from 'The Game of Hearts', 1957
[Library shelfmark: NF.1311.c.18].
Harriette Wilson to Byron, 1819
[Library reference: MS.43512].
Harriette Wilson (1786-1845) was a famous courtesan who had affairs with a number of well-known politicians.
After the controversial publication of Lord Byron's 'Don Juan' in July 1819, she wrote to Byron from Paris with her thoughts on the poem.
The letter is dated 'Exactly 20 minutes past 12 o'clock, Saturday night' and begins in a flirtatious manner:
'Strange to tell I never heard of Don Juan; till I found it on Galignani's table yesterday & took it to bed with me, where I contrived to keep my large quiet good looking brown eyes open (now you know they are very handsome) till I had finished it.'
She goes on to scold Byron for his parody of the Ten Commandments in 'Don Juan':
'Dear adorable Lord Byron don't make a mere course old libertine of yourself. When everybody advised you not to publish your English Bards you would mind nobody. I am nobody: therefore attend to me. What harm did the Commandments (no matter by whom composed, whether God or mortal) ever do to you or anybody else? & what catch penny ballad writer could not make a parody on them?'
Read more about the reaction to 'Don Juan' in Blackwood's magazine review.