10 Times Lady Caroline Lamb Was the Ultimate “Crazy Ex”

Lady Caroline Lamb was a pretty woman with reddish-blond hair, a delicate figure, and freckles across her cheeks—but looks can be deceiving. This lovely looking woman would draw in one of England’s most celebrated poets, Lord Byron, into an affair with her beauty and charm, but she’d turn out to be one hellish ex-lover.
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Caroline was born in 1785. Years before meeting Lord Byron, she fancied herself in love with William Lamb, the second son of Lord and Lady Melbourne. He was destined to become Prime Minister one day, but before his appointment, he found himself the unfortunate husband to Caroline. They married in 1805 and all seemed well for the couple, until Caroline started to stray.
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Portrait of Lady Caroline Lamb. A lovely woman, but looks can be deceiving. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)
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Before Caroline even met Byron, she had an affair with Sir Goddfrey Vassal Webster. Her husband, who found out about the affair when Caroline confessed, forgave his wife. However, it’s worth noting, William had affairs of his own throughout the marriage and some of his sexual demands on Caroline were possibly perverse. Caroline wrote in an 1810 letter:
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“He called me prudish – said I was strait-laced, – amused himself with instructing me in things I need never have heard or known – & the disgust that I at first felt for the world’s wickedness I till then had never even heard of – in a very short time this gave way to a general laxity of principles which little by little unperceived of you all has been undermining the few virtues I ever possessed.”
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With both William and Caroline having affairs, this started a cycle of straying and forgiveness between the couple, but what really upped the dramatics was a certain handsome and pompous poet. Here’s 10 times Lady Caroline Lamb was the ultimate crazy ex, and Lord Byron was the cause of it all:
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1) She coined the term “mad, bad and dangerous to know.” After publishing his 1812 poem, “Childe Harold,” Lord Byron quickly became the toast of London. Not long after, Lord Byron made the acquaintance of Lady Caroline Lamb. After this first meeting, Caroline stated he was “mad, bad, and dangerous to know,” which would become synonymous with the poet overtime. This, however, wouldn’t stop her from having a trainwreck of an affair.
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2) She dressed as a pageboy to meet him. At first, Lord Byron cared little for the lovely Caroline, but after spending time with her, an attraction soon formed. They were soon at it like bunnies, their affair heated and turbulent. Caroline was so addicted to the handsome, hellish poet that she’d dress as a page boy and sneak into his rooms for hours long romps.
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Lady Caroline Lamb enjoyed dressing as a pageboy to visit Lord Byron in his rooms. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)
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3) She was the jealous type. I’m talking super, duper, obsessively crazy jealous. Caroline once saw Lord Byron speaking to another woman and broke a glass in her hand. Talk about someone needing anger management classes.
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 4) She sent Lord Byron her bloody pubic hair. Yep, you read that correctly. Your eyes do not deceive you. This girl is so cray cray, she cut her own pubic hair off and sent it to Lord Byron with a note saying, “I cut the hair too close and bled more than you need.” This occurred shortly after Byron ended the affair, and if anything, this just pushed him further away.
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5) She tried to stab herself. Lord Byron inevitably grew tired of her. Although they’d discussed running away together, Lord Byron eventually ended the affair by not responding to any of Caroline’s letters. This so thoroughly crushed Caroline, she dressed as a page boy and snuck into his rooms in London. When Byron’s friend, a man called Hobhouse, tried to encourage her to leave, Caroline grabbed a knife and threatened to kill herself. How charming.
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6) She built a bonfire for him… And then proceeded to toss replicas of Byron’s gifts and letters into the flames while local children recited a poem she wrote about him. To make this weirder, she performed this strange ritual on Christmas day in 1812. Who needs chestnuts roasting on an open fire when you can burn your ex’s belongings with little children chanting your soul-deep poetry in the background?
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Lord Byron, “mad, bad and dangerous to know.” Except, he didn’t realize how dangerous it would be to know Lady Caroline Lamb. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)
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7) She tried slashing her wrists. During a ball in July 1813, Lord Byron publicly insulted Caroline. Her response was what any crazy ex would do. She smashed a wine glass and tried to cut her wrists. Caroline’s mother-in-law stopped her from any serious injury. It’s not likely Caroline was suicidal, but that the scandalous display was a call for attention, Byron’s attention. Her attempt failed, but her in-laws started thinking that maybe…just maybe…she needed to be put into a madhouse.
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8) She never stopped writing to him. On top of the note with the bloody pubic hair, Caroline never stopped writing him letters. Two years after the affair ended, she wrote in a letter: I lov’d you as no Woman ever could love because I am not like them — but more like a Beast who sees no crime in loving & following its Master — you became such to me — Master of my soul more than of anything else.” Today, this would be equivalent to receiving numerous texts and phone calls from an obsessed ex.
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William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne was the husband of Lady Caroline Lamb. Despite a rocky marriage, he stuck by his wife. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)
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9) She stole a portrait from him. This one is actually very clever, and you have to give her props. Caroline, over the years, learned how to copy his style of poetry—as well as his handwriting. Caroline used this skill to forge a letter to Byron’s publisher, Murray, authorizing her to take possession of a portrait hanging in Murray’s office. And guess what? It worked.
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10) She wrote a book about him. In 1816, Caroline published a novel based on her affair with Byron. She called it Glenarvon. Set during the bloody Irish uprising of 1798, Caroline went on to satirize not only her ex-lover but many powerful English households. High society ostracized her, and her in-laws had a doctor diagnose her as insane. Her husband William, who’d surprisingly stuck by her through her affair with Lord Byron and strange antics, finally came close to separating from her. However, he changed his mind and decided to stay with her.
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Caroline’s novel, Glenarvon, went on to be a success. It sold out in several editions, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe declared it had literary merit. Even though it got her ostracized from society, it was the start of a writing career.
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Lady Caroline Lamb isn’t remembered as a writer or literary genius but as an example of “the crazy ex.” (Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)
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She produced three more novels throughout her life: Graham Hamilton in 1822, Ada Reis in 1823, and Penruddock in 1823. Caroline also used her ability to copy Byron’s poetic style against him.
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Lord Byron wrote “Don Juan” with some passages alluding to Caroline. One such line reads: “Some play the devil—and then write a novel” (Don Juan 2.201). Caroline wrote “A New Canto” in response to Byron’s mockery. In the poem, she wrote: “I’m sick of fame; I’m gorged with it; so full I almost could regret the happier hour; When northern oracles proclaimed me dull.”
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Byron never responded to the poem. It’s likely he never read it. Whatever the case, Lady Caroline Lamb had her own literary talents. However, she’s not remembered in history as a serious writer or poet. Instead, she’s remembered as a nightmare for any man—or woman—fearful of making a crazy ex.
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Further Readings:
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