Byron’s Bible

George Gordon, Lord Byron certainly had a reputation.

Lord Byron (National Portrait Gallery, London)

In fact, he had several reputations. Even today some people think of him as the noble, courageous, yet doomed hero he wrote about in his verses.

Others think of him as a scandalous cad who embarked on a series of inappropriate relationships, seduced his half-sister, cruelly disgraced his wife, and drove Caroline Lamb to madness.

Byron in Albanian Dress by Thomas Phillips

But he also had a reputation as a wit. His sense of humor ranged from cheeky to outrageous, and he delighted in catching people off guard. Here’s an example:

Byron’s publisher was a man named John Murray. In appreciation of their long-time association, Byron one day presented Murray with a beautifully bound Bible in which he had written a very flattering inscription to Murray. Murray prized the Bible and kept in on a table where anyone who entered his office could not help but see it and be impressed by it.

One day a visitor to Murray’s office was admiring the Bible and flipping through the pages, when he called Murray’s attention to John 18:40, which read “Now Barabbas was a robber.”

Byron had scratched through the word “robber” and substituted “publisher.”

An 1840 print of Lord Byron by Currier and Ives

The account I read didn’t describe how John Murray reacted to the discovery, but it did report that Murray stopped displaying Byron’s Bible in his office.


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