’s (loyal) opposition.” He wrote a few works of his own, an account of a trip around Albania and a set of posthumously published memoirs. Ironically he perpetrated one of the greatest acts of literary vandalism ever when, concerned for his friends reputation, he burned Byron’s memoirs after his death.

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