Hidden Belgium: The writer who was mad, bad and dangerous to know

Hidden Belgium: The writer who was mad, bad and dangerous to know

It is almost impossible to read the plaque at Rue Ducale 51 in Brussels. You need to get up close to find out that the English writer Lord Byron spent two weeks in this town house in the spring of 1816.

The plaque, in French, says that Byron had left his homeland, where his genius went unrecognised, and never returned. It adds that he composed several verses of his epic poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.

The plaque doesn’t tell the whole story. Byron had fled from England leaving behind a failed marriage, several scandalous affairs and huge debts. And he left Brussels without paying the bill for a new coach he had ordered with fitted bookshelves. His host, Major Pryse Gorden, was left to pay.

The writer, once described as “mad, bad and dangerous to know,” used his time in Brussels to compose some evocative lines on the Battle of Waterloo, in which he contrasted the heated excitement of battle with the grim reality of death.

Derek Blyth’s hidden secret of the day: Derek Blyth is the author of the bestselling “The 500 Hidden Secrets of Belgium”. He picks out one of his favourite hidden secrets for The Brussels Times every day.

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