Byron’s Early Love, ‘A Dream of Annesley Hall’ 1856
Edward Matthew Ward 1816 - 79
Oil on canvas
Sir Charles E. Swann gift 1917.273
As a youth, the Romantic poet Byron was infatuated with his neighbour, Mary Chaworth. Here he watches her dancing with her betrothed, Jack Musters, at a ball in her home, Annesley Hall, in 1805. Byron's ill-fated love of Mary was the subject of his poem, 'The Dream'. Mary did end up becoming Mrs Musters in real life, but the marriage soured, and she began to think fondly of Byron again, reading all his published poetry, and even trying to meet with him. She also experienced a distressing mental illness. He in later life, after his own romance had turned sour, never forgot Mary. But his feelings changed from ardent romantic love, to bitterness, and then to pity for her unhappy situation. Byron remarked at the end of his life that if he had married Mary, his life may have been different – better.