New book on Byron’s best friends is published

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Many a word has been written about Lord Byron and his poetry.

The scandals, the romance, the adventures and the glamour have been much chronicled and thousands of visitors each year flock to Newstead Abbey, his ancestral home just outside Ravenshead.

His grave, at Hucknall Parish Church, has been listed as one of the graves that people should see.

But little has been written about Byron’s love of dogs.

It was this that prompted Geoffrey Bond to research and write his new book, Lord Byron’s Best Friends: From Bulldogs to Boatswain and Beyond.

Geoffrey will be known to many through his association with the Byron Society, and his home in Southwell was once lived in by the poet himself.

That Byron was fond of animals is not new; a grand monument at Newstead Abbey testifies to the love of his Newfoundland, Boatswain, and the epitaph is perhaps more likely to have been found on the gravestone of a person.

On it are written the words: “Boatswain ‘possessed beauty without vanity, strength without insolence, courage without ferocity and all the virtues of man without his vices.”

But what Geoffrey has done is, for the first time, put together a book that traces Byron’s life with a unique angle. His love of dogs.

It was fitting that a launch of the book was at Newstead Abbey, where a number of invited guests sat in the Orangery as Geoffrey introduced why he had written the book.

Fittingly, if you look through the windows of the Orangery, the Spanish gardens outside are home to the monument to Boatswain.

Geoffrey said: “I want people to realise that Byron was not just a famous egotist but a person with great compassion, not only for his dogs but also for people. I want the reader to discover there is another side to Byron.

“Byron had a difficult childhood and, although he was elevated unexpectedly into the aristocracy, he remained an outsider. His dogs gave him unquestioning affection, protection and obedience. He could relate to them more easily than he could to people.”

The hardback book itself is beautifully designed by Geoffrey and fellow Byron enthusiast Nick Hugh McCann.

The dust jacket cover hides an embossed silhouette of Byron, while pictures aplenty bring the text to life. One of the intriguing things about it a book-within-a-book.

Ken Purslow is the chairman of the Newstead Abbey Byron Association. He attended the launch and told Dispatch afterwards: “The illustrations are stunning and it is an excellent book.

“It is interesting to note Byron’s love of animals has been written about but this book for the first time focuses on Boatswain and dogs.”

The only thing I would say is that at £25, it would make a fantastic gift for a Byron enthusiast, or someone who shares his love of dogs; it might not sit on the bookshelf of every home in Hucknall or Ashfield.